Review: Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards

Reviewed by Jen

It took me a little while to get into this book. It starts off a little slow and I wasn’t really sure where Hailey Edwards was going with it. And then I met Cole. Which, for me, is where the story really started to get interesting. Then it got more interesting. And more interesting. And by the end, I was ready to stalk the author on Twitter and beg for the next installment.

The story takes place in Canton, Mississippi. I have actually lived right outside of Canton and it was fun to get a few shout-outs to places that were a little familiar. However, it did not feel like the Canton I knew. For what it’s worth, the whole bayou southern feel was never one I got from living there. But this is fiction, so I just tucked that away and refused to let it interrupt my suspension of disbelief. [Read more…]

Review: A Veil of Secrets by Hailey Edwards

veil of secretsReviewed by Jen

I have been a fan of the Araneae Nation series since the beginning.  It consistently delivers interesting and unique storylines, set in a fascinating fantasy construct that grows a little bit more with every installment.  Each book has its own core couple to find love, but the romance is really secondary to the heroine’s journey. Often, I feel like I would have liked just a little more in the love-department. It seems like every book waits until the very last chapter to seal the deal (not just sexually, but emotionally too.) I’m more than a little ready to break from the formula, but I keep coming back to these books because they are so different from other series out there. And I like them. [Read more…]

Review: A Kiss of Venom by Hailey Edwards

kiss of venom edwardsReviewed by Jen

I really enjoyed this novella. I probably liked it more than any Araneae Nation story I have read in awhile.  The reason: it feels like the series went back to its roots. We’re taking a break from the plague and the zombie infection thing and we’re refocusing on Maven Loures’ clan.  Specifically, it’s the second chance at love story for her brother Armand and the only woman he has ever cared about. [Read more…]

Review: A Breath of Winter

breath of winterReviewed by Jen

I always enjoy coming back to this series.  The world building and the cultures represented are so unique and fascinating!  This wasn’t the strongest romance the Araneae Nation books have featured, but overall, I did like the story.

Remember that harbinger who was locked in the caves by her son, the villain in A Time of Dying? You know, the one who ended up eating him? Well, our heroine Zuri and her brothers are transporting the beastie to Erania as part of a mercenary job.  It’s a difficult task; one made even harder when Zuri is injured on the journey. [Read more…]

Review: A Time of Dying

time of dyingReviewed by Jen

Hailey Edwards continues to impress with this latest installment in her Araneae Nation series.  Not only do we have a solid romance, but we’re unraveling the source of the mysterious plague that’s been part of the series since book one.

Our heroine is Kaidi, a maven-in-waiting for her people.  She has only to marry the paladin she is betrothed to. Unfortunately, she knows a horrible secret about him… one no one would believe if she came forward; and that knowledge puts her life at risk. So she left behind her family and her people with a mission only she knows about.  You see, she has uncovered that the men killed by the plague can rise again, so she is seeking out the dead to cut off their heads to prevent them from reanimating.  That alone is a pretty tough story to swallow, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. [Read more…]

Review: A Cast of Shadows

Reviewed by Jen

I am definitely a fan of this series, but I have to say I was surprised when I realized who the hero of this story would be.  We first met Brynmor in A Feast of Souls, and to call him an unlikely hero would be an understatement.  He bought his wife. He killed her lover and ate his heart.  He gave her child away.  Oh, and he’s dead. (Did I mention he’s dead?) And sharing the body of a wolf with the animal’s permission.  Kind of hard to envision a happily ever after there.

Daraja is on a quest in the woods to seek her future when Brynmor’s pack mistakenly believes she has killed one of their own.  Brynmor is taken with her and wants to help her prove her innocence to the animals who want her dead.  He presents himself as a normal man tasked with caring for the wolves, and an attraction begins building between them.  But it’s only a matter of time before the truth of his situation comes out.

I won’t get into more detail because I don’t want to give the story away.  I will say that there were parts of the book that I enjoyed. I really like this world, though we only see it in a limited context in this novella.  It’s interesting to see Brynmor evolve and finally let go of all the hurt and leftover angst from his previous life.  And there is a surprising amount of sexual tension going on for a dead guy who sometimes shares a body with a big dog.

I did have a little bit of trouble with how easily Brynmor was able to take human form. It didn’t seem to gel with my understanding of how the whole body sharing thing worked.  And if he’s using the animal’s energy, it seemed like an awfully big drain for a long term arrangement.  I also felt like Daraja accepted the whole ghost thing rather easily.  I know the people in these stories are quite spiritual, but still…

Overall, it wasn’t quite the hit for me that the two full length novels were, mostly because of the nature of Brynmor’s existence.  But it was still an enjoyable read.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Cast of Shadows
by Hailey Edwards
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

Review: A Feast of Souls

Reviewed by Jen

I continue to be impressed with this great fantasy romance series.  I really enjoyed book one and this second installment is just as strong.  The world building is fresh and woven skillfully throughout the story.  The characters are well-drawn and easy to root for. And the romance really hits the spot, with just the right blend of emotional pull and sexual tension.

We first met our hero and heroine in A Hint of Frost. Mana is still in Araneidae territory, where she was brought after saving her cousin Rhys’s life.  Vaughn, Rhys’s half-brother, is supposed to escort her home.  Their journey takes on another layer when he is charged with bringing along Pascale for Mana’s people to watch over. The young woman has been sentenced to indentured servitude for her actions in the last book.  But a neighboring clan wants Pascale dead for killing their heir.  The threat from that clan makes the long trip, through icy terrain, even more dangerous.

Along the way, Mana –who can communicate with the dead– comes in contact with Vauhn’s father.  He has his own agenda.  The story follows Mana and Vaughn’s journey, first to her home… then to his.  The two have been attracted to one another for years, but the more time they spend together, the stronger their feelings become.  Mana fears giving in to her desires, since her people believe in soul mates and she never dreams Vaughn could be hers. So their feelings are forbidden, which of course makes them even more delicious.

Vaughn is very tough –and the heir to his people’s throne. But there is great vulnerability in him. He’s never felt first in anyone’s heart.  And Mana, well, she is innocent in the ways of love, but she is powerful and driven to do the right thing –even if means facing the deadly plague threatening Vaughn’s people.

There’s a lot happening in the story –too much to try to map out here– but it flowed together very well.  I felt so immersed in the world, the story, and the romance, that I did not want to put it down.   Simply put, I am a big fan of these books.  If you enjoy fantasy at all, I definitely recommend you give them a try.

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by author for review  

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Feast of Souls
by Hailey Edwards
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Samhain

Review: Soul Weaver

Reviewed by Jen

The premise of this book intrigued me.  Our hero is a fallen angel who now harvests the souls of the wicked. Nathaniel is constantly exposed to the very worst of humanity.  It was only by chance that he happened upon the car accident destined to take Chloe’s life.  Even then, he had no inclination to interfere… until he saw the beauty of her soul as it tried to leave her body.  A soul so bright should have been bound for heaven, but she had no ties of love to help her pass over. Unable to simply let her spirit fade to nothing, Nathaniel cuts out a piece of his own soul and ties it to hers, tethering her spirit to her body.

It’s months before he sees her again. Unfortunately, his soul has darkened hers and now she is on his list of the damned.  He can’t let her suffer for his mistake, though.  So he thinks to enter her life as a human, long enough to help her make connections to the people around her. That way, when she does have to die, her spirit can finally go where it deserves. The problem is that Chloe is agoraphobic and that keeps her cut off from other people.

When they come face to face, their soul connection kicks in right away.  And the story follows their journey to love, while the clock ticks down to Chloe’s inevitable death.  There is much more to it: complications and secondary characters with supporting storylines. But the love story is the heart of the book.  It’s also where I was sadly underwhelmed.

Agoraphobia is a real mental illness and the concept of a main character with this problem is different. But it’s not exciting. It’s not sexy.  Chloe came across as weak to me as I got to know her character. She needs her hand held constantly and she is utterly naive about the outside world.  That makes it even more awkward when her relationship with Nathaniel advances at the speed of light.  She loses her virginity to a guy she’s known barely more than a week and the I Love You’s are right around the corner.  There wasn’t even much sexual tension to speak of… just an acknowledgement of an attraction and her ever-present anxiety.  The relationship fell flat, both in the sexual and the emotional realms.

Like I said, I liked the concept.  And I thought the resolution was cool.  But it wasn’t enough to make this one a good read for me. If you want to give Hailey Edwards a try, I definitely recommend A Hint of Frost over this one.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Soul Weaver
by Hailey Edwards
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Guest Post & Giveaway: Hailey Edwards

Worldbuilding Brick by Brick 
by Hailey Edwards

Worldbuilding is hands down my favorite part of the writing process. It’s more than the rush of starting a new series and creating a new environment from scratch, it’s the continuation of growth from a first book throughout a series. In order to create a living, breathing storyverse, it’s not enough for characters to show growth throughout their stories. Their worlds must also evolve.

My first fantasy romance novel featured a race of winged demons enslaved by their wingless counterparts. After the book was released, a reader asked, “Why don’t the Evanti just fly away?”

I realized then, the importance of underpinning my worlds. That one question reshaped how I thought about worldbuilding. It wasn’t enough to say the race was enslaved. I had to have good reasons why a superior race would bow their heads to lesser race and endure centuries of torture.

In other words, I had to answer the question, “Why don’t the Evanti just fly away?”

By anchoring the demons in their world, their struggles became more real.

Worldbuilding is a skillset that is developed over time through trial and error. Or at least it’s been that way for me. There is a balance between how I see a world and how I present a world to readers. It takes time to fully understand how much of that information I should share, and when.

What I see is a vast and unending world, a tangle of plot and origin and landscape. Often it’s full of tidbits that aren’t necessary for the reader or for the story. I hear whispered rumors. See glints of the past that have no bearing on the immediate story. That is where experience pays off.

A writer must know where the line is drawn between critical and superfluous information.

They must also know when to smudge that line or step over it all together. Of course, writers don’t always get it right. I know I don’t. But I like to think that while our worlds are evolving, we are as well.

I have several favorite worlds, so many I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. (Robin D. Owens’s Celta Heartmates, Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files…)

How about you? What are your favorite series? Where are your favorite worlds? What cool places have you read about and wished you could visit?Leave me a comment and let me know.

One commenter will be awarded a $5 Amazon gift card and their choice of any title from my backlist in any digital format.

This giveaway is closed. The winner is Linda.

Review: A Hint of Frost

Reviewed by Jen

Every once in a while, I stumble across a book that actually treads new ground; one that is fresh without being weird; one I find myself excited to tell everybody about.  This is one of those books.

Someone has murdered Lourdes’ parents, making her the new maven of her clan.  With the deaths of their rulers, the clan’s protectors have turned on them and Lourdes must move quickly to find help. She agrees to marry Rhys, the prince of a feared warrior race.  In exchange for the union, Rhys will provide his people to protect hers.  And just when it seems Lourdes is pulling everything together, her sister disappears.

Lourdes and her new husband must travel out of her familiar territory to find the missing girl.  On the way, she slowly begins to unravel his secrets.  Rhys is much more than the cold killer everyone thinks him to be.  In fact, he is quite stalwart and vulnerable.  Their love story is very satisfying.  One of the things I liked so much about it, is that it unfolds in a way that made me believe it.  We see them peeling back the layers of armor between them, reveling in the real people beneath. It’s really very sweet, without ever being saccharine.

While the love story is a big draw, there is also a solid plot moving the story forward.  Lourdes and Rhys are working not only to find her sister, but to figure out who killed her parents and why.  The pacing is good; I never found it predictable; and the world building is fascinating.  The clan Lourdes leads spins powerful threads from their hands, sort of like spiders.  They make virtually unbreakable armor, which grants them great wealth.  They are a peaceful people, with unique traditions.  And as we learn about them, we pick up bits and pieces about the neighboring clans, each with own ways of life.  Trying to condense and summarize it here doesn’t do it justice. But I found myself really wrapped up in it all and I didn’t want it to end.

I did get little confused once or twice, trying to keep the different clans all straight in my head… especially since the words Arandeidae and Araneae are so similar.  But don’t let the unusual names and terminology intimidate you.  The world-building is done really well. The whole thing is done really well, honestly.

I enjoyed it very much.

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Hint of Frost
by Hailey Edwards
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Samhain