Review: The Demon’s Desire

demonsReviewed by Jen

Kendra Leigh Castle can craft some great tortured heroes!  In this second installment of her Hearts of the Fallen, she delivers in a big way with Meresin.  We got to know him a little in the last book… well, enough to know that he can control lightning, he has some anger issues, and he’s got a thing for the vampire king’s sister, Dru.  But beyond that, he is a mystery –to both the reader and everyone else around him.

As the book begins, Meresin is struggling with his powers. His anger and frustration are driving him to have dangerous outbursts and only Dru seems to be able to talk him down.  The feelings he has for her are mutual, albeit intangible, and she just can’t stay out of his orbit.  [Read more…]

Review: The Demon’s Song

Reviewed by Jen

Let me preface this review by saying that I am a fan of Kendra Leigh Castle’s Dark Dynasties books, and when I found out she was kicking off a new series, I was very excited to get started.  But when I started reading, I kept finding all these references to prior events.  As a longtime PNR reader, I recognized the signs of a series already in progress and I double and triple checked to see if there were earlier books.  This is, indeed, the first book in the Hearts of the Fallen series.  BUT my instincts were not wrong.  This is a spinoff to her Harlequin Nocturne stories Renegade Angel and “Vivi and the Vampire.”  Stories I haven’t read; stories where the events and characters are heavily referenced. Be warned.

Our hero, Phenix, is the fallen angel of song.  He and a small band of his brothers spent some time in hell, but now they help guard the supernatural underworld called Terra Noctem and help maintain the balance between good and evil.  He has turned off his emotions; cut himself off from humanity… until he meets Sofia.  The fiery nurse gets a crash course in all things supernatural when she saves her friend from being killed by a vampire.  The rouge vamp could be part of a larger problem threatening the Terra Noctem, which makes it Phenix’s problem… and to make a long story short, Sofia becomes bait to draw out the bad guys and Phenix becomes her bodyguard.

The book started out a little slow for me.  Maybe it was because Phenix didn’t really light my fire (until later in the story.) Maybe it was all the references to the backstory that kept pulling me out of the book. Either way, it didn’t click for me at the beginning, but once things started heating up between Phenix and Sofia, it did take off.

As with all of Castle’s books, I really liked the dynamic between the hero and heroine, both emotionally and sexually. The tension is great and payoff is satisfying.  Phenix isn’t quite as tortured as most of her heroes, but I did enjoy his journey to regaining his emotions. And I really liked two things about Sophie: 1) She is a grown woman who is comfortable and confident. She isn’t an ingenue virgin or a clinging vine.  2) She stands up for herself. She doesn’t sublimate her own life for one with Phenix.  Both are a refreshing change of pace from most heroines in the genre.

The arc concerning the external conflict was fairly good, though it took a firm backseat to the romance.   The ending wrapped things up rather quickly, but I was satisfied with how it all played out.

I’m definitely interested in continuing the series.  But I really need to read the the previous stories first. The borderline OCD in me will have it no other way.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Demon’s Song
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: April 21, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Immortal Craving

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll be honest. I was disappointed when I found out that the hero in this book wasn’t a Cait-Sith. I mean, I love those poor, tortured little kitty-cats.  But I should have had some faith.  Tasmin is, indeed, and entirely different breed of vampire.  Instead, he is a poor, tortured, BIG kitty-cat.  And I loved him just the same.

Tasmin is Rakshasa, a lion-vampire shifter, whose kind was thought to be extinct.  But he has been asleep for centuries, cursed to carry the spirit of a demon by the evil Arsinoe.  When he wakes, he is half crazed.  He hears the evil, oily voice inside him, and he wants it out.  He travels from India to the US, looking for Lily, hoping the queen of the Lilium can help him and explain what happened to his people.

When he arrives, it’s not actually Lily he seeks out first, but her human best friend, Bailey.  He thinks she will give him insight into Lily that will help his cause.  But his fractured psyche leads him to pass out in her shop, and Bay steps up to help him.  Despite his power and abrupt nature, Bay sees the vulnerability in Tasmin and is drawn to him.  The attraction is mutual, but he knows that the demon makes him a danger to her, so Tas tries to fight it.  It’s so sweet and noble.

There is a lot going on outside of the building relationship.  The Ptolemy vamps are targeting Lily and her people, and Arinoe wants Tasmin, so she can get her hands on that demon.  Bay and Lily are struggling with their friendship and questioning how they can maintain it with the differences between them.   There’s great action… and familiar faces.. and all the threads of previous books are acknowledged and incorporated in.

But at the heart of the book is the romance, and it was a good one.  Tasmin comes from such a powerful race.  Being strong is all he’s ever known, but his circumstances throw all of that on its ear.  Bay is this physically weak, fragile human, yet she takes care of him. She protects him. She saves him.  I loved watching how it humbles him; how he needs her; how is willing to sacrifice himself for her as a result.   He sees beneath the surface of her and knows her worth.  He’s awesome.  And they are fantastic together.  There is so much longing and crushing fear that they’re doomed.  Delicious angst, folks, just like I like it.

The book wraps up a lot in the overall storyline, and it feels like it could serve as a series finale.  But I hope this isn’t the end.  There is definitely more story out there to be told… the demons… Vlad… and I want to read them.  I hope to get the chance.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Immortal Craving
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Forever

Favorites from… Kendra Leigh Castle

Kendra Leigh Castle

There aren’t a lot of downsides to having a writing career, but the one that has probably stung the most is the reduction of my available reading time. My life is pretty full—I’ve got a husband, three kids, three dogs, a cat, and a never ending cascade of deadlines. So when I manage to carve out time to just curl up with a book and escape, I’m particular about what I choose. I need to be able to not think about the mechanics of what’s written on the pages…I need to be able to get lost. That can be a tall order, since there are days when the written word has twisted me into so many knots that all I want to do is crawl away and watch something mindless. But a couple of years ago, when I was hunting for something new to read and downloading samples onto my Nook, I got lucky. Like, really, really lucky. Somehow, I stumbled onto Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh, and my obsession with the Guild Hunters series was born.

Elena Deveraux is my kind of heroine. She’s gorgeous, lethal and snarky, but she’s also vulnerable in ways that only those closest to her know about. In the first book, she’s a vampire hunter, tracking down wayward vamps for the angels they serve—not the biblical idea of angels, but rather a race of beautiful winged beings who rule over mankind, with the archangels at the top of the hierarchy. Only angels can sire a vampire, and once they do, that vampire signs a contract to serve the angel for a hundred years. Sometimes, the vamps bolt…and that’s where the Guild comes in. Elena is “Licensed to Hunt Vampires and Assorted Others,” and she’s the best at what she does. That’s what gets her hired by the archangel who rules New York City, Raphael. He doesn’t want her to hunt a vampire, though…he wants her to track down an archangel gone bad. Raphael is beautiful, ancient, and powerfully drawn to Elena. And Elena, despite all her better judgment, is equally fascinated by him. The chemistry between them is…well, you know those books where you’re actually on the edge of your seat every time the hero and heroine are together because the sexual tension is just that hot? Yeah. Elena and Raphael are like that. Like, “Oh my God please do it now and stop tormenting me” hot.

The first three books in the series focus mainly on Elena and Raphael, who have a lot of issues to work through. A childhood horror has left her emotionally scarred, and Raphael is not remotely human. That’s one of the things I love about the series…none of the angels we meet are just humans with wings. They’re beautiful, but very alien in some ways. They think and feel, but differently, and in ways that can sometimes come off as rather cold. Figuring them out, what each of them wants and needs, is incredibly interesting to me—and there are plenty of them to get fixated on (you will, I promise, fall hopelessly in love with at least one of Raphael’s Seven, the tightly-knit circle of vampires and angels devoted completely to Raphael’s safety). The vampires are just as intriguing…especially Dmitri, the ancient, magnetic vampire who serves as Raphael’s second-in-command. He’s the focus of the fourth book, Archangel’s Blade. That man is sex on a stick, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, because you need to read him to experience him properly. Just…wow.

I could go on for hours. Days, even. This series is one of my very favorite things. When the newest book, Archangel’s Storm, came out in September, I holed up for several hours in the recliner with my iPad, endless cups of Chai, and best of all, secretive, sexy, black-winged Jason. I devoured the book, basked in the afterglow, and then did my usual and started pining for books about either sweet, blue-winged Illium or the ethereal, shattered Aodahn. This series has everything I love: compelling characters, fluid, effortless prose, and a world that mixes the familiar and the fantastic in such a way that I want to be there. Preferably with some wings of my own. They’re the sort of books that make me want to be a better writer and cherish being a reader all at the same time—the kind of books that made me want to be a writer in the first place. Because when you step into a story and forget everything but your own sense of wonder at what’s unfolding around you, it is, quite simply, magic…and that’s what reading is all about.

Thanks, Jen, for having me here to share my favorite series…and I hope some of you will check it out if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed!

Thank you Kendra for sharing your recommendation with us! I asked Kendra to be part of this feature because her Dark Dynasties paranormal romances are awesome. They center on a deliciously tortured breed of heroes called the Cait-Sith.  They are maligned, sexy, Cat shifters in need of strong women to help them realize their worth.  The world building is intricate, but it’s fascinating. The romances are hot and every book has left me satisfied. Click here to get the deets on book 1, Dark Awakening.

In the meantime, here is your chance to give the Guild Hunter series a try. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win any book in the series backlist. That means you can choose either Angels Blood, Archangel’s Kiss, Archangel’s Consort, Archangel’s Blade or Angel’s Flight. This one is open internationally.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*”Favorites from…” photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos 

Review: Shadow Rising

Reviewed by Jen

Kendra Leigh Castle delivers yet again with her latest installment in the Dark Dynasties series. I love her heroes and their struggle for self-worth. I love her tortured Cait-Sith race, reviled for centuries and now finally coming into their own. I love the world building, the romance… the sex. Yes, I know I’m gushing, but I did not want to put this book down.

Damien is a Cait Sith, but also a Shade… an assassin for the House of Shadows. His latest mission is to find Sammael, a member of the mysterious Gregori race, who has gone missing. It’s an exciting job, because no one knows much about the Gregori and because there is also a missing female that her people want back as well.

Ariane is an outcast among the Gregori. The ancient, winged vampires consider themselves watchers. They study others in the world and they don’t interfere. They shun emotion and Ariane has never been able to truly clamp her feelings down. When her only friend, Sammael, goes missing, she ignores the rules and rushes out on her own to find him and bring him home.

It’s only a matter of time before Ariane and Damien cross paths in their search. Though they each reject the idea at first, they eventually realize that it’s in both of their best interests to work together. And of course, that provides the opportunity for the attraction between them to grow.

Damien is a hard man. Like many Cait-Sith, he considers himself the low-blood he’s been branded by others. He’s never known comfort or love. He has only found happiness in money and the thrill of the hunt. But he is taken by Ariane’s innocence, her honesty, and her inner strength. She doesn’t play games and it makes her easy to root for. It was so satisfying to watch him succumb to her goodness and acceptance of who and what he is. The romance is really quite sweet and the sex is very good too.

As much as the romance was a hit for me, I found I enjoyed the story as well. It was cool seeing the Gregori mysteries unfold and learning how it all fits in the broader picture of the series. Each one of the vampire houses is interesting and unique. Castle has created such a rich canvas with her supernatural world and continues to build on it with each book.

This is book three in the Dark Dynasties series, and while we get references to events and characters from other books, I think this would still work as a standalone. The story is loaded with great secondary characters who are practically screaming to get a book of their own one day. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Rating : A-

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Shadow Rising
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Midnight Reckoning

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll just come out and say it: I love this series and I loved this book. You all know how I feel about sexy tortured heroes. Kendra Leigh Castle has created an entire race of them in her maligned and enslaved Cait Sith. They are lowblood vampires, who are also cat-shifters. The highblood Ptolemy vamps kept them as slaves and tortured them for centuries. But in Dark Awakening, they were finally freed. And now they have a chance to pursue the happiness they’ve been denied all these years.

Jaden isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life now that he is no longer a slave. He’s been offered a job as the Captain of the Guard for Lily, the head of a new highblood clan. With Lily and her husband Ty, Jaden has finally found people he cares about and who care for him. But he’s restless. And he can’t stop thinking about Lyra, the sexy werewolf who heats his blood like no one ever has. After he stops an attack on her and finds a family heirloom she left behind, he journeys to her home to return it. From there, he is drafted to help her train to become Alpha of her pack.

No one believes Lyra can win the Alpha competition. But she is smart and determined. She wants to make her pack stronger… to help them evolve into the modern world. They’ve got some very old ideas, not the least of which is a rule against interspecies coupling. That makes the passion and attraction she has for Jaden completely off limits… which makes it all the more delectable when they finally give in.

There was nothing I didn’t like about this book. It had amazing sexual tension, thanks to the forbidden nature of Jaden and Lyra’s relationship. And the payoff was outstanding. Jaden is a great hero. He had a miserable past, but it didn’t break him. He’s strong and honorable and so very sexy. Lyra is just right for him. She’s young and maintains her idealism without ever coming off as childish or annoying. She’s also feisty and bold and brave. Together, they make a couple so easy to root for. While much of the book focused on the development of their relationship, there was also a real sense of danger from the Ptolemy vampires who are targeting Jaden and the werewolves who could turn on Jaden or Lyra at any time.

The book builds well on the events of Dark Awakening, but I think it would still work easily as a standalone. It’s got a fantastic love story, great sex and plenty of action. I can’t wait to see where Castle takes the series next. Almost 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Midnight Reckoning
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Dark Awakening

Reviewed by Jen

I really, really enjoyed this book. Paranormal romance is my genre of choice, but sometimes it’s hard to find something fresh and engaging. Dark Awakening delivers in both regards. I’ll admit I was a little worried when I started the book and there was a glossary off the bat. Sometimes that’s a sign the world building will convoluted. Thankfully, that was not the case here. While the world building is rich and layered, its complexities are seamlessly incorporated into the story and contribute to making it a satisfying read.

Tynan is from a low class of vampire. He’s a cat-shifter and a mercenary. And he is on a mission for the queen of one of the higher castes, trying to find a Seer to save her dying race. In the course of his search, he finds Lily. At first, he thinks she is a Seer, because her mind is closed to him. But he quickly realizes she is probably much more than that.  She bears a mark that he doesn’t recognize and he realizes that he must figure out what it means before he brings her back to his queen.

Lily has always known that she is different. But she has fought the darkness within her for her entire life. When she meets Ty, she recognizes his otherness, but she is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.  Assassins hired to thwart Ty’s mission, target her, forcing her to go on the run with the vampire. And slowly, his world opens up before her eyes. As readers, we learn about the vampires and their ways right along with her. It’s fascinating. But the real draw here, is the unfolding relationship between our two main characters.

Ty is everything I love in a hero. He is loyal, strong, and stalwart. He is also scarred by a difficult life and thinks himself the trash he’s been labeled his whole life. He fights his feelings for Lily, believing himself unworthy, thinking he’ll never have more than the meager life he’s scratched out for himself as a servant of the queen. –But Lily knows better. The more time she spends with him, the more she sees the man he truly is.  And watching them surrender to their feelings is swoon-worthy. The love scenes are hot, but part of what makes them so great is the tight tension between Ty and Lily from the first moment they meet.

The story isn’t just about the romance. Really, the vampire story arc was just as good. I’m often guilty of impatiently waiting for books to hurry up and get back to the lovin’… but here I was just as invested in the action. The secondary characters were fleshed-out and interesting. And frankly, I want more.

I’m so glad this is the beginning of a series. I can easily see myself sinking into a book featuring one of the secondary characters (especially Jaden… yay!) And I’m happy to say that this book manages to open doors to new stories while still giving us an ending to this one. There’s no contrived-cliffhanger or anything. The author makes me want to read the next book, simply by making this one awesome.  5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Dark Awakening
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)