Review: Mark of the Witch

Reviewed by Jen

Night after night, Indira has the same nightmare.  She is being killed for practicing witchcraft, along with her three sisters.  Only, it’s no dream. It’s a memory of her past life.

Tomas is priest who has trained his entire adult life for a single mission: to stop a witch from freeing a demon from hell.  When his sister Rayne calls him to consult about the strange dreams one of her sister witches is having, he realizes the nightmares match the circumstances of his calling. Right away, he sets out find Indira.

Both Tomas and Indira have been feeling disconnected from their faith. Indira had already stepped away from Wicca and Tomas turned in papers to leave the priesthood.  But once they are thrown together, they both begin to reconnect with their beliefs.  The effects of Indy’s dreams are beginning to manifest physically and together, they work to find the amulet and the portal necessary to free the demon. Of course, they do this with the plan to keep the demon safely locked away.

It’s only a matter of time before these two are drawn to each other, but are the feelings real or remnants of their past life together?  Is Tomas’s mentor a true believer or a crazed zealot?  Who are the heroes and who are the villains in this story?  It’s hard to tell until the very end.

It took me a little while to invest in the story.  Tomas was really kind of a waffler.  It took too long for him and Indira to get together and I thought the sexual tension could have been better in the meantime.  I usually really like the whole forbidden priest relationships, but this one was just ok.  I understand he had to let go of some long-held beliefs but I wanted to shake him more than once for how long her bought into the lies he was told.

I will give the book credit for an unpredictable plot. There was nothing obvious about the direction the story would take… and I liked how it all played out.  And I’m intrigued about the potential reunion story between Indy’s sister Lilia and her man.  I will definitely read that story.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. The romance just fell a little short of its potential.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Mira via NetGalley

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Mark of the Witch
by Maggie Shayne
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Review: Twilight Fulfilled

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have got to go back and read the early books in Maggie Shayne’s Wings of the Night series.  I came to the party late, with Twilight Prophecy –and I really enjoyed it. Now, this book picks up right where that one left off… dropping us right back into the action.
Now that vampires have been revealed to humanity, they are becoming targets for extinction. Human vigilantes are burning them out of their homes and killing them in their sleep. And if that’s not bad enough, the world’s first immortal is targeting them as well.  Half-breed vampire James resurrected Utana in the last book, trying to fulfill a prophecy that said he could save their race. But Utana has gone mad from thousands of years with his consciousness trapped in the ashes of his body.  He thinks his agony was a punishment from the gods for starting the vampire race.  And to atone, he thinks he must eradicate his creation from the face of the earth.
The surviving vampires send James’ twin, Brigit, to face him. She shares the same destructive powers as Utana and if anyone can stop his murderous rampage, she can.  But when Brigit and Utana face off, they quickly realize there is an undeniable connection between the two of them.  Each believes they need to kill the other, but neither can follow through.  Their first battle ends with them in each other’s arms and the pull between them only gets stronger as time goes by.  Eventually Brigit’s mission changes in her own mind. Instead of trying to kill Utana, she needs to find a way to help his mind heal and convince him to change his plans to kill her kind.
I really enjoyed watching the romance unfold between Brigit and Utana.  Brigit has spent her whole life feeling less than her brethren. But with Utana, she has finally found the place where she belongs.  The love scenes are great, but the romance is even better!  It is a kind of “love at first sight” thing, which I’m not a fan of, but I can live with it, if I tell myself it’s a vamp thing.

The plot was fast moving and the book, action packed.  Like in Twilight Prophecy, there were appearances from characters featured in previous books in the series… which I’m sure will give a thrill for longtime fans.  I think this book will be better to those of us who read the book immediately before, but the world building is simple and easy to understand for new readers. I liked it alot. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Twilight Fulfilled
by Maggie Shayne
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Publisher: Mira

Review: Twilight Prophecy

Reviewed by Jen

Dear Maggie Shayne, You have just caused the exponential growth of my TBR pile. Because thanks to this book, I feel compelled to go and read your entire backlist. That is no small feat, because The Twilight Prophecy is book 1000 or so in the Wings in the Night series. But what is absolutely amazing, is that there was not one single instance that I ever felt like I was missing something. Obviously, this book includes several couples featured in the previous books. But this book worked clearly and spectacularly as a stand-alone as well.James is special among the vampires. He is 1/4 human and he has the ability to heal with his touch. His gift is so powerful, it can even bring people back from the dead. He and his twin sister Brigit are prophesied to be the saviors of their people. And it’s time for that prophecy to come true. Vampires are being revealed to the human race; and the humans are lashing out, obliterating the supernatural.

Lucy is the archaeologist and professor who uncovered and translated the ancient Sumerian texts that held the prophecy. She is also a Chosen, a human with the antibodies necessary to one day allow her to become a vampire. James and Brigit pretty-much kidnap her to help them figure out how to find the first immortal, who they think is the key to saving their people.

It’s a riveting story. I never got bored. I never got lost. The romance was solid; though it wasn’t overly hot. I think there was only one love scene on-page. I am accustomed to a little more smut in my PRs. But I almost didn’t notice, as I got wrapped up in the action. (By the way, that’s a mighty big compliment.)

The book does resolve the relationship between James and Lucy, but ends on a cliff-hanger, so be forewarned. I’m looking forward to see what will happen when I get my hand on Twilight Fulfilled. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Review: Midnight Pleasures

Midnight Pleasures isn’t the best anthology I’ve ever read, but it has stories from two series I enjoy, so it was worth a read.

The first story is Amanda Ashley’s “Darkfest.” I’ve never read anything from her before.  The title character is a dark wizard who has never known love.  He is very powerful and he is taken with Channa Leigh, a virginal blind village girl.  He visits her village in the form of a wolf and somehow, when she touches him, she can see.  But he knows he can’t stay with her as a wolf.  When Channa Leigh’s mother becomes ill, her father begs Darkfest for help and he agrees to heal the woman in exchange for a year with Channa Leigh in his fortress.  The story was sweet.  Not terribly strong, but not bad.  There were some things (like his taste for blood and problems with the sunlight) that were never really fleshed out.  And speaking of flesh, despite the fact there was much talk about them both being virgins… their relationship was never consummated.  Bummer.

The second story was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Phantom Lover.” This is part of her Dark/Dream Hunter universe.  V’Aiden is a Greek God of sleep (for lack of a more complex explanation.) He falls in love with Erin in her dreams. She’s been plagued by monsters in her sleep which are draining her for power. And he comes to her rescue.  Can they make it work even though he is not human and they live in two different worlds?  I’m a huge fan of the Dark/Dream Hunters, so I really enjoyed this one.  As always, Kenyon’s storytelling is sexy and enthralling. I can’t say if someone unfamiliar with the series would enjoy it as much as I did.  But I thought it was great.

Maggie Shayne’s ”Under Her Spell” is next.  It features Melissa, a white witch who has been hired by a tv show about the supernatural, to consult on its accuracy.  She is quickly drawn to her new boss, but she realizes he is surrounded by dark energy.  It turns out his father was a dark wizard who is reaching out to him beyond the grave and only Melissa can save his soul.  It was kind of… well, meh, for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t have any interest in reading any more about these characters.

And the last novella is “A Wulf’s Curse,” part of Ronda Thompson’s Wild Wulfs of London series.  The story centers on Sterling, the youngest of the Wulf brothers. He ran away from his London home 10 years earlier when he father triggered the family curse. Dad turned into a wolf at the dinner table, then committed suicide. His mother killed herself shortly after. The curse is triggered by love, so Sterling has no interest in losing his heart.  But when the beautiful Elise stows away in the carnival where he works, he can’t help but fall for her innocent charms.  It was  sweet addition to the series.  Steamy love scenes and a great happy ending.  My only beef is, that unlike the resolutions that other Wulf stories had, we didn’t get to see Sterling beat his curse.  We just have to assume it all works out in the end.

Overall, the collection of stories was fair. I really enjoyed the Kenyon and Thompson offerings. The other two are just ok.   3 1/2 stars.