Review: Dark Secrets

Reviewed by Jen

Haidyn thought he had what it takes to be part of the Arcane Guild. His gifts lie with magic, but when he first tried to join the Guild, he just was not strong enough. Too ashamed to return home a failure, he struck out on his own, and eventually ended up using his abilities to become a prostitute.  That was six years ago.

His life isn’t exactly happy now, but he has become wealthy in his trade.  Things are… passably ok, until he finds out his long lost love has married one of his most depraved clients.  He wants desperately to save her from the misery he knows the lawman will inflict. But does he have the power to help her?  And will she even want him in her life once she finds out what he has become?

This book is hard to read at times. While Haidyn does not actually have sex with his clients, he must endure some demeaning and disturbing things to get the job done.  And while the lawman does not physically get to act out his sick fantasies on him, seeing their sessions play out on the page is uncomfortable reading.

This is book two in Shona Husk’s Arcane series, though the only thing it has in common with book one is the world building, which is pretty interesting. It has that alternate-world fantasy feel that seems both futuristic and distant past at the same time.   Unfortunately, the romance element doesn’t hold up.  Haidyn and Anisa have a history, but nothing in their present shows me any feeling between them.  It’s more like she has no other choice to get away from a horrible situation.  That’s not much of a love story.  They’re not even together very much at all.  Anisa is the real victim in the story. First Haidyn abandoned her, then she got married off to a monster.  At least Haidyn chose his own path.

It was ok.  I preferred Dark Vow to this one.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

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Dark Secrets
by Shona Husk
Release Date: February 18, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: For the Love of a Goblin Warrior

Reviewed by Jen

Meryn has spent thousands of years trapped in the Shadowlands as a goblin.  He witnessed the death of his wife and children. Now he has been thrust back into the human realm with no warning.  The only languages he knows are long dead.  The world around him is nothing like he once knew. Nothing makes sense.

Nadine is a nurse at the hospital where police take the half-crazed sword-wielding Meryn when he is found on the street.  Though he can’t understand the words she is saying, Meryn can hear the kindness and sincerity in Nadine’s words and she calms him.  Nadine sees beyond the dirty and wounded exterior to the proud and good man beneath.  So much so, her impression of him remains even after he flees the hospital to live on the streets.

Nadine and Meryn cross paths again a week or so later at a local park, but by then, he has miraculously conveniently picked up the English language.  The two strike up a friendship.  Even more, there is an underlying spark they both feel.  Meryn agrees to let his cousin help him build a new life for himself, to pave the way for a real chance with Nadine.  But all the while, he constantly worries about the fact he can’t tell her the truth about himself.

Nadine is working to overcome a difficult childhood.  Her father went to jail for killing her mother who was coincidentally obsessed with a goblin fairy tale. But her feelings for Meryn are changing her life.  Meryn, meanwhile, undergoes an even bigger transformation.  He works through a lot of emotional turmoil as he adjusts to modern day life.  (Some good angst there.)  For the most part, I liked the dynamic of their romance.

But there were a fair share of problems.  Too many things were too easy or, ahem, convenient.  From the ease of Meryn’s transformation to a 21st century man after thousands of years as a goblin… to his incidental meeting with Nadine’s father… to his history with her mother.  And even if you can ignore all that, when we got to the big reveal of his goblin history, she accepted it as if it were an everyday occurrence.   She was more fixated on a stolen necklace than the fact that he was a mythological creature.  That –and the fact that he lied about it.  (*SMH*) Really? I know some people take issue when reviewers complain about realism in PNR… but who the heck would react that way?? It didn’t ring true.

It wasn’t a bad story. It just had too many coincidences and the goblin reveal was a major fail.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley

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For the Love of a Goblin Warrior
by Shona Husk
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review: Kiss of the Goblin Prince

Reviewed by Jen

I am always on the lookout for a story with a great tortured hero.  Shona Husk delivers in spades with Dai.  He lived most of his nearly 2000 years in the goblin realm.  He was cursed along with his family during Roman times to live in the Shadowlands, part-goblin and part-man.  The curse was broken only recently, as his brother found true love.  Now Dai is struggling to live among humans again and to let go of his hate and need for revenge.

Amanda is a widowed mother who has given up on finding love again. But when her sister-in-law marries Roan, Dai is thrust into her world.  The attraction is instant, but both are wary.  Amanda hasn’t been with a man since her husband died seven years ago and her first priority has to be her severely asthmatic daughter.  Dai isn’t sure he even knows how to love or be loved.  He’s never been with a woman. Even before he was thrust into the Shadowland, he was a Roman slave –tortured not only physically, but also sexually and emotionally.

I really enjoyed watching the love story unfold between these two. While the attraction was immediate, the feelings and relationship developed more slowly and believably.  Dai is the more dominant character in the story –and by that I mean, more of it is devoted to him.  He’s got a lot to work out.  Not only with his past and his intimacy issues, but with his magic.  He studied magic for centuries, as he tried to break the goblin curse and now he must figure out how this, too, will fit into his life.  He is very damaged, but underneath, he is really a good man.

I liked this book a lot. It is the second in the Shadowlands series. Unfortunately, I did not read The Goblin King and I felt it in a big way.  There were huge, huge gaps in Dai and Roan’s backstory that must have been explained in the first installment. I was lost in the particulars of their curse –specifically, who cursed them?  How does the goblin summoning thing work?  In what circumstances could they come and go from the Shadowlands in the past?  Stuff like that.  The nagging questions distracted me from the good stuff on several occasions, which is a shame, because the romance part was right up my alley.

My only other beef was that the ending felt a little rushed.  I waited the entire book for the payoff on the sexual tension between Dai and Amanda.  I think another two or three pages would have gone a long way to leaving me satisfied.

Overall, I did like it.  But I bet I would have liked it even more if I had read the first book.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Kiss of the Goblin Prince
by Shona Husk
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review: Dark Vow

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll say this about Dark Vow, it’s definitely not like anything else I’ve read. The world is led by 10 Lords of various skills (such as Warrior, Carpenter, Hunter, etc.) Each man answers to a specific Lord, learns that skill and builds his life around it. A woman takes her husband’s Lord.

Jaines is married to a man who follows the Smith. She and Lance work together in their gun smithy, creating weapons and ammunition for their small community. Lance is out of town when a Bounty Hunter enters the shop, wanting Jaines to engrave his gun. Bounty Hunters follow the Arcane Lord. They manipulate magic. And Lance has always told Jaines to stay away from the Arcane. But the Bounty Hunter offers her so much money and inflames her pride enough that she takes the job.

It quickly becomes apparent that with her contribution, she has turned the gun into a magical weapon… the only one that can kill an Arcane. But the deed is done. Unfortunately, when Lance returns, the Hunter shows up at their home and uses the weapon to kill her husband. With Lance’s death, Jaines begins her quest to find the Bounty Hunter again and have her vengeance.

In her journey, she meets Obsidian, a man with intimate knowledge of the Arcane. With him, she learns just how sheltered she has been. She is exposed to some really hard truths about the world and her own life.

I found that I really did like the book. The world building was easy to understand and Jaines was a relatable character with some pretty solid motivation. I felt her grief and her need to avenge her husband. And as she started to develop an attraction toward Obsidian, I could see that too. They have good chemistry.  However, I did have trouble with how fast their relationship turned into “love” and how it ended up casting her feelings for Lance in a less valuable light. Maybe with more time, I could have gotten on board with the depths of their feelings. But as it was, it didn’t entirely ring true.

I’m still glad I read it. It was a good change of pace and an interesting story… kind of hard to categorize (maybe alternate history/ fantasy?) — but good, even if it doesn’t fit into a neat little box.  Almost 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Vow
by Shona Husk
Release Date: November 14, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press