Friday, 16 December 2011

Black Ice by Anne Stuart

Title: Black Ice
Author: Anne Stuart
Series: Ice (book #1)
Next in series: Cold As Ice

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Chloe Underwood is an underpaid translator living in Paris who wishes for a little excitement in her life. When she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to translate a business meeting, Chloe soon realizes that one should be careful of what they wish for as the businessmen turn out to be deadly arms dealers, and she is forced to go on the run with a dangerous yet seductive stranger who may or may not kill her at any moment.

Review: A good premise that has a James Bond feel to it. The characters are interesting but the execution is poor.

Although Sebastian is a ruthless and sadistic anti-hero, you cannot stop yourself from falling in love with him in the same way that Chloe does. Chloe is exceedingly naïve, which may turn some readers off but for me her naiveté strikes just the right cord. Nevertheless, it is not clear why he falls in love with her and their relationship is far-fetched. Yes, they have great chemistry, but is that really true love?

The plot is good but is implausible and unrealistic at times. What self-respecting arms dealer would allow a complete stranger in on a deal? The story also focuses on some dark and sinister issues such as torture and so-called good guys crossing the line because the “ends justify the means”.

The main problem with this book is the writing, which is choppy and has sudden transitions that make it difficult to follow the sequence of events. Moreover, the ending is very abrupt and the reader is left with an unsatisfied feeling. As this is the first book in a series, perhaps we will learn more about Chloe and Sebastian’s relationship in the next installment.

Despite the improbable plot elements and the writing issues, I've heard such great things about the rest of the series and have decided to give it a chance. So I will be reading the next book.

Seduction of a Highland Lass by Maya Banks

Title: Seduction of a Highland Lass
Author: Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy (book #2)
Previous in series: In Bed with a Highlander
Next in series: Never Love a Highlander

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Fiercely loyal to his brothers and clan, Alaric McCabe is prepared to marry in order to cement the future of his people. But after being ambushed and left for dead, Alaric is saved by beautiful and courageous Keeley McDonald and finds it increasingly difficult to put aside his feelings for her. Betrayed by those she loved and trusted, Keeley has finally found the family she deserves but can she survive if Alaric chooses duty over love?

Review: A truly lovely sequel. The story is sexy and heartwarming, and the characters are very appealing.

While I enjoy romances in which the hero and heroine are constantly fighting their attraction to each other, it is refreshing to read one in which the couple acknowledge their connection and the conflict is external to their relationship. Alaric is bound by his duty but never denies that he loves Keeley, and she is aware of his oath, accepts it and is willing to sacrifice for him. While this is a little annoying, it is also noble and consistent with their characterization. Alaric and Keeley’s romance is intense and their scenes together are sensual and steamy.

The forbidden love storyline is passionate, emotional and entertaining. It never feels forced or implausible, and readers should be prepared to cry all over the pages at the end, I know that I did.

Rionna and Caelen’s book is next. She is fast shaping up to be a kick butt heroine and he is my favorite type of hero – dark, brooding and tortured. Their relationship should be explosive and I’m really looking forward to it.

Inferno's Kiss by Monica Burns

Title: Inferno’s Kiss
Author: Monica Burns
Series: The Order of the Sicari (book #3)
Previous in series: Assassin’s Heart

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: As the heir to the Sicari Lords, Dante Condellaire is willing to make any sacrifice to be a good leader until the moment he meets Cleopatra Vorenus and his willpower is tested beyond its limits. Cleo is a fierce assassin for the Order but has always seen herself as an outsider. Now with Dante, Cleo feels she may have finally found a place to belong, but can she fit into his world, and can they overcome the threats to their happiness both from within and without.

Review: This is a highly entertaining series and I hope that it continues. I’m actually surprised that there hasn’t been more hype about it.

Cleo is a tough, no-nonsense woman who has been hurt in the past and must learn to trust again. Dante is very much in control of his actions and emotions, and finds it difficult to cope with the new and intense feelings that he experiences with Cleo. They are an amazing couple who has incredible sexual tension and explosive chemistry. Their ability to communicate with and without words adds another intense layer to their relationship and marks them as unique among the couples in the series. The side story of Marcus and Atia's steamy reconciliation is also compelling and enjoyable.

The overall plot is interesting but it lacks the twists and turns that characterized the other installments in the series. The ideas behind the Tyet of Isis and the search for Alexander’s potion are not developed any further, which is unfortunate, and the identity of the traitor within the Order is obvious early on. Moreover, when the villain from book #2 gets his comeuppance, it is not as impressive and satisfying as it could have been.

In sum, Inferno’s Kiss has everything one needs in a paranormal romance – well-developed characters, sizzling romance, gripping action scenes and an intelligent plot. The series should be read in order so that readers can gain a complete understanding of Burns’s exceptional world and the characters that populate it.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Deeper than Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Deeper than Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed (book #9)
Previous in series: Taken by Midnight
Next in series: Darker than Midnight

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: At the age of 18, Corinne Bishop’s life was shattered when she was kidnapped and subjected to horrifying experiments at the hands of the monstrous Breed known as Dragos. Now that she has been rescued, Corinne only want to return home and get on with her life. Accompanied by the most enigmatic of the warriors of the Order, Hunter, Corrine arrives home only to discover that things are not as they appear and that her life and heart may be in even more danger than before.

Review: Wow! What an intense ride

Hunter and Corinne are a great couple. They are both terribly scarred and have so much to overcome in order to love and trust again. The development of their relationship is slow but consistent with their characterization, and even though it is not as steamy as in previous books, it is just as romantic and perhaps even more so.

Hunter has always been one of my favorite characters with his hard and harsh exterior but his softness and need to protect others on the inside. This is never more apparent than in his interaction with Corrine. For her part, Corrine is an amazing woman with an inner strength that defies all logic. I love the fact that Hunter finds a mate who is worthy and accepting of him and vice versa.

More details are provided with regard to Chase’s mental and physical deterioration. He has always been an ambiguous character, and while one cannot help but feel for what he has suffered, he is also a jerk and wallows too much in self-pity. It will be interesting to see what happens in his book, and I have no doubt that he will redeem himself and get his own HEA.

In terms of the writing, the first half of the book progresses more slowly - possibly because the parts with Chase descending into Bloodlust distract from the development of Hunter and Corrine's story - but the second half is intense with excellent action scenes and exciting revelations.

The book ends on a small cliffhanger and I am very happy that I don’t have to wait too long for the next installment.

Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Taken by Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed (book #8)
Previous in series: Shades of Midnight
Next in series: Deeper than Midnight

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: After being attacked by the Ancient, Jenna Darrow finds herself struggling to understand the changes going on around and inside her. Not only must she come to terms with the changes occurring within her own body and with the existence of vampires in the world but also with her inexplicable attraction to Brock, a Breed warrior who has the power either to heal or destroy her heart forever…

Review: The last two books in the series have been hit or miss for me (Ashes was a miss but Shades was an amazing hit). Unfortunately, Taken by Midnight is more miss than hit, although there are some highlights such as the continuing story of the battle against Dragos and the search for the missing Breedmates. I really enjoyed the fact that the women of the Order take an active role in the story and are not merely window dressing.

Another positive aspect is the information provided regarding Hunter, the cold and logical warrior who has fascinated me from book 5, and Chase who seems to be coping with some serious issues. I am eagerly awaiting their stories.

The romance is the most disappointing aspect of the book because, even though Jenna and Brock are interesting as individual characters, their relationship lacks the chemistry and intensity of connection that characterizes the other couples in the series. While you cannot help but sympathize with Jenna’s suffering, it is difficult to completely identify with someone who is completely immersed in their pain and guilt to the extent that they have almost lost the will to live. Brock, on the other hand, is an amazing hero, loving, patient and protective but his attraction to Jenna didn’t mesh with me.

Overall, the writing flows and the action scenes are excellent. However, many questions remain unanswered regarding Jenna’s transformation and I hope that details will be forthcoming in the next installments.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd

Title: Rules of Engagement
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: Governess Brides
Previous in series: Rules of Surrender
Next in series: Rules of Attraction

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Devon Matthewes, Earl of Kerrich, is in trouble with the Queen who views his rakish ways as an affront. To restore himself into her good graces, Kerrich decides to adopt an orphan and hire a dowdy governess who will not be tempted by his charms. Little does he know that behind Pamela Lockhart’s plain exterior is hidden a magnificent beauty with a mind and a tongue of her own. It would seem that the Earl has met his match…

Review: Absolutely loved this book ... great characters and a clever plot.

The story is well-written and reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies – Annie, about an orphan girl adopted by a wealthy millionaire. The subplot revolving around the counterfeiting of bank notes adds a suspenseful touch to the romance.

With her scalding tongue, fierce devotion to the little orphan Beth and her high spirits, Pamela is a truly engaging heroine and Devon, despite his rakish way, is both gorgeous and vulnerable in his own way. The chemistry and witty banter are the highlight of the book.

Rules of Engagement is an enchanting and enjoyable book with some decidedly funny moments (“a full moon on a foggy night”). It is highly recommended for lovers of light and sweet historical romances.

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

Title: The Apprentice
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Series: Rizzoli & Isles (book #2)
Previous in series: The Surgeon
Next in series: The Sinner

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: It is another hot summer in Boston, and a sadistic serial killer is on the loose again. Detective Jane Rizzoli is drawn into the case as the murders are reminiscent of Warren Hoyt’s rampage, and she forced not only to deal with a secretive FBI Agent but must also confront her worst fears when Hoyt escapes custody and joins forces with the city’s newest monster.

Review: An excellent sequel.

The plot is well-written, fast-paced and suspenseful. However, there are several disturbing scenes that require a strong stomach. Moreover, a number of sections of the story are told from Warren Hoyt’s perspective which adds to the tense and creepy atmosphere.

Rizzoli is an incredible character. She is tough and hard as nails but comes across as so real and compelling that it is difficult not to identify with her. The secondary characters are also intriguing and some series regulars make their first appearance including Maura Isles, Agent Gabriel Dean and Vince Korsak.

On a side note, this is the book that the pilot episode of the TV series Rizzoli & Isles is based on. There are many differences between the show and the book, the most significant being that Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles are merely acquaintances in the book and not fast friends. As such, readers coming to the book from the series may be disappointed.

In sum, this book is thoroughly entertaining and I wholeheartedly recommend it for those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers with a touch of forensics.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Night Play
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: Dark Hunters (book #5)
Previous in series: Kiss of the Night
Next in series: Seize the Night

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Deadly and tortured, Vane Kattalakis is a Were-Hunter with the ability to transform into a wolf. Pursued by his enemies, Vane is not looking for love and is staggered to learn that the Fates have marked Bride McTierney, a human woman, as his mate. Bride has been hurt in the past and Vane must work his way past her insecurities to convince her that she can trust him not only with her life but with her heart as well.

**Note**: This is book six in the Dark Hunter series but the first book to explore the world of the Were-Hunters and is this respect it provides many new and interesting details, especially regarding the distinction between the Arcadians and Katagaria.

Review: Vane and Bride are a sweet and likeable couple, and their romance is engaging. Nevertheless, Bride’s preoccupation with her physical size, while understandable, becomes tiresome after a while, especially considering the fact that Vane could not care less and sees her as sexy and voluptuous. Vane is gorgeous both inside and out, and he is among my favorite characters in the series.

While the plot is predictable and clichéd, the book has some great laugh-out-loud dialogue and exceptional secondary characters (gotta love Ash and Simi, Valerius and Otto) that more than make up for it. The contrast between Vane and Fury’s characterization is another highlight of the story.

Backstory and world building are Kenyon's strong suit and Night Play is no exception. The writing flows and the descriptions are detailed and intriguing even if her characters are a little too good to be true.

I am slowly working my way through this series and enjoying every minute. I do suggest that the books be read in order so as not to miss out on any of the interesting tidbits.

Tall, Dark & Wolfish by Lydia Dare

Title: Tall, Dark and Wolfish
Author: Lydia Dare
Series: Westfield Wolves (book #2)
Previous in series: A Certain Wolfish Charm
Next in series: The Wolf next Door

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Benjamin Westfield has a little problem…his ability to transform into his Lycan form has vanished and he feels compelled to seek out a witch who can heal him and restore his inner beast. However, when Ben finds the beautiful Elspeth Campbell, she is not what he expects and he finds himself wanting more than just her healing arts…

Review: A good premise and a sweet romance but not as compelling as the first book in the series.

Ellie and Ben are a cute couple and have great interaction and dialogue but their chemistry is more subdued. Ellie is engaging and spirited, and Ben is gorgeous, protective and sympathetic but can be obtuse at times.

The main plot is very straightforward with no real conflict, which results in a light and easy read. The inclusion of several subplots makes for some interesting side stories and excellent characterization of secondary characters. Caitrin, one of the witches in Elli’s coven, is particularly well developed and is also the heroine in book #4 of the series.

The writing flows and the story is well-paced. Nevertheless, the frequent use of Scottish dialect, i.e., lots of “ye” instead of “you”, “ken” instead of “know” and “doona” instead of “do not”, was a little distracting at the beginning. It’s been a while since I read a book with this type of accent and it took me a while to get used to it again.

In sum, a charming and amusing read for when you are in the mood for something lighter. Will and Prisca’s book is next and I’m really looking forward to it.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare

Title: Unlawful Contact
Author: Pamela Clare
Series: I-Team (book #3)
Previous in series: Hard Evidence 
Next in series: Naked Edge

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: While looking into the disappearance of a young woman, investigative journalist, Sophie Alton, is led to the girl’s brother, a convicted killer who uses her to escape from prison. Little does she know that the convict is someone from her own past and the two are about to embark on a perilous journey toward truth and passion.

Review: Intense, romantic and steamy.

One of Pamela Clare's strenghts is her ability to write about controversial and intriguing issues and this book is no different. The plot centers on the abuse suffered by female prisoners while incarcerated and even though the story is not as disturbing as in Hard Evidence, and the identity of the villain can be guessed quite early on, the story is gripping and action packed. It had me spellbound from the very first words of the prologue and on the edge of my seat until the absolute end.

Characterization is another one of Clare's amazing skills. Sophie and Hunt are an outstanding couple. Sophie's belief in Hunt and her willingness to sacrifice herself makes her one of my favorite heroines. Hunt is an amazing hero (tortured just like I love them). His honor in the face of immense suffering is incredible and his love for Sophie is simply breathtaking.

I enjoyed catching up with some of the characters from the previous books and can’t wait to read the next one.

In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Title: In Bed with a Highlander
Author: Maya Banks
Series: McCabe Trilogy (book #1)
Next in series: Seduction of a Highland Lass

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: The illegitimate daughter of a King, Mairin Stuart is nothing but a pawn to most men. When she is forced to marry the powerful and enigmatic Ewan McCabe, Mairin is fears that her worst nightmare may have come true. However, as they grow closer and danger lurks around every corner, Ewan and Mairin are surprised to discover that she is not only the salvation of his clan but also the woman who conquers his heart.

Review: An enjoyable story with engaging characters.

The characters are the strong point in the book. Mairin is feisty and adorable and, despite his bluster, Ewan is sexy, sweet and possessive of those he loves. They have great chemistry and their dialogue is very appealing.

The secondary characters are intriguing, especially Ewan’s youngest brother, Caelen, who develops very quickly into my favorite – tortured - type of hero. Mairin’s interaction with Ewan’s son, Crispen, and the other women of the clan provide some exceedingly funny and memorable moments. Finally, the villain is suitable nasty and makes you want to cringe.

The plot is the weak point, however, as it is predictable and lacks originality. The climax feels rushed and events are tied up a little too neatly at the end. Nevertheless, the action is well-paced and the narrative flows nicely.

Overall, this is an entertaining historical romance, which I can easily recommend for those with a passion for highlanders. Personally, I am looking forward to reading the next book.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare

Title: A Certain Wolfish Charm
Author: Lydia Dare
Series: Westfield Wolves (book #1)
Next in series: Tall, Dark and Wolfish

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, is rich, powerful and devastatingly handsome but he has a secret that causes him to keep women at arm’s length. That is until Lily Rutledge arrives on his doorstep to ask for help with her nephew whose behavior is becoming increasingly wild and inexplicable. Can Simon withstand the call of his own nature or will he give in to the desire he feels for Lily?

Review: A successful amalgamation of my two of my favorite genres - historical and paranormal romance.

The writing flows smoothly and the pages almost turn themselves. The story is completely charming and the characters engaging.

The main characters have a captivating chemistry and make a wonderful couple. Simon is a typical alpha who finds it difficult to control is true nature and keeps himself at a distance out of fear. Lily is strong willed and stubborn but with a sweet and loving nature.

I found the dynamic between the secondary characters, Simon’s brother Will and Lily’s friend Prisca, to be particularly compelling and look forward to reading their book.

Overall, this is an extremely entertaining read for lovers of light and sexy romances.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Title: Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #4)
Previous in series: An Offer from A Gentleman
Next in series: To Sir Phillip, with Love

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton for most of her life but has always known that her adoration is unrequited. Nevertheless, upon returning from a trip abroad, Colin discovers that Penelope is not what or who she seems and that she may just be the greatest threat to his sanity or perhaps the girl of his dreams…

Review: The Bridgerton books are definitely one of the best historical romance series. It is impossible to put the books down once you start so be prepared to spend a few hours without food when reading this one.

Penelope and Colin are my favorite couple. Don’t get me wrong, the characters in the other books are absolutely charming and I have my favorites – Simon in The Duke and I, and Kate in The Viscount who Loved Me but Colin and Penelope whose relationship grows from acquaintance to friendship to love is simply the best.

Penelope’s character appealed to me on many levels. She is intelligent, courageous, dignified and witty. Colin is a complete charmer but can be very obtuse at times. He takes his time realizing just how perfect Penelope is and is caught completely by surprise when he falls in love with her. The way in which he deals with his emotions and with Penelope’s secret is so touching.

As always, Quinn’s writing is excellent and the secondary characters are well fleshed out and supply some of the funniest moments, particularly, Colin’s youngest sister, Hyacinth. Her book should be a scream.

On a side note: readers learn the identity of the elusive Lady Whistledown in this book and I'm so glad that my guess turned out to be the right one.

In sum, don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing, sighing and crying when reading this book.

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer from A Gentleman 
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: The Bridgertons (book #3) 
Previous in series: The Viscount Who Loved Me
Next in series: Romancing Mister Bridgerton

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: The illegitimate daughter of an Earl, Sophie Beckett is forced to work in her own home as an unpaid slave to her father’s malicious widow. One night, Sophie defies her stepmother, attends Lady Bridgerton’s masquerade ball and catches the attention of Benedict Bridgeton. Benedict will do anything to find the mysterious lady in silver but she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Soon after, he finds himself attracted to a lowly housemaid who makes him feel alive and dream of a future. But can he live without the woman who captured his heart…

Review: Cinderella is one of my all time favorite fairy tale and this is one of the most heartwarming adaptations.

Sophie and Benedict are a lovely couple and their story is very sweet and romantic. Benedict makes very minor appearances in the previous two books so he is more or less a clean slate and the reader has the opportunity to learn more about him. He is a very gallant hero although he does seem to be a bit single-minded in his immediate love for and desire to locate a complete stranger. Sophie is a very spirited heroine and holds her ground with Benedict but doesn’t seem able to do the same with her stepmother. This may be due to her lack of self-confidence with regard to her status in society. While Araminta is shoved off her rather high pedestal and put in her place at the end, I do wish she had gotten more of a comeuppance.

Quinn’s writing style is immersing and she incorporates wit and humor so well into her story telling. The plot is a little predictable but in a good way, and I appreciated the slight social critique regarding the class divide and the fact that servants are barely noticeable and often treated as less than human.

Overall, the Bridgerton series is immensely entertaining and this installment is no exception. I find myself completely addicted and seem to be reading the books back to back (very unusual for me).

Friday, 11 November 2011

Living Nightmare by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Living Nightmare
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #4)
Previous in series: Running Scared
Next in series: Blood Hunt

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Nika Madison has been trapped in a nightmare for nine years but now she is slowly coming out of it and has one goal – to save her younger sister from the monstrous Synestryn holding her captive. Unfortunately, Nika’s psychic connection to her sister is fading and only one person has power to help Nika re-forge that bond: Madoc, a Sentinel Warrior with a bare lifemark who wants nothing to do with Nika.

Review: Amazing read that keeps you turning the pages!

As in the previous books, the overall story arc continues to develop and there are some surprising twists and turns. There is a large cast of characters to keep track of, but each has a compelling personality and story that grabs you and won’t let go.

Nika and Madoc are both tortured and damaged but find themselves irrevocably drawn to each other. Their chemistry is simply mesmerizing and they share some of the most romantic moments in the series. Madoc is hanging on to his humanity and honor by a thread, and is terrified of the danger that he poses to others, especially Nika. He tries to keep himself at a distance but finds it difficult to fight against the temptation that she poses. Nika is stubborn and determined with a strength of will and capacity for love that makes her impossible to resist.

Overall, an exciting and action packed story but be forewarned that there are several dark and disturbing scenes that may make some readers uncomfortable. The next book is Logan’s and I am looking forward to seeing things from a Sanguinar's perspective.

Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell

Title: Mallory’s Oracle
Author: Carol O’Connell
Series: Kathleen Mallory (book #1)
Next in series: The Man Who Cast Two Shadows

My rating: 2 Stars

Synopsis: Kathleen Mallory began life as a thief on the streets of New York City until she was taken in my detective Louis Mankowitz and his wife. Now a police sergeant with an expertise in computer crimes, Mallory must investigate a particularly difficult homicide – the murder of her adoptive father – which is linked to the deaths of several elderly and wealthy women.

Review: I really wanted to like this book but failed in almost every respect. The writing is elliptical and convoluted with too many narrative threads that are difficult to follow and never seem to form a cohesive whole.

None of the characters is particularly likeable, especially the heroine who is a borderline sociopath. Her characterization is too reminiscent of the hero in the television show Dexter, which I stopped watching after three episodes because it is impossible for me to identify with a serial killer no matter how noble his intentions.

The serial killer plot is intriguing and has potential but the paucity of clues makes it virtually impossible for readers to figure it out for themselves. Moreover, the irrelevant subplots involving magicians, mediums and séances add nothing to the suspense, and detract from the murder mystery. In addition, while the identity of the murderer is ultimately revealed, the explanations for his actions are vague and imprecise.

Overall, the disagreeable characters, the excessive number of superfluous conversations and the lack of action make this a difficult book to trudge through. I do, however, recommend another of O'Connell's books - The Judas Child.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress World (book #2)
Previous in series: First Drop of Crimson

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Kira Graceling is a private investigator struggling to make ends meet until the night she is thrust into a nightmarish world of vampires and ghouls. Stumbling across the scene of a horrific attack, Kira risks her life to save a stranger only to discover that he is a vampire. Mencheres, a Master vampire, is both shocked and intrigued by the fearless human who braves death to rescue him, and must soon return the favor in order to defeat his oldest enemy and save the woman he craves more than life.

Review: It took me quite a while to get into this book, which only livens up in the last 100 pages. The plot is completely unoriginal and the relationship between the primary characters lacks sizzle and steam.

Yes, Mencheres is powerful, enigmatic and sexy but aren't all vampires these days. Moreover, he spends an inordinate amount of time lamenting the loss of his visions and wallowing in self-pity. Kira is a strong and likeable character but she is far too accepting of her sudden transition into vampirism.

The secondary characters are more engaging, particularly Vlad, who will apparently be getting his own series soon. It is a pity that Ian does not make an appearance in this book as his wit and sarcasm are sorely missed.

While the Night Huntress World is well developed and the internal rules of the vampire community are interesting and unique, it was difficult to become completely immersed in the story and I felt no emotional attachment to the characters. As this was not a problem in First Drop of Crimson, I can only assume that the writing in this book was not up to scratch.

On a final note, there were some aspects of the story that appealed to the literary analyst in me, namely, the symbolism of Kira's name, the ritualistic elements toward the end and the historical background to Mencheres and Radjadef's past.

If Frost decided to publish another book in the series, I will probably read it.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Seduction & Scandal by Charlotte Featherstone

Title: Seduction & Scandal
Author: Charlotte Featherstone
Series: The Brethren Guardians (book #1)
Next in series: Pride & Passion

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Growing up as the result of a scandalous affair, Isabella Fairmont knows what poverty is and vows never to succumb to the lure of passion. Isabella’s dreams of a proper marriage are thwarted once the enigmatic Earl of Black begins to pursue her. A man with a mysterious past and dangerous secrets, Lord Black is obsessed with Isabella and will do anything to protect her even as he attempts to seduce her.

Review: An immensely entertaining read.

The intricate plot revolving around sacred Templar relics and a mysterious adversary seeking power and immortality is extremely compelling. The elements of masonic lodges, séances in cemeteries, secret messages and Death as a Byronesque hero may be somewhat melodramatic but ultimately contribute to the dark and Gothic atmosphere of the story.

The writing is well-paced and easy to follow through the twists and turns of the story. My one small nitpick is that the excerpts from Isabella’s journal are distracting and do not really contribute to Lord Black’s characterization or his developing relationship with Isabella.

Lord Black is simply incredible - dark, brooding and so sexy – he fulfills every one of my tortured hero criteria. Isabella is a sweet heroine and while she does struggle with her feelings for Black, she never allows him to dominate her. Unfortunately, her characterization is not always inconsistent (she is supposedly a sturdy Yorkshire lass but suffers from debilitating headaches and swoons from fright). Black and Isabella have a sizzling chemistry and the seductions scenes are wonderfully sensual and steamy.

The secondary characters are also well developed with their own distinct motivations and personalities. The undercurrents of tension in the relationships of Adrian & Lucy and Iain & Elizabeth, are particularly intriguing and will apparently be explored in future installments.

Even though Black and Isabella's story is resolved satisfactorily in this book, readers are left with numerous unanswered questions regarding the conspiracy subplot. The author promises to address these in the sequel, and I look forward to finding out what happens in the rest of the series.

Standing in the Shadows by Shannon McKenna

Title: Standing in the Shadows
Author: Shannon McKenna
Series: McCloud Brothers (book #2)
Previous in series: Behind Closed Doors
Next in series: Out of Control

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Former FBI agent, Connor McCloud has been in love with Erin Riggs for years. Unfortunately, he is responsible for putting Erin’s corrupt father in prison and knows that he can never have her. Now an enemy from their past has returned and Connor must put his feelings aside in order to protect Erin from a devious killer bent on revenge…

Review: Standing in the Shadows is closely related to the first book in the series, Behind Closed Doors, so it is important to read the books in order for the backstory to make sense.

The buildup to Erin and Connor’s relationship is sexy and intense. Their doubts and insecurities about each other contribute to their unfolding chemistry. However, they seem to lose momentum once they get together and their connection is reduced to little more than steamy sex. Thankfully, the story picks up again in the last few chapters and they turn out to be a lovely couple.

Connor is a typical alpha male with the need to dominate (even though he does have his sensitive moments). He can be overbearing at times but Erin has a definite backbone and is quite capable of putting him in his place, which leads to some explosive encounters.

The plot is clever and the climax of the story plays out well and has some exhilarating moments. There are, however, some illogical circumstances and points that are not followed through. For example, Novak tries to undermine Barbara Riggs’s sanity but no one seems to realize that he is doing the same to Connor. In addition, Connor asks Seth to check up on Mrs. Riggs’s television but the latter never puts in an appearance.

The secondary characters are interesting and well developed from the seriously disturbed yet ingenious villain and his female sidekick (who turns out to be the most compelling character of all) to the geeky boy in love with Erin’s sister.  

Overall, this book is an improvement on the first but it is not the best example of the romantic suspense genre. Nevertheless, I’m curious enough about the secondary cast to continue reading the series.  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Running Scared by Shannon K. Butcher

Title: Running Scared
Author: Shannon K. Butcher
Series: The Sentinel Wars (book #3)
Previous in series: Finding the Lost
Next in series: Living Nightmare

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Lexi Johns has been raised to believe that the Sentinel Warriors are a dangerous threat and will do anything to rescue her best friend from them. Zach is a Sentinel with only one goal: to convince Lexi that her destiny is intertwined with his and that she is the only one with the ability to channel the power that can destroy him.

Review: Intricate and detailed world building combined with an intense plot that contains one or two shocking revelations and some spine tingling moments. One of the best aspects of this series is that the female characters play an important role in the battle against evil. They are not merely damsels in distress in need of rescue.

Zach and Lexi’s romance is fantastic and their relationship builds and grows on every page. Lexi’s intentions are pure but she is a little naïve regarding the consequences of her actions. Moreover, her trust issues make it difficult to let others in and she struggles not only with attraction to Zach but also with the growing awareness that her entire belief system has been based on lies. Zach is an admirable hero with infinite patience and acceptance of Lexi’s distrust.

The story is a complex amalgamation of several subplots including Lexi’s strategy for rescuing Helen, the Sanguinars’ secret plans to save their people, a spy within the Sentinel compound, and a race of princely beings who have been visiting earth, not to mention the monstrous Synestryn who have their own agenda for the planet. Some of these are resolved in this book and others will have to wait for subsequent installments.  

There are numerous secondary characters but all are well-developed and interesting. The most compelling are Madoc and Nika whose intense connection is just spellbinding and I can’t wait to read their book next.  

The Sentinel Wars is an engrossing series. It is, however, necessary to read the books in order otherwise it is virtually impossible to understand what is going on in the overall story arc.