Thursday, 29 September 2011

First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost

Title: First Drop of Crimson
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Night Huntress World (book #1) 

Next in series: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Denise MacGregor has an extreme aversion to the supernatural world ever since a deadly encounter with some of its more vicious representatives. But now a demon shapeshifter is preying on Denise and her family, and the only one she can turn to is Spade, a powerful and mysterious vampire who arouses her deepest fears but also her strongest desires. 

Review: It is necessary to preface this review with the admission that I have not read any of the books in the Night Huntress series and have no plans to do so as they are written in the first person, which is one of my personal pet reading peeves.  

That said, the Night Huntress world is an intriguing and exciting place, and it is fantastic that First Drop of Crimson is in the third person so that I am able to enjoy Frost’s exemplary writing skill. Moreover, I was never left feeling confused or out of the loop for not reading the books in the original series.

The plot is intricate with several different villains at various times in the book but all threads ultimately come together into a unified whole. While there are some annoying plot holes (for example, why does Denise feel the need to protect Cat from her problems when she knows her friend is quite capable of kicking butt?), these do not detract from the overall story. 

The characters are what make this book a keeper. Denise is a courageous, determined and endearing heroine. Her reactions to the trauma she experienced are realistic and believable. Spade is seriously sexy and romantic. Their relationship is well developed although their chemistry is more subdued than some of the paranormal romances that I’ve read recently. 

The secondary characters are a mixed bag. Those from the original series come across as a little one-dimensional. It is possible that readers more familiar with them might feel differently about this. In contrast, the characters unique to this book are more fleshed-out and compelling, especially the demon who is the catalyst for the story. 

One final comment on the language – quite a few of the characters are English and as such there is liberal use of English slang such as “bloke”, “sod”, “mate”, which takes some getting used to.  

First Drop of Crimson is an entertaining read. I look forward to reading Mencheres’s book and hope that Ian will also find his match.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Rapture Untamed by Pamela Palmer

Title: Rapture Untamed
Author: Pamela Palmer
Series: Feral Warriors (book #4) 
Previous in series: Passion Untamed 
Next in series: Hunger Untamed

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: The most antagonistic and anti-social of the feral warriors, Jag must partner with the beautiful and enigmatic Olivia, a member of the Therian Guard. However, Olivia is no ordinary immortal and possesses forbidden powers that must be kept hidden from her race. Will Jag discover her secret and what will he do with his dangerous knowledge?

Review: Once again, the plot is engrossing and the intricacy of the Feral Warriors’ world just gets better and better.

The characterization is both the high and the low point of the book. In terms of the latter, Jag is vulgar and obnoxious, and his behavior toward Olivia is morally questionable. The revelations of his tortured past explain many of his offensive actions and he does eventually redeem himself. Nevertheless, it is difficult to sympathize with or even like his character.

In contrast, Olivia is amazing. She is courageous and spirited, and kicks Jag's butt on numerous occasions. He has definitely met his match in her. The unique curse with which she is afflicted and its contribution to the plot is actually what kept me reading. Not that the romance is lacking, in fact, despite his faults, Jag and Olivia’s relationship is captivating, especially once he comes to terms with who he is and realizes what he has to lose.

In sum, the book is well written and has some excellent twists and turns as well as a significant cliffhanger at the end. I highly recommend that the series be read in order so as not to miss out on any of the important details.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Bound by Shadow by Anna Windsor

Title: Bound by Shadow 
Author: Anna Windsor  
Series: Dark Crescent Sisterhood (book #1)  
Next in series: Bound by Flame
My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: As a fully trained Sybil, Riana Dumain is a warrior priestess in the battle of good versus evil. When she becomes involved in a case involving the occult murder of a child, Riana suspects that NYPD detective Creed Lowell may possibly be a foot soldier for the evil Legion cult, using his badge and drop-dead looks to consolidate demonic power. Why then does she find herself so attracted to him?

Review: An intense and sexy romance with an excellent mythology centering on demons and the powers inherent to the four elements. The elemental magic and symbolism are unique (at least to me) and I found them particularly appealing.

The plot is action packed and absorbing but there are moments when it drags possibly due to the need to explain the complex mythology and consolidate the world building. The story is, however, well worth the effort of slogging through these areas.

Creed and Riana are an engaging couple and the development of their relationship is one of the book’s strong points. Creed is an interesting character because he is at odds with himself and must come to terms with his true nature before he can commit to someone else.

Riana originally comes across as physically and mentally strong but her insecurities are soon revealed and accentuate her conflicting emotions regarding Creed. Her inability to completely trust Creed despite everything he does for her is annoying but consistent with her characterization.

The secondary characters are also well developed. The other Sybils have distinct personalities and backgrounds, and it is great that they stand up for their principles. Some readers may find them obnoxious but I, for one, enjoy reading about strong willed, intelligent and powerful female characters. The villains are a little clichéd and it is not difficult to guess who they are, but the final showdown with them is exciting.

The book is well written and the next two installments are set up nicely within the storyline. I look forward to reading them.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Ashes of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Title: Ashes of Midnight
Author: Lara Adrian 
Series: The Midnight Breed (book #5) 
Previous in series: Midnight Rising 
Next in series: Ashes of Midnight

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Synopsis: Once a civilized Breed, Andreas Reichen is now a vampire consumed with the desire for vengeance and he will do anything to get it including using the only woman he has ever loved as a pawn. 

Review: An intriguing plot in terms of the overall story arc with an exciting twist at the end. However, the romance is weak and unappealing.  

Andreas’s character has been building up over the series and I was eager to read his book but ended up being disappointed. To begin with, his character does a complete about face and transforms from a civilized and intelligent social creature into an uncontrollable and dangerous warrior bent on vengeance. This transformation is logical in terms of plot development but it takes some getting used to.

Andreas’s relationship with Claire is where the book takes a turn for the worse as their connection falls flat and fails to resonate. Their interactions are lackluster and borderline boring. The previous books emphasize the significance and strength of the blood bond, thus the fact that she is bonded to one of the villains, despite her claims to have loved Andreas wholeheartedly, undermines the romantic aspects of the story. It is a pity that Adrian couldn't find a way to work around this.

Speaking of Claire, her character comes across as selfish, vapid and disloyal. Some of her actions are extremely irritating and contradict her own internal dialogue. Moreover, the way in which she and Andreas ultimately resolve their issues comes across as absurd and uninspired.
To be honest, Roth’s character is far more interesting and impressive. He is manipulative, arrogant and sadistic – all of which make for one of the more compelling villains in the series.

The scenes between the other warriors and their mates, and the development of the Dragos storyline are some of the few saving graces of the book.

In sum, the world that Adrian has created is exciting and entertaining, which more than compensates for the unremarkable romance in this installment. Moreover, Andreas is not one of the core brotherhood of warriors, and he and Claire may not take a central role in books to come. For these reasons, I will continue with the series despite the failings of this one.  

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Warrior by Zoe Archer

Title: Warrior
Author: Zoe Archer
Series: The Blades of the Rose (book #1)
Next in series: Scoundrel

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: After witnessing a vicious attack, Captain Gabriel Huntley sets out on a quest to fulfill a dying man’s final request. Gabriel soon finds himself drawn into a world of secret societies, danger, magic and intrigue as well as to Thalia Burgess, a woman on a mission of her own to recover a priceless artifact that, in the wrong hands, can be used as a most destructive weapon.

Review: This is my first book in the Steampunk genre and although the beginning is a little slow, it picks up pace 1/3 of the way in and after that it is action packed.

While not exactly original (it reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies), the story is intriguing and well-written (some of the sections about the various gadgets could have been condensed) with enough twists and turns to keep you interested.

The historical and geographical settings are one of the highlights of the book. The descriptions of Mongolian life and culture are well researched, vivid and inspiring. Some readers may be put off by the paternalistic and colonial attitudes toward the local people but when taken in context, this is understandable considering the time period.

In addition, I am a sucker for secret societies and this book as two – the Blades of the Rose, who wish to locate powerful sources of energy to keep them out of the hands of the second society, the malicious Heirs of Albion, who want to use the artifacts to gain control of the world.

Thalia and Gabriel are a great couple with an intense chemistry. Each has just the right amount of strength and vulnerability. Gabriel is courageous and honorable, and his awkwardness makes him completely endearing, and Thalia is an intelligent, independent and feisty heroine. The buildup of their attraction and the growing tension between them are particularly captivating.

In terms of the secondary characters, most are well developed and contribute both to the overall storyline and to the world Archer is building. However, some are presented superficially perhaps because they will appear in later installments of the series and the author merely seeks to whet the reader’s appetite.

In sum, this is an entertaining mix of action, adventure and romance. I will definitely be continuing with the series.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath

Texas Glory (Leigh Family)Title: Texas Glory
Author: Lorraine Heath
Series: Texas Trilogy (book #2)
Next in series: Texas Splendor
Previous in series: Texas Destiny

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Shamelessly traded for land and water rights by her father, Cordelia McQueen is thrust into an unfamiliar world as the bride of Dallas Leigh, a hard man who cares about nothing but having a son. As she learns the ropes of her new life, Cordelia comes to love and trust Dallas, but will he ever feel the same way about her?

Review: The characterization is excellent and the story is heartwarming and heart wrenching in equal measure.

To be honest, Dallas rubbed me the wrong way in Texas Destiny, and I wasn’t so keen on reading his book but I’m glad that I did because he redeems himself completely. Dallas is one of the loneliest heroes I’ve ever encountered and he hides his emotional isolation behind an authoritarian façade that makes everyone fear him. Nevertheless, he has an amazing gentle side that is slowly revealed throughout the book.

Dee is also an endearing character. Even though my preference is for strong willed heroines with a more defined backbone, Dee has an appealing strength of spirit, and it is wonderful seeing her come of out her shell and become more confident and self-assured.

Another highlight is the recurring characters from the first book, Houston, Amelia and Austin, each of whom have their own parallel stories, which contribute to the engaging atmosphere of the book. Even though the suspense subplot is predictable, the villains are suitably evil and obnoxious.

In sum, this is a wonderfully sweet romance and even though Texas Glory is not a tearjerker, it had me crying in places, especially the last ¾ of the story.  

Friday, 9 September 2011

Tanner's Scheme by Lora Leigh

Tanner's Scheme (The Breeds, Book 3)Title: Tanner’s Scheme
Author: Lora Leigh
Series: Breeds (book #9)
Previous in series: Harmony’s Way
Next in series: Wolfe’s Hope (novella)

My rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Bengal breed Tanner Reynolds has been obsessed with Scheme Tallant for years, but she is the daughter of a high ranking member of the Genetics Council with a sadistic reputation of her own. With a spy sabotaging Sanctuary from within, Tanner seizes the opportunity to kidnap Scheme to get answers but things are not as they seem and Tanner’s vengeance must take a back seat to saving the life of the woman he hopes to claim as his mate.

Review: Saying that this series is complete trash is an understatement but it is, nonetheless, addictive trash. At least the story in this book is one of the better ones.

For once the intense bond and passionate chemistry between the leads is not based on the mating plot device that has characterized all of the relationships in the series so far. Tanner and Scheme have a basic connection and fall in love without the added impetus of the mating heat and this contributes significantly to the enjoyment of their romance.  

Scheme is a great character – feisty, courageous, honest and strong willed. My only problem is with her ridiculous name. Tanner is not as domineering as some of the heroes in previous books, and his struggle with keeping his inner beast under control is an interesting aspect of his characterization. The point at which he ultimately fails to restrain himself is one of the highlights of the story as is the fact that he will do anything to keep Scheme safe even if it means giving her up. The voyeurism and Tanner’s tendency to share everything with his twin, Cabal, are a little icky but Cabal’s backstory is intriguing and I look forward to reading his book.

The identity of the spy at sanctuary is one of the most annoying aspect of the book. This subplot has been set up over several books and a number of theories had been formulating in my mind, but the ultimate resolution is sudden and the spy is not someone with an established character, which is one of my pet peeves.

As always, this installment in the Breeds series is hot and steamy, and not for the easily offended.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Storm of Visions by Christina Dodd

Storm of Visions (Chosen Ones, Book 1)
Title: Storm of Visions
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: The Chosen Ones (book #1)
Previous in series: Storm of Shadows

My rating: 3 Stars
Synopsis: The Chosen are men and women destined to use their powers for either good or evil. Jacqueline Vargha has always rejected her gift but now that Caleb D'Angelo has forced his way into her life, she can no longer deny her destiny.

Review: An intelligent premise and an intricately constructed world. Nevertheless, it was difficult to get into the story and I eventually read it on my second attempt.

The beginning is very appealing and pulls you right in but the plot starts to lag once the Chosen Ones get together. It eventually picks up just past the middle and the ending is action packed. One of the most entertaining aspects is the sabotage subplot, which has enough red herrings to keep you guessing right up until the end. The paranormal elements are subtly woven into the characterization and the fact that each member of the Chosen Ones has their own unique ability is compelling.  

Where Storm of Visions falls completely flat is with the romance, perhaps due to the fact that a large portion of the book is dedicated to world building rather than developing the relationship between the leads. In any case, Jacqueline and Caleb do have chemistry but this fails to compensate for their inability to make me care about them as a couple They both come off as cold and unfeeling, and it took too long for their backstory to be revealed (I might have liked them better if it had been forthcoming earlier). Jacqueline in particular is immature and annoying, and she does a sudden and inexplicable about face in terms of her feelings for Caleb that left me completely unconvinced.

The secondary characters fare a little better, and I am particularly interested in Samuel and Isabelle’s connection and in finding out the role of the “dead man” in subsequent books.

In sum, the writing is good and the underlying themes are interesting enough for me to continue reading the series.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Promises Linger by Sarah McCarty

Promises - Promises LingerTitle: Promises Linger
Author: Sarah McCarty
Series: Promises (book #1)
Previous in series: Promises Keep

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Elizabeth Coyote will lose her ranch and everything she has worked for unless she marries. Asa MacIntyre wants nothing more than land of his own and a lady for his wife. Are they a perfect match or a disaster waiting to happen?

Review: Steamy historical romance (erotica) with an amazingly sexy and stunningly sweet hero and a feisty heroine. The sex scenes are explicit but contribute to the construction of the relationship between the characters and to the overall storyline.

Elizabeth and Asa have fantastic chemistry. Asa is charming, loveable and has the patience of a saint. Elizabeth is more of an amalgamation of opposites. She initially comes across as strong willed and spirited but has moments in which she is completely naïve and innocent, and this is annoying at times.

The plot is engaging with 75% revolving around Elizabeth coming to terms with her trust issues and learning to love Asa, and the other 25% focusing on the question of who is sabotaging Elizabeth’s ranch. The suspense aspect of the story is a little lacking and the identity of the villain is obvious.   

The story is well written with some very entertaining and amusing moments but the dialogue could have been better. The conversations are often stilted and consist of monosyllabic responses, and some readers may find the vocabulary vulgar and offensive (keep in mind that this is an erotica book after all). Moreover, there is a mix of period accurate and modern language that can be confusing. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and the interaction between the characters and look forward to reading the next one.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Surrender by Pamela Clare

Surrender (MacKinnon's Rangers, Book 1)Title: Surrender
Author: Pamela Clare
Series: MacKinnon’s Rangers (book #1)
Next in series: Untamed

My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Forced to serve in the British Army on pain of death, Iain MacKinnon and his brothers becomes fearsome warriors against the French forces in Colonial America. When he stumbles across Anne Burns Campbell on the verge of being raped and murdered, Iain defies his orders and saves her life. But Anne has secrets that may destroy their burgeoning relationship for she is not who Iain believes her to be …

Review: An exciting mix of romance and adventure set during the French-Indian wars. The first half of the plot is reminiscent of the film The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis (a favorite of mine), and the vivid historical descriptions and language enhance the immersive quality of the story.
The characterization is fantastic. Iain is a magnificent hero (of course, I’ve always had a soft spot for highlanders) and Annie is courageous, spirited and loving. The buildup of their relationship is passionate and compelling. While the “keeping secrets” plot device is not one of my preferred themes, it is neither overdone nor drawn out and merges well into the storyline.

The secondary characters are well-developed, especially Iain’s brothers, Morgan and Connor (who will feature in books of their own – hopefully Joseph will as well), and the villains – one diabolical and the other with questionable morals. The question of whether the latter will redeem himself is one of the more intriguing aspects of the book. The camaraderie between the rangers and their sense of loyalty and community is another highlight.  

Surrender epitomizes the best of the historical romance genre. I will definitely be continuing with the series and will probably re-read this one again and again.