5 star review

Review + Blog Tour – Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

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From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…

Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating — harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and Tasty Book Tours, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. And the usual Ilona Andrews disclaimer applies, I bought it anyway. +Giveaway!!!

I will admit, I have become a little obsessive over this series.

Wildfire Readings

Wildfire

I post that to show you that it is barely possible that I might not be entirely reasonable when it comes to this series. Seriously, I just want to squee and squee for days over this delightful confection. It has the best of both urban fantasy (clear and intricate world building and action and crazy sauce) and Paranormal Romance (magic and tightly plotted relationship with happily ever after).

This is however the third book in the series and it is definitely not a series you can read out of order. Think of this as one giant, epic fantasy book that just happens to have been released in three installments, and read accordingly. That being said, while I will attempt to not spoil THIS book, spoilers for previous books are highly likely. You have been warned.

The Hidden Legacy series is in a divergent world where in 1863 we discover a serum that unlocks untapped magic potential. Shenanigans ensue and the world decides this is much too dangerous to be let loose and so put a lock on the serum. Of course, there are all the people who have already had the serum, and these traits are passed down genetically to their offspring; so magic, and thus power, prestige, and money are concentrated into the hands of these families, known as Houses.

That is how it all starts, so seriously pick up this series and read it, I doubt you will be disappointed because there is a little something in it for most fiction readers.

On to the show. Those genetic connections however bring both pitfalls, and opportunities, and Nevada bears the brunt of both. She is riding the crest of a vast and catastrophic conspiracy hoping to untangle it before everything goes to hell. Meanwhile she has two sisters and two cousins, a mother and a grandmother who are also subject to the decisions she may make.

We’ve seen Nevada in hiding from the world of power, and Nevada making her initial hesitant entrance,  now we get to see Nevada stepping up to make her own place in this world, on her own terms. She rocks and is one of my favorite all time heroines. She doesn’t wander through the world as some sort of Mary Sue with the intrinsic knowledge that her basic (but humble) perfection will change the world to suit her, nor does she bust up the world order just because she can. She walks the balance.

Meanwhile in relationship land, Nevada and Rogan struggle to navigate their personal relationship in the midst of all this trauma and drama. Genetics, and boundaries, and competing relationships oh my! That sounds ridiculously cliched and soap-opera-esque, but it really isn’t.

But when you boil everything down, it all circles back to relationships and the people in ones life. Do you want something for someone in your life that current circumstances dictate they can’t have? Do you want something for yourself, and others are trying to stop you? It all really boils down to those desires and impediments and Ilona Andrews navigates through these competing desires in complex individuals to build a compelling tale. And that is what makes this so good and so much more intricate than your average romance novel, the rest of the people aren’t just stage dressing, they are as much real characters as the main protagonists. And they have real consequences and real effects on the story trajectory, whether the initiating event came from Nevada or themselves. It makes it, as I said before, compelling.

And while this arc is categorically concluded, there is a nice wide door to continuing further adventures in this world, which I sincerely hope happens. Leon, Bern, Cornelius, Catalina, Arabella, Victoria Tremaine, and a few others too spoilery to even speak of right now…all I could see could easily support more stories. Hell, I would even read some NA/YA in this world.

Buy Links: AMAZON | B & N | GOOGLE | ITUNES | KOBO

Author Links:   WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER GOODREADS

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5 star review, Challenge

March TBR Challenge 2017 & OpenLibrary – Son of the Morning by Linda Howard

Son of the Morning

This month’s challenge is “Comfort Read”, but my moods are too dicy to try to call anything I haven’t re-read a comfort read. So I offer you this gem from 1997, the exception that proves the rule in my general hatred of time travel romance-the only time travel romance I actually enjoy and a near annual re-read. What makes for a comfort read? I dont know, but this one is on my list. So this was on my TBR because I was due, not because it is new.

A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of fragile, old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the intriguing legend of the Knights of the Templar — long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power — Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a celebrated warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him — and to save herself — she must go back in time.
Summoning the magic of an arcane ritual, Grace steps back to the barren hills of 14th-century Scotland, enduring the perils of an untamed land to confront Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Driven by a mix of fear and passion, Grace enlists this brazen knight to join her in a modern-day search for a killer. In their quest to protect a timeless secret, they uncover a love for all time — and a deadly duel of honor that risks everything they have.

Once upon a time, shortly after I had moved away to college, I was bored at my mom’s house and this was the longest book I had not read, so I picked it up, thinking blegh, and then was so sucked in I left several hours later than I had intended and even stole one of her precious books. So yes, I own a couple of copies, but this one is also available on Open Library, with the usual disclaimers.

This is also the book’s 20th anniversary, so it seemed like a good time to bring it up for people who may not have ever encountered it before. Due to the longevity of the book and the fact that so many different book blurbs have been used, I may be a bit more spoilery than usual.

On to the actual review:

Have you ever met someone who was sweet and kind of delicate that you always kind of figured would be the type to collapse and never recover when hit by tragedy? But then when they are, while they might have completely shattered, they somehow managed to glue themselves into a sharp ball of all that brokeness and somehow managed to survive and complete their objectives? Never the same again, but completely not what you were expecting either.

That is Grace St. John. A sweet woman with a solid simple life, she loved her brother and her husband, was nice to the neighborhood teen, and loved her job as a translator. In short a round little cream puff of a woman. And then suddenly, it was all taken from her. Her husband and brother both killed, she’s the prime suspect. She has no resources, no skills, and no fallback position; and absolutely no clue why any of this is happening.

Most of the story follows her journey as she fights to stay alive and to solve the mystery of why this has happened to her. It is a story of a woman putting herself back together, inexpertly mended and complete with really sharp edges. It is a story about obsessions.

And I found it remarkably fascinating and was literally not able to put it down, despite the fact that the romance was light (I mean the love interest is in another freaking century for most of the book), and despite the paranormal element (when I already didn’t care for time travel and paranormal was barely a blip on my radar at the time) it was GOOD. I mean I honestly didn’t know which direction the author was going to go; was she taking the topic seriously, was Grace cracking up, was it some coma dream? I just simply didn’t know!

Grace was just so interesting, and eventually so confident and competent that I couldn’t help but root for her, even when I thought she might be out of her damned mind. The love interest, well, I am meh over him to be honest, but Grace really dug on him, so I was even rooting for her to get him too. He was the trapped prince waiting for the queen to rescue him, and basically she did. It totally rocked and was kind of an eye opener for me at the time. The WOMAN could be the rescuer, could be the one to do the leg work. The man could be the object of desire and the one who waited. It kind of blew my mind.

As for how well it holds up. Well except for the payphones, it really held up quite well I think, but take my opinion with a grain of salt, because I am surely reading with my rosy colored sentiment glasses. But if you never picked this one up, thinking it didn’t sound like your cup of tea, well give it another look, because this one is I think a little something special and out of the ordinary, even today.

Son of the Morning

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3 star review

Review – A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

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Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is the second book in this series, and Kelly Bowen is fast becoming an author I feel I can trust for a quick, fun romp through wallpaper historical England. And this particular series is such smashing fun because the heroines have their own agency, and by that I mean both their personal agency to affect change in their own lives, and an honest to goodness agency-their place of business where scandals can be made to go away.

I’ll admit that this one did not capture my attention as firmly at the start as the previous story did. And that is at least in part because I didn’t immediately connect Elise in this story to the lady in the previous book. She was an interesting character, it is just that Ivory just overwhelmed me. So it felt like starting cold to me, and the author clearly meant us to have already had some time with her. So if you don’t remember Elise, I say brush up by reading at least the first chapter or so from Duke of my Heart. I think that will truly make a difference in how one starts out with Elise. The other part is that the Big-Mis of the two character not understanding who each other was and what their purposes were just made me feel so awkward with the characters, despite their obvious initial attraction.

Once things got going though I was really into it. The back story was way sadder than the blurb leads one to believe, but it was interesting. And the way Chegarre and Associates handled the return of the wayward and missing earl was a delight. I could have read chapters more of that. I also really enjoyed getting more backstory on a mysterious character from the previous book.

Unfortunately the way the relationship resolution came about was less than what I had hoped. It wasn’t bad, I just wanted more. I suppose that is the theme here, I wanted more, more of the mystery, more of the agency working, and more of the relationship-everything that was there did work, so I suppose I am just being greedy. In any event this is a story I honestly enjoyed reading and which leads me top gladly keep reading the series, it just won’t go on my re-read shelf. Perfect for anyone looking for a quick, fun romp.

A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2)

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4 star review

Review – The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase

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She Needed to be Tamed . . .

She was a breathtaking firebrand, and Vere Mallory, the notorious Duke of Ainswood, had never seen anything like her. Although he thought he was rescuing Lydia Grenville from the cluches of a renowned wastrel, he quickly discovers she is angry at his interference! Amused by the sultry hell-cats’s fury, Mallory vows to teach her some humility — in life and in love.

He Was Just the Man to Do It.

Lydia Grenville was fuming. She was determined to savewomankind from disreputable rakes like the infamous Mallory, not to succumb to his scandalous charms. She finds herself overwhelmed by the scintillating sensations he brings to her body, but when she discovers that he has bragged that he’s going to “tame” her, Lydia vows to fight his advances . . . but nothing prepares her for the surrender she finds in his arms.

Ah, how Loretta Chase surprises me. Whereas Lord of Scoundrels enthralled me, Captives of the Night came just shy of boring me, so I didn’t have high hopes but was happy enough to read it, if you see what I mean. Kind of like cold pizza it is still enjoyable enough in its way. That was my expectation, but Chase knocked it back out of the park again, maybe a smidge below  LoS, but close. This one is also available on OpenLibrary with the usual disclaimers.

Lydia Grenville was an Amazon, both in deed and in person. You know who she kind of reminded me of? Helen from Catherine Coulter’s The Courtship. I had to give up on Coulter because you never knew when you would run into a so-called “hero”and “love” story that were absolutely stomach churning, but this one I remember with delight because of its Amazonian heroine, and the current amazing heroine may be prompting a reread of a book I literally wore the spine out of so many years ago.

Vere I simply wasn’t looking forward to though. He made a showing in Lord of Scoundrels that did not endear him to me. But, as seems to be Chase’s way, she turned that initial impression on its head. He was maybe not right, but he did have his reasons for behaving the way he did, and in the end I had empathy.

Rather than being focused on the mystery, this one mainly focused on the relationship as LoS did, and it really, really worked for me. Their courtship was almost as unusual as unusual as Jessica’s and Sebastian’s, though not nearly as violent.

We have some nice twists of mystery, delightful character growth, and most loose ends of the series were tied up. It was also delightful to see Jessica’s brother Bertie grow up some and find some happiness, he wasn’t an interesting enough hero to carry his own book, but the slice of Bertie we got was ridiculously sweet. We also get to see just how she weaved in characters and events from all the books, supporting characters just are never what they seemed, and Francis Beaumont was an interesting if despicable thread throughout. The only complaint I have about the series as a whole is that there seems to be a thread dangling in the form of one Andrew Herriard, and I desperately wish we knew what happened to him (if he popped up anywhere else, some please enlighten me).

This is an altogether lovely series, and this one the delightful cherry on top. I can’t believe I waited so very long to stumble onto Chase, but am glad to have some back list to glom. Especially since she seems to have a delightful feminist flair for her heroines. Each of them have been strong-willed, not in the least mishish, and perfectly willing to either go toe to toe or be devious sneaks as needs must. I find them delightful.

The Last Hellion (Scoundrels, #4)

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4 star review

July TBR Challenge 2016 – Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Award Nominee or Winner

Lord of Scoundrels

DETERMINED LADY

Tough-minded Jessica Trent’s sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain’s reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction …

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him … and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can’t wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place — and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it! — though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof … and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady’s considerable charm.

This particular month’s challenge was RITA Award Winners and Finalists, and it turns out I actually had several to choose from on my TBR.

This particular book has been on my TBR since I discovered Doc Turtle’s analysis at SBTB. This won’t be my first Loretta Chase, as that honor goes to Mr. Impossible, which was fantastic. I was actually fortunate enough to get this book digitally from the library, so whoohoo for saving money (and it turns out it is available from Open Library), but Lord of Scoundrels is actually the third book in the series, and I do not have time to read the others first, so I am jumping in and hoping for the best. It is a generally well liked book so I’ve got my fingers crossed, and since it is so well and often reviewed, and more than 20 years old, I shan’t apologize for any possible spoilers, you have been warned.

The story starts with a rather unhappy marriage and an even unhappier young Sebastian. Seriously, there ought to be a law against some people procreating. So he grows up hard and crude, and stunted emotionally. He has no faith in women or love and is basically an awful, awful person with a ton of self loathing.

Jessica Trent on the other hand is what turns this book from historical to wallpaper historical in my opinion. She is simply out there. Basically Chase plopped a contemporary (albeit slightly insane) heroine into a historical, AND I JUST DO NOT EVEN CARE! Seriously, Jessica is a trip and makes the story. She’s acerbic and strong willed, devious, and supremely competent. She’s runs circles around her brother Bertie, bowls over the hero, and takes the insults and stupidities of Sebastian’s rakish friends like Vere Mallory in her stride. And she doesn’t belittle herself for being a normal human being. In short, she’s my idea of delightful.

And their “courtship” can best be summed up in their most common phrase to one another “I should like to see you try.” Irresistible force meets unmovable object doesn’t even begin to cover it. It is a series one one ups and misunderstandings that are epic in their proportions. Meanwhile, they are both actually being very upfront and vulnerable to each other, though they each suspect the other’s motives and can’t see that fact.

Their “courtship” culminates with Jessica shooting Sebastian, so naturally enough he HAS to marry her, there is no other way for him to top that. At which point our protagonists finally get some extended time to work through their issues, and Sebastian in particular starts seeing the world and himself through a very different lens, which changes everything. And naturally they fall in love and live happily ever after.

So what if that sounds trite, it isn’t, and it is seriously delightful. My only issue I think comes from jumping into the series at a mid point, because it seemed as though there were characters that I should already know. However, going back and reading the blurb for Captives of the Night (book 2), it looks like that actually happens AFTER Lord of Scoundrels, so I am a little confused. In any event, following completion of LoS, I immediately checked out books 2 & 4, so I should get that all cleared up in my mind fairly shortly.

Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3)

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Open Season by Linda Howard

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Be careful what you wish for….On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It’s time to get a life — and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire — dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon — and she’s declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn’t — and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, not the least of which is that much like Cry No More, it has excellent treatment of birth control, though in very different ways. I figured I would come back to it after the way I had to shelve a few of Howard’s books in my Shame Files.

Daisy Ann Minor is a 34 year old librarian who has sadly let her life pass her by. She lives at home with her aunt and mother in something of a rut. She wakes up on the morning of her 34th birthday and decides she has to MAKE her life different. And the banter between her hormonal side and her sensible side is just too hilarious for words.

Fortunately for dear Daisy, she IS a librarian, and as such a researcher. So she sets out a plan to get a freaking life, and it is cuter than hell. And her mom and her aunt are fantastic and feisty, and completely on board with the plan, I’d be thrilled to have both of them in my family.

Chief Jack Russo is a jock, and alpha, and a grown up with some sexy grey in his hair, and underneath the gruff exterior doesn’t take himself too seriously. And between him and Daisy the sparks fly right from the beginning. And they keep bumping up against each other and rubbing each other the wrong way. We have the prissy classy librarians with a plan and the chief keeps getting completely, if sometimes obliviously, in the middle of it…until it is entirely on purpose. This jock really wants the librarian.

But on to one of my favorite components of the story-the birth control. There’s this one particular scene with condom buying (it was part of Daisy’s plan to let the community know she was looking-and if you ever lived in a small town you know how accurate it is) that is too funny. I thought about quoting it here, but really, it should be read in its entire glory. And then when they do decide to have sex, there is frank talk about birth control AND expectations if it should fail, but rather than being clinical it is just fun and funny and as little raunchy.

The mystery is perhaps solved a little too simply, like dominoes falling in a row it is lined up and knocked down in short order, but the characters are just such a riot that I don’t even care.

Seriously, it is a delightful book that I recommend to anyone.

Open Season

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Heart of Fire by Linda Howard

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A fabulous lost Amazon city once inhabited by women warriors and containing a rare red diamond: it sounded like myth, but archaeologist Jillian Sherwood believed it was real, and she was willing to put up with anything to find it — even Ben Lewis. Ruffian, knock-about, and number one river guide in Brazil, Ben was all man — over six feet of rock-hard muscles that rippled under his khakis, with lazy blue eyes that taunted her from his tanned face. Jillian watched him come to a fast boil when she refused to reveal their exact destination upriver in the uncharted rain forests — and resolved to stand her ground. Neither of them could foresee what the days ahead promised: an odyssey into the fiery heart of passion and betrayal, and a danger that would force them to cast their fates together, immersed in the eternal, unsolved mysteries of love….

River of Eden made me do it. I couldn’t not go back and read this after reading that. I’ve re-read this probably a ridiculous number of times. And besides being an old favorite, it goes into two special blog categories: Openlibrary (read legally for free-just get the pdf not the epub unless you like to play the bad OCR game) and Shame Files. As I said before, the Shame Files category isn’t really meant for being ashamed of reading it, but somehow I have lingering shame about recommending them. Maybe because I fear how others will judge me?

There really isn’t non-consent here, it is more that if I look at it objectively I think I SHOULD find Ben Lewis skeevy as hell, but I could just eat him up with chocolate sauce. And there is a problematical power differential with him leading the expedition and taking some advantage of his power in this situation. He’s certainly a character who is a product of his times, 1993 which is practically medieval in Romancelandia time lines. I mean he embodies so many of the traits that completely skeeve me out about old school womanizing alpha male heroes. Seriously, we first meet him when he’s drinking and setting up a rendezvous with his evening entertainment. And despite that, when he first meets out heroine he comes on to her and is ridiculously dismissive of her as a human being. And as they travel together he is pushy, and touchy, and lies about their relationship to the others in their party. Just a big old skeeveball.

But he is also a hard worker, he is smart and crafty, and very protective-and once they get going he really isn’t dismissive of Jillian’s skills at all. It doesn’t take him very long to start seeing her as a capable person. And when the shit hits the fan, his eyes really get opened to how he sees her.

For Jillian’s part, she’s smart, a real fire-brand, and she takes no shit off Ben. She’s also sneaky and sarcastic and perfectly willing to let Ben lead himself into muddy waters. Their banter is hilarious because Ben keeps making assumptions. I like her. She isn’t perfect, she is single minded to the point of stupidity at times, but you get her reasons. And she has a very practical sort of attitude.

As for the story itself, it is straight up romantic suspense, no paranormal elements at all.

And when we get to the end, instead of Jillian changing for him, when she realizes that their goals don’t sync up, she straight up leaves him. She cuts her losses. And Ben, rather than trying to push, or cajole, or do something underhanded realizes that he wants her as she is more than he wants the other thing, and so he gives it up in a wonderfully extravagant romantic gesture. Jillian didn’t try to change him or ask him to change, she just drew her line in the sand and that was that. I can get behind that sort of relationship shake-up. And when you add this to the fact their relationship didn’t turn sexual until the group power dynamic was essentially resolved, well it gives me (personally, YMMV) a guilt free foray into dominant old skool alpha-hole that I can live with.

Justification? I don’t know. But it was the heroine and her actions and reactions that made it work for me. If she had been a mealy mouth doormat then I don’t think I would have been comfortable with it. In any event, if you are looking for some old skool type alpha-hole hero to dig into, this might be one to try.

Heart of Fire

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