Author: Jen

Guest Review: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks

Posted April 9, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn SparksReviewer: Jen
Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #3
Also in this series: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2)

Publication Date: March 27th 2018
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 448
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four-stars

From the brilliant imagination of Kerrelyn Sparks comes a bold new fantasy romance series in which passion and magic collide. Behold the Embraced…

Gwennore has a talent. An Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it, she’s a valuable asset to her people. But when the kidnapping of a young girl thrusts Gwennore into the very heart of the realm of the dragons, she discovers not only a place of power and magic, but also a haunted land, plagued by an ancient curse that all but ensures extinction to the royal family. But when she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, they strike a bargain—save the country from its cursed illness, and he will return the kidnapped girl. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of curing the family he’s loyally served for years. But when a beautiful elf, long considered the enemy of the dragons, comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to passion and desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy to save the very existence he holds dear? And can their love survive those that threaten to tear them apart?

Gwennore is adopted sister #3 from the group of orphaned girls living in a convent on the Isle of Moon. She’s an elf, and because the elves are particularly vicious and have been warring with many other nations, she’s treated with disgust and revulsion pretty much everywhere she goes. She loves her sisters and their children, though, so she puts up with the abuse instead of running back to the safety of the convent. When Gwen and the princess of Eberon get kidnapped by a dragon, she finds herself taken to the kingdom of Norveshki, where a very kindly dragon and a very handsome man promise to keep her safe. Silas is better known as General Dravenko, and we met him in the last book when he helped Rupert. Some extremely shady and worrying things have been happening in Norveshki, and since Gwen is Embraced (born with one magical power) as well as intelligent, Silas thinks she can help him get to the bottom of the problem. Of course, things are more complicated than they at first appear, both in Norveshki and between Gwen and Silas.

This book has dragons! Whew, I love me some dragons. Unfortunately there wasn’t nearly enough dragon parts (harhar) for me, but there are a couple scenes of dragons saving the day so I wasn’t totally unsatisfied. I really love the fantasy world of this series. It is vaguely medieval but not strictly so, which means references to “underpants” and other modern phrases feel a little anachronistic but not inexcusably so. This is clearly not our universe, even if it it is very similar. Personally, I’d like a little more world building, like details about the religion for instance, but some of that may come later, too.

I really liked Silas and Gwen, if not 100%. Silas was such a sweetheart underneath, though he covers it up with jokes. In a way I felt that was a bit of immaturity due to his age, like he has to make all these big decisions and carry this big weight on his shoulders but he makes light of it by acting silly. I did wish he was a little more forthcoming to Gwen with information. He has one big secret he keeps from her and that was totally believable because knowing would have had serious consequences for her. Fair. (Although honestly he dropped enough hints that I’d argue deep down he wanted her to figure it out.) But he also leaves out a REALLY big detail about who he is…and his excuse is he just didn’t think about it?! I gave him some serious side eye there. Still, he is just so tender-hearted and good. He is trying his best to take care of the entire kingdom and save his family, and I felt so bad that he was forced to juggle all of that. Gwen is also amazing and so resilient despite all the terrible treatment she’s experienced. She has trouble believing anyone would find her worth loving, which is one reason she pushes Silas away for so long. Unfortunately, it went on too long. I didn’t understand why she was still fighting him for so many pages.

Silas and Gwen had some great chemistry together and at first it was sexy, but then it dragged out. They don’t even kiss until FAR into the book, and the only sex scene comes nearly at the end. It was just odd to build up this tension and then do nothing with it. I also wanted them to have some more conversations. Silas is so busy protecting Norveshki’s secrets that he doesn’t tell Gwen much about himself, and she doesn’t say much about her own life either. It’s not that I didn’t buy them as a couple, but I would have liked a stronger physical and emotional connection.

While it’s not a cliffhanger, there are no resolutions to all the threads in this book–I presume they will be continued in the next book. In particular, we have to find out more about Gwen’s parents and about Sorcha, another sister whose story started to come out in this book. We do also hear from The Chameleon, the villain from the earlier books, and we get some inkling that something more complicated is going on than anyone realized. I can’t wait to find out more.

I personally loved this book, although frankly that’s more for how it continued the series than for this book itself. If you are enjoying the series this will probably work for you, but I wouldn’t suggest you begin here.

The Embraced Series

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks

Posted April 6, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn SparksReviewer: Jen
So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #2
Also in this series: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1), So I Married a Sorcerer (The Embraced, #2), Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon (The Embraced, #3)
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 469
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four-half-stars

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knows nothing of her past, except that she is Embraced: born with powers that forced her into hiding. Everything changes when she learns she’s a princess, hidden away from her villainous half-brother who now rules the kingdom. But he knows about Brigitta, and he’ll do anything to get her back. Unless a certain roguish pirate has anything to say about it…

Rupert is both an infamous pirate and a sorcerer with the power to harness the wind. He’s been waiting nineteen years for revenge—and he needs Brigitta to get it. What begins as a kidnapping of the fiery beauty turns into a fierce attraction. But can he win the captive princess’s heart?

I enjoyed Book 1 of the series, but I loved Book 2! To recap, the series follows a group of adopted sisters who’ve been secluded at a convent. Here we follow the second of the sisters, Brigitta. The convent is headed by Mother Ginessa. In the style of Albus Dumbledore, Mother Ginessa has kept the girls’ true histories secret until she’s forced to reveal some tiny amount info, at which time she reveals just a slice of the truth before sending the girl off on her merry way. (Because, you know, understanding their family histories and being able to prepare to meet those challenges head on is apparently a no-go for Mother Ginessa.) But as with Luciana from book 1, Brigitta rises to the challenge when she’s told she’s actually a princess (surprise!) who’s half-brother the king is suddenly requesting her presence (i.e., basically kidnapping her off the ship she’s on). But while she’s getting these truth bombs dropped on her, the infamous pirate Rupert interrupts her brother’s kidnapping with his own more successful kidnapping. Turns out Rupert haaaaates her brother and wants to use Brigitta as part of his revenge plot, and as Brigitta learns more about her awful brother and Rupert’s big secret, she realizes she’s sorta ok with that. The rest of the book becomes about Brigitta, Rupert, and their friends trying to right past wrongs and bring peace to the kingdom.

I adored both Brigitta and Rupert. Brigitta is smart and brave but in a way that’s realistic for a naive, sheltered young woman. She’s understandably freaked out by Rupert and isn’t stupid about taking risks, but she also knows that if she doesn’t go with him she puts innocent people in danger. I love the way she’s so protective of her friends and, later, of Rupert and his crew. She’s Embraced as well (a person born with magical powers, which is illegal in most of the world), although I didn’t think her power was used to its full potential for most of the book. She can find things that are hidden, which can mean objects as well as a person’s secrets. I thought there could be more done to explore this talent, but instead it really only plays a major role towards the end.

Rupert is also Embraced, and his power is much cooler. He can control the wind, a power he uses to great effect when he’s pirating or whispering sexily in Brigitta’s ear from across the ship. He’s very much a pirate in the style of Westley from A Princess Bride, in that he’s handsome, kind, only steals from bad guys, and always protects innocent people. He’s kind to his crew, helps out the underdog, and is so tender with Brigitta, even from the start. That doesn’t change the fact that he is planning to use her in a cruel way, though. As readers we can see immediately that he would never be able to go through with it, but he experiences some major internal conflict as he wrestles with his desire for revenge and his desire for Brigitta. He has spent his entire life plotting revenge and hating both Brigitta and her brother, but the more he gets to know her the more he sees she is not what he thought. I loved that as his feelings grew for Brigitta, he realizes he has to find another way, and then he’s all in with her. He is just such a good man!

There were two relatively minor things I didn’t like about the book. First, I thought the ending with Brigitta’s brother was kind of rushed and trite. I also got annoyed by the constant jokes about the pirates ravishing Brigitta and her chaperone, Sister Fallyn. It is a pretty serious subject and, in reality, would be a huge threat to both women. It went on way too long and just felt kind of icky, when there were other ways Sister Fallyn could have provided comic relief.

I think you could certainly enjoy this book without reading Book 1 of the series, but I think you’d get a lot more out of it if you started with Book 1. I am beyond excited to read Book 3 (one word: DRAGONS!!), and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

The Embraced Series

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Twisted Truths by Rebecca Zanetti

Posted March 30, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Twisted Truths by Rebecca ZanettiReviewer: Jen
Twisted Truths (Blood Brothers, #3) by Rebecca Zanetti
Series: Blood Brothers #3
Also in this series: Deadly Silence, Deadly Silence, Lethal Lies, Lethal Lies
Published by Forever
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 432
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three-stars

You can't escape the past . . .

Noni is desperate. Her infant niece has been kidnapped, and the only person who can save her is a private detective with too many secrets to count--and more enemies than he can name. A man who walked away from Noni without any warning a year ago, a man who broke her heart. But with Talia's life on the line, Noni needs his help now more than ever--and this time, she won't take no for an answer . . .

The moment Denver Jones sees Noni, the memories come rushing back. The fire in her eyes. The determination in her voice. The danger of having her in his life. Denver had to push her away once, but now with vicious criminals threatening Noni and her niece, he'll do whatever it takes to protect them. But enemies from his past are circling, and they'll use anything--and anyone--to get to Denver.

With twists and turns that will blow you away, TWISTED TRUTHS is sexy, action-packed suspense at its very best from New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti.

We finally got the conclusion to the Blood Brothers trilogy and really, to the Sin Brothers trilogy as well. We knew Denver was pining for the one who got away basically since Book 1, and when he finds out that woman has plastered his picture all over the internet in an attempt to find him, he has no choice but to go to her. He still has feelings for her, but even more urgently she’s endangered him and his brothers. Noni only put the picture up because she was desperate. Her niece was kidnapped, and with the child’s mother dead Noni, and Denver, are the baby’s only hope. Denver and Noni have to get the baby back from the gang who is holding her as well as avoid getting trapped by Sheriff Cobb and Dr. Madison.

I still love the brother dynamic. The absolute best parts of this book are Ryker and Heath watching out for Denver and showing him that they love him no matter what. And this book has some really lovely scenes with the Gray brothers (I am now and forever Team Jory!), who consider everyone they love to be part of their extended family. I just adore that aspect of these books. I also liked the fast-paced action. This story is seriously nonstop, and it made me want to keep turning pages.

I definitely feel like this series ran out of momentum a bit with each book, though. The pattern just didn’t change. Denver makes The Rules for Safety. Noni refuses to follow Denver’s rules. There’s an attack by the bad guys (probably because of Noni’s reckless flaunting of the rules) and superhero antics by Denver. They have sex so emotionally stunted Denver can express how he feels with his penis. Then the cycle repeats. It’s the same pattern that was in the other books, too. I also didn’t feel like I understood Noni. She never really talks about herself–she’s just there to be the desperate caregiver searching for the baby and to be a source of angst and boners for Denver. What does Noni care about or want besides the baby and Denver? Why are she and Denver in love? None of that is filled out, just assumed.

I’m happy the story arcs are resolved, and I’m glad the villains got their comeuppance, but even there I was left a bit disappointed. Dr. Madison and Sheriff Cobb were more nuanced in past books, but here I felt they were pretty one-dimensionally “crazy.” It was fine I guess, just a missed opportunity to add some depth. (Plus, what happened to the young brothers we met at the end of the Sin Brothers series? We didn’t heard a peep from them here. Even though I didn’t exactly love this book, I’m kind of curious to see if Zanetti might continue their thread in the future.)

If you’ve read other books in the Sin Brothers or Blood Brothers series, you could certainly jump in with this book, but don’t bother with this one if you’re new to the world or if you didn’t enjoy any of the other books.

Blood Brothers Series

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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Guest Review: The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon

Posted March 21, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: The Pretender by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Pretender (Games People Play #3) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #3
Also in this series: The Fixer, The Enforcer (Games People Play #2), The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5)
Published by Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: December 26th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

“Sexy, emotional, funny . . . Dimon gives it all to her readers.” New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Shalvis

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.

Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.

Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line.

The Games People Play series is all about a group of men with traumatic, messed up childhoods who create a found family and go on to become extremely successful (of course). Book 3 is about brother Harrison Tate. Harrison is what might be termed a cat burglar. Apparently in the past he was more indiscriminate in his thieving, but now he’s a “good” thief who only steals from people who deserve it…supposedly. When the book opens, he is in the middle of a job and happens upon a recent murder. He runs out, but not before the victim’s sister catches an unidentifiable glimpse of him. Fast forward to the present, when Harrison, with the help of Wren, has returned to the scene of the crime posing as an art appraiser. His main objective is to help the sister, Gabrielle Wright, who was never charged but has fallen under suspicion for having killed her sister. Harrison knows she didn’t do it, and he’s been wracked with guilt that he didn’t do more to help before. He’s back to protect Gabrielle and see justice done. Gabrielle is hiding some pretty big secrets herself, and Harrison is lying about who he is. When they start falling for each other, it adds a complication neither one particularly welcomes.

I liked Harrison, in a way. He is very sweet and gentle in a way I think some of the other brothers aren’t. I enjoyed the verbal dance he and Gabrielle do as they circle each other. They both know they are attracted but that it’s a bad idea to get involved. I really felt for Gabrielle, too. She has a lot of unfair shit happen to her, and it made me so sad to see. She gives so much to protect the people she loves, and she really deserved her happy ending.

It’s a bit hard to get around the fact that Harrison is a thief. “But he steals for good reasons” was kind of a cop out, in my mind. Hell, the whole catalyst for this book is that he was stealing from Gabrielle’s sister–there were “good” reasons involved but she certainly wasn’t a villain. I didn’t quite love that. An even bigger issue is the lying, my own personal hot button. I sound like a broken record about lying, I know, but Dimon keeps including these major lies in her books and it keeps yanking me out of the stories! (Clearly this series is based around characters lying and hiding secrets and I am a glutton for punishment for continuing to read them.) Unlike the lies in Book 2, which come out in the middle, Harrison doesn’t ever fess up to Gabrielle until the very end. I totally understand why he kept lying, but there is no way it was not going to go badly when the truth finally came out. Gabrielle never got a chance to know him or come to terms with what happened. There are all kinds of meager justifications for why he kept silent and how he was trying to protect Gabrielle behind the scenes, but I was just not liking it. Still, I felt awfully sorry for Harrison when he realizes he fucked it all up. I was actually tearing up at the end when he comes into a work meeting and realizes Gabrielle’s there…ack, he is so heartbroken it pained me! If he had confessed earlier on, I would have been a happier reader.

I think you could easily begin this series at this book, although Book 1 was my favorite and I’d absolutely suggest you start there. I know I enjoyed, but didn’t love, Book 3. If you have an easier time overlooking the hero lying than I do, this may appeal even more.

Games People Play Series

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: The Negotiator by HelenKay Dimon

Posted March 19, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Negotiator by HelenKay DimonReviewer: Jen
The Negotiator (Games People Play #2.5) by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #2.5
Also in this series: The Fixer, The Enforcer (Games People Play #2), The Pretender (Games People Play #3)
Published by Harper Collins, Avon Impulse
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 128
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.

Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.

But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.

Did you read any of the other books in the Games People Play series? If so, you encountered Garrett McGrath. He works for the hero from book 1, Wren. Garrett is…Wren’s assistant? Right hand man? I’ve never been entirely clear on his exact role, but he’s kind of the go-to guy who helps Wren with all manner of tasks. He’s also very funny, snarky, and kind, which is what made me fall in love with him in book 1. Unfortunately, his book 2.5 story wasn’t as good as he deserved.

When the story opens, Garrett has apparently been getting friendly (actually friends, no friends-with-benefits!) with Lauren, the best friend of the heroine from book 1. He really likes Lauren and wants something more than friendship, but that’s all she’s comfortable with so he takes it. When it turns out her supposedly dead husband shows up very much alive, but then is murdered in her house, Lauren turns to Garrett for help. He works for The Fixer, remember, so fixing is literally his business. He has to help Lauren figure out why her husband disappeared in the first place, why he returned, and who murdered him for real. And of course, he’s hoping along the way Lauren is willing to take a chance on a relationship with him.

I got frustrated with Lauren’s standoffishness at times, but I didn’t think it was unreasonable given what happened with her awful ex. It made sense that she would be cautious and not trust easily. I enjoyed that she wasn’t perfect but that her choices were a product of the messed up lessons she’d learned from her past. The problem was, I never felt like I understood why Garrett loved her. This story was just too short. We are told that Garrett and Lauren have been hanging out, but we missed all that. Instead, we see them at this crisis point and have to trust that they did indeed have a friendship going beforehand. I wanted to see a bit more of their relationship growing. It was difficult to step into a story that felt like it was ⅓ of the way through already.

I really wish Garrett had gotten a full-length story. He’s hilarious and sweet, and I wanted to see more. Still, the dialog and humor in this series are wonderful, and it’s sexy. I enjoyed getting to know Garrett and Lauren, and I was happy to read it.

Games People Play Series

Grade: 3 out of 5


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