Category: Reviews

Review: Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage

Posted August 10, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi GageReviewer: Holly
Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage
Narrator: Marian Hussey
Series: Highland Wishes #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: January 31, 2014
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Time Travel, Historical Romance
Pages: 344
Length: 10 hours and 35 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
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two-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie voices an idle wish while examining a Scottish artifact, that a Highland warrior would sweep her off her feet and help her forget her cheating ex. The last thing she expects is for her wish to be granted. Magically transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in the sixteenth-century Highlands, she comes face to face with her kilted fantasy man.

Tall, handsome, and heir to his uncle’s lairdship, Darcy Keith should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill. Instead, thanks to a prank played on him in his teenage years, he is known for being too large under his kilt to ever make a proper husband. “Big Darcy” runs his deceased father’s windmills and lives alone at his family manor, believing he will never marry.

But a strangely-dressed woman he rescues from a clan skirmish makes him long for more. When the woman’s claims of coming to Ackergill by magic reach the laird’s ears, she is accused of witchcraft. Darcy determines to protect her any way he can, even if it means binding her to him forever.

Wishing for a Highlander is the first book in the Highland Wishes series by Jessi Gage. It was my first read from the author. I’ve had the second book in this series, The Wolf and the Highlander, on my wish list for ages. I was looking for a new audiobook, saw The Wolf and the Highlander and realized it was the second book in the series, so I downloaded this one instead. I got it from Kindle Unlimited and it included the audiobook as well. I liked the narrator, but the story wasn’t very good. It wasn’t awful, but I’m kind of sad I didn’t skip it and go right to the second book.

Melanie is a modern day girl who works in a museum. She got knocked up by her boyfriend of a year, only to find out he’d been cheating on her the whole time they were together and he wants nothing to do with the baby since he’s marrying the girl he’s been cheating with. On a whim, she makes a wish for a handsome Highlander of her very own on a new artifact the museum has acquired. To her surprise, her wish comes true and she’s transported to 1517, in the middle of a clan skirmish, where she’s forced to stab a man because he’s about to rape her. She’s rescued by a giant of a Highlander – Big Darcy – who claims responsibility for her. Within moments of arriving at his keep, they end up married to protect her. Still, Darcy vows to help her find a way home, and he plans to keep that vow.

Darcy is a giant of a man, and he’s never been with a woman because of it. One of the clan women refused him because of his size, and he’s been afraid of rejection (and hurting a woman) ever since. Marrying Melanie is the perfect way to get his laird off his back about taking a bride, and since she’s already pregnant he doesn’t have to worry about that, either. Until she makes him promise to get her back home. He’s a man of his word, so he’ll do it, even if he’s not happy about it.

I almost DNF’d this book early on, because the whole “He’s too big for any woman” thing is pretty ridiculous, plus Melanie’s dumb thoughts drove me up a wall. I ended up finishing it, however, and the second half wasn’t as bad as the first (as far as Melanie was concerned). I really liked Darcy. He was sweet and lovable, despite his insecurities. He was very supportive of Melanie and determined to do what he thought was right.

Melanie and all her wishy-washy thoughts drove me crazy. First she was mad because she thought Darcy broke his word, then she was mad because she wanted him to want her. It was ridiculous. That settled down in the second half of the book, however, and I really liked their romance and the way things progressed between them.

View Spoiler »

What really drove me crazy was the “villain”, however. Anya was a mean, petty woman who created havoc just to create it. The reason I’m mad I read this book first, however, is because Anya is the heroine of the second book. I’m not sure she can be redeemed, and even if she is, I’m not sure I care to read about her. I might try the book at a later date, but I need some space from this book before I try.

I did enjoy aspects of this book, and I’m low-key curious about the next book. I guess we’ll see if I decide to continue on.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

Highland Wishes

two-half-stars


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Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 7, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #3
Also in this series: Stolen Songbird , Hidden Huntress
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The thrilling conclusion to the breakout Malediction Trilogy by Goodreads Choice finalist Danielle L. Jensen.

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

Warrior Witch is the final book in the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen, which follows Cécile as she goes from prisoner of the Trolls to their savior, to possibly the one responsible for the fall of all mankind. The trilogy should be read in order.

Cécile was kidnapped on her 17th birthday and taken to Trollus, a cursed city under Forsaken Mountain, where she was bonded to the Prince of the Trolls, Tristan. A prophecy foretold that she would be the one to break the curse holding them in the city, and it was correct. Now that she’s set the Trolls free, she has another problem – they’re determined to go to war with the humans, so they once again rule all the lands. Cécile and Tristan will need a fool-proof plan to defeat his uncle and save mankind.

This book is called Warrior Witch, so I had certain expectations about how Cécile would grow and change in this novel. Sadly, none of them came to pass.

First, let me start with what I liked about this book. The world-building, politics and intrigues throughout the entire series were well done. It was easy to fall into this world and become attached to the characters (with some exceptions). I absolutely felt like I was there with them. The interpersonal relationships and friendships that develop are also wonderful. Plus, Jensen excels at writing multilayered characters and situations. Nothing is as it seems at first glance. I loved the constant twists and turns of the plot and character motivations. I loved Sabine, Paul and Fred (Cécile’s human friends and family), as well as Marc, Zoe and Elise, the Twins and Tips (those we met in Trollus). They were the best part of this novel. Even most of the villains were multifaceted, never doing things for the expected reasons, or having secondary motivations that almost made them sympathetic characters despite their actions.

While all of that was wonderful and definitely worth reading the book (and entire series) for, I really came to dislike Cécile. It’s hard not to go back to the first book, Stolen Songbird, when thinking about her. Cécile’s journey started so far from where it ended in terms of loss and life, and her overall character growth. I love it when a character grows in strength and changes for the better over the course of a series, especially a heroine. Sadly, I don’t think Cécile changed for the better over the course of this series, nor do I think she grew stronger.

At the start of the trilogy, Cécile was a 17-year-old sheltered girl who grew up on a farm. She’d been book/tutor educated, but had little life experience. Obviously she gained life experience over the course of the series, but I don’t think she truly learned anything. She continued to make the same decisions for the same reasons over and over again. In fact, I think she went from making mistakes out of ignorance to making them out of a sense of malice toward others. Where she did things that put others in danger out of ignorance in previous books, she did them simply to be cruel in this one (ex: being petty and getting human guards killed just because she was feeling mean). She was so cavalier about dabbling in black magic, and such a martyr about it, that I actively came to dislike her as the series wore on.

I also really struggled with the ending.

View Spoiler »

Though this book is called Warrior Witch, I don’t believe Cécile was a warrior, but rather a survivor who was willing to do whatever she must, whether morally right or not. While that may have worked when she was a prisoner, it made her very unlikable once she broke the curse and was dealing with the consequences of her actions.

As for the romance, I never fully bought into the connection between Cécile and Tristan. I think Tristan cared a bit more for Cécile than she did for him, but even then, I never came to believe they wanted to be together. It felt like the only reason they stayed with one another was because of the bond. They weren’t kind to each other, didn’t hold one another’s confidences and in fact spent the majority of the books apart.

Despite my issues with Cécile and the romance, I still enjoyed this series and I would recommend it. As a fantasy series, it works very well. As a fantasy romance, not so much. Still, the world and secondary characters were well worth the read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

three-half-stars


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Throwback Thursday Guest Review: Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart

Posted August 6, 2020 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Throwback Thursday Guest Review: Shadow Lover by Anne StuartReviewer: Jen
Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 1, 1999
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 320
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three-half-stars

A woman holds vigil over her wealthy, dying step-mother. Tensions -- already high with greedy relatives appearing to claim their inheritances -- are further strained by the appearance of the dying woman's long-lost son, who ran away 18 years ago. His mother greets him with joy, the relatives with resentment, but the woman alone knows he is hiding something...that he is not who he says he is. As she uncovers secrets and deceptions of the past and present, she knows only one thing in her heart -- that the irresistible appeal and seductive power of this mysterious stranger may be more dangerous than she thinks!

This review was originally posted on January 30, 2014.

I’ll just get this out of the way now–this book is not going to work for everyone! It has some flaws, yet I found myself really enjoying it. It’s very gothic, which is something I love in romances. I get to enjoy the tension of “who is a good guy/gal here” while still knowing that the romance will be happy in the end. Honestly, when I started the book I was worried I had accidentally stumbled into a non-romance gothic. I genuinely wasn’t sure there was going to be a happy ending. Rest assured readers, there will be a happy resolution, even if the path to get there isn’t quite what you expected!

Carolyn has returned to the home of her wealthy foster mother Sally McDowell to care for her while she’s dying of lung cancer. The rest of the wealthy, disgusting family also takes up residence during the vigil. While Sally shows her a certain amount of affection, the rest of the family treats Carolyn as a poor relation, and even at the start of the book Carolyn fully intends to cut them all out of her life once Sally dies. The family is thrown into turmoil, however, when Alexander McDowell, Sally’s long lost son, shows up. The problem is, Carolyn knows it can’t be Alex because she alone saw Alex die over a decade ago. So who exactly is this man claiming to be Alex? Is he a con man trying to get money, or is there something more going on?

Carolyn and Alex have some interesting chemistry. Carolyn had been infatuated with the teenage Alex, even though he was an obnoxious, spoiled juvenile delinquent who acted horrible towards her. When he ran away at age 17 (and when she saw him get killed), she was devastated. Clearly there is a part of her that desperately wants to believe this man is the real Alex, and whoever he is she is still very attracted to him. Alex too is drawn to Carolyn against his better judgment. It created some of the great tension in the book, and it made their sexytimes a little more steamy than I expected. Alex, however, is kind of a dick, at least for much of the book. He’s smug, cocky, and selfish. These qualities definitely soften up later in the book, which made me question just how smug and cocky he really is, and what is all an act. Who is the real “Alex”? Part of what I enjoyed about this book was the complexities and mysteries of the characters! Some characters turn out to be much worse than they at first appeared, and others turn out better. I love this kind of psychological creepiness, rather than the supernatural creepiness gothic novels sometimes have.

But there are some things not to like here, too. As I said, Alex can be kind of off-putting and domineering, and Carolyn can be kind of a wet blanket. The book is a bit dated, which isn’t surprising given that this is a reissue. (The original was published in the late 90’s.) The book age wasn’t totally obvious, though–for the most part, nothing in the story jumps out as being out-of-touch, just not quite modern. There are some things that don’t make tons of sense, though. One of the biggest questions is why Carolyn would bend herself over backwards for this family in the first place. She is basically the daughter of a servant that Sally took in when she was 2 years old. Everyone in the book agrees that Carolyn was never treated like a real member of the family, always like a poor relation to be tolerated. Sally never adopts her and it’s very clear that she’s never really considered “family.” Carolyn had moved out and gotten her own life, but she quits her job, gives up her apartment, and moves back in to care for Sally even though she admits Sally’s love is cool and conditional. While the other relatives seem to be most concerned with Sally’s illness because of how it will affect their inheritance, Carolyn is only getting some sort of small stipend, not a huge chunk of money. The explanation given is that Carolyn never had a real family and therefore feels loyalty to the only one she has, even if it’s a lousy one, but that’s not a great reason in my mind, especially when the family is insanely rich and could afford the best care. There really was no logical reason for Carolyn to be there, but you have to just accept it and move on!

There were other problematic points too, though it’s difficult to go into detail without spoilers. There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, and I don’t want to ruin them for anyone. I can say, though, that I still greatly enjoyed the book. The slightly unbelievable points didn’t overpower the mystery and the great atmosphere. If you enjoy gothic romances and are willing to overlook some mild unbelievability, I think this book would be a hit for you.

Grade: 3.75 out of 5.

three-half-stars


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Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 4, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #2
Also in this series: Stolen Songbird , Warrior Witch
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 464
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle L. Jensen picks up shortly after Stolen Songbird ends. I believe this trilogy needs to be read in order. Cécile has escape Trollus and is now living in Trianon, performing at her mother’s opera house while she searches for the witch responsible for cursing Trollus. In the meantime, Tristan is still in Trollus plotting to overthrow his father and free the half-blood trolls.

I enjoyed Stolen Songbird and I immediately jumped into Hidden Huntress because I was anxious to see where the story would go. I found the pace quite a bit slower in this novel and Cécile got on my nerves more. In the first book I felt like she made a lot of bad decisions out of desperation. Here, her bad decisions felt more deliberate. She wanted what she wanted, damn the consequences.

I enjoyed the world and really love the politics and intrigues of the trolls. I also thought Tristan grew quite a bit in this novel. I figured out early who the villain was, and I admit I was impatient for the characters to work it out.

In this book and the previous I really struggled with the romance. I never really felt a connection between Tristan and Cécile outside the metaphysical bond that was forced on them. Their declarations of love didn’t really work for me, and nothing I read here solidified their connection for me. Tristan’s mistrust and Cécile’s insecurities frustrated me.

I liked it enough to start the third book immediately, but it’s not a book I think I’ll ever re-read.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

three-half-stars


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Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 3, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Also in this series: Hidden Huntress , Warrior Witch
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 469
Length: 14 hours and 30 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for...

Stolen Songbird is the first book in Danielle L. Jensen‘s The Malediction Trilogy. I’m not generally a fan of YA novels, but I read and enjoyed Jensen’s The Bridge Kingdom series, so I figured I’d give this one a try. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it ended with something of a cliffhanger.

Cécile grew up on a farm with her siblings and her father, but she was promised to her mother on her 17th birthday. Her mother is a famous opera singer, and she plans to groom Cécile to follow in her footsteps. On the day before she’s supposed to leave for the city, she’s kidnapped and taken below the Forsaken Mountain to the cursed city of Trollus.

Five hundred years ago a witch cursed the Trolls to live forever Under the Mountain. They are bound to their city until the curse is broken. A new prophecy names Cécile as the one who can break the curse. She’s immediately bonded to the Troll Prince, Tristan. Now she only has one goal in mind..to escape Trollus and free herself. But nothing is as it seems in Trollus, mostly especially not her new husband…

Stolen Songbird is a well-written, very engaging novel. I really enjoyed the court politics and intrigues, and I loved getting to know the city. The secondary characters were wonderful, and I loved how nuanced they were.

I found Cécile to be rather impetuous and the way she and Tristan treated each other for much of the novel was frustrating, but I can’t say I blame either of them for acting the way they did. Tristan had lived his entire life hiding his true intentions, and Cécile had been stolen away from everything she ever knew. Their bonding meant they could sense the other’s emotions, and if one died the other was likely to die as well. I think this worked against the romance. I never really believed they had a true love connection. They spent little time together getting to know one another, and they never really came to trust each other. It felt like the only reason they were “in love” at the end was because they were forced to through the bonding. I’d have liked to see that play out a little different.

Still, I enjoyed the novel as a whole and I immediately picked up the second book. The politics, intrigue, hidden (and some not so hidden) monsters all made for lovely tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

four-stars


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