Tag: Harlequin Nocturne

Guest Review: Otherworld Challenger by Jane Godman

Posted April 6, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: Otherworld Challenger by Jane GodmanReviewer: Jen
Otherworld Challenger by Jane Godman
Series: Otherworld #3
Also in this series: Otherworld Protector, Otherworld Renegade
Published by Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: September 1st 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

KING OF THE OTHERWORLD
The race is on to find the true heir to the faerie crown before the evil king Moncoya returns from exile. Mercenary necromancer Jethro de Loix will find the challenger to Moncoya's crown...for a price. One million mortal dollars. Outraged at Jethro's audacity, Princess Vashti, Moncoya's daughter, arranges to accompany him on his mission.
Jethro doesn't want company, especially not from Moncoya's belligerent, pampered daughter. But as their journey pits them against evil forces, their animosity soon gives way to an overwhelming physical attraction. When the trail ends on the legendary Isle of Avalon, can the pair face down the evil sorceress Morgan le Fay to claim a future they'd long denied themselves?

Otherworld Challenger is the final book in the Otherworld series. While it had some pretty disappointing flaws, overall I was happy I read it.

Note: There are a few tiny spoilers for books 1 and 2 here. I’ve kept them to a minimum but if you haven’t read the other books and really don’t want to know anything, skip this review!

This time, our heroine is Vashti, Moncoya’s other daughter. She’s now the faerie representative in the new Otherworld Council, a role she takes really seriously. In book 2, we learned that someone from the faerie royal bloodline is still around. (Moncoya stole the crown but wasn’t part of the line.) The Council wants a democratic election, and they decide the best chance to get the faeries to vote for someone other than Moncoya is to find the legitimate heir. Jethro de Loix, the mercenary necromancer we met earlier in the series, offers to find the challenger, and the Council decides Vashti should accompany him to confirm that he gets the right person. The problem is, Jethro and Vashti can’t stand each other, and now they have to undertake an incredibly dangerous journey together. Doing so will take them deeper into Jethro’s past and force them to rely on someone else in a way neither has ever done before.

I totally loved Vashti. While Tanzi was the feminine fashion icon, Vashti was the fierce tomboy her father always wished was a boy. In book 2, she was still holding some loyalty towards her dad, but when he tricks her into helping him escape at the end of that book, she finally realizes he doesn’t care about her at all. Moncoya often pitted the girls against each other, discouraged them from using their fae senses of intuition and healing, and ruthlessly suppressed their emotions. Once Vashti is free of her father’s influence, though, she discovers she has deep emotions and powers, and I really enjoyed seeing her discover more about herself.

Really, though, this is kind of Jethro’s story. Vashti doesn’t say much about herself, largely because her own past was detailed in Tanzi’s story. It’s a little frustrating because of course Jethro wasn’t there for that, but I could understand not wanting to just rehash what we already know. Jethro’s story is pretty compelling, too, and even though it’s clear from the start what the big secret is going to be, it’s still interesting to read about. I thought Jethro was an excellent match for Vashti, too. He’s kind of a dick, and he’s hard on Vashti at first, but she’s equally prickly and obnoxious at first, too. Once he gets to know her better, he displays a lot of sensitivity and caring, and as you learn about his life you see he’s not quite the heartless mercenary he appears to be.

The first half of this book was so great. We learn more about Jethro, and Vashti gets used to the human world and her own true self. We also find out that Vashti and Jethro have an almost supernatural connection that seems to strengthen both. They have some great sexual tension too, and all of this awakens Vashti to the possibilities inside her. There’s also a big adventure component as they travel around, escaping the evil sorcerer who’s after them. Vashti starts to protect Jethro, physically and emotionally, and I loved the dynamic that was developing. But then, the second part of the book kind of loses that momentum. They go to the mythical island of Avalon, which is where they’re supposed to be, but things slow down once they get there. Even worse, though, all the build up about the mystical connection and this idea that they make the other one stronger kind of just disappears. In the end, Jethro basically does it all on his own while Vashti kind of hangs back instead of being his partner like she was earlier. It was super disappointing and, frankly, a disservice to Vashti.

When I looked back and cataloged all my thoughts about the book it sounds a little frustrating, but while reading it I Could. Not. Put. It. Down. I gasped at the surprising parts, bit my lip when things got hairy, and sweetly sighed at the romantic parts. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed the hell out of it anyway. This series was unexpectedly fun for me, even if it was a bit crazy. If you’re looking for a paranormal romance you can read in a few short hours, and you don’t need to overanalyze the details, this series might hit the spot for you, too.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars

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Guest Review: Otherworld Renegade by Jane Godman

Posted March 30, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Otherworld Renegade by Jane GodmanReviewer: Jen
Otherworld Renegade by Jane Godman
Series: Otherworld #2
Also in this series: Otherworld Protector, Otherworld Challenger
Published by Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: May 1st, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Claiming her felt like his destiny…but could prove to be his ultimate undoing.

Desperate to flee a horrific arranged marriage, Princess Tanzi turned to the only man who could help. Lorcan Malone, infamous necromancer, had vowed to come to her aid whenever she needed him. And even as they traveled from the mortal world into the fantastical Otherworld, Tanzi knew her true need ran deeper than just a rescue.

She was his enemy’s daughter. A renegade like Lorcan had no business craving a Fae princess, one intended for a greater calling. Yet he was powerless to resist the pull to do more than protect Tanzi…

Back to the Otherworld and my favorite book in the series! As I mentioned in my review of book 1, things get more exciting in book 2. We met Lorcan in Otherworld Protector, but here we get to know him even better. He’s a friend of Cal’s and a powerful necromancer in his own right. He’s a comedian who can always lighten the mood, but of course it hides the fact that he’s tortured and can never love anyone. In the big final battle in book 1, Lorcan saved Tanzi Moncoya, the daughter of the evil Faerie King. Tanzi stayed behind after her father escaped and started participating in the new reconstruction government Cal and Stella were organizing, but when her father arranges a truly despicable marriage for her, she knows she has to run. Unsure about who to trust, she runs to the human world and to Lorcan, hoping he’ll save her again. When it becomes clear she can’t hide, Lorcan agrees to help her escape to the one place her father could never reach her. But will either of them be able to let go once they get there?

My favorite part of the book was Tanzi. She and her sister Vashti were groomed their entire lives to serve Moncoya. Both trained with the Valkyries and are brutal fighters, and Moncoya used them as propaganda tools to intimidate and awe his enemies. Both girls also knew that some day they’d be expected to marry to further their father’s ambitions. Moncoya was a cruel and love-less father, but until he left they didn’t realize the scope of his evil activities. At the start of the book, Tanzi feels torn because he’s still her dad, but the marriage he arranges finally lifts the veil from her eyes, and she understands he is just plain a bad guy. Throughout the book she learns even more about the truly awful things her dad has done, and she has to come to terms with the role she played in his power, even if it was largely inadvertent. Even though she’s a trained warrior, she’s mostly lived a sheltered life, and it was nice to see her take control of her own destiny and have new experiences. I found her story very compelling. I really liked Lorcan and Tanzi together, too. Lorcan is patient and thoughtful, especially once he recognizes Tanzi’s life wasn’t what he thought. Seeing them come together, despite the fact that they both knew it was probably not a good idea, was sweet. Lorcan is also really committed to helping Tanzi on her quest, and their dangerous journey was exciting and gave a lot of time for them to fall in love.

Annoyingly, there’s a secret Lorcan keeps from Tanzi throughout the book, and it was kind of silly. First, the secret isn’t even that big a deal, and I don’t know why Lorcan thought Tanzi couldn’t handle it. Second, instead of having a conversation about it Tanzi pushes Lorcan away and of course ends up in danger. It was contrived and frustrating. In my review for book 1, I had mentioned that this felt like the kitchen-sink of mythology, mixing tons of different myths, stories, and traditions, and that continued here. The problem is, these are category romances, so there’s just not the page space to go too deep. Consequently, it felt like everything was painted with big broad strokes (both characters and the world) instead of finely wrought details. It’s maybe a little too ambitious to take on in a shorter book, even a trilogy.

But still, I am having such a good time reading these books! They aren’t perfect, but boy are they fun. They hit the right notes of adventure/paranormal/fantasy/romance for me, and I love the premise and the characters.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Guest Review: Otherworld Protector by Jane Godman

Posted March 29, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Otherworld Protector by Jane GodmanReviewer: Jen
Otherworld Protector by Jane Godman
Series: Otherworld #1
Also in this series: Otherworld Renegade, Otherworld Challenger
Published by Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: December 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 293
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars

When Stella Fallon journeys to Spain for a dream job, she never suspects that a cataclysmic confrontation is looming. Or that she is the last in an ancient line of dark sorcerers. For her new employer--an electronics billionaire--is actually a Faerie King desperate to harness Stella's powers so he can rule the Otherworld.
The only one who can protect Stella is a man she once thought her guardian angel. Cal becomes human, but his centuries-old secret could destroy her trust. Still, the pair cannot deny their white-hot attraction as they seek refuge in a cave to prepare for a battle of epic magnitude...

The set up: The Otherworld is an alternate world that exists alongside the world we all know. (The mechanics aren’t entirely clear, nor are they very important!) Who lives in Otherworld? Magical and fantasy creatures, like faeries, vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, etc. The Otherworld is at a crisis moment, though, and the evil Faerie King is trying to take over. He is also making evil inroads to the human world, and he needs to be stopped.

This book focuses on Stella Fallon, a video game designer. She moves to Spain to do an internship at a big game company owned by the mysterious Ezra Moncoya. She brings with her someone she likes to think of as her “protector”, a mysterious figure who literally hangs around her peripheral vision (she can sense him but never quite see him full on) and has been saving her from catastrophe her entire life. When it’s clear Moncoya wants Stella for more than just her programming skills, her mysterious protector intercedes and finally shows himself to be Cal, a sorcerer sent to guard her. Cal tells her that she’s actually a powerful necromancer and the key to saving the Otherworld. As Cal and Stella grow closer, she must learn to control her powers and figure out what role she and Cal must play in the coming confrontation.

I loved the premise of this book. I am always up for the “person thinks they’re ordinary but really they’re the key to saving the world” storyline. It is great to see Stella learn about her powers and about the world she never knew existed. I was fascinated by the Otherworld, too. It mixes so many different fantasy concepts. At times that does get a little bit like the kitchen-sink of mythology (Christian-like angels, necromancers, Valkyries, vampires, etc all in the same book?), but it’s still great fun. I also enjoyed Cal and Stella together. The sex was steamy, and I liked the way Cal was hesitant to get involved with Stella but helpless to avoid her pull.

Unfortunately, this book suffered from a little too much info dump. This is a complicated world, probably too complicated for the length of the books, and this first book in particular feels a bit plodding sometimes because of all the information. It’s also kind of hard to escape the fact that it’s a little creepy for Cal and Stella to fall in love. Cal has been watching Stella since she was a child, but suddenly he’s thinking about banging her. You really can’t think too hard about that part or it’s kind of skeezy! While there was a lot of info dumping about the world, there wasn’t much about Stella’s powers, and that disappointed me. She is supposedly so powerful, but we don’t see a ton of her work. She learns quickly and with few hurdles, and she has little trouble adjusting to the whole situation. I thought there were some major missed opportunities for character development there.

Really, this book is simply ok. However, the series gets much better in books 2 and 3, so I am very happy I kept reading. Because there’s so much world building in this book, I can’t recommend skipping it. All I can say is that if this premise interests you, consider reading Otherworld Protector so you can move on to books 2 and 3 (reviews to come).

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars

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Guest Review: Jingle Spells by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair, and Andrea Laurence

Posted December 30, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

jingle spellsJen’s review of Jingle Spells by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair, and Andrea Laurence

To protect Christmas, this family of wizards will have to use a whole different kind of magic…

Part of the Winter clan, the Evergreen family is considered magical nobility. While Evergreen Industries in picturesque Gingerbread, Colorado, might look like an ordinary office building, this is where the magic of Christmas unfolds. Above Santa’s workshop, the Evergreens hold court, manage Christmas and, sometimes against their will and better judgment, fall in love. When it comes to love, the Evergreens know that sometimes you have to play a little naughty to get exactly what—or who—you want from Santa. Celebrate the holidays with Evergreen siblings Cole, Ethan, Dash and Belle in this enchanting collection from New York Times bestselling authors Vicki Lewis Thompson and Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair and Andrea Laurence.

The best way I can describe this book is that if the Hallmark Movie channel wrote a Christmas book, it would be Jingle Spells. Whether this is a good or bad thing probably depends on your feelings about Hallmark style holiday movies. Do you like quick little stories with lots of cute but not much substance? If not, this is not the book for you. In the right mood, I like a cutesy holiday movie, which was pretty much how I felt about Jingle Spells.

The book contains four connected novellas, each one about one of the Evergreen siblings: Cole, Ethan, Dash, and Belle. The Evergreens are wizards who live in Gingerbread, Colorado and are in charge of Christmas. They direct the elves who make the toys, manage the human Santa, keep the world believing in holiday magic, and just generally make Christmas happen.

Though the stories are all connected (and should be read in order), each story is complete and traces a couple. What did I like? The premise is kind of ridiculous, of course, but for some reason at Christmas that kind of ridiculous seems more whimsical than idiotic. It was funny to imagine what it would take to organize Christmas. The siblings have to deal with HR issues (with the elves), a Santa Claus going through a midlife crisis, public relations situations, etc. It’s an entertaining premise. The sex scenes were on the whole hot and interesting, which actually kind of amused me in a book with elves and Christmas cheer. Despite the fact that each story is written by a different author, I thought the style remained fairly consistent throughout. Each sibling did have their own “voice,” but I didn’t notice any inconsistencies or jarring changes between each section.

While I enjoyed myself, the stories are very, very light on world building and character development. Things that are seemingly a big deal, like how if people stop believing in Christmas the magic will die, are never explained, just mentioned. There are supposedly other wizard clans, but they don’t seem to interact or have much to do with the winter clan. There’s no real explanation for why the Evergreens are in charge of Christmas or how the current set up came to be. Each story ends VERY abruptly, too. In some of the stories (notably Cole’s and Ethan’s), there are some seemingly huge obstacles preventing the couple from being together, but then they’re just dispensed with in a couple pages of exceptionally weak explanation leading into a rushed, permanent HEA. I was left feeling frustrated that just when the stories were getting good, they were over (which is often the way I feel about Hallmark style movies, incidentally).

I really only wanted one or maybe two stories–more depth, less breadth. I’m not sure whose story I would like to see most. I was very interested in uber-smart, logical Cole and would have liked to hear more about him, but Ethan was a charmer and really adorable. Dash was sexy and intense and brought a much-needed edge to the book (if you can call a guy who makes Christmas ornaments and enchants the magical sleigh “edgy,” which you probably should not). I definitely thought Belle’s story was the weakest. As a character she was kind of melodramatic, her hero was forgettable, and the plot of that book was a bit too cliche and twee, which is saying a lot in a cutesy Christmas book. I would have preferred a longer story about any of the brothers rather than a rush through all of them like we get here.

I’m glad I read Jingle Spells, but like a made -for-TV holiday movie, the Christmas cheer is fun but fleeting.

Grade: 3.25 out of 5

This book is available from Harlequin Nocturne. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Guest Review: Lying With Wolves by Cynthia Cooke

Posted October 31, 2014 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s revLying with wolvesiew of Lying with Wolves by Cynthia Cooke.

Only her powerful magic can save the Colony and the man she loves…In the wake of a betrayal, Celia Lawson, the last of a preeminent magical bloodline, is building a new life for herself outside the security of the Colony. Meanwhile, demon raiders have breached the protective barriers of the compound and are threatening everyone she loves. When she learns of the tragedy, Celia races home to help mount a magical offensive–and finds comfort back in the arms of the shifter who broke her heart….

Risking exposure for all that he’s done, Malcolm Daniels wants only to redeem himself with the pack and win back Celia’s trust. But as demon forces invade, Celia’s magic–and her own conflicted feelings for Malcolm–will be tested in ways neither of them ever would have imagined.

I don’t remember the last time I read a book by this author but I found this new novel on Net Galley and chose to review it.  I have liked paranormal/shifter romance for a long time and have found that most of the Nocturne series of stories from Harlequin to be quite good.

I am sorry to say that I did not find this one to be one of the really good ones.  There was romance and emotion, hope and hurt, family and friendship, and lots of stuff that is usually found in a romance novel.  But I can’t say it any other way:  that indefinable something, that “wow” factor that makes a novel pop, that compels the reader to want to go back and start all over when reaching the ending just wasn’t there.  In fact, there were times when the drawn out angst with the heroine’s cousins, the shock and surprise and upset over discovering their shifter heritage became tedious and the momentum of the story lagged badly.

On the other hand, the story was constructed just fine and testified to the fact that this author certainly knows how to put a novel together in fine fashion.  I think the fault for me lay in the action of the story, the sense that the leadership of the pack was never demonstrating that sense of power that alpha wolves traditionally display, the silliness of council members who are so out of touch, and the fact that the hero sought to cement his leadership of the pack with manipulation rather than with good leadership.  All this may have more to say about me than about the story, and I am willing to own up to the fact that having read so very many paranormal romances has made me somewhat jaded.  The writing was good;  the editing was fine–I have seldom found any publications by Harlequin that have not been up to a pretty high standard in this factor.  The story was just not up to snuff for me–it just fell short and I guess that’s the best I can do.  I would urge you to read the book for yourself.  It may be that you will be impressed with it far differently than I.

I do want you to know that I am going to go back and read something from this author to check out her work as a comparative study.  I think she wrote well.  I want to encounter some of her work that really excites me.

I give this book a rating of 3 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place

This title is available from Harlequin Nocturne.  You can buy it here or here in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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