Tag: Historical Paranormal

Guest Review: Highland Dragon Warrior by Isabel Cooper

Posted September 5, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Highland Dragon Warrior by Isabel CooperReviewer: Jen
Highland Dragon Warrior by Isabel Cooper
Series: Dawn of the Highland Warrior #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: September 5th 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars

Legend claims When Scotland fell to English rule The Highland dragons took a vow: Freedom at any price.

The war may be over, but so long as English magic controls the Highlands, not even a dragon laird can keep his clan safe. What Cathal MacAlasdair needs is a warrior fierce enough to risk everything, yet gifted enough to outwit an enemy more monster than man.

What he needs is Sophia.

Alchemist Sophia Metzger traveled to Loch Arach in search of knowledge. She never dreamed she'd learn to do battle, ride through the stars on the back of a dragon, or catch the eye of a Highland laird. But as her quest turns to sizzling chemistry and inescapable danger, she'll soon discover the thrill of being caught in a dragon's claws...

Dawn of the Highland Dragon Series: Highland Dragon Warrior (Book 1) Highland Dragon Rebel (Book 2)Highland Dragon Unleashed (Book 3)

What People Are Saying: "The mix of hard-headed realism and fantasy in this novel is enchanting..."--Barnes and Noble Reviews for Legend of the Highland Dragon "An outstanding read! ...fast-paced, smartly written...impossible to put down."--RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick! for Legend of the Highland Dragon"Smartly written, fast-paced, and brimming over with magic and surprises, this is exactly what readers crave."--RT Book Reviews 4 1/2 Stars, TOP PICK! for Night of the Highland Dragon

Cathal MacAlasdair is the youngest in a long line of dragon shifters. He’s currently managing the family’s lands while the rest of his family is away at war, but he’s unhappy. He kinda wants to be back fighting but also kinda doesn’t, and he is feeling the immense pressure of being responsible for the entire clan. When alchemist Sophia Metzger arrives seeking a favor, he thinks she may be able to help him solve a particularly painful crisis involving his childhood friend and some dark magic. Sophia has to work to figure out how to save Cathal’s friend, which ends up being a more dangerous task than anyone anticipated.

This book was kind of a mixed bag for me. One thing that definitely worked was Sophia. She had a confidence that was just wonderful to read about. She’s very, very good at her profession, and while she isn’t afraid to admit when she doesn’t know something, she’s confident in what she does know and isn’t afraid to trust herself. Even better, Sophia was just as self-assured in her personal life as well. She is honest and open with Cathal once she decides what she wants, and she isn’t afraid to make decisions about what is best for her life. This kind of confidence could easily stray into cockiness or impetuousness, but instead Sophia is extremely thoughtful, never making decisions without first turning the problem over her mind and examining it from all angles. It’s her intelligence, instinct, and bravery that save the day in the end.

She and Cathal were a lovely pair, too. He has learned to develop that same confidence in his decisions as a leader of armies and son of a lord, and while he doesn’t relish leadership he does what must be done. Most importantly, he trusts Sophia. While he wants her to be safe and worries that he can’t keep her that way, he still lets her make her own choices about dangerous situations and respects her authority. They had some great chemistry too, and the slow build up of their relationship ensured lots of steamy tension. I kept thinking these two were going to make a really dynamite pair in whatever they choose to do with their lives in the future.

But some things definitely didn’t work for me. Probably the biggest was the magic system, I guess you’d call it. It was kind of a mix between physical potions, woo-woo spiritualism, and some undefined “magic”. I was mildly intrigued, especially by the way it tied into religion in some places, but the descriptions of things like brewing potions were intense and overly detailed. (First book info dump? Perhaps this problem will be resolved in future books in the series.) Frankly, I was bored with most of it and by the end I was skimming some of that stuff, especially because there were so many long, draggy stretches of time where it was just Sophia working. There were also a lot of real historical details thrown in, and my knowledge of medieval European history is minimal at best. While I was interested in the bits about Jewish history (Sophia is Jewish, which is so rare in romances), overall I found the history tedious. To top it off, I also was not a huge fan of the writing style. It’s not technically flawed, but I found the writing to be dense and more of a slog than I prefer.

While I liked reading about Sophia and Cathal, I was probably not the ideal reader for this book. If you’re a fan of medieval romances with some magic thrown in and don’t mind denser prose, this might work even better for you.

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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Guest Review: Shadowbound by Bec McMaster

Posted June 26, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Shadowbound by Bec McMasterReviewer: Jen
Shadowbound by Bec McMaster
Series: Dark Arts #1

Publication Date: May 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 377
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

When a powerful relic goes missing from a secret society that dabbles in the occult, Miss Ianthe Martin is charged with finding it at all costs. She needs help, but all clues point to someone on the inside being the thief. The only sorcerer she knows that can't possibly be involved, is the very man she saw locked in Bedlam a year ago...

The mad, bad, dangerous Earl of Rathbourne.

When the seductive Miss Martin appears in his Bedlam cell, Rathbourne fears he's finally lost his mind. The devilish sorceress played a hand in his incarceration, and now she comes asking for help? Perhaps she should begin by begging for mercy...

But Ianthe's offer of freedom is one he can't refuse, although he has a clause of his own to add. She may bind him with her power–the only way to still the demons haunting him–but for every day spent under her command, the nights will be his... to wreak delicious revenge on her willing flesh.

Shadowbound is the first book in a new series from McMaster, but instead of steampunk London, this time we have a magical London. I love historical magical series about fighting a world-ending evil, so while this particular book had some faults, I am still 100% here for the series.

At the start of the book, Lucien, the Earl of Rathbourne, is locked away in Bedlam. To say he’s a physical and mental mess would be an understatement, and the time in Bedlam has taken it’s toll. For various reasons, Ianthe needs his help, though, so she goes to get him out. He has vowed revenge against her because she was the one who captured him, but he knows she’s his only ticket out of Bedlam, so he agrees to be magically bound to her temporarily. The pair have to find out who stole a magical artifact that just might lead to the end of the world. You know, NBD.

I enjoyed both Lucien and Ianthe as characters. If you like broody, damaged heroes, Lucien will tick those boxes for you. It’s not my favorite trope, but I liked that Lucien a) has legitimate reasons to be damaged and b) develops some self awareness and realizes that others have had some bad shit in their lives too. (But if you like damaged heroes, just WAIT till you get a load of future uber-damaged hero Sebastian. We meet him and his heroine Cleo in this book, and their story is heartbreaking already.) Ianthe is perhaps a little less memorable, but still fun to read about. She’s magically powerful and very, very capable. She has a lot of secrets, and you can see the stress of juggling them all wears on her, but she is determined to keep them to protect those she cares about.

This book is sexy, but the sexy premise felt forced to me. As part of his agreement to magically serve Ianthe and get out of Bedlam, Lucien basically demands sex. I get that he didn’t have a lot of bargaining power, but the way he decides to get his revenge is by…giving her really good orgasms? You show her, Lucien! The book also then has to go out of its way to stress that Lucien would not really have forced Ianthe and that she was totally on board, so I guess it was just some elaborate bluff on his part? To me the premise felt like it was supposed to add some kind of dark edginess, but instead it was just unnecessary. Ianthe was into Lucien and didn’t need the artificial set up to have sexual tension. I also didn’t love that Ianthe held onto her secrets so long. I understand her motivations and don’t necessarily think she was wrong, but the problem was it created an imbalance in her relationship with Lucien. She actually never chooses to tell him her secrets until her hand is forced near the end, and then it’s all action until the conclusion. I needed to see more genuine trust build between the two.

Because this is a first book in a very complicated world, it suffers from a lot of info dump. There are tons of names, places, and rules that get thrown at you. The magical system isn’t really explained, which is ok because it clearly makes sense to the characters, but I did want to know just a little more about how the magical world relates to the “real” world of historical London (magic users don’t seem particularly trusted by the normals, but they all live together).

Despite my issues with this book, I loved the world and the premise of the series. Book 2 is out already and I’ll definitely be picking it up.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Bite Me, Your Grace by Brooklyn Ann

Posted April 8, 2013 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Tracy’s review of Bite Me, Your Grace by Brooklyn Ann.

England’s “vampire craze” causes much vexation for the Lord Vampire of London, Ian Ashton. To save his reputation, Ian enlists aspiring authoress Angelica Winthrop without realizing she has hidden plans of her own.

Angelica Winthrop’s life goal is to ruin her reputation, avoid marriage, and become a gothic authoress like her idol, Mary Shelley. To find inspiration for her new story, she breaks into the home of Ian Ashton, Duke of Burnrath, not knowing she will be coming up against the Lord Vampire of London. Romance sparks and reputations are at stake. But who knows the real difference between fact and fiction?

Anglica Winthrop is a good person. She cares about others, cares about women’s rights and loves her family. Unfortunately for her, her mother is a marriage minded mama and she doesn’t like the fact that Angelica wants to read and learn and write gothic novels, she wants Angelica to make a titled match. Now I’m sure that Angelica’s mother loves her but she has her own reasons for wanting her daughter making an advantageous marriage: she is the daughter of an Earl who will finally reconcile with her and give her money if Angelica makes a good marriage. That kind of got me thinking that the mom had complete mixed feelings about whether Angelica was happy or not and I’m sure influenced Angelica as well.

Angelica just wants to write and she’s thinking she needs to run away and live on her story profits but that doesn’t exactly work out the way she wants. She is fascinated by the Duke’s home that is huge, nearby and reputed to be haunted. She dresses like a boy and heads over to his home to get inspiration for a ghost story. She finds no ghosts but she does wake a very hungry Duke and gets bitten because he’s a vampire. You’d think that Angelica would be more freaked out but the tales going around about the Duke seem to be true and she kind of likes the idea. Because of her foray into the Duke’s home and things that happen after that Angelica is compromised.

The Duke is a very old vampire who has no plans on marrying. It’s said that the Dukes of Burnrath marry foreigners and live out of England until their “heir” comes to claim their inheritance. The heir is actually the same vampire but no one seems to catch on. The Duke, Ian, actually likes Angelica and when he proposes it’s to help her reputation but also to help the rumors of him being a vampire die down. Angelica doesn’t take to the engagement though and goes about trying everything she can to try and get it broken, which doesn’t work.

After they’re married the pair become closer but outside forces as well as the fact that Ian doesn’t age will play big roles in their future.

I liked this story and the premise but I felt that there was too much going on and that caused some of the story lines to not be completely fleshed out as well as they could have been. For instance the fact that Angelica is going to run away to escape marriage. Yes, it’s stated and the girl does go about trying to get Ian to break the engagement but really there’s not a whole lot of page time devoted to this issue and it’s a big one for Angelica. When she decides that she is going to marry him it didn’t seem like that big of an announcement to us or to the Duke.

Ian is searching for a man named John Palidori who wrote a story that eventually made people look at Ian and say, “Vampire!” Ian wants his London vamps to get this man but one of his vamps is in love with John and ends up harboring him with the thought that Ian will kill John if he finds him. The time spent on John and Rosetta’s (the vamp) story took away from the romance issue, imho. I know that Palidori needed to be included in some way because he wrote the story that started the vamp rumors but other than a mention I didn’t think that portion of the story was needed. There was also a vampire hunter that was given quite a bit of page time with his history and him becoming a hunter, etc. but in the end it was all anti-climactic for me. Again, and this is just my opinion, I thought that more time should have been spent on Ian and Angelica rather than take focus away and put it on these other secondary characters.

Now it might sound like I didn’t care for the book but I did. The story that we were given was a good one and quite entertaining. Ian and Angelica made a great couple, if not very communicative, and I loved seeing them work their way to their HEA. There were some characters in the story that are obviously going to be heroes of other books in this story and while I didn’t care for the sequel baiting I am interested to see what happens with those men.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place

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


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Lightning Review: Firelight by Kristen Callian

Posted February 21, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Holly‘s review of Firelight (Darkest London, Book 1) by Kristen Callihan

London, 1881
Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

This is a dark, gothic novel set in the late 1800s. I really enjoyed the strength of both main characters, as well as the premise of the story. It’s a gothic historical with paranormal elements. My favorite type of story. The world-building is a little on the light side, but still worked well.

I enjoyed both Miranda and Archer. They were equally strong and resilient. I like that they accepted each other as they were. I didn’t like how many secrets they kept, however. This is a personal pet peeve. I want the main characters to spend the novel working together toward the same goal, not working against each other trying to hide things or keep secrets. Though I understood the reasons they were reluctant to share, I became frustrated because they continually got angry at the other for not sharing, when each of them were guilty of hiding something.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the series. I only wish they had opened up sooner (plus, I hate being kept in the dark).

3.5 out of 5

Reading Order:

Ember: A prequel to FirelightFirelightMoonglowWinterblaze

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Lightning Review: Knight of Runes by Ruth A. Casie

Posted February 19, 2013 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Holly’s review of Knight of Runes by Ruth A. Casie

Knight of RunesEngland, 1605

When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he’s intrigued.

Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she’s travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return home. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what’s killing Arik’s land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.

As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik’s household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. To defeat him, Arik and Rebeka must combine their skills. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.

I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for awhile. I was in the mood for a fantasy-type book and finally decided to read it. I’m not a huge fan of time travel in general. I find the idea implausible and the actions of the characters often doesn’t make sense. Because the heroine was a scholar who studied this time period, her traveling back in time wasn’t as unbelievable as it may have been otherwise. Rebeka irritated me at times. There was nothing she couldn’t do. She was smart, conveniently studied the time period in which she ended up, she had a black belt in karate, ran 5 miles a day, etc, etc, etc. It was just a bit unrealistic. I think I would have enjoyed this more if she hadn’t been so perfect.

Arik was a typical knight; rude, arrogant and suspicious of Rebeka. I didn’t understand many of the things he did since he was supposed to be a druid and have magical powers. Though that was a large part of the story, it wasn’t well incorporated. It seemed more like a plot device than a way of life for him.

This was a bit too long in places. It was overly descriptive and had unnecessary info dumps.

I enjoyed the basic story arc and the romance. The mystery revolving around Arik’s family and why his land was dying was interesting. I also enjoyed the time period.

While this wasn’t a perfect novel, I am interested in trying more from the author.

3 out of 5

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


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