Tag: Paranormal Romance

Guest Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Posted July 31, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn SparksReviewer: Jen
How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #1
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 396
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three-half-stars

Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father's life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage...until he discovers she's vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

This book is somewhat inspired by Beauty and the Beast, though to be honest it’s only very loosely related. In this story, the man with the Beast moniker is Lord Leofric, Leo for short. Leo is one of The Embraced, people born with supernatural powers. Normally The Embraced are killed when they are born because the world fears them, but Leo escapes that fate because he’s part of the royal family and because he’s so dangerous that he’s hard to kill. He can harness the power of lightning, and one touch of his skin can kill (and has, many times). He uses his power to protect his people, but they all are terrified and basically shun him. Luciana is also Embraced, but she escaped death by being hidden away in a convent her entire life, thinking her family was dead. It turns out they’re not, though, and because of political machinations by the cruel king, the only way she can save her father is by marrying The Beast. Luciana could be killed if she reveals the truth of her story to Leo, but if they don’t work together they can’t stop the king’s evil plots.

If you like tortured heroes, Leo should appeal! He does have a few friends, but for the most part he lives in isolation. People literally turn away from him in disgust and fear, yet he soldiers on using his power to protect his people even though they think he’s the one causing danger instead of stopping it. Moreover, harnessing the lightning is excruciatingly painful, and he’s pushing his body to its limits by doing it because he wants to protect others, which is a hell of a position for him to be in. Perhaps most heartbreaking of all, he can’t touch. He can’t be hugged, can’t hold hands, can’t even get a pat on the head, because even through clothing his power will injure or kill. Luciana is the only person apart from a few friends who sees the good Leo does instead of believing the rumors. There’s one scene where bystanders once again misinterpret a situation and think Leo is behind something dangerous, but Luciana loudly and publicly defends him. That scene just made my heart melt. It was clearly the first time anyone had ever stood up for Leo before; I’m smiling just thinking about it. The sexual tension between them is great, too. As you can imagine, “no touching or you’ll die” is quite the conundrum in a romance! I won’t tell you the hows and whys, but I can assure you this book is sexy.

I liked Luciana a lot as well. Her power is that she can talk to the dead, which comes in handy when she’s trying to learn about her new life. She’s sweet and kind and patient, but she’s not a particularly deep character. Really, though, neither is Leo. He has a lot of pain, but I almost felt like it didn’t impact his character as much as one would expect. He has been very isolated, yet he still is perfectly socially adept, flirting with his bride-to-be, handling the management of his estates, working with his army, etc. I just didn’t see a lot of consequences to his isolation.

Luciana has to lie to Leo and everyone else to save her father, which is perfectly understandable. She obviously didn’t know Leo and would have been foolish to trust him quickly. However, I really wanted her to come clean sooner, simply because I wanted to see her and Leo’s relationship develop further. Leo basically figures it all out on his own (and I appreciate that he absolutely accepts why she’s lying and doesn’t act all butt hurt about it), but the actual conversation between the two is a long time coming. Combine the secrets with the draggy pace in some parts and the fairly limited contact Leo and Luciana have for part of the book and you have a romance that never goes quite as deep as I would have liked.

I am extremely interested in the world Sparks has created, and I am hoping that future books won’t need to do as much world building as this one, leaving more time for developing the characters and relationships.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Spellbinder by Thea Harrison

Posted July 26, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 7 Comments

Guest Review: Spellbinder by Thea HarrisonReviewer: Jen
Spellbinder by Thea Harrison
Series: Moonshadow Series
Published by Thea Harrison
Publication Date: July 18th 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 428
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four-half-stars

From author Thea Harrison comes the latest story in the New York Times bestselling Moonshadow trilogy….

Kidnapped while on tour, musician Sidonie Martel is transported to the mystical land of Avalon. A human without magical ability, she is completely vulnerable to the deadly forces surrounding her.

When she defies her captors and refuses to share her music, an act of violent cruelty leaves her broken, her ability to play silenced, maybe forever. Her only hope is a whisper in the dark, gentle hands that offer healing, and a man who refuses to show her his face yet who offers advice she dare not ignore.

One of the most feared and powerful sorcerers in history, Morgan le Fae serves a Queen he despises, Isabeau of the Light Court. Once a famous bard and an advisor to kings, Morgan has been enslaved to Isabeau for hundreds of years, acting as enforcer and the commander of her deadly Hounds.

Sidonie’s music touches Morgan in places he had abandoned centuries ago, and her fiery spirit resurrects feelings he had believed long dead. For Sidonie, trapped in captivity, passion offers a comfort she cannot resist.

But Isabeau holds Morgan bound in magical chains that only Death can break. And in the court of a cruel, jealous Queen, the only thing that burns hotter than love is revenge…

*Spoiler alert: I can’t talk about this book without giving a little spoiler for some of Harrison’s earlier books, but the cover copy of this book gives the spoiler too so…just fair warning.

Morgan Le Fae is the hero of this book, which might stun those of you who read the other books where he’s a villain. This isn’t so much a story where Morgan redeems himself but a story where we finally get the full picture of Morgan’s situation. Turns out he’s magically enslaved to Isabeau, the Queen of the Light Fae, and he’s been forced to follow her orders to the letter for centuries. He’s been searching for an out the entire time, and when he finally gets a reprieve due to a poorly worded order from Isabeau, he’s hopeful he can find something to end his enslavement. However, he ends up putting it all on the line when a human musician he’s developed an attachment to gets kidnapped and turned over to Isabeau. Sidonie Martel is a genius musician, but when she’s brutalized by Isabeau, Morgan can’t look the other way. As he starts helping her, the two get closer, and both end up making decisions about how much they’re willing to risk for the other.

OMG Morgan. He is a total badass and an incomparable magician, and, finally, we get to see that he’s also an amazing person. He is entirely isolated from everyone by Isabeau’s machinations. Because of her orders and the fact that no one knows he’s enslaved, he’s seen as ruthless and scary, so naturally nobody wants anything to do with him, even at the Light Court. He’s spent centuries performing atrocities without being able to stop or even explain himself. Can you imagine what that would do to a person? He was so lonely and traumatized it made my heart hurt. The tenderness and genuine caring he shows Sidonie, though, reveals his true character, and it’s so clear why Sidonie falls in love.

While Morgan is really the heart of the story for me, Sidonie is also fantastic. She knows almost nothing about the Light Court or the Elder Races, so when she’s captured she’s in way over her head. She’s a quick learner, though, and with Morgan’s help she survives. In part because she has no prior knowledge, she’s the only one who isn’t afraid of Morgan and really listens to him, and it allows her to figure out what is happening and communicate with him in a way no one else has. I love it when both characters do everything in their power to protect the other one, and this book had that in spades. While Sidonie can’t do much for most of the book, she makes the tough call for Morgan in the end. I just ate it up.

Another thing I loved about the book was that Morgan isn’t the only complex character. A lovable character from the first book in the series is back, though he doesn’t always make such lovable choices here. Isabeau is a bit more complicated than just “cartoon evil queen” as well. I’m not saying I liked her, but it was interesting to understand how she too was kind of trapped by her enslavement of Morgan. Even the war between the Light and Dark Courts that makes up the central conflict of the series was cast in a new light. Innocent people like Morgan have gotten caught up in the war, and this book showed that most of the Light Fae are just regular citizens trying to live life as best they can. It makes for a rich and interesting world to read about. 

This book is pretty dark and angsty, which makes sense given the horror of Morgan’s situation and the cruelty of Isabeau. However, it did make it kind of heavy reading sometimes. I longed for some more lightness to counteract all the pain. Frankly, I was also pretty frustrated that the lovable character I mentioned earlier didn’t do more to help Morgan once he understood what was happening. Couldn’t he get some reinforcements or do more to help plan? I guess if this book has one lesson, it’s that trauma is messy, complicated, and long lasting, and people don’t always make the best choices in those circumstances.

I am totally torn about future books. On the one hand, I would love to see Morgan again, but on the other hand, I hope both the Dark and Light Fae just leave him the hell alone because he’s suffered enough for their war! I really, really loved reading this book. It was smart and moving and made me look at book 1 in the series in a whole new light.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Drakon’s Prey by N.J. Walters

Posted July 3, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Drakon’s Prey by N.J. WaltersReviewer: Jen
Drakon's Prey by N.J. Walters
Series: Blood of the Drakon #2
Also in this series: Drakon's Promise, Drakon's Plunder

Publication Date: April 24th 2017
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 330
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four-stars

Valeriya Azarov turned her back on the family business to write and illustrate children’s books. But with a sister who leads the Knights of the Dragon, it’s impossible to get away from the secret society whose mission is to destroy and enslave dragons. When information falls into her hands along with the opportunity to save at least one of the ancient creatures, she can’t turn away any longer.

When a woman moves into the cabin above Tarrant Cooper’s secret underground lair, he’s both suspicious and intrigued. He hasn’t lasted four thousand years being careless, so when he suspects her of being a part of the Knights, the plan is to kidnap her and find out how much the organization knows about him and his brothers.

He’s drawn to Valeriya, but trusting her could get him killed. Even if she’s a pawn in the war between drakons and Knights, giving her his heart would mean forever.

It’s time for drakon brother #2! To quickly recap the premise, the series follows four half human, half dragon brothers who are being hunted by an ancient evil organization (Knights of the Dragon) that wants to capture them and use their blood to achieve immortality. Somehow, the group found brother #1, Darius, but they don’t actually know about the other three brothers. All the brothers are trying to stop the Knights without being discovered. You could certainly understand the plot if you started with this book, but you’ll get the most out of the build up if you start with book 1.

We briefly met Valeriya Azarov in book 1. She’s the sister of Karina Azarov, the ruthless leader of the Knights of the Dragon. (An Azarov has apparently long been head of the Knights; Karina is the latest.) Valeriya is nothing like her sister, however. She’s a children’s book author mostly raised by her kind-hearted grandparents, who helped keep her away from the Knights. Valeriya doesn’t actually believe in the dragon part of their mission, but she knows the Knights are bad news. Though she feels a certain warmth for her sister, Valeriya’s not stupid and recognizes that Karina probably wouldn’t hesitate to get rid of her if the need arose. When Valeriya learns the Knights are hunting someone named Darius, she decides she can’t ignore that info and goes to try and warn him. When she and brother #2, Tarrant, cross paths, he isn’t sure what to do with her. She acts innocent, but she’s the sister of their enemy. He decides to keep her with him until he figures out what is going on.

I enjoyed this book even more than book 1, mostly because of Tarrant and Valeriya. They are both so awesome. Tarrant is a tech genius and the one who’s most security conscious among the brothers. He’s built this incredible underground home that has some truly bananas security measures, which end up coming in very handy! I loved that he tried to be sensitive to Valeriya’s feelings and needs, once he started to trust her. There’s a scene where he calls up the heroine from book 1 to ask about “girl food” because he wants to make Valeriya happy and understand her needs. (And Sarah’s advice is perfection too–just ask what she wants, ha.) Valeriya is the perfect foil for him. On the surface she seems fragile, but she takes a major stand by trying to help Darius, despite the fact that she knows nothing at all about him. She just knows it’s the right thing to do, and while at first she hopes she can do it without her sister knowing, she recognizes the risk and does the right thing despite the consequences for her own life. My favorite part of this book is the way both Tarrant and Valeriya will do anything to protect the other. That kind of willingness to sacrifice is totally my catnip, and I gobbled it up.

It’s important to note that Tarrant does technically kidnap Valeriya and hold her against her will for a while. It’s partly for her own good, since she’s got bad guys after her too, but mostly it’s for Tarrant because a) he wants to find out what she knows so he can protect his brothers, b) he wants to stop her from causing trouble and c) he’s curious about her (and it doens’t hurt that he finds her hot). Honestly, it didn’t bother me much because Tarrant is part dragon, and as the books repeatedly emphasize their natural instinct is to hoard everything, including sexy ladies. Valeriya also isn’t an idiot and while there is major insta-lust, she doesn’t exactly trust him immediately either. YMMV depending on how you feel about kidnapping plots, though. The kidnapping also means most of the book takes place inside Tarrant’s underground home. There’s some action, but there’s a lot of talking, a lot of puzzling out the larger plot, and, naturally, a lot of sex time since that seems to be drakons’ favorite pastime. 

This is my favorite book in the series so far. These sexy drakon brothers are my jam, and I want more!

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Guest Review: Drakon’s Promise by N. J. Walters

Posted June 27, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Drakon’s Promise by N. J. WaltersReviewer: Jen
Drakon's Promise by N.J. Walters
Series: Blood of the Drakon #1
Also in this series: Drakon's Prey, Drakon's Plunder

Publication Date: December 5th 2016
Pages: 293
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three-half-stars

Darius Varkas is a drakon. He's neither human nor dragon.

He's both.

He's also the target of an ancient order who want to capture all drakons for their blood. When fresh, a drakon's blood can cure any illness and prolong a human's life, and the Knights will stop at nothing to get it.

When librarian Sarah Anderson stumbles across a rare book belonging to the Knights of the Dragon, she's quickly thrust into a dangerous world of secrets and shifters and things she never would have believed possible. When the Knights realize Sarah has a secret of her own, she becomes just as much a target as Darius. Her scary dragon shifter just might be her best chance at survival.

Here’s the tl;dr summary of this new series: Sexy, super-alpha dragon shifter brothers fall in love while they’re being hunted by an ancient evil organization who wants to steal their blood.

That would be enough for me to one click buy, but if you’re not convinced yet, let me say more!

Book 1 of this series starts out with librarian Sarah Anderson getting a new job helping a wealthy private collector catalog his library of rare books. When she overhears her new boss plotting to capture someone named Darius Varkas, she knows something really bad is happening. She steals the book her boss wanted her to find and tracks down Darius in order to warn him. At first, Darius isn’t sure he can trust her. Drakons have long been hunted by the Knights of the Dragon, a shadowy secret group who want to hold drakons captive because drakon blood, when consumed regularly, makes a human immortal. He’s not sure if Sarah is part of a Knight plot to trap him, but he knows he’s majorly drawn to her, and if she is an innocent she’s put herself in danger by helping him, so he decides to keep her with him. The two have to evade the Knights and also destroy the book, which turns out to contain the secrets for trapping drakons. And of course, they have plenty of opportunities for hot sexxing!

I had so much fun with this book. I should warn you right off the bat that there is some major insta-lust here (along with very quick love as well). Darius basically has a permanent hard-on around Sarah. You’d think immortal drakons would not be in such a hurry, but there you go. Still, I loved the chemistry between Sarah and Darius.

The series centers around brothers, and for me that is probably the best part. Most drakons are solitary creatures, but these four found each other (they have the same dragon father but different mothers) and have crafted themselves a family. It’s not really explained well why they did this, but who cares because they’re 4 super hot brothers, amirite? They communicate regularly, but they don’t see each other often because it’s dangerous. Still, it’s clear they genuinely love each other and would do whatever they can to protect one another.

For me, the premise and the larger cast of characters were what drew me in, not Darius and Sarah. They’re ok characters, and as I said they have good chemistry, but they weren’t all that memorable. As I sit here writing, I’m struggling to remember much about Sarah in particular. She and Darius move quickly. In part, the book explains it by just saying “he’s half dragon” and dragons like to hoard treasure (including, I guess, people) so he quickly decides she’s “his”. Still, it’s hard to get over the fact that things move very fast between the two. That’s not exactly a criticism; for me this book was fun and sexy. I probably won’t revisit it, but I can’t wait to see more of the world. It reminds me a bit of Rebecca Zanetti’s Sin and Blood Brother’s series, with MAJORLY alpha brothers who protect each other and the women they love from an evil organization that’s hunting them. I love Zanetti’s series, and this one is similarly crack-y for me.

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 Series #2
Also in this series: Otherworld Challenger
Published by Harlequin, Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: May 1st, 2016
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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