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Red Hot Books

My name is Jen. I read too much. I drive my husband crazy. I share books with my friends and we spend too much time talking about them. I enjoy Urban Fantasy & Romance (mostly PR & Historicals.) I’m also a mother of two and work full-time as a tv news Executive Producer.
Demon Bound - Meljean Brook

The world and the characters in Meljean Brooks’ Guardian series continue to evolve in this fourth full length installment.  There are some pretty big revelations here, especially in the origin story.  But first and foremost, this is a romance… so I will start there first.

 

We got our first real look at Jake in the last book. He is the novice Guardian who Ethan has been training. He has the dubious distinction of being the guy who let Charlie get taken –and eventually turned into a vampire.  He’s a likeable man, and young for a Guardian.  He’s got a healthy sex drive and mouth that’s not always connected to his brain.  But he’s charming and he’s got a good heart, so it’s pretty impossible not to like him.

 

Our heroine is Alice, AKA The Black Widow, AKA The Wicked Witch of the West.  She is a reclusive Guardian who is more than a little peculiar.  She dresses with full Victorian modesty.  And she has a thing about spiders.  She surrounds herself with them, as communing with them is part of her Gift. She knows other people think her odd, and she even goes out of her way, at times, to encourage them to keep their distance.  As disturbing as that is, what’s even more troubling is that she has made a bargain with a demon — one that is impossible to overlook. She has to kill Michael and deliver his heart or be damned for eternity.

 

Of course Alice had her reasons for making the deal. More importantly, she doesn’t want to carry it out. But she knows that soon a reckoning will come, and she is not too keen on taking her place in that frozen field of hell.  So she is working on a contingency plan, trying to find something else to barter with.   This sets us up for her quest to learn more about the prophecies involving Belial’s ascension in hell.

 

Jake is really quite interested in the histories and ancient discoveries that are part of Alice’s exploration, which drives him (a bit hesitantly) into her orbit.  At first, she really creeps him out, but as he gets to know her, she starts to grow on him.  And before he knows it, he’s kind of crazy about her.

 

I like that Brook really goes out of her way to craft unusual characters.  But there were times Alice veered too far out of my comfort zone.  It wasn’t so much the spider thing –though I know that many will find that creepy– as her social dysfunction and sexual hangups.  The dichotomy between her prudishness and sexual needs were tough for me at times.  I wasn’t always sure what she wanted from Jake.  And it bothered me that despite the fact that these two had sex on page a few times, I don’t think she ever actually got naked.

 

I did adore Jake, however. He is so entertainingly unable to be tactful.  Once he decides his feeling for Alice in earnest, he is so wonderful with her. I love that he sees past all of her weirdness and her whole deal-with-the-devil thing… and really goes all in to win her heart and save her soul.

 

Meljean Brook really gives the reader a lot of credit in her books. She doesn’t always give you a step-by-step of what is happening. Sometimes you have to connect the dots, which is both cool and occasionally confusing.  But I enjoy the series overall. I really like the world-building, especially as it continues to broaden.  And the secondary characters are well-drawn and engaging.  Bring on Irena and Alejandro, y’all. I am ready to take that ride.

 

Rating: B

Eternal Sin: Mark of the Vampire - Laura Wright

I would have never thought I could find anything sexy about love scenes involving a pregnant woman in her third trimester. I remember what it felt like to have a big belly. I did it twice.  And while I loved many parts about pregnancy, in my seventh month, I most assuredly did not feel sexy… or randy.  Yet, Laura Wright makes me believe it could happen.  No bones about it: our heroine has a big ole belly, but the sexual tension and the love scenes were still smokin’ hot.   I take my hat off to you, Ms. Wright.

 

Anyway, our hero, Synjon Wise, is on a mission of vengeance.  You may remember, the series villain Cruen tortured and killed his mate Juliet. Now the only thing Syn can think of, is making him pay.  He seemed like he was finally getting his wish at the end of Eternal Demon.  But the Roman brothers stopped his little torture session. Instead, they allowed Cruen to drain Syn’s emotions and let them both go.  I am going to stop a moment here and ask –what the hell?  I had to stop reading once I realized the premise –and go skim back through the last book. Did I miss something?  Nope. That wasn’t there. I guess this all happened off page, and I have to ask again, what the hell??  The Romans know better than anyone what kind of monster Cruen is… but they let him go?  They stripped Syn of all emotion??  I don’t get it.  Why not imprison Cruen? Do something –anything– else? It felt contrived and this bothered me.  But to enjoy the story, I had to let this go and move on.

 

So, without emotions, Syn is a complete asshat. He doesn’t care about the fact Petra is carrying his child.  But she needs his blood to survive.  (Apparently this becomes more imperative as the pregnancy progresses? — I am going to go with that, because she has made it this long.)  He won’t come to help her when her the Romans ask nicely, so her friends decide to kidnap him and force him to feed her.  The more time he spends with her, though, the more he starts to feel something for her and their child.

 

Meanwhile, Cruen is feeling some pretty negative effects from drinking Syn’s emotions. He is getting weaker and wants to give Syn back what he took.  He spends the entire book trying to do this, while Syn is still quietly crafting his revenge.  And banging Petra. And saying, “Crikey.” (I thought that was an Aussie thing?)  Poor Petra, meanwhile, is falling hopelessly in love with her baby-daddy, oblivious to the fact he is still plotting to kill her father… even after he tells her he is not.

 

Despite some plot holes in there for me, I actually enjoyed the book. The romance tugged on my heartstrings, because I really believed in Synjon’s conflict.  And I empathized with Petra attempts to fortify her heart against him.  Like I said, the sex is really good –and the emotion held up equally well.  I’m also interested in Phane’s and Dani’s story… especially with that twist in the Epilogue.

 

Rating: B

Cold Blooded - Amanda  Carlson

For me, this is easily the strongest installment in the Jessica McClain series to date.  It feels like things are finally starting to come together.  The series arc is advancing. We’re learning more about what makes Jessica so important and powerful. And finally, Rourke and Jessica are doing something about all that sexual tension.  Hallelujah.

The book picks up immediately where the last one left off.  Marcy has been kidnapped and sorcerers are attacking Jessica and her crew.  It starts at a breakneck speed and it never lets up.  We follow Jess as she seeks help to find her friend –and to shake off the sorcerers and demons who keep trying to blow her up.

We get a closer look at the witches and the vampires as Jessica visits their camps… and I really enjoyed that. The witches are wonderfully snarky and obnoxious; the vampires, all sneering and haughty.  But Jessica manages to keep her composure no matter what the situation. Better yet, she finds a way to prevail, against even the most daunting odds.

While the action arc is great, what really makes the story are Jessica’s interactions with her growing “pack.”  Of course, the mating with Rouke was off the chain.  The sex was hot and extremely satisfying.  (I need to get me one of those big cats!)  But beyond that, I really loved the dynamic with the other wolves, Naomi, and especially Ray.  He really won me over in this book.  I’m also intrigued by Tally the witch and the Vampire Queen.  So many players… and all so tied to Jessica.

My only complaints are small. I felt like the whole Marcy thing was set up as this big deal, but had a majorly anticlimactic resolution.  Ditto on the missing dad.  And I feel like we’re sort of missing out on the couples pairings. Maybe I read too much PNR, but I feel like there should be a Marcy & James story –or a Naomi and Danny, perhaps.    If all this coupling is happening off page, I feel a little cheated.  PLUS… there is another big cliffhanger. I guess that’s just how this series rolls.

I will definitely be back for book 4.

Rating: B+

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Kinked - Thea Harrison

One of the things I like best about this series is that Thea Harrison really makes every book different. Yes, they're all set in this fabulous, sweeping world of the Elder Races and they feature the same core cast of characters.  But the hero and heroine of each book are markedly different from those who have come before them. Their adventures are different --and so is their path to happiness.  But this is also why some people may find the series uneven.  What you love, love, love about one book --one couple-- won't be in the next book; and invariable some trope you can't stand is going to pop up.

 

For me, that's BDSM.  I'm sick of it.  Just... sick. Of. It.  I know it's the thing right now, but I really felt like the whole element of it in this book was so unnecessary. Don't get me wrong, it's not a huge thing. It doesn't overwhelm the story or anything. It was just enough to annoy me.  That being said, with the exception of about three or so scenes, I really did enjoy this book.  (How's that for burying the lead?)

 

I've heard a lot of people say they didn't like Aryal before this book and I can understand that, but here you see she more of who she really is. She is an unapologetic bad-ass, who is powerful, loyal, and comfortable in her own skin.  Does that make her a bitch?  Well, I guess that is in the eye of the beholder.  She's like a dog with a bone, to be sure.  But she is as old as time, and she is smart.  If something has set off her radar, it's for a reason.

 

Aryal knows Quentin is hiding secrets, but he's not the bad guy she thinks.  He's done some unscrupulous things, but nothing in the realm of true villainy.   Harrison does a great job, though, setting up both sides of their enmity for one another. And when their head-butting reaches a breaking point, Dragos sends them on a mission alone together, designed to force them to work through their issues.  Ha! And boy, do they ever.

 

I love that both these characters are so strong --but that neither has to become less than the other for their relationship to come together. So often, one character (usually the woman) has to sublimate her strength to fit the parameters of the romance, but not here.  Aryal stays Aryal... only she does it while falling in love with Quentin.

 

And the sex is hot.  Even before there is actual sex, there is great sexual tension.

The adventure is fairly good too. Lots of action and danger.

 

I also really loved the fact that Aryal's animosity toward Pia is addressed.  They resolution on this was one of my favorite things about the book!

 

Overall, I did enjoy the story.  I just wish we could have checked the BDSM (and that stupid crop) on the cutting room floor.

 

Rating: B

 

*ARC Provided by Penguin

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Demon Night - Meljean Brook

Hmm.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I liked the book before it.  I’m firmly entrenched in the world-building in this series, which is pretty cool. I understand how things work and I feel like I know most of the key players.  I’m definitely down with the series. But I had trouble connecting with this heroine, and even worse, I was frustrated by what felt like ridiculous impediments to their HEA.

 

Both the hero and heroine were new characters to the series.  Ethan is a Guardian, assigned to watch over a human woman named Charlie.  Charlie’s sister Jane is unknowingly a player in a demon scheme to replicate vampire blood.  They want to turn Charlie into a vamp in order to manipulate Jane into helping them.  Ethan doesn’t intend to let that happen.  So he positions himself as her next door neighbor and is there to help her when the bad guys make their move.

 

Charlie is a weak woman.  This isn’t my interpretation, but rather a point driven home quite frequently in the story. She has a history of drinking away her problems and leaning on various crutches to get her through tough times.  She even destroyed her own voice in a drunk driving crash, obliterating her exceptional ability to sing.  Now she is trying to better herself, but she is deathly afraid that she will again succumb to her own weaknesses.  And what greater weakness than falling in love, right?

 

Ethan is an old cowboy who made a couple of wrong turns before becoming a Guardian… and one or two since.  He’s sultry and sexy in an “aw shucks, ma’am” kind of way.  That appeal is one of the few things that saved the book for me.  Because his relationship with Charlie was a hot mess.  These two wanted each other from the get-go, but their fears, coupled with an inability to express their feelings and needs complete cripple their momentum.  Every conversation where they would pussyfoot around what they needed and wanted… every time they left vital things left unsaid… every time they miscommunicated… my patience grew thinner and thinner.

 

The action part of the plot was fairly good, though I thought Jane was a complete tool and got off way too easy for the lack of regard she showed her sister.  The sex was hot. And I feel like the series is developing well overall. But this couple and their whiny crap didn’t hold a candle to Colin and Savi. Hopefully, the next romance will work better for me.

 

Rating: B-

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Demon Moon - Meljean Brook

What a difference one book can make! In the first installment of this series, I was confused; I was uninvested; and I was ready to give up on a series heavily recommended to me by readers I trust.  But  Demon Angel and Demon Moon are like apples and oranges.  Sure, they are closely tied with overlapping characters and world building, but this story is worlds better.  I cared about the characters and their struggling relationship.  I felt connected to the story. And not only did I understand what was happening, I was eager to turn the page to see what would happen next.

 

We met both our main characters in the last book.  Savitri is the human “little sister” to the former Guardian Hugh.  She is human… or at least she was as the story began.  But a series of events begins to change that.  A run in with some Hellhound venom and Nosferatu blood begin making her something more.  (I’ll get back to that in a minute.)

Colin is the vampire friend of Lillith who is crazy-beautiful and unable to look in a mirror.  That’s because one glance instantly forces him to look into the hellish Chaos realm.  As the story begins, he and Savi already have a shared history.  They apparently spent some quality time together in heaven and now they are fighting their lingering attraction to one another.  We aren’t privy to all of their backstory. It is revealed over the course of the book.  But it’s clear they got up close and personal –and despite a mountain of issues, each one of them desperately wants a do-over.

 

Colin goes in for the full court press. Savi tries to resist, but you can’t really blame her.  Vampires don’t just drink from their donors.  They take sex with their blood and one human can never fulfill all of their needs.  I don’t need to draw you a map to connect the dots on that one.  How can she give into her feelings when she knows that he is physically unable to be faithful?  Complicating matters further, she can never become a vampire because of her new blood taint.  And even if she could, she wouldn’t be able to feed from Colin because of a special problem with his blood.  It seems impossible.

 

Yet they try.  And it’s really quite heartbreaking. You can feel how much these two fall in love with each other. Their yearning and anguish are palpable as they desperately grasp at straws to find a way to make it work.  But over and over, they are faced with the reality that they can’t.  I’ll admit, I teared up once or twice.  The sex is really good too.  Lots of build in the tension and steamy payoff.

 

I thought the characters were really well drawn.  I loved that Savi was so different from the standard cookie cutter heroine.  Not just because she was Indian, though the cultural elements of her story were interesting… but that she was admittedly a bit promiscuous in her past; that she was kind of a video game geek; that she was wealthy and successful and independent, but that she was willing to enter into an arranged marriage to please her grandmother.  Reading about her was a great change of pace.  Meanwhile, Colin is a bit over the top at times with all of his vanity nonsense, but that made it all the more enjoyable to finally see him brought to his knees by love.  Really good stuff.

 

There is more going on. A demon impersonating Colin. A push to bring vampires into the Guardian fold.  The action is good and ties into the series arc.  But the romance is what sold me on this book.  There is no clear indication of who the next couple will be, but I will definitely be reading to find out.  I’m glad I stuck with this series.

 

Rating: B+

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Demon Angel - Meljean Brook

Some of my favorite book buddies pushed me hard toward this series, but I can’t say that I’m sold.  I had a really hard time connecting with this story.  It had its moments, but there were times I really had to push myself to keep reading.  The world-building is interesting and the sex is satisfying, but the pacing is a real problem.  There were big chunks that lagged… and the major time jumps in the first third of the book made the story very choppy and kept me from forming any real attachment to the hero or the heroine.

 

Here’s the setup: Back in really olden times, Hugh was a good an idealistic knight. Lillith, meanwhile, was about a thousand years into her deal with the devil.  She was a human-demon hybrid with a mission to hasten the deaths of hellbound souls.  And if she could point a good guy down the wrong path, all the better.  At first, she sees Hugh as an opportunity to garner another soul for her master, but she quickly becomes taken with the young knight. He doesn’t fall for her tricks, but he also unpredictable and unflappable.  When her plans to corrupt him go awry, he actually ends up fighting on Team Angel, as a Guardian.

 

Thus begins the next 800 years of their bizarre courtship. They are on opposite sides, but there is an undeniable pull between them.  It never manifests beyond a little wordplay and few bartered kisses, but the longer they play their game, the more they become truly bound to one another.  Until the present day, when Hugh falls from grace and chooses to live out the rest of his mortal life.  He tries to free Lillith the only way he knows how, but he really only sets up the final chapter of their battle.  Ultimately, she must choose between saving Hugh or her own soul — a tough call for anyone, much less someone so jaded by centuries of service and torture.

 

Clearly, Meljean Brook has a lot to cover here… not only in the very long running relationship between Hugh and Lillith, but in this vast world of Guardians and Demons. There are also vampires, nosferatu, hellhounds, and some high level badguys all named after some incarnation of the devil.  It was hard to keep all the players straight, much less all of their plots and schemes and alternative identities.  I got confused more than once.  Frankly, I thought the book was too long and too complicated.  I lost focus on the romance, which kept me from being very invested.

 

It wasn’t all bad, though. I liked both the hero and the heroine and believed in their struggles, as well as their true affection for one another.  The sexual tension was great and the love scenes were hot.  (Virgin Hero alert!)  Brook did a good job laying the foundation for future books. Obviously, the vampire Colin’s story is next.  I am curious enough to give it a try. I am only hoping that it will be less disjointed with a smaller scope of time and without the need for so much foundation-building.

 

Rating: C/C-

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Lady in Red - Maire Claremont

I had a hard time connecting to this book.  I really enjoyed The Dark Lady, though, so I stuck with it.  I’m glad I did, because I got more invested in the last third or so. But the first book was definitely better.

 

This is Mary’s story. If you are familiar with the series, you’ll recognize her as the woman who escaped the asylum with Eva. (If you didn’t read book one, don’t worry, though. This works fine as a standalone.)  She barely got out of the horrific madhouse with her life.  She almost killed a guard to escape. Now the only place she has to turn is the madam who was friends with her mother before she died.

 

Yvonne does take her in, but tells Mary she can’t stay long.  You see, it was Mary’s father who put her in the asylum to rot, and Yvonne’s place will be the first place he looks.  Fortunately, Mary catches the eye of one of Yvonne’s clients, giving her a place to go.  — This is where I had my first problem with the story… or should I say problems.

 

Edward is suffering some serious ennui over the death of his father and feelings of low self worth. He doesn’t want any of the courtesans in Yvonne’s house, but when he catches sight of the emaciated Mary with her shorn hair in the bathtub, he is drawn to her.  The fact that she looks like a prison camp survivor, yet speaks as a lady, and (*gasp*) doesn’t fawn over him is apparently a cocktail he can’t refuse.  So much so that from that single meeting, he agrees to become her protector when Yvonne makes the offer.

 

This brings me to Issue 2.  Mary was terribly abused in the asylum: physically, emotionally, and sexually.  But she is going to become a man’s mistress with very little fanfare.  Yeah, we have a tough moment or two when she has some rape flashbacks. 

 

Yet for the most part, she wants Edward’s touch.  She wants to see and touch his body. It was too easy.  So was her ability to kick her crushing laudanum addiction. Yes, she has one almost slip, but there is no vomiting, shaking, or overt physical signs of withdrawal… just the desire for escape from her pain.  The relative ease in which all these major issues are resolved made the story feel somewhat superficial and difficult to connect to.

 

It did get better for me. I was intrigued by Edward’s friend Powers, though any allusion to a possible love triangle was ridiculous.  I liked the friendship that grew between him and Mary, and I enjoyed seeing the strength that each of them gained as a result.  The story really picked up for me when Mary decided she wanted more than what she was getting from Edward and the dominoes fell one at a time as a result.  There is a good amount of action and villains that are easy to hate –and fortunately, get their due.

 

I was satisfied with the resolution to both the internal and external conflicts –and glad to see Eva pop up in the story.  It was just that with the weightiness of the subject matter, I found too much of it to be too easy. There were obstacles, yes, but I felt like Edward had a harder time getting over his issues than Mary did, which just didn’t work for me, with all she had endured.  I’m willing to give the next book a try, though, especially if it features poor Powers and his HEA.

 

Rating: C



*ARC Provided by Penguin via NetGalley

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Shadowed (Dark Protectors, #6) - Rebecca Zanetti

I really enjoy these books.  Rebecca Zanetti does a really spectacular job of building a continuing story over the course of the series, while at the same time, giving each book a fantastic romance and stand alone story.  Here, we finally get to the last Kayrs brother, the long tortured and revenge driven Jase.

 

As the story begins, Jase offers himself up to Brenna in a mating.  Longtime readers will remember Brenna from previous stories as Moira’s younger sister, who was poisoned back in Hunted.  Now, she is dying and only a powerful mate can save her life.  Jase thinks the world of the witch and mating her won’t just help her… he hopes her powers will help him grow stronger in turn, allowing him to finally destroy the demons who held him prisoner for the past five years.  Brenna has a long standing crush on Jase and that, combined with her failing health, makes accepting his offer a no-brainer.

 

The chemistry between these two is there from the very beginning.  I love that their mating takes place almost right away.  It allows them to explore their attraction and build on it, though acceptance of more tender feeling takes some time.  Jase is determined to fulfill his quest for revenge no matter what the cost. At the same time, Brenna is dealing with an ancient prophecy that threatens her life and wonky powers that she can’t quite master.  Falling in love and securing a future are things that keep getting pushed from the forefront for both of them.  Yet, neither can ignore what is growing between them.

 

I liked both Jase and Brenna, though at times Jase would overrule her wishes and that drives me a little crazy.  I love how determined they both were to heal the other, even though their own Issues got in the way at time.  The sex was hot and satisfying, but it didn’t overshadow the relationship development. The action is great –the danger never felt manufactured.  I didn’t want to put it down.

 

One of my favorite things about these books is how cohesive they are (though they CAN be read as standalones.) All of our favorite characters from previous books play a part.  Even the couples from the novellas get shout outs.  And Janie’s story is front and center.  I am dying to see how her story plays out. She is finally all grown up and we get just enough scenes with her, Zane, and Kalin to leave me more desperate for that book than ever.  It’s almost here.  Part of me is crazy-excited, but the other part is a little sad, knowing the series will likely be coming to an end.

 

If you haven’t tried these books before, there is no time like the present.

 

Rating: B



*ARC Provided by Kensington

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Archangel's Legion - Nalini Singh

I wasn’t sure how I felt about Nalini Singh’s decision to return her focus of the Guild Hunter books back to the original couple of Raphael and Elena.  Far too often, I find myself bored with long running couples. They lose their fire and I lose my interest.  But I can promise you that is not the case here.  Not only did Singh reel me back in, I am loving this series now more than ever!

 

As the story begins, a deadly virus is hitting the vampire population in Raphael’s territory.  This is a huge problem, not only because it’s killing Raphael’s people, but because vampires are supposed to be immune to illness.  It seems someone is doing this on purpose, and Raphael and Elena must figure out who it is and how to stop it. An emergency of this magnitude could cause panic or show weakness on Raphael’s part, so they need to maintain the facade that everything is fine, while they root out the source.

 

If that weren’t enough, the Cascade is moving into full swing.  That means major shifts in the powers among the archangels.  And everyone seems to be getting a huge new offensive power… except for Raphael.  If one or more other archangels were to challenge him, he’s not sure if he could win.  Something IS happening with his abilities, though, and it may not be changing him for the better.  If he lets the power in, Elena fears she could lose the man she loves.  But if he turns away from it, he could lose his people –and even his life– to a stronger enemy.

 

This book grabbed a hold of me and never let go.  The characters are so well drawn.  I felt their emotions, believed in their turmoil, their insecurities, and most importantly, their absolute and unwavering love and loyalty for each other.  Elena and Raphael have lost none of their fire with the passage of time.  The romance just gets more engaging and the sex is molten hot.  The secondary characters give extra layers of depth and emotion.  It’s a world that is utterly compelling and complete.

 

Perhaps what made the book so impossible to put down was the fact that the momentum just kept building.  Everything just got bigger and bigger until the storyline virtually exploded on the page. The ending was exhilarating and satisfying. And I absolutely cannot wait for the next book.

 

Rating: A



*ARC Provided by Berkley

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
The Demon's Desire - Kendra Leigh Castle

Kendra Leigh Castle can craft some great tortured heroes!  In this second installment of her Hearts of the Fallen, she delivers in a big way with Meresin.  We got to know him a little in the last book… well, enough to know that he can control lightning, he has some anger issues, and he’s got a thing for the vampire king’s sister, Dru.  But beyond that, he is a mystery –to both the reader and everyone else around him.

 

As the book begins, Meresin is struggling with his powers. His anger and frustration are driving him to have dangerous outbursts and only Dru seems to be able to talk him down.  The feelings he has for her are mutual, albeit intangible, and she just can’t stay out of his orbit.  When she tries to take things to the next level, he pushes her away.  And when the Archangel Uriel sends him on a dangerous mission, she thinks she has seen the last of him.  But he catches her praying for him and he has to touch her one last time.  That’s when an angry vampire tries to kill him.  Dru steps in the way of the sword and would have died if Meresin had not made the fateful decision to bind her life to his.

 

That leaves the two of them essentially mated. But they know so little about each other… and Meresin thinks himself incapable of love.  So a relationship is anything but a foregone conclusion.  Dru decides to tag along on his mission to help him with his trials and keep close to the angel she is falling for.

 

I really enjoyed this book. Poor Meresin is such a basket-case.  But as the story progresses, we learn more and more about what drove him to that point.  Dru is the one thread that holds him to sanity, and its so gratifying to watch them build on that.  Dru is a fantastic heroine. She is strong and secure, without ever being a bully or a bitch.  She is patient and amazing with Meresin.  The sexual tension between them is so hot.  And when they finally get together… Did I mention he is a virgin??? Holy wow.  It was great.

 

I find that the more I read, I really like this world.  I was just kind of so-so on the first book in this series for a number of reasons, but here, I was all-in.  The secondary characters don’t play as much of a role this time around, so it’s not clear who will be the next featured couple.  I am thinking Murmur may be the hero, though… he is really the only other fallen angel we see. I’m definitely looking forward to his story!

 

Rating: B+



*ARC Provided by Entangled for review

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Bound by Night - Larissa Ione

Larissa Ione crafts another rich and unique world in her latest PNR series.  In some ways this is like her Demonica books: it’s dark and layered, witty and sexy. But the worldbuilding is very different.  Yes, there are vampires, but in this society they are slaves.  Humans are the bad guys here. They view vamps as wild animals. They abuse them… treat them like lab rats, servants or property.   And as the book begins, the vampires have had enough.

 

Nicole was just a child when the vampires rebelled. Her family was slaughtered and she was nearly killed herself.  At her age, she didn’t understand the way her family abused vampires. She saw the servants as part of her family, especially her nanny, Therese, who was killed before the uprising.  But now, as an adult, she fears the vampires.  She has taken over her family business that is deeply rooted in the vampire industry. She wants to get away from the slavery side –and focus on the medical breakthroughs science can use with vamp physiology.

 

Our hero is Riker, one of the top men in a clan of free vampires.  Nicole’s company has taken captive a healer for a rival clan and he must get her back –or face an attack.  What better way to get the healer back than to kidnap the company’s CEO?  So Riker goes after Nicole.  The dynamic between them is rough enough– but it’s made even worse by the fact that Riker was mated to Therese. He blames Nicole’s family for her death –and Nicole grew up thinking Riker killed her, so there’s a huge amount of animosity.  And some unwanted attraction.

 

The story follows their attempts to get the healer back, as they learn about each other’s cultures and break down their own bias. It’s not easy reading. The slave thing is pretty horrible and while Ione tries to paint Nicole in a more sympathetic light, she’s still part of a society that is pretty awful.  At worst, she is part of the problem… at the very best, she is incredibly myopic and naïve for someone who is supposed to be very smart.  True, she doesn’t own slaves, but she does treat vampires like lab rats and beings less than human.  I just couldn’t quite put that away as I read the story.  Add to that, women have a pretty rough go of it in this world, with rapes and forced breeding.

 

I think some people will find it too dark.  And I will admit, I was on the bubble.  But I made it through because Ione showed us that some of the characters were able learn and grow beyond their environment.

 

Now to what I did like: I really enjoyed the dynamics of Riker’s clan and the vampire world.  I thought the secondary characters were well crafted and I cared what happened to them.  I am very interested, for example in Hunter and Myne. (I am really looking forward to reading stories for these two.)  As always, Ione scores with sexual tension and hot love scenes.  She burns the pages up!

 

The romance is ok.  Both the hero and the heroine have a lot of Issues to get over.  A lot of prejudice… which I could empathize with at times, but also left me frustrated at times.  This one probably won’t end up my favorite in the series, but I liked the foundation enough to feel confident that I will enjoy future installments.

 

Rating: B/B-



*ARC Provided by Pocket Books

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Vengeance Borne - Amanda Bonilla

I am a big fan of Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin books, so I was excited to jump in to this new series.  I can’t say I loved it as much as I do the Shaede books, but I am interested enough that I will give the next installment a try.

 

The worldbuiling here is well done and pretty unique.  Jacquelyn is Waerd, a human of extraordinary abilities. She was honed from infancy to hunt the supernatural evils of the world.  She leads a double life, drudging along as a barista by day, while risking her neck to fight that which goes bump in the night.  All Waerds are joined with a partner, a Bearer, to help tend their injuries –to both body and mind.

 

Jacquelyn and her Bearer, Finn, spent five years as lovers.  But he has been abusing his abilities to manipulate her emotions and she is tired of it. Unfortunately, ending their personal relationship didn’t put an end to their professional one, and now she must deal with the fallout.  Finn doesn’t want to let go and he has no trouble using his gifts to try to get her back.

 

In the meantime, a new Bearer has stumbled into town. Micah is exceptional in his powers, but he has no idea what he is. He only knows he is drawn to Jacquelyn like a moth to a flame.  Coming into her life, he finally learns the nature of his gift, and what may be his true calling.  All this, just as a powerful and destructive power begins plaguing the town.  And Jacquelyn is right in the center of its orbit.  She must figure out who is behind the evil beings, while walking a minefield between her old love and a prospective new one.

 

I really liked Micah.  He is a great blend of strength and vulnerability.  He is a good man who has had to endure a lot.  And he is sexy and stalwart and loyal.  Then there is Finn.  At first he is very offputting.  I mean, how do you sympathize with someone who manipulates the person they love and won’t take no for an answer? But as the story progresses, Bonilla does a good job of making him more sympathetic… so much, that I kind of felt sorry for him.  The male characters definitely held my interest.

 

But I wasn’t a fan of the heroine.  True, Jacquelyn has had some hard knocks.  But even as a reader, it’s really hard to see past the shell she has constructed around herself.  She is hard and single minded and I had a hard time connecting to her.    Other than the supernatural pull, I found myself very perplexed as to why all the men seem to want her.

Then there was the mystery of who was behind the Fury attacks. Although, sadly, there was no mystery at all.  It was readily obvious from the beginning who the villain was.  And while I kept hoping it was all a misdirection, alas, it was not. That was probably the most disappointing part of the book.

 

It wasn’t a bad read.  I enjoy Bonilla’s writing style, and I am intrigued by where the story will go next.  I’ll hold out hope that we see some more redeeming personality traits in our heroine as the series progresses.  And anything with more Micah has to be a win.



*ARC Provided by author for review

Reblogged from Red Hot Books:
Romancing Lady Stone - Delilah Marvelle

I know I have said this before, but Delilah Marvelle never disappoints me. Every time I finish one of her books, I find myself wishing I had another one to jump into. And this one is no exception. It’s sexy and romantic, and it throws the Historical Romance formula right out of the window.

 

Our heroine is Lady Cecelia Stone, a 40 year-old mother of four. Yes, you read that right. She’s 40. And she’s been a widow for the past seven years. Her first marriage was one of convenience and ever since she lost her husband, she has been a model mother and lady of the ton. She has no intention of changing that when she journeys to Russia to stop her son from marrying an aging actress. Unfortunately, her plans are laid to waste when her traveling companion drugs and robs her, then leaves her unconscious in a stagecoach. That’s where she meets Konstantin.

 

Our hero is actually 10 years her junior. Konstantin is Russian man with a questionable past, trying to go legit. It finally looks like it’s going to happen, too, since a good deed is bringing him into a ton of money. But his plans are all put on hold when Cecelia wakes up alone and confused in his carriage. He is undeniably attracted to her and decides to help her find her way to her son. Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps) it will be a couple of days before they can get a ride to St Petersberg. And he only has enough money for one room. I’m sure you can guess how this is going play out.

 

Cecelia and Konstantin try to fight their attraction, but they fail in spectacular fashion. And it is so gratifying to watch. The sexual tension is fantastic, but the sex is even better. I mean….. I really enjoyed it. Really.

 

Both main characters are well crafted. Konstantin is this great lower-class gentleman. He is smart enough to know the social standing he lacks, but he can’t help what he feels for Cecelia. Meanwhile, we see Cecelia really coming alive for the first time. We see how she finally feels what things are supposed to be like with a man, and how she struggles with the knowledge that a life with Konstantin could ruin her daughters in the eyes of the ton. It’s angsty and delicious and emotional and sexy.

 

And I loved it. And I want another Delilah Marvelle book to read. Right now.

 

Rating: B+



*ARC provided by author for review

Wrong Ways Down (Downside Ghosts, #1.5) - Stacia Kane

I waited months in agonizing anticipation for this book. Terrible is one of my all-time favorite heroes. A story from his POV was almost more than my fangirl heart could take. And getting inside of his head was everything I hoped it would be. I love him even more –if that’s possible. As for the novella as a whole, I liked it, but something felt a little bit missing.


 

The story was well crafted and the plot was good. It sucked me right back into the Downside world and made me want to read the series all over again… so I could once again ride the wave of euphoria I felt when Chess and Terrible finally got together. And that –after I thought about it for awhile– was what I was missing here. I love how he loves her. It’s what makes him so damn amazing. I wish, though, that I could have felt what it was like to have that reciprocated through his eyes. I wanted him… happy… a constant theme for me as I read the entire series. I wanted him to win.

 

He does get a win here, though the victory is not with Chess, at least not the way it happens later in the series. No, here he prevails doing what he does best: working for Bump. Someone has killed one of Bump’s men, but even worse, someone is targeting his hookers, beating, raping, and leaving their broken bodies behind. Terrible has to figure out who is doing it and shut them down. The mystery is what keeps the book moving, but it’s really more of a vehicle to give us more of an insight into Terrible’s mind.

 

We learn a bit about his past, though we have to connect some of the dots ourselves. We get deeper into his connection with Bump and how he feels about his job. We get a glimpse of the women in his life. But most importantly, we are privy to his reflections about himself and his realization that he is in love with Chess. These were the best parts of the book. Stacia Kane delivered 100% on opening him up.

 


As you’d probably expect, the Downspeak is pretty dense here. After all, Terrible thinks the same way that he talks. As a result, it’s not a fast read, even though it’s not a full length book. You have to pay attention and think a little more about the words as you read. But it’s worth it to see what makes Terrible tick; to see Chess through his eyes; to see how he views himself. How can any reader not love him utterly?

 


Now, I am more anxious than ever for the next book. Right up.


*ARC provided by author for review

Requiem For the Dead

Requiem For The Dead (Dreg City, #5) - Kelly Meding
 

It’s been awhile since the last Dreg City release, but this one brought me right back into the world and made me feel like I never left.  With this book, Kelly Meding takes the series from traditional to self-published, and I assure you that you cannot tell the difference. At all.  I reread Wrong Side of Dead immediately before I began this one, and tone and quality were completely the same.  It’s dark and action packed, with rich characters and equal parts heartbreak and hope.


As the story begins, it’s been 5 weeks since the events of the last book and Evy is dealing with the aftermath.  Phin is still gone. Wyatt is trying to come to grips with being a werewolf and he’s searching for the missing pups who were raised by Thackery. The vampires are fighting that terrible infection and they have pulled out of the Watchtower, reducing the ranks by a third.  And the Goblins are stepping up their attacks on the city.


All of those issues play into the development of the story, but the main conflict is a new one.  There’s about to be a change in leadership for the Felia shifters.  At first, Marcus’ grandfather is in charge. When he finds out he has (the shifter equivalent of) cancer, he names his successor.  But the tiger shifters aren’t happy and plot to grab the power for themselves.  There’s a fair way to make a challenge, but that’s not the way they want to go.  They’re doing it down and dirty, which ends up putting Evy and her friends right in the middle of it all.


One of the hallmarks of the series is how the main character is put through the wringer.  This book is no exception, though the days of purely physical torture are behind her.  Don’t get me wrong, she faces serious danger and takes some licks, but there’s more emphasis on her emotional turmoil, internal conflicts, and loss.  I was completely engrossed in watching it unfold.  I didn’t agree with every decision she made –and at least one made me want to shake some sense into her– but it was all in keeping with her character and her need to fix everything.


I loved seeing Evy and Wyatt trying to make a go of this… and that we didn’t miss much of their relationship development between books.  Wyatt is growing into this werewolf thing and I kind of like it.  I also really liked the secondary romance that developed between Milo and Marcus.  (I so saw this coming!!) Meding has me so invested in these characters!! I just wish she would stop killing people I have grown to care for.


There is advancement on all of the outstanding conflicts, but the story is not over yet. That’s right, the story ends on a big fat cliffhanger. But look on the bright side… that guarantees another book, right?  RIGHT???


Rating: B+