Review: Wait for Dark

Review: Wait for DarkWait for Dark (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17) by Kay Hooper
Series: Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17
Published by Berkley on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a weird and creepy story (a good thing in this series!) but what I love best is getting more character development from Hollis and more about her relationship with Reese.

THE STORY:  Hollis Templeton has progressed from being a victim to now becoming a team leader for the SCU.  She and her partner Reese DeMarco come to Clarity, North Carolina in order to investigate a series of deaths that appear to be accidents and yet seem like something much more sinister when the sheriff discovers that each victim received a text message stating “Wait for Dark” before their deaths.  Not only is the team investigating strange crimes but Hollis’s paranormal senses are continuing to evolve as she has to confront her own past as a victim.

OPINION:  I really liked this one because while the focus was appropriately on the suspense story and the investigation, there was quite a bit about Hollis’s own struggles.  I have loved reading about Hollis’s development throughout the series and this book takes her development to another level.  Just a warning though — things are not completely resolved and I expect we will get more Hollis books in the future.

What I like best about this book is that there is a real question about what is going on for a good portion of the book.  That builds drama and interest.  This is not a mystery book. You are not going to be able to gather suspects and evidence and find out what is happening.  This story is just creepy and strange and filled with scary images and possibilities.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I was glad to see Bishop and Miranda.  I keep wishing for another book with the two as the focus.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WAIT FOR DARK is the seventeenth book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series.  This book really needs to be read in context of other books in the series to truly appreciate it.  It is not necessary to read all the books in the series first, but I recommend reading TOUCHING EVIL, SENSE OF EVIL, BLOOD DREAMS, BLOOD SINS, BLOOD TIES, HAVEN, HOSTAGE, and HAUNTED first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven DaysHow to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced, #1) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Series: The Embraced #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

“Never touch the Beast.

“Never let the Beast touch you.”

FINAL DECISION:  Very enjoyable first book in a news series, and I can’t wait to read more. The story of two people whose supernatural gifts haunt them both. They manage to find love in an arranged marriage where danger and death surround them.

THE STORY:  Raised on the Isle of Moon and believing herself an orphan, Luciana was aware that she is one of the Embraced (those born on a night of eclipsing moons who have supernatural powers) but did not know her true lineage.  When her father appears in her life, she discovers that if she doesn’t marry the Beast of Benwick, her father will be killed. However, if it is discovered that Luciana is actually impersonating her dead sister, both she and her father will be killed. Lord Leofric, aka the Beast, is also Embraced.  He has the power to use lightning, but that gift comes with the cost that he can kill people with his touch.  Ordered to marry by his uncle the king (who also happens to want Leo dead), Leo expects a loveless marriage of circumstances, until he meets Luciana who is far more than he expected.

OPINION:  A new series kicks off with a bang with the introduction of a world in conflict. A man who hasn’t been touched since he was a child because of his “gift” and a woman who is forced to impersonate her dead twin and hide every facet of herself.  When the two marry, their gifts complicate their lives.

A new series, especially in the paranormal/fantasy romance arena can involve a lot of explanations and worldbuilding which impedes the progression of the plot.  While this book is the first book in the new series, it largely avoids the extended explanations which can slow down the story.

Instead, the story has a most intriguing hero.  A man who is tormented by his own gift.  Leo is a man who cares enough about the people of his uncle’s realm that he wants to protect them even as they fear him.  A warrior, Leo has sacrificed much and his fits has separated him from others.  Immediately he sees something in Luciana and as the two navigate their marriage, there is humor along with the political intrigue and danger.

Luciana is sweet and being convent raised, she is a bit naive.  This leads to some amusing situations with her new husband. One thing is that Luciana is almost too sweet, but she is never annoying.  Her generosity and genuine caring for other people gives her depth and while innocent in many ways, she is not ignorant of the world.

I loved the humor and sweetness between Luciana and Leo even as the story dips into political intrigue and death. The story has a nice balance to it and I really look forward to reading more about this world as the series unfolds.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are all types of supernatural powers in this world.  Elves and shifters, witches, those who harness the elements, and those who see the dead.  Because being one of the Embraced is such a danger, there is much still to discover about these people.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW TO TAME A BEAST IN SEVEN DAYS is the first book of The Embraced series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: The Longest Night

Review: The Longest NightThe Longest Night: Fantasy Romance (Nvengaria Book 4) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Nvengaria #4
on December 13th 2016
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 98
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a nice novella with some suspense and the romance between a half human, half logosh shapeshifter who acts as spy and assassin for Nvengaria and the Scottish widow who entranced him a year ago.  It’s a fun read with some emotional moments.

THE STORY:  Mary Cameron a Scottish widow with a seventeen year old son is lonely.  A year ago, she met Baron Valentin a shapeshifting logosh from Nvengonia.  The two shared some kisses and Valentin asked her to join him in Nvengaria.  She never showed. Now the two meet again in London and Valentin has no intention on allowing Mary to escape him again.

OPINION:  This novella like the other Nvengarian stories are a combination of historical and paranormal fantasy with a fairy tale aspect.

In this story Mary is a woman of thirty-five who has a seventeen year old son. The world tells her that she should be satisfied with being a widow and mother and respectable chaparone and not be concerned with love or sex.  But she can’t help thinking about both when around the sexy, younger man, Valentin. She thought about following Valentin to Nvengaria a year ago but got cold feet thinking about who he is.  The truth is that they didn’t know each other very well for her to give up everything to follow him.

Valentin is a man who has lived with the desire for revenge and the regret of making mistakes. He now wants to be with the lovely widow. He has been sent to London to spy on a potential traitor. But he has an ulterior motive…he wants to see Mary again.  Outwardly self-contained but passionate, Valentin has no intention of allowing Mary to slip past him again.

I liked the older woman, younger man story here and I liked how honest Valentin was with Mary. He admires her for all her strengths. There is a decent suspense story here involving Valentin’s mission.  Because of the length of this novella, there is less plot and character development, but that works here because Mary and Valentin have a simple story between them and need the small plot to keep the story moving.

This was an enjoyable read and is a definite need to read for those who liked HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER and want to know what happens after…

WORTH MENTIONING:  THE LONGEST NIGHT was originally published in A CHRISTMAS BALL.  This version has been edited and expanded by the author.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LONGEST NIGHT is the fourth book in the Nvengaria series.  The romance in this book begins in HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER and I recommend reading that book first even though the events in that book are explained here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Highlander Ever After

Review: Highlander Ever AfterHighlander Ever After (Nvengaria, #3) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Nvengaria #3
Published by Leisure Books on April 1st 2008
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 323
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable read but not as good as the second book in this series.  I enjoyed the relationship between Zarabeth and Egan but for me the conflict wasn’t strong enough to justify the time these two were at odds.

THE STORY:  Egan MacDonald has loved Zarabeth for years. Despite her marriage to another man, he has not been able to forget her.  When her husband plots a coup against her cousin, the Prince of Nvengaria, Zarabeth reveals the plot and is now in danger for her life.  Zarabeth’s cousin sends her to his friend Egan in Scotland for protection.  Zarabeth is not the exuberant woman that Egan remembered.  While Zarabeth is in danger, Egan and Zarabeth have the chance to rediscover a path together that they missed years ago.

OPINION:  This is a second chance at love story about a woman who has been deeply hurt and the man she always loved.  Zarabeth and Egan are a good match for one another despite his attempts to keep her at arms length.  He loves her but he doesn’t believe himself good enough for her.

While there are magical elements in this story, the core is the relationship between Zarabeth and Egan. Her desire for him and her fears as a result of her marriage, his desire for her competing with his belief in his inadequacies.

I liked the romance here which was quiet and took a while for the two to work through their problems.

For me the negative of this book was that the conflict was not strong enough to really justify these two being at odds for so long.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book introduces the couple for the novella THE LONGEST NIGHT.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER is the third book in the Nvengaria series.  This book can be read as a standalone because the romance is self-contained although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Blood Vow

Review: Blood VowBlood Vow (Black Dagger Legacy, #2) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #2
Published by Ballantine Books on December 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

“He was extraordinary. Or maybe…extraordinarily dangerous was more like it  However she defined the effect of him, she had a sixth sense he was going to change her life.”

FINAL DECISION: Good addition to the Black Dagger Legacy.  Axe and Elise seemed set up perfectly for an angst filled drama, but the story ended up simpler than I expected.  My favorite part of the book was the continuation of Rhage and Mary’s story from BEAST.  If you read BEAST, you have to read this one.

THE STORY: Axe is a new recruit trainee with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. He is a loner who despises the idea of love after it wrecked his father when his mother left them.  He agrees to take the job protecting a female vampire who needs a bodyguard (Axe desperately needs the money).  He ends up meeting Elise who is an aristocratic female (definitely not of Axe’s class) and he is immediately attracted to her despite knowing that there can not be anything between them.  Despite the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the upper class girl vibe, these two find that they are desperately attracted to one another.  In other tales, Rhage and Mary are happily waiting for the finalization of their adoption of daughter Bitsy.  Just when everything seems to be going so well, a man who might have a greater claim on their daughter enters the picture disrupting the happy ending that the trio expected.

OPINION:  This was an interesting book, but I honestly liked the secondary story involving Rhage and Mary more than the primary story.  Axe and Elise seemed set up perfectly for an angst filled drama, but the story ended up simpler than I expected.

From his presence in the prior book in this series, Axe has shown himself to be a highly damaged person.  A former drug addict, a current sex addict (who spends his free time at a sex club engaging in public sex), a male vampire who feels deep anger and guilt about his father, I expected his journey to love to be difficult and filled with drama and angst.

The intense problems are quickly resolved when he falls for Elise.  This is more about two opposites falling for one another (although it is clear Elise is not as pure as she seems and Axe is not as dark). Axe is smitten from Elise from the beginning and doesn’t seriously fight that attraction.

Elise is a woman who wants to be different than the expectations of the older generation.  In fact, the one thing that is consistent with the Black Dagger Legacy books is that the old ways are changing in the vampire world and this younger generation is determined to make different lives for themselves than the older generation expected.

The idea of the new generation breaking out from convention is a strong theme in this series which I enjoy — especially because I’ve read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series where the characters do largely adhere to the old ways (although things are changing there as well).

With Elise’s skills and abilities I had expected that we would see a crossover with the Rhage and Mary story, but those are kept largely apart.

The Rhage and Mary part of this book make this mandatory reading for fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (especially after BEAST).  This is the center of the angst and drama in this book.  After the events of BEAST, this book upends the “happy ending” when a male appears who may have a claim on Rhage and Mary’s newly adopted daughter. This story kept the pages turning for me. Drama, love, resolution with complex ideas and themes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is highly focused on the new trainees and the original BDB characters which is nice for those readers who want to know more about the characters and less about the mythology of the BDB series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLOOD VOW is the second book in the Black Dagger Legacy series.  This is a spin off of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The main story of this book about Axe and Elise can be read without knowledge of the rest either of the series (although there is no world explanation so you have to pick up the nuances) but the secondary story about Rhage, Mary and Bitsy is a continuation of BEAST (Black Dagger Brotherhood).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Moonshadow

Review: MoonshadowMoonshadow (Moonshadow, #1) by Thea Harrison
Series: Moonshadow #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on December 13th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 335
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Sometimes things change irrevocably. You turn a corner, hear a new song, read a book, fall in or out of love, or look at a painting in a different light. Or you get shot several times.”

FINAL DECISION:  Harrison strikes off in a bold new direction in her Elder World.  A fabulous paranormal with an alpha hero and the woman who won’t take his orders. I absolutely loved how Sophie and Nik fought and argued and found themselves in love and true partners in battle.

THE STORY:  Sophie Ross comes to the United Kingdom searching for answers about her past.  After having been shot in her job as a witch consultant for the police, Sophie has to rebuild her life.  After a spell gives her a vision of a handsome and deadly man, Sophie ends up traveling to the U.K. where she meets Nikolas Sevigny — the man in her vision.  Nikolas is a knight of the Dark Court who is working to defeat the Queen of the Light Court. As part of his quest, Nikolas realizes that Sophie might be able to help him return home to engage in the battle.  This book takes place in the Elder Races world.

OPINION: The best part of this book is how Sophie and Nik fight and argue and learn to respect one another.

Nikolas is a definite alpha male. Controlling, in charge, demanding and a warrior in all ways. Nik has spent years alone.  Separated from his homeland by the warring of the Light Court, separated from his brother warriors by necessity, Nik has become colder and more closed in. The hardened years of war have made him more course and more desperate.

Sophie makes this book for me.  She is not going to take any orders, demands or gruff from Nik.  She can take care of herself — and Nik — and she is not going to allow him to control her.  Her combat with Nik allows Sophie to recover a part of herself that was damaged when she was shot as part of her job.  While strong willed and a warrior herself, Sophie is also gentle of heart and caring. In fact, it is her caring nature that draws her into the battle between the Dark and Light Courts.

The relationship between Sophie and Nik is combative and full of disagreements and ultimately explosive passion.  Both Sophie and Nik are warriors and they have to learn to deal with one another. While Sophie is not going to put up with Nik’s demands, she also knows when to bend to accommodate Nik’s own vulnerabilities and how to tame Nik’s instincts without making him a whipped puppy.  There is no damsel in distress in this book rather two equals who learn to fight together.

The story introduced here which involves the battle between the Light and Dark Court is intriguing and had plenty of action and heft to it to kept the pace of this book hopping. The characters are fascinating with good stories that have possibilities that I look forward to seeing played out in the rest of this trilogy.  With a mishmash of English legends including werewolves (in London), Arthurian and Midsummer Night’s Dream fairy characters (which of course have older mythological origins), at play here the book feels fantasy and real at the same time which is one of my favorite parts of Harrison’s Elder Races world books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This series has an overarching story that begins here but doesn’t conclude in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MOONSHADOW is the first book in the Moonshadow Trilogy.  This series takes place in the same world as the Elder Races series but can be read on its own because it takes place in a different place with new characters.  A good time to try out Harrison’s Elder World books.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Under the Kissing Bough

Review: Under the Kissing BoughUnder The Kissing Bough by Kathryn Le Veque, Sandy Blair, Suzanne Ferrell, Hildie McQueen, Anna Campbell, Tina De Salvo, Barbara Devlin, Joan Kayse, Catherine Kean, Anna Markland
Series: Farthingale #5.5, Second Chance #2.5, , Guardian Isle #1.5, Legendary Bastards of the Crown #0.5, Romance in Central City #7
on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-stars

This is a huge anthology with fifteen separate stories which cover several genres and time periods.

TARTAN BOWS AND MISTLETOE by Sandy Blair: (Victorian Historical) John Colin MacNab is an impoverished earl who is trying to avoid complete financial ruin after his spendthrift father. He refuses to consider marrying a wealthy woman wanting a title. Olivia Conor is rich and her father wants her to find a titled gentleman to improve their American business prospects. Olivia is a suffragist who wants to study law, not marry the man her father wants. This story was a little too predictable for me. Things were resolved too neatly and I didn’t feel a great connection to the characters. Rating: 2 stars.

CLOSE TO SANTA’S HEART by Suzanne Ferrell: (Midwest Small Town Contemporary) Sylvie Gillis is a hairdresser who is dating Cleetus Junkins, a deputy. The two are Santa and his elf for the town events. The two seem to be destined to be together except for two problems: Cleetus is a virgin and Sylvie has a secret concerning her family.  I really liked the setup for this one and Cleetus was cute giving Sylvie a Christmas.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the secret and the resolution which didn’t seem to fit the rest of the story. Rating: 3 stars

UPON A MIDNIGHT DREAM by Kathryn Le Veque: (Medieval Historical) Sir Rennington of Ashbourne is a knight who has returned from the Crusades penniless and lacking a home. When he hears about Lady Holly St. Maur who is the oldest daughter of a rich landowner, he is determined to win her hand in marriage. Holly plans never to wed after loving and losing her betrothed in the Crusades. I absolutely loved the setup for this one. I thought the pacing was wonderful, the issues complex for such a short story and I really liked the characters.  Then everything got resolved in a page or two which was very disappointing. Rating: 3 stars.

MISTLETOE AND THE MAJOR by Anna Campbell: (Regency Historical) Edmund Sherritt, Major Lord Canforth has returned home after years of fighting on the Continent. He returns injured and scarred to the wife he married only two weeks before leaving for eight years. Felicity, Lady Canforth, has loved her husband from the beginning and is happy he has returned but wants more than their proper, respectful marriage.  I loved this one. The scope of the story was very small — a couple reuniting after years apart not knowing how to ask for more in their relationship.  The story was sweet and complete. I felt happy at the end of the story.  Rating: 4 stars.

HUNT FOR CHRISTMAS by Tina De Salvo: (Cajun Contemporary) Dr. Camille Comeaux returns home to the bayou from her life in New York.  She meets Hunter James who has purchased nearby Cypress Island for peace and privacy. Camille is determined to convince Hunt to allow the Cajun community of Fa La La to have their annual Christmas celebration on the island.  Enjoyable story with a few too many moving parts to be truly satisfying in the result.  I did enjoy the local characters and Camille and Hunt had a nice chemistry.  A Second Chance series novella. Rating 3.5 stars.

HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME by Barbara Devlin: (Regency Historical) Lord Nicholas Sheldon and Lady Almira were betrothed since birth but then she is given in marriage to an evil man. Years later, Nicholas has the chance to try and redeem their failures and capture Almira for his own.  This is the story of two people who were ripped apart and have both suffered because of it.  This second chance gives these two another opportunity at love and happiness.  I really enjoyed this book but I could see that it was part of a series and there was significant events which occurred in those books which are relevant to this story.  I thought the story was good here but I think I would have enjoyed it better having read the other books in the series.  This novella made me want to read more.  Rating: 4 stars.

AN IRISH GIFT by Joan Kayse: (Fae Paranormal) Killian is a fae shifter who has to work to discover something taken from him. He ends up having to bring together a couple Kathryn and Colin together in time for Christmas.  I just couldn’t get into this story.  There was too much worldbuilding that didn’t have any purpose in the story. The couple that gets together is really a sideshow to the story.  I really liked Killian and wanted the story to be more about him. This might be a good series, but this wasn’t a good introduction.  Rating 1.5 stars.

ONE KNIGHT’S KISS by Catherine Kean: (Medieval Historical) Sir Tristan de Champgne is a knight who is estranged from his family after his betrayal by the woman he had planned to marry.  He comes to spend Christmas with a friend and his family. There he meets Lady Honoria Whitford, his friend’s sister.  This was an adequate story but I wish there had been more heat in the story. I liked the characters but there wasn’t enough plot to sustain the story except for another woman who wants Tristan for herself.  Rating: 2.5 stars.

UNKISSABLE KNIGHT by Anna Markland: (Medieval Historical) Victorine de Toeni is a young Norman maiden and ward of William the Conqueror. The obligation is to marry her off.  Sir Dervenn de Roure is a Breton knight favored by William but not by Victorine. William doesn’t want to marry either but as time goes on he is enchanted by the willful woman.  I absolutely loved this story. I thought it was well crafted to fit within the novella format with interesting characters that I liked.  The story was interesting and didn’t leave loose ends.  One of the best of the anthology.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

CHRISTINA, A BRIDE FOR CHRISTMAS by Hildie McQueen: (Western Historical) Christina Mills flees Philadelphia for Wyoming because of her brutal father who has arranged what promises to be an even worse marriage.  She comes as a mail order bride. She has chosen Alexander Barrett Patterson for her husband.  When she arrives, she discovers that Barrett is uncertain about marrying her.  Barrett is scarred and has lost a portion of his leg in the Civil War. He thinks himself not good enough for Christina.  I enjoyed the feel of this book but thought it took too long to get to the romance between Christina and Barrett.  The description of the times and the characters were great.  Rating 3.5 stars.

IF YOU LOVED ME by Meara Platt: (Regency Historical) Desmond Cameron, Marquis of Blackfell has no intention of falling for a Farthingale. When he comes across a carriage accident, he meets Miss Adelaide Farthingale (a cousin of the Farthingales in the series). Adelaide is sweet and innocent unlike the cynical Desmond. I loved this story. It is sweet and I loved the brightness and gentle nature that Adelaide has. She has been made to feel unimportant and an afterthought. Desmond is attracted to her unspoiled nature even as he is determined to fight his feelings for her. The story is uncomplicated but the characters are well done.  This book is 5.5 in the Farthingale series but can be read as a standalone. Rating: 4 stars.

DESTINY’S KISS by Elizabeth Rose: (Medieval Scottish Romance) Ross of Clan Douglas is a Scottish lowlander who hates the English and intends on marrying the English king’s mistress and claiming his bastard. When Ross arrives at the mistress’s family’s castle, he meets Lady Annalyse Granville, the second born twin of the king’s mistress.  Annalyse is abbey raised because she is considered cursed as the second born.  Although Ross intends on marrying her sister, he is drawn to Annalyse.  This book is the prequel to the Legendary Bastards of the Crown series and it shows.  The story is more interested in the story of the bastard to the king than developing the romance between Ross and Annalyse.  I liked the story but was disappointed in the romance.  Rating: 3 stars.

HER VAMPIRE PROTECTOR by Jordan K. Rose: (Vampire Paranormal) Oswald Addison is a vampire and a member of the Guard. He has liked Selene Kittery for a long time but she won’t give him the time of day because she believes him a womanizer.  Although she actually is attracted to him as well.  This is a humorous vampire story.  There is a lot that goes on in this story with lots of characters (since it is part of a series).  I got lost with the number of characters, but I did think the story of these two was sweet and funny.  Rating: 3 stars.

DANCING UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Lana Williams: (Victorian Historical) Katherine Flemming is on the run.  She has just left her position as a seamstress because she fears having been discovered again. For Christmas she is going to the country to stay at the estate of a countess she met at her work. She is met by Cole Dumont, Lord Barclay who finds Christmas a sad time because of the loss of his family.  This story reveals their secrets and an attraction to one another.  I liked this story because of the mystery aspect of what secrets these two have. The story had the best Christmas spirit of the bunch because so much works out because of the Christmas holiday.  I thought things were wrapped up too neatly, but I liked the festive story.  Rating: 3.5 stars.

A YULE TO REMEMBER by Jeanne Adams: (Witch Paranormal Contemporary) Haven Harbor is a town in Massachusetts inhabited by witches.  Annie Boyston owns the Classic Cauldron a cooking shop in town.  Reyn Shapleigh is the town’s Fire Chief. Annie and Reyn are friendly towards one another until the first Yule kiss makes things more than friendly.  This was a very enjoyable story.  Quirky and funny and with an interesting plot involving danger in town.  I liked Annie and Reyn and their relationship felt really natural but magical at the same time.  I would read more about this town.  Rating: 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Mad, Bad Duke

Review: The Mad, Bad DukeThe Mad, Bad Duke (Nvengaria, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Nvengaria #2
Published by Leisure on October 18, 2016
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 383
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Incredibly enjoyable for readers open to fusion romances.  This charming historical paranormal perfectly merges the genres to fashion a fairy tale about a former villain who can’t help but fall in love (because of a love charm) with a woman he never would have chosen on his own.

THE STORY: Megan Tavistock gets unexpectedly snared by a love spell which results in her ending up married to Grand Duke Alexander of Nvengaria.  Alexander has been sent to England because he plotted against the Prince of Nvengaria.  In England, Alexander is redeeming himself being running intricate plots to protect Nvengaria’s interests. A widower with a young son, Alexander never thought to marry again, especially not an innocent like Megan, but when the love spell results in him ruining Megan, Alexander is determined to protect Megan and discover who is trying to plot against him.

OPINION: Ashley has a way with men who are handsome and unconventional. Here, Alexander is a man who has been isolated and alone. He doesn’t have strong connections with people and sees his only value in intrigue and deception. Having been married and with a young son, Alexander remains essentially alone.

This book is inspired by the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast and the inspiration is cleverly done without being a scene by scene repeat of the classic.  Alexander is a man isolated and when the beautiful and innocent Megan comes into his life, Alexander is dazzled by her even as he tries to keep her at a distance.

The love spell works to bring these two together quickly and unexpectedly. Their first meeting is hot and passionate and I really liked how the love spell worked in the story. It is the catalyst that forces Megan and Alexander together so that they can spend time together working though their relationship.

The mix of genres really works in this book in a way that it didn’t completely mesh in the first book in the series.  The combination of paranormal and historical and fairy tale gives this book interest and heft and I just loved every page.

Like a true beauty, Megan transforms the beastly Alexander into a loving husband and father by the end of the book and allows his true self to be revealed.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Scot Egan MacDonald has a significant role and his story is up next.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  The Mad, Bad Duke is the second book in the Nvengaria series. While this story can be read as a standalone, I think it is better having read the first book in the series so that readers can truly understand what a potential bad guy Alexander is.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Beast

Review: The BeastThe Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #14
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 508
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She was the watch on his wrist, the roast beef when he was starving, and the pitcher of lemonade when he was thirsty. She was his chapel and his choir, the mountain range to his wanderlust, the library for his curiosity, and every sunrise or sunset that ever was or would ever be.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. Ward has done a great job creating a realistic conflict between Mary and Rhage which stays true to their story but accommodates the changes that have occurred with them and their friends.

THE STORY:  Rhage thinks everything should be perfect. He has the woman he loves, his brothers have found love and are doing well.  But Rhage is having panic attacks and he can feel a distance between him and Mary and even a distance in his own life.  At the same time, Mary is dealing with a crisis of her own at work.  When Rhage suffers a mortal injury, he and Mary must confront their problems rather than ignore them.

There is also stories about Layla and Xcor which moves them closer to their own book.  Assail also has his own story continue.

OPINION: I found this book particularly enjoyable because it takes seriously Mary and Rhage’s relationship. This book settles a lingering issue between Mary and Rhage. While the two love one another, they have never dealt with the fact that they cannot have children together.  Now as the other members of the BDB are moving on to the stage of having children, the issue that seemed settled rises again.

I enjoyed how Ward goes deep into her characters in this book.  Even with love, there are sometimes disappointments in relationships. Rhage loves Mary and wouldn’t choose anyone else, but there is no doubt that the reality of never having children is finally settling in. So many times, the choices we make seem simple until we have to live with them.  Rhage and Mary are both having to live with their reality.

I really am embracing Ward’s revisiting of couples from the original Black Dagger Brotherhood. I still find those characters the most compelling in the series and am happy to see more of their journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a new character introduced who has an interesting connection to Manny.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE BEAST is closely connected with the Black Dagger Brotherhood ongoing story.  A reader could read LOVER ETERNAL and understand the romance between Mary and Rhage but there are other storylines which would not be understandable without reading more of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Blood Kiss

Review: Blood KissBlood Kiss (Black Dagger Legacy, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Legacy #1
Published by Signet on December 1st 2015
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 397
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Loved this one.  The combination of the new adult/next generation type story with Paradise and Craeg and a revisit with Butch and Marissa both gave the story continuity with the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the freshness of a new series not dependent upon the overarching storyline of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

THE STORY:  Paradise, the only daughter of the vampire king’s First Advisor, should be living a cloistered aristocratic life, but she wants something more.  She has convinced her father to allow her to enter into the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training problem to learn to protect herself.  Doing so goes against all sex and class expectations of Paradise.  The training is incredibly difficult both physically and mentally but also because one of her fellow recruits has caught her eye.  Craeg is from a middle class vampire family and has his own reasons from joining the program.  That purpose does not include getting romantically involved with Paradise.  But the heart wants what the heart wants.

OPINION:  I had expected that this book would exist in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world but would be almost entirely separate — wrong.  With the inclusion of the Butch and Marissa story, this book is very closely tied to the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The combination of these two stories give this book a closeness with the main series and yet also has a next generation feel.

Paradise and Craeg are clearly of a different generation than the characters in the BDB.  Their concerns, their values, their thoughts are shaped by the war with the Lessers including the large scale deaths of vampire families caused by them.  That event has changed the cultural values of these younger vampires.  Paradise is the perfect example.  Raised to be a pretty object, she is restless and wants something more than the life that she was expected to live.  More independent, more self-determinate, more willing to take on non-traditional roles and actions, Paradise is blazing her own trail and that includes finding her own male.  Craeg is of the working class generation (one we haven’t seen in the BDB).  He is now alone in the world after the Lesser attacks.  He is a natural leader and intends to use his training to get revenge for his family.  He doesn’t want any attachments which is why his fascination with Paradise dismays him.

I liked the different pace of their relationship as their concerns are more personal, more coming of age first romance type.  Their problems are quieter than the more angst driven BDB stories.  I enjoyed the change and I think their classmates also have interesting stories which bodes well for the future of this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The secondary story involved Butch and Marissa, a violent death of a female vampire that needs investigating, Butch’s issues with sexual roles of women, and Marissa’s dealing with her own past.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLOOD KISS is the first book in the Black Dagger legacy series.  This series is a spin-off of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This series is still intimately connected with the Black Dagger Brotherhood even though its focus is on the new recruits but new readers could try this out as a first book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars