Review: The Chosen

Review: The ChosenThe Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Published by Ballantine Books on April 4th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 544
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“And herein was the conundrum, Xcor thought behind his closed lids. The only possible way out of this deadly scenario was to reveal the love he’d found for a female that was not his, never had been, and was not e’er going to be. But he would not sacrifice the Chosen Layla for anyone or anything. Not even to save himself.”

FINAL DECISION:  Layla and Xcor’s romance brings to light a lot of discord and fractures in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.  Things are changing and this book demonstrates and brings to light those changes along with a surprisingly sweet romance.  Loved it.

THE STORY:  Xcor is the enemy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood having attempted to assassinate the King.  Captured by the BDB, Xcor is only awaiting death.  He is a vampire who has lived a cruelty and harshness and the first softness he has found are his feelings for Layla.  The Chosen Layla is the mother of twins and has been meeting Xcor secretly because he fascinates her. The only way to stop Xcor’s death sentence is the reveal information she has about him which would threaten her position with her “family” and perhaps her own relationship with her children.

OPINION:  I loved this book.  First, I will confess that I’ve always liked the Xcor and Layla pairing because it really seems like a beauty and the beast scenario (my favorite trope).  I thought they had a difficult journey to find their happiness and it did not always seem like it would be possible.  The story of Xcor and Layla also gave characters that otherwise seemed pretty one-dimensional some needed depth.

Layla has always been in a difficult position as to Xcor.  He is the enemy of everything she loves — and yet she has not been able to resist him.  This book ups the ante and places her own relationship with her children at risk.  I saw in this book her strength in a way that she hasn’t revealed herself before. The heroines in this series have often had to risk things and people that are important to them — the only difference here is that the very characters we have come to know and love are in opposition to the romance.

One thing I really enjoyed is that many of the characters recognize that love is not always controllable and cut Layla some slack.  I thought the majority of the characters reacted in ways that I expected them to — with anger and concern and distrust, but that struggled with their own care for Layla.

Xcor has been changing for a long time in this series.  The long term nature of his story has made his transformation feel natural and real.  I wasn’t surprised by his actions here because it has become evident over time that he will do anything for Layla — even become a better person.

But this book is about more than Xcor and Layla. If it seemed like all the characters were settling into a normalized world — this book rips all that apart.  There are plenty of fractures and changes that this book reveals or causes.  Things are a changin’ in Caldwell and it’s about time.

There are secondary and related stories or glimpses about Qhuinn and Blay, V and Jane, Trez (who has a shock coming after the death of Serena), Throe, Tohr, Assail, and Lassiter.  There are plenty of appearances by other BDB characters and plenty of new stories (including drama and angst) are apparently brewing.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I actively disliked Qhuinn in this book.  His behavior was completely unacceptable and I don’t know that he redeemed himself at all in the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE CHOSEN is the fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book should be read as part of the series to truly understand the long simmering romance and the dynamics of all the relationships here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-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: The Girl from Summer Hill

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: The Girl from Summer HillThe Girl from Summer Hill (Summer Hill, #1) by Jude Deveraux
Series: Summer Hill #1
Published by Ballantine Books on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

“There was a naked man on Casey’s back porch. She would have called the police or, at the very least, screamed if he hadn’t been so damned beautiful.”

FINAL DECISION: The funny and poignant drama of a cast of townspeople who perform Pride and Prejudice and live a version of it as well, THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL updates the story enough to be interesting while keeping the essential elements of Jane Austin’s timeless story.

THE STORY: Casey Reddick was a successful chef who allowed her career to take precedence over her love life.  After a failed relationship, Casey decided to take a break, spend time in Summer Hill and decide what to do with her life.  Unexpectedly she ends up being Elizabeth in a local production of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy is played by Tate Landers, a Hollywood star, who winds up in the production as well.  Tate has a rough, prideful exterior which ruffles Casey.  The two start off on the wrong foot and their romance is played out through the play itself which mirrors their romantic journey.

OPINION: This is an enjoyable light romance.  For me, the best part was the similarities and differences from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.  The story explicitly embraces its homage to Pride and Prejudice which makes the twists clever and funny.  It also allowed me to accept reactions that might otherwise annoy me such as Casey’s willingness to accept stories which paint Tate as a bad guy. In this reimagining of P&P, I am willing to forgive story twists which also annoyed me in P&P.  (FYI: I’m not really a fan of Austin’s P&P but I liked the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy).

One difference for me what that I liked Tate a lot more than I liked Darcy.  Tate is incredibly sweet which is typified by his incredibly lovely relationship with his niece.  I liked him so well that it made up for my meh feelings toward Casey until the middle of the book.

One thing I always love about Deveraux’s books is the great sense of place and community. This book is especially sweet because of the multilayed storytelling techniques — play, P&P and the actual events in this novel.  This sense of being in the play is especially emphasized by the chapter divisions which reflect the scene divisions in the play.

Adventurous fans of Pride and Prejudice should be tempted by this modern adaptation which respects Austin’s vision while providing enough contrast to provide modernity and creative contrast.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story actually has several secondary romances which mirror those in Pride and Prejudice — but also some surprises.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL is the first book in the Summer Hill series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars