Review: Amid the Winter Snow

Review: Amid the Winter SnowAmid the Winter Snow by Elizabeth Hunter, Grace Draven, Jeffe Kennedy, Thea Harrison
Published by Jeffe Kennedy on December 12th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Goodreads
four-stars

This is an anthology of four separate novellas with the only connection being that each has a connection to the longest night of the year.

I liked all the stories in this anthology which is unusual. I thought each gave a glimpse into a different world and each had great characters.

IN THE DARKEST MIDNIGHT by Grace Draven: Jahna Ulfrida is bullied and made an outcast because of the birthmark on her face. While hiding from one of her tormentors, she meets her brother’s new swordmaster Sir Radimar Velus who promises to help her defend herself.

This was a sweet story that built from the beginning and takes place over quite a period of time so the characters get to know one another. I enjoyed how Jahna grows and changes through the years of the story and how these two find their way together in the face of overwhelming odds. Sometimes short novellas don’t work with complex stories, but this one was well developed and quite enjoyable. Rating: 4 stars.

THE CHOSEN by Thea Harrison: Lily has had visions where she has to choose between a wolf and a tiger. The man who she falls in love with has the possibility of saving her realm or destroying it. When a warrior comes to town, Lily has to decide which man he is.

This novella takes place in Harrison’s Elder Races universe although in a place apart from the characters and places in the novels. I very much enjoyed this story although the outcome seemed completely obvious from the start. The characters were so well drawn and interesting that I was disappointed that the story ended. (Maybe we will revisit them someday). Rating: 4 stars.

THE STORM by Elizabeth Hunter: Maxim of Riga has searched for Renata’s secrets for years. Renata lost her soul mate in a massacre that killed many of her people. Having annointed herself as a warrior to judgment, she has spent centuries getting revenge. Although Max and Renata have been acquainted for years, she will not allow herself to get any closer to him.

This was a painful story because Renata’s story shows the result of a dark war. This is not a story about two people falling in love, but rather a story of how someone goes on when all hope is lost for a future. The characters are the center of this story. There is a lot of information about the Irin Chronicles that I suspect that someone who has read that series would pick up on immediately, but even though I haven’t read the series, I could understand the conflicts involved and I enjoyed the story very much.  Rating: 4 stars.

THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN by Jeffe Kennedy: Ash, the lover of Amelia the new Queen of the Twelve Kingdoms knows that his time with Ami is coming to an end. Ash knows that he is not worthy of being with Ami even though he loves her. Determined to escort her to safety and then leave, danger provides the opportunity for something else.

This is the story of a man who doesn’t think himself worthy and the woman who doesn’t want to let him go. Told in the first person, readers get to see Ash’s point of view throughout the entire story. It is clear that he is deeply in love but doesn’t know a way forward to what he wants. I thought this story was good because we see that Ash is such a good man who doesn’t see that in himself. I liked seeing how gentle and sweet he is but also with a good sexy strong man. Ami also is no prissy pushover herself. We don’t get to see these two get together here, but rather this book is at a critical point in their story. This is a Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms novella but I haven’t read anything from this series. Rating: 4 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: Spellbinder

Review: SpellbinderSpellbinder (Moonshadow, #2) by Thea Harrison
Series: Moonshadow #2
Published by Thea Harrison on July 18th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
five-stars

“There was no surviving some loves. No matter what happened to the love affair, whether it flourished or failed, those love struck mortal blows one carried for the rest of one’s life. This love she felt for him. This love was like that.”

FINAL DECISION:  Dark and difficult and I absolutely loved it.  One of my favorite couples from the Elder Races series (and its spinoff) in a story that kept me engaged for every moment.  A true redemption story.

THE STORY: Morgan le Fae has been forced to serve the Queen of the Light Court for generations doing despicable deeds for her against his will.  Morgan believes that he has become hardened to everything and everyone until he hears the music of a human woman Sidonie Martel. His budding obsession with her does not go unnoticed unfortunately and Sid is captured and turned over to the Queen who has her tortured and maimed.  In prison, a man comes to her in darkness healing her and offering her comfort even as he warns her not to trust him. Both trapped in different ways, Morgan and Sid find peace and hope in one another.

OPINION:  I loved this couple. There was so much pain and loss and drama for them to navigate. Sid is a woman who is a musical genius but also suffers from OCD. I loved how everything in her is broken and rebuilt in this story.  There is something so beautiful about her spirit as she deals with the magical realm in a way that she never expect or wanted. There is something very compelling in this story about this woman who just wants to live her life being swept up in the larger forces which irrevocably change her life. Sid makes this story feel real and grounded — where a story about magical realms and battles might otherwise feel too fantastical.  The quirks in her character made her a fun character to read and balanced the darkness in the story.  She is intelligent and reasonable and has a good handle on her own limitations.  Watching her world get destroyed made my heart hurt but the redemption in the story was beautiful.

And speaking of redemption, Morgan was a superior hero.  I love stories about the villain who is redeemed by love.  And while it turns out that Morgan isn’t as much a “bad guy” as he appeared, he is certainly haunted by his actions even though he was forced into committing them.  His character is so nuanced that I absolutely fell in love with him.  Those tortured and tormented heroes are like catnip to me and Morgan is definitely one of those.  He has been a “bad guy” who has made a couple of appearances in the series and now his story is revealed as more complex than it appeared.

Morgan’s background is founded on the Arthurian legend and this book puts an interesting twist on the legend.  For those who are familiar with the legend, this book takes a different angel that feels fresh. For those who are not as familiar, this book doesn’t require any prior knowledge.  It is merely intriguing flavoring to the story.

The relationship between Morgan and Sid builds in such a quiet and gentle manner.  The two are thrown into intense events and yet their relationship builds from little gestures and quiet moments.  This book is such a wonderful combination of these quiet and deeply emotional moments and these big wild adventures.  It was refreshing to have a story where the romance was slowly developed.  Time passes in this book and yet it didn’t feel like it was slow in its pace. Indeed, there is a lot packed in this book.  Much happens to these characters in a short time but their relationship has time to breathe and develop.

By the time this book was done, I wasn’t done with these characters. I hope that we will see them again in future books.  I would love to see how their relationship develops in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Elder Races fans will get a welcome surprise by the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SPELLBINDER is the second book in the Moonshadow series which is a spin-off of the Elder Races series.  This book can be read on its own but is better as part of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-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

Top 10 Favorite Books of 2015

This list of ten books is not necessarily my best reviewed books of 2015.  Rather, these are ten books which stuck with me for one reason or another.

10. Pia Does Hollywood by Thea Harrison — This novella does exactly what I love.  It revisits characters from the series and moves their story forward.  This novella has a tight story line and reminds me how much I love Dragos and Pia as a couple.

9. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean — A classic road story, this first book in MacLean’s new series ticks all the classic romantic tropes — two protagonists who start out hating and fighting one another but soon cannot help being attracted to one another, a highwayman, illicit nights spent on the road together, and a rake brought to his knees.

8. Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz — Perfect balance between romance and suspense in this story of the past that comes back to haunt the heroine. I loved the twists and turns of the suspense story and also the connection between the hero and heroine.

7. The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward — A book I was inclined to dislike merely because of its description which sounds like a 1980s Dynasty or Dallas description, I found the story of this rich family that is falling apart on all sides to be compelling.  These are not always likable characters but their development makes great drama. The story is a  sweeping and epic family drama with a lot of romance.

6. Luck be a Lady by Meredith Duran — I love these cross-class romances.  Here, the hero is a criminal mastermind and the heroine is a woman who wants nothing more than to be a strong business woman.  Challenging all her assumptions Catherine has about herself, Nick is clever, daring, rough and sexy.  Their interactions are what I remember most from this book.

5. Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh — Nassir, Nassir, Nassir.  Cuddly as a cat and as dangerous as a viper, Nassir is such unique character.  His search for his mate is as singular as Nassir’s own nature.  I loved that we get to know so much about Nassir and yet he becomes more mysterious and compelling.  Mee-yow!

4. Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh — The only author with two books on my list, Nalini Singh has two diverse genres.  Rock Redemption is her contemporary series about the members of a rock band.  When Noah and Kit were introduced earlier in the series, readers discovered that Noah purposely destroyed any potential relationship between them by having Kit catch him having sex with a groupie.  How these two find a path together is my most heartbreaking and angst filled read of the year.

3. Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase — This book has a quirky relationship between a barrister and an aristocrat.  The two of them have a very bantering relationship with lots of arguments and discussions which draw them together.  I always love the sense of place that Chase novels have with many historical details.  Chase makes a stuffy lawyer very sexy.

2. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt — Hot, hot, hot. This story between a sensualist and a woman who fears even being alone with a man is romantic and sexy while also being sweet and gentle.  Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series is one of my all time favorites and this book’s story is big and bold and sexy — and so is Asa Makepeace.

1. The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long — My favorite book of the year did something that is almost impossible — exceeded high expectations. The final book of the Pennyroyal Green series, this book tells the star-crossed lovers story of Lyon and Olivia whose families rival the Capulets and Montagues. Lyon and Olivia’s story has been a catalyst throughout the series and thus readers had high expectations for their story. This book was beautiful, emotional and one of the best closures of a series I have ever read.

Review: Pia Does Hollywood

Pia Does Hollywood
Pia Does Hollywood by Thea Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tense, Dramatic and I love seeing Dragos, Pia and Liam

“Pia was the crown jewel in the dragon’s hoard.”

FINAL DECISION: Filled with intense scenes between Dragos and Pia, the novella adds to the Elder Races storyline while exploring a deeply personal plot that threatens both Pia and Dragos.

THE STORY: The diplomatic pact made in DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON means that a member of each demesnes ruling family must travel and stay with another demesne ruling family in order to foster peace and develop relationships. As a result, Pia has to spend a week with the Light Fae Queen in Hollywood. Dragos is not invited but has no intention of allowing Pia to go without him. He travels secretly to California. There are deadly secrets in Hollywood and they put Pia and Dragos in danger. In the process, the secrets that Dragos and Pia are keeping also are threatened to be revealed.

OPINION: I love Dragos and Pia. I would be pleased just to get an update on what they are doing (along with their adorable and amazing son Liam), but this novella ends up being a tense action suspense story that is immensely satisfying.

Dragos and Pia’s strong loving relationship is intensely sexual as well. Even this short novella depicts how much these two love and want one another. Fans of Dragos and Pia should be pleased to see that their relationship is well but still deepening and becoming more complex.

This novella also deals with the difficult relationship between the demesnes. Readers of the series know that distrust typifies the dealings between the different elder races. This time the suspicion and mistrust puts all the races in danger — and especially Dragos and Pia. The political dealings are always a highlight in this series and the interactions between Dragos and the Queen are really good stuff.

Finally, the action adventure plot surprises with its tension and drama. While I knew that everything would resolve itself in the end, I had to restrain myself from reading ahead to assure myself of it — the story was tense and people are in real danger. The introduction of new characters also hints at future storylines.

This novella has a lot of stuff for fans to dig into for the future.

WORTH MENTIONING: Stinkpot.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PIA DOES HOLLYWOOD is book 8.6 in the Elder Races series. It is also the second book in the novella trilogy that began with DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON. This novella can be read as a standalone. I do recommend, however, that readers first DRAGON BOUND and LORD’S FALL which are both about Dragos and Pia. While PIA DOES HOLLLYWOOD can be read apart from DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON, this novella continues the overarching story begun in that novella.

STAR RATING: I give this novella 5 stars.

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

Review: Liam Takes Manhattan

   For Fans of the Series, Liam is Growing Up

                                   Liam Takes Manhattan by Thea Harrison

                                   My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“Everything felt at once too big and yet too restrictive  His chest constricted, and he couldn’t breathe as the wide, wild world crushed down on him.”

FINAL DECISION: This short story satisfies fans because we get to know more about the fascinating young man that Liam is becoming.  This novella focuses on Liam trying to figure of what to do as a young man in unique circumstances.  Cute, sweet and revealing about his character.

THE STORY: Liam is at an awkward phase.  The events in SHADOW’S END have left the young man feeling rebellious, confined and aimless.  He doesn’t know what to do with himself and has begun to feel the constriction of his loving family.  It is Christmas and his parents offer him something he has wanted for a while, but he is struggling with himself.

OPINION: This short story focuses on a moment of crisis for Liam.  Having too quickly grown into a young man, Liam is at the same crossroads that young people face — purpose in life.  I especially liked being given this glimpse into his life.  A fan of the series can expect that Liam will have an incredible story of his own one day and I appreciated being given insight into his evolving character.

Well written, sweet and moving the overarching story forward, this little gem of a novella will please fans of the Elder Races and provides a worthy coda to the events of SHADOW’S END.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is not a romance but rather part of the coming of age story for the amazing character of Liam.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LIAM TAKES MANHATTAN is book 9.5 of the Elder Races series.  It should be read after book 9 SHADOW’S END because it contains serious spoilers about that book.  It is also third of a trilogy of short novellas about the Cuelebre familly.  While readers don’t have to read the entire Elder Races series to enjoy this book, it would be better to at least read the prior books of the trilogy DRAGOS GOES TO WASHINGTON and PIA DOES HOLLYWOOD.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

Review: Shadow’s End

Shadow's End
Shadow’s End by Thea Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This Book Made Me Cry for Pages

“You did not walk away from those you loved. You fought for them, always, with everything you had, even if it meant fighting the long fight, and staying the hardest, quietest, most difficult course.”

FINAL DECISION: Deeply emotional, SHADOW’S END has less of the Elder Races series humor and instead demonstrates more emotion and pain than any other book in the series. Beautiful. This book made me cry and cry and then ultimately smile with happiness.

THE STORY: Two hundred years ago, Grayden, gryphon and First Sentinel of the Wyr met and began to fall in love with Beluviel, consort to the Elven HIgh Lord. In a short time, the two found and lost one another when they ended up making a deal with the pariah Djinn Malphas. The two had to agree to forgo any potential relationship with one another. Now the deal is at a critical point and Bel and Grayden have to come together again in order to free themselves from the Djinn.

OPINION: SHADOW’S END brings together various threads in the Elder Races universe to dramatic effect. This is the saddest book in the series. Readers of the series should be prepared for the stakes in to be raised. There are casualties in the ongoing story and this book brings this home.

The love story between Graydon and Bel mirrors the intense sadness of this book. These two find one another and then almost immediately are separated. Their love story was already difficult because she was married to the Elven High Lord when they meet, but their choices are taken from them almost immediately. This leads to years of separation and loss.

“At times, he thought falling in love must be the loneliest experience in the world.”

I admit that I am a great fan of these poignant, angst filled romances. Bel and Graydon have a sweet and gentle connection. One of my favorite parts of the book is that after all the drama and angst, the book allows the reader to breathe at the end and see the aftermath of the dramatic storyline.

This one also neatly ties in lingering issues in the Elder Races universe. Claudia and Luis from NATURAL EVIL make appearances and explain some of the lingering questions from that novella. Also making significant appearances are Julian and Melly (MIDNIGHT’S KISS), Grace and Khalil (ORACLE’S MOON) and Rune and Carling (SERPENT’S KISS). Of course, Dragos, Pia and Liam also make appearances. I loved the blending of the storylines of these characters. This book feels like a progression in the story and some longstanding problems are finally resolved.

The end of this book gives readers an idea of the direction that the overarching storyline is going. I love this series and I look forward to continuing to see the characters I love and being introduced to new and interesting characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: Two words; preg. nant.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW’S END is the ninth novel in the Elder Races series. This book should be read as part of the series because it ties up threads from several other books and novellas.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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