Review: From Lukov with Love

Review: From Lukov with LoveFrom Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Published by Mariana Zapata on February 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 540
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A true slow burn, this book was exactly what I needed to read right now. A substantive relationship with characters that have depth and interest. New author to me, but I look forward to reading more.

THE STORY: Jasmine Santos is a talented but struggling figure skater whose career has hit a rough patch. She is dealing with the pressures of her sport, financial difficulties, a bad last partner, and trying to reconnect with her family. She has been floating since separating from her last partner but keeps skating even as people begin to see that her career is over and she should consider teaching. Enter Ivan Lukov, the brother of one of Jasmine’s friends. Ivan is a skilled, successful skater who has been pushing Jasmine’s anger buttons for years. Despite their history of clashes and differences in personalities, Jasmine and Ivan agree to become skating partners out of necessity — but only for one year. Along the way, the relationship between the two changes as they develop a complex and evolving relationship that goes beyond the ice rink.

OPINION: This is the first book by this author that I have read, but it won’t be the last. It eschews the overdramatic and grounds itself so deep in reality that I felt that I could meet these two characters at the local ice skating rink. Jasmine is such a complex character: prickly, caring, a perfectionist, a bit of an emotional mess. At first, I wasn’t sure about her, but the book does such a great job of bringing the reader into her life that I quickly began to love her quirks.

Ivan — oh, simply adorable. The way the book is structured, readers don’t know his thoughts in the book. Therefore, we only get to know him through his actions and words and how Jasmine views him which changes as the book progresses.

The relationship between Jasmine and Ivan builds slowly and felt so real. The book really builds from the characters and doesn’t rely on cheap dramatic tricks to draw the characters together. Instead, it is the small things — helping after a car won’t start, babysitting that builds the relationship. The best part of this book? By the time the book ends, there is no question that these two are perfect for one another.

The family dynamics were amazing here as well. Jasmine has a lot to learn about her family. This book serves as her catalyst for finding what her role is in her family. By the way, I loved Jasmine’s mom and her siblings. They are devoted to Jasmine but also funny characters. It really felt like a great family.

I just loved this whole universe of characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Great for fans of ice skating.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FROM LUKOV WITH LOVE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Twilight

Review: TwilightTwilight (Twilight, #1) by Stephenie Meyer
Series: Twilight Saga #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on July 18, 2007
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 513
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: TWILIGHT has a story built on numerous tropes that are universal; however, the first-person narrative centered on Bella’s teenage introspection occasionally lacks depth and frankly is annoying (as sometimes teenagers are) yet still encapsulates universal struggles of identity and love.

THE STORY: Bella Swan’s story begins as she relocates to Forks, a rain-soaked and unassuming town in Washington state, to live with her father, Charlie. At her new high school, she finds herself initially out of place and a bit of a loner, but she catches the attention of the mysterious and captivating Edward Cullen, whose pale skin and remarkable features set him apart. Despite Edward’s initial attempts to distance himself from Bella due to the inherent danger his vampire nature poses to her, their connection grows stronger. Bella’s curiosity and Edward’s eventual inability to stay away lead them into a whirlwind romance and, ultimately, danger for Bella.

OPINION: TWILIGHT is the story of an ordinary girl who encounters an extraordinary world. It is essentially the most incredible high school story that we have seen again and again — new awkward girl falls for the high school quarterback. Harkening to those stories gives this a universal essence while everything else is pushed to a new limit with the inclusion of vampires (and werewolves). The unlikely connection between Bella and Edward in an intensely romantic (but not sexual), relationship filled with tension and angst.

Meyer skillfully builds their bond, juxtaposing Bella’s human vulnerability against the peril to her of Edward’s vampire existence. This central romance evolves in an interesting manner despite the first-person narrative focusing solely on Bella’s limited perspective. Bella’s character lacks some depth and complexity, often her feelings are defined by her reactions to Edward’s actions. Just when things seem to working for Bella and Edward, external threats emerge, including vicious vampires without the Cullens’ restraint. The book feels cinematic with big set pieces linked together by pages of description and dialogue and Bella’s internal monologue that I ended up skimming on this re-read.

TWILIGHT explores universally relatable coming-of-age experiences – grappling with identity, the exhilaration of first love, and learning to embrace the unconventional. These themes transcend genres and capture the essence of adolescent adversity and longing. Ultimately the most compelling part of this book is the interweaving the ordinary realism of small-town life with the tantalizing allure of vampire fantasy.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked the movie more than the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TWILIGHT is the first book in the Twilight Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Not That Duke

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


Review: Not That DukeNot That Duke (Would-Be Wallflowers, #3) by Eloisa James
Published by Avon on July 25, 2023
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable story. Two decent people who get things mixed up, which causes difficulties in their relationship. Stella’s insecurities and Silvester’s desire to appear perfect create difficulties for this couple, who are so obviously perfect for one another from the start.

THE STORY: Lady Stella Corsham knows that Silvester Parnell, Duke of Huntington, is not for her — even as she can’t keep her eyes away from him. Stella knows that Silvester is in love with the beautiful Yasmin, and Stella, who is freckled, a redhead, wears glasses, and has a curvy figure that is not fashionable, doesn’t believe she can compare. Silvester likes Stella, who is eccentric and intellectual, but is determined to win the hand of Yasmin, even against his friend Giles, but cannot stop thinking about Stella and wonder what she will do or say next.

OPINION: I generally don’t like romance triangles, but I never felt that Silvester “loved” Yasmin. He was always more engaged with Stella, even as he kept insisting that he was going to win Yasmin’s hand. He was more intellectually and physically attracted to Stella. Their interactions were sweet and funny.

Indeed, they are so obviously perfect for one another that the conflict comes from the fact that Silvester pursued Yasmin first. The first half of the book sets up that conflict with readers seeing how Stella’s insecurities are based on her experience and how much she is devastated by Silverster choosing Yasmin.

Stella’s distress in this book about all the ways she is “not” is sometimes hard to read. Her pain was intensely real and understandable. I did love that other women in her life were determined to show Stella that she had value even if she didn’t fit in with the shallow societal standards.

I do love a good “married couple needs to build a relationship” book. The book so clearly demonstrates that mere desire is not enough, and Silvester and Stella learn to communicate their needs and weaknesses with one another. I thought their connection was wonderful as they really see one another’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is broken into two parts. In the first part, Silvester is pursuing Yasmin. After the transition, Yasmin and Giles are married, and Silvester’s attention finally turns to Stella one hundred percent.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NOT THAT DUKE is the third book in the Would-Be-Wallflowers series. This book overlaps with the events in the prior book THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS, and therefore there are spoilers for that book. It is not necessary to read that book first, but this book is so much better if you have read it.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE; I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: How to Tame a Wild Rogue

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


Review: How to Tame a Wild RogueHow to Tame a Wild Rogue (The Palace of Rogues, #6) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #6
Published by Avon on July 25, 2023
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series! This is an amazing book that leverages the relationships the series has already developed into a wonderful story of two people who meet by chance, pretend to be married, learn about one another, and fall in love.

THE STORY: On a dark and stormy night, Lorcan St. Leger walks through the London dock areas as a man who has accomplished so much. He managed to raise himself from the slums of St. Giles to become a privateer for the Crown (with some questionable choices along the way), and things seem to be going well. Until he spies a woman climbing out of a window and dangling in the air. That is how St. Leger meets Lady Daphne Worth. Daphne is as desperate as St. Leger is self-satisfied. Forced to take employment due to her family’s reversal of fortune, Daphne had to save herself from assault. When a major storm forces Daphne and St. Leger to take refuge at Grand Palace on the Thames, the two masquerade as a married couple to get a room. It turns out the owners of the Grand Palace are not strangers to either Daphne or St. Leger, which makes their fake marriage even more complicated.

OPINION: I loved this book. It has some great tropes, including forced proximity. So much of the story takes place within the rooms that Daphne and Lorcan rent at the Grand Palace. I’m a sucker for two characters who can talk their way through the book. But don’t be fooled, this book is hot. Nothing is better than sexy talk that just explodes on the page by the end of the slow burn.

I liked these characters. Both Daphne and Lorcan have depth and are just decent people. The story avoids all the cliches and easy answers that I expected in the story. Relationships are messy and complicated, and this book doesn’t shy away from that messiness, whether it be romance, family, or friendships.

Daphne is a woman who has taken on so much burden of caring for her family. No one has taken care of her, and Lorcan, who could have been only concerned with himself, always has a community behind him, whether it be the slums of St. Giles or his crew, always looks out for others even while he tells himself another story of his life. Her strength allowed me to believe the circumstances that surround this book. Daphne is not sheltered even though she has pockets of innocence and naivety. Lorcan is a man who needs to care for others, and his encounter with Daphne gives him something to care about even while he fights those instincts. The decency of these characters and the avoidance of the obvious romantic situations kept me engaged in the book. I was rooting for these two on every page of the book.

While the story takes place primarily within the walls of the Grand Palace, the vibrant community that has been built throughout the series blossoms in this book. The arrival of Daphne and Lorcan causes (or exposes) problems in the household. This book felt so vibrant with all the relationships shifting and being renewed.

I think this is the best book in the series, but it relies upon all the previous books to have so much depth. There is one night in the book that might be the funniest sequence I’ve read in one of Long’s books. It felt like an old sitcom or a 1940s movie comedy. I don’t want to give anything away because it is structured so well, but I loved the entire evening, which was funny but also served as an important catalyst in the book.

We get to see a lot of the people in the Grand Palace, which I really enjoyed because I do love the characters, and I like to see how the Grand Palace is changing and how these people are growing together.

I can’t say enough about this book, and it is definitely my favorite book of the year so far. My last note is that his book has a perfect epilogue that left me feeling so happy about the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew that spillikins could be so sexy?

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOW TO TAME A WILD ROGUE is the sixth book in the Palace of Rogues series. The romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone; however, the other characters matter in this book, and a richer experience awaits those who read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 enthusiastic stars.

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

five-stars

Review: Resonance Surge

Review: Resonance SurgeResonance Surge (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #7; Psy-Changeling, #22) by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on July 18, 2023
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I absolutely adored this book. The StoneWater bears have been a highlight in the Trinity series and this book is no exception.

THE STORY: Theodora Marshall is an unremarkable low-gradient Psy, often disregarded by everyone except her fiercely powerful twin brother, Pax. But in their venomous family, Pax’s trust in her is unwavering, making Theo the sole person he confides in. The only person Pax entirely trusts, he sends Theo to investigate a hidden chapter of their family’s history—an unregistered rehabilitation center initiated by their grandfather.

These Centers, remnants of the Psy silent past, are infamous for inflicting unimaginable pain, psychically erasing the minds of their unfortunate victims, rendering them empty shells. As Theo delves into the truth, she finds herself accompanied by Yakov, the right-hand man in the StoneWater clan. A scowling bear of a man who bears a lineage of foreseers, Yakov is skeptical of Theo, and the fact that he has dreamed of her since he was sixteen is both attractive and dangerous for Yakov. In Yakov’s visions, he witnesses Theo’s fate—a chilling and relentless surge of blood that seemingly cannot be stopped. Despite the grim foreboding, Theo presses on, determined to reveal the unsettling secrets of the Center and confront the terrifying legacy of her family’s past.

OPINION: I loved this book and its characters. The StoneWater bears have been a highlight in the Trinity series, and this book is no exception. Readers are treated in this book to two romances. Not only do we get Yakov and Theo, but the book continues the Trinity romance between Arwen and Pavel. As both Thea and Takov are twins, I very much enjoyed how both sets of twins are central to this story. No one does family and community like Singh. The characters are always in relation to others — not only the romance but friends and family. These connections always give Singh’s stories depth and interest. These are not autonomous people who can do whatever they want. Like all of us, they have constraints upon them if they want to live in relation to others.

This series has plenty of Changeling-Psy pairings, but it is the individuals that make each one unique. I loved Thea and Yakov. Yakov is a strong bear, but also an incredibly caring bear. His connection with Thea is deep, which is important because of her history. The Psy-Changeling series always messages that people are complex and complicated. No characters are easy stereotypes.

Thea is a woman haunted by a past that she only knows in the shadows. Damaged because of treatment by her father, Thea struggles with guilt and anger. In contrast to the era of Silence, Singh’s world values characters with all their flaws and limitations. Sometimes in series with characters with amazing powers, value is placed merely upon those with power and uniquely valuable attributes. Singh’s characters are often flawed and damaged by their pasts. And yet — or because of this — the characters are valued by those in the community.

I always am comforted by Singh’s world because there is an underlying decency and goodness where these characters dwell. Love is valued, relationship is valued, and both community and individuality are valued.

The romance here is sexy, but also just feels like a warm hug. Thea needs warmth and caring, and that is what Yakov provides. Definitely strong, but incredibly decent and a man that one just wants to cuddle up with.

The overarching story of Trinity is not advanced much here. There is a sense that some of the major players (perhaps Pax Marshall, who is Thea’s brother) need to move into position for the next act in the story. I’m not sure how long the Trinity movement of the Psy-Changeling series will last, but clearly, something major will be coming soon.

WORTH MENTIONING: Kaleb. That’s all.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RESONANCE SURGE is the seventh book in the Psy-Changeling Trilogy series. The book is also the twenty-second in the Psy-Changeling series. This book should be read as a part of the series. While I recommend starting from the beginning, a reader can start with the first book in the Psy-Changeling Trilogy series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley to prepare a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: An Evil Heart

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


Review: An Evil HeartAn Evil Heart (Kate Burkholder, #15) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #15
Published by Minotaur Books on July 11, 2023
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book blends an enthralling case with the pre-wedding journey of Kate and John and kept me captivated until the last word.

THE STORY: In Painters Mill, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder investigates the violent murder of Aden Karn, a well-liked young Amish man found dead. As Kate delves into Aden’s life, she uncovers whispers of a hidden dark side and questions whether the rumors are an attempt to blame the victim. Determined to uncover the truth, Kate pursues every lead, even as her own wedding approaches. The case takes a dangerous turn when a woman shares a horrifying story, leading Kate to confront an unexpected opponent. As the shocking truth emerges, Kate confronts the devastating consequences of a hidden life.

OPINION: I absolutely loved this book. It seamlessly blends an enthralling case with the pre-wedding journey of Kate and John. Castillo’s skillful storytelling effortlessly navigates the depths of their pasts, shedding new light on their complicated histories as the events of this novel unfold. As a long-time reader, I couldn’t help but marvel at the remarkable growth exhibited by both Kate and John, both individually and as a couple. Their personal development adds layers of depth to the narrative, making their journey all the more compelling.

What sets this book apart is its ability to straddle the fine line between mystery and thriller genres. It is a true hybrid, offering the best of both worlds. The complexity of the story is nothing short of breathtaking. At every turn, Castillo creates an air of uncertainty, keeping readers guessing and second-guessing every piece of information. The mystery within the pages is incredibly intricate and expertly crafted, constantly revealing new secrets that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

Just when you think you have it figured out, the plot takes an exhilarating twist, leaving you awestruck and hungry for more. Castillo’s attention to detail and well-crafted pacing ensure that there is never a dull moment. From the opening pages to the heart-pounding climax, the story effortlessly maintains its grip on your imagination, refusing to let go.

Nothing is as it appears. The story brilliantly plays with your expectations to keep you on the edge of your seat. With every revelation, you realize that there are hidden depths to every character and a multitude of layers to the story. It is a testament to the author’s talent that they can craft such a rich and multifaceted tale that keeps you guessing until the final pages.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is so satisfying for someone who cares more about Kate and John than the murders.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN EVIL HEART is the fifteenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. The mystery here is completely self-contained and so this book can be read on its own, but the character stories of Kate and the other supporting characters is so much better if the series is read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: The Notorious Lord Knightly

Review: The Notorious Lord KnightlyThe Notorious Lord Knightly (The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction, #2) by Lorraine Heath
Series: The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction #2
Published by Avon on June 27, 2023
Genres: Historical
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION: This book is a second-chance romance with emotional depth. Lorraine Heath skillfully weaves a tale of love, regret, and redemption. While not without its flaws, the book offers an enjoyable reading experience.

THE STORY: In the midst of London society, an anonymous author releases a book that ignites widespread speculation about the true identity of the notorious “Lord K.” The Earl of Knightly, revered by the ton, becomes the primary suspect in being the enigmatic Lord K, causing Miss Regina Leyland’s world to crumble once again. Having been left heartbroken when Knightly abandoned her at the altar, Regan hoped never to speak with Knightly again, but this book brings him back into her orbit. Knightly, consumed by fury at finding himself at the center of scandal and gossip, confronts Regina, suspecting her as the author behind the book. However, as he delves deeper, he discovers that Regina has undergone a profound transformation. No longer the naive woman he once knew, she has become a strong and independent individual who refuses to be submissive to any man. Knightly and Regina find themselves caught in a whirlwind of genuine emotions and intense passion that resurfaces between them. Each has secrets that, when revealed, threaten any potential for a new relationship between them.

OPINION: This book presents an engaging tale of second-chance romance within the backdrop of scandal and society in London. The story explores the complicated history of Regina and Knightly and the consequences of a scandalous book written by Regina herself.

The chemistry between Knightly and Regina is evident throughout the book, and the narrative effectively switches between past and present, offering glimpses into their previous relationship and their current reconnection. These flashbacks provide valuable insights into their deep love and the pain Regina experienced when Knightly abandoned her at the altar. The author succeeds in revealing Knightly’s motivations, adding depth to his character and portraying his regrets with authenticity.

Knightly, as a tortured hero, evokes sympathy from readers. He endures Regina’s anger and acknowledges his wrongdoing, making his redemption journey all the more compelling. Regina, too, is a strong and multifaceted heroine, torn between her love for Knightly and her lingering resentment. The emotional tension between them adds layers to their evolving relationship.

The novel shines in its portrayal of Knightly and Regina’s interactions. Knightly’s realization of his mistakes and his determination to make amends create moments of emotional intensity. The characters’ hidden secrets, if shared, would reveal the vulnerable aspects of their hearts, heightening the stakes of their relationship. The gradual development of their romance is skillfully executed, culminating in a satisfying conclusion.

The seamless transitions between past and present contribute to the narrative’s effectiveness, allowing readers to fully understand the depth of Knightly and Regina’s connection. The structure maintains good pacing, propelling the plot forward and keeping the reader engaged.

In the midst of its strengths, I personally found some aspects of this book to be unsatisfying. One particular issue was the handling of Regina’s secret and the continued decisions of the characters to withhold crucial information from each other. This pattern of deception throughout the story became increasingly frustrating and strained believability at times. Moreover, while the book delves into Knightly’s reasons for breaking Regina’s heart, I personally struggled to fully connect with or accept his motivations, which diminished my overall enjoyment of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are a few appearances by characters from prior Heath books which are enjoyable for fans of the Heath-verse, but don’t distract from the story for new readers.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE NOTORIOUS LORD KNIGHTLY is the second book in the Chessmen: Masters of Seduction series. This book can be read as a standalone, and it is not necessary to read the first book in the series to appreciate this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

Review: Ruby Fever

Review: Ruby FeverRuby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #6
Published by Avon on August 23, 2022
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 380
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: The remarkable conclusion of the Hidden Legacy series featuring Catalina Baylor transported me into a world of magic, intrigue, and unforgettable characters. With captivating storytelling, Catalina’s growth, acceptance of her powers, and sizzling romance with Alessandro left me breathless, and craving more.

THE STORY: RUBY FEVER starts out with a wonderful chapter that romance readers will love. That’s a good thing because quickly Catalina Baylor is confronted by a wild series of events that unfold in rapid succession. When Catalina’s boss, the Warden of Texas, comes under attack, Catalina and Alessandro must discover what has happened while fending off attacks. Catalina becomes the Acting Warden of Texas and confronts the threats facing her city and her family. Old villains and new characters who might be friends or foes appear and keep the story fresh. RUBY FEVER serves as the conclusion to Catalina Baylor’s journey in the Hidden Legacy series.

OPINION: I was captivated and transported into a world of magic, intrigue, and unforgettable characters in the remarkable conclusion of the Hidden Legacy series featuring Catalina Baylor. This final installment completely satisfied me and yet left me breathless and craving for more.

From the very first page, I was completely engrossed in Catalina’s journey as she shouldered the weight of multiple responsibilities as the Acting Warden of Texas and Head of House Baylor. The authors skillfully portrayed her growth and transformation throughout the series, and in this finale, we witness the culmination of her remarkable evolution. Catalina’s acceptance of her magical nature and her unyielding determination to embrace her powers were awe-inspiring. Her character arc unfolded with such depth and authenticity, making her a truly unforgettable protagonist.

The exploration of Catalina’s dual nature as a Siren (and another mysterious — and dangerous — side) was a highlight of this book. It was a thrilling experience to delve into the depths of her power, as she grappled with the darkness within and discovered the extent of her own strength. The authors masterfully balanced her vulnerabilities with her unwavering resolve, creating a compelling and multi-dimensional character that had me rooting for her at every turn.

The romance between Catalina and Alessandro continued to flourish, weaving its way through the challenges and obstacles they faced. Their connection felt palpable, and their chemistry sizzled off the pages. I found myself deeply invested in their journey, rejoicing in their triumphs and sympathizing with their struggles. Alessandro’s growth and transformation were particularly noteworthy, as he learned to trust Catalina completely and embrace the power of their partnership. Their love story was tender, passionate, and beautifully portrayed.

The introduction of new characters breathed fresh life into the story, expanding the intricate tapestry of the Hidden Legacy universe. The enigmatic Imperial Russian Prince Konstantine added an extra layer of intrigue and complexity to the narrative. Additionally, the return of Victoria Tremaine, the notorious “grandmother from hell,” brought shocking revelations and shed light on her role in the lives of the Baylor sisters. These well-crafted characters added depth and richness to the overall narrative, enhancing the reading experience.

The plot was a whirlwind of twists, turns, and heart-pounding suspense. Each chapter held new surprises and revelations, ensuring that I was glued to the pages, eagerly devouring each word. The authors’ skillful storytelling kept me guessing and second-guessing.

WORTH MENTIONING: The hints at future story arcs, particularly involving Arabella made me anticipate what’s to come.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RUBY FEVER is the sixth book in the Hidden Legacy series and the third and final book of Catalina’s trilogy. This book should be read as part of the series or, at least, after reading Catalina’s books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Emerald Blaze

Review: Emerald BlazeEmerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #5
Published by Avon on August 25, 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 399
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: EMERALD BLAZE is a delightful, fast-paced urban fantasy filled with excitement, danger, and romance. The compelling relationship between Catalina and Alessandro, along with the vibrant supporting cast and top-notch world-building, make this a captivating read. The plot is full of twists and revelations, and the masterful writing keeps you engaged from beginning to end.

THE STORY: Months have passed since Alessandro shattered Catalina’s heart at the conclusion of SAPPHIRE FLAMES. Now, as their story continues, Catalina Baylor, a Prime magic user, grapples with her extraordinary powers coveted by her ruthless grandmother. Entrusted as a deputy overseeing magic law breaches in Texas, she faces constant peril and the relentless presence of monstrous creatures. Amidst the chaos, Catalina aims to halt the use of a destructive serum wreaking havoc on their world. Violence erupts among powerful magical families when Felix Morton, involved in a crucial project, is mysteriously murdered. Assigned to investigate, Catalina is shocked to find Alessandro hired as a replacement, secretly on a mission to avenge Felix. Battling her lingering emotions, Catalina strives to protect her heart, while Alessandro is determined to shield her from a Russian assassin. As they face relentless attacks, they grapple with the identities of their enemies: Arkan, Felix’s killer, or something even more sinister. Balancing her newfound responsibilities as Head of her House, Catalina must outsmart her grandmother, aid her boss, Linus, and navigate her role as a P.I. When assigned to uncover the murderer involved in a hazardous project, Catalina’s path intertwines with Alessandro’s once again, prompting concern for his well-being amidst their unresolved feelings.

OPINION: EMERALD BLAZE is an absolute delight. This fast-paced urban fantasy novel is packed with excitement, danger, magic, and romance that kept me captivated from start to finish. The authors’ signature witty dialogue and humor are present throughout, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to the story. The highlight of EMERALD BLAZE is the compelling romance. Catalina and Alessandro’s relationship is filled with tension and chemistry, and their character development in this book takes their connection to new heights. Catalina, now settled in her role as Deputy Warden, has become a stronger and more confident woman, while Alessandro undergoes significant personal growth. Their journey together is a rollercoaster of emotions.

The supporting cast of characters is as vibrant and lovable as ever. From the wild and endearing Baylor clan to the intriguing secondary characters like Arabella, Leon, Runa, and Cornelius, each one adds depth and flavor to the story. The complex relationships between the characters, including Catalina’s interactions with her sister Nevada and their grandmother Victoria Tremaine, are explored, shedding new light on past events and adding layers of complexity to the narrative.

The world-building in Emerald Blaze is top-notch. Ilona Andrews continues to impress with their richly crafted urban fantasy setting, complete with intricate political dynamics and a society filled with both danger and intrigue. The plot is filled with twists and revelations, as Catalina and Alessandro embark on a mission to recover the lost doses of the Osiris Serum, facing dangerous enemies and personal challenges along the way. The writing is masterful, with detailed descriptions, engaging dialogues, and entertaining internal monologues that draw the reader deeper into the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: The epilogue of this book was totally worth reading!

CONNECTED BOOKS: EMERALD BLAZE is the fifth book in the Hidden Legacy series. It is the second book in Catalina’s trilogy. This book should be read in order of the series or at least after SAPPHIRE FLAMES.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Sapphire Flames

Review: Sapphire FlamesSapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #4
Published by Avon on August 27, 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 359
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sapphire Flames is an absolute gem, a captivating installment in the Hidden Legacy series that left me utterly thrilled from start to finish. Catalina’s journey as she embraces her siren powers, teams up with the enigmatic Alessandro, and faces dangerous challenges is a rollercoaster of surprises and excitement.

THE STORY: SAPPHIRE FLAMES is the fourth book in the Hidden Legacy series and follows the story of Catalina Baylor, Nevada’s younger sister. Set in a world where magic determines power and wealth, Catalina is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and now the Head of House Baylor. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, which allow her to persuade and manipulate others. However, when the mother and sister of a woman who previously helped Nevada and the Baylor House are murdered, Catalina decides to risk her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery behind their deaths. Little does she know that powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, an Italian Prime, and Catalina’s former teenage crush. Alessandro is dangerous and unpredictable, and his true motives remain unclear. Yet, he is inexplicably drawn to Catalina. As they join forces to investigate the murders, Catalina must push the limits of her extraordinary powers. However, her actions may not only cost her House Baylor, but also her heart.

OPINION: This is an absolute gem of a book that left me utterly thrilled and exhilarated from start to finish. It’s a five-star, must-read, and I can’t contain my enthusiasm for this captivating installment in the Hidden Legacy series.

From the moment I delved into the pages, I was swept away by the magic and charm of Catalina and her journey. She has come into her own as a 21-year-old, fully embracing her siren powers since we first met her. And let me tell you, it’s a sight to behold! The rest of the Baylor family is back, including the vivacious crazy grandma Frida, the semi-scary Arabella, the super funny Leon, and of course, the indomitable sniper mom and Bern.

Let’s not forget Alessandro, who defies all expectations. He’s not your typical charming pretty boy; he’s a man of secrets, talents, and a personal vendetta. His dynamic with Catalina is electric, and the sparks fly as they team up to take down the bad guys. And don’t even get me started on Linus Duncan and his awe-inspiring power.

The plot is a rollercoaster of surprises and danger, keeping you on the edge of your seat. The three-year grace period is coming to an end for House Baylor, and the stakes have never been higher. Immunity is about to expire, and Catalina finds herself entangled in a case that everyone warns her against. But of course, she dives headfirst into the challenge, pushing herself to the limits.

What makes this book truly exceptional is the trademark Ilona Andrews blend of humor, danger, and that slow-burn romance that sets your heart ablaze. I devoured every page, unable to put it down. While I missed seeing more of Rogan and Nevada, Catalina and her crew carry the story with unwavering brilliance. Plus, the stage is set for some exciting future books with Catalina at the helm—a prospect that has me eagerly anticipating reading the next chapters in this extraordinary series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. The romance definitely is in flux at the end of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAPPHIRE FLAMES is the fourth book in the Hidden Legacy Series, but it is also the first book in the trilogy that is Catalina’s story. This series is better read in order, even though a reader could start here and get most of the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars