I can't believe how long it's been since I've been on BL. One of my NY resolutions will have to be to pay closer attention to my various accounts.
Now to go through posts and see what all my BL pals have been up to.
Happy New Year!
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a sweet story using a common trope. The female lead is set on one male and another male (completely unsuitable, of course) is determined to land her. It's a tricky one, because the female lead often ends up looking mercenary and/or untrustworthy.
Daphne Hayward is determined to marry Edward because she's certain he'll be a solid, considerate husband. To that end she sneaks into what she thinks is his room one night during a house party and ruins herself with him. Well, not him, of course, but Ashton, the Duke of Claymore, an infamous rogue who believes she's one of his paramours since it's pitch dark and all. He's surprised because he's been with this particular lover before and she's never been so intoxicating.
First of all. Ew. Kind of unseemly to sneak into a guy's bed naked and seduce him out of a sound sleep. And that's where the heroine in this kind of trope comes off as mercenary. The ends justify the means. What if the guy doesn't actually want to marry her? He hasn't asked her no matter how many chances he's already had. What if he loves someone else?
BUT, Ashton is totally smitten. So it all works out. Daphne still wants Edward but over the course of a week or so she starts to see things differently and yada, yada, yada. We all know how these things go.
Ultimately it was a sweet story and a decent read, even though it was predictable. It was disappointingly short since the characters were worthy of more time together and more time growing individually. It felt a bit gutted, and I think more material might have alleviated the predictability, too.
Not a bad read, but nothing new. Solid three stars.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Five Christmas stories by romance authors. I really wanted this for the Kristen Ashley story, but since I did receive it for the purposes of review I read them all. Following are my impressions:
Jill Shalvis, Dream a Little Dream: Melissa has kept every man at a safe distance-especially firefighter Ian, a sexy friend with sexy benefits. But Ian secretly longs for more. Luckily, 'tis the season for giving love a chance . . . (all story descriptions are from blurb)
I've never read Jill Shalvis although she's on my short list of authors to try soon. I knew that this would be one of the better stories because it was from an established and popular series and, from what I've read in my friends' reviews of her work, she's very competent. I was not wrong. It's one of the better stories in the anthology. One plus was that it was not instalove or kismet, it was a couple who had gotten together previously and were trying to work through feelings for one another with the holidays (and some painful issues) in the background.
I had saved this story for last (I read the Ashley first) because I wanted to make sure I ended the book on a high note. Good call on my part, it turns out. I'll definitely be checking out this author sooner rather than later.
Kristen Ashley, Every Year: Holidays don't come easy for Shy and his brother, Landon. But with the magic of Christmas, along with a little help from Tabby and her family, the Cage brothers are about to get the gift of a lifetime . . .
This is a poignant story of the first Christmas that Shy and his brother Landon spend with Tabby and the rest of the Allen family. It's the first Christmas in many years that they are part of a loving family and it's heartbreaking, funny and sweet. It's not the first story in the anthology, but I recommend starting here if you can.
Again, it's not instalove, we're checking in with a recently established couple and enjoying an event that was alluded to in their book. A nice way to do an anthology story, IMO.
Hope Ramsay, Silent Night: Down on her luck and evicted from her apartment, single mother Maryanne hopes to start over in Last Chance. When the snow begins to fall, it looks like her baby might literally spend Christmas Eve in a manger. And Maryanne might celebrate the holiday with a handsome stranger.
I started out liking this story and then it became tedious. Instalove with ups and downs within 24 hours ... it's just too much to overcome.
Molly Cannon, Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas: Lincoln is a bachelor who's set in his ways-until a professional organizer dressed up as Mrs. Claus changes his life, one tip at a time. . .
Not quite instalove, which made it succeed a little better for me. The hero goes through quite a change during the story and that's nice to see. The heroine is hard to pin down, seems possibly a bit flaky, but all-in-all it kind of worked. I can't say it's sending me out to find Molly Cannon books, but it wasn't annoying like the Hope Ramsey piece.
The couple meet in this story which poses a problem in the overall arc. There simply isn't enough time for them to truly get to know one another and for the reader to get to know them together for a story this short to be satisfying.
Marilyn Pappano, A Family for Christmas: War widow Ilena doesn't mind spending Christmas alone. But when a new doctor blows into town with the winter wind, will she get her secret Christmas wish?
This one was poignant with the war widow angle. Always heart-wrenching. I liked the hero and the heroine, but as with the others where the couple had no history -- even though there was a little bit of time for these two to come together -- it feels incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying.
Sweet Christmas stories for anyone who's looking to get into the spirit of the season. I do recommend bookending the reading order with the Ashley and Shalvis, though. It's a better organizational scheme than what's in the book, IMO.
I enjoyed this installment of the "Shifters Unbound" series quite a bit. It's the story of Spike and Myka. Spike is the biker wildcat from the Austin shiftertown who was on the outs with the Morriseys in the first book. He's become a tracker for Liam, but he's also developed a reputation as one of the best fighters in the illegal and underground fight club.
I won't go into much detail because there's a lot of nifty stuff to discover in this one. Especially the softening of Spike. There were times when I didn't love him, honestly. He's a bit cranky much of the time, but he falls hard for Myka and that's definitely a nice thing.
One thing that does continue to bother me about the Austin shiftertown stories is that Liam is undercut regularly. Almost every story has the lead male aware that he could potentially (never a sure thing but very likely ... maybe) take down Liam. Why can't Liam just be dominant? It doesn't hurt the BDB stories for Wrath to stay dominant. It doesn't hurt Mercy Thompson for Adam to be dominant. Curran's unchallenged. Why does Liam have to be in a precarious position? But then, he's not! Not really. There's just always a moment where there's a stare-down and someone comes to the conclusion that dominance is uncertain and yada yada yada.
Dominance fights are boring, frankly. Leave them out. My opinion.
BUT, Spike is not boring. There's a moment near the end when he breaks my heart. Who knew the grizzled biker with the bad attitude could be so passionate and loving? Still tending toward cranky, but loving nonetheless. And sexy. There's always that. :)
Eric Warden -- brother of Cassidy Warden from Wild Cat and Las Vegas shiftertown leader -- has discovered an uncollared shifter living right under the noses of all the authorities both human and shifter. He's determined to keep her safe and unreachable for as long as he can. That will be difficult as Iona Duncan is hitting her transition and starting to get a little wild.
I loved how this one played out. Iona did tick me off at some points with her stubbornness in the face of facts -- a pet peeve of mine when it comes to romantic/PN tropes -- but she was ultimately a very likable heroine. And Eric is a great hero.
Eric is having some serious problems. The authorities have closed a whole shiftertown and determined they will move to Eric's domain. Their leader is not keen on no longer being the high alpha so he's determined to bring Eric down or cause him grief for the rest of his life. In addition that, he's trying to reason with Iona, the first female he's felt anything for since his mate died long ago. On top of that he's having some kind of physical malfunction that causes him intense, debilitating pain just when he needs to be at the top of his game.
I loved Eric. Can't say enough good things about him. Iona was a little more of a challenge, but when she finally faced reality she was very impressive.
There are some twists and turns and some real suspense. Very hard to put this one down. Four and a half stars.
This book was a "read now" on Netgalley and, since the subject interests me I thought I'd give it a go. Glad I did, but it's always hard to leave this history behind.
The author, Stephen Halbrook, is unreservedly, unapologetically, pro-Second Amendment. He makes a point of letting the reader know in the introduction that advocating for gun rights is NOT the purpose of this work. It's an angle on the rise of the Third Reich that hasn't seen as much study as it could and that's how he approaches it. He also makes it perfectly clear that he's not at all trying to say strict gun control brought about the Third Reich or the Holocaust. It seems to be just one of the many pieces of a harrowing puzzle. To understand such a baffling stretch of recent history, it's important for all aspects to be explored. So often we only see the simplest arc and come away with shallow suppositions based on half information. This is an effective installment in the efforts to understand something that, to me, is incomprehensible.
The book is actually a quick and fairly easy read considering the subject matter. Halbrook's manner is straight-forward, just-the-facts, and full of footnotes, annotations and cites. The information he imparts has been meticulously researched, so as a text relating history, it's trustworthy.
I think the best way to approach and present this subject is to avoid drama. If you've ever been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. the information is presented very similarly. Contemporary articles and spare exhibits. It's thought-provoking and haunting. While Hollywood has made Nazi's into caricatures, this style of presentation invokes appropriate horror far better than a dramatic depiction ever can. This is why this book is effective, in my opinion.
So, it's a factual, almost dry text, but the facts contained are so riveting and arresting that this kind of non-fiction stays with you for a long time after reading.
If you’re considering reading Striking Distance and you haven’t yet read First Strike, do that. It’s a short story prologue to SD and it’s only 99 cents. Well worth it as it’s a fantastic short that’s really sexy and romantic.
And having read First Strike, the poignancy of Striking Distance will be even more acute. Both main characters are powerfully damaged and, surprisingly, the female lead is actually emotionally and mentally healthier at the beginning of this story than the hero is. Unexpected once you know what’s happened to her in the time since First Strike’s ending but she’s been working at it while he hasn’t. But her recovery is only slightly further along than his, and this couple does a great job of healing each other with every scene.
The first 50% of the book is very atypical of the I-Team series (which has become, in my opinion, one of the absolute top romantic suspense series published today), and I think fans might feel a bit put off. It’s dark. It’s nuts and bolts. It has a pall of tragedy and horror even as there’s light and recovery visible throughout. It felt sort of like a procedural, if that makes any sense.
After the halfway mark, the story shifts and feels much more like the I-Team tale we’re used to. The romance, the sexy playfulness, the great friendships. It’s all there. But the problems introduced in the beginning are not problems that have easy solutions. Sure, PC could have waved her magic writer’s wand and come up with a paper-thin scenario that would have made it all perfect, but she didn’t. Some may feel that makes the HEA more bitter than sweet, but I disagree. I appreciated the HEA far more for the realism. These are characters who could have been seen as victims, but they just won’t stay down. I really appreciated that. Ugh, I realize that sounds like there wasn’t an HEA when there absolutely is. You’ll have to read for yourself to see what I’m talking about because I don’t want to spoil anything.
Javier and Laura are a lovely couple who put others above themselves time and again, which is exactly how we like our I-Team leads. Strong, compassionate and vulnerable. And hot. Let’s not forget hot. They fulfill all the requirements and it’ll be great to see them pop up in later stories.
I have to say I felt that pall over the story from just how dark it is in the beginning weighs things down a bit. As much as I appreciated the realism, it affected my enjoyment of the story negatively. To be honest, I have an odd trigger with terrorism subjects having been across the river from the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. I can’t explain it and I never know when it’s going to pop up, so there’s that as well. Some may find this too dark, but I’d tell them to stick with it if they can to get to the juicy romantic stuff later. It’s well worth it.
I closed the book with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face and that’s definitely saying something about how I felt about this HEA.
I've had this on my Kindle so long I nearly forgot about it. Years! But I finally cracked it this weekend and I'm kicking myself for not getting on board earlier.
First an admission. I love shifters. I'm more a shifter girl than a vampire girl. Vampires -- usually -- are dead. That kind of bothers me. Oh, I can get over it for Bones, Spade, Vlad and Mencheres, but mostly ... ew.
That said, not every shifter story is good. I've read a lot of stinkers, which has made me leery of starting anything new when I have my favorites I can trust. So I was nervous to start this book written by one of my favorite historical romance authors.
Silly me. She's good at this too!
It's Austin, Texas and the shifters of the world have come out. Rather than trying to integrate them in society, they were hunted in some countries and then herded into their own towns in the US. Liam Morrisey, his brother, his nephew, and his father, all live in the "Shiftertown" on the outskirts of Austin.
Kim (last name irrelevant and I forgot it anyway) is an attorney working to save the life of a shifter accused of the murder of his human girlfriend. Since the shifter won't talk to her she's got to find other ways of getting information and she finds herself face-to-face with Liam. Immediate attraction, insta-love, but it works.
The shifter likely couldn't have murdered his human girlfriend because all the shifters wear collars that cause them intense pain when they feel rage or the instinct to kill. This is all part of the fascinating world building that pulls the reader in. The shifters present one face to society, but they have a very different life beyond the facade. They're oppressed, that's for sure, but they're also healthier in many ways than their oppressors.
Liam and Kim click. By the end I totally believe the insta-love and I can't wait to see what happens in the world as this book not only launches the series, but launches a world game-changer as well.
I've already bought the second book of the series and plan to start reading it today.
If you like shifters, I don't think you'll be disappointed. :)
... this is what you get:
Major sellers are taking down vast amounts of their self-published content because of a news story about some "over-the-line" items they may have been selling.
We also have movement toward the government defining "bullying" and censorship of such ... for the children, of course.
We all know how the definition of "bully" is fluid, so too is the definition of "questionable" as some authors have seen their self-published books deleted from seller sites just for having the word "baby" or "kid" or "teenager" in the title or blurb. "Babysitting the Baumgartners" was pulled although, according to the linked article, no pedophilia or incest is contained in the text of the -- openly and admittedly -- erotica genre book. And since a lot of gay fiction is automatically shelved in "erotica" what's going to happen with that? I think we already know.
This story starts out great. Colby Winters is sent to extract a package from an airport in what is supposed to be a simple operation. When he gets there he finds not only a group of Russian bad guys moving toward the same package, but a lone woman, Mia Kensington, already there securing it for herself. Thus ensues a series of intense action sequences and a lot of one-on-one time for the leads.
The one-on-one time is where I started to have a problem. It really starts to feel claustrophobic after about 20%. We know there's a group that works with Colby, but we don't get to see them until around 50%. That's when things picked up again for me.
Colby is a commando and Mia is a therapist, mainly working with the military and their families. One of her patients gives her the old "if something happens to me …" and that's how she ends up in this mess. They make a great couple. Both smart, both attractive, both complimenting each other in a variety of ways. The problem is that we're treated to about 10 inner monologues for each of them that remind us how they never do this and this relationship is impossible and what are they thinking. It gets old and the book bogs down.
Also, Colby turns into kind of a squish for a while and that just feels odd when he's the kind of guy who can probably perform surgery on himself while strangling a bad guy and eating a steak at the same time.
After the Titon Group enters the scene things get even more intense and the whole story starts to regain the lost momentum. It takes a while to get their names and types out, but once they're known to the reader they're really engaging.
Despite the use of a very tired trope near the end and some basic story holes, I ultimately found it pretty enjoyable. The excerpt for the next book in the series was very intriguing, so I'll be continuing with this promising series.
I was provided a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is a novella prequel to Pamela Clare's next installment of the I-Team series, "Striking Distance". This story is erotica (sans anal for those who are squeamish) and has a lot of well-written sex, but it's impressively effective as a romantic prelude as well. The chemistry between the leads is quite good and it actually works really well -- and believably -- for "insta-love". While neither admits to having fallen that hard, they both clearly get that something more profound than raucous, no-strings sex has happened.
It takes place in Dubai where they things could turn very ugly for them if anyone finds out they've been having sex without benefit of marriage. Very precarious. But when you meet the person you gotta have it with, you gotta have it. I actually believed that, even in that dangerous environment, they needed to get it on. That's usually something I feel I have to forgive in the writing, but not here. I fell for this couple.
It ends on a cliffhanger because, after all, this is a prequel to the the novel which also has a prologue. So it's like we're two jumps from starting. No happy ending here, but it's okay because PC has taken care of her fans by releasing this novella only a couple of weeks before the novel comes out. It's not like the usual ass-wipey cliffie that keeps fans waiting for a year to a decade.
This book actually starts out with a note from the author that warns about the cliffie as well as gives a lot of pre-reading comfort. I thought PC was going a little overboard with her warnings and gentle "it'll be okay" promises, but now I see her concern. Holy Moly! I'm a basketcase!
Luckily PC has posted the prologue to "Striking Distance" on her website, so I'm headed over there to read that.
If you're a fan of Pamela Clare we have a group at Goodreads that you really should join: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
If you haven't read PC yet then ... don't wait another second. Start reading the I Team series right this minute so you'll be ready for this one-two punch of novella and novel.
This is one of my favorite series from one of my favorite writing teams. The wife/husband combo that makes "Ilona Andrews" has truly impressive skill at pulling me into the story, engaging my emotions and making it impossible to put their books down.
So why three stars? It's the most frustrating thing. The first four books of this series were so high-quality not only in word-smithery, but in plot creativity it was breath-taking. Same thing with the Edge series' first two books. Then something happened. We're getting contrivances and things that don't make sense. Things that feel like short cuts. It's down right depressing.
Make no mistake, this book will keep a reader up all night. It will make your breath stutter and make you feel like crying at points. But, if you're like me, and you've read some romance, you'll recognize the contrivances and tropes that are forgivable in that genre, but not so easily overlooked in UF.
It's very hard for me to rate and review these authors because they have created an incredible world with characters I care about as much as any fictional characters I read. They are amazing at world and character building, I cannot say it enough. Every time I read them there are moments that blow me away. If the plots were maintaining their earlier organic originality, I would probably be moving my family to Texas right now just to bask in Ilona Andrews's aura. So it's probably a good thing they're slipping, right?
But my question is, where is the editor? Where are the beta readers? Aren't they supposed to ask questions or pose challenges to certain story lines or plot choices that are clunkers? I really can't believe I'm the only one who saw these things because, for me, they were absolutely glaring. I still highly recommend this series. Everyone should become acquainted and fall in love with Kate and Curran (and Derek and Jim and Andrea and Rafael and Samain and ... well, you get the picture. There are a lot of great characters here.)
Below the page break is a very detailed breakdown of what gave me problems with this book. If you haven't read Magic Rises then you should not look at these spoilers, they will ruin the book for you. If you haven't read it and you do look at these spoilers then it's on your head. Don't come crying to me.
Finally we get to read Daniel's story! Since we first met him when he was a teenager it's a little strange to see him all grown up and finding love himself. But he's actually a wonderful hero even though I felt slightly dissatisfied by the end.
Daniel meets Violet when a man who owes him money takes Daniel to see this medium he's hosting in lieu of payment. Daniel goes along for the ride but is soon disgusted by his peer and the snooty bunch of young lords that accompany them. He feels sympathy for Violet's dependence on the demanding aristocrat while at the same time finding himself intrigued and enthralled by the engineering prowess displayed in her performance. She's got all the other young lords fooled. Daniel looks deeper and falls hard for her machines. Everybody's got a weakness, right?
I loved Daniel. I loved Violet. So what left me ever-so-slightly disappointed? I felt that some things were not completely resolved, especially on the emotional front. Not between Daniel and Violet, their chemistry was excellent and their friendship to love story was fine for the most part. It's the other family relationships that feel glossed over. I get that they're a messed up family communication-wise, but it seems like years have passed since the ice began to thaw so I'd like to see something a little more relatable.
The climax also felt a bit cluttered. I love seeing the Mackenzies in all their knock-down/drag-out glory, but it felt like they muddied things. Daniel being the four brothers' youngster for so long seems to demand that he get out of the biggest scrape in his story without their help. This family is a team, I know, but story arcs do demand some things and I think this one short-changed Daniel as an adult lead in that way.
However, Ashley writes this family so incredibly well, that my dissatisfaction at the very end was minor. And the excerpt from the next book -- about Ainsley's brother Sinclair McBride -- has me anxious to get my hands on that one the moment I can. I'm very loyal to this series, having only been truly disappointed in one of the books. I highly recommend the Mackenzie series to anyone who loves historical romance. It begins with "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" which I've seen on sale several times, so look for it.
“We love having authors on Goodreads. But, we are a site that's focused on readers. If there is a choice between what is best for readers and what is best for authors, we will always err on the side of readers.”
"I've watched us deal with many author flame wars over the years, and they all started with an author commenting on a negative review of their own book first."
I had a tough time getting into this one but it was probably because I'd just left a post-apocalyptic, UF world that I loved and that was on my mind. I probably should have done a reread of something for a transition so I can't blame this book for my sluggishness at fully engaging.
Jennifer Ashley is back to her solid Mackenzie writing in this lovely book where Lloyd Fellows -- the bastard Mackenzie -- finally gets his HEA. Those who have read the Christmas novella know he's got a thing for Lady Louisa Scranton and vice versa, but how can she possibly settle for a duke's bastard who's a mere Detective Inspector? By surviving her own family's scandal, that's how.
But things get worse for Lady Louisa and Lloyd is there to help her stand tall against a legal system that caters to the demands of the aristocrats who couldn't give a rat's patoot about anyone but themselves. Even another aristo is not safe when one of them wants something.
It's a good story and we see our old Mackenzie friends. Daniel takes a nice featuring role in this one and makes me even more excited for his story.
I love the Mackenzie series. The family is so quirky and full of love, they've even managed to soften Lloyd a bit. Every time I crack a new one I'm happy to be back in their world.
It's probably more like a 4.5 in truth, but easily rounded up for enjoyment and suitable novella length. On top of that it was -- and still is at the time of writing this review -- only $1.99. Highly recommended.
I swing between 4 and 5 for this book but figure, what the hell, I'll give it a five in gratitude for the intense and enjoyable reading experience even though I have some issues.
"Hidden" is the sequel to "Driven". Unfortunately, it's the only sequel and that ain't right. There's at least one more story to be told and I want it!
In "Driven" we were introduced to Wizard. A man who has learned basic human interactions, but not by upbringing. He's a genetically engineered wonder ... in oh so many ways ... and watching him come to life was exquisite. The heroine of "Hidden" is his younger sister, Tatiana. Also stunted in her emotional growth and with a dark background, she's got everything that made Wizard interesting but still has her own personality. She's no retread.
Tristan is the hero of the story and he's got his own dark tale to tell. He and Tatiana meet up in an effort to save the world, both harboring terrible secrets, wanting to trust each other, but knowing they can't trust anyone. Great bones.
The main problem I had with this one and the reason I almost gave it four instead of five stars is that both leads had their secrets but the reader is mostly aware of them. Maybe not the detail, but the essence and that makes things bog down a bit when it starts to feel past time for them to share with each other. Even though it's logical when you think about it that they aren't sharing, it feels contrived after a certain point because the reader's been in the know for so long.
I also missed seeing Wizard, Raina and Yuriko in this book along with the rest of the settlers. It became distracting as I perked up at every opportunity for them to show up. They do eventually, but it's not nearly enough of a taste of those wonderful characters.
Still, the action is harrowing and the romance is satisfying. Tristan and Tatiana are so perfect together it's lovely to see things unfold.
The world-building is excellent. Fascinating, challenging and thought-provoking. I really am saddened that she stopped in 2008 after this one. Ironically, she says Joss Whedon's "Firefly" inspired this world and I feel like I'm having the same experience as fans had with that show: Why did it end?!!! What happened?!!! Just one more! Pleeeeeeasssse! Don't leave it this waaaaayyyyyy!!!
Okay, clearly I'm a huge fan of this book and its predecessor. Even though you'll be left wanting more, it's totally worth it, in my opinion.