Monday, April 30, 2012

Giveaway: Born of Silence

The wait is almost over for the latest book in The League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Born of Silence gives us Darling's story and fans have been rumbling about this book for the past year.  If you've somehow missed the controversy, up until now, Darling has been presented as a gay character, but in the new book, his love interest is a woman.

I was one of the people complaining the loudest, but I thought the book was amazing. You can check out my spoiler-free review here and I've got the blurb below.

As the Resistance leader, Zarya Starska's only goal is to topple the government that destroyed her entire family and left her penniless. Her biggest asset is a mysterious man known only as Kere.

But Kere has a dark secret. Born into a world that is as privileged as it is corrupt, his real name is Darling Cruel-and he is heir to the government Zarya wants to overthrow. No one has ever seen the real man behind the legend. No one except Zarya. But when she allows a weapon he designed to be used against his beloved sister, all bets are off.

Betrayed by the Resistance, Darling's goal is not only to reign, but to kill every Resistance member he can find. Zarya must stop Darling's reign of terror, but can she reach past his insanity to restore the hero who once fought by her side?

If you've been waiting to get your hands on this one, let me help you out.  I'm giving away one hardback copy of the book, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  US entries only on this one.

Read more »

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Review: Born of Silence

**Spoiler Free** I went into this book convinced I was not going to like it.  Darling has been a beloved character for me ever since the start of the League series.  And I was absolutely livid about the idea that after three books, Sherrilyn Kenyon was taking a character who had always been gay and making him straight.  From the moment I finished Born of Shadows, the idea festered in my head.  I complained about it for a year.  Then I started reading this book and it blew me away from the very beginning.

Obviously, Darling is not gay and in my heart of hearts, that may always bother me on some level.  But Kenyon makes it work. I'm not going to spoil how, because it's part of the journey.  In fact, I'm going to try really hard to keep as much of the plot to myself as I can because I don't want to rob you of the shocking twists and turns the story takes us on.

The bare bones are as follows:  Darling has been having a super-secret affair with a Resistance fighter named Zarya for two years, but he's been doing it as his alter-ego Kere. She has never seen his face but their love is real and they plan to get married.   And then it all goes to hell.  Darling's miserable past is slowly revealed over the course of the book and as horrible as it is, what he goes through in the present may actually be worse.  The depths of his misery are hard to bear.  I question whether anyone can go through what he does and emerge with a soul intact on the other side, no matter the depth of the love or friendship that surrounds him.

Kenyon is the queen of the tortured heroes and while Acheron may always reign supreme as the most tortured, Darling gives him a run for his money --and if you've read Acheron that should tell you a lot.  What Darling has, though, that Ash never did is an amazing friend in Maris.  I love Maris.  He is the glue that holds Darling together when he begins to crack, and I'm so glad this character existed to give our hero some shelter from the storm.

As for Zarya, she makes a mistake that has serious consequences.  But I believe she is a good person. And there is absolutely no doubt that she loves Darling with her whole heart.  The question becomes whether her love will be enough to help heal him.

The cast of the previous League books feature prominently and Kenyon does a fantastic job maintaining continuity. I loved learning how Darling became part of the Sentella and seeing how Nyk, Syn and the others became his real family.  It's also great to see the old characters not just used as placeholders for a happy ending update, but as a real part of the story.

And the ending.  It was one heck of an ending.  A game changer for the series.

I'm not going to say any more, except that if you are a League fan and were on the fence about this book, I urge you to read it.  You'll be moved... outraged... and amazed. Or at least, I was.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Grand Central Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Born of Silence
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: Scotsmen Prefer Blondes

When Prue is set up to marry a sexy Scottish laird, her friend Amelia comes along to make the road easier.  No one expects that Malcolm will truly fancy Amelia over the woman with whom he was expected to make a match.  Even more confounding is the fact that Amelia returns his feelings.  She would never betray her friend, but an unexpected kiss does just that. And before you know it, Amelia and Malcolm are married.

Malcolm never wanted a love match. He wanted a wife who would be politically advantageous, as he worked to champion Scotland in the House of Lords.  But instead of a biddable and traditional woman, Amelia is fiery and passionate.  He doesn't know it, but she is a published writer with a hidden identity, one that could destroy her reputation --and his-- if it ever comes to light.

The story follows Malcolm and Amelia as they try to balance their growing feelings for one another, with the futures they have always worked to cultivate for themselves.  This, while Amelia waits in fear that her jilted friend Prue will reveal her deepest secret out of spite.

I liked Amelia and her passion.  She refuses to wilt even under the constraints her new husband places on her.  I felt like she really loved Malcolm and her only real mistake was keeping her secret from him. I can't be quite so charitable about Malcolm.  His autocratic and domineering behavior in the second half of the book really made me mad.  I think it was made worse by the fact we had already seen the kind of man he was capable of being, during the honeymoon phase of the relationship.  The fact that he loved Amelia made it even more damaging when he cast those feelings aside for his "greater purpose."  Obviously, he realizes the error of his ways, but by the time he does, I would have been just as happy to see Amelia kick him in the shins as accept his apology.

The sex is good, but served too often as a crutch in their relationship.   I felt like Amelia let her passion for Malcolm override her self-respect a little.  I do love how Sara Ramsey keeps working the word "manroot" into her books.  And that she manages to create characters that keep me entertained and interested throughout the story.  I've got my fingers crosses for an Alex and Prue pairing in book 3.  Anyone with me?

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Scotsmen Prefer Blondes
by Sara Ramsey
Release Date: March 29, 2012
Publisher: Spencerhill Associates

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Water Waltz

Reviewed by Jen
I am a fan of m/m romance and I enjoy the paranormal, so when I read this blurb on this story, I thought it might give me the best of both worlds.  The story takes place in a world filled with demons, angels, and other creatures who are at odds with humanity. The bulk of the book is set in the demon world, where the supernaturals like to kidnap humans and take them as slaves.  Not all the paranormals support this behavior.  In fact, the government has a covert agency to recover kidnapped humans and punish the offenders for their crimes.

Varun is a demon who works for the agency.  As the book begins, he rescues a human from bondage, and in the process uncovers a deeper schism between his people and the humans than he ever imagined.  But perhaps the bigger issue at the center of the story is his mysterious relationship with his butler, an angel named Triste.  The men were lovers for years, until Triste suddenly broke things off and took the job as Varun's servant. Obviously, they still love each other, but won't admit their feelings.

The why's behind Triste's decision to break up with Varun are revealed deep into the book. But until then, we have to watch both men engage in sexual relationships with other people.  This was a big turn off for me.  It's hard to root for your main couple when they are both getting it on with other dudes for more than half the book.  In detail.  Speaking of the m/m action, I think everybody in the book is gay. There are maybe one or two females in the whole book --and all the guys are doing each other.  Even the humans.  I'm down with guy on guy, but it's weird that no one likes the ladies.

The book is heavy into the political machinations of several entities, from the humans to the supes, to the factions fighting the slavers.  It got confusing at times and convoluted.  Some things were far too drawn out, while others were not given nearly enough time to play out.  One relationship in the second half of the book happens so fast, I nearly got whiplash.  The guy went from heartbroken, to sleeping with a new partner, to "growing his heart" in the other man's chest (don't ask) inside of 50 pages.

There is some pretty good action in the last 1/3 of the book; and I found Triste likeable and easy to root for. I just didn't engage all that deeply.  It was definitely different, and it had some interesting parts.  But I'm not sure it was for me. 

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Water Waltz
by Hayley B James
Release Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: The Werewolf's Wife

As the new head of his werewolf pack, Ridge realizes that it's time for him to find a mate and start a family.  But before he can do that, he needs to get a divorce from the woman he married in Vegas during a one-night stand 13 years ago.  As hot as their drunken roll in the hay was, it ended very badly when he started to shift in bed --and the fiery witch responded with a powerful zap to his gut.  He hasn't seen her since.

Just as Ridge shows up on Abigail's doorstep, her son is kidnapped.  The mysterious abductor demands that she track down a particular vampire to trade for the boy's life.  Ridge agrees to help her get her son back.  And as they work together, all the old sparks start flying again.

My biggest complaint about this book is that it's predictable.  Basic math skills tip off the possibility of the child's paternity from the get-go.  We know that Ridge is starved for family and what better payoff could there be, other than one that's ready made?  The identity of the kidnapper is pretty transparent as well.

My other beef?  The very idea that Abigail could reignite this relationship while her son's in mortal danger.  Sure, I can see her leaning on this stalwart man and reaching out for his goodness and strength. But I just don't buy any mom putting her terror on hold to get laid.  Nope.  Her son has been kidnapped; his life is in jeopardy and she's going down on wolfman.  And then some.

The book is part of Michele Hauf's Beautiful Creatures world and references events and characters in the Wicked Games series.  You don't have to read those books to understand what's going on, but as a new reader, I could definitely feel I had missed something, with the large amount of backstory we're filled in on.  Also, as someone unfamiliar with the world-building, I got a little confused about what Ridge's were-form was.  It was explained, but not until very far in the book, that it's part-man, part-beast.  And then I got a little squicked out thinking about him having sex that way.

The book was ok reading in parts.  I liked Ridge and I wanted him to get his HEA.  But overall, it wasn't great.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Werewolf's Wife
by Michele Hauf
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

An F is an F. But what about a C?

The longer I write reviews, the more confounded I am by star ratings.  When I started rating books, it never occurred to me that different people would interpret them to mean different things.  It's pretty universal that 5 star books are books we really love.  And 1 star books are the worst of the worst.  But the discrepancies come with the numbers in between, especially that intangible 3-star review. 

If I gave a book 3 stars, I thought it was meh... alright... fair... so-so... a "C."  Yet other people have told me that for them, a 3-star rating means the book was good, that they liked it.  I guess it's all semantics, but I'm seriously considering moving to a grade rating system for many reasons.  One, I'll get more nuances in ratings with +/- options.  And two, maybe if I throw a "C" up on a book I thought was so-so, it will be clearer.  Or maybe not.  Undoubtedly, someone will pop up and say "I think C's are good." 

But I'd like to get your thoughts on it before I make a change. Are you guys down with letter grades to rate books?  Would it make things clearer?  Do you care?    

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Review: The Wolf Who Loved Me

Weston Hadley has been in love with Lady Madeleine for as long as he can remember, but she is so far above his station, he never dreams they could be a match.  Not only is he strapped for funds and from a less noble family, he is also a werewolf --a closely guarded secret.  Unfortunately, Lady Madeleine stumbles into his path one night as he changes into his wolf form.  Fearful she will spill the family secret, he kidnaps her and heads to Gretna Green.

It doesn't take long for Maddie to fall for her captor.  On the road to Scotland, real feelings surface between them, making their marriage more than one of convenience.  Wes is so smitten with her, it makes for some sweet moments. Sadly, it wasn't enough to overcome the huge character flaws that nearly torpedoed the relationship.

Maddie is a spoiled princess. She isn't mean or snobby, but she is utterly clueless to any way of life other than one of privilege.   She makes demands Wes can't easily fulfill.  She obsesses over propriety and appearance.  And Wes just feeds into the nonsense.  He has her up on a pedestal.  He constantly ruminates that she is too good for him --that he is ruining her because he is getting her dirty. It got on my nerves.

Then, there is the Big Misunderstanding which drives them apart. But its exacerbated by Weston's guilt and insistence on martyring himself to save Maddie from living beneath her means.  His self-flagellation grew tiresome.

There were parts of the book I enjoyed.  The scenes where Maddie and Wes allowed themselves to love one another were very satisfying.  There is a solid cast of supporting characters which are clearly setting up future installments of the book.

This is sort of a spin-off of the Westfield Wolves series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone.  I have to say, too, I was little surprised how small a part the whole wolf-thing played into the story.  It was the impetus to set the events in motion, but really served little purpose otherwise.

3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Wolf Who Loved Me
by Lydia Dare
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: Darkest Caress

Reviewed by Jen
Liv never dreamed she was about to meet the man she would spend the rest of her life with while trying to sell a waterfront mansion. But that is exactly what happens. Daegan shows up to look at the property and right away, the heat sizzles between them. Liv recognizes the sexual attraction, but has no way of knowing that it so much more --that she had just met her mate.

Daegan is more than human. As an "Empowered," he is destined to fight a malevolent force known as the Obsidian Lord and his Dark Army, in a battle for the future of the human race. An ancient prophecy foretold the battle centuries ago. It also promised mates for Daegan and the other two Empowered men he leads, Cade and Vaughn.

As much as he wants Liv, Daegan realizes she has no idea what he is or that she is special too. He wants to give her time to ease into his world and he wants to give her the choice about whether to bond with him. But every day that they wait is an exercise in torture. They become so sexually charged, their bodies can barely function for their want of each other.

The sexual tension is very good. In fact, I found myself growing agitated, waiting for these two to seal the deal. While I appreciated Daegan's good intentions, his martyr-like behavior got on my nerves a bit. Their mating was not something either of them could control and by trying to do so, he made everyone even more miserable. I thought Liv took all of the revelations really well... almost too well for someone who had no clue such a supernatural world existed. But she was likable and the two of them were likable together.

Throughout the story, the Obsidian Lord is working to find Daegan and crush the Empowered. We have several scenes in his POV, which I did not enjoy at all. I don't mind changing POVs as much as some readers do, but I wish we would have stuck more with Liv and Daegan. While I didn't love the scenes from Cade and his future woman, I could deal with them since I knew we were setting the stage for their story. Every time we got into the villain scenes, however, I had to fight the urge to skim ahead and get back to our couple.

Things developed very fast in the romance department. But I am always more forgiving of this in destined-mate stories. And I appreciate that the factor was acknowledged. The sex was superhot; and there was a healthy dash of action thrown in at the end.

I thought the supporting cast was interesting. The pieces are all in place for Cade's story. But it's Vaughn who I really want to know about. I love a good scarred and tortured hero. I guess I'm just going to have to wait for that one. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Darkest Caress
by Kaylea Cross
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: The Prophet

Reviewed by Jen
Amanda Stevens really put me through the wringer with this third installment of her Graveyard Queen series. When we last saw Amelia, she was on her way back to Charleston to answer a summons for help from John Devlin. It's almost like The Kingdom was a "time-out" from the action of The Restorer in many ways.

But now Amelia is back in the thick of things. Back at the old cemetery where she was working before. Surrounded by the same ghosts. In love with the same man. With the same roadblocks. Only maybe it's worse this time around.

My heart ached right along with Amelia's when Devlin came back on the canvas. They've been apart for months and to call things tentative between them would be an understatement. There are even questions now about whether he has moved on with someone else. This, as the presence of his dead wife Mariama continues to hold onto him with both hands.

The ghost of former cop Robert Fremont is haunting Amelia, pushing her to solve his murder. It's a tangled mystery, wrapped up in Devlin's past, Mariama's treachery, blackmail, betrayal, adultery, and the occult. It's very, very creepy. Not just the ghosts, which are indeed scary, but the bugs and the zombie drugs really put it over the top.

The distance and deception between Devlin and Amelia kept me tense and unhappy for the first half of the book. I found myself cringing every time Amelia began another Q&A about Mariama. Everybody has something to say about her. Everyone either loved her or they hated her. And she's been dead for years, but everyone still wants to talk about her. If I didn't know Amelia was dealing with her ghost, I'd think she was the most lovesick, pathetic person on the planet to bring her up every five seconds.

But when things started to pick up, the book was off and running. I loved the way Stevens kept me guessing until the very end. About who the killer was. About the motive. About the real circumstances surrounding Mariama & Shani's deaths. I loved the tie in to the African root magic. And the ending. Oh. My. God. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

There will be a fourth book, thank goodness.  And I am anxious to find out what repercussions will come from the big climax here.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Prophet
by Amanda Stevens
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Mira

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Wicked Road to Hell

Reviewed by Jen
I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive in starting this book. I had problems with my only only other Juliana Stone novel, His Darkest Salvation. I got lost in the world-building --and the hero was a huge asshole to the heroine in that book. But I am so happy to say that not only were my fears unfounded, but I found myself really enjoying this one.

A few years back, the sorcerer Declan was sucked through a portal to hell. He was a prisoner there for six months, tortured and brutalized at the hands of the demon Lillith. Then he was rescued, making him beholden to an angelic being named Bill, and bound to fight for the forces of good. Shortly after his rescue, his great love, a vampire named Ana, was killed right in front of him. That was two years ago.

So imagine Declan's surprise when he discovers that Bill secretly brought back Ana as well. She's been working her own mission for Bill, protecting a teenager named Kaden. The boy is one of seven young people "Marked" for great power. If all of them were to come together, they would tip the scales entirely in favor of good or evil. So of course, everyone wants them. Everyone except the League of Guardians. They are a mishmash all types of beings who work to maintain a balance between the forces of light and dark. So if either side can assemble the marked seven, their objective will be toast.

Declan agrees to help Ana protect the boy. But things get infinitely more complicated when he finds out Lillith has gained possession of two more of the Marked. He knows that to save them, he'll have to return to the same horrors he barely survived before Bill saved him.

In the midst of all the action, there is a love story. Declan and Ana have been crazy about each other for years, but for one reason or another, they never gave it a go. Ana always held back her feelings because the laws of her people forbid her to mate with anyone who is not a vampire. And she loves Declan so much, she knows that to be with him would lead to mating. And that would get him killed. Declan has no idea about any of this. He only knows that this is his second chance to be with the woman he loves and he is not going to waste it.

I liked both main characters. They are strong; they truly love one another and each does everything possible to protect the other. The sex is hot and the emotions, believable. As for the non-romance part of the book, there is a lot going on, but I didn't find it too difficult to keep up with. It's fast paced and interesting. And I found myself quite intrigued by some of the secondary characters like the demon Samael and the shifter Ransome. I hope they end up with stories of their own --and Nico too. I look forward to see where Stone takes the series next. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Road to Hell
by Juliana Stone
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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AAD Author Spotlight: Allison Pang

If you're looking for a fresh and funny Urban Fantasy, the Abby Sinclair books fit the bill.  Abby isn't an ass-kicker, but she finds her strengths elsewhere.  Author Allison Pang joins us for today's AAD Author Spotlight. Please help me welcome her to the blog!

Jen: Please tell new readers about the Abby Sinclair series.

Allison: When we first meet Abby in A BRUSH OF DARKNESS, she’s a former prima ballerina, still recovering from a terrible car accident that took the life of her mother and left her body crippled. With her dreams of dancing shattered, she ends up in the town of Portsmyth and stumbles into the world of the OtherFolk. When she becomes the TouchStone to the Faery Protectorate, her fate is forever changed and she’s forced to come to grips with her past as well as take a more deliberate role in her own future.

In A Sliver of Shadow, we find Abby coming a bit more into her own, as well as finding out more about her own past and family history. (And how entwined her family really is with that of the OtherFolk.) Along the way she’s assisted by friends in the form of a magical violinist, an incubus, an elven prince and a pervy little unicorn.

Jen: The world-building is revealed slowly in the course of Abby's story. Talk to me about the decision to approach it that way.

Allison: I don’t think it was technically a cognizant decision. I tend to read a lot more standard fantasy/sci-fi books than PNR or UF – when I started writing BoD, that was the approach I was used to. (Let’s toss the reader into the world, whee!) I’m not fond of spoon-feeding details to the readers and while I will admit there is a LOT going on from a world-building perspective, the fact that it’s mostly set in the real world helps a little bit.

But I think a lot of it comes from the deep 1st person PoV. Abby knows what she knows (or doesn’t know). She’s not going to rehash her thoughts with things that are considered basic knowledge until there’s a reason to do so. When Abby goes to the Fae world in A SLIVER OF SHADOW, I realized that what I "knew" from the first book was just the tip of the iceberg.

Jen: How much of this world do you have floating around in your head that hasn't made its way into the books? Or do the details come to you as you go along?

Allison: Eh. There’s quite a bit floating up there at the moment, but I only tend to pick out the pieces I need for a particular story arc as they are required. So, for example – I’ve got an idea of what the Hell Path is like, but until there’s a specific reason to head down there, I don’t worry about it. Otherwise, much of the detail does get fleshed out as I go.

Jen: The latest book introduces a love triangle with Abby, Brystion and Talivar. Did you always plan to give Brystion a rival?

Allison: Actually, no. The original ending to BoD did have Brystion staying with Abby, but for various editorial reasons, things ended up changing. I know there’s a love/hate thing with triangles among many readers, but it isn’t my intent to jerk readers around. A little competition isn’t always a bad thing and from a character perspective it’s actually pretty good for Brystion to realize things aren’t always going to be handed to him on a silver platter, so to speak.

Jen: And speaking of Brystion... so much about him is murky and mysterious. Tell us one thing about him that is true without question. And tell us one thing we don't know about him.

Allison: *laughs* He’s a rather nebulous character, even for me – it’s very hard for me to sometimes figure out what he’s thinking. He plays things very close to his vest, even when I’m writing him. True without question? Despite whatever his actions may or may not be, he truly is in love with Abby. Even if he would sometimes rather not be. As far as what you don’t know? There’s a lot, but he is rather fond of poetry. (Probably has something to do with his mom. ;-) )

Jen: I never really "got" the reason he left at the end of book one. Help me.

Allison: Well, the short answer is like I mentioned above: Editorial reasons. The long answer is that it does actually work out better in the long run. BoD took place in the span of a few weeks – and while Abby and Ion are certainly massively attracted to each other, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be “true love.” Yes, Abby would have preferred for him to stay and try to work things out, no question. However, Brystion is scared out of his wits in a lot of ways, if you dig deep enough. He’s not particularly proud at some of his behavior in BoD, though he’ll never admit it directly. Given the circumstances of how he met Abby and his own past relationships turning out badly, I don’t think it’s unrealistic that he might bolt for a while. There’s also an element of “too good to be true” going on. Abby represents an awful lot to him – her Dreaming power, for example – there’s a certain jaded outlook that he possesses that he’s trying to break through.

Jen: As for Talivar, I feel like I do know him. But you're probably giving me a false sense of security. Tell us one thing about him that would be surprising.

Allison: Heh. He really does like playing DDR, even if he thinks it’s a bit undignified.

Jen: You ended the last book on a cliffhanger. ^$%$#^^**! Let's talk about that.

Allison: I did. But it was a good place to end it. I don’t want to spoil readers, but that last page did create a new set of issues for Abby and not ones I could realistically work through in the span of a few more chapters. Besides, that would have completely cheapened her actions.

Jen: As a reader, how do you feel about cliffhangers?

Allison: I don’t mind them, as long as I know there’s more coming. What *is* irritating is when the cliffhanger doesn’t pay off. If everything is resolved right off the bat then there is a certain WTF moment when I pick up the next book.

Jen: Book three is also coming out this year. What can you tell us about A TRACE OF MOONLIGHT?

Allison: Well, obviously it picks up fairly quickly after the end of SoS. The stakes are much higher than before, and there’s some rather interesting twists and turns coming up for some of the characters. Maybe a death or two. Or not.

Jen: Can you give us a little snippet?

Allison: Actually, I’m right smack in the middle of revisions for A TRACE OF MOONLIGHT so I wouldn’t feel completely right tossing up something I’m trying to edit. But I’ll see if I can get an excerpt up on my website at some point in the next few months.

Jen: What is the future for the series beyond that point? I read somewhere that you may choose to tell the stories of some secondary characters. Could you expand on that-- and does that mean Abby's story will be over? There are such great secondary characters in the series. I love Phin and I am so interested in Melanie's backstory. (And Nobu...)

Allison: Yes, the secondary characters are definitely some of my favorites. As far as the end of Abby’s story goes, I’m not sure. I’m doing the best I can to wrap up this particular story arc in the 3 books – it’s up to the publisher if they want more, and depending on how that goes, it could very well be a Melanie story that’s written. There’s also a pretty good chance of a Melanie short story appearing in an upcoming anthology, but I can’t give you any more details than that. (Although if it does happen, I’ll be writing about how she got her violin.)

Jen: Do you get to make it to many fan events? What are you looking forward to most from AAD in NOLA?

Allison: I did 3 or 4 cons last year. I had to cut back this year due to a number of reasons, so no RT or RWA for one. AAD and WFC are the two main ones I’ll be attending, though I also hope to be at NYCC if I can swing it. As far as what I’m looking forward to most? Just being able to hang out in a smaller, more intimate venue with the readers and other authors. Sometimes the larger cons can be overwhelming.

A big thanks to Allison for chatting with me today. To learn more about Allison Pang, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: A Warrior's Promise

Reviewed by Jen
Charlotte isn't your average Scottish lass. She can handle herself in a fight; she is a crack-shot with a bow and arrow; and she speaks her mind without hesitation. All of these are skills which come in handy after her father is kidnapped by agents of the king. On her own, Charlotte must impersonate a young man as she tries to track down her beloved da --and it's in that disguise that she first meets Bryce.

The strapping highland warrior comes to the aid of a skinny young boy who is accused of stealing food, then takes the lad under his wing. Bryce is on a mission to rescue a spy for the True King of Scotland who was taken prisoner by the current king. Once he hears the boy's (Charlotte's) story about a father in need of aid, he decides he'll partner up with him (her), to make both rescues.

It takes awhile before Bryce catches on that Charles is really Charlotte. But once he does, the easy affection he had toward the boy quickly morphs into something more for the woman. He admires her strength and tenacity, and realizes that he has found a true partner when he was least looking for one.

Even though it's clear that they suit, neither Charlotte nor Bryce believe they can be together long term. They remind themselves, and each other, of this... over and over and over. And over. They feel like their missions --or at least Bryce's-- must take precedence over love or marriage. Though I don't know why. It felt like it was a manufactured obstacle, because really, there is no reason why these two shouldn't be together.

Bryce has his alpha male moments, but I was happy to see that for the most part, he respected Charlotte for who she was. And I enjoyed their adventures together. The love scenes were not very explicit, but they didn't leave me wanting. The story moved along well and even set up the next (and final) story for Bryce's brother Trey and his woman.

But much like my complaint with the last book, the series arc about the One True King was pretty weak. Either Bryce or one of his brothers is the King in hiding.  And obviously his identity will be revealed in the last book.  But even when talking to each other in private, they speak of the king in third person.  Who would do that?  It doesn't ring true.  Eh... I did enjoy the main story though. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Warrior's Promise
by Donna Fletcher
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: The Gates

Camille is determined to stand by the man she loves as he works to save his people.  Gavin is a vampire and he is leading a resistance to overthrow Samina, their powerful queen. But to do so, he and his small band of supporters must venture across the veil to her kingdom and the realm of Amaranth, where vampires go to reclaim their humanity.

In their travels, they reunite with old friends and uncover new enemies.  But the relationship between Camille and Gavin is the driving force of the story. Unfortunately, Gavin refuses to seal the deal until they are married.  He says he wants to prove to her how special she is to him.  This was not only bad news for Camille, but bad news for me as well.  Instead of striking a romantic chord, it left me irritated and frustrated.  This was even more true after the introduction of Gavin's ex, Scarlet, who makes no secret of their sexual history or her desire to have him back.

I empathized with poor Camille, as Gavin pushed away her advances and ignored her concerns about Scarlet.  And frankly, it wasn't until Camille and Gavin finally got physical that I stopped being annoyed.  Not because I was dying for the scene, but because the whole waiting-thing felt so heavy handed.  Like I was reading a YA book, a genre I generally avoid. I didn't like Gavin getting to make this decision on his own, as if Camille were a child or an unequal part of the relationship.  And then when he did finally decide it was time for them to be together, it felt totally arbitrary, like it was an unnecessary hurdle all along. 

Moving on.  I'm really interested in Gavin's adopted sister Arianna and her story.  (And I haven't given up hope that her man, Joel, is somehow still alive and planning a comeback in book 3.)  In fact, the secondary characters are fleshed out and interesting in general, which helped when the primary romance was ticking me off.  I like the world-building and I really feel like the author is building toward something big for the Resistance.  She has managed to deliver some pretty good surprises so far.

Despite the whole sex thing, I do like Gavin and Camille and hopefully now that we're past that issue, I can enjoy them together.  I look forward to see how the trilogy will end.  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Gates
by Rachael Wade
Release Date: April 25, 2012
Publisher: Rabbit Hole Press

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Kiss of Pride

I really, really wanted to love this book. Come on! Viking vampire angels?? That sounds awesome, right? Only... it really wasn't.

The basic premise is that back in the day, the Vikings pissed off God with their heathen ways and worship of other deities. He was going to smite them all, until the Archangel Michael convinced Him to give them a chance at redemption. They would live as vampires/ angels-in-training for hundreds of years. Their mission is twofold. --1-- To fight demons who wish to harvest human souls to hell.  And --2-- to help those humans set on a sinful path --to change to a righteous one. Seven brothers make up the head of the vangels (yes, they are called vangels.) And Vikar is the head of the family.

It's now modern times and the vangels are gathering for a big meeting with Michael. Alex, a reporter, is sent to do a feature on the town where this is happening... a town that's developed a vampire-craze. But she quickly becomes a mission for Vikar. Alex is dealing with a devastating loss and she is contemplating some heavy-duty revenge. Vikar must help her find her way and ends up falling in love with her in the process.

There are just so many things that didn't work for me in this book. The biggest issue is the tone. There is a slightly cheesy vibe going throughout. Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse, Anne Rice and Buffy references abound. So much so, that they were completely overwhelming and redundant. Just when I thought she couldn't possibly reference Twilight another time... she would do it again.

As I mentioned, the good guys were called "vangels;" their enemies are "Lucipires." The names alone felt trite. Beyond that, their little town was called Transylvania (Pennsylvania) and it featured every conceivable vampire-fan stereotype.

The vangels call the archangels "Mike," "Gabe" and "Rafe"... which might lead you to believe that the religious elements are tongue-in-cheek, but that's not the case. The religion in the book is the real deal. They don't take the name of the Lord in vain, they pray a lot, and they try not to sin. Which means no sex. Instead they've got this running shtick about "near-sex" that follows our couple up to the very end of the book.

When our couple falls in love, it's like listening to two teenagers. "I love you the most" -- "No, I love YOU." -- "No, I love YOU." Pure saccharine. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Vikar is a thousand years old and I saw nothing so exceptional about Alex that she would make him fall in love so quickly and completely. And as for Alex's perspective: Vikar has basically held her prisoner and has taken over her life. But she is decorating his castle just days after he takes her captive. She forgives his bad choices at the speed of light. Why? I have no idea. 

It appears that the Viking language is marked simply by putting an -ing on the end of a word.  We got boyling, girling, sweetling, dearling, and heartling IN ABUNDANCE.  Like just about everything else, it was too much.  Everything is overdone.  There is no subtlety anywhere.

The relationship resolution is predictable and the ending is a one-two punch of unbelievable convenience and sickening sweetness.

I appreciate the author attempting to give us the best of all worlds by combining Vikings, vampires and angels into one breed of uber-hero. (The next book's hero is a Viking vampire-angel Navy SEAL!) But it just didn't work for me. 2 stars.

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Kiss of Pride
by Sandra Hill
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Avon

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Lord of Scoundrels

It's very hard to grow up the product of mixed heritage in the ton, even if you are the legitimate heir to several titles. No one knows this better than the Marquess of Dain. His mother left him as a child; his father scorned the half-breed reminder of his failed marriage. He was ridiculed and harassed for his dark skin and big nose. He never knew love. And it hardened him into a man that does what he wants, lives by his own rules and never lets anyone in.

By many standards Jessica is a spinster. After all, she is 27 and unwed. But it's by choice. She is as intelligent as she is beautiful and can easily support herself with her gift for buying and selling antiques. Unfortunately, her younger brother isn't quite as bright and the young man idolizes Dain. He can't keep up with the betting and whoring though, so Jessica seeks out Dain to ask him to leave her brother alone.

When Dain and Jessica meet, the attraction is instant. It's a quick fall for both of them --and though the path is rocky-- they end up together. The best part about the book, however, is watching Dain slowly begin to see his self-worth through Jessica's eyes. He has considered himself a monster his entire life, but she sees him as so much more. He fights it, of course. Her care and regard are like nothing he has ever known. But that is why it's so good! Jessica sees what we, the readers, see: a wounded man who needs her love.

Both main characters are fantastic. Loretta Chase crafts them as so understandable and sympathetic. Jessica has a will of steel and she is giving without ever being spineless. Dain is damaged, but his love for Jessica is so sweet and desperate.  Outwardly, he's a dark, giant brute, but that's only because it's what he allows people to see. The bedroom scenes were hot and satisfying; and there was just enough action thrown in to spice things up with a sidestory about a greedy friend and ex-lover.

I enjoyed it alot. 4 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lord of Scoundrels
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: January 1995
Publisher: Avon

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Review: Desert Blade

Reviewed by Jen
An attempt by the government to create a biocrop has gone horribly wrong and shifted the world into a near-apocalypse. Hunger has prompted widespread riots in the street. And it's in a flare of violence that Derek loses his arm. As a Guardsman, he seems a perfect candidate for a special prosthetic, armed with a deadly blade.

Dr. Lidia helps him through the surgery and the first part of his recovery. The two grow to care for one another in their week together. But when it's time for Lidia to evacuate, Derek doesn't go with her --opting instead to stay behind to bury his foster mother.

10 years later, Derek finds Lidia again. He needs her skills to help a sick boy in his camp. Together, they face the dangerous landscape to get to the boy. And in the process, their feelings reignite and reach new levels.

I enjoyed the story, but it's awfully hard to believe that Lidia has pined for Derek to the extent she has after only one week together. Everything moves quickly in the story, which I'm sure has a great deal to do with the fact that it is so short. I would have liked to spend more time with the characters, especially in the romance department. The sexy times we did have were pretty hot... I just wanted more.

I liked it, but I would have liked it better had it been a bit more fleshed out. A little more than 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Desert Blade
by Ella Drake
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Demonically Tempted

This second installment in Stacey Kennedy's Frostbite series picks up a few weeks after the point which Supernaturally Kissed left off. I had a hard time connecting with it right off the bat and I'm not 100% sure why.  Maybe it's because everyone has settled in so much to the idea that Tess and Kipp are a couple now.  For new readers, Tess is a woman who can see ghosts and Kipp is, well, a ghost.  The problems with such a relationship are obvious.  But Tess considers Kipp her man --and even calls him her lover-- despite the fact he's just a disembodied spirit.

Tess is part of the police force now, helping the department investigate cold cases.  And again, I felt that disconnect.  Yes, she proved herself in the last book, but there is no lingering doubts or skepticism or even discomfort from anybody about what she can do.  It bothers me to see the ease in which everyone has come to accept her supernatural gifts --to say nothing of the boyfriend that no one else can see or hear.

Tess is working a cold case surrounding an apparent suicide, where the victim's sister is convinced there was more to it.  Working with her is Dane, an FBI medium who is there to help her better understand her gift. It's obvious there is something dubious about him right off the bat. Kipp can't stand him... but with Dane's help, Tess learns there is much more to the supernatural world than she ever knew existed.

The author expands the paranormal scope of the world-building to include witches, demons, and perhaps even angels.  But as much as that ups the ante, the real heart of the series is the relationship between Tess and Kipp.  The two of them get put through the wringer here and it's when their angst kicks up that the story hits its stride.

I really enjoyed the second half of the book.  Dane is a great love-to-hate character and I feel like there is much more to him beneath the surface.  He's a total prick at times, but he gives voice to the concerns about Tess and Kipp's relationship that I thought were so noticeably absent from everyone else at the beginning.  I don't like what he did, but I'm not willing to write him off, either.  I found the new character Gretchen to be very interesting.  And I liked the journey of personal growth that Tess goes on here.  She has always considered her gift to be a curse and now she is learning that with it, she can make a real difference.

The climax of the romance arc is very good.  Kennedy opens the door for a real possibility of an HEA at the same time she puts it in terrible jeopardy.  And she leaves us with a great/ horrible/ wonderful/ terrible cliffhanger.  I am anxiously looking forward to see what she does in the third book --and I pray we get some sex in the flesh. Fantasies can only sustain a girl for so long...  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Demonically Tempted
by Stacey Kennedy
Release Date: April 13, 2012

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Untouched

Kerry has never been able to have a normal relationship with anyone in her life.  That's because any touch causes her blinding mental pain and allows her to see the darkest corners inside other people's minds.  Her friend Samantha is the only one whose touch she can bear, because --unbeknownst to her-- Samantha isn't completely human.  She is a hybrid: a child of one human parent and one Amoveo, a race of shapeshifters.  Kerry, too, is a hybrid, though she has no idea that such a thing even exists.

Dante is Kerry's destined mate.  He knows exactly who and what she is and wants to help ease her into the truth.  Samantha and her husband hire him to be Kerry's bodyguard on a modeling shoot in New Orleans.  Not only will it give the two of them a chance to get to know each other, it will keep Kerry safe from the threat of those among the Amoveo who would use violence to keep the race pure.

At first, Kerry rebels against Dante's presence, but she quickly realizes there is something special about him when she can touch him without pain.  The story follows their path to one another as an evil Purist stalks Kerry and plans her destruction.

I didn't love the book.  I think the biggest reason was because I didn't really connect with any of the characters.  I'm not saying it was bad, because it wasn't.  It just didn't inspire emotion in me.  Perhaps it needed more sexual tension.  Or more believable tension of any kind between Kerry and Dante.  The tension they did have felt manufactured. Him calling her "princess" --while she called him "Neanderthal"-- felt trite.  The love happened superfast. And it all left me feeling rather tepid.

The villain is essentially a caricature, though I will grant that the identity was a surprise.  I felt like Kerry's reactions to the revelations about Dante and the Amoveo were understated. And it was all just... meh.  Not bad.  Just not great.

This is the second book in the Amoveo series and while the events of the first book are referenced, the author does a good job filling in the details and I never felt lost.  I think it would be fine for new readers to jump in, even if they haven't read the first book.  3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Sara Humphreys
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: The Perfect Imposter

Reviewed by Jen
Ever since the death of her brutish husband, Katrina has been trying to make something of her talents as a modiste.  She finally feels like she'll have a real chance at success when her friend Julia offers to become her patroness.  After all, Julia married in to wealth and nobility, and if anyone can endear Katrina to society, it's her.

But her childhood friend is going to make her jump through hoops to get the exposure she promised.  Katrina must take Julia's place at a house party she doesn't want to attend.  You see, Katrina and Julia look a lot alike and in the right circumstances, few could tell them apart.  Katrina doesn't want to give in to Julia's demands, but Katrina owes an old debt to Julia's father.  That, coupled with the chance to show off her dresses, convinces her to finally acquiesce.

At the same time, Leo is tasked by the government to find the person behind a string of jewelery heists among the upper crust. The very house party that Katrina is attending is expected to be the setting for the next theft.  And for a variety of reasons, Julia is on the short list of suspects.  The fact that the two of them share a romantic history only complicates matters.

So the story basically follows Katrina's attempts to fool Julia's peers at this week long affair, as the obstacles in her path grow exponentially.  Somehow, Leo is the only one who sees through her schemes from the get-go and he must wrestle with his attraction to her as his suspicions lead him to believe her to be part of the jewel theft scheme.

It took a really long time to get to the romance, which made me want to skim ahead at times.  Katrina is a good person, but she is so downtrodden, it's hard to enjoy.  She puts up with so much and forgives so easily, it bothers me.  I appreciate her allegiance to Julia's dad, but frankly I couldn't fathom why she did not walk out when things started falling apart. And later, when it's revealed all that has been hidden from her, she takes it in so much stride... that bothered me too.

There were good moments between Katrina and Leo, but frankly there weren't enough of them and it took too long to get there. I also thought the ending was a little abrupt and after all she went through, I would have liked to see Katrina bask a little in her richly deserved HEA.  (I wouldn't have minded a swift kick in the butt for Julia either.)

It was ok, but the execution didn't quite live up to the promise of the premise.  3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Perfect Imposter
by Wendy Soliman
Release Date: April 2, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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AAD Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Stacey Kennedy

"Witty characters, dominant men, danger, action, romance and hot sex―oh my!"  You'll find that tag line on Stacey Kennedy's website and it's what you can expect when you crack open one of her books.  Please help me welcome her to the blog today.

Jen: My first book of yours was Supernaturally Kissed, which I really enjoyed. Would you tell new readers a bit about the Frostbite series?

Stacey: Simply put, it’s about a woman who has the gift to see ghosts, and has been given the task to help them crossover. This doesn’t always come easy since Tess is pulled into the police force and has to solve cold cases. Things get even more crazy when Kipp—a ghost—enters her life, and not only is she trying to solve his case, but she’s trying to fight the attraction between them. Lots of fun!

Jen: Can you give us any hints about what's coming in Demonically Tempted?

Stacey: Answers and lots of them! I enjoy reading reviews of Supernaturally Kissed and hearing all the theories people have about what will happen next. I always planned to make book two give all the answers to questions in Supernaturally Kissed, and that’s exactly what happened. But doesn’t life always get difficult and when one question is answered, another one appears.

Demonically Tempted shifts a bit more into fantasy, which will lead into the next two books in the series. Tess starts to learn more of her abilities and just all the trouble that comes along with that. Poor Tess, things are never easy for her!

Jen: These aren't too racy, sexually. But some of your other books are a bit more erotic. Tell me about your process for writing some of your hotter love scene.

Stacey: Two things – depth and frank language. That’s the only difference between my urban fantasy romances and erotic romances. The scenes are always HOT, but in erotic romance you lengthen them. Every single detail is shown, each sexy moment, visuals, feelings, sensations, and body parts are given those naughty. LOL!

Jen: What about BDSM? Did you have to do a lot of research to portray this kind of relationship?

Stacey: Honestly, BDSM is the hardest thing for me to write. It’s getting easier as time goes on because I learn more. And yes, I have to do lots of research since I don’t live the lifestyle.

Making the transition to write BDSM wasn’t a huge leap for me because I tend to write dominate men, so it was pretty natural. But there’s so much to know about the lifestyle. Do I get it wrong? All the time. But I have a fantastic critique partner who knows more about BDSM than I do and always guides my way.

I’ll admit too that it’s the most draining. I’ve just written a 90K BDSM erotic romance, Sweet Submissive, and after that story I was done in for a few weeks. My brain was complete mush! They tend to be very emotional, character driven stories and that can be exhausting to write. But the outcome is awesome and I can hardly wait to get this story out there.

Jen: BDSM romance is getting alot of press these days with the whole 50 Shades hoopla in the media. Is there anything you feel like the talking heads (like Dr Drew) are getting wrong --or something you would like to clarify as an author in the genre?

Stacey: Yes, I’ve seen the buzz and read 50 Shades because of it. Loved it, by the way! You know, I can understand where Dr. Drew is coming from. He’s allowed his opinion. But the truth is what two consenting adults do in their personal life isn’t anyone else’s concern. BDSM isn’t for everyone and that’s why the stories come with warning labels.

Truth is, I love writing BDSM because of the emotional element that comes in this kind of lifestyle. I find it sexy and playing on the sensations a submissive feels makes even my cheeks warm. So while I think it’s acceptable for someone to have an opinion, it really drives me to the moon when I see things like, this book is wrong, or this book is terrible. While it might not be for everyone, there are readers and people like me who love taking time out of their busy, screaming kids day, and sit down with a naughty book to get my blood pumping!

My rule is if you don’t like something, don’t read it and leave it to the rest of us who do!

Jen: The first in your Magic and Mayhem series is coming soon, right?  What can you tell us about Werewolves Be Damned?

Stacey:  WEREWOLVES BE DAMNED is actually not coming out until Summer 2013 because it’s going mass market. So, while it seems like forever from now, I’m sure it’ll be here before I know it.

This series started out as ebooks published with Liquid Silver Books, The Magical Sword series. They were short novels, but I’ve rewritten the books and now they’re full lengths. Honestly, I don’t even recognize them anymore, and that just makes it more fantastic because they’ve developed into stories I never dreamed possible. I’ve always had a soft spot for these books because they were the first ones I’d ever written, and now I’m just floored by the outcome. My editor has taken my babies and brought out the best in them. It’s really exciting and I can hardly wait for them to release.

Click here to learn more --or check out the trailer below:

Jen: Any chance we can score a little snippet?

Stacey: It’s still in edits so I can’t share too much because who knows if it’ll remain in the book, but here’s a little sneak peek!

I’d come to my willow for as long as I could remember. I’d never seen a wolf in this forest before. And when had wolves become so bold to approach a human? Unless this one was rabid or starving…in which case, my odds of survival were looking less likely.

I scooted further along the grass, but was stopped when my back pressed against the trunk of my willow. “Dear God, the time to help me would be now.”

The wolf stopped a foot in front of me and sniffed the air. His dark eyes studied me. No fear held in their depths. Wet dog mixed with a rich aftershave filled my nostrils.

“I’m scary. I’m big. Get out of here,” I screamed and waved my arms in the air to frighten him.

He shook his head.

I stared, mouth agape.

“Did you just…answer me?”

He nodded.

What. In. The. Hell?

“How can you understand me, you’re a wolf. Oh my god, did you just shrug?”

He bared his teeth.

Jen: What is your favorite kind of supernatural and why?

Stacey: I love them all. Really, I do! Each supernatural is fun to write in its own way. I enjoy writing witches because of the magical element, but I also love writing werewolves. There’s just something so special about the mate bond that tugs at my heart.

Jen: Who is your favorite character created by another author?

Stacey: Jeaniene Frost’s, Vlad. I adore him, lust over him, and want him as my own!! He has a certain “something” that speaks to the very woman in me. I love his humor, but then he has this strength that makes me drool! Yes, Vlad is my book crush!

Jen: Do you get to make it to many fan/ author events?

Stacey: Sadly, no. I have two small children who keep me on my toes, so making long trips to the U.S. just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. And that’s why I’m so excited to go to AAD. It’s my first conference, so yeah…I’m thrilled to be going! Plus, it’s in New Orleans and I’ve always wanted to go there so that just ROCKS!

Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans?

Stacey: Everything single darn thing! The tours, chatting with other authors, meeting all my book blogger friends…and the party! I love to have fun, so if there is fun happening, I’ll be there!

Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I can't wait to meet you in New Orleans... it's going to be a blast!

Stacey: Thanks for the chat! I’m really looking forward to meeting you too!!

Stacey is giving away a copy of Supernaturally Kissed.  To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  To learn more about Stacey Kennedy, you can check out her website or follow her on Twitter.  

Read more »

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: How to Ravish a Rake

Reviewed by Jen
After a string of unsuccessful seasons, Amy is beginning to give up hope on the love match she has dreamed of.  She's always been too shy to attract a man at any of the London balls, but this year, she is determined to make a change.  Armed with the beautiful dresses she designed, she finally finds herself apart from the other wallflowers and enjoying her first taste of acclaim.

Will is the youngest son in his family.  He has played his hand to the fullest, gallivanting around the world and flitting from woman to woman.  But now, his older brother is forcing him to settle down, withholding his allowance and making him take a job.  Will hopes to win the money for more travels at a gaming hell, but ends up in debt instead.  He either has to go back to his brother for help or find a wealthy bride to help him pay off his debt.

He thinks, at first, to find his fortune with Amy.  She proves too savvy to be compromised, however. and in the end he realizes what a mistake that would have been.  As luck would have it, the two actually do end up compromised, though completely by accident.  So they end up married anyway.

Amy is devastated that her dreams of true love have been dashed, but she vows to make the best of her marriage.  Will agrees to set aside his rakish ways to court her while slowing introducing her to the pleasures of a physical relationship. And it starts to work. Unfortunately, they are both keeping secrets from one another... secrets that are like timebombs waiting to go off and blow their new relationship to bits.

The thing is, neither of their secrets would have really been a big deal if they actually communicated with one another.  These two are just so gun-shy and unable to really trust each other that it almost like they were each waiting for something to screw it up.   It was frustrating because the only true threat to their happiness was their own trepidation.

I did like watching these two fall in love, despite their personal foibles.  Will actually mends his rakish ways rather quickly and is a very good husband throughout.  I enjoyed his wooing of Amy and I found myself as charmed by him as she was.  There were sexy times and some comic relief too, which made the story even better. 

The book is peppered with familiar characters from the previous two books in the series, but this works well as a standalone.  I liked it.  But I must acknowledge that the ending felt a bit abrupt and I would have liked a few more pages to take me into their HEA. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
How to Ravish a Rake
by Vicky Dreiling
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Fractured Moon

Reviewed by Jen
As a werewolf who can't completely shift, Aurelia is an outcast among her kind.  Other than with her best friend and close-knit family, she doesn't really fit in anywhere.  She has made the best of the life she has, though.  She has a job she loves and nice guy renting the other half of her duplex.  But her quiet monotony is shattered with the arrival of the man destined to be her mate.

When Ceithin and Aura come face to face, the attraction is overwhelming. Unfortunately, he has a girlfriend, which throws a wrench in the whole star-crossed-lover thing.  But she --and all the other roadblocks-- slowly move out of the way, clearing a path for romance.  In the meantime, someone is stalking Aura.  And the danger keeps getting more intense as the love story does the same.

I liked the romance.  It nicely avoids many of the annoying tropes of the genre.  Our couple doesn't fall in love instantly, but over time.  The hero is alpha, but not an asshole.  The sex is hot, but believable and without any anatomical record-breakers.   Both the hero and heroine are likeable; and the secondary characters are well fleshed out.  The pacing is good and I liked the plot.

The book's not perfect.  It has a slow start and it seems to take forever for our hero and heroine to even meet.  There's a character named Greta, who I never understood who she was.  The villain reveal was interesting, but I was unclear on how he did what he did and how many others he did it to.  The resolution to the climax is left hanging --and I can only hope that will be addressed in a later book, along with some much needed depth to the explanation surrounding Aura's best friend and her lineage.  And there are about a dozen misspellings, tense problems, or random apostrophes.

I did like it, though.  It felt fresh. It was snarky and current.  I believed in the romance and enjoyed the sex.   I hope the story continues.  3 1/2 stars.

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Fractured Moon
by EL Pierce
Release Date: March 3, 2012

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Deadly is the Kiss

For fans of the Primal Instinct series, this book is designed to do two things: --1-- to set up a spinoff series set in the same world and --2-- to provide the payoff for Ashe and Juliana, a couple that the author has been teasing readers with for a while.  I've only read one random book out of the eight that came before this, so I didn't go into this story with any particular itch to scratch.

I can tell you that as a spinoff, this is a good place for new readers to get familiar with the series.  There are definite references to past events and obviously our couple has a history together, but I never felt lost or confused.  The world-building is laid out clearly and the author does a good job bringing readers up to speed on who everyone is.

Juliana is a vampire who has spent nearly a decade in the prison-like wastelands with her family.  It drives Ashe crazy that he doesn't know their crimes.  But the mere fact that they were imprisoned tells him that Juliana is bad news.  Unfortunately for him, his body has chosen her as a mate despite this.  She triggered the "burning" in him, a sexual pull and fever that can't be overcome until he bonds with her.  The burning has been torturing him for months, but Ashe won't give in and he won't tell anyone what's going on... convinced he'll find a way to rid himself of his impulses.

Ashe has been keeping his distance from Juliana, but now suddenly she is out of the wastelands and appealing to him for help.  Someone has put a hit out on her family and she is hoping Ashe can help her find proof of it, so she can appeal to the vampire council for help.  Ashe agrees to help her, but only if she is willing to give him the sexual release he craves.

Yes. You read that right. Our hero will only help our heroine save her family if she agrees to have sex with him --however and whenever he wants.  That did not sit well with me. Yes, she wants him; and yes, they are predestined mates.  But I still didn't like it.  You don't barter sex for lifesaving assistance. Not hero behavior.

Anyway, so the story follows Ashe and Juliana as they try to find evidence against the bad guys, while they work to keep feelings out of their sexual relationship.  Each has had a very bad experience in the past that has made them wary of love and unable to trust.  And their issues have them kind of going around in circles and making bad decisions. Ashe, in particular, was a douche on more than one occasion because of his mistrust.  It was frustrating to read.

The sex was hot.  The writing was good, and so was the action. Juliana's backstory and the climax were unpredictable and satisfying.  But the way Ashe went back and forth between being an infatuated lover and an out and out dick was tough to bear.  And I hated the Epilogue, which was as overly sentimental and ridiculous and it was unnecessary.  I've got serious mixed feelings about this one.  3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase:  Amazon
Deadly is the Kiss
by Rhyannon Byrd
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Interview & Giveaway: M Terry Green

OK, I've been telling you guys about these Shaman books off and on for the past week.  (If you somehow missed my reviews, go back and read them now: Book 1. Book 2.) Today I have author M Terry Green here for a chat about the fantastic stories she has crafted. Please help me welcome her to the blog!

Jen: Tell new readers about the Techno Shaman world.

Terry: The techno-shaman universe brings the very real and ancient practice of shamanism into a fictional modern era and an urban setting. In traditional belief systems the world over, shamans traveled to a spiritual plane of existence in order to help cure the sick. Access to that other plane was gained via mind-altering substances and experiences. Power wielded in that plane could be used for evil or for good. However, in the modern day of my novels, techno-shamans use the latest technology to make that spiritual journey. Though the means are updated, the ends remain the same for techno-shamans: helping to save the lives of patients, sometimes at the risk of their own.

Jen: The main character in the series is Livvie. Life is pretty tough for her as the series starts out.

Terry: Yes it is! Livvy is at the beginning of her shaman career, inexperienced, still building her skills and reputation. You might say she's made a career switch and change is always hard!

Jen: The shamans are pretty much social pariahs. It makes you wonder why anyone would sign up for the job.

Terry: Excellent point! Shamanism is a calling. Shamans are born to their roles, sometimes recognized by older shamans, sometimes thrust into their life as healers by their own near-death experience. They have a talent and ability that others do not and, while some can turn away from the work and the life, others feel that it's their responsibility to help others.

Jen: For me, SK completely steals the show. Let's talk about what he does in Livvie's world--and who he is as man.

Terry: SK is the ultimate power broker of the modern shaman world. He puts clients together with shamans while keeping shaman turfs separate. Apart from his business role, though, he also acts as a protector of his shamans while they make their spiritual journey. Implicit in all those activities is trust--big time. SK is trustworthy to the core and also just a decent guy.

Jen: He plays everything so close to the vest, tell us one thing about him that we don't know.

Terry: Not even SK knows it but he's at the beginning of his own journey, a time of change. He's also an excellent cook.

Jen: There are so many great characters in the Techno-Shaman world. Other than Livvie, who interests you the most and why?

Terry: I think you and I are of the same mind here. SK draws my attention, over and over. I think that's because we sense that he knows something that neither Livvy nor we can possibly guess.

Jen: How many books do you have planned for the series? How far ahead did you have things plotted in your mind when you sat down to write book 1?

Terry: There are six books total planned for the series and it was designed that way from the start. For each of the remaining books I have an overall idea of who, what, and where and some of the details. Livvy has an arc to complete and Book 6 will be the culmination of her odyssey.

Jen: When will we see book 3 and can you tell us anything about it?

Terry: Book 3 will be out in the late summer or early fall of 2012. It's titled Shaman, Sister, Sorceress and, although the location for this third book is within driving distance of Los Angeles, it's a world apart. The first draft is complete.

Jen: These books are self-published. Tell me a little about the decision to go that route and how that has impacted you.

Terry: Just as I finished Shaman, Healer, Heretic, self-publishing was really starting to take off. It immediately appealed to me with its ability to control just about every aspect of just about everything (related to the book, that is). With non-fiction, I had already had an agent and been traditionally published a couple of times, so I knew what that was like. Were I able to choose again with Shaman, Healer, Heretic, I'd do exactly the same thing. I have enjoyed the process of self-publishing entirely. From designing my own covers, to the titles, to the blurbs, I have no one to blame but myself! It's been fabulous.

Jen: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Terry: There is. I want to thank you, Jen, for this opportunity to answer these fantastic questions! You're the kind of reader--and reviewer--of which writers dream.

Jen:  Awww. (*blush*) Thanks so much for chatting with me. I'm looking forward to seeing where Livvie's story goes next!

I urge you to give these books a try... and to make it easy for you, we're giving away a copy of Shaman, Healer, Heretic (the first in the series.) To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
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