Synopsis from Goodreads: Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption. When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide. An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love and redemption, “Gabriel’s Inferno” is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible…forgiveness and love.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: A friend asked me to read Gabriel’s Inferno because she was looking for a second opinion. I knew a bit about the plot based on the blurb on Amazon and what my friend told me but I was in no way prepared for how good this book really is. Gabriel’s Inferno is not for the fainthearted as it a very, very dark romance that will leave the reader feeling on edge throughout.
As a reader, I am drawn to books that are character driven and this novel is one of the strongest I have come across in quite some time. Reynard’s male characters elicited strong responses from me from the very beginning and continued to do so throughout. For example, there’s Paul the fellow graduate student who always made me feel a little creeped out and in need of shower after reading scenes which required his presence. And then of course, there is Gabriel who, on the one hand is a total rat bastard and on the other is just so completely compassionate and caring. Gabriel is by far the strongest, most damaged, and most fascinating character in this book. To the world, Gabriel is a buttoned down professor who specializes in the works of Dante and favors bow ties and expensive suits. Then there’s the other Gabriel, the man with passions that run deep and inhibitions that are virtually nonexistent who has a taste for fine food, fine wine, and morally ambiguous women.
Gabriel’s story alone would be enough to keep the casual reader interested but for those looking for more substance, meet Julia. Julia is the only female character of significance in this novel and like the male characters she elicited a very strong response from me. Unfortunately that response was not always a good one. Julia takes pathetic to a whole new level and while I certainly appreciate that she has had a very difficult life she’s got to get over it and move on. I frequently found Julia’s “I’m so pitiful I can’t do anything” routine a bit tiresome. But then there are her other moments, those few and far between times when Julia snaps the tether and unleashes all of her anger and frustration. Those moments are golden and reveal to the reader exactly what Julia is made of.
When the lives of Julia and Gabriel begin to intersect, first in the classroom and then elsewhere, things get even darker. You see, both Julia and Gabriel have painful secrets and painful pasts that they would very much prefer stay secret and stay in the past. But that would not make for a good novel and so the stories of their lives, both separately and together begin to unravel in what is a fairly twisted plot. With each new chapter is another revelation and many of them the reader will not see coming. As Julia and Gabriel are facing and dealing with their personal demons, they are also dealing with their growing attraction to one another. The reader is almost always uncertain of the outcome of this novel and that feeling of uncertainty adds to the drama and to the anticipation of finding out what comes next.
The Bottom Line: if you’re a casual romance reader looking for a quick and easy read then this book is definitely not for you. Gabriel’s Inferno is a lengthy read with an overwhelming sense of darkness that takes frequent trips into the world and works of Dante. This is my kind of romance! Reynard has crafted a novel that reads smoothly and beautifully all the while dealing with topics that are often uncomfortable yet intriguing. My only disappointment with this book is the knowledge that the story of Julia and Gabriel is not over and will continue on in future novels. Normally I would be very excited to see good, strong characters live to fight another day but Gabriel’s Inferno is a complete read for me; it ended quite satisfactorily and is strong enough to stand on its own as a single novel and not a first-in-a series book.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Brad is great at meeting other people’s expectations. But his own? Not so much. Take the gay thing. Okay, so yeah. It took a morning meeting with a frat brother’s hairy, naked ass for him to admit it, but he knows the truth about himself now. Let the gay life commence.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. He hasn’t quite determined how to come out to anyone, even Sebastian, the geeky-hot TA in his history class. Sebastian is everything Brad is not. Intellectual, suave, hairy. Out. And he doesn’t seem interested in Brad, even when Brad makes a fool of himself trying to catch his notice.
Score one for foolery: Sebastian does more than notice Brad; he takes him to bed. Brad’s been with plenty of girls, but with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely-hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild. But when great sex turns into something more-dare he admit the “L” word?-Brad must face the crushing realization that Sebastian doesn’t feel the same. Unless, of course, he does. After all, even grad students can be idiots about matters of the heart.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
NOTE: This is an 18 and over only read
I am not ashamed to say that from time to time I like to take a little skinny dip in the old erotica pool. I suited up over the weekend and dove right in to Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy only to come out of the pool feeling quite unsatisfied. I’m done with and over the swimming metaphor now . . . .
What I liked: *Brad: the lead character who is a frat boy jock who has finally admitted to himself he is not only gay but completely smitten with his history T.A., Sebastian. Brad’s confusion and vulnerability are endearing and his reactions to certain situations are just funny. For example, when he comes out to his family . . . I laughed. Brad as a character is hard to dislike and I wouldn’t have minded at all knowing more about him.
*Sebastian: the openly gay history T.A. who is disturbingly smitten with Brad. I like Sebastian’s confidence in who he is; he is a hot braniac who makes no apologies for who he is and how he lives his life. His confidence and swagger are only shaken when he figures out Brad may be more than a mere booty call.
*The sex: Although I can’t say I am any expert by any means on gay sex I am fairly open minded and thought Brad and Sebastian did a fine (if somewhat messy) job of steaming up the pages. Once Brad acknowledges being gay and makes Sebastian aware of his interest there is just no stopping those two! I won’t lie; I might have learned a thing or two J
What I didn’t like: *The plot: There aren’t any glaring holes in the plot or crazy inconsistences but that is likely because there isn’t much of a plot to speak of. Yes, there is the whole Brad coming out to everyone and dealing with his new relationship highs and lows with Sebastian but these elements aren’t really dealt with until near the end of the novel. Quite frankly, it’s just a case of too little too late.
*The sex: What??? How can this be both a like and a dislike you ask? Quite simply, you can indeed have far too much of a good thing. There is an incredible amount of sex in this book to the point of it bordering on way too much; the amount of naughty verses the amount of plot just don’t balance one another.
The Bottom Line: I like the characters just fine but would have liked to have seen their story go a bit further; Sebastian and Brad are both nice guys that must have something more to them then just hot bodies. The sex is great but it does become a bit tired after so many scenes. (I can NOT believe I just said that, BTW) I have read enough erotica to know that you can have all the fantastic naughty bits and a strong plot and I truly wish that had happened with this book. If you are looking for an easy, naughty read then this is the book for you BUT, if you need more substance in your erotica I would have to recommend steering clear of this read.
Forever Werewolf Synopsis from Goodreads: Alexis Conner, princess of the Alpine pack and pureblood werewolf, hides a painful secret-she has never shifted. If she can’t shift, she can’t mate, and so Lexi resigned herself to a lifetime of loneliness. But then a stranger arrives, and Lexi senses that her world will never be the same….
A massive avalanche might be to blame for Trystan Hawkes getting stuck at Castle Wulfsiege, but after one look at Lexi, Trystan is not about to leave. Lexi is strong, smart and incredibly sexy. Not that it matters. Tryst is an omega-the fabled lone wolf. Even more damning is his mixed vampire heritage.
Lexi knows that the vampire blood running through Tryst’s veins makes him off-limits, but what if he’s the one man who can rouse her inner wolf?
Moon Kissed Synopsis from Goodreads: Escaping from bloodthirsty vampires, Belladonna Reynolds ran straight into the arms of a werewolf. As a man Severo drew her in with his dark good looks; as a beast he astounded her with his insatiable sensual appetite. Whether afraid or aroused, Bella fled to his lair when threatened by an evil monster of the night….Severo tried to keep Bella–his mate–safe from the vampiress who held a malicious desire for revenge against him, but he alone wasn’t enough. Now Bella had taken the form of his most cursed enemy. How could he desire the very thing he’d spent his life destroying? And even if he did, what would the werewolf do to Bella on the next full moon?
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Trystan Hawkes loves life despite being an unaligned omega wolf from a mixed-breed family. He has put up with the taunts and the teasing all his life but he has never allowed anything to tarnish his outlook on life. While on an errand for his father’s courier service company, Tryst, as his friends call him, never imagined how everything in his world could turn upside down about ten minutes after stepping into Wulfsiege castle. Within that time Tryst meets the stunningly gorgeous ice princess, Lexi and the castle is hit by a devastating avalanche. True to his nature, Tryst immediately jumps in to help the Alpine pack rescue their missing members and try to take his mind off the sexy wolf princess. That should be easy to do, right?
Lexi has three problems: 1) her father, the pack principal is dangerously ill; 2) no male will come near her for fear of offending her father and; 3) she has never actually transformed into her true and proper wolf form. Despite all the drama Lexi does like to have a tiny bit of fun from time to time and Tryst is right up her alley. As long as the two of them keep their business just between them no one will know and Tryst will be gone in just a few days and nothing but a memory.
Turns out neither Lexi nor Tryst can get the other neither off their mind nor out of their system. It is clear from the beginning the two are drawn to and meant for one another but the obstacles they face are numerous. After some steamy yet relatively harmless flirtations, Lexi and Tryst give in to one another and their passions; what comes out of the experience is something no one could have seen coming and all of sudden Lexi and Tryst have not only the mounting problems within the castle to deal with but their newfound feelings for one another.
Everything at Wulfsiege castle seems to come apart at the seams all at once and as her father’s head of security it is Lexi’s job to figure it all out. With Tryst by her side she must determine who is trying to kill her father, how to deal with the second avalanche that hits the castle, how she can secure the safety of the pack against an aggressive and power-hungry wolf and, how she can ever convince both herself and her father that Tryst is her one true mate and should be accepted, despite his lineage into the Alpine pack.
Overall, the plot is good and the chemistry between Lexi and Tryst is good but I found it difficult to really connect to either character. Tryst is just a bit too much of a hippy and Lexi is far too insecure about her “condition”. In all honesty, I found a few of the minor characters far more fascinating and would have liked to have known more about them. For example, there is Liam, the kind-hearted wolf who is in love with Lexi’s spoiled sister and destined to be greater than he is; Vaillant is Tryst’s vampire half- brother who is as loyal to Tryst as he is fiercely devoted to his pregnant wife; there is Rhys, Tryst’s mixed-breed father who apparently has a very, very dark side that isn’t allowed to come out and play very often and finally, there is Viviane, Tryst and Vaillant’s vampire mother who is constantly on the verge of becoming totally and completely bat-crap crazy.
The Bottom Line: All of the madness and issues keeps the plot moving at a good pace and all of the problems and issues are resolved satisfactorily but I never found myself jumping at every available opportunity to sit and read. I certainly didn’t dislike the book but I also didn’t fall in love with it either. Forever Werewolf is a solid plot with moderately interesting characters that will satisfy most readers looking for a werewolf read.
Moon Kissed is the second novel in this two-for-one book and is Bella and Severo’s story. Bella is a fiercely independent web designer who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time during one of her nightly runs. After being pursued by a pack of vampires she is saved by a mysterious stranger who weirdly smells her before letting her go. Understandably, Bella is shaken by the whole experience and even more so when the mysterious stranger appears on her doorstep. While Bella knows she should be frightened by Severo’s reappearance she also knows she is inexplicably attracted to him.
Severo is a lone wolf who has worked tirelessly for years to secure the safety of all wolves and is in no way interested in seeing his mission interrupted by a small human who is being stalked by vampires. Unfortunately, Severo discovers Bella’s encounter with the vampires was not an accident but a planned attack meant to take her out. With a centuries-long grudge against vampires, Severo makes it his new mission in life to save Bella; in an effort to protect her and shut down the threat against her Severo must position himself firmly into the middle of Bella’s life. What both Severo and Bella underestimate is just how deeply their attraction to one another really is. Once Severo figures it all out he quickly accepts the possibility that Bella is his mate and begins to pursue her relentlessly. Again, Bella knows she should be wary of both Severo and his pursuit but her attraction to him is raging. The attraction is so strong she can even ignore the fact that Severo is a living, breathing werewolf.
It doesn’t take long for Bella and Severo to fall into each other’s arms and man when they do, the sparks start to fly. Bella and Severo have a butt-load of crazy awesome sex that might just warrant a re-read in the near future. Dear reader, don’t snicker like you’ve never gone back to just the naughty bits in a books before. You know you have so own it and read on! For security purposes (she writes while smirking) Bella relocates to Severo’s home and has just begun to settle in and get comfortable when things go south for the new couple. This time however, the vampires hit their mark and when Severo finds Bella all but dead in their bed he comes face-to-face with his worst nightmare. Severo must decide if he is strong enough to not only face this nightmare head on but also accept what Bella has become.
The Bottom Line: Overall, I liked Moon Kissed a bit better than Forever Werewolf but still wasn’t burning the midnight oil in order to finish the novel. I very much liked Bella and her stubborn independence but was a bit disappointed in Severo’s weakness near the end of the novel. The plot is a good mix of the past and the present (which I love in a novel) coming together with a fair bit of action and a whole lot of steamy sex. As with Forever Werewolf, I don’t’ have any real complaints about this read but it still only ended up being OK for me.
Synopsis from Goodreads: High-spirited horse trainer Jessica Stanson stumbles into the perfect job on one of the most elite ranches in Montana. Or at least it would be if her boss, ex-detective Michael Carven, stopped acting like he didn’t want her there. Jessica has to prove herself to him on the ranch, and also try to penetrate his armor to get to the man inside. Michael Carven is a man who has left a difficult past behind him, and now works at his dream job raising horses under the Montana sky. But he knows that the past has a way of coming back to him, and soon enough, it does. A wave of violence hits the nearby small town of Riverside, nestled deep in the mountains, as a cunning serial killer preys on the population.
Against his will, Michael finds himself both drawn into the case and coming to care for his independent new trainer. And if having a killer on the loose wasn’t enough, his two worlds collide when Jessica becomes the only material witness in the case. Before it is over, Michael and Jessica will put everything they know and hold dear on the line to catch a vicious, cunning killer – and to protect each other as well.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 3½/5 stars
My Review: Every once in awhile a reader will come across a book that simply cannot be put down. When you find that book and begin reading, all else in your world ceases to exist. The dishes don’t get done, the laundry goes unfolded, and the dirty toilet can just wait one more day! Most recently, I found that wondrous sensation with Aris Whittier’s fast-paced and well-written romantic-suspense novel, Fatal Embrace.
Whittier opens her novel with Michael, a hard-working if sullen cowboy who owns and operates a horse training facility; a place that has become his sanctuary since leaving his job as a police detective. Whittier also quickly introduces a second main character, the witty, sarcastic, and somewhat naughty Jessica Stanson, a young woman who has come to Michael’s ranch to work as a trainer. The opening scene between these two characters does much to set the stage for not only their relationship but for the novel as a whole. The opening scene is well thought out and well written. It is a primary motivator in engaging the reader so completely.
Just beyond the opening scene we discover that the communities surrounding the ranch have recently been plagued by a viscous killer who is targeting young women. To date, the crimes have gone unsolved and as such, a very reluctant Michael has agreed to serve as a consultant to the police in an effort to solve a seemingly unsolvable case. As Michael becomes obsessed with finding the killer he also discovers that Jessica is a good sounding board for his thoughts and concerns. This arrangement could have become awkward as Jessica is a horse trainer. Whittier has managed to successfully weave Jessica into Michael’s world. Of course, the two also discover a mutual attraction to one another – DUH and YIPPEE!
The crimes, Jessica’s presence, and the pressure to find the killer all combine to create a novel that is bursting with sexual and psychological tension. This tension continues to mount throughout the novel as Whittier leads us toward the end. She skillfully draws all of the plots, sub-plots, and characters together into what should have been a really spectacular finish. As I headed into this section of the book, I was completely lost in this world and couldn’t wait to discover the fate of all involved. Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed. Where the book failed for me was in how quickly everything was resolved. What had been a well-paced and exciting read became a horse race (pardon the pun) to the finish. Whittier should have devoted more time and space to the completion of this book. Each of the major revelations needs time to sink before moving on to the next. Was I disappointed by anything else? No, absolutely not! Would I recommend this book to a friend? Absolutely! Fatal Embrace is an engrossing tale with excellent dialogue, fun characters, and a smart plot that is, unfortunately, lacking conviction in the conclusion.
Synopsis for Goodreads: Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, 15-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it’s high time she transferred to Cambial Academy–the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities.
My Rating: 4½ stars/5 stars
My Review: Claire Crane Walker knows she isn’t as talented as the rest of her family. Her mother is a truth seeker, her father is a math genius/code breaker, her older brother is telekinetic, and her younger sister can commune with the dead. All Claire can do is hear the thoughts of animals, a skill that makes her feel like a fraud since can’t really prove her abilities to those around her. Consequently, Claire has always resisted enrolling in Cambial, a school for the supremely gifted and talented and a school that was founded and still run by her family. But, after an ill-fated night with her “normal” friends, Claire finds herself in the one place she never wanted to be, at Cambial.
For Claire, life at Cambial seems like a life of misery and doom (of course it does, she’s a melodramatic 15-year-old girl). She has convinced everyone around her, including her truth seeker mother, that she has lost her ability to hear animals. As it turns out, Claire’s “lost” ability is going to come in quite handy as she, her brother and sister, and a select group of friends begin a desperate search for Cambial’s Exceptionals. The Exceptionals are Cambial’s best and brightest, those who wield enormous skill, talent, and intelligence, and they are being picked off one by one by a very powerful and very secretive source. For Claire and her friends, honing their skills and uncovering this malevolent source is critical as they are slowly but surely losing members of their inner circle.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this YA novel. Here’s what I liked:
1. The cast of characters: The kids are actually kids and teenagers, and they act like kids and teenagers. In a great many YA novels, the kids and teenagers are just mini-adults and are often involved in very adult situations. In many instances, I find myself wondering “Where the Hell are their parents?” Cashman provides us with a group of kids who still have a great sense of wonder and enthusiasm; they are all still stoked by what they are learning and able to accomplish. These young characters are refreshing in that they worry about missing curfew, being caught and punished for their transgressions, and disappointing their peers and parents alike.
Of the group I particularly enjoyed Claire’s can-do attitude, Henry’s intelligence and his enthusiasm, Billy’s perseverance, and little Charlotte’s general attitude of haughtiness.Among the animals that populated the story, I was quite drawn to Ferana the hawk and her great sense of protectiveness and dignity. Ferana helps and trusts Claire when it is not in her best interest to do so. The resulting relationship between Claire and Ferana is quite touching. Then there is Tabby the cat, who is just wretched and awful, and I really liked her; her attitude and refusal to speak to Claire is so cat like and awesome. As with the human characters, Cashman created real and distinct personalities in the animals that played a larger role in the story.
2. The Plot: The plot was quite entertaining, well-paced and just a tiny bit creepy. Students and faculty alike are disappearing from a highly exclusive and even more highly secluded school, and no one seems to know how or why this is happening. Turns out the disappearances may be linked to Cambial’s past, and a long thought dead disgruntled ex-professor by the name of Wilder. It takes every ounce of ability on the part of Claire (yes, she finally fesses up to actually having a talent) and all her friends to uncover the plot and save the day. The kids are clever, daring, and more than a little courageous. Between classes, curfews, and the saving of the world, the kids form strong bonds with one another that serve to strengthen their friendship and the plot. The plot unfolds at a decent pace, with plenty of action and moments between the action that allow the reader to catch up on some of the major characters, their backstories, and the history of Cambial.
The Bottom Line: In order to be completely fair, I do have a couple of issues with The Exceptionals, and both of those issues involve the same character: Dylan. From the beginning, Dylan just wasn’t right; he was far too eager to get close to Claire and far, far too nosy about her presence in the forest. My other issue with Dylan has to do with how rapidly his relationship with Claire developed. Even in the land of make believe, I found it completely unreasonable how quickly Claire and Dylan’s attachment to one another formed. With this being said, these two issues didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I say the following in the most laudatory manner: The Exceptionals is a bit like the Scooby Gang meets the X-Men, and I am quite excited for the possibility of more of The Exceptionals!
Synopsis from Goodreads: HE VOWED HE’D COME FOR HER . . . Murdered before he could wed Regin the Radiant, warlord Aidan the Fierce seeks his beloved through eternity, reborn again and again into new identities, yet with no memory of his past lives.
SHE AWAITS HIS RETURN . . .
When Regin encounters Declan Chase, a brutal Celtic soldier, she recognizes her proud warlord reincarnated. But Declan takes her captive, intending retribution against all immortals—unaware that he belongs to their world.
TO SATE A DESIRE MORE POWERFUL THAN DEATH . . .
Yet every reincarnation comes with a price, for Aidan is doomed to die when he remembers his past. To save herself from Declan’s torments, will Regin rekindle memories of the passion they once shared—even if it means once again losing the only man she could ever love?
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: As a long-time reader of Krelsey Cole’s Immortals After Dark Series I was ridiculously excited to see Regin’s story in print – finally. Regin has been such a wonderful, playful, and seriously bad-a** character throughout the series that it was time to have her story told. Maybe I just got too excited and expected way too much but by novel’s end, I felt a bit disappointed. Regin didn’t really get the story she deserved although she did have some spectacular moments and comments. As with all of the books in this series, Dreams of a Dark Warrior traces the moments and events that lead to the major character finding his/her mate. In this instance, it is Regin finding (after several centuries & deaths) her one true mate, Declan Chase. Where Cole shines is in her ability to make the reader first hate and then adore a character. In this respect, I was not let down. Declan Chase began as a nasty bit of work with a life-long grudge against all beings of the Lore. It takes Chase’s encounter with Regin and a few other Loreans for him to realize that nothing is as it seems and maybe his hatred has been misplaced. Of all the characters in Dreams of Dark Warrior, Chase’s character has the greatest evolution. Cole transforms him right before your eyes turning him into one of the most endearing mates of the entire series!
In every series there is what I tend to call set-up novels; that is, the author begins to focus more on previously unimportant or less important characters and introduces new characters and/or plot lines. Essentially, the reader is being set-up for the next several installments in a series. Dreams of Dark Warrior is one of those novels and this is why I feel Regin didn’t get the story she deserved. Cole not only had to tell Regin and Declan’s story but she also had a lot of work to do and ground to cover in this novel in order to set up the future of her series. It is in this set-up portion of the book that I got over my disappointment, at least marginally. Cole gave more information about Lothaire, the Enemy of Old (who knew he had a sense of humor?); introduced the seriously naïve but learning quickly Thad, the half-vampire half-phantom (WHAT???); and of course, Nucking Futs Nix who now has a pet bat and is still legally barred from seeing Mike Rowe. Nix might be one of my all-time favorite characters and in this series, her actions and predictions seemed to hint at future plot lines – but who can really tell where Nix is concerned. Based on the hints it seems that in the near future we are going to be learning a great deal more about Lothaire, Nix, and the Valkyries never-ending sear for Myst. Did anyone else pay attention to the fact that Lothaire vowed he had no knowledge of Myst’s location? Hhmm…..
As with all of the books in this series, Dreams of a Dark Warrior is a solid well-written read but not something I am going to pick up again anytime in the near future. Don’t skip this book by any means but don’t expect to be all tingly and excited at the end either. By the way, I so wish that last statement weren’t true – I adore this series and have rarely been let down or disappointed by Cole. At the end of the day however I was much more excited by the tidbits of information concerning the future of this series; Cole really seems to be setting us up for the next (several??) installments. Since I can’t find any information regarding the next book in this series, here’s my request:
Dear Kresley Cole,
I would like the twelfth book in this series to be Nix’s story.
A Nucking Futs Reader
Synopsis from Goodreads: In this sexy new installment of Showalter’s bestselling Lords of the Underworld series, the haunted Amun meets a woman who tempts him like no other…
Keeper of the demon of Secrets, Amun can manipulate the darkest thoughts of anyone nearby. But when the immortal warrior is chained and isolated to protect those he loves, death is his only hope of release—until he meets Haidee, a fellow prisoner whose beauty and hidden vulnerability draw him into a reckless test of his loyalty.
Haidee is a demon-assassin, raised to despise Amun’s kind. Yet how can she hate the man whose touch sets her aflame? But to save him, she must give herself body and soul…and face the wrath of a powerful adversary sworn to destroy her.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: The Darkest Secret is Gena Showalter’s latest edition in the on-going Lords of the Underworld series. I love this series, have read most of it at least twice and until now there has not been a single book in this series that I haven’t liked. Until now, I said. To be fair, I didn’t totally dislike The Darkest Secret but it left me feeling a little meh at the end. Let me tell you why this feeling sucks so hard: because this is the story of the dark and beautiful keeper of Secrets, Amun. I so wanted to feel warm and fuzzy at the end of this book and for Amun, the most caring of all the Lords to find peace. What I got was just meh.
Amun’s story begins with him having just returned from a trip to Hell, his body is overrun by a bajillion demons, he has not spoken to anyone in a few millennia, and he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Haidee, the woman who took the head of his brother-in-arms, Baden. This butt-load of baggage should have exploded all over the pages and instead it just sort of trickled out and oozed all over the pages. Don’t get me wrong the trickling and oozing was interesting but not what I have come to expect from this author and from this series.
Amun and Haidee’s story plays out as I expected it too with no real surprises along the way. The two are transported to Hell in order to find a way to remove the bajillion demons from Amun before they claim his sanity and his life. The tension between Amun and Haidee is palpable; they hate one another yet at the same time both desperately want to shag one another. The most interesting part of this journey is how Showalter brings these two sworn enemies together. Of course this struggle leads to some fabulous and frequent naughty bits J Remember, this love-to-last-the ages is developing in and around these two finding clever and creative ways to overcome the incredibly creepy, sinister, evil, and sometimes slithery obstacles before them in Hell. Hell, we’ve been there and done that!
OK, OK! I’ll stop with the ranting and the negativity but only because I feel absolutely compelled to tell you about The Darkest Secret’s sub-plot. Now this little bit of drama has me fired up and ready to send Showalter a nice long email that ends with “TYPE FASTER!!” In general, the full cast and crew of the Lords of the Underworld series appear in each and every edition of this series but in this instance Showalter broke with tradition and focused most of our attention (easily ¼ of the novel) on Strider, the keeper of Defeat. Grrrrr, hello, Strider! Don’t misunderstand: Showalter did not write two totally separate stories in one novel. In fact, she made Strider an important part of Amun’s story while at the same time laid the ground work for Strider’s story. Based on the information that is tantalizingly (and tauntingly) dangled in front of us in The Darkest Secret, Strider’s story has the potential to be one of the best books in this entire series!!
The Bottom Line: yeah, I was a bit disappointed in Amun’s story. Since his introduction, Amun has always been one of the most fascinating characters for me and I somehow wanted more for him than what he got. On the flip side, there was the Strider part of the story that has left me a bit desperate for the release of the next book. The combination of disappointment and shear excitement sort of cancelled out each other and left me feeling well, a little ambivalent. Write faster, Gena Showalter, I need some more Strider in my life.
The Darkest Surrender (Strider’s story) is scheduled for release September 27, 2011. I have already marked my calendar.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
I don’t do Samantha-that’s me. But I just couldn’t pass up a surprise kiss from my number-one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me…something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It’s like part of me is missing-and I don’t know if I can get itdangerous.
Smart, über-careful, ordinary back.
Then there’s Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he’s keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he’s what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me….
When angels and demons must work together, something beyond evil is rising…
My Rating: 4½ super-strong stars out of 5!
My Review: Welcome to Samantha’s life: she’s smart, fairly attractive, very conservative, and being kissed by the hottest guy in the local club. Oh yes, the guy, the one who lives just a few doors down and the one Sam has had a crush on for years. Too bad he’s also sucking out her soul! Balls! Should have known that kiss was too good to be true.
So, what does a high school girl with no soul do with herself? Sam begins to eat uncontrollably though never satisfied, shivers from the intense cold she now constantly feels, and runs into a completely hot yet totally brains-scrambled angel by the name of Bishop. At a single touch, both Bishop and Sam begin to feel some relief from their various ailments: Bishop’s mind clears and Sam begins to feel warm once again. Oh, and Bishop tells Sam he’s an angel sent from Heaven to complete a top-secret, save the world from total annihilation mission. There went that warmth Sam was feeling.
Here’s what I like about this novel:
1) Sam: although she can be a bit angsty at times, Sam always seems to step up to the plate and help in whatever way she can. She is also very determined and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals and those of the Earth-saving team. Sam has a hidden reserve of strength that makes her the strongest character in the book and as the novel continues you just like her more and more.
2) The Earth-saving team: Bishop is not the only member of the team. There are two other angels, Connor and Zach, and two demons, Roth and Kraven, the last of whom is Bishop’s snarky yet seriously funny brother. Huh? The angel and the demon are brothers? Angels and demons are working together to save the Earth? Indeed they are! Turns out there’s a big bad out there that no one in either Heaven or Hell wants running around unchecked. Because the team is made up of such divergent personalities there is always a palpable tension among the members. The tension just makes the story and the characters more fun and, at times, a bit unpredictable.
3) The amount of unanswered questions: Yes, I liked the unanswered questions. Sure, Rowan ties up some of the loose ends but the questions she leaves unanswered are legion. The ending of this book is quite satisfactory but the unanswered questions leave the reader knowing there is more of this cast of characters to come and that is a very good thing!
The Bottom Line: I only have one complaint about this book and it’s a very minor complaint. There is a fair bit of high school drama in this novel; I know, it’s a YA novel there should be high school kid drama but as an adult reader, I can do without said drama. With that being said I really do feel this is a minor complaint and barely distracts from the awesome of the book as a whole.
Synopsis from Goodreads: England’s Tower of London was the terrifying last stop for generations of English political prisoners. A Dangerous Inheritance weaves together the lives and fates of four of its youngest and most blameless: Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane’s younger sister; Kate Plantagenet, an English princess who lived nearly a century before her; and Edward and Richard, the boy princes imprisoned by their ruthless uncle, Richard III, never to be heard from again. Across the years, these four young royals shared the same small rooms in their dark prison, as all four shared the unfortunate role of being perceived as threats to the reigning monarch.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: I don’t care for an unsolved mystery; never have, never will. I generally find the answer to the mystery far more interesting than the allure of not ever knowing. (yep, you guessed it, I don’t like surprises either) With this being said, Alison Weir’s A Dangerous Inheritance is so entertaining I was able to forget my great dislike for unsolved mysteries.
A Dangerous Inheritance is a sweeping historical fiction novel dealing with the still-unsolved mystery of the fate of the two young princes in the tower of London. Rather than simply telling the princes story from their perspective (which would have been difficult since they were only children when they disappeared) Weir connects two generations of royal women who tell the story of the boys as it related to their own lives. Here’s the skinny:
Kate Plantagenet is the bastard daughter of King Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king and the man in power when the young princes went missing. Though a bastard by birth, Kate is favored by her father and when he takes the throne, Kate’s status throughout the kingdom is decidedly elevated. For the entirety of her life, Kate has adored her father, a man who is gentle, kind and caring to both his legitimate and illegitimate children. Once in power the man Kate has known her whole life becomes someone very different and it is hard for Kate to reconcile the two disparate natures of her own father. Furthermore, Kate finds it hard to imagine he is anything like the rumors she is hearing about him: did he really take the throne by force thus becoming known as the Usurper? Is he really capable of all the betrayal and double-dealing that is constantly talked about? Could he really have killed the two young princes in order to remove any threat to his claim to the throne? For Kate the fate of the princes is tied to the image of her father and she becomes near-obsessed with finding out what really happened to them.
Just a few generations following Kate Plantagenet’s death there is Katherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane Grey (the ultimately beheaded nine day Queen) and a young woman who is, by virtue of her birth, eligible to inherit the English throne much to the great displeasure of Elizabeth I. Katherine’s life is a constant series of questions: will she or won’t she be officially recognized as the heir to the throne? Should she remain Protestant as she was raised? Would it be better (read: safer) to convert to Catholicism? Will any of her constantly surveyed actions lead her straight to the Tower of London where she will meet the same fate as her sister? Like the two young princes generations before her, Katherine’s life is in constant turmoil because of her claim to the throne; that is, her very existence is a threat to the ruling monarch. When Katherine stumbles upon a portrait of Kate Plantagenet and a bundle of the girls’ letters and notes she, like her predecessor becomes obsessed with the fate of the young boys.
The novel alternates from chapter to chapter between Kate and Katherine with Kate living through the making of the mystery and Katherine living a few generations later and finding parallels in her own life to that of both Kate Plantagenet and the young princes. Both women are products of their time and place and are often used as pawns in the games being played by the men in their lives. Like the princes before them, both young women were destined to live short and disturbingly sad lives because of their nearness to the throne.
The Bottom Line: Although there are some very dry moments in this novel it is, overall a very interesting read and will certainly appeal to enthusiasts of the mystery of the princes and England’s Tudor age. Since both of the primary characters have (basically) the same name the shorter chapters can be a bit frustrating to remember which Kate and which age you are reading about. On the flip side, the longer chapters will draw you in and Weir’s writing style will allow you to become completely absorbed in both the time and the place. The last third of the novel moves very swiftly as each young woman’s story (and the prince’s story) reaches its inevitable end. While I can’t say I was rooting for either of the Kates I can certainly say was taken in by both women and consumed with wanting to know their respective fates. While this novel is certainly appropriate for a young adult reader I think, given the overall length and subject matter, it is more appropriate for an older crowd.
Synopsis from Goodreads: An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . . Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.
My Rating: 3½/5 stars
My Review: BAH! To say that I have struggled with this book and review doesn’t even get me into the ball park. My mom recommended this book to me and rarely, especially where
historical fiction is concerned, is my mom wrong about a book. But I have to admit, in this instance mom led me a just a teeny tiny bit astray. Sorry, Mom 🙂
If I break The Crown into thirds, I really did enjoy the first and the final third of the book. The middle third that caused me all the difficulty. The book opens with Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun having broken her vows so that she may be present when her oldest and dearest childhood friend is being burned at the stake for defying King Henry VIII. Little does Joanna know her little show of loyalty will actually land her in the Tower and at the mercy of one of England’s most heinous and power-hungry clergymen. In order to secure
her release from the Tower and insure the safety of her still-imprisoned father, Joanna agrees to return to her priory in order to re-take her place among the good sisters and find a legendary crown that will help bring the end of Henry VIII’s and his henchman Cromwell’s suppression of England’s religious houses.
In the middle third of the book Joanna is doing her best to fulfill her mission and searches throughout the priory for the elusive crown. As she searches, Joanna is also brought into a variety of other circumstances and situations that threaten to derail her mission at every turn. While the plot certainly advances in this section of the book, it does so at a painfully slow pace. Who knew fact-gathering and sleuthing could be so damn dull?? Had I not called my mother to complain about this, I would have never gotten to the end of the
novel. My mother assured me that I needed to keep reading, get through the middle
section, and then enjoy the conclusion of the story. Thanks, Mom, that helped!
In my mom’s defense, it actually was good advice and the conclusion of The Crown was really quite good. Like the first third of the book, the last third really picks up the pace and moves like it means it. Everything in which Joanna has been involved, up to this point, comes to a head and her sleuthing and fact-finding pays off. Not only does Joanna solve one mystery, she solves two, is reunited with her father, and discovers her life as a Dominican nun may not be all there is for her in the world. The conclusion is actually quite satisfying and leaves the reader with the impression that, while this portion
of Joanna’s life is indeed over, her story is far from being complete.
Joanna, as a character, is one of The Crown’s greatest strengths. Joanna is both a woman of her time and a woman far ahead of her time. As for being a product of her time, Joanna is a devout Catholic in a time when religion dominated all aspects of life. Furthermore, Joanna is a faithful and loyal individual who cares deeply for those closest to her, her fellow sisters, her family, and her Church. As for being a woman ahead of her time, 1) Joanna is very well-educated thanks to her forward-thinking father, 2) she is outspoken
even when she knows the “rules” of her time and place demand she be seen and not heard, and 3) she is courageous often beyond all sense and reason. Even in the slowest part of the novel, watching Joanna work and deal with all that she finds is fascinating. While I can’t say I connected with her on a personal or emotional level, I was interested in Joanna and how her story would play out. Also, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about that silly crown.
The Bottom Line: I am glad I read this book. It fed my need and my love of historical fiction, but I can’t see recommending this book to just anyone. This book does take some patience (of which I have very little), but it is worth it in the end. Joanna Stafford is an excellent character, and a few other minor characters were quite intriguing, but these characters just weren’t quite enough to allow me to ignore the slowness of the middle third of the book. If you have spare time, are extremely patient, or are just OK with taking your time reading a book, then I highly recommend The Crown. The plot is good, the
writing style is fine, and the historical aspects are interesting.