The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

Genius and the Muse

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Kate Mitchell decided to research the mysterious portrait in the student gallery, she had no idea how her life would change. She thought she knew what she wanted. She had a great boyfriend, a promising career, and a clear path.
How could one simple portrait change all that?
A photograph. A sculpture. A painting. One clue leads to another, and Kate learns that pieces of the past might leave unexpected marks on her own future, too.
And how, exactly, did she end up in an irritable sculptor’s studio?
One portrait may hold the answers, but learning its secrets will challenge everything Kate thought she knew about love, art, and life. A single picture can tell more than one story, and in the end, a young artist will discover that every real love story is a unique work of art.
The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary romance novel for adult readers.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Me Review: Elizabeth Hunter’s The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary adult romance
set in the art communities of both California and New York. This novel is what I like to think of as a “just one more chapter” book. In case you aren’t familiar with this type of novel, allow me to explain. It’s the book you’re still reading at two a.m. when you know you should be sound asleep, but just want to read one more chapter. Before you know it, the sun is up, the book is finished, and you just can’t bring yourself to feel bad about that.

Genius’s plot revolves around photography graduate student Kate Mitchell. Kate has spent her academic career studying the fine art of photography and has focused all of her attention (and thesis, yikes) on the work of the immensely talented, world-renowned, and ultra-reclusive photographer Reed O’Connor. Kate intimately knows everything there is to know about O’Connor’s work. That is, until the day she comes across a photograph that is absolutely uncharacteristic of everything O’Connor has ever produced. Like a dog with a bone, Kate can’t let it go.

The bulk of the novel moves back and forth between the present and the past, following Kate as she tracks down O’Connor’s friends and colleagues in an effort to understand the mystery
behind the unusual photograph. What Kate discovers takes the reader and most of the novel’s characters on an emotional ride through the past and into the private life of one of the world’s most famous and misunderstood artists. Hunter has successfully overcome the sort of disjointed feel that novels of this type often have. In fact, Hunter has created a present and a past that are truly two inseparable parts of a whole; the time periods come together in
beautifully cohesive way.

The journey to understanding O’Connor is made even more fascinating by the people in his
circle, and how each and every one was effected by Reed’s life and significant drama. Through her research Kate meets and introduces the reader to O’Connor’s inner circle, a group that is still surprisingly close-knit. These superbly-developed characters are so perfectly written that each and every one has a balance to their own personality found in another character. Hunter
cleverly only allows each character to divulge so many pieces of the puzzle before pointing Kate toward another member of the group. In truth, the characters and the story they tell will completely engross the reader. Each character is so intriguing in his or her own way that they become as important to the overall plot as Kate and O’Connor are. Again, two halves of a wonderfully cohesive whole.

The bottom line: if you’re not reading Elizabeth Hunter’s novels, you should be! Her plots and characters are fully developed and well-researched. The artspeak and technical parts of
this book are a fine balance between informative and interesting yet not so technical as to turn off the casual reader. (Susan Vreeland, anyone?) Hunter’s writing style is so smooth, and her plots (this one included) just carry the reader through from beginning to end.

The Force of Wind by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

The Force of Wind

Synopsis from Goodreads: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? What would you sacrifice to kill the one you hate? Join Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo as they travel to a hidden island on the far edge of China to seek the help of an ancient immortal court. Can they weave their way through the tangled web of centuries-old alliances and ruthless feuds to find what they’ve been looking for? Friends will be revealed, enemies will find them, and a dangerous secret will come to light.
The third book in the Elemental Mysteries series will see Giovanni and Beatrice joined by a group of unlikely allies as they explore the history and myth of the far East. Many have been stolen, but only one holds the key.

The Force of Wind is the third book in the four-part Elemental Mysteries series. It is the sequel to This Same Earth and is a paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers.

Source: author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review: Holy cats!  There doesn’t seem to be any stopping Elizabeth Hunter.  The Force of Wind, the third installment of her Elemental Mysteries series is a force to be reckoned with.  Honestly I feel like this book snuck up on me and b***h-slapped me.  Are you kidding?

The Force of Wind is a sort of slow burn that opens in China and remains there for almost the entirety of the novel.  Giovanni and Beatrice find themselves welcomed to Mount Penglai, the super-secret home of the council of Elders, the Immortal world’s version of the Supreme Court.  Here’s the skinny: Gio and B have finally discovered the location of the illusive manuscript they have been hunting throughout the series; the evil-as-Satan-himself Lorenzo has shown up to petition the Elders of the court for possession of said book and Stephen de Novo; B is becoming a serious bad ass and a vampire; and Tenzin is offering up personal information about her background and she has a mate.  What??  Tenzin has a mate?  Stephen de Novo is alive and well? Lorenzo is playing nice and bowing to the will of the Elders?  For those who have followed this series from the beginning these are the some of the questions that have been lingering and are finally answered.  Believe me the long-awaited answers to these questions are quite satisfying and somewhat unexpected.

The pace and progress of this novel is truly like a slow burn with plenty of information being offered up but very little big action until the very end.  While this may seem dull to some readers, followers of the series will find it quite informative, interesting, and above all intriguing as the information creates a whole list of new questions that . . . . are not answered in this novel.  Damn you, Elizabeth Hunter – you’re an evil genius!  As for the action at the end, it is fast, furious, and tragic; this is also the part of the novel that snuck up on me like a stealthy ninja, b***h-slapped me and then ran away.  The end of the novel is one of the strengths of both the novel and the series as a whole.  Hunter is not afraid to sacrifice some of her characters, beloved or otherwise, just to keep the reader happy.  Although the reader may hate to discover who is lost, the reader will also understand that the loss is necessary and is done for the overall betterment and advancement of the plot and series.

The bottom line: The Force of Wind is yet another excellent read from the laptop and mind of Elizabeth Hunter.  The pace, although slow at first, is not a problem as it pays off in spades by novel’s end.  The standard characters evolve; the long-reaching plot line advances; the shorter novel-specific plot line is handled beautifully and; the cliff hanger is more  than enough to have the reader begging for the fourth and final installment of this series, A Fall of Water.

Building from Ashes by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

Building from Ashes

Synopsis from Goodreads:  For a thousand years, powerful earth vampire Carwyn ap Bryn has served others. God. His family. His friends. But tragedy and loss disrupt his peaceful existence, causing him to question everything he has committed his eternity to.
Brigid Connor has known about vampires since they rescued her from a painful childhood. But not even their vast elemental power can save her from the demons that torment her.
As loyalties are tested and new paths are forged, a lurking danger slowly grows in the Elemental World. Carwyn and Brigid will learn that even secrets revealed can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.
A continuation/spinoff of the Elemental Mysteries series.  The timeline in this books stretches from BEFORE A Hidden Fire starts (so you see a little character history) until AFTER A Fall of Water finishes. As I’m sure lots of you could tell, Carwyn had quite a few things going on in his life that didn’t make it into Gio and Beatrice’s story. So Building From Ashes explores that storyline and also sets up the Elemental World for some new adventures…

Source: ARC from author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review: I am officially out of adjectives to describe exactly how much I love Elizabeth Hunter and the Elemental Mysteries world she has so beautifully crafted!  Building from Ashes is Carwyn’s story and is a stand-alone companion to the Elemental Mysteries series.  As always I find myself unable to assign anything other than 5 stars to this excellently written novel.

Carwyn is a one thousand year old vampire who is the leader of his large clan, a lover of loud and ridiculous Hawaiian shirts and professional wrestling and, a Catholic priest (yes, the Vatican knows about his fangy bits!) who has always placed his love of God, church, and family above his own needs and desires.  To the world Carwyn is always the life of the party telling jokes and pulling pranks and appearing to genuinely enjoy his long life.  Underneath the jovial exterior is the more private Carwyn, a passionate man of faith and devotion; a cunning, strong, and deadly fighter who will protect those he calls his own no matter the cost.  Though many in the immortal community know and respect Carwyn they also often underestimate him and the lengths he will go to protect those he loves and holds dear.  That never goes well J

Brigid is a fiercely tough, highly intelligent, independent yet loyal human who has been under the aegis of Ioan and Deirdre (Carwyn’s “children”) since she was forcibly removed from her abusive household as a small child.  Brigid’s life has undoubtedly been hard, even near-unbearable at times but she has never wanted nor accepted anyone’s pity.  Throughout her life and with the unwavering support of her family, Brigid has worked tirelessly to overcome any and all obstacles blocking her path to true independence and success.  Though not a vampire, Brigid makes a name for herself as head of security to the leader of Dublin’s immortal community.  For the most part, Brigid has the life she has always dreamed of until all hell breaks loose, Ioan is killed, and new drug for immortals begins to invade Brigid and her family’s life.

It is clear from the beginning Carwyn and Brigid are meant to be together; they are yet another perfectly matched and balanced pair created by Hunter to populate the Elemental Mysteries world.  For me, this type of harmonious balance found between two characters is one of Hunter’s greatest strengths as an author.  Brigid is human, Carwyn is immortal; Carwyn is a priest, Brigid a devout Catholic not likely to sleep with a priest; Brigid is a young twenty-something, Carwyn is 1,000ish; Brigid is broken in some very fundamental ways; Carwyn is patient, kind, caring, and willing to wait.  Both are stubborn but in the end, they are so worth the wait!

In many instances throughout the novel, Brigid and Carwyn are kept apart or thrown together because of developments in the plot rather than by their own choice.  This is a two-for-one special, dear reader.  While the plot is developing and unfolding so is the struggle toward a relationship between Carwyn and Brigid; the plot and major characters are so intimately tied to one another you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.  BRILLIANT!!  This symbiotic relationship between the plot and her people creates such a smooth and enjoyable read you don’t realize how much and how far you have read until it’s too late and the story has come to an end.  Again I feel compelled to point how BRILLIANT this is!!

The bottom line: I LOVE THIS BOOK!!  Hunter’s writing style is so smooth and easy you don’t even notice how quickly she pulls you into her world.  Both the plot and characters are fully developed and real as well as being engaging and interesting.  As a reader, you can absolutely connect to these characters and their story and I was pretty much hooked from the very first page.  While Building from Ashes is meant to be a stand-alone companion to the Elemental Mysteries series (and it certainly can be read as such) I would highly, highly recommend reading the four Elemental Mysteries books beforehand.  Ashes follows the general time line and plot of the four previous books and absolutely enhanced and enriched my reading experience where Building from Ashes is concerned.  Absolutely and without doubt a top-notch read!

What I hope is going to happen:  It is clear Elizabeth Hunter is in no way done with the Elemental Mysteries world.  (The crowd rejoices in a loud and inappropriate manner!!)  Here’s what I foresee and hope for where the suture of this series is concerned:

1)   Ben and Tenzin aren’t done causing trouble and will be back better than ever in a future novel – their own novel????

2)   With the death of Ioan, Deirdre is going to take on a larger role within the clan and eventually find a new mate.  Deirdre is such a large presence I truly don’t think her story is done just yet.  Please don’t be done yet.

3)   Carwyn and his clan along with B and Gio and their clan are going to come together to put the smack down on the as yet unnamed dealer/creator of Elixir

A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

A Hidden Fire

Synopsis from Goodreads: “No secret stays hidden forever.”
A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he’d abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.
A Hidden Fire is a paranormal mystery/romance for adult readers. It is the first book in the Elemental Mysteries Series

Source: ARC from author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review: Elizabeth Hunter’s A Hidden Fire is a fantastic ride that takes the reader back and forth from the present-ish to Renaissance Italy and back again.   Giovanni Vecchio (aka Gio) is a man-ish on a mission; for the past several centuries, he has worked non-stop to retrieve his rare and ancient library that was stolen from him.  During those centuries, Giovanni has always managed to keep himself separate from the mortal world only venturing out when his needs outweigh his desire to remain apart.

A Hidden Fire opens with Gio completing yet another night of research; his work frequently takes him to the Special Collections section of the library where he spends many, many solitary hours studying and copying ancient texts under the watchful eye of library employee Beatrice de Novo.  B, as she prefers to be known finds the ultra-quiet and ultra-hot Dr. Vecchio quite the mystery man.  He just sits there working diligently week after week with little to no unnecessary conversation.  When the two do interact it is typically business related but through these interactions Gio discovers that B is no mere employee: she is witty, intelligent, fun, beautiful, and quite unfortunately, human.  Damn the luck!

And then the plot thickens: Giovanni learns that B is more than just intelligent, she is also observant and intuitive and before long figures out not only Gio’s true nature but also many of his secrets; secrets that he has kept well hidden for centuries.  For Gio, this experience is quite unnerving, unexpected, and not entirely unwelcome.  In the ensuing weeks, Gio and B become closer and closer to one another and to unraveling the mystery behind the missing library.  Their search leads them from Gio’s Houston mansion back through the ages to Renaissance Italy (figuratively speaking, of course) where all the drama began.  B becomes vital to not only the search for the library but Gio’s life, and when her life is threatened, Gio must make a very difficult decision: the library or the girl.

To B’s great disbelief and even greater heartbreak, the dumbass chooses the library!  Or does he?  This is where the story really, really gets good.  Hunter spends the last quarter of the book detailing Gio’s search for B and her time spent as a captive – a result of the moron’s choice.  In this part of the book we learn a great many of the dirty details about Gio’s past and how he plans to deal with the traitor who stole his library and his girl.  We also get to know more about the minor cast of characters including Gio’s butler Caspar, the Hawaiian-shirt loving priest Carwyn, and the incomprehensibly old Tenzin.  Of Gio’s allies, there is not a single character that is off-putting or unlikeable.  In fact, all of these characters are interesting, endearing, and entertaining in their own way.  On the flip-side of this are the villains who are as deplorable as Gio and his allies are likeable.

The bottom line: I was damn pissed off when this novel ended!  Hunter’s character development is one of the strongest aspects of this novel and I want to know precisely how this is going to play out, NOW!  While the major arc of this novel is completed, Gio and B’s story is not.  Of the cast of minor characters, there is also a great, great deal of potential for future plot lines.  So dear reader, imagine my great joy when I electronically turned the page and discovered that many of my lingering questions are going to be answered in December 2011 with the second installment of the Elemental Mysteries series, This Same Earth.  To be fair, I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Hunter is not going to answer all my questions so I will be pissed off again.  But, I am also not ashamed to admit that while being all pissy I will also be eagerly and quite likely desperately awaiting the third installment of this fantastic new series.

A Fall of Water by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

A Fall of Water

Synopsis from Goodreads: No secret stays hidden forever.”
Still grieving from their loss in the far East, Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo discover that for them, all roads really do lead to Rome. But nothing is quite as it seems in the Eternal City. Joined by Carwyn and Tenzin, unexpected clashes greet them almost immediately, and rivalries churn beneath the glittering facade of the old Roman court. They quickly realize that allies might be enemies, and ancient rivals could hold the key to a deadly secret.
Giovanni and Beatrice will be forced to call on old alliances, ancient power, and fierce cunning to survive for the eternity they both desire. Sometimes, finding the end means going back to the beginning. Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water finally meet with devastating results in the conclusion of the Elemental Mysteries.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/ 5 stars

My Review: I have come to realize that no matter what, Elizabeth Hunter is not going to disappoint me! A Fall of Water, the fourth and final novel in the Elemental Mysteries series, is no exception to this rule. In this insanely good and completely satisfying novel, all of the questions are finally answered.

Once again, Hunter opens the novel by swiftly moving through a large chunk of time in a very expedient manner. B and Gio must spend the year separated from most of their family and friends, as B learns to control her new vampire abilities and appetites. Eating one of her friends or her grandmother just wouldn’t do! During this time both B and Gio continue their studies into the elusive (and now stolen) text that is thought to contain the formula for an elixir that will allow vampires to live without consuming blood. Sound too good to be true?

As B and Gio soon discover the truth of the text and the elixir is absolutely way too good to be true. The couple moves their
entire household to Rome where they begin to unravel the mystery of the elixir, and why the truth of its very existence and side effects has been buried. At this point, Hunter begins to introduce a whole new host of characters. While it may seem awkward to introduce new characters at this stage in the game, these characters are so beautifully woven into the existing plot that they feel like they have been a part of the series from the beginning. Side note: I have already emailed Hunter with my request for an entire series on these new characters ☺ You are certainly welcome to thank me at any time.

As the plot reaches its climax, the proverbial crap hits the fan. B, Gio, Tenzin, Carwyn (who I think has a lady friend), and
a whole host of others open a can of whoop-ass on Rome in an effort to contain the mess created by the release of the blood lust formula. Hunter has come up with some incredible fight scenes in the past, but this one is four kinds of EPIC!! Tenzin is in fine and vengeful form, B is phenomenally strong, Gio is ruthless, and Carwyn is just flat-out impressive. I can promise you, at the end of the fight, you won’t see this one coming.

The bottom line: this novel kicks ass and is one of the most satisfying ends to a series that I have encountered in a very, very
long time. B and Gio’s story is over, and it is an ending that is so very appropriate and gratifying. With this being said, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that I don’t think Carwyn’s story is over. For the record, I am desperately hoping that this holds true for Tenzin and Ben, as well. Once you read the end, you’ll see what I mean ☺