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Currently Browsing: romance
Nov
9

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review

Review: By Hook or By Crook by Eleri Stone + bonus review By Hook or By Crook Author: Eleri Stone Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Note: The author and Carina Press put out a free prequel novella, The Adventures of Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire, which I recommend reading prior to By Hook or By Crook, as it shares quite a bit of the couple’s mutual history. I’ve included my review of the novella at the end of this post. Cassius Flynn and Molly McGuire have always made good partners. So out of a sense of debt and because she still cares for him, Molly agrees to help Flynn on a spy mission for the Rangers, even if it means she has to pretend to be a lady and mingle with the Scrapers. Having recently turned from his smuggling ways, Flynn is trying to create a life that is stable and one which Molly would be proud of. He thinks having her come up into the cities will give her the chance to relax and enjoy how the other half lives. After following Molly and Flynn dance around one another through a couple of the Reaper titles, I was very excited to read their romantic story. I am happy to report that By Hook or By Crook did not disappoint. Molly and Flynn’s journey is sweet, passionate, and an exciting adventure! Ms. Stone drops readers right into high adventure and action as Molly and Flynn attempt to secure a treasure left in a Reaper-infested town. Right from the start I was on edge; the tension is high and well detailed. Flynn is an interesting character who started life as a wealthy scraper, then turned his back on his corrupt stepfather, Stark, to become a smuggler on the plains. But Flynn never could just walk away from Stark, taking every opportunity to needle him and hamper his business efforts. This need for continual vengeance is what ultimately puts Flynn and Molly back in Scraper territory and in danger. Yet, Flynn loves Molly with all his heart and wants to be a better man for her. These conflicting drives and emotions are what makes Flynn the man he is, and unfortunately, sometimes blinds him to the truths around him. Equality as complex and exciting, Molly is fairly content with her scavenging lifestyle. She’s had a tough life, yet while those around her always let her down, she refuses to allow the actions of others dictate who she wants to be...
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Nov
6

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance Author: M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Warning: Potential Spoilers. I absolutely love a good suspense wrapped around a fabulous romance. M.S. Parker and Shiloh Walker have created an intriguing story with a well-crafted plot that kept me riveted to the page. Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance leads the reader down a trail, splits the path, and hops on a highway. The best kind of suspense. Carly grew up the daughter of a famous musician. I connected with her in a lot of ways—not that I have money or anything—but because she lived in a shadow, and had to put on a facade for the public. People didn’t *really* know who she was—only what she let them see. Watching her evolve from a cantankerous, saucy girl into a woman that cared deeply about things was one of the highlights of the book for me. Can’t discount Bobby though. After living through a stint in prison for killing a man—in a self-defense situation—he did his time and was paroled. Doesn’t mean it didn’t screw up his life. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have regrets. Doesn’t mean he didn’t still think he was a piece of crap, and didn’t deserve happiness. Bobby is the character I really connected with. As he grew through the book, learning to trust and learning his own value, he started to care for people. Sometimes, we don’t realize our own value. We don’t have to go through something like Bobby did—life just hands us a bad hand and we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with the aftermath. Taking a character that’s had it rough and persevered to become a beautiful person gives me hope with the students I teach, too. Watching Bobby and Carly develop as a couple was pretty spectacular, too. There’s one character, a father-figure for Carly, that we lose through the course of the story, and if you follow my reviews at all, I nearly had to put this title down. He dies from cancer, and that’s a HUGE trigger for me. We’re talking down the proverbial rabbit hole for days. I may have some fallout from that little foray, but it wasn’t a big part of the story (the cancer itself), so I’m thinking it’ll be okay. Probably. The reaction of Carly and Bobby to the death of this character was… unique. The suspense part… threats against an...
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Oct
24

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens

Review: Heart Fire by Robin D. Owens Heart Fire Author: Robin D. Owens Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Psst. I missed a Celta’s Heartmates book last year because my reading schedule was full. Well, before the next title releases, Heart Legacy, on November 3, 2015, I HAD to read Heart Fire. Because, one does not simply skip a book in a series. One of the things I love most about the Celta’s Heartmates series is that the main couple spend the bulk of the book kinda-sorta knowing they should be together, but battling their inner demons and working through stuff so they’re actually ABLE to be together in a stable, healthy, relationship. I also really like the Fams—‘familiars’ that are companions of the humanoids. They’re cats, predominantly. What’s not to like? I also geek out when couples from past books reappear. And they do. It’s probably just me, but it seemed like the beginning third of this title moved a little slow. It definitely took me awhile to get into the world of Celta again, and that’s really my only complaint about the book. Might have been the depth of description; having read the prior titles in the series, I’m familiar with a lot of what was described. HOWEVER… this negative for me is definitely a positive for Readers-at-Large. This title *could* be read individually, although the full experience of revisiting characters from the past won’t be fulfilling. Tiana is from a family that fell victim to religious persecution when she was a child. Now a priestess in a DIFFERENT religion, our leading lady stresses entirely too much over what people think of her. No. Really. She does. Tiana is dropped, by her superiors, into a timebomb—stemming from the destruction of her home, and the ensuing scandal. What’s pretty awesome about Tianna is watching her evolution as a person. We all ‘come from’ somewhere, and oftentimes that place defines at least a portion of our self-image. When we can’t reconcile events from our past, it takes a toll on our present, and definitely affects our future. Based on the details we get about Tiana, her self-image is closely tied to her perceived ranking in the social hierarchy. Watching events unfold made me reflect. Not too hard, though. Because, in general, I try not to care what others think (but we all know part of me does…), and I think as I get older, I actually care less. Antenn, adopted son of an influential family,...
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Oct
21

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin

Review: Raging Sea by Terri Brisbin Raging Sea Author: Terri Brisbin Reviewer: Una Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Even though I loved William in the first novel (and still do), I feel that Raging Sea is better than the previous novel, Rising Fire for several reasons. First, the connection and journey of Ran and Soren were stronger, more complex, and therefore a little more dramatic.  Second, the world-building is set so it was very easy to step into the world and be immersed in the plot, which was captivating.  And finally, the novel flowed really well. William is still my favorite hero in this series (and he does appear in Raging Sea).  I enjoyed the romantic and story of William and Brienne in Rising Fire.  However, Ran and Soren had a history that made their connection even stronger and more compelling.  Though the betrayal really bothered me at first, it is clear from the beginning that all may not be what it seems.  Theirs was truly an inner battle between right and wrong.  I loved how the truth was slowly revealed, though my heart wished it had come out sooner.  Their painful past, coupled with the intense attraction, was compelling, and I enjoyed how their journey was entwined with the overarching plot of keeping Chaela imprisoned.  Their awakening to their powers and the truth of their connection was different from the previous novel.  I loved how strong the connection between them was and the reason behind it.  It was great to see that both Ran and Soren were strong on their own, but even more formidable when allied. Ms. Brisbin keeps the tension of a chess match throughout the novel.  We experience the movement and the point of view of both sides as they try to gain the upper hand.  The antagonist is truly cunning and depraved.  He is truly a master manipulator, and I enjoyed watching him fall short (much to his surprise). Though the ending conflict was quick and a bit anticlimactic in a way, it fits with the overall chess match feel.  I am eager to see what happens in the next novel since the antagonist has lost the last two battles and Chaela is running out of portals to escape from.  Combine that with the losses our heroes endured and the regrouping they will need to do along with finding the next two bloodline warriors, and I can’t wait for the next book. I continue to enjoy this series, the...
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Sep
21

Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett

Review: Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett Return to Dark Earth Author: Anna Hackett Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Niklas Phoenix left the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation after his dreams were crushed upon realizing that his mentor and others were selling the artifacts for a profit. That was the day he left to become a treasure hunter with his brothers. Now the Institute wants him back for a never attempted before expedition of ancient Earth. Nera Darc is a deadly treasure hunter who has long been the bane of the Phoenix Brother’s collection efforts. Loaner. Killer. Sneak. But Niklas believes there is more to Nera, and with each encounter, he wants her more and more. When he finds out she’s on the expedition to Earth, he decides it is time to make his move. Nera and Nik’s connection, which began back with the start of the series, was thrust into overdrive when Nik decided it was finally time to make his move. I love how aggressive he became towards Nera once Nik finally decided it was time. He used to be broody, but now he’s optimistic and happy. I love the new Nick. Putting the pair into danger – it’s the pair against the world, literally – helped bring them together in a way only imminent death can. I think my favorite aspect of their dynamic is that Nik truly sees Nera as his equal. He treats her as he would any other; even better because he respects her, listening to her and not trying to protect her unnecessarily, trusting her to take care of herself. Their romance is full of excitement, both in the bedroom and out. They are silly and tender, rough and passionate. “As Niklas walked alongside Nera the next morning, he felt sated and relaxed… but he had more than a few aches. The scratches on his back stung, he had a handful of bite marks, and his muscles were aching. None of it had anything to do with escaping from rampaging zombies. He smiled. He’d never felt better.” While I enjoyed watching Nik and Nera circle their feelings and finally connect, I had a few issues with the overall plot of the story. I understand that it’s science fiction, but when a Incan-descended tribe describes English as the “language of the ancients,” I had to raise an eyebrow. Additionally, for every trip onto the highly radiated planet, the teams had a set amount of time they could stay before...
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Sep
9

Review: Breakout by Ann Aguirre

Review: Breakout by Ann Aguirre Breakout Author: Ann Aguirre Reviewer:  Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Breakout picks up right where Havoc left off, completing the Dred Chronicles.  The series should be read in order.  New readers of the trilogy will have the luxury of reading the series without the publication gaps the rest of us have experienced.  However, Aguirre created such strong characters and vivid descriptions that I had no problems falling right back into the confines of the penal colony of Perdition and its conspiracies. In fact, it turned out to be a relatively quick read for that fact. I loved that we got some unexpected background on more than one character, Jael in particular.  That’s not the kind of thing one expects at the end of a series rather than the beginning.  Even though Jael was introduced in the Sirantha Jax series, he’s been a bit of a mystery up until now.  We get flashbacks into his origin that make him sympathetic, even vulnerable.  In the first two books, he’s been more heroic, always guarded.  Now we know it was with good reason. Like Perdition and Havoc, Breakout has parts that are not only gruesome, but gory.  Had this been a movie, one particular section would have bumped it beyond the “R” rating for violence. Breakout’s bloody battles felt more intense because they were one-on-one instead of faction-on-faction.  The reduced fighting numbers following the end of Havoc completely changed everyone’s strategy and in some cases, even their ultimate goals. Everything became personal for everyone.  Perhaps it always was. In the author’s acknowledgments, Aguirre makes this confession:  “My initial plan was to leave Dred and Jael drifting in space with a more open ending, so the reader could decide what happened—if they made it out or if they died together—but I decided that was a cop-out.  Therefore, I hope you’re as pleased with the end of their journey as I am.”  I could tell the exact moment when it would have been easy to for Aquirre to walk away from her characters and call the trilogy complete—or incomplete.  What comes after that moment is more like an extended epilogue, one for which I was very grateful.  Indeed after so many years of abuse and war and stress, the remaining few characters had earned it. We as readers had earned it too and Aquirre ties it all up with tidy, satisfying bow. *contented sigh* My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the...
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Jul
6

Review: Stolen Petals by Katherine McIntyre

Review: Stolen Petals by Katherine McIntyre Stolen Petals Author: Katherine McIntyre Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Viola Embrees runs a respectable bar, but makes her fortune as the Brass Violet, a clever bounty hunter. Unfortunately, Edward Van Clef, aka the Fox, has stolen her bounty out from under her a few times. So when the infamous Fox approaches Viola with an offer to share a bounty, she knows she’ll have to stay a few steps ahead of him to keep him from double crossing her. What she doesn’t expect is to fall for Edward’s charms along the way. Stolen Petals is a charming, short novella, set in an alternate time. Although the author labels the story as steampunk, it’s not overly techno-driven, and the story lacks much of the steam-powered gadgets I look for in a steampunk title. The story read more like alternate timeline of some older period, mixed with some modern language and tech. It’s not bad, but if you are looking for a gadget-heavy world, you won’t find it here. I like Viola and really wanted to learn more about her past and how she came to be a bounty hunter and bar owner. The author does a good job of sharing enough hints about her past to give Viola an intriguing persona, and we understand that she’s had a rough time of life. This is enough to round out her character and pique my interest. Edward is even more of a mystery since the story is never shared from his POV. We only have Viola’s impressions of Edward and his reputation as the Fox. And since her perception of men, and Fox specifically, is a bit tarnished, it’s tough for me to trust his character. Their romantic journey is short; the book is only 65+/- pages, which doesn’t leave much time. I felt Viola gave her trust to Edward way too easily, but there isn’t space to do otherwise and still reach the HEA by the end of the story. It is sweet and hopeful, but not enough to completely win me over. Overall, Stolen Petals is an enjoyable, albeit short, read. The story and romance are both entertaining, yet suffer a little under the brevity of the book. If you are looking for a quick escape for an afternoon, Stolen Petals may be the perfect journey away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. My Rating:  B- Liked It, but I had a few small...
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May
21

Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy The Talon of the Hawk Author: Jeffe Kennedy Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: B+ What We’re Talking About: Since the first book, The Mark of the Tala, we have been eagerly awaiting Ursula’s book.  The Talon of the Hawk was originally to be the final book in this trilogy, but the good news is that this trilogy is now the Twelve Kingdoms series.  However, Ursula’s book wasn’t quite what we expected and both Gikany and Una were torn about it. Ms. Kennedy has an amazing ability to truly capturing a character.  The books in this series are told from the point of view of one of the three sisters.  Each book had a unique feel because Andi, Ami and Ursula are very different women.  Ursula is incredibly independent and private.  She keeps her emotions tightly bundled and buried.  It is a little difficult to connect to her emotionally because she holds herself apart.  But through her story, we watch her slowly discover herself.  For a woman who has allowed herself to be solely defined by her role and her duties, it was stunning to behold her awakening.  Out of the three sisters Ursula grew the most.  Watching her discover that she has wants and desires and was willing to take risks for those things was a compelling coming of age story for the eldest sister.  Seeing her strive for what she wants and not just clinging to duty and honor was amazing. One element that has Gikany and Una torn is Ursula’s love interest.  Harlan was an enigma.  Granted our perspective of him is entirely Ursula’s (who trusts no one) and we kept waiting for him to betray her.  Even after the story ended, we figured he would still betray her.  Harlan is just too good to be true.  Maybe what also triggered our distrust were a few moments when Ursula allowed herself to completely let go of control and allow Harlan to dominate her and the situation.  This did not sit well with us and seemed out of character for her.  In spite of our reservations, the dance of their courtship was gripping. The best part of Ursula’s story is that she is the one to tie up all the loose ends from the previous novels: Ami’s missing daughter, who will be the heir, the threat of war against Andi and the Tala, and the threat of Uorsin.  We loved how Ms. Kennedy wove all these loose ends...
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Apr
16

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Mark of the Tala Author: Jeffe Kennedy Narrator: Cris Dukehart Audio Speed: 1x Series: The Twelve Kingdoms #1 Genre: Fantasy Romance Source: gift from author Andi never felt like she fit in. She is not as beautiful and kind as her younger sister Amelia, nor as cunning and intelligent as her older sister and heir to the throne, Ursula. She takes refuge in riding her horse far and wide to escape the stares at court and hide from the pity she sees in their eyes. Then everything changes the day she meets a dark stranger in a far away meadow. With one kiss Rayfe unravels Andi’s life, exposing all that she holds kind and true to be a lie. Right from the beginning, The Mark of the Tala grabbed my attention, and I found myself fully entangled in its unique mythology and fascinating tale. I loved that the story is shared solely from the point of view of Andromeda, aka Andi, the middle daughter of High King Uorsin. Through her eyes, heart, and mind, we are witness to her transformation from the least favored daughter to a mighty woman. At first, I simply wanted to find out more about Andi, but then I was on edge as her destiny began to unfold. As her promised betrothed, Rayfe is a terrifying enigma to Andi. She is both scared of, yet drawn to, his darkness. I adored how Rayfe and Andi grow and change both individually and as a pair. While his motives are selfish, he too learns to love. The pair have great chemistry, and I felt their relationship developed at a fitting pace. The mystery of the Tala people is fascinating and exciting. Generally, the narration by Cris Dukehart is well-suited to the feel of the story. She keeps a prim and proper edge to both the dialogue and narration, which is appropriate considering the period and setting of the tale. I preferred her female voices, especially those of Andi and her sisters, but I found her performance of Rayfe and his advisor a bit off. However, in time I grew used to Rayfe’s voice and eventually even liked it. Overall, The Mark of the Tala is a wonderful fantasy romance. Ms. Kennedy has created an interesting mythology in a wonderful world. I enjoyed Andi’s progression from invisible and ignored middle daughter to confident and in-control woman. Although the book is its own...
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Apr
10

Review: Ride to Ruin by Eleri Stone

Review: Ride to Ruin by Eleri Stone Ride To Ruin Author: Eleri Stone Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Ellie’s mother died in a Reaper attack ten years ago, leaving behind Ellie and her younger sister Lu. Now Ellie is living day-to-day, sharing duties and a bed with Dan, but not all that happy with life. When Ellie finds out Lu is wanted for murder, she finally discovers Dan’s true selfish nature. Packing up and heading out to save her sister, Ellie leaves Dan behind. Ranger Garrett Landry is on temporary leave of duties while he tries to locate and save his mom and sister from a cult-like preacher, Blackwell. Since finding both Lu and Garrett’s family are along the same path to Ruin, Garrett and Ellie partner up to make the difficult journey. Along the way, the get help from Lu’s best friend Molly and a known smuggler, Flynn (FYI: Flynn & Molly are the main characters in their own, free online story!) Ride to Ruin, the third title in Ms. Stone’s unique Reaper series, is highly entertaining and a delightful romance. The series is based on an alternate version of Earth, where the Reaper virus, which changes infected men into crazed, flesh-eating monsters, impacted how society developed, with the rich living in the mountains, and the rest living on the frontier, creating a “western” feel for the setting. The border towns are protected by Rangers, men (and a few women) who are immune to the Reaper virus. While reading the first two books in the series is not needed to enjoy Ride to Ruin, it helps put the story into context within its world and the dangers it holds. However, this time around, the story puts most of its energy into and focus on the romance and characters, with hardly any page time for Reapers, the cure, and all of the political issues surrounding the Rangers. I greatly enjoyed this difference and the associated devotion of time spent on the main couple. I felt the story flowed more smoothly overall, and while I wondered what was happening in the political arena, I never missed it. I adored both Ellie and Garrett, especially as a romantic couple. They start off as partners, with both mutual distrust and respect, helping them create a strong foundation based on equality. This is something Ellie was missing with Dan, and she recognized the differences, helping her to trust and fall in love with Garrett. Their banter...
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