Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lorraine Heath - Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel

On a quest to avenge her sister's death, Eleanor Watkins never expected to fall for the man following her through pleasure gardens and into ballrooms. But soon nothing can keep her from the arms of the sinfully attractive scoundrel, not even the dangerous secrets she keeps. Strong, compassionate, and utterly irresistible, James is all she desires. But can she trust him enough to let herself succumb to all the pleasures that midnight allows?
James Swindler has worked hard to atone for his unsavory past. He is now as at home in London's glittering salons as he is in the roughest streets. But when the inspector is tasked with keeping watch on a mysterious lady suspected of nefarious deeds, he is determined to use his skills at seduction to lure Eleanor into revealing her plans. Instead, he is the one seduced, turning away from everything he holds dear in order to protect her—no matter the cost to his heart.

Comment: This is the fourth installment in the Scoundrel's of St James series by author Lorraine Heath. I've been reading the series for the past months and so far this has been more or less balanced and all the stories have been interesting.

This is the story of James Swindler, another of the boys part of the special group Lucien's grandfather helped when they were all children. James has developed a sense of justice during his teenage years so it was no surprise when he joined the Scotland Yard and is now considered one of their best detectives.
Eleanor Watkins is on a mission, she wants revenge from her sister's death at the hands of a rake. But he is nobility so she must investigate before acting and James is put on her tail to see what she would do and that way maybe they can protect the lord.
Both Eleanor and James start spending a lot of time together and their feelings get more obvious but it all seems irrelevant when the lord Eleanor was stalking is killed and soon after she disappears although having James as her alibi...

Overall, this was a good story, as intriguing as the others and it even had a special twist I didn't see coming! But the romance felt a little bit less romantic than the others. It was still sweet at times but because of the plot it all got a sense of not being as easy or without complications which means the story between them isn't totally independent from the plot line and that makes it a bit poetic, if we can say so, about the whole relationship.

The plot is quite ingenious and I was amazed by the twist a a certain point. I'm sure most readers thought about one things while reading but when the twist came out no one would expect it to be that way. I'm not telling as it will ruin the reading but let's just say all the notions most characters had about the heroine and why she was looking for revenge got a meaning no one would envision.
Obviously, this changed the tone of the story a bit and made it... well, not darker, but different from the expectations being build up to that moment. I wondered how romantic this could actually be from then on.
Of course, the author found a way to justify any action done and the end is the proof not all that appears is real because there were a couple more twists (less impressive but still) to solve everything in a way that would "save", so to speak, the protagonist's relationship.

James is the main focus here, despite everything. He is the one who belonged to the gang and after seeing his childhood friends all find love with a special person who not only deserves them but accepted them along with their past, he sort of wished the same could happen to him but we know he used to have feelings for Frannie (heroine book #3). I felt very glad to read at some point how the heroine changed his ways and made him realize how different it is when you are love and your feelings are reciprocated. I think one of the most touching scenes in the whole book was when James explained why he always seems rather sad and not as close to others. It was a very sad explanation but it all got better when he found love.

The heroine has secrets too but for a while it all seems to go a certain way. I liked how her heart was in the right place and everything she did was out of love and a need to find justice for a thing she couldn't change. What surrounds her actions I won't explain, it is part of the book's mystery but I'm very glad she is a true heroine.
Her relationship with James isn't always easy but it's good to see how they didn't give up and towards the end everyone worked together to solve the problems in action and to help James achieve his happiness.

Because I feel this isn't as immensely romantic as the others, I think it's one step down when comparing them but the epilogue is sweet and gives hope to any reader who imagines what can possibly be happening to beloved characters in the future.
Grade: 7/10

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rebecca Zanetti - Mercury Striking

With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynne Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynne is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…   

Comment: This is the book chosen for the book club I'm participating in. This is the first book I've read by this author and I was positively surprised. I might try something else after I read the books in this series, when that happens... This is the first installment in the Scorpius Syndrome series and I really hope all of them have the same structured plot and captivating romance.

In this book we have a catastrophist scenario, for a strange bacteria has infected the world's population, apparently around 99% have died and the remaining people are changed, for better or worse.
Lynne Harmony is a wanted woman, many thing she is cause of the bacteria and its spreading out, others say she wasn't clever enough to stop it, others even claim she might carry a worse strain within her body. What Lynne knows is she needs Mercury, a mercenary of sorts that will help her achieve her goals. She looks for him and is found but she didn't understand she would need to face more people in his group as well...
Jax Mercury is wary of this woman but she might be the key to find one cure or to at least find a way to help those in his care. What he didn't expect is for her to become so important to him.

I must say I still feel rather surprised by how much I liked this story. I mean, it's not a favorite but considering the theme and concept I think it's quite the surprise for me.
I have to say I'm not fond of apocalyptic stories that feature (often) the need for survival of the human species or how difficult it is to manage different groups or goals in surviving. Shows like The Walking Dead truly annoy me, not because I don't appreciate the psychological path characters take - which I do - nor due to the fact I hate blood and death - which I do, but... What really annoys me is how there's this need to focus on how bad things are, how people dream of hope but then we still die, good people die as much as bad people...yes, it can be realistic considering the world affairs but fo that we do have reality. I prefer shows and things where eventually the good guys don't ALL die or where there's a HEA somehow. 
This was what surprised me in this book. We still have glimpses of the wonders of the human race, for good and bad, but the focus is a romance story and that changes everything.

The romance isn't exaggerated to the point where the main characters don't think about anything else but it's was cute at time to see them slowly change because they were falling in love, even if their relationship didn't start as a romance, only a way to share something.
Jax is an intriguing character, he's strong and smart but he's not perfect and not a total alpha..he learns and he suffers and he protects those he considers his "family".
Lynne also grew up during her stay with Jax's group, she is a sweetheart but obviously people are suspicious of her. I liked how she never tried to be someone she's not.
Together, Jax and Lynne aren't the perfect couple, they don't always agree on everything, but the hopeful take they both have because they are in love is sometimes enough to support even terrible things...

The plot has a purpose, obviously. There are some weird types of humans that survived the bacteria and some of them turned into serial killers. These people are now the enemies and, of course, Jax and Lynne ae looking for a cure but will need to face one of these changed humans - called rippers - before any other solution can be discovered. There are battles, there are enemy groups trying to survive...I'm glad we didn't spend too much on that, Jax's group was what really interested me and not all the fights outside.
I hope the next book, featuring a different couple, is as focused as this was on the romance.

All things considered, I liked this book, I feel glad the author wrote things in a way that despite us being aware of dangers and having to face violent and sad things, there is enough goodness to counterbalance and there is always the romance to make it easier to read.
I'm looking for to read the next one, eventually.
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lane Hayes - A Kind of Truth

Rand O’Malley dreams of superstardom. He hopes to one day sing the blues like a rock god. Moving to New York City and hiring a new manager are steps to make his dreams a reality. But nothing moves as fast as Rand would like, and everyone has opinions, which include he keep certain pieces of himself quiet if he plans on making it in the Big Apple. Like his bisexuality.
Will Sanders is a gifted musician who dazzles Rand with his ability to coax gorgeous notes from an electric guitar one moment and play the piano like a professional the next. He’s a geek, but Rand isn’t concerned about Will’s pressed exterior clashing with his tattoos. His focus is music. Yet there’s something about Will that makes Rand think there’s much more to the quiet college student than he lets on. As Rand’s dreams begin to materialize, he’s forced to reconsider his priorities and find his own kind of truth. One that might include Will.

Comment: I was told about this book on GR and somehow agreed with a friend to buddy read it. Then it ended up not being a good buddy read attempt as I read this in one day and my friend only started after. Still, I simply feel glad because this was a story I enjoyed a lot.

In this book we have Rand's story, he's the lead singer and guitar player in an emerging band and he thinks he needs to improve his musical technique while the new guitar player the band has is getting used to play their songs and so on. He meets Will, a geek college student who is very talented with musical instruments. They agree on some lessons but Rand can't help but feel interested and attracted to Will. 
Will has a secret, though and when Rand realizes what it is, his curiosity can't be avoided and the two of them end up together. From there, a relationship begins but can it last?

I had a great time reading this book. It is entertaining, it has interesting characters and the plot isn't boring. There are a couple of things I would change so no, this is not a perfect book but it worked out extremely well, all things considered.
This is also the first book I'm trying by the author and although each book is different, I feel very hopeful in trying other things by her. I'm going to read the next stories in this series and if I like them all, this can potentially be an author to look out for in the genre.

This is a book that focuses on the lives of Rand and Will. Because Rand is in a rock band, many of the situations portrayed mention musical elements and many details about what it's like to be part of a band and which expectations come from it, especially if the band isn't known yet. I didn't find this boring, the information given isn't too detailed so we have some idea but it's not too much and at the same time the surroundings present a good atmosphere for the plot to develop.

The best part of all this is obviously the romance! I liked this wasn't an insta-love scenario and that it took some time for the main characters to think about the other romantically and because we have the 1st person narrator of course we empathize better with Rand, but his relationship with Will was well done, despite only having his input. I liked how seemed to act almost carefully around the other. It was nice too how the author included everyday scenes from their lives, for instance Rand's job in the bagel shop and little scenes of Will's help with music...and the best thing was how sex between them wasn't in every two pages. It did make the story feel more serious and well thought.

I think the two things I would go without were probably the details that annoyed most people but I manages to overlook or simply not focus on so they became just noise and not something I couldn't put aside. I'm talking about Will's parents and the role they had in the antagonism of the romance towards the end of the story and Will's secret identity of sorts.
Will's father isn't someone who puts others first and is in a position he feels he can force Will to act a certain way but I was just so happy with the romance and the little steps taken for them to admit they were in love, I didn't lose time focusing on Will's parents and why they weren't there for him. It was just a detail in the background for me.

I also could step aside from Will's secret and all the tricky stuff that came with it and why he felt he needed that escape, no matter how valid the reasons. I chose not to think about it for real so although it was part of the plot, it wasn't vital to my enjoyment and despite being there, I could not focus on it as well.
I found it made this book a lot better for me if I didn't focus on the things I didn't like so much. This is not possible in all books, but the writing here allowed me to feel this way.

I was just happy with the way this story was developing. I liked how the main characters evolved because of each other, how they - without over the top situations or actions - gradually accepted one another and felt better in each others' company. Somehow, things were done in a way I really liked so, basically, this was a winner for me. I'm also very eager to read the next books soon.
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

TBR Challenge: Madeline Hunter - An Interrupted Tapestry

"New York Times "bestselling author Madeline Hunter weaves passion and adventure into this exquisite love story. A noblewoman, beset by her brother's creditors, offers a cherished tapestry to a wealthy London merchant--who has more on his mind than settling her debts...
Originally published in the anthology "Tapestry"

Comment: And here we are, with the first post of the TBR Challenge for 2017. As it's tradition, the january post is usually dedicated to a short story, a novella, something not too big. Yes, all choices are exactly that, a choice, so readers can pick whatever they want but personally, the fun part is to try to meet the theme.

This novella was originally published in the Tapestry anthology. 
It's the story of Giselle, a woman living in medieval England and how she is down on her luck, her house and all her things might be taken from her because her missing brother hasn't been able to pay his debts. The only valuable thing Giselle has is her virtue so when Andreas, a now wealthy family friend, she makes a joke saying that would help but he doesn't laugh. Giselle also tries to sell the tapestry she has hanging in a room, something she was told was valuable. But can Andreas take advantage? Can Giselle's brother be found?

The author is Madeline Hunter, a writer whose work I'm familiar with so it wasn't difficult to be interested in reading this. I was recommended this to read years ago, probably because I was chatting about the author's books. I got this novella but it has been in the pile for years! This year I thought it would suit the january theme quite well.

This was a short story but it has several details that make it feel more complex. I liked it but I must confess medieval plots aren't as interesting for me nowadays as they used to so I wasn't particularly eager to be in such a set. Like most short stories, we also have a rushed end and situations and that doesn't allow time for characters to fully develop. The protagonists have never been involved but they aren't strangers and it's always very difficult to maintain the balance between familiarity and sudden feelings...something I think wasn't completely well done here.

Giselle is a sweet woman and she isn't aware of her brother's true careless personality and how he doesn't worry about her or their house. I think it's not that far fetched to imagine but in such a short amount of time obviously the things that should happen, her growing up as a character and how she deals with finding her brother's issues and flaws wasn't done with the proper time for it to be believable or complex. So it just felt too quickly done.
Andreas is an intriguing character, I wish we could have seen more of him. He is wealthy but of course he isn't God so he can't do everything he wishes for. He does help Giselle but at the end there is one price for his help. It's cute but sadly, the short amount of time isn't enough to structure such a complex cast and situations well enough, in my opinion.

The romance is quick, as you can imagine. Both Andreas and Giselle have doubts, have things they wish they could say but HEA apart, their relationship just doesn't have enough time to settle well. I know it's difficult to structure a romantic relationship properly without time but then why pushing things just to say there was a romance? Authors can always give that idea, even presenting the HEA notion without creating so much unanswered situations that only make the plot feel weaker. I'm glad the author didn't use the friends to lovers or the lovers reunited tropes because Giselle and Andreas were sort of friends but haven't been equals so it didn't feel like he had to help her. He did because he liked her but honestly I don't think this is true love between them. We just don't have enough scenes leading to it.

I was more interested in the little details included, like the message behind the tapestry presence in the story, what it meant, also the brother's character, we could read a lot between the lines just by having him say a few things or the secondary stuff we learn from others. I liked the author used time to make the main characters act and look for Giselle's brother, looking for answers. Some details about the plot, the environment and the medieval society were also very interesting but just not as good as they could to bring my grade up. Novellas are tricky, there's a certain balance to be achieved but it's possible and even it less pages that this one.
I just think this one focused on one or two things that were unnecessary and not on what would have made it very good.

All things considered, this was a positive story, has interesting elements and characters but isn't solid enough for me in terms of romance and resolution.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Molly Harper - Rhythm and Bluegrass

Bonnie Turkle, multimedia historian for the Kentucky Commission of Tourism, is dispatched to Mud Creek, a tiny eastern Kentucky town, with few prospects but many oddballs, to rescue important artifacts from McBride’s Music Hall. Now fallen beyond disrepair, McBride’s was once a jewel of the early American music scene, an intersection of the country-western and rhythm and blues circuits. The former owner’s grandson, Will McBride, who also happens to be Mud Creek’s esteemed mayor, would like nothing more than to see the place bull-dozed in favor of a factory that will provide much-needed jobs to his citizens. But Bonnie finds evidence of a legendary musical event at the music hall and her plans to turn it into a museum put Mud Creek’s economic future at risk – not to mention the growing flirtation between the two of them. If Will and Bonnie can’t find common ground, the town’s past and future will be lost. 

Comment: This is the second book in the Bluegrass trilogy by author Molly Harper. I've read some book by this author and I've enjoyed almost all of them but I suppose she can be hit or miss for me. I really loved one of her series, then didn't like much the beginning of another and this trilogy, the first book was good enough but this one was one step below...

In this story we follow the work of Bonnie Turkle, the researcher we've heard about in the previous book. Bonnie has the job to travel all around the state looking for interesting and special things to present to the public, things to save and to update and she has known amazing things and people. Now she's going to Mud Creek, an almost abandoned small town that used to rely a lot on factories but the companies have left and the population is depressed and in need of hope and jobs.
Bonnie meets Will, the town's new  young mayor so he can help her with an old place that used to have live music and Bonnie hopes to find hidden gems that were left out when the placed closed down years ago. 
But the mayor has plans to that old site so when Bonnie sees she can use everything and make Mud Creek a point in the touristic Kentucky map, they clash and things don't go so well. Can Bonnie find a way to compromise?

This was a fun story but I have to say it wasn't as impressive to me as the previous one nor was it as amazing as other books by the author.
This story depends a lot on very specific Kentucky references and I confess I miss some of the fun because I can't follow certain things as easily. I also think the biggest problem here is the exaggeration of quirky situations and facts in detriment of a fictional romance. I felt I was swallowed with so many little details about Kentucky's people and about the small elements the author has thought about to make the characters and the setting so specific and apparently cute/fun, that I feel the focus wasn't where it should.

The main character, Bonnie, is resourceful and dedicated and I liked knowing some things about her personality and wishes. But neither her nor Will were as developed as I hoped and I certainly don't think they had the most interesting relationship possible. In fact, I can't understand why they would work out, they are too different and the way things end, although I can feel glad about the outcome I don't think it was stressed out as well as it could if they indeed have a future. Maybe the next book can show them happy or something but in long term it's difficult for me to imagine.
Will, I had  more trouble in empathizing with, just because his actions and how he was developed didn't seem to be as deeply explained as I would have wished.

The focus in the romance wasn't what I imagined but the plot wasn't as strong either. I did enjoy some situations and all the effort Bonnie went through to prove she was a professional and a good person but there is some sense of despair and difficulties when it came to the town itself that, despite interesting, wasn't used in the best way to ensure the  end had more meaning.
The HEA didn't convince me because it felt like Will and Bonnie didn't have much in common anyway. All these elements make this story feel a bit weak to me.

All things considered, this was a cute story but there was just too much information on things that, despite interesting, weren't that vital to the plot and some characterization was over the top. To compensate, the romance was weak and the main couple doesn't seem to fully match. I still had a good time reading but this wasn't as amazing as I hoped for.
Grade: 6/10

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Louise Allen - Virgin Slave, Barbarian King

Julia Livia Rufa is horrified when barbarians invade Rome and steal everything in sight. But she doesn't expect to be among the taken! As Wulfric's woman, she's ordered to keep house for the uncivilized marauders. Soon, though, Julia realizes that she's more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin. It would be all too easy to succumb to Wulfric's quiet strength, and Julia wants him more than she's ever wanted anything. But Wulfric could one day be king, and Julia is a Roman slave. What future can there be for two people from such different worlds? 

Comment: I think I saw a reference to this book at a forum a couple of years ago and the theme seemed interesting. I'm not usually a fan of slaves and masters tropes but the fact this was set in the Ancient Rome was what made me intrigued, especially because of the romance factor. I know slavery is never romantic but this is fantasy and I was interested in seeing how the author would play the romance.

This is the story of Julia Livia Rufa, a citizen of Rome who is kidnapped by a barbarian to become his slave. Rome is in chaos because the Emperor hasn't honored the deal with the so called barbarian people who help the empire to protect its borders. Now the Visigoths are going through Rome to get what they believe is their by right and Julia is taken at that time.
However, living with her kidnapper proves to be more fun and interesting that the type of life she used to have and now Julia makes friends and finds something that makes her feel good. But her relationship with Wulfric, her master, isn't what she expected as he never treats her badly and only acts to rile her up. Can Julia find a new life and forget her past as a Roman?

Apart from all the things that would annoy a person in these modern times, this story wasn't too bad for the most part. Yes, it has situations that aren't easy to romanticize but if one can put aside reality, this fictional story is quite cute. The author didn't try a too heavy tone or a dramatic take on the overall story and that makes it easier to follow and accept. I was actually amused by the antics between Julia and Wulfric and the fact this is simply a fictional story focused on these two turns this into a sweet romance, even if not perfect.

The relationship between the two protagonists was what really made this book different. Yes, they were master and slave but he never treated her badly and he never beat her, for instance. His feelings for her (and hers for him) seemed to happen a bit too quickly considering the whole concept of slavery but the proximity and the attitude of the Visigoths seem to be quite obvious in its difference to Romans so we kind of accept they could be, believably, falling in love.

The plot isn't too complicated, although it has some interesting scenes with the dilemmas Wulfric must deal with because of the poor health of his leader and what will happen, who will succeed when and if he dies. Wulfric's choices are consistent to what we learn of his character and I'm surprised this wasn't portrayed in a more violent way...I suppose the fact this book is published by Mils and Boon and has a specific public target has something to do with the page count and general sense of things, but I'm glad we didn't have to go through too much drama and angst. 
In the end, I don't know if the HEA achieved was good enough for what become the expectations we create but I was glad enough things worked out.

The main characters are interesting, Julia seems too difficult to approach at first but I grew to like her and feel happy by how she decided to become a strong woman and I think her decisions, in a way, reflect that.
Wulfric is everything we expect from a hero warrior and his honor speaks for him.
The secondary characters were constant and offered interesting interactions with the main ones and I liked knowing them for the time we got to see them on the page.
All in all, this was a good book, a story I felt entertained with and for that alone, it was totally worth the reading.
Grade: 8/10

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lara Adrian - Bound to Darkness

Carys Chase is accustomed to making her own rules and letting her heart lead the way--no matter what anyone else has to say about it. A rare Breed female and a daywalker as well, headstrong, beautiful Carys is one of the most powerful of her kind. She lives passionately and loves without limits, especially when it comes to the lethal cage-fighting Breed warrior called Rune.
Unbeatable in the ring, Rune exists in a brutal world of blood and bone and death. He's made his share of enemies both in and out of the arena, and his secrets run as deep and turbulent as his past. A dangerous loner who has survived by his fists and fangs, Rune has never allowed anyone to get too close to him...until Carys. But when the bodies buried in his past rise up to threaten his present, Rune must choose between betraying Carys's trust or putting her in the crosshairs of a battle neither of them can hope to win on their own.

Comment: This is the 13th installment in the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian. I've been losing interest in this series and I can't really explain why. When I first started reading this, every book was pre ordered and anticipated but since the first arc ended, it doesn't feel the same somehow even if so many things follow the same ideas. But the truth is the previous book in the series was read in 2014...

This book gives us Carys Chase, daughter of Sterling and Tavia, probably my favorite couple and book from the first arc.
Carys is both Breed and breedmate and she wants to have an independent life. She is dating, sort of, Rune, a fighter and someone coming from a different background. She knows her parents wouldn't easily accept him but they don't even try to make an effort.
When the Order need help, Carys finds herself understanding a bit more what it means to work for the good of everyone and somehow the chance to present Rune and trying to have a go at a solid relationship with him also seems to become possible.
The problem is that someone from Rune's past will interfere with all the sudden good things in Carys life...

Even after reading the book and having enjoyed for the most part, I still can't really pinpoint exactly what was about it that makes it seem weaker than some of the original ones but that's how I think of it. This second arc, which had everything to work out, just doesn't appeal to me as much. I love the character's interactions, especially when we see the ones already mated or that we know better. But the romances aren't as amazing as I would have imagined and the plot went to a interesting but not always appealing path.

It doesn't mean the stories don't have substance or structure but they don't feel the same. I guess part of it was the quick switch from one plot and then the 2nd arc had characters we saw as children or not even that already grown up and we didn't had the chance to see them develop their personalities in between. They now look like any other character in the series...
Anyway, Carys and Rune at least feel like that to me.

The romance is a strong component of this book. Like some other readers, I found their romance to be without any apparent substance, even more when we had such careless behavior from them in the previous books where they showed up. In this book they communicated more, we learned more about their pasts and dreams and their connection seemed to become stronger. I still don't think this feels they had to be together but at the end I was happier for them than before.

I think some of my issues come from the character's personalities, behavior and attitudes. The positive side of all this in the characters of the 1st arc don't seem to have been done the same way in this 2nd arc. The main characters just feel more....uncaring or unfocused on doing the right thing or being unique. It really bothers me how we have so many bad boys who only reform because they realize they are in love almost at the end of the book. Yes, this is a series' trademark almost but this younger characters also seem to be unconcerned about other things besides fighting or destroying their enemies. It feel like all the years after their parents conquered the right for them to be free or to at least have a better life (if only emotionally) meant nothing.

Ok, maybe I'm being too picky but Carys for instance reminds of this. She lives such an easy life and she only gets interested in things after a while. This feels like spoiled for me. I don't know but honesty I didn't feel much interest in her nor in her personality which seemed vain in the previous books and fast but not to last here because she is the heroine.
Rune has a lot more substance, he acts like any other guy in romances but I appreciated his path a lot more than hers.

The plot has its moments. It gets a bit tiring to keep having them fight enemies all the time but well, this is the whole premise of the books. I wish I could have more domestic scenes with everyone, proving the efforts of the 1st arc weren't just because.
The Atlantean plot line also has its moments although not too obvious yet. But the next book features an Atlantean hero so we should have more information on them and their lives.

This book wasn't the best ever but it worked out fine. I hope I won't take as long to get to the next one, though!
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mary Balogh - Slightly Wicked

With his laughing eyes and wild, rakish good looks, Lord Rannulf Bedwyn is a hard man to resist. To Judith Law, a woman in need of rescue when her stagecoach overturns, Rannulf is simply her savior, a heroic stranger she will reward with one night of reckless passion before she must become a companion to her wealthy aunt. Imagine Judith's shock when the same stranger turns out to be among England's most eligible bachelors…and when he arrives at Harewood Grange to woo her cousin. Certainly, they had made no vows, no promises, but Rannulf never did forget his uninhibited lover…nor did she forget that one delicious night. And as scandal sets the household abuzz, Rannulf proposes a solution…but when Judith refuses to have him--in love or wedlock--Rannulf has only one choice: to wage a campaign of pure pleasure to capture the heart of the woman who has already won his.

Comment: After having read the first book in the series last year and having enjoyed it quite a lot, I was very eager to keep reading things from this author.
This is the second installment in the Bedwyn family saga series by author Mary Balogh and now it's time for Rannulf's story.

Rannulf is on his way to stay with his grandmother for a while, he knows she loves him and he doesn't like to disappoint her. He knows she expects him to court and, if he agrees to it, marry a girl she has been thinking about for some time as being perfect for him.
On the way, he finds a stagecoach overturned and the passengers in need of help. He can't do it alone some he takes one woman with him promising to send more people to help everyone. The lady he rescues tells him she is an actress and they share special moments together. But the woman is gone without notice after agreeing to spend more time with him.
The woman isn't an actress but lady Judith Law, coming to live with her wealthy aunt after her father asked for a loan. She knows she has a life of disguised servitude in her future so she is reckless for a while. But she was not ready to find the man who treated her so well to be the apparent groom to be to her vain cousin...

I had a great time reading this book and I couldn't put it down! There's something about it that just made me happy and focused on the story that I wanted to keep going. It didn't take too long to read it especially because of how interesting the characters were.

I think the author's talent is very visible in this story. I have to say I do like the writing style, it's ot the most serious or classical one but it's not silly or too easy either. The way the story is told and how we are given the information, how the details and plot are put in action is always so precise and structured that, for me, it makes it all seem perfect. I can understand why some readers think it's a too cold approach but after countless authors  giving a more erotic vibe or a comedy one, this style, I must say, agrees well with my tastes too.

The story is always developing, there aren't too many quiet moments or without activity and even the parts where we have access to the characters' thoughts aren't too still to be boring. I really liked knowing the main characters and their personalities. The plot is a little predictable in some moments, namely when we can foresee how the "bad" guy will do something or when others try to be an obstacle in the hero and heroine's path. But even knowing what will happen, if not exactly how, isn't enough to make this story boring. I was always so expectant to see what the characters would do next...

The main protagonist, obviously, have the focus on them. The way their relationship developed was quite interesting, especially after they realized each others' true identity. The beginning wasn't my favorite part but the way they connected was subtle and provided a good base to what would happen next.
Rannulf is a gem of hero, not a complete alpha type, not with certainty in his path but of course with the help and interest of the heroine to give him strength, he becomes someone we would like to know personally and even support too.
I liked Judith a lot, she wanted adventure, she thought she only had one chance to have it before her fate was sealed. I don't think I would act like her but her inner thoughts helped in liking her at the same time. And I do love heroines in danger of poverty and having to work or support themselves. I confess I like a little bit of martyrdom in them too, if it fits. It made it all to much sweeter and romantic when they fell in love and she could be recognized by her worth, despite her status in life.
It does make me want to sigh....

The end wasn't as I imagined but it followed the lines of what is expected. It was a good here, as it was in the previous novel, to see the Bedwyn siblings and family come together and help each other. The sense of family is something I really, really love in series and sagas and if it continues I'm sure this would become one of the best elements in all the books.
The HEA was cute, hopeful, the villain was bested and all wrongs are looking to become rights and that's a romance for you.
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sera Trevor - A Shadow on the Sun

Prince Theryn and his higard, Sir Atrum, are both bound by duty: Theryn serves the kingdom of Glinden, and Atrum serves his prince. Although they harbor a secret love, a relationship between a prince and his servant is forbidden. Things change when the king promises Theryn’s hand in marriage to the volatile Prince Lyar of the Soltaran Empire, who needs Theryn’s Light magic for some sinister religious rite. Theryn and Atrum's struggle to discover Lyar’s scheme brings them together at last, but there is more at stake than their happiness. Atrum discovers Dark magic of his own, but neither his love nor his power may be enough to save Theryn from Lyar's dangerously seductive pull. And if Atrum loses Theryn, the world as they know it may be lost as well.

Comment: I got this book months ago, the author wrote this story for a Goodreads group and the story was free at the time I got it, I don't know if it's still so. As I try to read m/m books every month, this is one of January's picks.

In this story we meet Prince Theryn and his sort of servant Sir Atrum as they try to find a way for the Prince not to marry with the heir of country's enemy, thus saving the country from future actions, but at the same time playing things in a way that would convince everyone Theryn is on board with the decision. 
While this is developing, Sir Atrum, always feeling he was different, finally finds out why and reunites with elements of his family. But can this mean that, besides class differences, there will be no way for the two of them to be together the way they most want to?

This is a fantasy story set in a fantasy world, which says a lot about the author's imagination and ideas for the plot and the world she wanted to create and develop. I actually enjoyed the world building, some of the ideas, the customs... this is not the best book I've read in this regard, but it's interesting, the beings, the differences between some people and others are interesting but it's not the subject at the center of the whole thing, it's just something that lets us have an idea of how society and culture were shaped.

The characters in general are easy to read but aren't there just because. The little we learned from them was enough to help us have an idea. The main characters were different, we are supposed to have a better take on them, on their emotions and personalities. 
The two heroes were interesting enough but I was never in awe of them, neither when they were alone nor together. I can't say why I got this impression but although I was glad when they found happiness, their relationship or their individual personalities didn't seem as layered as they could to make them look people we would want to know in real life or to be close to...

Theryn is a prince and he has many good qualities but the main impression I got of him was he was too reckless and too young. Atrium had a better notion of his surroundings and what was expected but I can't understand his pining away for Theryn. Still, Atrium felt like the one with more depth in character and his wanting to know more about his roots and family was what intrigued me the most in this book.
Their relationship wasn't portrayed well, in my opinion. It was too easy, too superficial! 
Apparently they have been friends since their childhood but now both think of the other with very different feelings but because they are prince and servant they know they can't ever be together so we are told they sometimes flirt but nothing more. I would have liked to see this more often, to have more scenes with the sexual tension between them. This way, when they became intimate it didn't feel that special or momentous... which is a pity because this would have given the story more flavor.

The plot wasn't complicated but it had many situations and scenes not always easy to follow only because , the way I see it, the author didn't explain everything well enough. When the book ends, things happened but I still felt we didn't have closure on every issue. The villain was sort of punished, out heroes found a way to be together but it's not really the most realistic ending, even considering this is fantasy. Oh well.

All in all, this was a good effort, it took time and imagination, there are several scenes/moments in the story things were good and fluid but the main character's romance and the lack of layers was something that stood out and made me think about what could have been done differently.
Grade: 6/10