Archive | June 2017

Marriage Claws, Paige Cuccaro

Marriage Claws, Paige Cuccaro

Marriage Claws by [Cuccaro, Paige]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I’m a bit puzzled by the “debut” tag. I recognized the name and when I looked it up found I’ve read and enjoyed some of her other stories, especially the Hellsbane series.
So – debut??
Anyway, its a decent read, fairly light but great for those times you want a bit of supernatural, bit of Pack hierarchy and some sexy romance.

I really liked Kate, hard worker, loves her business and the people she’s taken in while running it. She’s the sort who sees beyond the obvious, who really cares about supporting her friends, and her staff have become just that. Her younger brother works in the diner too, and she’s more a mum than a sister to him.
So when a company takes over the building and wants her out so they can turn the space into housing, she digs her heels in. She won’t be able to afford anywhere else, she’s been here five years and only just begun to show a decent profit, moving means going back to those early years all over again while they build up trade.
Its just not do-able and yet neither is leaving her friends in the lurch.

Then Jack comes in, son of the guy who’s bought the place, and he has a solution.
He needs a wife, so he can take over as Alpha of his Pack. He can’t exactly tell Kate that though, so explains it as a family business.
His suggestion, they marry, he takes over, then he gives her the diner and they divorce. Jack’s made it clear there’s no love, no emotions and he doesn’t want the glossy girls who just want his name and position, he wants a straightforward, no attachments deal.
At first she can’t bring herself to do it. Jack’s always pictured out with leggy, stick thin, glossy models and she just isn’t. She knows making it look real will be hard work, and then…well, she’s always believed marriage is special, a one time only thing and she’s not sure she can cheapen it this way.  Losing the diner and letting down her brother and freinds isn’t an option though so she agrees, knowing its for a few weeks only.
Life has some suprises in store though.

I enjoyed this story, got so cross at Jack at times, but understood his reactions. I liked the Marcus angle, and loved, loved Alexia, I do so love a character like hers.
That angle could have been even stronger for me, I think characters like her add so much to the drama and jealousy.

It made for a fun read, its not a deep, dark, intense supernatural romance, but one that’s more lighthearted, has moments of humour among the dramas, lighting the deeper emotions that develop between Jack and Kate.
Its a great escape for a summer read.

Stars: four, fun plots, sassy female lead, sexy male leads and some sensual fun and games.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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A Most Unlikely Duke,  (Diamonds in the Rough 1), Sophie Barnes 

A Most Unlikely Duke,  (Diamonds in the Rough 1), Sophie Barnes 

A Most Unlikely Duke: Diamonds in the Rough by [Barnes, Sophie]

Genre: Historical  romance,

I don’t read much historical romance, but every now and then I have a hankering for that strange past world where lineage rules, and there’s a very defined line for who is acceptable and who isn’t…

It’s a kind of mentally relaxing read, when what hat to wear is a subject for serious decision, a sort of letting go of real issues and delving into a world where for many its a life filled with frivolities.
Of course I’d want to be born on the frivolous side, not the scullery maid getting up at 5am to light fires etc, though that probably would more likely be me 😉

So we meet Raphe and his sisters, abandoned by their parents after debtors prison loomed, and he’s looked after them since. He was only 12 so its been hard, and he’s done some tough things.
The last few years he’s made a name from bare knuckle fighting, certainly not a gentleman’s sport….
Then suddenly in a swift change of fortune he’s the Duke of Huntley, and his sisters are Ladies….

So that was fun, seeing how they could assimilate into Society. They did have that childhood history which helped with the credulity. Rather than the Pygmalion aspect of completely learning from scratch it was more a reminding of what they had learned years ago.
They need to keep the last few years secret though, with a society that is horrified by any taint of scandal. throw in the Lady next door, about to become engaged to another but who Raphe becomes seriously attracted to, and we can see disaster looking.

I really liked Raphe and his sisters, and of course girl next door Gabriella.
She’s a real sweetheart, always been left to herself and her amusements ( insect collecting – though she seems to keep them alive rather than pin them to a board as was more usual back then).
With her sister’s scandalous breaking of her engagement and marrying another Gabriella has to step up, make a good marriage and push the scandal of her sisters behaviour firmly in the past. There’s no room for her to be with the potentialy scandalous person next door…

There were some fun moments here, some great characters, including Raphe’s staff who were such a help to him.
In reality some of the staff in these houses were the worst of snobs, but he’s hit lucky and they take him under their wing!
I wasn’t totally convinced of Gabriella’s parents reactions towards the end given how they started but its reasonable.

Its a sweet story, very light and fluffy, nothing to get too mentally taxed by and sometimes that’s just what I’m looking for. After a few deep, dark reads, some fantasy dramas and murders I just want a pleasant easy read in a bygone world.
This book did all that. Its not one I’d reread, not would this genre be my mainstay by for a one off gentle escape from other books, into a gentile world its perfect.

Stars: 4. a fun, gentle escape into a bygone era.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Author and Publishers

Beneath the Apple Leaves, Harmony Verna

 

Beneath the Apple Leaves, Harmony Verna

Beneath the Apple Leaves by [Verna, Harmony]

Genre:  Romance, General fiction, Historical

I hadn’t read Daughter of Australia, but liked the sound of this.
Its a terrific read, very packed full of events, characters and incidents that feel so real, and some heartbreaking sorrow. It does have a HEA for the main two characters though 🙂
Its so intense, so heartbreaking at times, that I read this in three installments instead of my usual straight through. Though I desperately wanted to know what came next, some of the events really pulled at me, the story got so real, so emotional that I needed a break.
Its one I would happily reread too, one that will stay with me for a long time.

Its set in US at the beginning of WW1, a time when it seemed like every country was at each others throats, and as still happens the media whip up hatred, minorities get spurned at best, murdered at worst by righteous feeling so-called “patriots”. Yet these people are doing nothing except living their lives, struggling along with everyone else. They didn’t start the war, but they and their families reap the hatred engendered by it. Pretty much as immigrants and Muslims do today in so many countries. I’m ashamed to say the UK is one of them…fake stories, media exaggeration and lies, and people turn into mobs, lose their compassion, do things that many of them wouldn’t have dreamed of before.

Of course in this atmosphere some flourish, fan the flames of hatred, turn things to personal advantage and profit, and Frank Morton is one such man. A dangerous and powerful man to be on the wrong side of, and he’s got there by some evil methods. He’s married to Lily’s sister Claire, a lovely lady but very scared, slightly childlike, simple minded, it seems and Lily does all she can to protect her. They have such a sad story, little good in their life until Andrew and his family come to live there.

Andrew is a solid character, full of strength, morality, fairness and compassion he’s a true Gentleman. I loved him all the way through, he was a wonderful man.
His father hates the mines and vows Andrew will have a different path. Sadly though his plans fail, an underground explosion kills him, and as happened back then the house came with the job, so it was Andrew to the mine or 30 days to move out.
Andrews mother arranges for him to apprentice with her sister’s husband on the railways and she goes back to Holland.

After all those things happening you’d think Andrew might have some luck, but he gets the reverse, is badly injured in an accident leaving him permanently disabled. Wilhelm feels guilty and can’t stand the shame, so he leaves the job he loved, and takes the family to the farm.
He was brought up on one but vowed never to go back, but Eveline has always wanted to raise their children in the country, rather than the smog ridden city. The farm though turns out to be a wreck and the only good thing to come out of the move is Lily.

Its a beautifully written, wonderful love story, but a very rocky road to get there. There’s tragedies, harassment, deliberate vandalism, anti German sentiments when the US gets involved in the war. At times it feels like if it can go wrong it will.
In among that though are the gems, the elderly couple who deliver baked goods, of different races who understand mindless prejudice, the Muellers, another local family who’ve worked hard and now have a prospering farm, the friendship between Andrew and their son Pieter, and of course the very tender, emotional, gentle romance between Lily and Andrew.
Its very much a romance of the time, nothing outward, nothing seen for a long while when they both hide their feelings thinking the other is too good. Even when they do finally let their feelings show its still a few careful glances, subtle touches, and very chaste kisses. Very much what would happen in those days.
Its a rocky path though, with lots of misunderstandings and some outright lies and evil manipulations by Frank, who doesn’t approve. Lily is his, he wants full control over her and uses her love for Claire to keep it. He really is a nasty, vicious  piece of work. Sadly he’s the sort that do well in war-times.

Stars: five, an amazing read, tender and beautiful romance, and played out in a very realistic setting, characters and events that feel very genuine.
Reaching the finish I was sad to see these people go, though very happy at the final ending.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Meet Me at Number Five, Lisa Hill, Raw Need, Cherrie Lynn

Meet Me at Number Five, Lisa Hill

Meet Me at Number Five (Choc Lit) by [Hill, Lisa]

Genre: women’s fiction, Romance

What a terrific debut!! I find I almost always love Choclit publications, so where I’m sometimes wary of debut reads, the Choclit tag tips the balance. I’ll read debuts happily without reviewing, but if the book and I don’t gel, I feel so guilty giving a low star review so early in someone’s writing ideals.

I love horses, so have over the years devoured lots of horse based stories. The premise for this, and in fact the way it read reminded me very much of Jilly Cooper style. So when I read the author notes afterwards it made sense Jilly is one of her authors of influence.
Its got that same east read, fabulous characters though thankfully Lisa’s are a lot less stereotypical, much less OTT than Jilly’s later reads.

Its a light and easy read, but with some real issues, real emotive sections.
There’s Grace’ smarmy husband Charlie, devious, manipulating, conscienceless, and now he’s a caught out cheater in the worst way too. Poor Grace, that’s never easy to find out, but its come in the worst way and at the worst time possible for her.
She gets swept away by grandmother Clara, a wonderful lady, to live in her luxurious home in the local town, along with Colin, who helps Clara in everything, from chauffeur to PA, Hennie her cousin, Hennie’s two children and Natalya and her son Symon. Natalya is a kind of Girl Friday, living there as she needed a home and job, and she and symon fit in so well with the family.

The romance is wonderful, not just one but two…and I adored both Farrier Guy, and local Restaurateur Sam.
There were bits that felt a little unreal, the retrieval of Clara’s horse, the battle over the foal. As owner she shouldn’t have had to deal in subterfuge, but of course marching up and taking her in the usual way would have meant less story, so go with the artistic licence bit here, as it adds another connection between the groups.

The story romps along merrily, horses and training, baking and racing, the day to day issues of a mixed family group, the pressure of divorce, Charlie’s infidelity. There’s also the battle for Farrier’s, home for generations of the family, and the base for the training stables and home Grace and Charlie shared.

Its doesn’t stop there though, there’s intrigue and double dealing, family issues and backgrounds to sort out and an awful, heartbreaking secret Clara is holding.
It all plays out beautifully, with a sting in the tail for the bad guy, a couple of lovely romances that finally come together after so many problems, and of course the secret Clara is carrying which provides some real weepy moments.

Stars: five, a fabulous debut, wonderful, lighthearted contemporary read. I look forward to many more from Lisa.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Raw Need, Cherrie Lynn

Raw Need (Larson Brothers) by [Lynn, Cherrie]

Genre:  Romance,

Mmnnn…having been widowed myself last year I was a little skeptical about this book, however I do so love a rock star romance, and of course situations are different for everyone.
Maybe Rowan’s husband was abusive, a bully, a drunkard, you know, someone dislikeable which was why she was able to fall in love again so quickly.

But no, Tommy seems to have been a good guy, love of her life type so I just couldn’t see how she’d put aside her grief and fall for Zane within just four months or so. She be mentally wishing for more between them, wanting to get closer, then in the next scene she’d be in deep depression thinking about Tommy.

Zane’s a great guy, I could see who the rock star lifestyle had got old, why he wanted more. After a while having everything and everyone you want must get old, knowing the ladies only want Zane the band leader and not Zane the man must be galling. Would he really fall for Rowan so quickly though? Find her pregnancy attractive ( yes I know, shallow, but appearances do count sadly, it’s that first chance and attraction that leads to talking and what’s underneath the surface. If the first look doesn’t work someone can be a terrific person but it never gets known. )
I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them, not at all, I got tired of Rowan’s hot then cold personality, and I’m sure Zane would have been irritated by it too. Its not fair on him the way she acted.

Regina the mother in law was a real b itch, and much as I dislike her I do love characters like hers, so she was a win for me despite being horrible 🙂
Savannah, sister in law to Rowan and future sister-in-law to Zane was strange. One moment she’s besties with Rowan and the next she’s taking her mothers side, steamrolling over Rowan.

Maybe if I’d read the first book, I didn’t realise there was an earlier one, then I’d have understood the characters better, but as it was it was just an OK read for me, a bit Meh… I just wasn’t convinced of the romance, the feelings, between Zane and Rowan.

Stars: Two and a half to three. There was a lot that just didn’t work for me but a couple of parts that were OK.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Cartographer,  Tamsen Parker, (The Compass series Book 6), Heartbreaker, Hollywood Hearts: Book 2, Belinda Williams

The Cartographer,  Tamsen Parker, (The Compass series Book 6),

The Cartographer (The Compass series Book 6) by [Parker, Tamsen]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance, erotica

I’ve loved this series, some books more than others. I wasn’t hooked with the first book, not totally, and looking back I can see that I just didn’t understand the story, didn’t understand or empathise with India. Now we’re at the end and I know so much more of the characters I could go back and my review would be very different.

This is Rey’s story ( Rey or Reyes you’ll be thinking – well, both are correct but for me Reyes is Reyes Farrow, Charley Davidson’s Big Bad…so this is Rey!) He’s intrigued me right from the start, the man behind the scenes, moving all the pieces around, sorting problems, finding partners, matching people perfectly. He’s such a true gentleman, so well mannered, (Cheetos with chopsticks) moral, kind, and he hates to see people abused.
He’s made it his life’s work to go where he’s needed, to make peoples lives better on an individual level. He’s firm but fair, always consistent, always thinking of the other persons welfare. (Baby’s First Safeword…that made me laugh and summed up Rey to a T).
He’s the star of the series for me, the person who’s most intrigued me right from the start, and the one who’s story I Really wanted. And what a cracker it was, definitely my favourite book.

This book is complete in itself, and for m/m readers they might be tempted to just jump in and read this without the others.
You can do that, you will follow the story, but you won’t get that satisfaction of really seeing how Rey deserved his own person to love, how the reserved, quiet, confident person was hiding a secret, and won’t get the feeling of sheer joy, utter bliss when he realises he too can have what he’s done so long for others.
Tamsen’s writing is so fluid, her stories so complex and full of details that create a feeling of reality, that it would be a shame to miss the early ones. She writes erotica, but its not wall-to-wall sexfest, but erotica of the more sensual type, where its not just d icks in a rse or p ussy, (gah, I hate that word, so twee, but there really isn’t a decent substitute), but a drawn out process, taking the reader on a seductive journey, a careful build-up to the climax…..
So if that’s the kind of read you like, compared to the spoon fed, in-your-face sex novels you’ll love these.

So, Rey meets Allie, tending a bar disastrously, covering for his sister that night.
Allie is so genuine, so kind hearted. He adores his sister and her two kids, and left the military where he was really happy, so he could help her when his best friend, her husband, was killed in action. Its just them, no other family and life is always a balancing act.
Allie puts them first in everything, but he’s got pride and won’t accept Rey’s help. That frustrates Rey, he’s got the money, why won’t they let him help, they really need it, but he also understands pride – he’s got enough of that himself.

As well as Rey and Allie, we meet Matthew, who’s been in previous books but I’ve never been quite sure of the role he plays in Rey’s life, Kendra, Allie’s sister, her two kids and also Rey’s mother. She’s a fabulous woman, I’d love to be her as I age.
We get updates too on characters from the previous books, which was fun to read.

The story is wonderful, how Rey falls for Allie and vice versa, two totally opposite people on the face of it, but who are instantly attracted. Allie’s very proud, Military man but comapred to Rey, a real innocent, and he doesn’t realise he’s a Sub. Rey is  a master at this and can see it from the tiny gestures he makes though. We get a true insight into just how patient, how strong and safe Rey makes people feel, how he doesn’t dominate by force but by trust, and he thinks and teaches that this is the only way. He’s truly is an inspiring man.

Of course he trains people and finds them life partners, he doesn’t keep anyone, and that’s the plan with Allie. A little arrogant of him that he doesn’t actually tell Allie this I thought, although he does say he doesn’t do permanent relationships.
Plans have a way of going awry though, and its clear to everyone except Rey that he’s in love with Allie, that Allie loves him. Rey doesn’t allow himself that though, and the reasons why are heartbreaking. I so felt for him, felt for Allie too, he was blindsided by events.
I do love this fall apart sad bit in a romance and maybe my only crit of this book was that though I could feel the sadness on both sides, it didn’t really seem to come over strongly enough. I needed to feel Rey was really down, desperate, heartbroken and he was, but he was also carrying on his life, though finding it hard. Somehow I just like characters to really hit the bottom and Rey only felt halfway down to me.
Its a tiny issue though compared the enjoyment I got from reading this fantastic story, and I know I want to go back and go through all the books again. I’m sure I’ll get so much more, understanding the characters better, seeing the little clues I missed first time round.

Stars: Five, a fabulous finish to the series, wraps things up, and brings us full circle, but I’m so sad at losing these characters. Still, there’s always re-reading!

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Heartbreaker, Hollywood Hearts: Book 2, Belinda Williams

 

Heartbreaker (Hollywood Hearts Book 2) by [Williams, Belinda]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved the first in this series, Heartthrob, and was keen to read more.

We met Lena in book one, and this time she’s centre stage and Ally is a secondary character.

I really enjoyed this, a little romance, a little mystery but it didn’t grab me in the same way Heartthrob did. I think the way Ally was so badly treated by the Hollywood B itch crews was what made that one so special, and of course Ally and Jacob.

I like Lena and Marc but they didn’t have the same chemistry for me as Ally and Jacob, more of a subtle slow burn romance there.

Its a fun spin through the issues fame brings, whats acceptable and how much of a private life can a star have? Its weird the way people see the screen/stage personas as the real ones and fancy themselves in love with them – or conversely love to hate them. I’ve never really understood how supposedly normal people do that, get caught up in fantasy lives and imagine them real but it happens.  A lot.

Lena’s had stalkers before and Marc has been part of the team who deal with them. She also has her own long time security team, but she can’t live life glued to someone’s side, can’t spend her days looking over her shoulder worrying if someone is out to get her.

Yet however tight her precautions there are ways round them, and once more she’s caught up in danger.

I do like Lena, very famous and yet straightforward, down to earth and part of that I think is her good freinds, who don’t fawn at her feet but remind her she’s just a person. She’s not really the type to take advantage of fame anyway, she’s a really good lady, not a pretentious jerk like some become.

I felt for her when she’s trying her best to keep her life normal, as normal as a film stars life can be anyway.

Marc, he seemed so grumpy, almost rude with his genuine dislike against all things Hollywood, and yet his background is steeped in it.

Maybe its the fact he didn’t follow the family footsteps, maybe its the things he saw and did while serving as his country. War brings out things we should never see and the effects are very long lasting on people’s psyche.

He’s determined to protect Lena though, even while clearly disliking her world, and then the film bosses decide he needs to be very close to her, so he becomes her boyfriend for the public.

Of course his security issues mean he needs to use a false persona, but the press start to wonder – who is Lena’s mystery man. And her stalker ups the pressure on her and the dangers.

Its a fun read, I had a little idea who the stalker might be but not til maybe three quarters through the book.

Lena and Marc didn’t have the magic sensuality that made me so love the first book, but there was a real sexual tension at times between them which was perfect.

I love Lena, not so sure about Marc. By the end I liked him, but it took a while for me to get past his Hollywood Hatred. I kept thinking – why take jobs there when clearly you feel its all superficial?

I never really came to understand why he felt this way, and maybe that’s behind some of my prejudice towards him.

Stars: four, a perfect escape with a little drama mixed in to spice up the romance.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Red Dust Runaway, Eva Scott

Red Dust Runaway, Eva Scott

Red Dust Runaway by [Scott, Eva]

Genre:  Romance,

I wasn’t sure about this, I do love rock star romance but this is kind of a side issue rock-star theme. It was a great read though, a real escape.

I loved Iris and Kit.
I so felt for her, a father that’s very domineering pushing his ambitions for her, rather than seeing what she wants. That happens. We say “she’s 20, why not stand up to him?” but after her mum died she came to live with him age 8 and he’s been directing her life ever since. Very single minded in his ambitions for her.
She’s always gone along with it, well at 8 you don’t challenge parents, and as she got older its just become her accepted norm doing what he says, wearing what he says, eating what he says, practicing her violin for six hours or more each day….then a chance conversation with her next door neighbour leads her to thinking “what if” and seizing the chance for an adventure with her Nan’s help. She sounds a great lady, I’d love to be her!

Then there’s Kit, discovered at a young age by The Major, and moulded into an award winning star. Its all he’s known since his early teens and the last two years have been none stop touring.
Both he and the band are fractured, sniping and bitching at each other, shattered by the constant stress of performing and publicity. Its pressure all day every day, and he feels sick of it. Music was his love, his dream and its in danger of becoming his gravestone.

He knows something has to give, he’s in pain every day, popping painkillers just to get through, drinking too much, he feels ill, can’t sleep, can’t relax. He feels headed for a breakdown and the Major isn’t listening.
He tells himself he’s leaving the band after their last concert in a few weeks, but he’s a two week break til the next one, and though The Major has filled each day with interviews and promotional stuff he just can’t hack it. Then he sees Iris and persuades her to let him go along with her.

Its a fabulous journey, where they get to know each other slowly, meet some great people, have a real adventure and fall in love.
One big barrier though. It seems everyone in the world knows who Kit is…except Iris. He loves being seen for himself, a real person and not the image he has to project, and then as they’re together longer the chance to tell her the truth slips away til it all comes crashing down.
Can he get her to trust him again?
Stars: five,a great read, a real piece of escapism in every sense of the word and a perfect HEA.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book 2, Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds. Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk.

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book Two of the Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds

The Stone Warriors: Kato by [Reynolds, D. B.]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, Wow. I think now I understand the overall plot and world building I really need to go back to book one, as I’m sure I’d rate it higher than I did on first read.
Some series are like that, it takes another book or two before the overall theme falls in to place for me, and this clearly is one such.
I think part of it too was over-expectation, I so love ViA, and was hooked from book one and expected this to be the same.

Its is the same great writing though, full of people who feel real, who I have strong mental images of, ladies who aren’t simpering kittens waiting for a big strong man to save them 😉
Grace is anything but one of those, though our and Kato’s first impressions could be forgiven for thinking that, because that’s the image she tries to project. she’s more than that though and a perfect lady for Kato.

He’s the second stone warrior, and I kept thinking how awful, to be trapped like that for thousands of years, seeing and hearing everything but unable to interact.
Sometimes books have things happening and I think “ how very convenient that he/she does that riiigght at this point”, and you could feel that about Kato coming out of imprisonment just in time to save grace from the Demon. D.B has the answer though, she’s made it so there’s a very real explanation why things are happening just now, and weaves every small thing into part of the larger overall plot that threads though the series.

Its another great read, a race against time to stop demons from being unleashed and creating mayhem. Another, well..brush with danger feels too subtle, its more than that, another solid drama where the characters face a horrible death over and over, but manage to scrape through, and without using any of that New Skills Gained Just at the Optimum Moment that I so hate. You know the sort, he or she has just learned of their place in the supernatural world, takes it in their stride, and by  the fourth page or so they’re killing the bad guys the others have been fighting and losing against for centuries, using some new skill that showed up just as the Demon or whatever is about to kill them! Gah, that really annoys me.
D.B doesn’t ever do that, and though here Grace saves the day a few times, it works because she’s the skills needed already, the training to keep calm and deal comes from her background. She gained her gun skills as a child, and as an adult she’s been involved in some dangerous and scary dramas. Add in how clever and analytical her mind is and she’s perfect for Kato.

I loved catching up with Damian and Cass, and yep, now want to re-read their story.
Two more warriors to go yet, and of course there’s also Nick, Nico, Nicademus…what a guy he is. When we first met him back in the early, the first book I think of the ViA series he was almost a throwaway guy, Cyn’s friend with benefits hot guy, but he grew in importance in later books, and then we learned he’s a powerful sorcerer.
I love how these two series interact, how we get snippets of other characters, even if only in conversation or thoughts.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone special in Nico’s life planned? The mysterious talented Lili maybe – or perhaps someone from the Via series? Loads of possibilities to pick from, and I look forward to D.B.s next book(s) of either series.

Stars: Five, a cracking, riveting, engrossing read and a great addition to D.B’s series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk

Warrior of Fire (Blood & Silver) by [Husk, Shona]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

I really enjoyed Lady of Silver, the intro book to this series. that featured Saba, an Albah lady and Dale a human cop.
This book is about Liera. Saba’s sister, who we met in book one as a secondary character, and Julian who’s a son of cop Quinn, who is also the Albah’s “King”. Its a title that’s really name only, they don’t meet or live closely as its too dangerous.

There’s a faction called Guardians, who are out to kill Albah, though supposedly there’s been a truce for the last 200 years. Strange though how so many Albah die in accidents. That’s what happened to Julian’s mum, she died in a car crash when he and his younger brother were in the car. Its affected them both, as traumatic events do to young children, and they’re not a close family. In fact Julian has been away for the last 12 years and only returned six months ago.

He’s been working at a local hospital, somewhere he can put his healing skills to use without creating attention.
See that’s the thing the Guardians won’t recognize, that most Albah just want to be responsible, to do good and work in fields where their talents are best use to humankind. As far as Guardians are concerned the only good Albah is a dead one.
Its that potential to turn into an immortal blood sucking murdering Alabanex that worries them so they think killing all Albah means humans are safe. Shame they don’t focus on how humans can become murdering vicious killers too, or even look at their own behaviour, murdering parents, children, wiping out whole families proudly and bringing up their kids to believe in the same.
Hate rhetoric is so pervasive when instilled from a young age and that’s what’s happened here.

Julian has been having a “casual” relationship with a woman for the last few months. He doesn’t know much about her, that’s what he likes, physical only stuff, no need for pleasantries and socialsing, not knowing she’s a Guardian and a killer.
She’s come to do a job, make her first kill and become a real Guardian, a role she’s trained hard for, encouraged by her Guardian mother and family.
She’s finding it hard though, she’s become attracted to Julian even though both agreed upfront this was simply a casual fling, and now she’s becoming clingy Julian is thinking the time has come to part ways. she won’t like that!

Liera has always known she’s meet the love of her life on a train, she and Saba are very good at seeing into the future, though its not fixed but depends on paths taken by individuals.
She doesn’t know who her future is with though, and so is astonished when she feels a visceral reaction to Julian at a meeting of the local Albah. It’s where they connect via the internet with others to discuss recent events. Julian feels the attraction too but its a kind of muted pull for them both, not a huge insta-lust kind of thing. Jut that feeling of rightness when they connect with each other.
Liera is puzzled. What about the future she and Saba had seen?
Julian isn’t sure he’s ready yet either, he’s always felt he would marry an Albah. His people need the males that come from only Alabah pairings, but he thought that was way in the future, loads of time yet. Until now he’s been content with simple casual relationships, like the current one with Emily. This has thrown him though,made him question that, and he decides Emily’s been getting clingy lately, not what they agreed and its time to let go.

She is Not Happy though. Pressure from home about why she hasn’t killed him yet and the excuse she’s given, he could lead her to more is wearing thin. Now he’s dumped her, and as she’s been spying on him she sees him meet Leira and just knows it’s all down to her. the knives come out, Liera is in the way, time to move her. She knows now Leira is an Albah so has no worries about killing her, she’s been brought up to beleive thats the right thing to do.

It all leads to a cracking story, brings danger to the Albah, not just here but across the globe, makes them think about the future of the race, brings the Guardians into the series in a big way and is a hugely entertaining read. One that flows easily, has that element of suspense I love, the wondering what if, and how will they…?
The romance too, I enjoyed that, the doubts both had, it makes a change from the one-look-and-they-are-in-love scenario we see so often. Instead they both talk, tread carefully, think about how they feel inside.

There’s no simply quick fix solution for the future of the Albah. It needs some decision if they aren’t to die out, and the way they’ve lived for the past few hundred years needs to change. Using the internet they can conference, avoiding the dangers when large groups get together, and hhopefully make changes to their lifestyles the majority agree to while keeping safe.
Maybe the time for Quinn as king has become the era for change, for the role to become more than the lip-service one its been. He’s certainly a decisive enough character to generate momentum for change.

I really enjoyed this installment, loved meeting Dale and Saba again, was intrigued as to how things were going to work between Julian and Liera, whether the change of place of their first meeting meant their future had changes in a big way, and of course the drama with Emily was pretty solid and full on.

I found it easy to believe in Emily, that she’d been brought up and trained to kill Albah, but in her greed to kill more by finding Julian’s family she actually came to like him, to see the good he did. Somewhere deep in her psyche she had to rationalise why she hadn’t killed him yet, rather than admit she was falling for him. She was a twisted individual but also a product of a very dark upbringing, brainwashed that Albah were all bad, potential killers.

Its an easy read, well paced, solid writing. Its not as in depth as many fantasy reads, but a fun story that made me look at the characters as individual, see them as real people, and wonder just where the story is going next.
I’m really hoping Quinn gets some happy, right now he gets all the flak and doesn’t really seem to have anyone close to support him when it goes bad.

Stars: five, a great story, building on the first one and expanding the world.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough by [Harlow, Melanie, Romanov, David]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve enjoyed some of Melanie’s past novels and was delighted to get this for review – I do so like a good M?M romance, somehow there’s so often the tenderness, the real romance side that’s often lacking in hetero novels. And this book had bags of that, along with some very sensual heat.

I loved Maxim, he’s just such a true gentleman, loves his mum and little sister, opens doors for ladies, always polite, that sort of guy.
He wants more than the life waiting for him in Russia, with its anti-gay stance, and has taken a 6 month visa to the US to follow his script-writing dreams. Sadly though, like so many he’s unprepared for the vicious, cruel world waiting to take advantage of an innocent.
The guy who’s meeting him and showing him to his new home doesn’t show up, then having a drink in a bar wondering what to do next his luggage gets nicked, and he’s homeless, jobless, cashless all in one fell swoop.
Luckily Derek’s sister has a penchant for strays, for helping people and animals and when she hears whats happened she invited Max to stay with Derek, then rings Derek and tells him 😉

Derek’s kind of  a neat freak, a place for everything and everything in its place. His friends take the mickey but its how he is, along with his long held dream of wife and family. Times passing though, he’s approaching forty and hasn’t got there yet despite trying hard.
Of course when we see him with Max its clear why, he’s really not that into women, maybe he’s bi, but its clear he wants Max. He’s had an upbringing though that’s taught him Gay Is Bad.

What a disservice parents do when they inflict their bias and views on their kids, and how hard it is to come out and go against parental dictates.
Its not good parenting doing that, but sadly for so many people its what they get. I get the feeling its not so much homophobia, as not really understanding it and fear that drives his parents.
Never the less Derek is not going to act on his attraction, it makes him angry with himself and Max, just knowing its there. And then it all gets too much and he snatches Max into one searingly sensual, erotic, life changing kiss that shocks them both.

Gah, Derek made me so angry with his hot/cold, not-my-fault attitude, and poor Max was totally confused.
I did understand and sympathise with Derek though, he’s repressed these feelings for so long, won’t even acknowledge them to himself, so he’s had his world turned upside down when he cant do that with Max.
Max isn’t going to be anyones dirty little secret though, had to hide himself in Russia, isn’t doing that again…

So can they make it through, can they find a HEA or is their romance doomed?
Its heartbreaking at times wanting them to be together and yet seeing Derek’s barriers fall down tight again.
I really enjoyed their story, the emotions, the sweetness, and of course the angst.

Stars: five, a really emotional read, with a sweet and yet steamy romance.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Savaged Dreams, Jennifer Lyon

Savaged Dreams, Jennifer Lyon

Savaged Dreams: Savaged Illusions Trilogy Book 1 by [Lyon, Jennifer]

Genre:  Romance,

This is part one of a trilogy, and has quite a dramatic ending but books tow and three are scheduled for July and September this year so not too long to wait 😉
I can live with that, its waiting a year of more that I hate! Forgotten half the story by then, and lost the impetus that kept me reading. a few months means its still reasonably fresh.
I’d still like trilogies like this to be all three parts out simultaneously – but that’s not going to happen.

Anyway, great start. Liza is young, but not one of those lightweight main characters, she’s solidly ambitious, she’s got a dark past and a big secret.
She needs the intern position that comes if her band wins the competition, but they’re one of three in the finals and they’re all out to win.

Justice, band leader isn’t happy they’ve a college student for their PR. He expected someone with experience, but as he and the band are learning, the contracts they signed are tough and there’s lots of things were hidden carefully in the wording.

From that rocky start though they soon are into a hot and heavy romance, and while he’s focused on leading his band to win, she’s also dealing with things as they crop up. Some of the band have secrets too, dark pasts, things that can damage their reputation, and its her job to ensure they don’t.
There’s a fierce and vindictive rivalry with one of the other bands that’s above usual issues, and brings them into danger and dirty tricks.

There’s lots going on in this read, a fun and real feeling romance, dark secrets, dramatics, and of course the band stuff, songs and music making, the TV show that’s strongly skewed to ensure top viewing more than letting the band and their music show through.
The fireworks really light up, with the TV guys positioning things to let the sparks fly, regardless of the damage it causes to people, reputations and the bands as a whole.
Its the whole viewers attract ads, ads bring in money and money is God that rules reality TV ( and why I never watch it).
Its done really well in this book, shows exactly how badly people can get hurt in the quest for maximum viewers.

I really enjoyed this story and though it ends on a cliffhanger its also a natural break point. Not one of those reads where you’re expecting the story to continue and just run out of pages.
Roll on parts two and three, I’ll be waiting to read the rest of the story. Its for me a perfect blend of great characters that feel real, problems and issues that many people face and which make for a good story, and its balanced out by sex that adds heat but doesn’t dominate. Great read.

Stars: five, a great story, lots going on with main and secondary plots that feel genuine and lots of drama and excitement, plus of course some very sensual heat.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits, Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life. Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits, Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life.  Alyona Nickelsen

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life by [Nickelsen, Alyona]

Genre: non fiction

Like many artists I’ve accumulated a mass of materials. Some artists stick to one medium, I like to try anything and everything so my summerhouse/studio is crammed with materials.
Not so expensive as it seems, I paint for fun, sell a few, and from the start any sales I made support new materials. Throw in birthdays and xmas and it soon adds up. In among them I’ve some watercolour pencils, some like traditional ones, some very waxy. I hadn’t really considered soft and oil pastels as pencils either, but in a way they fit the description. I do like the immediacy of these, the way my hand is on the canvas without the brush barrier in the way.

In this book Alyona tells us about different types of pencil and ways of making them last. The traditional sharpening method is incredibly wasteful, something I hadn’t realised. Also I’ve used sandpaper and gesso treated board with soft pastels, but never thought of using coloured pencils on them.
As with all materials the quality varies considerably, and my ethos is to always buy the best you can afford.
I’ve seen people very dispirited with their paintings, when they’re trying to use cheap, thin paper, grainy poster paints, pound shop brushes etc. Nan always used to say “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” and that’s really true with art materials. Better to buy a dozen top quality basic colours and learn how to blend them, than a fifty pack of cheap pencils. Those will fade, won’t blend easily and the colours will be bland as they’ve little real pigment. Another of Nan’s adages – “cheap always comes dear in the end”, where money is wasted if you can’t use what you’ve bought, and end up spending more on getting what you balked against buying because of cost.

I’m certainly going to get my pencils out again and play. One of the issues I found was that once I’d added a layer of colour its difficult to get a second one on, unless I used it very lightly, and almost impossible to add a third as the tooth of the paper was covered. Alyona mentions a fixative that gives another sort of coating over the colours, without spoiling them, but allowing more colour to be applied on top. That’s really useful, and great for whites and other pale highlights. I’m a bit of a spontaneous artist, add the pencil, paint, whatever, and work along making the painting up as I work. That means so often I’ve already coloured over where I later decide I want a highlight, but now with some fixative I can add it.

There is lots of advice on portraits of course, from how to pose the sitter, to how best to flatter them without losing the identity of the sitter.
Techniques too are covered with some wonderful step by step illustrations, and lots of completed paintings with tips.
I’d never thought of using a medium or physical shaper for blending either, as I do with paint, only ever used fingers, and that gives yet another different effect.
Pencils are such a great medium for taking out and painting outdoors, easy to transport, very little needed except pencils, support and maybe some fix and blenders. I’ve done a little of that using my sketches for further paintings in other mediums, but of course now I see how I can use them to create artworks in their own right.

I think one of the issues facing those promoting their use is that they are still seen as very much a child’s toy, very limited in application for artists, when in fact after reading this book I can see they are incredibly versatile.
Its a mindset thing, something that takes time to change but with fabulous portraits like the ones in this book we can see just how versatile pencils can be.

Stars: Five, a fabulous addition to the artists library

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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