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Lionheart, Thea Harrison

Lionheart, Thea Harrison

Lionheart (Moonshadow Book 3) by [Harrison, Thea]

Genre: Romance,

I was wondering what to read next recently, I love to re-read good novels and this trilogy flicked in my mind as one I’d really enjoyed, and then only a couple of days later the final book appeared on Netgalley 😉 Yay!
Sadly though I loved the first two books in this series this one, well, not so much 😦 and just have to say here, I hate that cover. That guy just doesn’t do it for me. I get that Oberon is tough and growly, not a slight, pretty boy type, but that guy just looks hairy and – dare I say it – a little chubby rather than muscly……and that ‘tache!! Still, I’m sure he’s a hit for others 😉

Where books one and two were very people orientated and we had lots of action, drawing in so many different characters, it felt like the bulk of this book was just Oberon and Katherine, and I didn’t really enjoy that part. I’m glad he wasn’t a sap when he saw Katherine, that he was his own abrupt, arrogant, imperious self, even when they did fall for each other. Equally I love that Thea has strong women as heroines, no simpering misses, no-one that can be described as “his little….” that always infuriates me. Just strong, confident ladies. They often have issues, but that’s a world away from being weak and easily impressed. I did enjoy their battles, where neither backed down.

I love Puck, and I’m glad we saw more of him, he’s a strange character, I so feel for his past and the effects it had on him, and that makes him very unpredictable. His heart is for Oberon ( and Sophie) and he’s ultra protective, giving nothing for convention, politeness, politics, just takes the course of action that feels right to him. That gives Thea a freedom to introduce all sorts of events….

I missed seeing the characters we’d met in the earlier books, they were there but so briefly considering the size of the book, and that affected how I enjoyed it. It just didn’t feel properly connected to those earlier ones. I do like the link with the elder Races but you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this trilogy.
The battle with Isabeau, when it finally came, felt anti-climatic, there had been so much build up through previous books and then it seemed to be over in a trice. It made it feel a bit of a non event for me. I’d guessed a way back what was going to happen, not quite how but the seeds for the event were pretty generously sown.

Stars:Three and a half, fabulously written as always with Thea – that parts a solid five stars, but the rest just didn’t live up to books one and two for me. I really missed meeting all the others, missed the actual world connections, Lyonesse v the world we know, the magic that connects it, and they way Oberon’s people have been fighting so hard for Lyonesse and him on both sides of the divide. I felt so much of this book was just Katherine and Oberon and they took over too much of the story for me. I also felt the ending was a little anti-climatic somehow, all that build up and then…..

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

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Daughter of Light and Shadows, Anna McKerrow

Daughter of Light and Shadows,  Anna McKerrow

Daughter of Light and Shadows: A gorgeous fantasy page turner of witchcraft and magic by [McKerrow, Anna]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I’ve just finished a reread of the amazing Sarah J Maas Court of….and another favourite trilogy, Jeffe Kennedy’s Covenant of Thorns, and was expecting something along those lines. I love novels that have a fae story-line.
Sadly I was disappointed, this never really got going for me, I felt a disconnect between me and the characters, I didn’t really feel the sensuality between Faye and either of the two contenders, and didn’t really understand the whole plot. It seemed very light, very small to base a whole book around it and maybe if some of the side issues had been fleshed out, provided more drama it may have worked better for me. But, I did skim read from about the half way mark, it wasn’t working for me ad I wanted to finish, so possibly I missed something.
As always though the reminder reading is very subjective, and what suits one reader is awful for another and vice versa. This book could be exactly what you want, especially of you found the two trilogies I named and loved to be too intense for you.

Stars:Two, a book that just didn’t suit me, and for me is nothing like the Sarah Maas trilogy. Could be perfect for you though.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Away, Book 1 of the Folk Trilogy, Meg Benjamin

Away, Book 1 of the Folk Trilogy,  Meg Benjamin

Away (The Folk Trilogy Book 1) by [Benjamin, Meg]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I’ve never read any of Meg’s books before so I didn’t know what to expect. I really enjoyed this story, and look forward to reading more in the series.
I did get a little confused in the beginning by who was who and how they fitted into the story, there are a lot of different supernatural groups, and they integrate differently. It took me a while to work out just how they all fit together. Maybe a glossary of characters would be helpful? Explaining things like the difference between the Ward and the Guard when at first they both seemed to me to be doing the same thing. I certainly didn’t guess who was behind things, and I love a story that catches me out like that.
I found the characters pretty realistic, even fantasy folk have to feel real to me. I liked Grim, liked his determination to do what was right, when it was needed, to find out the truth, not just do a supernatural cover-up from the humans thing. Annie was great too, and her story very plausible.
First books in a series have a difficult task, introducing a new world and characters while delivering an interesting story. This book does that pretty well I feel, could have had a little more depth and drama but that’s me…I love drama. Its not heart stopping romance, nor edge of seat scariness, but a fun read, and a world I want to read more from.

Stars: Four, an excellent start and I’ll look out for book two.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Haunted Blade, J.C. Daniels

Haunted Blade, J.C. Daniels

Haunted Blade (Colbana Files Book 6) by [Daniels, J.C.]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

I love this series but somehow I missed the last book…don’t know how that happened? So many books, so little time…
Still, it didn’t affect this installment for me, I was able to keep up, even understood the references to what happened in that one because of the context. I might buy it and read when the series is finished. I love to do a whole back to back read of series, totally immerse myself.

Kit’s come a long way from book one, where she was so alone even though she had a very small group of trusted acquaintences. Now she has Damon, and through him the Cats, though many have become friends with her in her own right.
And she’s well respected and has gained friends and allies that way from different groups of non-humans. No longer the isolated person she was back then, she’s stronger both physically and mentally. That’s good because Fate – or perhaps not Fate but Smeone directing things – has much in store for her.

She’s still recovering from her last brush with death when weird events start stacking up. She’s not one to believe in co-incidences, and somehow all these supposed isolated events seem aimed at her.
Its a time when she really does need her friends and allies. Can she convince the others though that these events are connected, that its not just random crimes, mindless violence, but a concerted, orchestrated string of events with one aim in mind?
Trouble is she’s not certain of what that is, who exactly is the enemy apart from her family, and mostly how on earth she can defeat them, when she begins to understand exactly who and what is pushing the power struggle.

I love Kit, she’s very genuine, has moments when she’s bitchy, though with all the strain she’s under she’s very composed most of the time, a little letting out has to come.
She’s been through so much and her murderous family don’t seem to want to let her go. Its hard to understand who or what exactly they are, though as the books continue more comes out and I’m beginning to grasp it.

Damon, he’s perfect for her. Protective and yet he knows she doesn’t want wrapping in a blanket, tucked away from danger – it’s hard though as an Alpha and an alpha, to let her run into danger when he just wants to keep it from her.
He’s learned though from the past, is a terrific support when she needs it, cheerleader and motivator when she needs it, and of course the closeness they have, not just the erotic sexual connection but that melding of minds, that two becoming one connection they have is getting deeper all the while.
That’s important as she faces something she thought was years away, the release of some-one who she thought she wouldn’t need to see for a long, long while. Sadly all the murders have brought the vampire population into chaos, and to prevent even more bloodshed the powers that be have decided he needs to be released early…..

Its another great read, full of mayhem, murders, dangers, deceptions, plots, plans, it seems non stop at times and yet its inching closer to a kind of grand finale battle between her and her grandmother.
She’s going to need every ally, every favour, every connection she’s made these last few years if she’s to stop a catastrophe.
We catch up with characters from earlier books and meet a few more new ones. The ending is a kind of cliffhanger, but given we’ve been expecting things to move in this direction from an early stage its not totally unexpected.

Stars: Five, great read, fantastic series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Betrayed by Blood, Beth Dranoff. Cutie and the Beast, Fae Out of Water 1, E.J. Russell


Betrayed by Blood, Beth Dranoff

Betrayed by Blood (Mark of the Moon) by [Dranoff, Beth]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

I enjoyed the first book in this series, but had a few reservations. I still think Dana does a bit too much introspection, but its far less than in book one and the story feels as if it flows better to me. A bit more Show going on, less Tell 😉

Dana’s still working out how to live as a shape shifter, how to adapt to her new life. She’s still working at the bar, still having the occasional fling with Jon, and he’s still close to Claude. Clearly he isn’t an ex….

Sam, he’s around too. He would like it to be just him and Dana, but accepts Jon, while not liking it. He can see that commitment scares Dana so for now he’ll go with the flow. He’s not so happy though when an ex comes back on the scene, the guy who really let Dana down.

Seems the organisation she left has a job for her…but they need to get in line because a group of supernaturals also have a job for her. She’s kind of in a rock and hard place though, these are the kind of offers that don’t accept sorry, no can do as an answer….

Dana’s learning more about herself, about her heritage, her father, the strange tatts on her back, and of course her new life as a shape-shifter.

Busy time for her and means there’s a lot going on. she grows a lot over the course of this novel. She adapts to what she learns, grows to trust others and there’s less sex for the sake of it and more feeling comes across, though she still struggles with commitment. It made me wonder how she’d feel if she found Sam with someone else….

I found the action flowed better in this novel, that things fell into place easier, more naturally. It makes me want to know more, what’s really the secret, what do the tatts mean, and who wants the info? We know some of those answers now, but there’s still a whole lots we don’t know.

There’s less Pack stuff here, more emphasis on Dana herself and the secrets that surround her, the things she needs to know but doesn’t. I felt that made for an easier to follow book. I do like the Pack side and hope they feature in later books but for now keeping them as a minor side story felt right. I don’t mind complex, actually I love complex, but sometimes there’s a point when too much just spoils the story, just makes things confusing and that’s a bit how book one was for me.

The things I didn’t like? Well, pretty short list, mainly the “silly” stuff that I felt dragged the story down, the names and descriptions -Squid D’Le for example, felt too YA, too juvenile.

Can you imagine Mercy Thomson dealing with a weird tentacled crew, headed by a Squid D’Le? Kate Daniels slinging back Bloody Marys garnished with oil demon eyeballs, toenail clippings and frost nymph snot? Nope, nor can I…
The descriptions of some of the demons feels pretty much like that too. Can they be just frost demons, tentacled land evolved sea creatures? Nope they’re all kind of “pink, with blue spots, green horns, purple suckers, and six eyes, drooling acid yellow venomous slime..” kind of thing. Ditto the drinks and food. That really detracted from the story for me.

Its a good story, shaping up really well IMO but those silly bits let it down and make it hard to take seriously. Stories usually have either serious drama or comedy angles, but this feels like Beth has tried to incorporate both, and for me it doesn’t work.

It can be done, but its not easy, and doesn’t work here. Thankfully that’s only a small part of the story!

Stars: Four. Maybe four and a half, I can’t quite get past the silliness side…but yes, four and a half, its a real step up from book one and I do want to see what happens next.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Cutie and the Beast, Fae Out of Water 1, E.J. Russell

Cutie and the Beast (Fae Out of Water Book 1) by [Russell, E.J.]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

I’ve enjoyed some of EJ’s stories before and love tales around Fae so was eager to read this.

Just didn’t work for me though, felt a little too “fluffy” and the characters too stereotyped. I couldn’t really get into it, didn’t care much about what happened to the people and it all just fell a bit flat for me.

A series that’s clearly not for me. won’t put me off reading different books by this author though. not all books suit all readers, even if we usually enjoy someone’s wring style.

 

Stars: Two, I’ll pass on the rest of this series but still look out for E.J Russell’s other stories.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Spellbinder, A Moonshadow Novel, Thea Harrison

Spellbinder, A Moonshadow Novel, Thea Harrison

Spellbinder (Moonshadow Book 2) by [Harrison, Thea]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance

I loved Moonshadow, the first novel in this trilogy. Thea is one of those authors who can make fantasy and magic feel real, who has me completely wrapped in the story. This time round we see the other side to Morgan, Queen Isabeau’s magician enforcer, leader of her Hounds.

We met him mainly by reputation in the last book, knew him as a conscienceless killer, and now we see that its not him, he has to act as the Queen commands, has no free will. She took control of him centuries ago by magical means, and he is forced to obey her every command. He hates it, hates her, she killed his beloved Arthur, and he’s been waiting for her to slip, make a mistake all these long years, and then he’s going all out for freedom, even if it means his death.
Then she does, she makes this tiny error in what she says and he takes advantage.
He’s not free, not yet but her words allow him freedom for a short time to research the magical knife at the heart of her control over him. He has to stay away from any of the Light Court, they can tell him her wishes, and it acts like a command. While he’s researching and avoiding everyone he hears Sidonie play, is entranced and that leads to a string of events ending with her the Queen’s prisoner.
If we didn’t know Robin, the Puck, and all he suffered from the last book, I’d think he was an awful person. He knows full well what will happen to Sid when the Queen gets her claws in, but he hates Morgan, hates that he was the instrument of his centuries of torture, as commanded by the Queen. He doesn’t know the full circumstances, thinks Morgan betrayed the Dark court he was part of, thinks he is the Queen’s lover and had a free hand in the atrocities he does.
He sees Morgan is enjoying Sid’s music, and thinks to use her as a trap for him, use her to break up his relationship with the Queen.
Its kind of a long logic thinking that because he’s following her tour, enraptured by her music that he will seek revenge on Isabeau for the atrocities she will inflict on Sid, but I guess Robin’s kind of flawed in his thinking anyhow. He doesn’t see Sid as a person, only a tool, and doesn’t care what happens to her. His plan will work – or it won’t. Either way he loses nothing by trying. I have to think of it the way he would, the way the Fae see humans, disregard them mostly as people, don’t really care what befalls them unless, as with Sophie from Moonshine, there’s some kind of personal connection. He’s devoted to Sophie, determined to protect her despite the fact she’s (mostly) human. He doesn’t know Sid so he’s not concerned about her. That changes though when he gets to know her.
Poor Sidonie, she’s horrified, powerless, distraught at what’s happened and feels so alone. She does what anyone would do, demands she be released, give the queen the sharp side of her tongue and…suffers the results.
As Robin planned Morgan soon gets to know of what’s happened but of course Robin doesn’t know of the restrictions surrounding Morgan, so his plans from there go wrong.
Its another fabulous magical read, making me really feel for Morgan despite the awful things he’s done.
In Moonshadow I hated him, here I see him as another of the Queens victim’s now I know the whole story, and likewise I felt so sad for Robin in Moonshadow, and had to keep reminding myself of what he’d been through when he was so casual about Sidonie’s welfare.
Its like we’ve two sides to the story now, the Dark Fae and the Light Fae, centuries of history, of Isabeau’s horrific reign now look to come to a head, with the key players having a change of situation. I can’t wait for the final novel bringing everything together.
Stars: Five, great second book, roll on the final one 😉

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Spectacle, Rachel Vincent

Spectacle, Rachel Vincent

Spectacle (The Menagerie Series, Book 2) by [Vincent, Rachel]

Genre:  General Fiction (adult)

Book one had me riveted, saddened, excited, scared, and was an incredible read, book two lives up to all that and more.
The books are  based upon a world like ours, a kind of parllell universe, its our timeline but with different events. There’s been a terrible slaughtering in the 1980’s they call The Reaping in the USA. It led to some harsh legislation where people deemed to be not wholly human have no protection, can be used in experiments, sold, exhibited, abused  and have no rights. Interspersed between chapters are snippets of TV and News report from that time.

We met Delilah and some of the characters from here in book one, where they finally escaped Metzger’s Menagerie. They’re carrying on as if Metzger still runs it, and once the curtains are closed then everyone who can safely be freed is, and hopefully they can escape to a better life in another country.
Its not long though before their coup is revealed, and they are caught once more, and become part of the Savage spectacle, a private collection specializing in some horrific shows.
Once more they lose all their hard won freedom and are subject to Vandercamp and his wife’s cruelty. Money is all they care about, the cryptids are kept in more hygenic situations, better fed, but only because they can make more money out of them that way.
Its horrible to see all their hopes and dreams shattered, but Delilah just won’t give in.

At first she doesn’t see what they can do but when she sees how the others are convinced she’ll come up with a plan again, that they are relying on her – well, she just has to start thinking of what they can do, so that if an opportunity arises they can make best use of it.
Its far harder though, Vandercamp has perfected collars that control them, stop them shifting, or force a shift when he wants one, stops them talking about certain things and at night stops them talking at all. The collars can even paralyse them completely, leaving them conscious but helpless, and of course they deliver shocks if the wearer tries to go beyond a set boundary…..it seems fool proof, no way out but with them looking to Delilah how can she let them down?

Gallagher is here too, thought to be human at first and taken to prison but his cap finally gave away his species, and Vandercamp is using his loyalty to Delilah to force him to fight and kill for entertainment.
Its horrific for him, his honour demands that he fight only when threatened and yet he also has vowed to protect Delilah so he has to do what’s demanded to stop her being hurt.

There are some awful scenes here, you wonder just how far people will go for power, money, influence and plain old blood thirsty entertainment, and once more its done in such a realistic way that I truly believe there’s a real danger that if this were genuine situation then much of it would be possible, that we would pass such legislation, telling ourselves that they are not “human” and so don’t need protecting, are dangerous, need to be controlled…
There’s an undercurrent too below the visible entertainment, that seems to dredge the depths and behind the scenes even darker depravity is going on.
Delilah is determined to find a way out, and situations arise that speed up the timeline, that mean they need to be out sooner rather than later.

It was good to see so many of the previous characters, heart-breaking seeing parents separated from their children, seeing kids forced to fight for their lives, seeing how awfully they treat them all, how they only look at what they can do to make money and simply don’t try to understand the individual characters. How ready they are to simply euthanise them if they aren’t financially viable. Its truly awful knowing the consequences of the depravity the Cryptids are forced into. There’s a big shock for Delilah here too.

The ending is similar to book one in that it completes the book, wraps up this part of the story and yet we know that the search for freedom is very far from over, that their next moves need to be carefully thought out, that the risk is always there in everything they do, everywhere they go.
Its not one of those awful cliff hanger endings that I hate, but one that opens up and shows the direction the next book will take.

Its another fascinating, fabulous and absorbing read, and though I’ve used the word horrific several times its not a horror book per se, but one where horrible things happen, mainly due to human greed.
Book three soon please Rachel 🙂

Stars: Five, another terrific read and I really hope the next book isn’t long in coming!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald. The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by [MacDonald, Linda]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction,(adult).
Well. I love romance, saw this and was intrigued but…..to me this Isn’t Romance. Romance for me is lovers, twists, dramas, upheavals, and this book has all that but it doesn’t have a HEA, or even a HFN and to me one of those is essential for a book classed as a romance read.
That said it’s a story I very much enjoyed, made me do a lot of that “what if” thinking, look at things from the position of each character.

I hadn’t read the author’s other books which feature characters from this one, and maybe if I had I’d feel differently about Marianne, Ted and Felicity.
I may have been more sympathetic to Felicity, when we first met her. As it is I found her strange, very out for herself. She’d left Ted to be with her lover, and yet she’s irritated that he’s found someone to replace her, disparaging about Marianne, irritated that she’s spending time with Ted in the family home, cross when they both spend time in Marianne’s London home.

Then she meets Coll, and its as if she likes the attention, is flattered and is using him as a place warmer, waiting to see if she can displace Marianne and get her position back with Ted.

She seemed to me very shallow, expected everything to go back as before she left to move abroad with her lover, she left without caring about them, now she’s back she wants it all to carry on as if she hadn’t gone, as if those months had just been a kind of limbo for everyone else.. We do see her lighter side though, and maybe her attitude is one shaped by recent events and not a true look at her.
I did warm to her over time, did come to understand her better, and at the end I respected her and what she did.

Sarah, I felt she really drew the short straw. Ten years “with” Coll, each having separate homes and their relationship revolving solely around what he wants.
Her first husband died, when they were still deeply in love and she really wants to find that again, seemed like she had when she first met Coll. However he’s slowly eroded her confidence to the position when she seems to think its OK for him to have other women, (OW she calls them) as she knows its all flirting on Coll’s part, and nothing serious would come of it. Then he meets Felicity, and everything changes.

Coll, I hated that man and yet I could see what he was so attractive to women. He’s decent looking and cultivates an air of mystery, the Bohemian artist type, and is very careful what he says about himself and his life. What he does do so well is encourage the OWs to talk about themselves, leaving it open for him to listen carefully, to flatter, to encourage, to sympathise until they hang on his every word.
He made me so angry the way he was so careful not to tell Felicity about Sarah…..I wanted to shout at Sarah “Follow him, Check his phone, ask him outright.” To Felicity i wanted to say “ask more, questions why he hasn’t/doesn’t seem to have has a relationship since his divorce over a decade ago.” But of course they don’t and the story rolls on to its climax.
I so felt for Sarah, she knew but was kidding herself. She realised Felicity was more than the usual Ow, a real threat this time. And Coll, he just wouldn’t see what he was doing was wrong, belittled Sarah in subtle ways, didn’t stop to think of how hurt she would be about what he says. All the way through he only ever looks at how events affect him, and some of the things he says to Sarah I could strangle him, choke him, I was so angry.  Dammit he’s a book character! How can I get so angry about one of those 😉 but I do. Testament of good writing the the world and characters that are fictional feel so real.

The ending kind of soft, subdued, unfinished to me, there’s not real conclusion and overall from everything I think Sarah is the one who lose most, I really felt for her. She’d done nothing but fall in love with a charismatic but shallow, selfish man.

Stars: five,not a romance, but an interesting and absorbing read none-the-less. Not a rereader but a full 5* story despite that.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Moon Shines Red: A Fantasy Romance Novel (Heart of Darkness Book 1) by [Sparkman, Pamela]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, some you win, some you lose. Sadly this was a lose for me. Its garnered a whole slew of 4 and 5 star reviews so clearly its spot on for many readers, but I’m not among them.

I thought I’d like it, it sounded intriguing but I just felt disassociated from the plots and the characters. I just couldn’t connect with them in any way, didn’t really feel anything for them, didn’t care if things worked out. I did skim read the last 60% just to finish as it was clear when I got to 40% that it wasn’t going to work for me 😦
That happens, reading is subjective, not liking it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book any more than liking a book doesn’t mean it’s good. Its just My View of it, and if you share my taste in reads you may feel the same.

Its perfectly well set out, doesn’t leave plot lines hanging, is easy to follow and has a proper ending where everything is clear and story-line for later book emerges, but it felt almost YA in the way the plots played out and the characters acted. Though I’ve enjoyed some YA in the past its not my preferred reading type and this just didn’t work for me. I won’t continue with the series.

Stars: Two, a great book for many readers, but wasn’t one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Muddy Waters (Otherwhere 1), Book ONE of the Otherwhere, Sara O. Thompson

Muddy Waters (Otherwhere 1), Book ONE of the Otherwhere, Sara O. Thompson

Muddy Waters (Otherwhere Book 1) by [Thompson, Sara O.]

Genre:  General Fiction (adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was really intrigued by the description, i do like these “crossover world ” reads, where our world and the supernatural exist together but in a kind of parallel spacing. And Magic, I love that!
Its kind of a muddled read though 😦 some things I liked, but sadly a lot that was just plain confusing and had me backtracking trying to work it out.

When we first meet Tessa she’s been incarcerated in a tough prison for five years, much of that doped up and then – wham- the FBI flexes its muscle and she’s out. No detox issues given she’s gone from one extreme to nothing and no support!
Somehow given she’s still assumed to be guilty of killing her family, and also a very dangerous witch I thought she’d be under more supervision.
I like her and of course we know she didn’t do it, but others in the book will still see the conviction and think she’s guilty.

The whole FBI thing seems like a device used to get her – and other characters at different times – in a certain place in the story. There’s little that connects to real policing, no training, no office meetings and direction, no reports to make. She’s more or less left alone to run her shop, except for this one thing they need her for right now.

Her FBI partner Qyll is a Dark Elf. Other than being told he’s hot, and picking up that he’s a man who uses few words, and has a sort of old fashioned speech style we don’t really know much about him.
They don’t really spend a great deal of time together, don’t act as partners, and I found that hard to believe in. Tessa is just a short while away from maximum imprisonment, regarded as dangerous to a deadly extent, drugged up to a comatose state for much of that, and now she’s let loose on the world to track down a murderer, or murderers, without any real guidance, training, directions or input from the FBI and Qyll.
He was a potentially great opportunity that seems wasted. His character has the potential to be so much more. Maybe, hopefully, as the series continues….

Of course the murders stack up, everyone except Qyll seems to have a down on Tessa, and despite having no real experience she’s more or less left alone to track down the perpetrator(s).
There’s lots of action and drama, but it got very confusing at times, and I found one of my pet hates being used too much, where the lead character gets new/unexplained powers just when they’re needed most, and when the reader thinks there’s no way out for them.
I needed to know more about Tessa, more about what she could do, before I could believe she escaped almost injury free from the multiple conflicts she gets caught up in.
There’s so many characters too that I had to keep backtracking to find out who they were, how they connected, and where they belonged in the story.
The timing is sometimes a bit strange. There’ll be an action packed, drama filled few hours, and then next paragraph we’re days or weeks later, without any indication of what had happened in the interval.
Its sounds as if all I have are criticisms and that’s not true, these are real issues for me, but the potential for things to work out into a great series is there IMO.
It just needs tidying a bit, better pacing and use of characters and constructs ( the FBI for example).
Set secondary characters in plots that fix them in the readers minds, instead of leaving them wondering “who was that again? Where do they fit it?” when they suddenly crop up.

Its not only a debut story, but a first in series and that’s always tough to get right.
I do feel though that there’s some unique ideas in this story, a series with a good future here.
I like Tessa’s spells, the way they’re explained, the way she uses ones developed in childhood – that kind of things works well for me, and I feel then that as they are so ingrained its believable when she pulls them out just when she needs them without barely thinking about them. Kind of how they’ve become second nature.
More of that kind of thinking for other events would help IMO.

Its not billed as Romance, but I get the impression that possibly in the future Qyll and Tessa will get closer to that. and a s a romance lover of course that appeals to me too!

Stars:Three, a story that for me has a great future but which I feel needs some series tidying and attention to get there.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Black Lily, Juliette Cross

The Black Lily,  Juliette Cross

The Black Lily (Tales of the Black Lily) by [Cross, Juliette]

Genre: Romance,

I’ve read a few of Juliette’s stories, and liked the sound of this. Vampires? Romance? yep, two of my tick boxes 😉
What did make me hesitate was the Cinderella connection. I’m not a fan of fairy-tale rewrites generally, I’ve read too many that mirror the original so closely there’s nothing fresh in the story, but this one is fine.
The storyline is only very loosely followed, in fact most of the story is pure Juliette original, maybe 5-10% follows Cinderella and that’s fine by me!

We meet Arabelle, AKA the Black Lily, with her friend Deek, the blacksmith,  planning an audacious assassination of the vampire Prince Marius at a ball later that evening.
She and her band of followers have been planning this carefully, she has the gown, the jewels, the mask, a fairy-tale carriage, albeit borrowed as are the gown and jewels, and most important, a gold edged knife to kill him. Vampires in this series are killed by gold, though royals have to be stabbed in the heart for it to be fatal. No pressure there then Arabelle.
Why are they out to kill him? Well, seems vampires aren’t sticking to the laws, and the peasants arte being drained, first an odd few but more and more recently. Arabelle’s mother died this way and she’s determined to stop the slaughter.

I love the way the planning was explained, there wasn’t a magic wand ( well unless you call a certain part of Deek’s anatomy that, he uses it well to “persuade” people to lend things for the cause…. There’s lots of planning, they’ve spent months on this, even down to Arabelle swapping her outdoor chores for one of the staff’s indoor ones, so her skin gets a chance to lighten, helped also by her own cosmetic preparations. She doesn’t just dress up and hope for the best, but plans, works to make it a success.
I need that in a story, need to understand the how and the why, when something just falls into place at the right time without any effort it just doesn’t work for me.

Of course she doesn’t manage to kill him, it’d be a short book if she did…but he gets close to her and is entranced, enamoured by her even though she wanted him dead.
As it happens she was surprised by her attraction to him, surprised by their conversation. He wasn’t what she expected.
Marius is determined to find her, find out why she tried to kill him, to just get to know her better. He wants her, and not as a prisoner for an attempt on his life. Of course his royal parents aren’t quite of the same mind.
There follows captures and escapes, plans and plots, deals and steals, barters and betrayals…its a fun read, especially when we meet the Hart Wolves, and Sienna.

I really liked Marius, he was a Vampire, but one of the good guys, they’re not all heartless, blood-thirsty killers and he has no idea what’s been going on. His one failing is assuming everyone is happy, what will he do now he knows otherwise?
I really wanted him and Arabelle to find a way together but when they’re on such opposing sides its a hard ask.

There’s some great characters here, some fun adventure and it adds up to an enjoyable read, when the final denouement is revealed I could have kicked myself ( metaphorically – its hard to do that when you’ve only one leg, I’d just fall over!)
Its so obvious and yet…like I suspect most readers, I simply didn’t see that coming, followed the trail led before me very obligingly.

Its not deep, dark, drama but light and fun, with some real excitement at times, some plots that were very realistic and no quick instant, unbelievable fixes, but ones where people worked for them.
Arabelle wasn’t a sweet, helpless female, not yet a kiss ar$e heroine, but someone who felt real, who was a natural leader and worked hard for what she wanted to achieve. There were some excellent support characters too, that fitted the storyline very well.
I love the descriptions of the gowns, the fabulous Glass Palace, and the minutiae of everyday life brought in that made things feel real.

Its ends on a good spot but leaving the way open for more and I’ll be happy to read the next story.

Stars: five, a great relaxing read, fun story, light drama and adventure.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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