Bound Together by Christine Feehan

bound

The Sea Haven series comes to a climactic end as the mysterious man from Blythe Daniels’ past re-enters her life.

For five years, Viktor Prakenskii has put his life on hold in order to take down the world’s most feared motorcycle club from the inside. But carrying out the insane violence and seeing the club’s exploitation of the innocent has brought his traumatic past roaring back. And there’s only one cure: to see the wife he left behind…

Blythe Daniels thought she’d never see Viktor again after he murdered her stepfather and left without a word. She rebuilt her life without him, becoming a personal trainer and physical therapist…becoming strong enough for others to lean on. But when Viktor comes back to Sea Haven, he’ll make Blythe question everything she thought she knew about good and evil—and the dark desires of the heart…

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Bound Together is the final chapter of the Sisters of the Heart series as well as the prequel to the Torpedo Ink series that will debut in 2018. It felt like a reunion novel in many ways; so many threads and characters were brought back from previous books in this series, and also from the Drake Sisters series.

There were a TON of expectations for Bound Together. And I think overall that the author did a pretty good job of bringing everything “together”, a task that I can only imagine seemed insurmountable at the start. There were lots of points that I loved in this novel, but there were also a few things that I found myself to be very skeptical of or opposed to. One thing that I’m not even going to touch on further is that there were a few continuity issues between BT and the previous books in the two series, and that the plot line was fairly predictable for anyone familiar with Feehan’s work.

This review is going to have major spoilers, which is one of the reasons I have waited a month to write it. Fair warning…

Ms. Feehan was able to impressively weave together the old characters from the Drake Family and the farm (about 25 people) with Viktor and his MC (another 9 characters on page), plus children they’ve rescued, background peeps from the village and a horde of bad guys. That is a lot of people who need “page time” and distinct voices! No wonder the author was hard-pressed to wrap everything up in one book.

Now, before I sound too critical of her efforts, I want to point out that I think Ms. Feehan did the best anyone could have done considering the massive amount of material to be covered in a minimal number of pages. That being said, I believe that it was more suited to two tomes released back to back as many romance authors have been doing lately (looking at you Ann Mayburn!) or working with the publisher to write a book that is much longer than the others in the series.

Now as much as I wanted to meet the MC members who are a part of Torpedo Ink, they should have been left behind to show up in the first book in the next series instead. As it is Ms. Feehan only introduced half and left the others off-page. Their inclusion led me to feel that some of the others didn’t have their stories finished. Lexi in particular, I wanted to catch up with and see her adjustment to Gavriil’s announcement that he wanted to join the outlaw MC!

There is almost no interaction between Viktor and the other Sisters of the Heart throughout all of Bound Together, and there is no interaction between him and their children. Many of those “sisters” are only mentioned in a couple of chapters but Blythe was a strong supporting character in each of their backstories.  I also was desperately anticipating the meeting between (a very pregnant) Joley and the Prakenskii brothers but this is not included in Bound Together which made me feel cheated as a reader.

I don’t want this review to reiterate the entire background of the Torpedo Ink members, but suffice it to say that they have no idea how to interact in society nor do they realize the limits of normal relationships. Fair enough, considering how they were raised, but Blythe fits in a little too easily with them. I understand that forgiveness, compassion and acceptance are her dominant personality traits but she accepted Viktor and co a little too easily in my opinion. She seems to go from literally physically struggling to get away from Viktor to solidly having his back in all situations, and reflecting his exhibitionist tendencies.

Ms. Feehan has continually painted each new hero in her books as the “baddest of the bad”. Well, at some point you reach the ceiling and there is nowhere else to go. She asks the reader to suspend their belief, and accept that each new group is that much more skilled. And I’m not buying it anymore.

In Bound Together, the Torpedo Ink members are described as being more dangerous than any of the other survivors of the program our earlier heroes emerged from. I think Torpedo Ink can be slightly more dangerous in that they don’t even want to try to live within the constraints of normal society, to “fit in”, and that they are totally willing to kill innocent people to protect themselves from perceived danger, a step that none of the others has taken thus far. Perhaps their only redeeming qualities are that children are off limits and that these actions are done out of an all-consuming fear. Fear that one of their own will die or otherwise be taken from them.

But I heartily dispute the idea that these men and two women have skills that far exceed the other Prakenskii brothers (and Aleksandr). They were all “trained” in the same schools. In fact, the point is continually made that the T. Ink crew weren’t trained so much as incarcerated and tortured all their lives, and that they didn’t start running missions until their twenties, compared to the others who had the best training in the world and started running missions as teens.

Who do you really think is going to be more effective? More skilled? More experienced?

Ya, not the new boys on the block.

I also don’t think they would have easily taken to playing with the children, and caring for them, as happens in the end of the book. These are men and women who never had a childhood. They don’t know how to play, or even how to laugh, points that are made repeatedly throughout the story. They are not well-suited to immediately adapt to parental roles, and certainly wouldn’t know how to entertain and play with children of different ages, or know what is age appropriate for each. Viktor is the only one of them who I believe would have a chance, and that is because of his experience with Blythe and that he was the oldest when he was taken, rather than a baby or a toddler.

So these are all the main points that I dispute or had issue with while reading Bound Together. Each is relatively minor overall, but stayed with me after finishing the story, especially when taken together.

That said, I did enjoy the book, and it met many of my expectations, but for the author to expect that one regular-length book could culminate in a thorough and fan-friendly reunion story for 12 previous books and introduce a new cast of characters for the next series is far-fetched and laughable. For what it was, it was good, but I wish the author and publisher had been more flexible, and willing to think outside the box to make Blythe and Viktor’s story fantastic.

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Fire Bound by Christine Feehan

Housekeeping Note

Fire Bound is the fifth book in the Sisters of the Heart series that I have been reviewing on Mackenzie’s Mountain these last two months, in anticipation of the release of the last novel in the series, in March. If you are an avid reader, you might realize I skipped reviewing book 4, Earth Bound. I actually reviewed it when EB was initially released.

fire-bound

Flame-haired Lissa Piner is a skilled glass blower whose delicate gift conceals a burning inner strength that can destroy as exquisitely as it can create. Commissioned to design chandeliers for a string of luxury hotels, her remarkable skills have taken her to Italy. But Lissa’s real mission there is a secret. For her entire life has been a lie, leading to a chance to avenge a terrible wrong.

Enlisted as her bodyguard is Casimir Prakenskii, a trained assassin living off the grid. In Lissa, he sees a kindred spirit—something unexpected and wicked, mysterious and sensual. But more than desire is about to bring them together: because both of their pasts cry out for revenge. And for two people with this many secrets, this much passion, and this many enemies, someone is bound to get burned.

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Fire Bound is the first book where all seven Prakenskii brothers make an appearance! Yes, we finally meet the last aloof two, Casimir, and Viktor.

I appreciated having a scene with the brothers we have already met introducing Casimir. Most of the book takes place in Europe, away from the family that readers have grown to love, so it was important to have those brief moments of interaction between secondary characters. The lack of this was one of my problems with Air Bound.

Lissa is one fiery red head. She was always a bit of a mystery in the other books, a holdout. She has a ferocious temper that is only matched by her protective instincts. Her desire to take revenge for her murdered parents AND kill the two powerful Sorbacovs who have targeted her brothers-in-law is the drive behind this story. She decides to sacrifice her life to allow her family members to live happily. Luckily, Casimir is secretly watching her back.

Each of the Prakensii brothers have been used for slightly different tasks. Ilya’s tasks were mostly legitimate as he was loaned out to Interpol. Others worked as assassins, influenced events in foreign nations, or went “deep” undercover (working for years at a time to reach a specific target). Casimir is the master of disguises. He went undercover, mostly for short period of time, in order to complete a kill. Throughout Fire Bound, he assumes many different identities, and Lissa also goes undercover for brief periods.

At first this creeped me out, because they both talk about “becoming” that character and refer to each other by those names, often even in private. But on a re-read, I could see their true selves bleeding through in their interactions with each other and it no longer seemed like a weird sex game.

To be able to survive the turmoil and evil surrounding them, Casimir and Lissa use their telepathic link to open themselves up to each other far earlier than any of the other couples, who were more reluctant to do so. They are also kinkier. Finally a couple who isn’t too prudish to introduce a sex toy or two!

Fire Bound provides a great introduction to the final chapter of the Sister of the Heart series, Bound Together. As many readers already suspected, Viktor met his wife Blythe while undercover five years ago and there is a lot of history between them, which will be explained in the final book, due out in March 2017. It was great to meet him before he becomes the hero though, because we got to experience Viktor through the eyes of his sister-in-law Lissa.

Viktor seems intense and scary and a man apart, even from his own brothers. I cannot wait to read Bound Together in June. Hopefully the first chapter is revealed online soon!

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Air Bound by Christine Feehan

Air Bound is the third book in the Sisters of the Heart series by Feehan. Although this is written as a series, it can definitely be read as a standalone. Unfortunately. I understand it is better for an author’s sales to write every book as a standalone because it is easier for new readers to try them out, but it is extremely annoying for a regular reader to keep having recaps in each book of a series.

air-bound

For as far back as she can remember, Airiana Ridell has always been aware of her extraordinary gift. She can intuit revealing and illuminating ‘patterns’ in the air around her-whether in a spray of mist, in billowing clouds, or in the dense swirls of an impenetrable fog. Her abilities led to her placement in a secret government training facility when she was a child, but everything changed after her mother was murdered.

Airiana fled the program, but she couldn’t outrun the desperate members of a shadowy cabal who want her, who need her, who will kill to get her. Kidnapped and held aboard a ship bound for dangerous seas, her only chance for rescue is Maxim Prakenskii. He has his reasons for helping her, but he isn’t about to reveal them to Airiana. Not yet. Not as the two are drawn together as moth to flame. Not when there are so many secrets yet untold that could shatter the quaint community of Sea Haven and all who reside there…

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Air Bound has a lot more action than the previous two books in this series. It starts with the heroine, Airiana, getting kidnapped from her home by Maxim, one of the feared and mysterious Prakenskii brothers, and her true love, although neither of them knows this yet. He is working undercover and was a little bit of an enigma, compared to the three brothers who have already had their stories.

Maxim is less than impressed that he has found his soul-mate. In fact, he actually is angry with her for disrupting his life and is pretty damn selfish. I mean, Airiana was just minding her own business on her farm and he swooped in with a helicopter and a team of thugs and kidnapped her! But he doesn’t understand love and relationships and is frightened that she is tempting him to things he never expected to find in his life, and turning his well-ordered world upside down!

Love does that to you.

Within 12 hours, Maxim has Airiana (and four children they rescued) trailing after him and begins to feel a little bit like the Pied Piper. He is unused to others looking at him with trust or hope and shudders under the pressure of the others’ expectations of him as a man. He knows that he can return them home safely, but the emotional commitments that each expect is daunting to a man who has suppressed emotions for his entire life.

Air Bound is a good book, but it is my least favourite in the series so far. I liked the characters but did not find this to be the best example of Feehan’s writing skills.

The action is so non-stop that is feels like it drags on for 15 chapters. From the time Maxim kidnaps her, to the drama on the helicopter, to the ship and the sub and the yacht and back to the farm, there just wasn’t enough down-time for me to feel like I got a break while reading. These emotionally intimate moments are what grounds a story with lots of action, and after years leading up to these moments, the author has to know that fans are yearning for brotherly unification to play out on page.

As a reader, I felt cheated that we didn’t get to experience Maxim’s introduction to Stefan or Lev, or see the brothers greet Airiana after they rescue the couple. Especially since they are essentially greeting the brother who kidnapped their sister-in-law from under their noses, when they were supposed to be protecting her. And he wasn’t particularly gentle about it!

So why didn’t the author include these moments on the page, even at the risk of sacrificing a bit of action? Does she doubt she can do justice to the moment?

I have a theory that this book came in way over the word count and parts had to be cut. Airiana and Maxim seem to jump from being on the sub to being on the yacht without it happening on page. At first read, I actually missed this transition and had to go back and re-read a bit to make sense of what had happened. The only point of importance that happens on the sub is the introduction of a new supporting character, Valentin. I hope he turns up again in the series, but surely he could have been introduced elsewhere.

Overall, the book is another worthy edition to the Sea Haven saga, but it isn’t going to be on my favourite list any time soon. Air Bound could have used another round of beta readers or edits.

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Spirit Bound by Christine Feehan

Spirit Bound is the second book in the Sisters of the Heart series by Christine Feehan.

spirit-bound

Lethal undercover agent Stefan Prakenskii knew a thousand ways to kills a man—and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman. That’s what made him look forward to his new mission: arrive in the coastal town of Sea Haven and insinuate himself in the life of an elusive beauty who had mysterious ties to his past, and a link to a dangerously seductive, and equally elusive master criminal who wanted only one thing: to possess her.

Judith Henderson was an artist on the rise—an ethereal, and haunted woman whose own picture-perfect beauty stirred the souls of two men who have made her their obsession. For years she has been waiting for someone to come and unlock the passion and fire within her—waiting for the right man to surrender it to. But only one man can survive her secrets, and the shadow she has cast over both their lives.

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Man, I love those Prakenskii brothers! They are sexy, dangerous, and possessive. Just what a lady loves in a hero. This lady at least.

Stefan is in the unique position of having to court his woman while undercover. This presents quite the challenge! He knows that she is the one for him and that he intends to make a life with her on her farm with her sisters and his brother, so he can’t lie to her. Neither can he tell her the truth about why he is in Sea Haven, or who he is.

I think he does a great job of giving what is true about himself to her while still keeping the secrets necessary for the security of his homeland and to protect Judith as well.

I love Judith. I would hazard to say she is the most powerful sister on the farm with her gift of spirit, but she is so unsure of herself. It is strange that she was unaware of her gifts until in her early twenties though. I can appreciate that she didn’t know until recently that she can boost other elements but she should have always been capable of telepathy with spirit ….

It was exciting to see Stefan and Lev interacting and meeting for the first time since childhood! I have been waiting for this moment longer than this series has been in existence, as most fans have been and I loved the moment. I wish that Ilya had been present more, and that Aleksandr’s supporting role had been expanded, but I will take what I can get for now!

There isn’t as much humour in this book as there was in the second and the ending is sadder, although the couple still gets their HEA.  Unfortunately, a long-time resident of Sea Haven, whom you know if you’ve the Drake Sisters series by Feehan, does not survive the final battle with the big bad 😦

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Earth Bound by Christine Feehan – a review

Christine Feehan writes four series that I love. The Sisters of the Heart series is definitely my favourite of those. I was super excited for the release of Earth Bound, book four in a series of six. Feehan writes books in such a way as they can be read as stand-a-lones, but you definitely get more out of them by reading in order.

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Blurb:

After escaping from a cult, Lexi found refuge with her sisters on the farm that more than sustained her body—it nurtured her soul as well. But she never forgot the terror she left behind or the always present fear that the cult would find her again, and claim her. Then her nightmare came true.

Lexi was discovered and threatened—only to be suddenly saved by a stranger. He is Gavriil Prakenskii, and he’s awestruck by the woman he’s rescued. She is destined for him. He can feel it in his soul. But how can Lexi find happiness with a man steeped in secrets and shadows, one intimately acquainted with violence, and whose very love could be the death of them?

—                    —                     —

Earth Bound finally had one of the key moments that I have been waiting for since this series began! Hallelujah!

The brothers have finally started interacting! I wish we had seen even more between Stefan, Gavriil, Levi and Max, but you take what you can get. This was more interaction than we have gotten in the past, and finally, Ilya made his reappearance into the series! We haven’t seen him since Hidden Currents in the Drake series so I was beyond thankful that he is back.

One thing that sort of bothered me during my read.

It seemed a little weird to me that Gavriil was depicted as this guy who was scary and deadly, even to his brothers. They mentioned that even though Gavriil is still recovering from injuries through the whole book, he could kill them with his pinky finger without breaking a sweat. If you know the series, you know that these guys are all superbad A’s who were raised since childhood in a secret Russian government institution to become assassins. They’re pretty deadly. And Ilya got caught in his house, on his home turf, by his older brother. I don’t really buy that.

The author’s position was that all the brothers were taken from their family and put into the school at the same time. Ilya, being the youngest, was a toddler at the time and Gavriil, the second oldest of seven children, was about 12. So Gavriil may have been operating in the real-world environment for longer but Ilya was literally raised in it from his earliest memories and he is in his late 20s or early 30s now, so he also has a lot of real world experience. It makes it seem really weird to me that Gavriil and the oldest would be so much more dangerous. To me, the brothers should be about equal in skills and the youngest the most ruthless, since he doesn’t have happy childhood memories to ground himself with and understand everyday life.

Despite my tangent, I really did like the book and the increased interaction between the brothers though! It was nice to also see the characters interacting with the kids from Air Bound. I really liked that this book took place pretty much entirely in Sea Haven. Air Bound did not and it felt like that book existed in a bit of a bubble.

I like the romantic story between Gavriil and Lexi. They are such a good team and the author takes enough time for both characters to develop a friendship together before throwing them into the bedroom, which is important given Lexi’s past.

I debated quite a bit between giving Earth Bound four or five stars. I ended up giving it five, because my problem with the book wasn’t really with the plot or characters, so much as the writer and editor. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an alarming trend the last year or two of these professionals making stupid, stupid mistakes, in series especially.

In a scene with a lot of characters, they’ll refer to “Jones” and his uncle when they actually mean “Kyle” and his uncle because Jones doesn’t have an uncle, he’s there with this brother-in-law. Or another time when a house magically gained two bedrooms, because the author either forgot they’d already mentioned the number or forgot the number.

This stuff makes me sooooo mad. It is a huge pet peeve of mine. If I am the reader and I catch it on my first read, than you should absolutely know your story and characters well enough to not make these mistakes. Clearly, the author/editor and whoever else is relevant is not carefully re-reading the book before submitting it for publication, and that is your job.

So in the end of Earth Bound, they are taking about the new baby who was born in the previous book in the series and multiple times use the words “daughter”, “she”, etc. Well, last book it was “son”, “he”. This isn’t a simple typo where the letter s was accidentally added to “he”, someone forgot the gender of this new child. And because it was the very end of the book, it soured my opinion of the story which really had been great up until then.

I went and checked out the author’s website and a lot of other readers also noticed this mistake. Ms. Feehan clarified that yes the child is male, and it was a mistake that she didn’t catch in Earth Bound. Mistakes happen, so I am still giving this book the five stars. But this author had another huge mistake of a similar nature in another recently released book and so have multiple other authors I’ve read recently, both indie published and traditionally published.

Can we just have a more professional calibre in the publishing world please?!!! But maybe that is another post.

Postscript: The next book in the series is called Fire Bound and will be released in 2016. It is the second to last book for this series and I just heard that both Casimir and Viktor Prakenskii will show up in it. I find that very reinvigorating 🙂

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