Dark Celebration (Dark #14)

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Dark Celebration is a special book within the Dark / Carpathian series. Rather than featuring one couple, it is a reunion story that features chapters on most of the characters we have been introduced to so far, as well as some hints as to the upcoming heroes/heroines. And it takes place at Christmas, so it is perfect for my December reviews 🙂

I have read this book multiple times, and each time I am astonished at how seamlessly Ms. Feehan writes. There was plenty of opportunity for this book to feel choppy with some many key characters, but it remains fluid and perfectly balanced. Nothing felt like it was forced in for the sake of including a specific individual.

Dark Celebration is one of the funnier books in the Carpathian series. There are cooking disasters, kids, and the “jolly red elf”. There is also danger, mystery, intrigue, adventure and lots of sex.

It was fun to get an update on couples who rarely show up as secondary characters in this series. I personally love to see when characters interact with each other in a world. I am not a fan of romance where the hero/heroine seem to exist in a bubble, devoid of other people.

If you are looking for romance, with a bit of comedy and action, this is the perfect Christmas story to pick up… something that is still themed, but doesn’t shove Christmas down your throat. And hey, if you are new to the series, you might be inspired to pick up book one, Dark Prince, and start there.

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Bound by Love (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #6)

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Nobody expected them to fall in love.
When Aria was given to Luca in marriage, people were sure he’d break her.
Aria feared the worst from a man like him.
A man without mercy.
But somehow she gained his love.
Love – a weakness a Capo like Luca shouldn’t risk.
When Aria betrays Luca by going behind his back for her family, she realizes too late that she might have lost what she’s fought so hard to get in the first place: Luca’s trust.
The trust of a man who never allowed himself to trust someone unconditionally before.
Can their love survive in a world of betrayal and death?

—                         —                         —

Luca and Aria were the stars of the first book in this series, and now readers get to catch up with them again. Bound by Love takes place over approximately four years. It recaps many key events in previous books, telling the story from Luca and Aria’s perspectives this time around. While some aspects of this were really interesting, I grew bored during most of those moments.

From my perspective, the story really picked up when the author shared new material, but that is quite far into the book.

One thing that I really didn’t like about this book is how the author seems to be setting up war between Luca and Dante. While technically New York and Chicago have been at war for ages, NY and Las Vegas are not teaming up to take Dante’s circle down. This would be fine if the author hadn’t spent an entire book telling the romantic story between Dante and Valentina, but she did and I am just as emotionally invested in them as in Luca/Aria. Perhaps even more so.

I also detested that Aria kept making the same stupid mistakes time after time.

If you don’t mind revisiting old storylines, you will probably love this bad boy mafia romance that reads a little like a reunion. Otherwise, you might just want to wait for the next book to be released.

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Bound Together by Christine Feehan

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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…

—                         —                         —

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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Brighter Than The Sun by Maya Banks

Brighter Than The Sun is the 11th book in the contemporary romance series KGI.

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As the last unattached member of the Kelly clan, Joe is more than ready to risk life and limb on any mission he’s assigned to, but when it comes to love, he’ll keep his distance. He’s content to watch his brothers become thoroughly domesticated.

Zoe’s had nothing but heartbreak in her life, and she’s determined to start over with a completely new identity, thanks to her college friend, Rusty Kelly. But it’s the gorgeous smile and tender words of Joe Kelly that begin to weaken her resolve to never risk her heart again. And Joe will have to put everything on the line to save Zoe, when secrets of her past resurface—and threaten to tear them apart…

—                        —                         —

This book reads quite a bit differently than most of the others in the series, in my opinion.  Earlier books in the series were intensely-action based, and usually revolved around the missions that KGI members make, whether it is a hostage rescue, investigation or taking out a crime lord. The characters themselves poke fun at how many members met their spouse on an op!

In comparison, the romance in this story has nothing to do with a KGI mission. And although their skills are used briefly for an action scene near the end of the book, it is certainly much more of a background subplot that merely serves to identify some character traits for the hero and his family.

Brighter Than The Sun has a sweeter tone to its romance. Joe is gentle with and sensitive to his beau, realizing that she has been abused and is a complete flight risk. He is careful not to scare her away and really takes the time to sweet her off her feet with wholesome, country experiences that she has never had. They go fishing, and boating and play in the creek. It really is the perfect country romance! Many of the previous heroes had multiple moments where they acted overbearing and I like that in my story. So it is good that the author takes this story in another direction, it just wasn’t one that worked for me as well.

Probably due to the lack of action, BTTS is pretty wordy. It is uncharacteristic for a KGI novel, but many of the characters make long speeches – basically a soliloquy – throughout the book. I mostly skipped over these, because the story would start to lose my interest. And it is overwhelming for a paragraph to take up an entire page. The author would have been wiser to break up the text, even if the speaker isn’t interrupted by another character, just by adding descriptors such as, ‘she shifted restlessly’.

One thing that I did love in the background of this story was learning more about the relationship between Rusty and Sean now that Rusty is an adult. She has grown up from a troublesome runaway teenager taken in by the Kelly family to an intellectual, highly educated young woman. But despite her academic accomplishments, she still doesn’t feel fully accepted by the KGI family (other than by her adopted parents) and lacks confidence in herself within the family unit.

A large part of this is due to Rusty’s complicated and difficult relationship with Sean. Clearly they are meant to be together, and it seems like the next book in this series will finally be the one where they find their HEA!

My heart broke for her by the end this story though, so I hope it is not too long of a wait!

In some ways, BTTS read like a reunion novel. There was a heavy focus on the background characters and catching the reader up on where they are now. In particular, there are a lot of updates on Rusty/Sean, Sam/Sophie and Nathan/Shea.

I haven’t been too fond of several of the more recent novels in the KGI series. Brighter Than The Sun was more entertaining than those, but I don’t think any book will reach the same level as the first three in the series did, at least in my opinion.

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