Crossfire – Sylvia Day

The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day is a fast-paced, well written, dramatic romance series set in modern day New York City. It will greatly appeal to fans of Fifty Shades, but is considerably more entertaining and better written in my opinion.

The heroine is named Eva and she was raised by her mother and a series of extremely wealthy stepfathers. Her best friend / roommate is Cary, a charming and rising male top-model who is currently dating both a girlfriend and a boyfriend. Eva has serious trust issues, and a tendency to run away from relationship problems and commitments because she was sexually abused for years as a child by an older step-brother.

The hero is billionaire businessman Gideon Cross. He can understand and relate to Eva’s problems because he has a few of his own, after witnessing his father’s suicide as a child, and then being abused by his therapist as a teen. Gideon is ruthless, dominant

Bared to you is the first story in the Crossfire series, followed by reflected in you, and entwined with you, captivated by you, and finally, one with you. This series has been completed and the other does not intend to write anymore about Gideon an hour according to her social media posts so this is a great series to check out if you are tired of constantly waiting for the next book.

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This series has a lot of sex in it,  and a lot of drama between two people used to fucking up their relationships. But despite this, G & E have a soulmate type connection and their love for each other is never in doubt. Day’s writing reminded me of the tale of Odysseus in some ways because Ewa and Gideon have so many trials they must overcome in order to just have each other’s company. Friends, family, and numerous witchy exes all try to keep them apart.

One of the most important aspects of a series for me is the world that is created, and secondary characters are huge factor in this. I love that I quickly grew to care about many of the friends of Gideon and Eva. I cared for Steven and Mark and Trey and Cary and Megumi and Arash and all the rest. I actually hope that a couple of Gideon’s friends have their own books or series one day, particularly Arnoldo or Arash.

I think anyone who has read Crossfire or 50 Shades will inevitably make comparisons between the two series. Both feature a character or two who has been abused as a youth in a sexual manner. Both male heroes are a rich businessmen who are aloof, and difficult to emotionally connect to, though they are highly sexual in nature as well. The heroines are athletics built, smart and educated, new graduates starting out their careers in the field of their choice. But this is where the comparison ends.

Eva is not the wishy-washy, virgin lead that you find in Anastasia. Eva loves sex just as much as Gideon and initiated it as often. The romantic scenes in the Crossfire series are not as kinky. There are no whips, no red room of pain, no sexual contacts. But there is a lot more sex to go with your story. Something I also loved about Eva and Gideon is that there issues don’t magically work themselves out. They go to counselling individually and as a couple because they know they have issues to work through and care enough to do the work so that they will have a stable relationship that will last.

The last book in the series is one with you. I thought that the author was working on another novel until I finished reading it so the series end came as a bit of a surprise to me, even though I mostly feel like it’s a timely end. I feel like today has finished on a strong note and there wasn’t much more to say. That being said, in the last third of this book there is a surprise twist that is very sad and it left me bawling my eyes out into my pillow. I didn’t feel like there was enough time for the reader or the main characters to recover from this plot twist and get over it. At the end of the day this is a romance novel and I like my romances to and happily. I thought this plot twist would have been more appropriate at the beginning of the book or in the previous one. I don’t resent that it happened, but I don’t think it was handled well.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this novel and the whole series to anyone who likes romance. It’s less kinky than my usual fare but still a fantastic read with lots of sex. 

* * * * * 

Xx

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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.

* * * *

xx

Reaper’s Stand by Joanna Wylde

Reaper’s Stand is the fourth novel in the Reapers MC novel. Finally the CDA President of the Reapers MC gets a second chance at love ❤

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As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese “Picnic” Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he’d never love another woman. And with two daughters to raise and a club to manage, that was just fine with him. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy—he definitely doesn’t want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong.

Too bad he’s completely obsessed with her.

Besides running her own business, London’s got her junkie cousin’s daughter to look after—a more reckless than average eighteen-year-old. Sure she’s attracted to the Reapers’ president, but she’s not stupid. Reese Hayes is a criminal and a thug. But when her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life—how far will she go to save her family?

—                         —                         —

I loved reading Picnic and London’s story. Although I have loved every book in this series so it was to be expected. Every time I go back and reread this series, I get a little bit more out of it. The first time around, I remember feeling that Mellie’s character was redundant and that all the drama with Jess was annoying and a distraction from the love arc. But the addition of all these young new secondary characters sets up future stories. It also separates this book from the others in the series and keeps things from becoming repetitive.

Pic and London are both a little older than previous couples, although at 38 and 43, they aren’t exactly geriatrics. This life experience – added to the fact they are both parents of adult children – provides each with more perspective, wisdom and ability to overcome the little things … and ahem *not so little things*. Like attempted murder.

Also, Pic is hot for an older guy! I’d definitely date him if I were fortunate enough to take London’s place.

Reaper’s Stand definitely has some unexpected sad parts. I’ll admit that I have been a teensy weensy bit emotional lately, but hearing Picnic talk to his dead wife Heather, and make peace with taking a new old lady, had me in tears multiple times.

Although Heather and London share some characteristics, the comparisons are minimal which kept the book from going into the creepy-zone. However, they both were super feisty ladies. Sorta a necessity when dating the President of your local outlaw motorcycle club!

Case in point… this is from London’s POV.

Thirty minutes later the roast was in the oven and I was setting out frozen rolls to rise. I’d had a second, strictly medicinal shot of vodka, and while I wasn’t exactly buzzed, I was feeling a little more balanced about things. Of course, dumping yellow food colouring in the back of the downstairs toilet tank and pouring vinegar in his milk helped restore that balance . . . I also loosened the lid on the salt shaker. Why did I do these things? Probably best not to examine that too closely.

Wylde, Joanna. Reaper’s Stand (Reapers Motorcycle Club Book 4) (Kindle Locations 1823-1827). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Parts of Reaper’s Stand get pretty dark, especially around chapter 14. Personally, I like “dark” in my stories so it was a fun extension of the story for me, but could push triggers for some readers. Thankfully, all of Wylde’s stories end with a good love story so push through to reach your happy ending.

Bonus:

There were essentially three epilogues at the end of RS and fans get a mighty big update on Hunter and Em’s arc which was glorious!

* * * * *

xx

 

Fatal Harmony by Anne Malcom

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I may be the villain of the story, but at least I get a leading role.
Evil is a term thrown around history and literature as if it’s something so easily definable. A concept to fight against.
Evil doesn’t exist.
Neither does ‘good.’
Vampires do, though.
I just happen to be one.
I’ve cruised through the centuries managing to avoid all the wars, supernatural and human, but still going to all the best parties.
I would say I avoided bloodshed, but it’s kind of part of the whole ‘vampire’ thing.
I’ve lived on the fringes of a society that considered cruelty and sadism favorable character traits for almost five hundred years. Now I’m in the middle of a war that might just put my nonbeating heart in a lot of danger.
Battles, I can handle.
The impossible attraction between me and the vampire slayer, not to mention the penetrating gaze of the king of our race, on the other hand?
I might not get out undead.

—                    —                     —

Fatal Harmony is the first book in a brand new series by Anne Malcom, who is one of my favourite authors. She normally writes biker romance set in California, so a contemporary fantasy series about vampires, witches, werewolves, demons and slayers is quite the departure. I try to trust authors I’ve been following for a while though, and I always want to support them, so I had this pre-ordered on Amazon as soon as the link went live and read it the day it downloaded to my kindle.

I am so glad I made this decision. Not so glad about the one to stay up reading until 3 am just so I could finish book. Facepalm! I really need to start campaigning my work to provide paid “book days” to staff. I do work in a library after all. It is an expectation that we read and often. Let’s just call them professional development days, shall we?!

First off, Fatal Harmony is FUNNY! I love Isla. She could be my best friend. She always has a quip or a quick one-liner and is heavily influenced by the entertainment industry, one of the things that makes her so different from the rest of the vampire race. She is fashionable, a self-made billionaire and hard-working CEO who is incredibly sarcastic but not in an unkind way. Isla is unassuming. She is one of the best-connected and powerful of all vampires, due to her genealogical lineage and friendships with other otherworldly beings, but spurns the aristocracy and politics of her own race.

Malcom provides a fresh perspective on vampire literature. I am so sick of reading vampires but I love her take on them. They don’t sparkle. And they aren’t “turned” humans.

Vampires are their own race created by the gods in the dawn of time, just like witches and werewolves. And humans. Baby vamps are born to vampire parents and grow up remarkably human-like, until they reach the age of sexual maturity and undergo a transformation into vampirism … much like a second stage of puberty. Every few hundred years, vampire women experience an “awakening” for one year, in which their body basically wakes up and is able to procreate.

Malcom’s world is well thought out. All of her otherwordly explanations make sense to me which is incredibly important because I have a difficult time suspending disbelief while reading. I need to feel that the relationships and rules of a society are “believable” even in fantasy.

Along with the POV character Isla, we also meet a wide range of other characters. Her best friend is a bad-A witch with coven problems and her “not a side-kick” second-class vampire friend (vamp mom, human dad) has hidden depth. The King of the vamps is seriously scary and completely intrigued by our dear Isla, which is even scarier. He is one sexy and powerful potential relationship. I cannot wait to learn more about him in the sequel.

Finally, vampires’ mortal enemies Slayers, are back in town and one in particular has some pretty big secrets. And sex appeal to spare.

Life is gonna be interesting.

Fatal Harmony is the first book in the Vein Chronicles. The second is in progress but no word yet on a release date. Sounds like 2017 though!

* * * * *

xx

Echoes of Silence – Anne Malcom

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People make love seem complicated. Intricate. Novels try to capture its intensity; music tries to rein in its soul.
I’ve read every novel I could. I’ve lived and breathed every song that I could listen to. The sounds fill my unquiet mind.
Then he came.
Killian.
He brought with him the beauty of silence that echoes through my soul and showed me love isn’t complicated. It’s simple. Beautiful.
Some say love at first sight doesn’t exist, that you can’t find your soul mate at sixteen years old. Those are people rooted in reality, chained to the confines of life that dictates how you are meant to think. Killian broke those chains. He broke everything, shattered it so I can see that reality is overrated, that daydreams can somehow come to life.
My life tumbled into darkness in the time after I met him, so dark I’m not sure I’ll ever see the light again. But he is always at my side. His life means he knows how to navigate the dark and he can lead me out.
I wade through the darkness with him at my side.
We’ll be together forever; I’m certain of that.
Until I’m not.

—                —                   —

Officially, this book is the first in the Unquiet Minds series, but Echoes of Silence is the spin-off to the Sons of Templar MC series, written by Anne Malcom. I’m going to just talk about it as if it is all the same, because it’s just easier, and hey, this is my blog. Malcom wrote this story as a YA novel, which tells the sweet romance between 16yo Lexie and bad boy Killian.

If you are familiar with the Sons of Templar series, Lexie is the daughter of Mia, who was featured in the third novel. She and Killian were so enchanting as secondary characters that they have sparked their own novels. Although I would recommend reading the series in its entirety, Echoes could be read as a stand-alone.

Surprisingly, Echoes of Silence was my favourite novel so far by Malcom! I didn’t expect this because I usually read dark romances (so not YA!) and worried that there would be too much re-telling from Out of the Ashes.

The witty banter that I loved in the mother’s book was still present, but few scenes were retold from a different perspective. Reading Echoes made me realize how much was missed from her story before, and Killian in particular I got to know so much better. He is the son of a deceased club member and has been largely raised by the club since childhood due to maternal neglect.

Another favourite aspect is to see the relationship develop between bubbly, positive Lexie and her step-dad Bull, who barely speaks unless with her. I love seeing new relationships develop in a healthy manner instead of the typical “step family” tropes. Who doesn’t want one big happily, Brady-style family?!

There was one unique aspect that set this book aside from the Sons of Templar series, besides the sexual content: the music.

Lexie’s musicality and her band feature heavily throughout and it a key defining tone of the book, particularly in the conclusion. I love that after the story, the author included a “playlist” because I was trying to mentally keep track while reading to go back and listen to the songs that made such an impact to the characters.

Here is a screenshot of Lexie’s (Malcom’s) play list … and hopefully it isn’t a problem I just copied and pasted this one in.

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I recognize many of the artists on the list, but not all and learned a bunch of great new songs.

Echoes of Silence is the first in a two-part special featuring Killian and Lexie. It does not end happily, but the upside is we get two full novels devoted to an amazing couple! Malcom isn’t making us wait too long either; the follow-up – Skeletons of Us – should be released September 2nd, 2016. She even has the first chapter available on her website.

* * * * *

xx

Out of the Ashes – Anne Malcom

Out of the Ashes is the third novel in the Sons of Templar series. Although this series can be read out of order (and honestly, I mistakenly did this), I’d read it in order if I could do it over again.

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Living a life in darkness causes the soul to char to ash. Battling demons by turning himself into a monster is the only way he can survive…the only way he can keep a grip on sanity. That grip is precarious at best, every day is a silent battle with demons that threaten to yank him into the truest form of darkness, the abyss he’ll never escape. Then it happens. Light shines through the cracks.

Happiness. Mia Spencer’s life is full of it. She has an amazing new job, friends, family, and the light of her life – her daughter Lexie. Running from the demons of the past, escaping a hell that she vowed Lexie would never know about, she worked through hardship and near poverty to create something she was proud of. Buried deep inside, underneath the swell of love she had for her only daughter, were the fractured pieces of her. Pieces that were smashed and battered when she was young and vulnerable.

Then she meets Bull, who seems to hate her on sight. He screams danger, from his huge physique, to his beautiful ink, to the motorcycle club he belongs to. He is silent, his glares threaten to burn her into flames, yet she finds herself falling for him. Finds this broken man slowly fixing the pieces she thought would stay shattered forever.

—                —              —

Out of the Ashes is my favourite book in this series so far! Mia and Lexie are adorable together. It is overwhelmingly obvious that the author is a fan of Gilmore Girls, as Mia and Lexie share more than a passing resemblance to the main characters on the show. They wittily banter back and forth non-stop, and are both addicted to coffee. They have the sweetest mother-daughter relationship and similar backgrounds.

Unlike in the show, Mia was born into trailer park trash, but she finds herself a mother and alone at 16 and raises her baby on her own, by starting out as a maid in a hotel working for room and board and rising to hotel manager. Lexie, just like Rory Gilmore, is a super smart, super kind, eclectic and not at all teenagerish teenager who is destined for great things.

 

Here is an example of some of the more refreshing banter between Mia and Lexie:

“Okay, I’m giving the coffee a hundred and twelve and the pancakes a solid nine and a half. I deducted half because I feel like they could be improved by adding chocolate chips to them,” I declared, leaning back in my seat.

Lexie nodded at me. “I’m seconding the coffee, and I’m hugely impressed a town this small has embraced acai bowls. I must say this one is hells good.”

I rolled my eyes. “I fail to believe that any acai bowl could be “hells good.” It’s a crime to breakfast foods everywhere that that can be considered appropriate as a meal. It’s a smoothie poured into a bowl. It’s like cold soup,” I said, my nose curled in distaste.

Lexie folded her arms. “Acai is a super food and it does wonders for your immune system. It’s full of antioxidants and is a much better way to start the day than with processed sugars and bleached flour,” she told me in a scolding tone.

“The only way, other than coffee, to start a day is with sugar. That’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning,” I argued. “That and the possibility Jensen Ackles will finally realize he’s in love with me,” I added dreamily.

Lexie sighed. “I don’t know how you’ve stayed this skinny, Mom. You should need a crane to get you out of the house,” she said, scrunching her nose at me while she looked me up and down.

“I don’t know how my daughter learned about acai and freaking quinoa when such things are sacrilege in my mind,” I countered.

“A little thing called the internet,” she replied.

Malcom, Anne. Out of the Ashes (The Sons of Templar MC Book 3) (Kindle Locations 158-171). Kindle Edition.

With a teenage daughter in tow, Mia is the most reluctant of all the leading ladies so far to pursue a relationship with an outlaw biker. She is painfully aware that building a relationship with the club could place her daughter at risk and while she is more than willing to risk herself for love, no way is she going to do the same to Lexie.

Leading guy Bull feels the same way. He lost his first wife due to a war with another club and has been in the throes of depression ever since. The optimism and zany banter that Lexie and Mia bring to town starts to draw him out, but Bull remains the quietest, grumpiest and most taciturn biker of the group. Even his club brothers seem to be removed from him and nervous of his control at times. I get the feeling that the only people completely safe from Bull (when he loses it) are Lexie and Mia.

I’m impressed with Mia’s forgiving patience because I would have given up on him long before, but I guess that is just the animal magnetism at work. Bull and Mia also have the kinkiest relationship to date. He is definitely dominant in bed and likes to call the shots outside of it as well. Mia keeps him on his toes and is absolutely alpha when it parenting Lexie, but she loves Bull’s wild and possessive personality and is totally on board with bangin’ against the wall. I wish we had seen more of this unrestrained passion.

I think my one regret in this novel is that Bull and Mia spent so much time working through his (totally justified) hangups to establish themselves as a couple, and then overcoming Mia’s reluctance to associate with people who could be a danger to Lexie, that we don’t actually see them together as much as the other couples. I would love to read another book about them in the future, even if it is a novella, and also to see more of the parent/friend relationship that develops between Bull and Lexie.

There is a super sweet and heart-warming romantic sub-plot between Lexie and bad boy Killian who has been raised by the club and I can see that the author has also published a novel about them, so I am exited to read that one soon.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. As I said, it was the first one that I read, although I held on to my review so I could release them in series order. I’m thankful that taking a chance on this new-to-me author paid off and cannot wait to read more of her works!

* * * * *

xx

Dark Promises by Christine Feehan – review

I have been a fan of Christine Feehan for fourteen some years now, which most certainly makes her the author I have been reading for the longest period of time. But the past few years, I have gone off her megahit “Dark” series which I began with. They seemed (to me) to have become repetitive and somehow less tangible when compared to most of her other series. The Sea Haven and Ghostwalker series are much more human in my experience and I find it easier to relate to those female protagonists.

Enter Gabrielle in Dark Promises.

dark promises

Blurb, courtesy of the author’s website.

Gabrielle has had enough of battles, of wars, of seeing the man she’s engaged to nearly lose his life when it isn’t even his fight. Once Gary was a gentle and very human researcher. Now he’s a fearless and lethal Carpathian warrior with the blood of an ancient lineage coursing through his veins—a man Gabrielle still needs and dreams of with every breath she takes. All she wants is a life far away from the Carpathian mountains, far from vampires and the shadows cast by the crumbling monastery that hides so many terrible secrets. But Gabrielle soon learns that promises made in the dark can pierce the heart like a dagger.

And she isn’t the only one in search of answers in the corners of the unknown…

Trixie Joanes has come to the Carpathian mountains in search of her wayward granddaughter, fearing that she has been lured there by something unspeakable. Instead, Trixie has stumbled onto the path of a desperate woman on the run. And they’re all fated for the lair of a mysterious ancient with revenge in his soul and the undying power to make bad dreams come true.

** Note, the author posts the first chapter of every book on her website, if you want to check it out before deciding whether to purchase.

—               —

What absolutely made this story for me was Gabrielle and her refusal to accept the new Carpathian life that fate has set before her. She isn’t in love with her stranger of a lifemate (Aleksei), clings desperately to beau Gary and quite seriously considered suicide before dedicating herself to reinventing her life.

In all the previous Dark books the heroine has rather easily accepted the new life thrust upon her. The overbearing lifemate, the eternal life not also granted to loved ones, the strange new rules and customs of an ancient and foreign species, career loss, the necessities of drinking blood and sleeping underground (aka getting buried alive every night) to survive …. these all seem reasonable given the emotional and physical intimacy between lifemates, at least to the majority of heroines.

Well I call bullshit.

As fun as it can be to read about, much like the Hunger Games, this is one world that I would prefer NOT to jump into. I think it would actually be rather traumatizing to become a Carpathian and I highly doubt I would adjust as quickly as most of the leading ladies. And I like to picture myself as said lead, I do it unconsciously as I read, so it is important that I am able to relate to her.

Savannah was already Carpathian, although she had trouble accepting her lifemate at first. Lara and Alexandra notable resisted. But nearly 30 books on, true denial of the lifemate bond has been few and far between. If you follow the series, you know that Gabrielle was actually “turned” several books ago to save her life, well before meeting Alexei, but she hasn’t made any attempts to join Carpathian society. She can’t even feed herself or tuck herself in underground in the morning. She clings to her human life and human mind with every bit of strength and tenacity she possesses.

I think her reaction would be most closely aligned with my own of all the heroines introduced so far. It was refreshing to see a “normal” woman with regular old problems trying to fit into this world and failing so desperately at first. It was also awesome (in a bittersweet way) to watch Alexei fail so miserably in stimulating affection in Gabrielle for the first while. The series is set upon the basis that they are two halves of the same whole, but in the mean-time, they are still complete strangers who have many misunderstandings and hurts standing between them and happiness.

I would love to see Christine one day write a book where the heroine comes with a few kids who aren’t so happy with the Carpathian lifestyle (and danger) their Mom is dragging them into. Maybe with a biological Dad in the background that shares custody.

A lot of fans might not share my dream – they’re more escapist readers who want the fantastical adventure and fairy-tale romance – but I love to read tales that are bound to the human world, and what could be more human than our complicated familial ties and emotions that bind our lives to one another.

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Firestorm by Anne Malcom

Firestorm is the second book in the Sons of Templar series. You can read my blog post about book one here.

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Amy Abrams doesn’t do love. Nor does she do emotional attachments, unless you count the connection she has with designer handbags. She grew up in an Upper East Side penthouse, which had about as much affection within its tastefully decorated walls as Castle Dracula. Her family is the precise reason why she points her red-soled heels firmly in the opposite direction of that dreaded four-letter word.

Then it happens. Love. It comes right out of the blue and knocks her off her six-inch heels. She learns that love comes with pesky side effects such as heartbreak, which seriously messes with the complexion. Amy promises herself that she’ll never open herself to that horrible feeling again. She doesn’t count on an infuriating, albeit drool-worthy biker to roar into her life and ruin the plans she had of locking up her heart. She keeps her distance, wary of the sinfully sexy biker whose tattoos should read Warning – dangerous alpha male, will screw up your life.

Amy may be an Upper East Side princess but she wasn’t looking for Prince Charming. She wouldn’t mind the name of his hair stylist, though. Brock certainly isn’t a knight in shining armour, but he consumes her, body and soul. Drama pulls them apart; danger will bring them back together. When Amy is threatened Brock is there ready to save her life. Her heart is another story.

—                —                —

Firestorm is the ultimate love triangle book. Amy previously fell in love with her best friend’s Spec Ops brother Ian- the first love of her life – but he broke it off to return to the theatre of war, not believing it was fair to keep her waiting. A year later she moves to Amber and starts falling in love with Brock, only to discover that Ian is leaving the military and coming home with the intentions of settling down with her.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Please note that there is no cheating in this novel, for anyone who is concerned.

One of the biggest differences in Firestorm, compared to the first in the series, is that the book bounces around a lot in the timeline. Because the relationship between Ian and Amy began before the series, their story is told in flashbacks. So is much of Amy’s back-story with Brock; Malcom recaps the goings-on between Amy and Brock in the first book, giving an insider look to issues that were only hinted at in Making the Cut. At the same time, obviously there is a present day, where Amy is try to dealing with the fallout of book 1.

MAJOR spoiler alert for book 1

Ian dies in book one, remember. He was killed in action and Amy feels a lot of grief and guilt around his death and her life going forward. It would have been much easier I think, for her to accept a second love in Brock and make a new life if she had met him after Ian’s death. But she didn’t, and can’t allow herself to be happy for the longest time.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Sons of Templar novel without some drama and kidnapping : )

I love the longer style of book Malcom has perfected and that we get updates on Cade and Gwen and their baby girl. The pacing of the story is a little different since the author doesn’t need to spend a lot of time introducing the characters and the world to the reader. I did find that the jumpy timeline slowed down my reading a little bit. Sometimes I needed a moment to reset myself after a jump, to remember where we had last left off. As long as you’ve read the first novel though you already know at least some of what is transpiring, so it helps to not be trying to learn who the characters are as well.

I loved learning about how absolutely shitty Amy’s family members are. It would have been neat to also learn more about Brock though. I find that 99% of the books are about the women and their history. Considering each is written from the perspective of the heroine, this partially makes sense, but I still wish we had gotten more backstory on the hero.

One of my favourite parts of Amy is her forced optimism, bravery and sheer mouthiness. Happiness doesn’t shine from her soul, she has to work for it and sometimes gets dealt a pretty shitty hand, but she perseveres through humour, which is a valuable quality to have. She inspired me to try to remember to use humour more frequently through the bad times. My go-to is to try not to acknowledge a lot of the bad, because I figure the world is dark enough and I don’t need to invite more into my life, but sometimes there is no helping it, and then, humour can be invaluable.

I highly recommend you pick up Firestorm asap. This is one where you probably need to read book one first to enjoy it though.

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xx

Claim Me by Anna Zaires

Claim Me is the third and final novel to the Capture Me Series, which is in turn a companion series to the Twist Me series. Reading both series would enhance your enjoyment but is not necessary; however it is necessary to read these novels in order.

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Here is the blurb, from Goodreads:

She’s on the run.

Yulia Tzakova’s freedom comes at a heavy price. Her former captor dominates her dreams, and survival consumes her waking moments. She may have escaped, but she’s far from safe.

In the shadowy world of spies and betrayal, nothing is what it seems.

He’s obsessed with getting her back.

Lucas Kent’s rage knows no bounds. The danger of his job occupies his days, but hunting down Yulia is what he lives for. When he finds her, she’ll never escape again.

He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

—             —

* Please note that my review contains some spoilers. Read with caution. Also, I received a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Claim me is much longer than either of the two previous novels, which is something I was super thankful for. The pacing remains fast, but I enjoyed the experience of reading a full-length novel instead of a longish novella.

Unlike in Capture Me and Bind Me, there is very little of the struggle between Yulia and Lucas that was previously present. They have both given up on fighting their feelings and present more of a united front. Similarly, the book didn’t feel like a “captive romance” anymore, because Yulia wasn’t really a prisoner. She wasn’t allowed to leave the compound sure, but she also didn’t have any desire to and Lucas certainly indulges her everything whim and desire. I would venture to say that they have an easier relationship than Julian and Nora!

The first third of the book follows Lucas’ attempts to retrieve Yulia after her escape. He ends up rescuing her and her brother in Ukraine, and feels like a right idiot for not realizing she was protecting a sibling from him, rather than a lover. I was glad to see that little realization since I wanted to kick him in the last one.

The main issue is that Julian will never forgive Yulia for her actions in the Twist Me series, which is a very awkward thing when Lucas and Yulia live on his compound. The solution to this problem actually made me a little sad. It makes sense and it works, but I guess I wanted a Brady Bunch family-style moment.

My least favourite part is Nora going badass on Yulia. Having read the Twist Me series, I didn’t feel like it was in keeping with Nora’s normally very forgiving personality, especially given her (admittedly limited) interactions with Yulia in the past. I’m going to have to re-write that little scene in my head if I ever re-read the story.

Claim Me is a very character-driven book; Zaires’ focus is on the relationship between Yulia and Lucas growing and establishing roles for Yulia and her brother in his world. The whole arc in the series is wrapping up and I didn’t find that there were many plot twists or much that I could comment on. Everything was very predictable to me, but I still found the book enjoyable. The story is satisfying as a conclusion, although it did leave me wishing that Peter will give his own books sometime soon.

I did read this in one sitting and highly recommend it to anyone who has read the series. There is also an epilogue from Julian’s point of view taking place a few years in the future. As much as I loved Yulia and Lucas, I still prefer Julian and Nora and hope we will get to return to them one day!

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xx

 

Bind Me by Anna Zaires

** Bind Me is the second book in the Capture Me series, and these books need to be read in order. It is a companion series to Twist Me.

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Synopsis:

He’s determined to break her.

For Lucas Kent, his new prisoner is a maddening contradiction: compliant yet defiant, fragile yet strong. He needs to uncover her secrets, but doing so may ruin everything.

His obsession could destroy her.

She’s determined to escape.

For Yulia Tzakova, her captor is the man of both her dreams and her nightmares: tender one moment, cruel the next. She can’t let him crack her, but resisting him may leave her broken.

A moment of weakness could cost her everything.

—                 —

I love Lucas and Yulia! They have great chemistry together and I love the darker elements of this story. It reads very differently from how the Twist Me series played out, but it works. The best things about this book are that we see a whole lot more interaction between the two and the emotional entanglement deepens.

Lucas decides that he has to keep her and sets about trying to learn all Yulia’s secrets. I got the sense that he was almost keeping her as a pet. He loves her and lusts after her, but they can never be equal partners in this relationship. His goal is to keep her safe – from herself as much as the rest of the world – containing her while indulging in carnal pleasures.

It’s about tying her to me, binding her so tightly she’ll never be able to leave.

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Location 510). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

I got so frustrated with Yulia, for not opening up and sharing with Lucas about her brother. Her secrecy is meant to protect him, and I can understand logically that she believes Lucas will kill anyone important to her, especially since he is connected to the Agency, but as a reader, we know that Lucas believes this man she is protecting is her lover, not a teenage brother.

Ignoring the part of me that revolts at the idea of injuring Lucas, I take the fork, slip it into the back pocket of my shorts, and close the cabinet. I can’t allow him to break me. My brother’s life depends on it.

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1196-1198). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

My favourite scenes in this book were Lucas breaking beneath the protective shell Yulia wraps around herself to find out about her past and the Agency that she worked for. They were steamy and intense and emotionally scarring for Yulia but that is what makes such a great story for the reader! I also loved when she tries to teach Lucas how to cook. It changes up the power dynamics established early on, if only briefly, and is a humorous aside to otherwise dark material.

“Okay, that’s enough potatoes, I think,” she says, getting up. Her flip-flops— the only shoes I got her— make a slapping noise on the tile floor as she comes toward me. “Now we need to take the garlic, mix it with dill, salt, and pepper, and place everything on a frying pan. You have oil, right?”

“Oil. Check.” I grab a bottle of olive oil from a cabinet to my left. “Do I pour it over the potatoes?”

She props her hip on the edge of the countertop. “You’re kidding me, right?” I frown, not appreciating the mockery. She bursts out laughing. “Lucas, seriously. Have you never fried anything in your life?”

“Nothing that was edible afterwards,” I grudgingly admit. “I may have tried it once or twice and given up.”

Zaires, Anna; Zales, Dima. Bind Me (Capture Me Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1028-1034). Mozaika Publications. Kindle Edition.

My main complaint about Bind me is that the story was too long. I felt that it would have been better to combine the first and second novels but thankfully, the author has posted that the third (and final) book in this series will be longer. In addition, the upcoming Claim Me is said to have some more scenes with Julian and Nora!

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