Guest Post by Author Nico Rosso on Rock and Roll + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome Nico Rosso, who recently published Heavy Metal Heart (reviewed here). He’s also the co-author, or co-conspirator, The Ether Chronicles, which is of one of my favorite steampunk romance series, along with his wife Zoe Archer. So I’m especially pleased to have him as my guest at Reading Reality!

Thanks so much for having me, Marlene! Now let’s tune the guitars and crank up the amps.

Heavy Metal Heart by Nico RossoRock and roll moves us. It’s caused revolutions, riots, and revelations. We can dance to it, or bang our heads, or sing along at the top of our lungs at top speed on the freeway. I’m definitely guilty of this, as my wife, Zoë Archer can attest to.

I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing, and this was especially true when I was working on my paranormal romance Heavy Metal Heart (book 1 of my new series, Demon Rock). The hero, Trevor Sand, is a nearly immortal demon rock star, so I needed plenty of musical energy to pump through it. Misty Grant, the heroine, is definitely into his music, but has no idea about the supernatural side of things. Until one night, when she breaks out of her routine and goes to see Trevor do a rare show at a small venue. That one night not only brings her into his wild world, but also shows how she has a very special place there.

Fate and the power of Trevor’s music might’ve been bringing them together for their whole lives, but the action really gets started at that small show. There’s nothing like an intimate venue to concentrate all the beautiful chaos of rock and roll.

I’ve been to some big arena shows, where the band is no closer than some glittering constellations. I guess that’s why the call them rock stars. I think the last of these shows for me was U2’s Pop Mart tour (the one with the giant lemon). It was good to hear the music live, but it lacked the vitality of a small stage. I don’t carry a very strong memory of the show because it seemed too distant to impact me.

SAMSUNG CSCWhen you’re close to the amps and the band, you can literally feel the music thumping through your chest. As if it’s another heartbeat, the same one everyone else is feeling. Not only are you connected to the music, but also the rest of the crowd. Recently I went to an Adam Ant show with Zoë in a relatively small space. I was expecting the old tunes, same as you’ve heard on the radio. Instead, I was blown away by the band and their furious energy. Simple and raw rock and roll. Close enough to feel in your veins. That elation continued after the show, as people left the venue, still bonded by the unique experience.

Do you have any special concert memories in large or small venues? Leave a comment and I’ll pick one person at random to win a PDF copy of Heavy Metal Heart!

Thanks so much for coming by today. I’m looking forward to reading your responses.
And if you want to continue the conversation, I can be found on my website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

And Heavy Metal Heart can be found here:


For a chance to win a PDF copy of Heavy Metal Heart by Nico Rosso, use the Rafflecopter below.

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Review: Heavy Metal Heart by Nico Rosso

Heavy Metal Heart by Nico RossoFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Demon Rock, #1
Length: 132 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: September 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Rock Star. Front man. Demon. A descendant of satyrs and the lead singer in a band that feeds on the energy of its audience, Trevor Sand is growing weary of the constant need to perform. He needs the legend of the Muse—a woman destined to be a demon’s eternal companion and only source of sustenance—to be true.

Misty Grant has never been bold, but when Trevor singles her out among hundreds at a concert, she takes him up on his explicit offer. During an erotic night in his hotel room, she learns that his touch is as electric as his lyrics. But when Trevor’s demon is aroused, her desire turns to horror and she runs.

Knowing that he’ll die if he loses her, Trevor must find Misty before his enemies do. But even if he can save her, he knows that regaining the trust of his fated Muse will be his greatest challenge.

My Review:

This is for everyone who has ever been told that rock music is the devil’s music. Or possibly for everyone whose parents ever shouted something like that through the bass beat thumping through the house while they were still teenagers living at home.

Heavy Metal Heart has that spirit of defiance rock and roll defiance blasting through its storyline, and if you love rock, that back beat carries you through the sense that this paranormal romance happens awfully fast.

But then, rock stars burn hot and burn out fast. Unless they really are demons.

Trevor Sand is a rock and roll superstar. This time around. In other times and in other places he’s played every kind of music that there is, from opera to harpsichord to beating skins stretched over wood frames. In this time and place, rock and roll is what brings in enough energy to feed his hunger. Trevor is a demon. He calls himself that. Terminology is slippery. Call him an elemental if it works for you.

Trevor and the boys in his band have walked the Earth for millennia. They were called up by the intense energy of humans first celebrating their ability to survive and conquer the world around them. As long as humans lose themselves in revelry, Trevor and his kind are immortal.

There’s one hitch. Actually two. Rationality hems in the natural order of things. It is natural for humans to let loose now and again. Teenagers are meant to rebel; Friday nights are meant for going out and partying. But there is a group set against Trevor and his fellow demons, the Philosophers. The Philosophers are the gloom and doom party. Complete with real doom.

Then there’s the girl of Trevor’s dreams. Every great artist has a muse. Make that muse with a capital M. Just as Shakespeare wrote poems to his ‘dark lady’, Trevor has been been penning songs to his woman with ‘green eyes’. But for a demon, once he finds his Muse, she becomes the only way he can feed his hunger for energy. Once he’s found her, if she dies, he dies.

She’ll save him, but she’ll also make him vulnerable. Sounds like love.

Misty Grant has been dreaming of Trevor Sands for years, since the first time she heard his music. For one night, she decides to walk on the wild side by going to his impromptu concert and introducing herself, no matter how far out of her comfort zone she has to step.

She has no idea…

Escape Rating B: This is a story of two counter-poised myths. One is that the need of human beings to celebrate, to create, to make joyful noise and song is so powerful that its very nature became embodied in elemental spirits that feed from the energy humans give off when they “live it up”. The Roman god Bacchus loved riotous, drunken festivals, he even gave his name to them; bacchanalia. What if he was based on a something that lived off the energy created by those revels?

Rock and roll isn’t the first time that music has been seen to be a demon’s playground, either. People initially thought the waltz was quite shocking (read almost any Regency romance to get a flavor for this); never mind Mozart’s behavior.

The other myth is the one about every great artist having one perfect Muse who inspires him (or her), combining more than a bit with the fated-mate trope for good effect in this instance. An awful lot of girls dream of being picked out of a crowd by a rock star, in this particular bit of wish fulfillment, the rock star has also been dreaming of this one, particular woman. It makes the concept work this time.

Although Trevor is the demon, the story hinges on Misty’s transformation from ordinary human to extraordinary. It’s not just because she has the most awesome one-night-stand with a rock god, but because she was always meant to be more. She just has to keep deciding, over and over, that she wants everything that that “more” means, the bad as well as the good.

If you’d like to try a story that combines the immortal rock and roll of Jeri Smith-Ready’s WVMP series and the hot sex of Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series, let Heavy Metal Heart have another little piece of your heart.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-29-13

Sunday Post

Tomorrow the sun will set on the Sunset on Summer Sun Blog Hop. If you’re interested in the $10 gift card to either Amazon or B&N that I’m giving away, or the grand prize of a Kindle Fire or Nook HD that the organizers are giving away, or just perusing all the other great prizes, you have 24 hours to enter everything. Give or take.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

Seattle is absolutely sopping wet this weekend, and on track to make this September the wettest September EVER. Drip, drip, splish, splash. Waiting for the bus tomorrow is going to be such a joy! NOT.

Rainy season is here with a vengeance!

Sunset on Summer Fun Blog HopCurrent Giveaways:

Sunset on Summer Sun Blog Hop: my prize is a $10 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble; the blog hop’s grand prize is a Kindle Fire or Nook HD.
Declan’s Cross by Carla Neggers: Hardcover (US/CAN only)
Tourwide Giveaway: 5 signed paperback copies of Forged in Dreams and Magick by Kat Bastion, 5 ebook copies, Pandora sterling silver charm bracelet
Marry Me, Cowboy by Lillian Darcy and Tempt Me, Cowboy by Megan Crane; both ebook only, but INT giveaway

Gilded by Karina CooperBlog Recap:

B Review: Declan’s Cross by Carla Neggers
Q&A from Author Carla Neggars + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Rare Event by P.D. Singer
B+ Review: Gilded by Karina Cooper
B- Review: Forged in Dreams and Magick by Kat Bastion + Giveaway
B Review: Marry Me, Cowboy by Lillian Darcy + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (60)

Something Wicked Returns BlueComing Next Week:

Heavy Metal Heart by Nico Rosso (review + guest post + giveaway)
The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane (review + guest post + giveaway)
Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (review)
Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold (review)
Something Wicked Returns Blog Hop

Stacking the Shelves (60)

Stacking the Shelves

I borrowed The Cuckoo’s Calling from the library out of sheer curiosity. I wonder how the hell Rowling did at a mystery/suspense thriller. Now that we all know Robert Galbraith is Rowling, it all seems so obvious. Cormoran Strike is so a Hogwarts’ name.

Libriomancer by Jim C. HinesI finally got Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, and started it immediately. This is my kind of book. Not just because the hero is a librarian (awesome) but the whole concept that there is magic in books that a person with the right kind of talent can release. We all know that there is magic in books, but the idea of bringing into the real world is made of win. (I also love Hines’ work on exposing, sometimes literally, the sexism in sci-fi and fantasy book covers, but there isn’t enough mental bleach in the universe to make me un-see the Flandry re-shoot with Patrick Rothfuss. I love Mary Robinette Kowal’s power-pose, but OMG, Rothfuss in the lower left. Enough said.) If you’ve never looked at the “Cover Posing” section of Hines’ site, take a look. Your eyes will be opened. And your back will spasm in sympathy.

So far, Libriomancer is excellent. But that was to be expected.

Stacking the shelves Reading Reality September 28 2013

For Review:
The Execution (Jeremy Fisk #2) by Dick Wolf
Fiddlehead (Clockwork Century #6) by Cherie Priest
Finding It (Losing It #3) by Cora Carmack
Foreplay (Ivy Chronicles #1) by Sophie Jordan
Forgiving Lies (Forgiving Lies #1) by Molly McAdams
Season of Seduction by Jeffe Kennedy, Christine d’Abo, Elise Logan, Emily Ryan-Davis and Jodie Griffin
Taste of Darkness (Healer #3) by Maria V. Snyder

Romancing Lady Stone (School of Gallantry #3.5) by Delilah Marvelle
Torrent (Rust & Relics #1) by Lindsay Buroker

Borrowed from the Library:
Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) by Abigail Roux
The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy #2) by N.K. Jemisin
The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin
Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1) by Jim C. Hines
The Shambling Guide to New York City (Shambling Guides #1) by Mur Lafferty

Review: Marry Me, Cowboy by Lilian Darcy + Giveaway

Marry Me Cowboy by Lilian DarcyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Western romance
Series: Copper Mountain Rodeo, #2
Length: 129 pages
Publisher: Tule Publishing Group
Date Released: September 21, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Champion barrel-racer Tegan Ash has nothing left to go home to in her native Australia and every reason to stay in the USA. But her visa is about to expire, and her prospective groom has called off their green-card wedding.

Jamie MacCreadie doesn’t actually want to marry a woman he can’t stand, but his best friend and fellow rodeo rider Chet has just let her down and, somehow, he finds himself offering to do the deed instead.

There’s no chance it could turn into the real thing, because they have nothing in common… do they?

My Review:

A western romance combining frenemies-to-lovers with just a hint of arranged marriage. It’s an arrangement that works pretty darn well!

Tegan Ash starts out the story planning on a green-card marriage with her rodeo buddy Chet Wyndham. This isn’t a love match. Tegan and Chet aren’t even friends-with-benefits. Tegan has been a barrel rider on the rodeo circuit for almost two years, and her visa is up. Her dad and step-mum have sold the family farm in Australia, and she feels like she has no home to go back to. But her rodeo career in the U.S. hasn’t been quite splashy enough for the owner of the rodeo to be willing to sponsor her for an extension of her work visa.

That’s where Chet was supposed to come into the picture. Tegan, Chet and Jamie have been the Three Musketeers for almost two years. Solving Tegan’s problem with a green-card marriage should have been a piece of cake. Except for two things.

Tegan and Jamie scrap like a pair of five year olds every time they’re within talking distance. Or even glaring distance.

And Chet backs out of the ceremony at the last minute. The very, very last minute. Leaving Tegan with less than six weeks to sell her horse, her half of her trailer and everything else she has in the States, and go back to a family she’s lost complete touch with.

Chet finally admits that he won’t marry Tegan, even a half-baked, half-faked marriage, because he’s gay. (About time he made that admission, it’s screamingly obvious what his secret is by that point.)

But Chet leaves behind two friends who suddenly no longer have a wedding between them to hide the other elephant in the barn. All that scrapping has been a dust storm to hide the real heat they feel for each other.

The only problem is that now Tegan and Jamie only have six weeks to undo all the learned fighting behaviors that they’ve always engaged in with each other to see what else they might have besides boiling hot sexual chemistry.

Can they manage to talk to each other? Enough and in time to see where this might lead before Tegan has to go back to Australia for good?

Escape Rating B: The story is all about Tegan and Jamie adjusting their thinking towards each other. Actually, it’s mostly about Tegan adjusting her thinking, Jamie’s is pretty well adjusted. In fact, it’s his supportive reaction to Chet’s reveal of his big secret that turns the tide in his favor.

Tegan doesn’t want to go home because she had originally planned to stay in the U.S. for two years and then go back to her family’s farm. She just hadn’t been ready to settle down when the rodeo offer came along and she thought her father understood that. However, he sold the farm while she was gone, and her stepmother made it seem like it was because her half-brother needed the money for law school. Her relationship with her family is strained.

Jamie’s relationship with his own family is equally strained. His folks weren’t happy he chose a rodeo career either. They wanted him to stay on their ranch and help out, and seemed to be equally of the belief that by the time he was done with his rodeo career, he’d be too banged up to help them out. But when the rodeo comes to Copper Mountain, he and his family manage to come to an understanding.

He thinks that maybe Tegan can find some middle ground with her folks, but only if she goes there in person. He knows that telephone call don’t really connect people who aren’t good at talking much about their feelings. Like him. And probably like her dad.

Sex turns out to be pretty easy once Tegan’s fake engagement to Chet is out of the way. But a relationship is difficult to work out. Tegan doesn’t want to reveal where her broken places are; she’s afraid of being vulnerable. And she thinks there’s no time for them to be more than sex buddies.

She turns out to be wonderfully wrong.

Tempt Me Cowboy by Megan Crane~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

The author is giving away an ebook copy of Marry Me, Cowboy and an ebook copy of Tempt Me, Cowboy by Megan Crane (reviewed last week) to a lucky winner! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Striker’s Chance by Rebecca Crowley

The Striker's Chance by Rebecca CrowleyFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Release Date: September 2, 2013
Number of pages: 149 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Landing the PR contract for North Carolina’s new soccer team could take Holly Taylor’s career to the next level. Her task? Make Kepler “Killer” de Klerk, an athlete with a party-hard reputation, a star. But revamping the sexy footballer’s image while battling her unwanted attraction to him is easier said than done.

The car accident that derailed Kepler’s European career also gave him some much-needed perspective. He’s ready to give up on fame and focus on the game he loves. The last thing he needs is a headstrong brunette pushing him back into the spotlight, even if butting heads with her is the most fun he’s had in ages.

The more time Holly spends with Kepler, the more she sees how different he is from his tabloid persona. But when she’s offered her dream job for a price, she finds herself torn between the career she’s spent years building and the man she doesn’t want to give up.

My Thoughts:

A sports romance set in North Carolina about soccer instead of NASCAR. What a surprise!

Hey, a sports romance set in the U.S. about soccer instead of football. An even bigger surprise!

On the other hand, because the book is about soccer instead of football, or any other sport that USians are familiar with, the title kind of lays an egg. On the other hand, the cover, while featuring yet another infamous headless torso, represents an event that takes place in the story. (Also looks yummy.)

About the story…

This is a contemporary romance about a female sports PR specialist who has to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Not exactly, but close enough. It’s not that “Killer” de Klerk isn’t pretty enough (back to that cover picture again) but his off the field reputation is “party all the time” and the “Killer” nickname sums up his on the field rep.

His off the field antics ended in an automobile accident that nearly ended his career and got him kicked off his old team and out of Europe. The new team in North Carolina is his last chance to play the game he loves before either time or the accumulation of injuries bring his career to a close.

Holly Taylor’s brilliant idea is to turn Killer back into Kepler de Klerk. To make him a bit more family friendly, but mostly to showcase him as a leader and integrate him into the team and the community.

Kepler finds himself making a home in Charlotte, and a place for himself with his new team. He’s the star, but it’s his experience that proves a genuine treasure, as he teaches the young team not just how to play, but also how to win.

And while he makes himself at home in Charlotte, he gets to spend more time with Holly, who proves to be the most compelling reason to love his new team. While Kepler starts to feel like he might have finally found a place where he belongs, the team’s owners have other plans–plans that Holly can’t share with him.

No matter what she feels about those plans. No matter what she might feel for him.

Verdict: This is a solid contemporary sports romance. It doesn’t break any new ground, except maybe for the hero being a soccer player instead of something more usual for an American audience. Also, it’s interesting that Kepler is South African and not from one of the more typical European countries for a non-US background.

While the chemistry in this romance wasn’t off-the-charts, it was definitely there from the beginning, and in a very plausible way. I actually liked that things developed naturally and we didn’t get treated to unrealistic insta-anything.

The development of Kepler’s character, from someone who was used to getting things handed to him and didn’t want to be there, to someone who became a real leader and coach, was well done.

One of the things I liked about Holly was that she was unapologetically devoted to her career. She understood herself and that she put her career first. She’d sacrificed some relationships to that and it was something she understood about herself. Men do this all the time, in romance novels and in life, and it was great to see a woman do the same thing.

The one thing that detracted from the story was the big misunderstandammit. It made sense that Holly would hold off on a relationship with Kepler because getting involved with a client was definitely a conflict of interest. But the whole underhanded business with the team owners seemed very contrived as a way of creating tension.


I give  The Striker’s Chance by Rebecca Crowley 3 and ½ stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Forged in Dreams and Magick by Kat Bastion + Giveaway

Forged in Dreams and Magick by Kat BastionFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Time-travel romance, Paranormal romance
Series: Highland Legends, #1
Length: 323 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: September 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Isobel MacInnes wakes up in present-day California, lunches in medieval Scotland, and by ten days’ end, falls in love with a man and his country, only to lose them in a heart-wrenching twist of fate . . .

Found in the arms of her second soul mate . . .

Forced to balance the delicate strands of time between two millennia . . .

Shocked by revelations rewriting the very foundations of history . . . of everything.

Isobel, a rising-star archaeology student, is dropped into two ancient worlds without warning . . . or her permission. Her fiery spirit resists the dependency thrust upon her. Amid frustration at her lack of control, she helplessly falls in love. Twice.

She struggles to adjust to the unimaginable demands of two leaders of men—a laird in the thirteenth-century Highlands and a Pict chieftain in a more ancient Scotland. Isobel transforms from an academic, hell-bent on obtaining archaeological recognition, to a woman striving to care for those she loves, and ultimately . . . into a fearless warrior risking everything to protect them

My Review:

This was a much wilder ride than I expected…and that’s a good thing.

Isobel MacInnes begins the story as an overachieving graduate student in archaeology, based in California, but inexorably drawn to study the history (and prehistory) surrounding her roots in Scotland.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Isobel is very much still an overachiever at the end of the story. She’s just got, well, bigger fish to fry. Possibly also bake, parboil and grill.

As an archeologist, even a budding archaeologist, she should have known better than to extract the intricately wrought stone she discovered in Scotland when she was tossed from her damaged car in a freak rainstorm. But the stone seemed to be smithed from multiple metals that could not have been worked at the time the stone appeared to have been carved, and, Isobel had just said her last goodbye to her dying grandfather.

Let’s say she wasn’t thinking rationally. Possibly she wasn’t meant to be thinking rationally. That stone was the find of any archaeologist’s lifetime.

And it was magic. Or magick.

Once she gets it back to her advisor’s lab in California (I’m trying to imagine getting that thing past Customs and the TSA and just, oh noes!) she has to share it with someone. Who better than her best friend, someone she met at the Highland Games. Iain Brodie is also an actor, and he’s always flirted with Isobel, pretending he wants more than just friendship. Isobel knows she’s not up to the same standard of beauty as a Hollywood starlet, so she ducks all his passes.

But Iain is a champion at the Highland Games because he has an unfair advantage, and he’s been flirting with Isobel MacInnes because she really is the woman that he wants. Something about the presence of the magical stone pushes them into a confrontation that reveals his true feelings for her.

And the stone transports them from 21st century California to 14th century Scotland. Isobel learns that the rest of her life is going to be nothing like what she planned it would be.

It’s going to be better. But first it’s going to be a whole lot weirder.

Escape Rating B-: The century-spanning scope of the story absolutely does sweep the reader along for the ride.

I’ll confess, at first, I wasn’t sure if Isobel was really in love with Iain, or if she was convincing herself that it was the best thing to do in order to survive in the 14th century. Attaching herself to Iain absolutely was the best thing for her to do for her to survive in the 14th century, but I was having a difficult time deciding whether there was really love on both sides or just Isobel bowing to the inevitable and fooling herself.

It was only after she traveled through time again that she really started living in whatever now she found herself in, however she had to live that now, that it felt like she was owning her own fate, instead of being pushed by the waves.

That part of that fate was to have two warriors as soul mates in two different time periods was icing on the cake. This would be perfectly acceptable if a man were the lead character, I’m fine with the “sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander” idea.

Time travel romance always poses an interesting conundrum. If the traveler goes into the past, as Isobel does, can they change the past and affect the future? Is that what they are meant to do? In which case, have they already done it? If they don’t do it again, what happens?

Isobel’s journey seems to be fated to make her the person, the time traveler, she is meant to become. Which means she has more ahead of her, because the training period literally tore her heart in two. As they say, that which does not kill us, makes us stronger. Isobel becomes much, much stronger.



To celebrate the release of Forged in Blood and Magick, Kat is giving away a number of prizes:

  • (5) Signed Paperback Copies of Forged in Blood and Magick
  • (5) eBook copies of Forged in Blood and Magick
  • (1) Pandora sterling silver Happily Ever After charm with a Pandora sterling silver bracelet.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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For more chances to win, visit the other stops on the blog tour.

This post is part of a blog tour by AToMR Tours-- to visit the other stops, click here.
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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Gilded by Karina Cooper

Gilded by Karina CooperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback
Genre: urban fantasy, steampunk
Series: The St. Croix Chronicles, #2
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon
Date Released: December 26, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In the gleaming heights of Victorian London, a world of deception awaits an unconventional Society lady whose taste for adventure makes her a most formidable adversary …

Though Society demands that I make a good marriage, I, Cherry St. Croix, have neither the time nor the interest. I am on the trail of a murder with no victim, a mystery with no motive, and the key to an alchemical formula that could be my family’s legacy.

Yet the world is not so kind as to let me pursue simple murder and uncomplicated bounties. Above the foggy drift, an earl insists on my attention, while my friends watch my increasingly desperate attempts to remain my own woman. From the silken demands of the Midnight Menagerie—to whose dangerously seductive ringmaster I owe a debt—to the rigorous pressures of the peerage, all are conspiring to place before me a choice that will forever change my life.

My Review:

I think there’s a theme to the titles of the books in Karina Cooper’s St. Croix Chronicles. Her terribly flawed heroine, Cherry St. Croix, always feels as if she is living in some kind of cage. The titles of the books in the series, Tarnished, Gilded, and book 3, Corroded, represent the type of cage that Cherry is trapped in during that part of her life.

Yes, I know, the prequel novella, The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway, doesn’t fit the pattern, but there’s always an exception that fits the rule.

The world of the St. Croix Chronicles is a very dark steampunk version of London where the division between rich and poor has been made quite visibly manifest. An engineer who went stark raving mad found a way to raise London’s wealthy districts above the murk and pea-soup fogs created by her industries, while leaving the poor in the wretchedness of London quite literally below.

The social strata given form.

Cherry straddles two worlds, and not just because of her unconventional parents and hidden unsavory upbringing, but because she herself has been unable to settle into the role (she would call it a strait-jacket) that Victorian society forces on upper-class females.

Also, she is still addicted to opium, a legacy of her lost days in the underworld, and she requires a method of paying for continued habit.

tarnished by karina cooperIn Tarnished (reviewed at Book Lovers Inc.) Cherry tells the story of her continuing to lead the double life of society miss by day and London’s only female Collector, that is bounty hunter, by night, while keeping her household, and society, in the dark as she waits out the last days before she turns of age and can claim her rights to her inheritance.

But instead of freedom, the Midnight Menagerie sunk its own claim into her as she meddled in something either alchemical, magical or scientific beyond her ability to escape.

In Gilded, Cherry discovers that society has its own methods of forcing her to do its will, even as she beats her hands against the bars of the cage she feels closing around her. And even though she knows that marriage is a trap for any woman who would otherwise possess her own fortune, the Midnight Menagerie blackmails her into doing their bidding.

It is only then that she discovers the true nature of the cage that she has stepped into, even as she hears the key turning in the lock.

Escape Rating B+: The St. Croix series gets darker and grittier as it goes, and it keeps going downward in that sense. It’s very good, but don’t read it if you’re looking for a “pick me up”! While I won’t spoil the ending, I will say that you will not leave this story with a smile. More like a heartrending moan.

Cherry is hunting Jack the Ripper and someone is hunting her. This was established in Tarnished and is still part of the underlying plot in Gilded, but the overarching story in Gilded is the “what is Cherry going to do” story. Everyone in London above is hell-bent on Cherry marrying Earl Compton before she reaches her majority except Cherry. I almost wonder if there’s a plot behind that, now that I think about it.

Cherry is also trying to solve a murder at King’s and University Colleges, one that also involves female rights, so again, there’s the theme of what rights do women have and someone seems to be making sure that Cherry can’t claim hers. This may be my interpretation.

Cherry is incredibly flawed, and the story is told from her first-person perspective. She is unquestionably an opium addict, even if she can’t admit it to herself. She’s not even trying to quit. Sometimes she runs out of funds and can’t buy any, but she has no intention of quitting. Her usage simply spirals up and down as fortunes permit. I’m not sure I’ve ever read of an unrepentant addict as a hero or heroine before. She lies, she cheats, she steals, and she loses track of everything she says and does. But she still solves her cases, eventually. She also makes horrific mistakes because of her addiction. But in at least two cases, it also saves her life.

Which makes Cherry’s opium the very model of a conflict of desires.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Rare Event by P.D. Singer

The Rare Event by P.D. SingerFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: M/M romance, Contemporary romance
Length: 350 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: March 30, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Hedge fund trader Ricky Santeramo has it all: money, looks, and fellow trader Jonathan Hogenboom. The two couldn’t be more different: Jon is from old money, while Ricky clawed his way out of blue-collar New Jersey. Jon hedges his positions; Ricky goes for broke. Jon likes opera and the Yankees; Ricky prefers clubbing. Jon drinks wine with dinner; Ricky throws back a beer. Jon wants monogamy… but Ricky likes variety.

Bankrupt airlines are facing strikes, the housing market is starting to crumble, and Jon can’t wait any longer for Ricky to commit. One last night alone and one last risky trade make Jon say, “Enough.” Then Jon’s old friend Davis comes to New York City, ready for baseball and forever. The whole world is chaos, but there are fortunes to be made—or lost—and hearts to be broken—or won.

Faced with losing it all, Ricky must make the savviest trades of his life and pray for a rare event. His portfolio and Jon’s love are on the line.

My Review:

According to eToro, a “rare event” in stock market terms is often referred to as a “black swan event,” something that is both disastrous and whose effects were impossible to predict in advance. A hurricane has a disastrous effect on the economy, but they can’t be predicted more than a few days out, for example.

All you can do is hedge your bets. Have insurance. Or not live in a hurricane-prone area. Or have an emergency evacuation plan.

P.D. Singer’s The Rare Event came down to two interwoven themes. One theme was that of redemption. In this opposites-attract romance, Jon Higgenboom is a trust-fund baby. He was raised with all the advantages. But there was an event in his life that undercut his sense of worth, and because of that one thing, he doesn’t feel advantaged in any emotional way. He’s still looking to redeem that one thing that cost him the man he loved, his entire social circle, the love of a family he thought of as a second set of parents and the brothers who weren’t born to him, and very nearly his future career. He still doesn’t know what he did, if anything.

The event he doesn’t understand has made him a hedge fund trader in a very unsavory firm, but one who carefully hedges his bets on every trade. He plays things both loose and safe in ways that make him and the firm a lot of money. But he’s someone who still wants things to be sane and stable, yet he’s pinned his heart on a man who sees commitment as a trap.

Ricky Santeramo pulled himself into a senior trader’s position at that same firm by playing every trade for the maximum gain, and hedging as few of his trades as possible. And also by being very, very lucky at a time when the market was going up, up, up like it was never going to stop. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too, including in his relationship that wasn’t a relationship with Jon. Because Ricky didn’t do relationships. He wanted to keep everything as open as possible and never play anything safe. Not with Jon, and not at work.

Until Jon got tired of pretending that it didn’t break his heart to know that Ricky went clubbing with other men on the nights that they weren’t together, and equally tired of covering Ricky’s ass at work when Ricky refused to cover his exposed trading positions when millions of the firm’s dollars (and Ricky’s job) were on the line.

It’s only when Jon finally says that he has enough and breaks things off for good that Ricky discovers not just what he’s had all along, and lost, but that being a player is really about using people, and being used. He wasn’t as big or as smart as he thought he was, and it’s cost him the best thing he ever had.

Escape Rating B+: You do learn a lot about hedge funds and the stock market, and I found it fascinating. The how and why of it was absorbing, and I could see why people do this for a living. All the secondary characters of the firm were interesting, quirky people, even if there was one I wanted to strangle.

I said there were two themes. The other big thing going on in this story reminds me of the saying “for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” The story takes place in the months before the great recession of 2008. Jon sees the dominoes and can predict what’s coming, but only worries about making sure that their hedge fund will not get burned and how they can take advantage of the problem. No one thinks to warn the SEC that there’s going to be a major crash in the housing market because of repackaging the mortgage derivatives. Everyone was out for what they could get, even the good guys.

But on a smaller scale, the majority partner in the hedge fund is an equal opportunity sexual predator. All of the junior analysts, regardless of gender, are required to provide sexual services to this asshat in the office at regular intervals and everyone knows about it. Everyone knows who has been called into his office to service him and when. This is a private firm, and no one has been able to stop him. People either leave or swallow. That people in the firm felt like there was absolutely no recourse was, unfortunately, something I could understand. (Yes, the bastard does eventually get his comeuppance)

However, that all of the senior traders continued to have sex in the office where they had no expectation of privacy and where this known predator might walk in and/or have cameras filming (he didn’t, but how could they know?) tripped my willing suspension of disbelief a bit every time. I could accept that the owner was that evil, or I could accept the sex in the office, but not both in the same place.

If only for teaching me the financial term “dead cat bounce” I would think this story was fantastic. It’s certainly an image that is not going to fade any time soon. But it’s both Jon’s and Ricky’s redemption that sticks in the heart long after the story is over.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Tarnished by Karina Cooper

Tarnished by Karina CooperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Series: The St. Croix Chronicles, #1
Genre: Steampunk, Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Number of pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his—for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

My Thoughts:

Tarnished is an extremely apt title for this book, because Cherry St. Croix is one of the most flawed heroines it will ever be your pleasure to meet. Cherry isn’t just flawed, she’s just this side of broken.

Just this side, you understand, she isn’t quite broken, although she probably should be.

Tarnished is very definitely steampunk, and also steampunk of the dark and gritty persuasion. Cherry’s London is not for the faint of heart. Even Cherry requires opium to cope with it.

That’s right, our heroine is an opium addict. She’s also a bounty hunter. Also an unrepentant liar.

What makes Cherry interesting is that she’s an outsider no matter which way she turns, so her perspective is always that of someone with their nose pressed against the glass, peering in at a world they can observe, but never quite be part of.

In London above, she’s the daughter of a Mad St. Croix, a scientist who died in an experiment gone wrong. Society is afraid that Cherry might have inherited his madness along with his wealth. What society isn’t so certain of is that she was sold to a circus after the accident, and spent years as an acrobat and a thief.

In London below, she’s known as Miss Black, the only female “collector” to ply the dangerous trade. She’s a bounty hunter who turns in men and women who otherwise refuse to pay their debts to “The Midnight Menagerie”, a magical pleasure-palace.

In London above, Jack the Ripper is killing prostitutes, and the newspapers have started an outcry. In London below, someone is killing sweets, the slaves who belong to the Menagerie, and harvesting their organs for a gruesome scientific experiment. Officially, no one cares, but unofficially, Cherry takes the bounty.

mysterious case of mr strangeway by karina cooperEven more unofficially, Cherry becomes the bounty, and everything she thought she knew turns upside down.

Verdict: The Cherry St. Croix series is definitely for those who like their steampunk on the extra-dark side. I’m saying this because her world is not a nice or light place, especially not London below, and Cherry isn’t your typical bluestocking heroine. On the other hand, this particular series isn’t reliant on a lot of gears and automatons so far.

Cherry became a collector (see The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway for details) in order to be able to purchase more opium than her guardian would allow. Notice I didn’t say purchase it at all, just to purchase more than was acceptable.

In Tarnished, Cherry is on the verge of coming into her inheritance. She is also straddling two worlds, and there is a man with a secret in each world. She can’t seem to choose between them. Lord Compton seems to represent the safe, society choice, except that Cherry has seen him entering an opium den. Cage Hawke represents the dangerous choice, as he is the major-domo of the Menagerie. But no one is as they seem, including Cherry.

I found myself wondering exactly who (or possibly what) Cherry’s mysterious guardian really was. Cherry doesn’t seem to have encountered him in daylight and outside of nightmares. He’s going to be important at some point.

Tarnished sets up the series and introduces Cherry’s unique voice. There is a case to be solved, a steampunk Jack the Ripper who may be using alchemy, or who may be a scientist, or may be both. He might even be a necromantic version of Dr. Frankenstein, and if that doesn’t give you nightmares, then nothing will.


I give  Tarnished by Karina Cooper 4 hazy stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.