Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

œFortune's Pawn by Rachel BachFormat read: ebook (purchased)
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Paradox, #1
Length: 341 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

My Review:

I picked this up because I was in desperate need of some space opera – and Marlene had nothing but nice things to say. Plus, she reassured me this was a not just an excuse to have tentacle sex in zero gravity. (Before you ask, no I have not read the book I linked to. But when you google “tentacle sex zero g” – it was the first hit.)

First things first, Devi is no Ripley. Particularly not Ripley from Alien (1979). As a die-hard fan of the Alien series, I can assure you that Ripley began as a hidebound rule follower willing to let her crew die in order to follow standard protocol. Basically the opposite of Devi. The Starbuck reference works for me. Just imagine Starbuck with actual career ambitions – though all the self-sabotaging behaviors intact.

Generally, the most important part of any foray into a new science fictional universe is the world-building. Which, to be perfectly honest, Fortune’s Pawn was rather lacking on. There are two primary human governments….maybe? They are allies-ish? Possibly a theocracy vs democracy situation, or is it a monarchy vs corporatocracy dynamic?

In this particular instance, the ambiguity works. You do not get the impression that the universe doesn’t make sense, simply that Devi, our POV character, doesn’t really give two shits about it. Devi is a woman driven by one goal: to become the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, SIR! (Anyone catch that reference?) Politics and sociology are ancillary to her desire to be one of the most feared fighters in her society, so she doesn’t dwell on them.

Which is why it is such a rude shock to her to learn that bureaucracy plays a role in recruitment of Devastators. Following the advice of a friend, she leaps at the chance for a shortcut, resigns her commission, and signs up to work freelance security on the most dangerous ship flying. Devi’s single-minded ambition prevents her from asking questions she really should be asking, and allows her to stumble blindly into the middle of sociopolitical FUBAR that could do far worse than kill her off.

Devi’s colleagues aboard the Glorious Fool each harbor a wide-range of personality disorders that may not lay out precisely why they are on the suicide ship, but definitely imply enough for the readers to explore some possibilities. (Though not Devi, the girl is a bit dense.)

The only thing that fell flat for me was the “romance.” It was a very minor subplot, so it did not detract from the story as a whole….but seriously, is Devi really so damn desirable that a guy would gamble away careers and lives on the chance to hit that? No. She’s really not.

Escape Rating: B+ for blazed right through it and on to books 2 and 3. Fortune’s Pawn is a very enjoyable read, and leaves you, not with an eye-gougingly irritating cliffhanger, but a huge dose of wtf that means you will immediately pick up Honor’s Knight. (Review to follow next week.)



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.

Review: Heron’s Cove by Carla Neggers

Heron's Cove by Carla NeggersFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Series: Sharpe and Donovan, #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Number of pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

When your safety depends on living a lie…

After escaping certain death, deep-cover agent Colin Donovan is back home on the Maine coast with his new love, FBI art crimes expert Emma Sharpe. Then Tatiana Pavlova, a London-based jewelry designer, arrives in Heron’s Cove, asking for Emma’s help—a prized collection from a lost era of Russian opulence, decadence and rare beauty has resurfaced, and Tatiana warns Emma it’s about to be stolen again. And Colin realizes his nightmare isn’t over. It’s just begun.

And everyone you love is a target…

Emma guards her past closely, and Colin is determined to unlock her secrets. As they investigate the mysterious collection and the equally mysterious Tatiana, they confront their greatest challenge. Now they must count on their expertise—and each other—to outwit an enemy who wants to destroy them and everyone they love most.

Who can you afford to trust?

My Thoughts:

The Sharpe & Donovan romantic suspense series is just as suspenseful in the second outing as it was in the first. Possibly even a bit more.

The romance in this romantic suspense series is different and interesting because it’s not the usual romantic tension of new lovers meeting and navigating the initial rush of attraction–that already happened in Saint’s Gate (reviewed here). In Heron’s Cove, FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are trying to figure out whether the love can withstand the incessant pressure of their dangerous careers; as well as the weight of the secrets that both of them still keep.

The story begins with both the danger and the secrets jumping up to bite them; Colin is nearly killed while working deep undercover, and his rescue comes by way of a phone call from a man that Emma knows from one of her secret pre-FBI contacts.

Colin is afraid that the busted operation left too many loose ends that will come up to Maine to chase him down, and equally that there are too many secrets from Emma’s family’s work in art recovery. (Of course he turns out to be right on both counts or we wouldn’t have a story!) Colin always wonders whether everything the Sharpe family has done has been completely legal. He doesn’t like Emma’s secrets, no matter how many of his own he continues to keep.

Emma feels the weight of all the different loyalties that she has accepted in her life. Her boss still believes that her contacts are an added bonus to her work, but there are times when her worlds conflict. The secrets she learned while working for Sharpe’s Art Recovery still have to be kept as an FBI agent, as long as they don’t contravene the law. They don’t, even if they drive Colin Donovan crazy.

And while Colin is still recovering from his last near-death experience, a yacht docks in Heron Cove with visitors who represent a case from Emma’s past. It should be simple, but of course, it isn’t. Especially when the case turns out to involve Colin’s past as well. His recent, and nearly deadly, past.

Saint's Gate by Carla NeggersVerdict: If you like romantic suspense, this series is fun, but I think it works better if you start from Saint’s Gate.

The push/pull of the romance between Colin and Emma is great. He may want to go all alpha male, and his family is certainly wired that way, but Emma doesn’t take a lot of that BS. She is also an FBI agent and is both trained and wired to take care of herself. There is an immense irony that he complains that he doesn’t know everything about her and she can’t know everything about him, and it keeps getting in the way and they both need to just let it go.

The suspense part of this particular story was a lot like a Russian nesting doll, which is possibly the way the author designed it considering the story. There are Russian mobsters, and a stolen collection based on Russian folklore. Then a Russian designer says the collection is going to get stolen again. Then more Russian mobsters, and former mobsters. Along with some ex-wives and ex-daughters. It’s almost tragic enough to be a Russian folktale.

Emma’s grandfather had some very interesting clients. We get to meet another one in book 3, Declan’s Cross. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the most fascinating character in the whole series so far, Father Finian Bracken, who is supposed to look like Bono.


I give  Heron’s Cove by Carla Neggers 4 nested 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: Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers

Saint's Gate by Carla NeggersFormat read: ebook borrowed from the Library
Series: Sharpe and Donovan, #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2011
Number of pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Two people, isolated by their pasts. An obsessive killer who will force them together. Welcome to Saint’s Gate.
Emma Sharpe is summoned to a Maine convent, partly for her FBI art crimes work, partly because of her past with the Order. At issue is a mysterious painting of Irish lore and Viking legends. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.

Colin Donovan is one of the FBI’s most valuable deep-cover agents. Back home in Maine after his latest mission, a contact clues him in to an intrigue of murder, international art heists and long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—Emma Sharpe is at the center of it all.

My Thoughts:

In Saint’s Gate, we have the opening of a romantic suspense series where the emphasis is definitely on the suspense rather than the romance. This reader is grateful that the series does not look like it is going to revolve endlessly around the heroine’s lame inability to decide between love interests.

Not only is that trope verging on TSTL, but in this case, it would be less sensible than usual, as heroine Emma Sharpe is an FBI agent. It’s a job requirement that she be decisive, even in her rather complicated personal life.

The complications in Emma’s personal life form the background for this case, and are also the extras that she brings to the table as part of the FBI’s High Impact Team (HIT). Emma’s family is in the art detection business, and have been for generations. They find lost treasures, they are respected art appraisers. Some might even say the Sharpes are treasure hunters.

But before Emma became an FBI agent, she spent three years of her life as a novice at the convent of the Sisters of the Joyous Heart, a convent devoted to art restoration and teaching art.

The case, and the series, begins when one of the sisters is murdered. The question is why Sister Joan asked Emma to visit. Was there a painting? A problem? Nothing about her request for Emma to visit was within the rules of the Order.

There are too many questions about whether the murder is related to Sister Joan, the convent, a painting, to Emma, an FBI case, or Emma’s family connections. There are endless possibilities.

Added to those possibilities is Colin Donovan. Also an FBI agent, and also originally from that same rocky coast of Maine. But unlike Emma, Colin generally works deep undercover. Emma and Colin should not know each other. Initially they don’t. Except…Emma’s art expertise provided the information that Colin used to put away someone very, very bad. It’s just barely possible that this murder has something to do with Colin’s case.

Sticking his head up, identifying himself to too many people might expose him too publicly as an FBI agent. Colin Donovan might just have to come in out of the cold. Emma Sharpe might just make it worth Colin’s while, if this case doesn’t get them both killed.

Verdict: Although Saint’s Gate is romantic suspense, it definitely falls more on the suspense side of the equation. Not just because the subtitle “a novel of suspense” is a dead giveaway, but because the point of the story is solving the crime, not the romance. Emma and Colin are meant to be.

Rock Point by Carla NeggersThe story does carry the weight of setting up the series, so there is a certain amount of information that needs to get conveyed about both families and the Heron Cove/Rock Point area of Maine. Readers need the stage set. The most fascinating side-character in the story so far is Father Finian Bracken from Ireland. (How he gets to Maine from his native Ireland and meets Colin is told in Rock Point; while it’s billed as book #0.5 in the series, it was written between books 2 and 3).

The cool thing about this story is how much everyone’s past is influencing the present. Emma’s past life as a novice brings her into the case, and her history with the convent influences how she thinks about the people involved. Also her past influences how people think about her. Father Finian’s past, especially escaping it, brought him to Maine.

Emma’s grandfather’s past is wrapped up in the present crime, as is the past of the founder of the convent and others who were their contemporaries. The truth about those not knowing the past being condemned to repeat it is very much in evidence.

I’ve already started Heron’s Cove the second book in the series, because I enjoyed visiting this place with these people. I’m looking forward to more of their adventures.


I give  Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers 4 brightly painted 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: Medium Well by Meg Benjamin

Medium Well by Meg BenjaminFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: Ramos Family/Medium Trilogy, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: Feb. 2nd, 2013
Number of pages: 296 pages
Publisher: Berkley InterMix
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Real estate agent Danny Ramos has always had a knack for selling homes, but when his boss saddles him with a neglected carriage house, Danny discovers that his abilities are more than simple intuition…

On his first visit to the house, Danny is confronted with visions of a violent murder. His assistant, Biddy Gunter, doesn’t seem affected, and Danny starts to think he’s going crazy—until he gets a visit from his mother, who suggests that Danny’s uncanny talent to sell old houses may stem from his family inheritance: psychic empathy.

When Biddy reveals to Danny her own strange dream about the carriage house ghosts, they team up to investigate and discover both the house’s dark history and their own unexpected attraction. But as the hauntings turn from unsettling to downright dangerous, Danny and Biddy need to figure out how to rid the house of its ghostly inhabitants, before their budding romance meets an untimely end…

My Thoughts:

We were just in San Antonio for WorldCon and took a bus tour that went around the King William area where this book (and the series) takes place. The residents of the area are too snooty too allow the tours to drive through. Small world.

But the houses are old, Victorian, and definitely did look like they either needed a lot of money or a lot of maintenance. Or both at once.

Who names their daughters Araceli and Biddy? I’m just saying…

Danny Ramos, on the other hand, not only sounds like, but apparently is, sex on a stick. And it’s a quality he generally exploits in his off-work time. Possibly occasionally in his on-work time, there were a couple of moments when I wondered. But that’s not this story.

You’ve heard of horse whisperers? Danny is a house-whisperer. Old houses tell him their secrets, and he is an expert at spinning those secrets into terrific stories that he uses to sell old houses to new owners. Expensive old houses.

Danny is a real estate agent, which should not be a novel-worthy profession, except when the house is demon-raddled. How does Danny know the house is possessed by a demon? At first, all he knows is that the house freaks him out, really, really badly. Then, he gets introduced to the woo-woo side of his family history, and discovers that his extra-special talent at selling houses is an extra-sensory talent.

Mom forgot to tell him that he comes from a very long line of mediums. The houses really are speaking to him. Or their ghosts are.

When the story opens, the biggest problem in Danny’s life is that his paranoid boss Araceli is out to get him fired. By the end, his biggest problem is that he needs to burn down a historic carriage house to stop a soul eating demon from getting loose and possessing the good citizens of San Antonio.

Medium Rare by Meg BenjaminVerdict: This is way, way more fun than it ought to be based on the description. I was reading the next book in the series, Medium Rare, for a tour, and the recap of previous events sounded so wild that I couldn’t resist getting this one just to see what the heck happened. This is pretty much of a hoot.

One of the bizarre things about the Ramos family is that the family talent for being a medium comes from the Riordan side, from their mother. Even weirder is that not only is Danny not supposed to have inherited the talent, but the Riordan side doesn’t run to boys. He and his brother are the first males in the family in centuries. Mom’s reactions to finding out that he has a demon to get rid of and that she has to own a talent she tried to forget are beyond interesting. Come to think of it, a book of mom’s love story with dad and getting out of the “family business” might be pretty good.

I both liked Biddy and she drove me nuts. She has been letting her older sister Araceli dictate her life for much too long, but I don’t have an exact fix on how old Biddy is. Gratitude, even for an extreme sacrifice, can only go so far. Biddy is a musician, and she’s not just fantastic at it herself but she’s fronting an absolutely awesome group. Biddy needs to devote herself to her music, and Araceli is pressuring her to give it up permanently. There’s something wrong in that dynamic that weakens both characters and turns Araceli into a stereotypical paranoid career-ladder climbing bitch.

Biddy’s family dynamics were not just awful but the resolution was too quick at the end. Danny’s were terrific, even as the big family secret got revealed. And I loved the research into the house.

There is a romance between Biddy and Danny that is a big part of the story. These two people are both figuring out who they really are, as well as figuring out they belong together. They have to do the first before they completely manage the second.


I give  Medium Well by Meg Benjamin 4 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: A Captain and a Corset by Mary Wine

A Captain and a Corset by Mary WineFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Steam Guardians, #2
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Number of pages: 317 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads |Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

For Sophia Stevenson, there’s no going back to the life she knew. She never asked for the powers that make her a precious commodity to the secret society of Illuminists—and their archenemies.

Captain Bion Donkova would give anything to possess the powers that have fallen in Sophia’s lap. If only the beautiful, infuriating woman could stay out of trouble, he wouldn’t have to keep coming to her rescue…

Bion and Sophia have friction to spare—and nothing fuels a forbidden passion better than danger…

My Thoughts:

I liked A Captain and a Corset a whole lot better than the first book in the series, A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious (reviewed at Reading Reality). Admittedly, that’s a damn low bar to get over.

The characters in Captain were way more interesting than in Curious. Whatever we might think of all the Victorian rules regarding female behavior, having the heroine be a woman who believed in those rules and had been jerked out of her place against her will made Sophia Stevenson more interesting, especially since one of the rules of the Illuminist society she had perforce become part of at the end of Curious was that she couldn’t contact her father for a year! Unlike the heroine of Curious, Sophia’s father was a genuinely nice man, and a widower who both loved and depended on Sophia. She missed him and felt terrible that he had to think she was dead. Topping off this horrible situation, he lived across the bloody street!!!!

Sophia does obey the rules laid out for her. She may not like or agree with them, but she does participate in what she’s supposed to do (unlike the heroine of Curious). Sophia gets kidnapped by the bad guys from her very own room while under guard.

Again, we do learn more about the evil dudes.  The Helikeians are basically Slytherins, if you’ll pardon the Harry Potter cross-over reference. They believe that only the pure-blooded should be in charge. Everyone else should be ground under their aristocratic boot heels. And they despise the Illuminists because the Illuminists have this terribly egalitarian streak and accept anyone of talent. Of course, that same egalitarian streak is what makes Victorian society in general reject the Illuminists.

Then we have our hero, Bion Donkova. He’s a bit of an enigma, but in a good way. Seemingly the tall, dark and dangerous type, but he’s kind of a lone wolf. What makes him interesting is that we see that he’s raised himself up through the Illuminist ranks by talent and willpower. He definitely started with nothing and has never forgotten it.

Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary WineHe and Sophia strike sparks from each other from the minute they meet in A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious, and the dynamic between them is one that is guaranteed to cause friction. Sophia accidentally received the talent that Bion has waited all of his life for. She absorbed the power of an exploding crystal rootball and has become an airship navigator. Her old life is over, but she can’t go back, her eyes have permanently changed. She may not appreciate what’s happened to her but she’s stuck.

And Bion Donkova has made himself her trainer. Sophia can’t tell whether he’s so hard on her because that’s how much he resents her, or whether he’s just always that mean.

Then she gets kidnapped by sky pirates, and Sophia discovers that Bion didn’t prepare her nearly well enough. But when he gets himself shanghaied in order to rescue her, she realizes what all those sparks between them really meant. And she doesn’t resist any more.

The best thing is that in this story, they rescue each other. Unfortunately it takes them a couple of tries to get it right!

Verdict: If you enjoy steampunk, A Captain and A Corset is much more fun than A Lady Can Never Be Too Curious, and I don’t think you need to read that one first. I kind of hope you don’t.

Sophia and Bion were better rounded characters than the hero and heroine in the first book. In this story, they kept making assumptions about each other, and were constantly surprised by how wrong they both were. They grew towards each other, especially as Sophia let go of her Victorian restrictions.

Bion assumes that because Sophia is a “lady” that she can’t take care of herself. Sophia assumes that because Bion is cold to her that he doesn’t like her, and that he doesn’t have any manners at all. They learn a LOT about each other when they are forced to rely only on each other. And that’s when the romance in this steampunk romance really builds up a head of steam!


I give  A Captain and A Corset by Mary Wine 4 crystal 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: Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens

Heart Fortune by Robin D. OwensFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: Celta’s Heartmates, #12
Genre: Futuristic Romance, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy Romance
Release Date: Aug. 6, 2013
Number of pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

Jace Bayrum has always been a loner. Concerned more with getting an adrenaline fix and making money to live on his own, Jace cares little for family ties or matters of the heart. On the other hand Glyssa Licorice, Jace’s former fling and true mate, is both loving and loyal. She is determined to track down her HeartMate and have him claim her.

After hearing that Jace has been involved in an accident, Glyssa sets out to find him, departing for the excavation site of the lost starship Lugh’s Spear. Though her goal is to help Jace and finesse him into recognizing her as his mate, the excavation itself draws her in…

Thrust by fate into working side-by-side, Jace and Glyssa’s electric connection from years before sparks once more. She intrigues him, and Jace begins to realize that a HeartMate can make a difference. And one as magnetic as Glyssa could be exactly what he has been searching for…

My Thoughts:

Three things make Robin D. Owens’ Celta series compulsively readable for me: 1) she’s found a way to make the fated mate trope have romantic tension and make logical sense, 2) the worldbuilding behind Celta is not only multi-layered and totally awesome, but it seems eminently livable, and 3) the fams, the fams, the fams, who rock this particular entry in the series.

The Celta series is a futuristic lost colony series. So they are part of the Pern tradition without the dragon-induced rape. (I’m including that bit for Draconismoi). But what I mean is that the Celtans also escaped Earth because they had a major difference of opinion with the powers that be and decided to go their own way. In the case of Celta, the difference was that all the colonists had some kind of psychic talent.

Why does the fated mate trope work in the Celta series, at least for me? Because even though someone might have a mate, that doesn’t mean things automatically work out. And Owens has done stories in the series where people either don’t have fated mates, or make real relationships after the fated mate relationship fails. In the case of this particular story, the participants come really close to screwing things up.

In other words, just because they know who their partner is supposed to be, it doesn’t mean they are required to accept the partnership. Either or both of them can reject it. The worldbuilding is well-developed here, there are laws in place so that neither one can be forced.

In this story, we see why Jace has some darn good reasons that he doesn’t believe in any kind of love. Not between partners, and not between parents and children. No experience whatsoever.

On the other hand, his prospective mate does believe in love, because she’s grown up as the child of a HeartMate marriage. One of her best friends found her mate after a very rocky courtship, so she knows that the heartache can bring joy.

Jace has never seen love work, but then he’s made sure that he never has to. He’s lived his life on the surface of emotions. His own, and other people’s. He may be the first person in his family to have enough of the psychic power the Celtans call Flair to experience the power passages that make it possible for him to even have a HeartMate, which is pretty damn ironic.

The story takes place at an archaeological expedition, which is pretty cool. The Celtans have never forgotten where they came from, or how they got there. The dig is at the site of Lugh’s Spear, one of the two ships that brought them from Earth to Celta. The site has recently been re-discovered, so there are artifacts to discover and mysteries to solve.

Glyssa, being a librarian (yay!) has come to record the discovery. It’s an excuse to be near Jace again, to hopefully get him to acknowledge their bond. That attempt very nearly backfires, but Glyssa’s work achieves her final degree of advancement in her profession. Go Glyssa!

The structure of the society of Celta has been built up through many layers of stories. It feels solid. Each new person has a place. They know some people that we’ve met before, but also introduce us to new ones. I also find it interesting that for a somewhat fantasy-type society, rank has some mutability. Families rise to GrandLord and GreatLord status based on Flair testing. They can also fall based on that testing.

Heart Mate by Robin D. OwensThen there are the fam animals. Fams are companion animals with enough Flair to communicate telepathically with their people. They can be seemingly any species, and all of them seem to have personality to spare, from Zanth the FamCat in the very first book, HeartMate, to Lepid the young and excitable FamFox and Zem the FamHawkcel in Heart Fortune. Lepid and Zem steal the show in this story. At many points they are more likable, and certainly more clear thinking, than their humans.

Verdict: As with many of the Celta stories, there is both a romance and a mystery going on in this book, although the biggest mystery is either whether Jace will get his head out of his ass or whether Glyssa will stop being a doormat and force him to. She can’t force him to be her HeartMate, but she can certainly stop letting him have his own way on everything. It takes her a long time before she realizes that standing up for herself is the only way forward for both of them.

Of course, they nearly get killed in the other mystery along the way. And I did not catch who that perp was, but then, I wasn’t looking. I was too busy watching the antics of the Fams. Lepid, the very young and very inquisitive FoxFam is probably the cutest character ever, and Zem possibly has the most heart.


I give  Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens 4 feathered stars (for Zem)!

***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: Moonlight by Lisa Kessler

Moonlight by Lisa KesslerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Series: Moon, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: July 15, 2013
Number of pages: 265 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Rancher Adam Sloan is more than meets the eye. As the heir to his Pack, the sexy werewolf’s biggest challenge is keeping his kin’s true nature under wraps. But a group of jaguar shifters threatens to reveal the pack, blasting into town killing humans in plain sight. And when he smells one at the local diner, his standing orders are to take her out.

Lana Turpin doesn’t realize she’s a moving target. Raised in the foster system, she only knows that she blacks out during the new moon and wakes up without remembering a thing. But now she’s being tracked by some strange organization that wants her back–even though she’s never stepped foot inside their compound. And the stranger across the diner is watching her like an enemy.

It should be a simple mission for Adam, but when he touches the frustratingly beautiful Lana, his inner wolf howls…mate. Now, the two must find and stop the people who hunt her…and Adam must keep his own family from killing the only woman he will ever love.

My Thoughts:

X FilesThis should have been a total visit to troperville. Fated mates, genetic experiments and military conspiracies. (Did I mention I’m watching the X-Files for the first time?) Parts of Moonlight would make a great X-file.

But Moonlight totally worked for me. The question would be what made it work?

On the one side, we have werewolves. One werewolf in particular, Adam Sloan. He’s not quite the leader of the pack in Reno, but he is the Alpha’s oldest son. Interesting twist on this particular shapeshifting world, all the werewolves are born as twins. Also, only the males are born wolves; mates start human and have to be converted. Of course, to make things more interesting, not all survive.

Yes, we are dealing with the fated mate trope. It works in this particular story because Adam does have to court his mate. He knows she’s the one, but she doesn’t know. For her, he’s just this hot guy she met and plans to leave after some mind-blowing sex.

Lana can’t afford to let herself get close to anyone, she’s running from the men in the white coats. Really. She has blackouts and these scary dudes are chasing her across the country to lock her up in the name of the so-called “Nero Organization”. She has no clue who they are but she knows they mean her no good.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s a jaguar shifter. She really, really doesn’t know. Lana was abandoned as a baby, she has memory of who her parents were. She doesn’t remember what happens when she blacks out every month during the new moon.

Of course, the jaguars are the enemies of the werewolves. They fight like cats and dogs. Figures, doesn’t it?

The jaguars want Lana back. Except Lana doesn’t know that there is a “back”, because she’s never been “there” to go back to. And that’s where the genetic experiment and conspiracy part of the plot comes in.

Along with an interesting side plot of the old “the enemy of my enemy” might be my ally, at least temporarily. Because one of the jaguars is not too happy at being played for a sucker, particularly not by what he thought was his own side.

Verdict: The story hinges on Lana accepting who and what she is. It’s a long and dangerous journey; she starts out not knowing that shifters exist, from there she has to accept that she is one, that she is being hunted because of it. The story is her search for identity, and that search isn’t completely over when the story ends; but she’s accepted herself and what she is even though she doesn’t know the whole story. And can’t yet (see conspiracy angle)

Adam has to accept responsibility, that’s his arc. He has a position but doesn’t take the responsibility at the beginning of the story, by the end he’s shouldered all the burdens. His is also a big transformation.

But because Lana is not a wolf, even though she’s his mate, she doesn’t know and because Adam’s been quite a player, no one else believes him. Especially since the jaguars are enemies. He has to convince everyone that this relationship is real. Including himself.

The military/government conspiracy angle was just plain fun. (Yes, it did remind me of the X-Files, and more than one shifter series, but it was well done in Moonlight, just the right touch of impersonal, bureaucratic evil). Someone is playing with shifter genetics, and they’re not benign. They never are. I think this is going to be the big arc. But if we see Cigarette-Smoking Man I’m going to laugh myself silly.


I give  Moonlight by Lisa Kessler four claw-tipped 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: To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin

To the Fifth Power by Shirin DubbinFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Powers, #1
Genre: Superhero Romance
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Number of pages: 87 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Ever After
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Three years ago, Zola Noite’s nemesis killed her sidekick and forced her to watch. The guilt drove her to hang up her cape. Zola knows one thing for certain. She will never be a superhero again.

Psychologist Dr. Arturo “Fort” Forte specializes in super-powered mental health. He’s the only reason Zola can once again call herself sane—although, truth be told, the heat between them is slowly driving her back to mad.

When three mega-villains escape the prison Fort oversees, all Zola’s best laid plans go up in flames. Fort asks her for help, and she can’t turn down the man she’s secretly come to love. As battles ensue and clues add up, the one thing Zola trusts is called into question: Fort’s true agenda and which side he’s on.

My Thoughts:

I’m not too sure about the costume, or her pose on the cover, but I really liked the story. Then again, I love a good superhero romance. Actually, I kind of enjoy a good supervillain romance too, but that’s not what this is.

One of the neat things about the worldbuilding in this one is that everyone knows that there are both superheroes and supervillains in the world. Some of the heroes hide their secret identity, and some don’t, but the general populace knows that big evil is out there, and that there are people who protect them.

Batman wouldn’t get arrested for protecting the Gotham City from the Joker in this universe. It would be his choice if he hid behind Bruce Wayne, or not.

Zola Noite, the heroine of this story, is a bit like Batman. Her power as The Watcher is in her ability to assess and strategize. It’s not that she’s not strong, but she out-thinks her opponents long before she comes to fight them.

At least she used to. The story is that she’s an ex-superhero, or she’s trying to be. It seems to be a gig that you can’t really retire from. Three years ago a supervillain named Charlatan forced her to watch as he killed her sidekick. After years of therapy, Zola is still only partially functional.

And she’s fallen in serious lust with her gorgeous psychiatrist, Dr. Forté, otherwise known as Fort.

However cured Zola is, it has to be enough. Three of her enemies have banded together and broken out of the superhero psychiatric institute and are coming after her. They’ve made it their personal, pet, mega-villain project to make her relive every failure in her life, just so they can break her down and take her out.

Even if they have to destroy the city to do it.

Fort needs Zola to get better, because he’s been in love with his patient since the first time they met. But he can’t step over that professional line until she’s out of his care. So he’s hoping that a lot of tough love will put The Watcher back together.

No matter how many rules he had to break to make it happen.

Verdict: Check your logic at the door and hang onto your seat. To the Fifth Power is one hell of a fun ride.

Zola and Fort have sizzling hot chemistry from the very beginning, the BAM! and POW! come from watching them negotiate how they’re going to have a relationship when the power situation starts out unequal, not because she’s a superhero but because he’s her shrink and knows way too much, where he’s been the king of secrets. There’s sexual attraction but not a lot of trust. It takes a chunk of story before they negotiate that minefield, and it should. Then ZOWEE!

The reader can guess how the supervillains got loose, but it took awhile for me to figure out who they were. I’ll admit that it was a cool idea.

I loved the concept of the Society of Superheroes. They were all really tight, and they seemed like the best of friends. An awesome case of the “family you make” as opposed to the “family you’re born to” who in Zola’s backstory sucked major rocks. The S.O.S. were her brothers and sisters.

I also adored her best friend Keiki. The concept that there were “meta-naturals”–people who had an extra something but were not at the level of the supers–helped make things make sense, too.

Read this one for the pure fun of it.


I give  To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin 4 purple stars! (read the story and you’ll understand)

***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: On the Scent by Angela Campbell

On the Scent by Angela CampbellFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 25, 2013
Number of pages: 263 pages
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Hannah Dawson has a big problem: she’s just become the unexpected owner of a snarky cat, a loveable but not-so-bright dog… and their $10 million fortune!

Which would be awesome if it hadn’t made her the target of every wacko in the metro Atlanta area. Now Hannah and her famous pets need protecting and there’s only one man who can help them…

Enter Zachary Collins: ex-TV star of ‘The Psychic Detective’ and street-wise private investigator – all 6 foot blue-eyed gorgeousness!

Only Zach’s got secrets of his own – not least that he finds his new client irresistibly hot. The more time he spends keeping Hannah out of harm’s way, the more he’s tempted to give in to the attraction… even if it means breaking all his own rules.

My Thoughts:

Simon Baker as Patric JaneZachary Collins kept making me think of a dark-haired version of The Mentalist, without quite so much of Patrick Jane’s angsty backstory. This isn’t by any means a bad thing, Simon Baker is a charmingly handsome devil, with equal emphasis on all three parts of that description. Patrick Jane also started out his detective work as a psychic con man with a TV show. The difference is that Jane always knew he was a psychic but didn’t originally work as a detective.

Zach Collins is the other way around; he started as a detective but didn’t believe for a second he was psychic. He just thought he was good at seeing things that other people missed.

Hannah Dawson was not one of the things he missed. He investigated her quite thoroughly when old Ellie Parham hired her as a nurse. He didn’t just investigate, he totally checked her out, and not in any professional way.

But the only action he took on those very non-professional thoughts was to punch her fiance’s lights out when he paid the jackass off three years ago. Paying the moron off was the job Ellie paid him for, after the investigation found out the guy was cheating and was only after Hannah for her steady paycheck.

Ellie made sweet, beautiful Hannah her heir, to the tune of $10 million, in return for taking care of a snarky cat and an adorable doofus of a dog, named after the stars of Ellie’s favorite classic films; Abbott and Costello.

Ellie also left instructions for Hannah to hire Zach’s private investigations firm if she was ever in trouble. When someone tries to kidnap “the boys”, she decides that trouble has come knocking. But once she meets the TV-star handsome investigator she thinks she might be in way over her head.

After all, the only man she’s ever thought she loved (at least so far) left her at the altar with a mountain of expensive wedding bills. She’s not so sure about her judgment where men are concerned.

But the track record for Zach’s security firm is first rate. And Ellie did leave that message. Hannah doesn’t just feel responsible for “the boys”, she loves those two animals and can’t bear the thought that someone might harm them.

So we have a meet-very-cute. Zach knows Hannah, she doesn’t know him. He believes it’s wrong to get involved with her case, but his private investigations company is going broke, and he needs the business. Also, he already knows she’s beautiful and a sweet human being. He likes her and is interested.

But it’s unprofessional for him to get involved with a client, no matter how irresistible she is. Especially one who doesn’t know the whole truth about his previous involvement in her life. Not to mention the added little difficulty that she hires him believing that he is a psychic, and he’s not. Or at least, not at the time.

Then he gets whacked in the head with a baseball bat, and starts hearing voices. One particularly snarky voice wants tuna treats. It’s the cat. (I adore Abbott, he sounds just like one of my cats.)

But Abbott knows things that only someone who lived with Ellie Parham would know. He dispenses clues like, well, treats. And clues are definitely necessary, because there was much more to Ellie Parham than anyone ever suspected. Including her identity.

Verdict: On the Scent is romantic suspense with a light touch that just kept me giggling. Once Zach starts being able to hear Abbott and Costello, it’s hard to stop snickering.

The suspense part of the plot has a bunch of twists and turns. First it looks like someone is out to kidnap “the boys” in order to get the money. Then it turns out that Ellie Parham turns out to be quite the mysterious person, and the real reason for all the skullduggery hinges on her past. I wish we could have met her!

Then there’s the romance. The backstory between Hannah and Zach made for a more interesting than usual misunderstandammit. Both in his choice not to reveal that he was or wasn’t psychic, but also that he had investigated her for Ellie and was partially responsible for the breakup of her engagement. They had more past than Hannah knew about, and the revelations broke a lot of the trust that had started to develop.

I liked Zach and Hannah, and watching them resist their attraction to each other, only to eventually fall, was terrific! And fun. And sometimes very funny. Occasionally steamy followed by laughter (pet owners will understand).


I give  On the Scent by Angela Campbell 4 fur-covered 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.