Dual Review: Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

dreams of the golden age by carrie vaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: Superhero romance, Urban Fantasy
Series: Golden Age #2
Length: 318 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Like every teen, Anna has secrets. Unlike every teen, Anna has a telepath for a father and Commerce City’s most powerful businessperson for a mother. She’s also the granddaughter of the city’s two most famous superheroes, the former leaders of the legendary Olympiad, and the company car drops her off at the gate of her exclusive high school every morning. Privacy is one luxury she doesn’t have.

Hiding her burgeoning superpowers from her parents is hard enough; how’s she supposed to keep them from finding out that her friends have powers, too? Or that she and the others are meeting late at night, honing their skills and dreaming of becoming Commerce City’s next great team of masked vigilantes?

Like every mother, Celia worries about her daughter. Unlike every mother, Celia has the means to send Anna to the best schools and keep a close watch on her, every second of every day. At least Celia doesn’t have to worry about Anna becoming a target for every gang with masks and an agenda, like Celia was at Anna’s age.

As far as Celia knows, Anna isn’t anything other than a normal teen. Still, just in case, Celia has secretly awarded scholarships at Anna’s private high school to the descendants of the city’s other superpowered humans. Maybe, just maybe, these teens could one day fill the gap left by the dissolution of The Olympiad…

Our Review:

Cass: After the Golden Age was better.

Sidney-Harris-MiracleMarlene: (refers Cass to Sidney Harris cartoon). Not that I don’t agree with you. After the Golden Age was better. But I think we need to be a little more explicit in our reasons. (and for anyone who is wondering, no, Sidney Harris is not a relative. And DAMN)

Cass: FINE. I can work with that. If you insist.

The primary issue with Dreams of the Golden Age was Anna. As a protagonist she left me utterly cold. I do not mind teenage narrators, so it wasn’t an issue of youth. She was just so damn boring. I didn’t care about her powers, or her typical teenage drama. For example, after a (SARCASTIC SPOILER ALERT) very bad thing happens, she immediately jumps tracks to talk prom. Seriously? There aren’t more important issues for you to deal with right now?!

More Celia and Arthur! The whole book should have been about them.

Marlene: I’m with you on Anna. So much of Anna’s angst is about her power being such a boring kind of power. It’s not showy, and it’s not offensive. It’s not even defensive. The problem is that her endless internal whinging about how dull a power she got dealt also gets boring.

Celia and Arthur? Now there’s a fascinating story. Also Celia and Mark, for that matter. Celia is dealing with so much very real and heart-rending “stuff” during the whole book. If it had been all her again, I’d have been much happier.

Cass: Absolutely! Anna’s “wah wah my powers are terrible” just made me want to reach into the book and slap her. Really? Your mother and sister have no powers at all. Remember how your mom spent her teenage years being abducted and held hostage? Maybe use your brain and figure out how to capitalize on what you’ve got. Which is so much more than 99.99% of the boring humans out there get.

I really wanted more of Celia and Arthur. I just skimmed through the Anna Chapters looking for references to them. Celia’s troubles were so much more engaging than Anna’s, I couldn’t even figure out how Carrie could stand to write Anna’s perspective alongside Celia’s.

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnHell, even stories about how they dealt with all the trauma from After The Golden Age would have been better. Also, will no one EVER acknowledge the serious PTSD Celia has to be rocking due to her horrific childhood?

Marlene: In Dreams of the Golden Age, so much of what felt like the “true” story rested on Celia. And Celia’s story was a bigger and stronger story than anything focused on Anna’s point of view. Anna’s perspective was just too small. I think one of the differences between After and Dreams is that in After, Celia was an adult. She still had tons of trauma that she had to get over (and probably never got therapy for) but she had some perspective on the scope of the events taking place that was beyond her headspace. Even if some of that perspective might have been her version of the mutation.

Anna doesn’t feel mature enough to carry the story.

Cass: I didn’t think the problem was with Anna’s lack of maturity – I really blame the problem on the writing. Showcasing Anna’s perspective could have provided a very interesting counterpoint to Celia’s decisions to keep things from her children, or how Celia and Arthur’s parenting was so clearly superior to what Celia was subjected to.

The problem was that Anna’s chapters read like someone had studied teenagers by watching The WB and the Cartoon Network without ever interacting with real young people. Just because kids are hormonal doesn’t make them useless, stupid, or oblivious to the world around them. Anna’s limited perspective would have made more sense for a child much younger. Someone who was say, 10 or 12.

However, I did really enjoy the glimpses we got of what it was like living in a City of Superheroes/Villians. From both the idiotic child and elite businesswoman perspectives.

Marlene: It may be that I just plain didn’t like Anna. There were times when her younger sister Bethy seemed to have a more sensible head on her shoulders, powers or no powers.

There are plenty of totally immature adults, and mature teenagers in real life as well as fiction. Anna’s perspective just didn’t work for me in the same way that Celia’s did in the first book.

It still felt like Celia was the real central character in this story. It was her plan to arrange for all the children and grandchildren of the original experiment to get into Elmwood Academy one way or another and for her to see if the Olympiad recreated itself by, what, spontaneous generation?

She’s still obeying her own mutation, and giving her all, and it very nearly is absolutely everything she has, to see that Commerce City flourishes.

And the poor woman manages to get kidnapped. Again.

Cass: We’re definitely in agreement. Celia was the true protagonist and star of the show. I admit that I started laughing when she got kidnapped. You’d think after so many years, people would learn.

I hope that if the author returns to Commerce City, she sticks with the real movers and shakers (namely, Celia and Arthur) rather than forcing us to spend too much time with what is properly the supporting cast.

I did love Celia’s long term plans to regenerate the Olympiad. It was great to see her acknowledged for her intelligence, something that I felt most people overlooked in After the Golden Age. Brilliance may not be as flashy as setting shit on fire with your mind, but I’d rather have a Celia in my city than the (old or new) Olympiad any day.

Escape Rating C: This is hard. I want to give Anna an F, and Celia an A. So I’ll split the difference.

I would not recommend anyone read Dreams unless they’ve already read After. Too much of the plot and character development depends on knowledge of what took place in the first book.

Marlene: Let’s get past the “Up with Celia, Down with Anna” rant to talk about the overall story just a minute. And for that, I need to quote Battlestar Galactica. “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again,” with a dose of Euripides by way of Star Trek, “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
The plot in Dreams has a ton of recycled elements from After, starting with using the daughter’s perspective, which is why we got so much Anna shoved at us.

But the crisis is kind of the same; a secret attempt to take over Commerce City’s halls of power, hidden behind a smokescreen. The smokescreens are different, but the baseline concept feels the same. Celia’s kidnapping is just the icing on that cake.

Cass: Excellent point! “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Though I’m loving the Cylon reference, it’s not working for me, since they have thousands upon thousands of years to repeat their mistakes. This is only one generation!)

Would it kill a supervillain to crack a book on occasion? Maybe not fail at taking over the city the exact same way their predecessors did?

Marlene: The Cylons are quoting J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. A historical footnote that perturbs me no end.

It would also be a terrific thing if all the supervillains didn’t have the same parent-child rivalries, but that’s not necessarily something they could prevent by cracking open a book. Sometimes the apple does fall pretty far from the parent tree. And in a really good way.

Cass: I forgive it in this case – if only because the genesis of Commerce City Powers stems from a very limited genetic pool – it’s not uncommon for relatives to have the same mommy/daddy issues.

Marlene: This is my case of not forgiving the writing as much. It makes sense that families have similar dynamics, although we don’t know that the supervillain family in After is the same as the supervillain family in Dreams. It’s only speculation. And since family dynamics are nurture as much as nature, and there was no contact that we know of, that stretches it even further for me.

Also it’s part of the cascade of repeats. Daughter perspective, supervillain has same plot to take over Commerce City, and supervillain family has the same kind of parent/child breakaway issues.

But the grand scenes at the climax where all the supers, old and new, got together and used their powers could have been part of a climactic battle for an Avengers franchise movie.

Escape Rating B: In spite of having too much Anna and not enough Celia, the parts of Celia (and Arthur) that I got were awesome. I loved the bits about “getting the band back together”. Celia’s angst was real and heartfelt, I could feel her being pulled in every direction and never sure if she was doing the right thing.

Like Cass, I would love to see the “stories in the middle”; how Celia and Arthur managed to heal after the big mess of After the Golden Age. Or a future now that Celia is going to have to let go a little bit. And poor Mark, he’s an unsung hero in all of this. And someday, Bethy is going to be awesome.

Cass: My grade stays the same! In case anyone was wondering. There was just not enough awesome despite all the potential. (Bethy is counted amongst all the potential.)

***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.

Dual Review: Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey

Format read: ebook copy provided by the author for review
Release Date: 12 March 2013
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Number of pages: 113 pages
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s WebsiteAmazon, Samhain, B&NRead an excerpt


She needs an escape…and he’s exactly what she had in mind.

College senior Ellen Price spends every spare minute studying to get into medical school. Until spring break yawns before her, as empty as her wallet.

With no money to hit the beach, she fills her empty to-do list with a plan: for just one week, she will become the kind of take-no-prisoners woman she secretly wishes to be, starting with the hot guy at the bar. It’s a no-risk situation: at the end of break, he’ll head back to his campus, and she’ll go back to hers. No muss, no fuss.

At first, Josh Markley isn’t sure what to think when the quiet, intense beauty from his pre-med classes approaches him for a night of casual sex. Even more mystifying, she doesn’t seem to return his recognition. But if she wants to play “strangers in a bar”, he’s game.

Their passionate night is a welcome respite from life’s stress, but afterward, Josh realizes he wants more—from himself, from life, from Ellen. Except she still thinks he’s a one-off she’ll never see again. Confessing the truth now—before she figures it out on her own—could shatter the fragile beginnings of just what the doctor ordered. A forever love.

Warning: Contains mistaken identities, a sometimes-glasses-wearing hottie, deep questions about figuring out what you want from life, and a red-hot college romance.

Our Thoughts:

Stella: Take What You Want was my first story by Jeanette Grey but definitely not the last! Her storytelling sucked me in and I gobbled it up in no time, closing my ereader with a happy and contented sigh. 🙂

Marlene: Take What You Want is a sex-into-love story. This is a trope that may be more difficult to pull off in real life than it is in fiction. YMMV. Or it’s difficult to pull it off in fiction and make the switch seem reasonable. The characters in this story manage to do that.

But what made this story work for me was the way that Ellen decided not to sit around and mope when her friends took their expensive Spring Break to the Bahamas, but instead that she tried to take a “vacation from herself”. Her inner dialog showed how difficult it was for her to step outside her comfort zone, but she still did it. She tried to become a new person for just a little while.

Then her emotions got engaged, and she wanted something real. And for that, she had to be the real Ellen and not new Ellen.

Stella: I concur, Ellen despite having such an ordinary name was anything but boring. I loved how such a serious and relatable young woman created this alter ego to live out her fantasies and experience things she only read/dreamed of. I found that exactly because she was such a girl next door she was a heroine the reader could identify with and feel as if her story could have happened to anyone. It was also moving to see that besides being a serious, dedicated and ambitious pre-med student there was an insecure, vulnerable side to Ellen.

Marlene: Even though Ellen was the one who was supposedly pretending to be someone else, Josh was also pretending quite a bit too, and not just because he was going along with Ellen. The first night, he was perfectly willing to go along with her just to get laid, and why not? She was the one who picked him up, after all.

But he knew who she was all along, and pretended that he didn’t. Why she didn’t recognize him says something about how much she kept her nose to the grindstone, or how big those lecture classes were. Or both.

The real issue for Josh was that he was pretending in most of the rest of his life. His father had big plans for him, plans that Josh knew he wasn’t going to fulfill. Josh had his own dreams, and hadn’t worked up the courage to disappoint his father.

Stella: Well actually, if I remember correctly, Josh was convinced that Ellen knew/recognized him, but pretended not to know him for some roleplay. But yes, both Ellen and Josh were pretending to be someone else and both had some major things on their minds regarding their future. But it was interesting to see how they were exact opposites to each other in the sense that Josh was more confident and sure in his own feelings for Ellen and their relationship, he had to take decisions regarding his studies and future career; while Ellen was sure about her career and completely clueless and vulnerable about her private life and her relationship with Josh.

I loved Josh. *sighs* He was lovely and wonderful. A guy, who despite being described as sexy and handsome, what you remember about him is how tender and warm-hearted and funny he is. I loved how he was the “girl” in the relationship, that is how he was the one who wanted much more than a meaningless fling right from the start.

And wanting more wasn’t just about wanting her body. He wanted the seductress in the high heels and short skirts, all right, the one that oozed sex and confidence. But he wanted the girl in the plain sweaters with the loose waves that fell over her face, too. The one that hid in the last row of the lecture hall but who always knew the answers. The one that dissected a pig all by herself, looking kissable even in a rubber apron and goggles and gloves. He wanted her to want more than a fuck from him. He wanted her to remember him. To know him.

And I absolutely have to comment about the sexual attraction, chemistry between Ellen and Josh: it was off the charts! Their love scenes were incredibly hot, sexy and tender, emotional at the same time. You’ll need a fan with this story! 😉

Marlene: So, in addition to the smoking hot love story, a love story where the guy is trying not to let the girl know he’s in love with her until she’s ready for it to be love, we also have a story of two people on the verge of adulthood who need to figure out who they really are, and not just who they are pretending to be.


Marlene: I loved this one. The story just plain worked for me. Ellen deciding to try being someone else, screwing up her courage, and thinking that no one would know if she completely embarrassed herself. Josh finally being noticed by the girl of his dreams, waking up in the morning and knowing that one night wasn’t enough. Then trying to figure out how to get her to that same realization, because she’s so not there. At the same time, they both have all those end-of-college decisions weighing on both of them.

And their chemistry practically set my iPad on fire from the very first page.

I give Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey 5 fiery stars!

Stella: I completely agree with Marlene, I LOVED Take What You Want and Jeanette Grey became a must read author for me. Not only was Take What You Want a thought-provoking and emotional journey of self- and love discovery for the characters, it was a sensual, sexy and addictive story I couldn’t put down until the very end. At the beginning I was reluctant to read Take What You Want fearing that due to the characters being in college it would be hard to relate to their problems, but take it from me, that concern was for naught. Thanks to Jeanette Grey’s gripping writing I felt invested in Ellen and Josh’s life and relationship and those two are characters as well as their story is one I will long remember.

And oh boy was their story sizzling! *fans herself* 😉

So yes, I also give Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey 5 scorching stars and urge you all to pick it up! 😀

***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.

Dual Review: Holding Out for a Hero by Christine Bell, Ella Dane, Tamara Morgan, Nico Rosso, Adrien Luc-Sanders

Format read: ebook copy provided by the publisher for review
Release Date: 14 January 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Number of pages: 550 pages
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: GoodreadsAmazon, Barnes and NobleRead an excerpt


Scarlett Fever, by Christine Bell and Ella Dane

After five years in training, it’s finally time for Scarlett Fever and her fellow superheroes to leave the United Superhero Academy and test their powers out in the real world. There’s only one problem. She’s been assigned to partner with arrogant, by the book, and irritatingly hot, Blade of Justice.

Blade’s whole life has gone according to plan, and he’s more than ready to move on to the big time, protecting a metropolis of his own. But his perfectly ordered life is derailed when he’s teamed up with the fiery maverick, Scarlett Fever.

Sparks fly the moment they arrive in Plunketville, Oklahoma, as they each set out to force the other to request a transfer. They soon discover there’s more going on in this single stop-sign town than blowing up mailboxes and cow tipping. If Scarlett can get Blade to listen to his gut, and he can teach her to use her head, they just might have a fighting chance.

Ironheart, by Nico Rosso

Vince might be hard as steel, but he’s not invincible. Not when iron touches him, especially in the hands of an evil minion. Not when Kara ran away after a whirlwind affair, just when he thought he might be falling in love. And definitely not when she returns, looking for his help.

The archvillain TechHead is coming for Kara and her superhero teammates, and he’s determined to use their combined power to create the ultimate weapon. But Kara can’t fight him alone. She needs Vince’s brutal skill, though being with him means she risks losing her beloved secret identity, leaving her nowhere else to hide.

When TechHead makes a play to capture Kara, Vince has more to lose than just his heart. But he will do anything for the woman he loves, even if it means putting his heart on the line again.

Playing With Fire, by Tamara Morgan

Fiona Nelson has always been one hot ticket—even before she took the conversion serum that gave her superhu¬man abilities. Fiona’s powers come at a price: lack of human contact, or she won’t be the only thing burning. When she loses control of her emotions, her fire powers run rampant… and she’s hurt enough people already. Including herself.

But when the man behind her conversion returns to black¬mail her into helping him gain power, the only person she can turn to is Ian Jones, the man who broke her teenage heart. The man determined to expose the criminal known as Fireball, whose explosive escapades are just a little too close to Fiona’s M.O.
Ian is convinced Fiona’s dangerous, convinced she’s Fire¬ball, and convinced he’ll damn himself if he doesn’t resist a heat that’s always drawn him to Fiona like a moth to a flame—but Ian has his own secrets.

And he’ll learn far too soon what happens when you play with fire.

From the Ashes, by Adrien-Luc Sanders

Sociopath. Killer. Deviant. Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called that and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded count¬less crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire.

Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate research¬er, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.

One kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges ev¬erything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. But when his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of hu¬mans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile deeper, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?

Our Thoughts:

Stella: With Marlene we are both big superhero fans, so when we heard that Entangled Publishing released this new anthology full of thrilling superhero romance novellas we were more than excited to read them and then later duel about the stories. To keep it from being too long we decided to restrain our discussion to only 2 of the 4 novellas: Scarlett Fever by Christine Bell and Ella Dane and Playing With Fire by Tamara Morgan. So Marlene, en garde! 😉


Scarlett Fever by Christine Bell and Ella Dane

Marlene’s Thoughts: Superheroes and sasquatch. I’m not sure whether the question should be what do those those two things have to do with each other, or whether it’s even possible to make a romance out of them, let alone in Plunketville, Oklahoma.

I should have looked to see if there really was a Plunketville, Oklahoma.

The opposites-attract trope can make for a fun romance, and the heat amps up twice as fast in the middle of a scorching Oklahoma summer. Especially when your cover is to live in a trailer park in air-conditioning challenged Plunketville. (I can’t help myself, I just love the name Plunketville, as long as I don’t have to live there)

And one of you is a fireball-throwing rookie-superhero. Partnered with a control-freak rookie-superhero who prides himself on being, not just too cool for school, but too cool for everyone. Especially the out-of-control fireball known as Scarlett Fever.

Blade of Justice is all about being cool and controlled. He dislikes anyone and anything that colors outside the lines or refuses to plan every operation to the last detail. Superheroes like Scarlett.

Too bad that when General Hammer hands out assignments to their graduating class from the United Superhero Academy, he assigns Blade and Scarlett to Plunketville to discover the mysterious anomaly in the hot, dusty, ugly small town.

Their cover says they’re married. Scarlett changes that program immediately. She tells the locals they’re siblings.

It takes less than 24 hours before one of the local waitresses decides that Blade is the hottest thing she’s ever seen.

And before Blade starts to wish that his “sister” had stayed his “wife”.

Then the evil ramps up, Blade and Scarlett start off not sure whether they are still school frenemies, or partners.

But the supervillain in town just wants Scarlett gone. And Blade realizes that coloring outside the lines is more fun, and more powerful, than being in control.

Verdict: Scarlett Fever reminded me of Tiffany Allee’s Heels and Heroes. Everyone knows there are superheroes, there are regular schools for them, it’s an accepted part of the world. This means that everyone also knows that there are supervillains.

It was obvious who the supervillain was. Not what that person’s power was, but who they must be.

What was fun was watching Scarlett and Blade fall for each other. They have a lot of preconceived notions, because they did not get on at school. When they are forced to rely on each other in the field, they discover that a lot of their negative feelings towards each other were a mask for something else.

This was just a fun story. And the characters of Sherwood and Nestor were an absolute hoot.

I give Scarlett Fever 3 and 1/2 radioactive stars.

Stella’s Thoughts: It was by pure chance I read Scarlett Fever, namely that it was the very first story in the anthology and I started with it and I have to say in my opinion Holding Out for a Hero started out with a bang.

Scarlett Fever starts with the graduation exam at the Superhero Academy, where  Scarlett Fever and Blade of Justice fight the graduation battle before being assigned to be each other’s partner for the next year. Their mission is in Plunketville, Oklahoma, and the small town provided a colourful location with several memorable secondary characters.

Scarlett and Blade are complete opposites: Scarlett is fiery, feisty, spontaneous while Blade is cool, level-headed and responsible, he is the ice to Scarlett’s fire, and the sparks crackle between these two. I loved their banter and their loaded silences as well, Blade was a hero the reader could have a serious crush on, while Scarlett was a likeable and very entertaining heroine with her huffing and puffing. The story was truly a superhero romance because Scarlett Fever was just as much about the explosive chemistry between Scarlett and Blade than the superhero mystery, and I absolutely enjoyed both!

She had to admit, it was easy to see Blade’s appeal. He exuded strength and confidence, and he kissed like the world was about to end.

Oh yeah, he definitely does… Can I just say yum? 😉

Verdict: Some people on Goodreads called Scarlett Fever silly, but I don’t expect to take my cartoon superheroes seriously (really, how could you take a hero who is called Blade of Justice seriously? lol 😉 ). But what I expect is lots of action, tongue in cheek humour and tons of fun and Scarlett Fever delivered! If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime series you’ll love Scarlett Fever as well, and I sincerely hope Christine Bell and Ella Dane will give us more stories in this universe, because it was a lot of fun, and I personally would LOVE to read many more similar superhero stories! 😀

I give Scarlett Fever 4 and 1/2 fiery stars!

Playing With Fire by Tamara Morgan

Marlene’s Thoughts: Fireball was framed, over and over and over. Although this story has a happy ending, this is not a happy story.

Fiona Nelson seems to have been a victim of her own life. She willingly took the conversion serum that gave her the power to spontaneously create fire at a touch, but willing is somewhat of a relative term when it comes to Fiona and men persuading her to do the wrong thing..

She catches fire whenever she loses control of her emotions. She can’t allow anyone to touch her, because, well, love makes you lose control of your emotions. Sex just plain makes you lose control, whether you do it for the right, or the wrong, reasons.

And most of the people, especially men, who have touched Fiona have not done so with love. Or even like. Fiona has some serious self-esteem issues.

Or, as way too many people in her hometown referred to her, Fiona was the town bicycle. Every man got to ride her. She let them. Sex made her feel better. Momentarily. Then she felt worse.

The man who gave her the serum was one of her “lovers”. Now he’s her persecutor. General Eagle, out to save the world from the converted. He calls them the corrupted.

Fiona finds herself asking for help from the first man who told everyone she was so easy. Except Ian was just a boy then, and now he’s a researcher trying to prove the converted really exist.

Without revealing that he is one.

Fiona’s reappearance in his life is Ian’s chance to make up for having wronged her, all those years ago. His only excuse then was that he was young, and stupid, and didn’t speak up for himself very well. Because nothing much happened.

Now he can save her. Or condemn her to death.

Verdict: This story made me sad. It wants to be a superhero story, but it ends up being, I want to say a supervillain story, but not even that. Everyone is a victim. Fiona is a victim. Ian is a victim. Eagle is kind of a victim.

I wanted to kick Ian’s friend in the balls. Twice. he was just an arse beyond reason.

The government doesn’t come off too well either. They mostly manipulate. This story ended up as a sad mess.

I give Playing with Fire 1 and 1/2 sputtering stars.

Stella’s Thoughts: I am a fan of Tamara Morgan’s stories, I enjoyed Love is a Battlefield and her latest release Confidence Tricks was phenomenal, so yeah I admit, that her story was the reason I was the most looking forward to reading this anthology, but sadly Playing with Fire as Marlene just said made me sad as well.

Due to a natural disaster (something about an asteroid hitting Earth) a conversion serum was developed, many people excited to see what supernatural abilities it would develop for them took it without knowing anything about any potential side-effects and consequences, one of them being Fiona, who developed the power to generate heat and fire with her bare hands. Eight years have gone by and although she has come a long way handling this unique ability of hers, she still has a thin grasp on control whenever her temper flares. But with Fiona we don’t see any positive changes this superpower brought to her life only the bad: how for the past 8 years she had to relinquish all kind of human contact, relationship and had to resign herself to a life of loneliness and solitude.

The problem was that this story was depressing on all levels: Fiona had awful teenage years, she had a reputation of the “high school slut”, and it was not due to false rumours and gossips because she really did do the whole football team as Fiona tells us. And even after that not only the world but mostly Fiona objectified her body and traded sexual acts for any kind of human contact: attention, compassion, companionship. Fiona’s past not only made me sad for the young vulnerable girl she was and still is, the problem is that I don’t feel her opinion of herself, on the matter of sex and her self-esteem have changed.

Besides a superhero who still hasn’t risen above her sad past, the hero also made me sad. His best friend was a jerk and even at the last rescue didn’t manage to redeem himself to me. And I wouldn’t call the romance romance as it didn’t have much time or space to develop, since both the hero and heroine were stuck in very different places than the hero and now, at times stuck in high school and their guilt ever since, then trying to escape the threat looming.

Verdict: Although Playing with Fire had a mutant human heroine, somewhat her attitude doesn’t make me think of her as a superhero. I felt sorry and sad for her, and just wanted to hug Fiona and tell her it will be alright, but one of my problems is that I’m not sure at all it will be. The universe in the story seemed very dystopian to me, and I seriously can’t think of any friendly or trustworthy person there. Don’t write off Tamara Morgan based on this story, try one of her contemporary romance for something lighter and fluffier.

I give Playing with Fire 2 and 1/2 stars!

To read Lea’s review of From the Ashes by Adrien-Luc Sanders CLICK HERE.

To read Marlene’s review of Ironheart by Nico Rosso  CLICK HERE.

***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.

Dual ARC Review: Hot Ticket by Olivia Cunning

hotticket-236x360Format Read: ARC provided by Publisher courtesy of Netgalley for Review
Length: 400 Pages
Series: Sinners On Tour, Book 4
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Formats Available: eBook, Kindle, Nook, Trade Paperback
Purchasing Info: Publisher, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Powell’s, The Book Depository, Kindle, Nook

Book Blurb:

He needs her to mask his pain…

When Jace walked through the doors of Aggie’s dungeon, the last thing he expected was to find self-forgiveness and the love of a remarkable woman. But when a terrible accident sidelines Jace during the band’s tour, the burdensome chains of his past wrap ferociously around his heart.

She needs him to forgive himself…

Determined to crack through Jace’s armored shell, Aggie must go beyond her usual methods to mend his heart to love again.

Our Thoughts:

Marlene: If you have been following Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour, when you read the opening of Hot Ticket, you might have the feeling that you’ve been here before.

And you’d be right.

Lea: The timeline of this one was a deja vu situation and I liked it in some ways because it refreshed my memory after such a long break since the release of Rock Hard. On the other hand there were times when it all seemed “more of the same” from a different character’s perspective. Also with reading Double Time late last year, we knew a lot of what was coming.

Marlene: The opening of Hot Ticket is the same scene as the opening of Rock Hard, just from a different perspective. Instead of Jessica going on stage at the strip club and being hauled off by Sed, we have Aggie going on stage and being mentally stripped by Jace.

At least Jace has a bit more self-control. He doesn’t start the barroom brawl. He only finishes it.

But then, control is one of Jace’s issues. And Aggie’s. Because Aggie uses her dancing at the club to find clients for her real business, being dominatrix Madame V. It’s Madame V. that Jace needs. Jace thinks that he needs to be hurt, that he deserves it. He’s long past the point where he’s mixed up pleasure and pain.

Being a domme is Aggie’s business. Helping Jace, finding a way for Jace to work through his real pain, becomes her mission.

Lea: Well put Marlene. Initially at least, I found Aggie challenged to the point of mental derangement because she cannot get Jace to submit to her domination. And, it isn’t for lack of trying, she beats him with every implement imaginable and he asks for more. Maybe it’s my nurturing instincts, but I found Jace’s heartrending emotional pain enticing. I just wanted to hug the poor guy and sooth his tortured soul.

When I first started this book and Aggie was wielding her bullwhip in the club, playing her tough dominatrix role, I nearly dropped my Kindle on the floor, I’m not good at all with brutal sadism. I was glad I persevered and thought Cunning did a good job of making Aggie’s sadistic tendencies palatable to readers by characterizing this tormented man who needed physical pain to lessen the emotional. Aggie gives him what he needs and eventually helps him to work through his insecurities and very low self esteem which was actually quite moving, to a point.

Marlene: Jace needs the release that Aggie gives him to keep the demons at bay. But Aggie sees that sweet, tortured Jace is deserving of all the love, and all the respect, in the world. If only he would ever let himself believe it.


I’ll admit that I had a lot of mixed feelings about this story. Surprisingly not about the BDSM aspects. While they exist, they did not seem to be as huge an element of the plot as the blurb makes you expect.

Jace has confused pleasure and pain because he is hurt on the inside. That’s the part that is really painful. And because he can’t admit to himself that he enjoys the pain. He’s decided he deserves it for reasons that are part of the story. He’s a walled up emotional mess.

He can’t believe he deserves anything good in his life. His need for pain is just part of that. And we do find out why in the story.

Lea: I agree regarding your analysis of what the author was trying to relate to readers regarding Jace and his inner turmoil. He certainly learned to suppress his pain as a defense mechanism. Jace also doesn’t believe he is worthy of love, which was heart breaking.

I too had great difficulty rating this story, I loved Jace to the point of swooning (and I never swoon) but I was also conflicted with regard to Aggie. It wasn’t the pleasure/pain part of their relationship, it was her whole amateur psychologist gig. I just didn’t buy that she would be so insightful and able to heal all of this guy’s horrific emotional wounds. I got there was a great love developing between them, and they both fed each others fetishes but thought was rather unrealistic. While I know, it’s to be expected (it is the Sinners’ modus operandi after all) but there was so much exhibitionism, voyeurism and sexual excess going on, on that tour bus I became desensitized at times. Which brings me to Eric, this guy is the ultimate voyeur, and the scenes with him, Jace and Aggie made my eyes bug.

I did like that once Aggie and Jace were together they stayed together, there was plenty of conflict but it was satisfying to see them work through their mega issues without the ultimate relationship break-up, then getting back together. I felt there was an overabundance of sentimentality with Aggie, she is supposed to be this bad-ass dominatrix but turns over the top mushy with Jace. As well, her meddling bothered me.

Marlene: What we don’t find out, and it does bug me, is why Aggie is so unwilling to commit. We do find out why she became a dominatrix, but I didn’t get enough of why she spends so much of the book completely unwilling to commit. Not just to Jace, but to anyone. It’s a pattern that’s not explored.

She also has a terrible relationship with her mother, who comes off as a stereotypical bad mother. This entire series has a parade of bad parents, and absent parents. Did no one have a good childhood?

Lea: Yep Marlene, there is that. lol Not one of them seems to have any sort of foundation of parental normalcy which is why they are such a bizarre, dysfunctional bunch. There has been a strong sense of loyalty established within the Sinners ‘family’, and it’s good to see how they support each other. I liked seeing more of Sed’s leadership strengths and despite his arrogance, he lends support to his fellow band-mates.

Marlene: Another big issue for me was that the out of order release impacts the story. A chunk of the beginning of this story is Rock Hard re-hashed from Aggie and Jace’s perspective. We know what’s going to happen because we know how that story ended. On top of that, we know how this story ends because Double Time was released out of sequence. We already know about the bus crash and its aftermath because that’s in the past in Double Time. And we know that Aggie and Jace are together in the future.

That’s not the author’s fault, but it makes reading Hot Ticket, well, not as hot as it might have been.

Lea: Again, I agree.

The thing I’ve so enjoyed about this series is the humor, Cunning always makes me hoot with laughter! The Sinners are so irreverent and crazy and you never know what is going to come out of these guys mouths. I am curious to see what will happen with Eric, we met the woman he is matched with in Double Time but it will be interesting to see how Cunning will manage his voyeuristic tendencies and I will give his book tentatively entitled Snared a try when it’s released this fall. I’m wondering if there will be a spin off series featuring the Exodus End band?

Marlene gives Hot Ticket 3 1/2 roped and tied Stars

Lee gives Hot Ticket 3 1/2 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.

Dual Review: Night Thief by Lisa Kessler

Format Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 109 pages
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: Night #1.5
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

After the fall of the Mayan civilization, Kane, an immortal Night Walker, has taken refuge in France for over 800 years. The modern world holds little interest for him until the night he meets the Golden Thief and is robbed of much more than his pocket watch.

Marguerite Rousseau is living a double life. By day she is the assistant to an eccentric French artist, Antoine Berjon, and by night she dons elegant evening gowns to woo French dignitaries before lifting their wallets.

Sparks ignite when Kane captures the thief, but Marguerite harbors a dark secret that could ruin them both.

Our Thoughts:

Amanda: Night Thief was a nice quick hot read, that has whet my appetite for more of this series.

Marguerite is a pick-pocket who targets the upper class citizens of Paris. Working tirelessly to free herself and her cousin from their master and buy their passage abroad to the new world. Kane is Night Walker, orginating from the now deceased Mayan people where he was revered as a god. In Paris though he blends in to the crowds of well-to-do Frenchmen wining and dining their way through the Parisian social scene.

Marguerite and Kane’s paths cross when she tries to steal his valuable pocket watch. Being one of the most elusive thieves in Paris, Marguerite would have got away with it too had Kane not been able to track her scent. After a heated encounter Marguerite and Kane part ways, but Kane is unable to get Marguerite out of his mind so he finds a way too see her again, after which they realise that they do not want to part ways again.

Marlene: Having read the previous book in the series, I was happy to read a different perspective on the night walkers and their world. Kane is very different from Calisto, the hero of Night Walker. Calisto is only (only!) a couple of centuries old, while Kane seems to have been around for millennia. He’s so bored that getting robbed is interesting. But only because the thief is the pretty Voleur D’Or.

Amanda: Night Thief had all the elements of a great novella, fast paced with enough detail, a nice smattering of smut scattered through out for a romancing and a gut-wrenching ending. Having not previously read the first book in this series I was a little worried that I may have missed too much to fully be able to enjoy it, but that was definitely not the case.

Marlene: In spite of, as Amanda says, the gut-wrenching ending, Night Thief was a bit lighter in tone than Night Walker. There’s something about it being in Paris that makes it a bit less dense. The story doesn’t have the weight of centuries behind it, in spite of Kane’s age. Night Thief is complete by itself. They meet, they spark, and Kane decides to rescue Marguerite no matter what it costs. There is a horror element because of who, or maybe that should be what, Kane has to rescue her from, but the mission is accomplished, if not without some loss.

Amanda: Although it didn’t detract from the story itself I would have enjoyed reading more about Marguerite’s pick-pocketing adventures as it was so uncommon for women in the 1800’s to be masquerading as a fine lady but I was pleased to get a taste of Kane’s background, learning about why he moved to Paris in the first place and an insight into what a night walker actually was.

Marlene: I am really looking forward to Night Demon, which is supposed to have some details on the beginnings of the night walkers. The hints have been tantalizing. They are just enough like vampires to feel familiar, and just enough different that I want to know more. I was disappointed not to learn more, but I didn’t really expect to from the novella. This was a “tide us over” story. Darn it.

Amanda: Kessler’s writing can only be faulted on her time jumps which I had to get used to in the beginning. There was no break when it came to passing time, so some scenes lost a bit of their substance because it only felt like minutes had passed in the story world but if re-read one finds it’s actually an hour or two, sometimes even a day which became a little confusing at times.

Night Thief was a fantastic taste of the Night Walker world not to mention a great stand-alone novella in it’s own right. I have been left wanting more of this series.

Verdict: I give Night Thief 4 stars

Marlene: I enjoyed reading a totally different view of the Night Walker world. I loved the first book, Night Walker with its  story of a love that lasted centuries, and Night Thief is completely different. It’s short, sexy and sometimes gruesome, but still has a happy ever (and do I mean ever!) after for its immortal hero and his thieving love.

Verdict: I give Night Thief 4 gold stars. Let’s hope nobody steals them away.

***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.

Dual Review: Fortune’s Hero by Jenna Bennett

Format Read:ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: Soldiers of Fortune #1
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Formats Available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Goodreads | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Book Blurb:

Quinn Conlan had it all: a fast ship, a great crew, a gorgeous girlfriend, money, and adventure around every bend. That was before he agreed to ferry a shipload of weapons to the besieged planet Marica. Now he’s stuck in the prison colony on Marica-3, enduring weekly sessions with the camp’s “medical team,” and praying for a quick death before he breaks under the torture and spills everything he knows about the Marican resistance.

When opportunity strikes, Quinn takes Elsa, a Rhenian med tech, hostage and heads into the inhospitable interior of the small moon where he formulates a plan for getting his crew out of prison, his ship out of impound, and everyone out of orbit. But when Elsa professes her love, can Quinn take the beautiful doctor at her word, or will trusting her—and his heart—condemn him and his crew to an eternity on Marica-3?

Our Thoughts:

Has: When I first encountered the premise of a Sci Fi prison break typesque romance it was no contest that I would want to pick this book up! Quinn a smuggler, is captured, imprisoned and tortured for information about the rebels he has been helping with supplies. But he has refused to let the Rhenian authorities to break him down or to betray the Marican rebellion. But during a torture session, Quinn manages to escape with a hostage, Elsa who is a Rhenian doctor who has been assisting with his torture although she finds it distasteful. But stranded in a stark and barren planet, along with dangerous creatures and no water and food, strong feelings develop between Quinn and Elsa and despite their differences, they soon begin to trust each other.

I loved the setting, premise and the romance, between Quinn and Elsa. I felt that Jenna Bennett sets things out realistically especially with the initial mistrust and fear between Quinn and Elsa and I liked how she evolved their relationship over the course of the story to that of enemies to lovers. There was a lot of thought into the world-building, and setting and I could envision the desolate prison planet which were vivid and stark. However the pacing, in the story was a huge issue for me. While I was glad there was a lot of time spent in building up the relationship between Elsa and Quinn, I did find that not a lot of conflict or action was able to bring forward the pace, which felt like it was dragging quite slow especially in the beginning. And the romantic/personal issues between Elsa and Quinn was not enough to engage me in the story.

Marlene: While I, too, loved the idea of a Science Fiction Romance prison break (I really, really loved (review at Reading Reality) Heather Massey’s Queenie’s Brigade, which uses this theme to the max) Fortune’s Hero didn’t quite move me in the same way.

The prison planet is pretty starkly drawn (the creepy crawlies, ugh!) but what we don’t know is why the Maricans are rebelling and what it is about the Rhenian authorities that make the Maricans need to rebel. Yes, the Rhenians have allowed the governors of this prison planet to conduct atrocities, but is the entire Rhenian government atrocious? We want to believe that the Maricans are the plucky “Rebel Alliance” and that the Rhenians are the evil empire, but we don’t actually know. We just know the Rhenians have some extremely rotten apples running this prison planet.

Quinn is a mercenary, after all. Not a member of the rebel alliance. They paid him to run guns and supplies. He’s not a true believer.

And Elsa started out her posting to the prison believing in the Rhenian cause, whatever that is. She thought that the doctor was serving the right. His torture of his prisoners changes her mind about his methods, but doesn’t seem to change her mind about her country, or planet or empire or precisely whatever the Rhenian group is.  Even when she’s captured by Quinn, she still believes that Major Lamb is a upstanding Rhenian officer. It’s only after some time in Quinn’s company that her allegiance changes.

A case could be made that Elsa has Stockholm Syndrome. She’s bonded with her captor. An equal case could be made that Quinn has Lima Syndrome. He’s bonded with his captive.

Has: I disagree about the lack of explaining why the Rhenian’s were so bad and oppressive, because  I got the sense they were pretty domineering in the book although I agree that there should be more about why they wanted to take over Marican system. What made them so special and was it over resources?  But I definitely agree with you about Quinn’s reasoning on not betraying the rebels to Doctor Sterling and it didn’t ring true on why he would not especially with the extent of torture he went through which was horrific. But I think with Elsa, she wanted to be a doctor and to heal, but her society’s structure and ethos seems to be very patriotic and authoritative and in a lot of ways reminded me a bit like Nazi Germany.

I actually felt that their bonding was the strongest element in the book, because while they were hiding outside in the wilds, they were both stripped from what they knew and that helped them to bond with each other. I think those were my favourite scenes in the book, because the romance for me was genuine and real.

I didn’t see Elsa being a brainwashed citizen and I think she was a bit of a rebel at heart and being with Quinn helped her to face her feelings. I do think it was idealistic and naive to trust and actually like Sterling, who came across as a cold-blooded sociapath. While with Lamb, I didn’t get a great impression for him being a smart leader and was incompetent especially towards the end where I think the escape was too easy to be realistic. But I was glad she never defended them or thought of them as being good men at the end. but I wished there was more time, in her questioning her home-land’s beliefs and the damage they have done to other planets and people because it was not realistic.

Marlene: There are definitely hints at the beginning that the Rhenians are supposed to remind us of Nazi Germany, but to me, thats all they are, hints. And all those hints come from Quinn’s perspective as the prisoner. I’m not saying he’s incorrect, just that he’d be inclined to see things in the worst light possible.

Likewise, Sterling is definitely a sociopath. He clearly loves torturing people. However, except for the staff at the prison, most Rhenians seem to worship Sterling as an inventor of medical miracles. He’s a two-faced sociopath, and probably just eats up the worship. The prison seems to be a collection of Rhenian sociopaths, with the exception of Elsa.

I think my point about Quinn was that the rebel cause may not be all that glorious. Quinn needed to be paid to serve that cause. He’s holding out from revealing what he knows for a whole lot of reasons. It’s part of his own code of honor, and because it’s the best way of keeping his team alive. Once he talks, Sterling will have no more use for any of them, and will probably kill them all.

The bond that rises between Elsa and Quinn does make up the lion’s share of the story, and it does strip away the masks that both of them, especially Elsa, normally hide behind. However, both the syndromes I mentioned do make the emotions they engender feel real. They need that bond to survive. If there were a second book, I would expect that figuring out if what they discovered between them was real or the heat of the moment would cause some tension, but would stand the test of time.

The romance was well done. It makes the story work. My question is whether it’s happy-for-now or happy-ever-after, considering the circumstances where it begins.

I would also wonder if there wasn’t a tracker somewhere, because that escape was too easy. If the Rhenians have conquered so much, they can’t be that incompetent.

Has:I think Fortune’s Hero basically sets up and establishes the characters and the setting and that there will definitely be more to come because there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end and there are hints of what direction the next book may go into. I think the main issue is that this could have been a tighter book if it was a novella because it was overlong due to the lagging pace and lack of clarification on the agenda the Rhenians have over the Maricans but I suspect we will learn more in the next installment.

I hope the romance and the issues that both Elsa and Quinn have will be further developed in the next book and we get to see more of the wider universe. I did like the general world-building and the tone and feel that Jenna Bennett has created was well done but I agree there were definitely issues with the details and of the main plot and even some aspects of the characterisations.

Marlene: I agree 100%. This would have been a better book if it were shorter. Maybe not novella-length, but definitely cut down. I wanted more explanation of the Rhenian agenda and the Marican rebellion, and less repetition of the prison planet terrain.

The romance was well-developed but this couple is going to have a lot of issues that will need to be resolved in the future. How will a Rhenian “traitor” fit in with a band of mercenaries? Did they get tracked? Was the escape part of a bigger plan?

Verdict: I give Fortune’s Hero 2 and a half creepy-crawly stars (read the book to understand)

Has: Whilst I liked the premise, some of the execution was a bit of a let down, especially since it didn’t expand on important aspects of the plot and along with the  bogged down pacing the initial promise didn’t live to my expectation. The romance was a highlight for me but it wasn’t enough to carry the story for me, but I enjoyed Jenna Bennett’s voice and I will definitely check out future books of hers but I don’t think I will follow the sequel.

Verdict: I give Fortune’s Hero two star and half stars (and no creepy crawlies linked to it because I don’t like poisonous spiders!)

***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.

Dual Review: A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

Format read: ebook received from the publisher through NetGalley
Release Date: 1 November 2012
Number of pages: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s websiteAmazon, KindleBook Depository


Bronte Talbott follows all of the exploits of the British royals. After all, they’re the world’s most preeminent dysfunctional family. And who is she to judge? Bronte’s own search for love isn’t going all that well, especially after her smooth-talking Texan boyfriend abruptly leaves her in the dust.

Bronte keeps a lookout for a rebound to help mend her broken heart, and when she meets Max Heyworth, she’s certain he’s the perfect transition man. But when she discovers he’s a duke, she has to decide if she wants to stay with him for the long haul and deal with the opportunities– and challenges– of becoming a royal.

Our Thoughts: 

Marlene: A Royal Pain was just that, an absolute pain to read. I hate to put it that way, but the pun is just right there waiting to be said. I finished because I said I would. And I was on an airplane and “what the heck”.

Stella: I’m sorry to say but I completely agree. *sighs* Which is even sadder since from the moment I read its blurb I was predisposed and predestined to love it, I mean it is my go-to fantasy the normal, ordinary girl meeting and falling for a handsome guy, who is later revealed is an aristocrat *dreamy sighs* So yes, I was so much looking forward to this book and not only it did not deliver but after 28% I realized I was skipping entire paragraphs because the pages just didn’t hold my interest and found the heroine so frustrating and irritating, that despite several forced attempts to keep on reading, after 60% I gave up, I just hated it, or rather the heroine so much. So all my respect and hats off to Marlene for persevering!

Marlene: This story had all the absolute worst hallmarks of chick-lit, and if I’d known it was chick-lit, I would have steered far, far away. Bronte Talbott is whiny and self-centered. She comes across as TSTL (that’s too stupid to live) on multiple occasions. Max is all too often her doormat, except for the times he gets completely fed up and throws a temper tantrum.

Stella: I wouldn’t have disqualified A Royal Pain based on the fact that it was chick lit, I’ve read some that were so entertaining and funny they remain my go-to comfort reads, but I completely agree as to your comments regarding the heroine. Since the story is told through her POV (even if it’s not 1st person narrative), the reader must feel a connection or at least be interested in the heroine’s story but Bronte was such a whining, bitchy, egotistical, shallow, immature, petulant heroine (and yes I could go on), behaving like a churlish adolescent most of the time feeling sorry for herself, that not only did I not feel any smypathy or connection with her I downright disliked and despised her 🙁 (E.g. when she gets together with the dreamy hero, spend a whirlwind romance but they break up, she calls him after she finds out he’s a duke, so we have no idea if she had called him without that bit of information or if it was part of her motivation to reconnect). Oh and her constantly going on and on about how much she hated her father even though he has been dead for several years now and didn’t do anything exceptionally bad rubbed me the wrong way too. She acted as a whiny teen. She was an ungrateful, spoilt, moody and whiny heroine, who irritated me to no end I would have liked to slap her to make her snap out of her “me me me” egocentric world. Everyhting was only about her, she didn’t care about others they were just there to be her soundingboard, she didn’t give a damn about what was going on with her friends, mom, boss, she just wanted to unload her “problems” on them.

And another one of my problems regarding her character was that she was so crude, look at this scene where they are about to make love and Max confesses his love and proposes:

She wanted him so badly, her body wanted him so badly.
“Say it, Bron.” He was lying along the length of her back now, his voice so close to her ear, it was almost as if it was coming from the inside of her head.
“I’ll say anything, Max.”
“Say you’ll marry me, Bron.”
“Put it in, Max.”
“You have such a way with words, darling.”
“Please, put it in.”

Marlene: Their entire relationship is founded on an incredible lie of omission. Max hides his identity. This is kind of realistic, once you get past the idea that there’s a royal duke running around that no one has heard of, but when he gets mad at Bronte for not being willing to handle his first, but not last, ultimatum, he’s lost all credibility. Not that he had much.

Stella: I found Max a very two dimensional character (not that Bronte had more depth, but she definitely had more “screen time”), he was constantly described as incredibly handsome, warmhearted and the ideal dreamy hero, but not much beside that. He really was all that is considerate, enamored with the heroine (I found it happened way too soon, after weeks of glimpsing her he was already envisioning forever). I would have liked for his character to be better developed.

Marlene: The thing is, Bronte goes into the relationship with Max on the rebound. She tells him this. He’s only going to be in Chicago for 8 more weeks and then he’s going back to England. He never tells her that he’s planning for their relationship to be longer term, because she’s very gun-shy after the way her last relationship ended. (The fact that she was totally stupid about her last relationship notwithstanding).

Max has decided, and he never tells Bronte. In their last two or three days together, Max’ dad has a heart attack, and he has to leave instantly. Of course he does. But while he’s packing, he drops the bombshell that he wants a long-term relationship with Bronte and wants her to go with him to the UK. And if she doesn’t come with him, right now, she’ll never see him again.

Bronte is not a student. She’s a supposedly high-powered advertising exec of some kind. She could drop everything if they already were in a long-term relationship, but for someone who is supposedly just a fling, not if she wants to still have a career when she gets back. And whoever he is, he’s been lying to her. Not to mention, Bronte has some serious commitment issues.

Stella: Hm, I really can’t keep it short if I go into discussing their relationship because I found it completely unbelievable, unrealistic and phony (and not the part of the hero being a duke, but the normal dynamics of their relationship). But regarding that “big” break up point of Max being under shock that his dad was going to die, and he clearly tells Bronte that he is lost and needs her, the person he loves to be with him during this hard time, and that she just says no I found that completely heartless. And interesting how we see this scene completely differently Marlene, because for me when Max asks her to go with him, I understood it as he needed her support during this heartbreaking time and not an immediate answer for the HEA-until-we-die-part. And speaking of Bronte’s job, cue the eyeroll. She is a successful ad exec and she uses her boss and potential top client as her BF/shrink? Tearing up and chatting about her breakup when they are meeting for a business talk?! Talk about unprofessional.

Marlene: It went downhill from there. Both mother-in-laws were shrews of various breeds (of course they were. they always are). They break up once, and nearly fall apart at least one more time. And all of the problems revolve around Bronte’s issues and Max’s high-handedness. That and the expectation that they should read each other’s minds. Spare me.

Stella: Yeah, I couldn’t connect or be interested in their romance either as Bronte and her stupidity just drove me up the wall.


Marlene: I did not like these people. The author didn’t make me care what happened to them, or whether they resolved their problems. Or even whether they ever saw each other again. My iPad is too expensive to bang against the wall, which is the only thing that saved this one from being a wallbanger. Or a bulkhead-banger, since I was on an airplane at the time I read it.

I give A Royal Pain 1 star.

Stella: If it isn’t clear by now, I’ll repeat it once more: I very much disliked A Royal Pain. I hated the heroine and found the way the plot twists and turns were executed immature, the writing didactic and thus irritating, and couldn’t care for the heroine’s romance, because I actually was rooting against her. I know it’s a sacrilege of the romance genre, but I didn’t want her to find her HEA with such a nice guy. He deserved much much better than her. So no, A Royal Pain was truly a torture to get through, and in the end, I couldn’t do it…

I also give A Royal Pain 1 star and I’m still looking for that perfect oridnary-girl-meets-love-of-her-life-aristocrat-contemporary-romance, so if you have read such, please let me know!

***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.

Dual Review: Haven 6 by Aubrie Dionne

Format Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 326 pages
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: (if it is) A New Dawn #4
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Formats Available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

A product of an illegal pairing, Eridani is the only woman without a lifemate aboard the colonization ship, the Heritage, and she is determined her less than perfect DNA will not get in the way of finding love. As the ship nears it’s final destination of Haven 6 after five hundred years of travel, images of the surface show evidence of intelligent life on a planet that’s supposed to be uninhabited. Commander Grier assigns Eri to the exploratory team to spy on the alien society and return with information on how to defeat them.

When Eri’s team lands, tribes of humans attack and Eri is saved by Striver, the descendant of a colonist and a pirate from Old Earth’s colonization efforts in other parts of the galaxy. Striver helps Eri rescue her team and they are drawn to each other despite their different allegiances. While Striver battles with trusting Eri, Eri must decide whether to warn him and his people about the commander’s intentions, or follow orders and complete her mission.

Our Thoughts:

Marlene: Haven 6 is the final book in Dionne’s New Dawn series, and she’s trying to tie up all the loose ends. So she goes back to the beginning. All the beginnings. The colony ship that arrives at Haven 6 is commanded by none other than the former Governor of New York, or what’s left of her. Governor Grier’s brain is Commander Grier, and she still remembers the last panic-stricken days of Earth. Those events form the story of A Hero Rising, book 3 of Dionne’s series.

But when the Heritage reaches Haven 6, it finds that the original scouting reports were wrong. The planet is populated. That population is descended from Aries and Striker, the main characters of the first book in this series, Paradise 21. (See what I mean about all the loose ends?)

But the crew of the Heritage doesn’t know that, yet. All they know is that there are huts showing up in the fly-by scan. Enter our heroine, this story’s ship-misfit, Eridani. Eri is a double-misfit; she is the result of an unauthorized pairing, and her job is less-than-essential. Eri is a linguist. on a ship that doesn’t meet anyone who speaks dead Earth languages. But since she’s good at her job, maybe she can make sense out of whatever the species inhabiting Haven 6 speaks.

Too bad it turns out to be English. And too bad for everyone that the first group of “natives” that Eri’s team runs into turns out to be pirates.

Things go downhill from there.

Has: Oh yes, you have summed up exactly how I felt about this final installment of the series and I was hoping it would improve. But, sadly this wasn’t the case. I was lukewarm on the romance, lukewarm on the plot and very lukewarm on the characters. The one aspect that I really enjoyed about the previous books, was the element of world-building and how Dionne sets up a tense and engaging setting of groups of survivors on their journeys to find a new home. However, even this factor wasn’t apparent and in fact didn’t make sense. Because it was set a few 100 years after the events in the previous books. I couldn’t understand how the survivors of the Omega station would devolve into petty warfare over technology especially since they kept that alien ship which was the only working tech which they kept for historical and nostalgic reasons.

There was not an element of how their society evolved and in fact it was regressing and it definitely didn’t make sense with aliens who Striker and Aries saved in PARADISE 21. They showed real promise and imagination in that book and I was looking forward to see how events would evolve when we revisit them in this book. But their depiction fell into a huge cliche pitfall of stand-offish aliens who must not interfere with human affairs. And the entire conflict in the book was relegated with the tensions between the opposing human factions of the pirate like gangs and the humans who lived in harmony with the aliens. I was very let down on how this played out in the book, because the plot wasn’t engaging, or had real depth for me.

Marlene: In the attempt to wrap everything up into a nice, neat package, the author recycled an unfortunately large number of cliches from the lesser Star Trek scripts. (I’m saying this and I love Trek with all my geeky little heart) The aliens that Aries and Striker rescue in Paradise 21 are now operating under some kind of semi-operative Prime Directive; they can’t interfere if it will lead to loss of life, but they can help a bit. They owe their existence as a species, not just as individuals, to Aries’ and Striker’s interference; does this make sense?

The society on Haven 6 has either devolved, or something weird is going on that we don’t know. There are hints, but not enough information. In Paradise 21, Aries and Striker bring the entire population of Outpost Omega to Haven 6, only they call it Refuge. Lots of those folks were pirates, but many were prisoners, and some were just folks trying to get by. How did things descend practically into chaos in just a couple of centuries? Also, they used a wormhole to get ahead of the colony ships. Many of the pirates, and others had their own ships. Did anyone go elsewhere? Use another wormhole?

These folks have gone effectively back to, as Mr. Spock put it in City on the Edge of Forever, “stone knives and bearskins”. Or very nearly. High-tech is seen as the great evil. Yes, the last days of the Earth that everyone escaped from were really bad, but all the way back to primitivism? Couldn’t they find a happy medium? Or even a happy medium-rare?

And then there’s the romance. We have insta-love between an outsider from the colony ship and a hero who otherwise wouldn’t know she exists. Along with a bully for romantic tension, although in this case the bully, a Haven girl named Riptide, isn’t as bad as Luna was in Tundra 37.

Speaking of Riptide, there are the two side-plots with Striver’s brother Weaver, and the golden liquid of doom, but I’ll leave those to Has.

Has:  I also have to add that this reminded me of Battlestar Galactica’s remake where the humans decided to renounce technology, and although I get why they did – there was no reason why the pirate gangs could have developed their own tech especially since they came from a space faring race. Riptide’s character who felt like an obstacle to force emotions out of Eri and to create tension between her and Striver. Although like Eri, I was bemused by Riptide’s appearance of foot-length hair which isn’t that practical in a jungle like planet (imagine the humidity!). But I also felt Riptide’s character was redundant and never really offered any real conflict in the romance and she was pretty much a cliche for me for being a bitchy character with no real depth.

However, I have to say I was very bored with the sub-plot with Striver’s brother who defected to join the pirate gangs because he was jealous and bitter of his brother’s popularity and leadership skills.  I found his character to be a whiny, selfish and stupid and the reasons on why he joined a dangerous albeit another stupid group of people didn’t make sense. And although it tried to bring out real emotions – for me it emphasized his TSTL reasons. I also found myself being bored reading his POV chapters because it didn’t offer any real emotions or push the plot forward and when he encounters the glowing pool which is similar to the glowing orb in TUNDRA 37 where people get lost and sucked into their past memories – Well it was a bit of an anti-climactic twist and I was very disappointed because the alien orbs/glowing pool ties in previous plot threads and adds more twists in this universe. But, overall I found that the main plot a huge disappointment and how it ended was a bit of a wet fish.

Marlene: The divide between the pirates and the what? not-pirates? on Haven seems to be that the pirates want to exploit the remaining technology, and Striver’s people keep the remaining technology under wraps, feeling that all technology beyond the most rudimentary is bad. The pirates seem to be too lazy or too violent to develop their own tech, they just want to steal it, which makes them one-dimensional bad guys.

Weaver was whiny, self-centered and fairly stupid. Not in the IQ sense, but in the survival sense. He didn’t see other people as “real”, only as how they held him back from his supposed “greatness”. He never saw himself as part of the problem. And he was a complete idiot to think that going to the pirates was any kind of long term strategy. They were murdering lunatics. Weaver’s purpose in the plot was to show the redemptive power of the golden memory liquid, and to be the obligatory sacrifice for the greater good at the end.

I also thought this one was a bit anti-climactic, especially compared to the first two.

Has: And that is why I feel let down by this because it resorted to cliches and not in a good way. There was a lot of promise because there was such a rich tapestry of promise with the alien and different human factions however the resolution was a lot to be desired. However I do have to say the romantic build-up between Striver and Eri was slightly better compared to the previous books. But once again their romance suffered from insta-love syndrome which I am not a huge fan of because there was no real tension between them. But I preferred this sub-plot compared to the main story of the book.

Marlene: You’re right, Has. The romance did work just a bit better this time. Although there was definitely an insta-love start, the romance between Eri and Striver had enough time and enough “stuff” in it for us to see why these two get together in the end.

But the rest of the story doesn’t work as well. The fight between the pirates and Striver’s people seems basically under-explained. Mostly because every time I say, think, or write the word “Pirates” when there is no water or space or ship involved, my brain goes “tilt”. They are thugs that this society hasn’t taken care of. The alien Guardians have “Vulcan syndrome” without being half as cool. Or a quarter as hot.

And the insecure younger brother plot was really insecure. The best part of the story, the golden memory liquid, got dribbled away.

For that, I dribble out 2 and a half stars for Haven 6.

Has:I also agree! I wished that this last installment, would have closed this series with  a bang and whilst I liked how Aubrie Dionne intertwined the plot threads from the previous books. This was pretty much an anti-climactic ending and didn’t live up to the promise of the earlier books. I found that this was the weakest book in the series and I am disappointed because I loved the world-building that was set up. And even though this had actually a stronger romantic subplot compared to the previous books, I enjoyed the setting and premise much more but I am sad to say this was a bit of a meh book for me and I don’t think I will continue with the spin-off series.

2 and half stars for Haven 6.

***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.

Dual Review: Entangled – a spooky and healthy anthology

Format read: ebook
Release Date: 7 September 2011
Number of pages: 434 pages
Publisher: Authors4theCure
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Only $2.99 at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, SmashwordsRead an excerpt


Ghosts, vampires, demons, and more! Entangled includes ten suspense-filled paranormal short stories from authors Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, Edie Ramer, Lori Brighton, Michelle Diener, Misty Evans, Nancy Haddock, Liz Kreger, Dale Mayer, and Michelle Miles, plus a Seven Deadly Sins novella by Allison Brennan.

Stacia Kane contributed the foreword. Formatting and cover art were also donated to the project by Lori Devoti and Laura Morrigan.

All proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Stories include:

HALLOWEEN FROST by USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep (author of the Mythos Academy, Elemental Assassin, and Bigtime series) — It’s Halloween at Mythos Academy, but Gwen Frost and her friends are in for more tricks than treats when they run into a mythological monster intent on killing them.

THE FAT CAT by Edie Ramer (author of Cattitude, Galaxy Girls) — In a battle for the souls of seven women, a wizard has the god of war on his side; all the witch has is a fat, black cat.

MEDIUM RARE by Nancy Haddock (author of the Oldest City Vampire trilogy) —What’s spooking the spirits of St. Augustine? As the witching hour of Halloween approaches, ghost seer Colleen Cotton must team with a by-the-book paranormal investigator to locate the one ghost who can save the city’s specters. If she fails, her own great grandfather’s spirit may be lost forever.

SWEET DEMON by Misty Evans (author of the Witches Anonymous series) —When Chicago’s vampire king insists Kali Sweet join his empire, the vengeance demon must rely on her ex – the half-human, half-chaos demon who left her at the altar three hundred years ago – in order to escape the vamp’s clutches.

SIAN’S SOLUTION by Dale Meyer (author of the Psychic Visions series) — When a vampire discovers the human man she loves has been captured and hung in a blood farm, she goes against her own kind and risks everything to save him.

A BIT OF BITE by Cynthia Eden (author of NEVER CRY WOLF and ANGEL OF DARKNESS) — A killer is stalking the streets of Crossroads, Mississippi, and it’s up to Sheriff Ava Dushaine to stop him. But when suspicion falls on werewolf alpha Julian Kasey—Ava’s ex-lover and the man who still haunts her dreams—Ava knows that she’ll either have to prove his innocence…or watch the whole town go up in flames.

SINFULLY SWEET by Michelle Miles (author of the Coffee House series) — When Chloe bakes a little magic into her pastries, she attracts the attention of Edward, the sexy half-demon, half-witch, who’s come to warn her those who murdered her sister are now after her.

A NIGHT OF FOREVER by Lori Brighton (author of A Night of Secrets and To Seduce an Earl) — Who is Aidan Callaghan? Mary Ellen James is intent on uncovering the truth about the mysterious man, but as she soon finds out, some things are best left buried in the past.

FEEL THE MAGIC by Liz Kreger (author of the Part of Tomorrow series) — Jenna Carmichael’s magical attempt to rectify Jessica Manfield’s birth identity takes an unexpected turn when the past comes back to haunt her.

BREAKING OUT by Michelle Diener (author of the Tudor-set historical suspense novel In A Treacherous Court) — Imprisoned in a secret facility, powerful telekinetic Kelli Barrack and two other ‘special’ inmates grab a chance to escape, only to confront their worst nightmares on the outside.

GHOSTLY JUSTICE, an all-new Seven Deadly Sins novella by New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan (author of the Seven Deadly Sins series) — Demon hunters Moira O’Donnell and Rafe Cooper are dragged into the dangerous world of nocturnal predators to find “Ghostly Justice” for a virgin sacrificed to an ancient blood demon.

Our Thoughts:

Stella: When I asked for Halloween read recommendations Marlene was quick to name the Entangled anthology,  and when we started discussing it we thought why not make a special Halloween related dual review of it? Since it has more than 10 stories we thought reviewing the whole anthology would be way too long, so we decided for each of us to pick 2 stories and give you our thoughts on them.

Stella: I think it isn’t a big surprise to those who know me (and have heard my constant praise of Jennifer Estep’s series ;-)) that the story I was most excited about was Halloween Frost by Jennifer Estep, which is considered Book #1.5 in her Mythos Academy series, which I love! Truth be told I have already read this novella last year when the Entangled anthology was released but I enjoyed it so much I didn’t mind in the least having to re-read it for this review. And I’m happy to say that it was just as much fun as it was the first time around!

Halloween Frost takes place after the first book in Jennifer Estep’s YA urban fantasy series, Touch of Frost: Gwen our heroine is already used to life at Mythos Academy and she has made friends with Daphne, a cute and stylish Valkyrie and is crushing big time on Logan a strong and sexy Spartan. Those who haven’t read the first book won’t feel lost because Jennifer Estep includes enough background history references and explanations to give you an idea on who’s who (which could seem a bit repetitive for already established fans of the series).

This short novella tells the story of how Gwen and her friends spent Halloween at Mythos Academy: everyone, teachers and students alike dressed up (except Gwen), the whole town around the school was decorated in full spookiness and the kids went around collecting not just mouthwatering-ly delicious treats but also jewellery and armour!

Can I just say how much I LOVE Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series? It is fun, exciting and exceptionally thrilling! It has everything: nail-biting action and fast paced fight scenes, a sexy heartthrob hero and a quirky and so lovable heroine. Halloween Frost packed even more spookiness and sinister athmosphere than the usual stories in the series due to the festive setting. Thanks to Jennifer Estep’s vivid and colourful descriptions of Mythos Academy I can easily picture the gothic gargoyles and stone sphinxes guarding the gates.

Carved jack-o‘lanterns lined all the cobblestone streets, the lit candles inside them flickering and making their grins seem particularly sinister in the darkening shadows. Thick, silvery webs complete with fat, rubber spiders swooped from one doorway to the next, while ghosts, ghouls, and other classic monsters could be seen in the storefront windows, arms outstretched like they wanted to break through the glass and grab the students strolling by.

Another aspect I love about Jennifer Estep’s books is that she never fails to mention delicious treats that make my mouth water, and being a hobby baker I appreciate that 😀

[…] went from shop to shop, loading up our pumpkins with everything from gourmet pretzels to delicious brownies to candy apples bigger than my fist. I had a serious sweet tooth and quickly filled up my pumpkin, even though we hadn‘t gone through half the stores yet. I popped a piece of dark chocolate fudge topped with vanilla-raspberry syrup into my mouth and sighed as the rich flavors exploded on my tongue. Yum.

Verdict: Halloween Frost is a great addition to the Mythos Academy series and the perfect Halloween read. Let me just say that Gwen and her friends get some first hand spooky action this Halloween 😉 Read Halloween Frost while munching on some yummy candies!

I give Halloween Frost 4.5 spooky stars!


Marlene: The thing about story/novella collections is that there are usually a couple of “meh” stories in the bunch. So when Stella and I decided we would each pick two (and only two) stories to feature, it seemed like a brilliant solution. Not so! This collection doesn’t have a “meh” story in the bunch.

My first pick was always going to be Edie Raymer’s The Fat Cat. This starts out as a kitty adoption tale. A witch goes into her local shelter to adopt a kitten. Bad move, or so it seems. Instead of leaving with an adorable little kitten, she leaves with a virtually unadoptable fat black tomcat, who is past middle-age into the bargain. Samson not only hears her thoughts, he can speak to her mind. Mostly to ask for food. And quote Casablanca.

Samson becomes her best friend. He’s way better company than her ex. But kitty old age is catching up way too fast, and Tory doesn’t want to lose him, so she tries a spell. One that will make Samson young and virile again, instead of old and very farty. (Yes, I meant farty. Also arthritic) She tries her spell the night before Halloween. It doesn’t seem to work and Tory is heartbroken

On Halloween she confronts the evil warlock who has captured the body, and imprisoned the soul, of her younger sister, along with several other women. He is powerful, and very, very smug. Also a handsome bastard. The only protection that Tory has is poor Samson, still in the body of an old cat. Guess what happens?

Verdict: This story has so many fun elements. The transformation of both the cat and the warlock. The redemption of the young women. Saving the old cat and discovering that he’s her best friend. The lovely (well sometimes lovely) idea of knowing what our pets think. All worked into a terrific story of friendship, redemption, witchcraft and Halloween. With a happy ending!

I give The Fat Cat 5 claw-tipped stars!


Stella: The second story I selected was A Bit of Bite by Cynthia Eden. I have followed Cynthia Eden’s blog and saw her new releases and was always curious and intrigued to read them for some time now, so now I thought the time has finally come for me to discover her writing through this novella of hers, and I enjoyed it a lot!

A Bit of Bite is a sexy and thrilling parabormal romance with a seriously possessive and protective alpha werewolf (yum!) and a kickass detective heroine.

A twig snapped a few feet away from her. Ava didn‘t jump and spin toward the sound, but her right hand did rise slowly to curl around the butt of her gun. The problem with all the supernaturals was that they could just move too fast—
“Easy.” His deep, dark voice washed over her and, just like that, werewolf alpha Julian Kasey stood in front of her. The light, woodsy scent that marked his kind clung to him as he towered over her.

Mmm, can you seriously tell me you just didn’t shiver while reading that one word sentence of his?

The chemistry and passion between these two is sizzling and scorching, the perfect story to make you tingle with a bit of thrill!

No one was ever gonna take Ava Dushaine from him. No one. His mouth crashed down onto hers. He should have been easier. Should have used some gentleness, but werewolves didn‘t exactly know much about tenderness. The only things he knew…she‘d taught him. Her lips were parted, and his tongue pushed inside her mouth. He tasted her, and her kiss was better than he remembered. No dream to haunt him, she was real now.

The world-building was interesting and layered, the supernatural sections and societal hierarchy, fractions were different than usual. A Bit of Bite made me suspect there is a series where Cynthia Eden gives more depth to it, and I’ll definitely look for it because I very much enjoyed her in-depth and detailed writing style.

Verdict: A Bit of Bite was a great steamy and exciting read. If it were a bit longer, a bit more detailed it could have been a five star story. As it is, it was a delicious novella and I’ll have to check out Cynthia Eden’s full length stories now that I have gotten a small taste of her writing. A Bit of Bite is a pulsing romance with paranormal setting and a big and delicious alpha hero!

I give A Bit of Bite 4 sexy stars!


Marlene: I also loved Cynthia Eden’s A Bit of Bite, but I let Stella have that one. I was feeling generous. The second story I want to highlight is Lori Brighton’s A Night of Forever. The story takes place in the same world as her novel A Night of Secrets, but I’ll confess that I didn’t know that when I read it and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment one little bit. Of course, now that I do know, A Night of Secretsis going on my TBR list. 

But about A Night of Forever…it starts out as if it were a typical Regency, or close enough, even though it’s set in a later period. Mary Ellen plans to marry someone rich and titled, not because she’s necessarily that mercenary, but because she craves the security that money and status can bring. However, she finds herself fascinated by a man who appears to have neither. Aidan Callaghan seems to be merely her brother-in-law’s houseguest. He is a complete enigma, quiet and withdrawn for the most part, but always watching her. He fascinates her. And she fascinates him.

What Mary Ellen doesn’t know is that her brother-in-law is a vampire. And so is his friend Aidan, who is trying his damndest not to use the powers of fascination and enthrallment that he has at his command. Because he could simply make Mary Ellen come to him, but then it wouldn’t be real. He wants the contented life that his friend Grayson has found, a life, and love with a woman who knows what he is and loves him anyway.

So he watches Mary Ellen from the shadows, and knows that she is as sincerely interested in him as he is in her. But at the Halloween revels on Gray’s estate, Mary Ellen leaves the safety of the house and is captured by thugs. When he comes to her rescue, Aidan is captured as well. In order to escape, he has to reveal what he is to save them. Will his willingness to fight for her provide Mary Ellen with a better kind of security than the money and status she said she wanted?

Verdict: This one had the kind of shivery gothic creepiness that all the best Halloween stories do. At first, you’re not sure where the danger is going to come from, and then you’re not sure if Mary Ellen will choose safety over love. A Night of Forever tells a terrific tale of the slow build, both to knowledge and to love.

I give A Night of Forever 4.5 fanged stars.


Stella: And yes, as you can see despite us vowing to review only 2 stories (I even asked Marlene to prevent me from becoming greedy and giving in to temptation), when I turned the last page of A Bit of Bite there were the first few lines of Michelle Miles’ story and being the baking fan that I am I couldn’t stop myself from reading it. See for yourself and tell me if you could have resisted it:

At four in the morning, Chloe O‘Shea unlocked the door to Sugar Mamma‘s Bakery and flipped on the interior lights. She turned on the ovens, gathered her ingredients and started baking for the day. With a giant yawn that nearly split her head in two, she started her scones, a customer favorite. Then the muffins—blueberry, banana nut, poppy seed, bran. Once she had the morning cravings in the glass case ready to go, she started on the afternoon favorites. Cupcakes, cookies, mini-tarts and other delectable goodies.

So there you go, here is my bonus review 😉

To be honest I haven’t even heard of Michelle Miles before, so this novella was a complete blank canvas for me, I had no expectations at all, and yet she managed to blow me away.

Our heroine Chloe is a witch on the run, she has been hiding in the human world and spending her days as a baker, but she can’t help herself from pouring some of her magic into her creations:

Perhaps it was a mistake putting her small bits of magic into her cupcakes, her cookies, her scones and her muffins. Her customers loved her baked goods and why not? She poured Happiness into every batch. And lust into her red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing.

and so the bad guys she has been hiding from get a flare of where she is. Her savior is Edward a sex on stick mysterious man Chloe can’t help but lust after (and trust me the reader won’t be able to help herself either!). Together they try to combat the evil forces and stay alive.

Verdict: Sinfully Sweet was a deliciously steamy story with great world-building, fantastic writing style, a likable heroine and a hunk of a hero. Now that I’ve discovered Michelle Miles’ writing first hand I’ll go and hunt down her other novels, because I just want more delicious stories!

I give Sinfully Sweet 4.5 delectable 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.

Dual Review: Tundra 37 by Aubrie Dionne

Format Read: ebook provided by Publisher
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Release Date: 7th of February 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: A New Dawn #2 Genre: Sci Fi Romance
Purchase links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads


Gemme is a hi-tech matchmaker who pairs the next generation of Lifers aboard the Expedition, a deep space transport vessel destined for Paradise 18. When the identity of her lifemate pops up on her screen, she’s shocked that he’s the achingly gorgeous and highly sought after Lieutenant Miles Brentwood—a man oblivious to her existence. Believing everyone will think she contrived the match, she erases it from the computer’s memory.

Just as comets pummel the ship and destroy the pairing system forever.

With the Expedition disabled, the colonists must crash land on the barren ice world of Tundra 37 where Gemme is reassigned to an exploratory mission, led by Lieutenant Brentwood. Only in the frozen tundra does she understand the shape of his heart and why the computer has entwined their destinies.

Our Thoughts:

Has: I have mixed feelings with this series, I adore the world-building and the premise of a future where humans are forced to flee the Earth due war, famine and disease. And to survive people travel in generational star ships to find new planets to colonise and to restart civilisation. Tundra 37 is the 2nd book of the series and follows the ship, the Expedition which is forced to crash land in a frozen planet after an accident.

Gemme, the heroine is a tech who match-makes pairings on the ship and to ensure that they are compatible genetically and psychologically. However she is shocked to see that she is paired with Miles Brentwood who is being groomed to take over the leader on The Expedition. She is afraid to be partnered with him because he is popular and very desirable and because of her position as the person who matches up couples. But the ship crash lands, and the remaining survivors have to find a way to safeguard the ship and to find new supplies to ensure their survival.

I have to say, I loved the main plot for the mission to survive and the search for supplies, but the romance subplot, wasn’t that strong and the weakest part of the story for me. I felt, that Gemme’s actions especially with her position as a matchmaking tech and to dismiss the original results of her pairing with Miles wasn’t that strong an obstacle for them. I also disliked  the character of Luna who I felt was one dimensional and despite the ship’s edict of ensuring human matches have to be genetically compatible was very focused on pairing with Miles despite the fact he was reluctant to be in her company. This aspect of the plot was forced and very weak and detracted from the main story of the ship’s mission and survival

Marlene: The New Dawn series seems to have more of a “space opera” feel to it than truly science fiction romance. The plot that drives all of the stories is the human diaspora plot–humankind’s need to distribute itself among the stars because we have totally frakked up planet Earth. This is a well-used and well-loved trope in science fiction, and the author has done some neat things with the generational ships and the base human drives that managed the people who initially populated them.

The romance subplots have taken a “back seat” in the stories (that has a tendency to be true in space opera in general).

Gemme’s job was to check over the computer’s genetic matches to make sure that the computer hadn’t missed any nuances that a human would catch. With such a relatively small gene pool, this cross-checking was required. Computers don’t do nuance terribly well. Gemme didn’t “make” matches, but she could prevent them if she saw something the computers didn’t. Of course, that gave her an enormous amount of very subtle power.

Miles has the overt power, but he doesn’t see it as power. He sees it as taking care of the crew. This is what makes him a good leader. And that’s why he’s been made a leader. What gets lost in the romance is why Gemme and Miles are attracted to each other at the beginning. Not why the computer matched them, that could just be genetics, but why they get lost in each other. Insta-connection, OMG.

And don’t get me started on Luna. She was so one-dimensional that she was flat. Except her boobs, which seem to have been positively ginormous. A factor which otherwise adds to her one-dimensionality. So to speak. Luna exists in the plot simply to be self-serving, to point out how self-sacrificing Miles and Gemme are. Luna in Tundra 37 is the equivalent of Astor Barliss in Paradise 21. She’s the bully.

Has:Yep! I totally agree although I did find Astor’s character more developed and fleshed out. But I found that the fact they were on a dangerous mission, and outside on an alien world, it was verging on ridiculousness about the romantic sub-plot. I wished there was some real build-up especially for the tension and for the feelings between Miles and Gemme because there was no explanation on how and why they should feel like this and I hate insta-love trope, it never really works for me as a trope and it never makes me believe in the romance.

I did like the subplot, involving the Twin navigators, Mestasis and Abysme who were melded to the pilot computer of the ship, introduced an interesting dynamic and I found their relationship much more interesting. It also had more depth, especially with the introduction of alien artifact on Tundra 37  which draws the ship’s attention like a moth to a flame and is the cause of the crash. Although I do wished there was more background on why this artifact was buried there and if there were any links to aliens in the first book in some way because it was a bit random.

Marlene: I’m so with you, Has, when it comes to insta-love. The only insta-anything that feels real is insta-lust. That one, I think can be pretty darn instantaneous. Anything that requires emotions takes a bit of time. And at least a few conversations!

Something about Tundra 37’s emotional chords that struck me was that all the depth comes from the backstory, and mostly occurs in flashback. Whatever happened between Luna and Gemme that made Gemme kowtow to that witch happened when they were kids. It’s supposed to make the reader understand, but we don’t get enough. Gemme’s and Miles insta-connection is fueled by past lives, which they relive through the alien tech. The Twins’ shared experience, and the sadness of Mestasis’ lost love back on Earth, are experienced in their dead memories through the artifact.

The emotional present gets shorted. And you’re right again about the past of the artifact. Where did it come from and does it have any bearing on anything else whatsoever?

Has: I thought it was interesting about the flashbacks adding the depth and it did help with the buildup and contrast that with the insta-love it just highlighted the lack of development of the romance especially. I also wanted to know about the future of the survivors, because it ended abruptly, although there was hope they would be able to survive despite not them reaching their goal planet. The fact they end up on a desolate cold world was sad, and it also felt the story just got going for me. I hope we do get to revisit them and to see if there is more to come for this crew and if there is more developments with the alien artifact and its origins.

Marlene: I wonder how all the survivors turn out. The point of a diaspora story is usually to spread the survivors as far apart as possible so that there are as many chances of human survival as possible. Being a science fiction reader, I can think of a bunch of ways that we could legitimately check back on the surviving groups. I wonder if the author will pick one.

The alien artifact is interesting because it showed past lives, not just memories. How did it know? Were they true? It opens up a world (no pun intended ) of story-telling possibilities. Who were those aliens? Will they be back?

The ending, with that rousing speech, reminded me a lot of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and some of Adama’s speeches. But then, the Seers hooked into the ship reminded me a lot of Helva from Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang. Science fiction recycles a LOT of tropes.


Has: Tundra 37 had a fantastic premise but the romantic subplot, for me was the weakest element of the story. However the flashbacks involving Mestasis own tragic romance who is the featured hero in the prequel, A HERO RISING, had depth and was much more engrossing, and heart-wrenching and I was drawn to her character and that of her sister which really made the book and story alive for me. Although I wished the ending didn’t end abruptly, the world-building and the story threads which link and tie in with the other books in the series, is engaging and keeps me interested in the story. I just wished the romance subplot was developed and didn’t fall into trope pitfalls.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars.


Marlene: I also thought that the premise behind Tundra 37 was terrific. The human diaspora story is excellent, and the survival adventure part of the story was well-done. But the romantic elements felt slightly underdone. The romance between Mestasis and James, centuries ago, held more passion than the current living love between Miles and Gemme. Flashbacks are a great story-telling device, but they shouldn’t bear the entire burden of holding up the romance. The ending was upbeat and in a pretty good place, hope and inspiration for the future, before the hard work begins. But that particular ending is a common science fiction trope.

I give Tundra 37 3 stars for too many trips to troperville.