I’ve had one of these books for a while, but the cover didn’t appear until this week. Finally! It’s been a long time since Raymond Feist wrote something not connected to his Riftwar series (serieses – is that a word?) and its opening masterwork, Magician. Magician is a book I still remember very fondly, so I’m terribly curious to see where he’s going this time in King of Ashes. I have hopes!
Speaking of hopes, Into the Fire is already on my “Most Anticipated” list for next year. I absolutely loved her Vatta’s War series, and this year’s Cold Welcome represented a marvelous return to a well-loved character, as well as the opening in Vatta’s Peace. A peace which still looked far off in the distance at the end of the first book in the new series. Is it terrible of me to hope that peace is a long time coming, so that I have LOTS of books to look forward to?
Welcome to the December Book of Choice Giveaway Hop, hosted by FLYLēF.
And now we’re into the post-Thanksgiving OMG can I get everything done in time for the holidays season. The days are winding down, the daylight is getting shorter (at least in the Northern hemisphere) and the Winter Solstice with all of its attendant holidays is rushing closer.
It’s even cooler here in Atlanta. At least cool enough to break out the jackets. And to be grateful for the cats curling up at our feet at night. When they cooperate – which isn’t half as often as we’d like.
There’s always time for a good book – even if it’s on the nights when you can’t sleep for worrying over all the stuff you have to get done!
Three books I’m really looking forward to this month, A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev, Back Home at Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy and War Games by Jess Anastasi. And even though those last two sound like polar opposites, all three books are the latest installments in long-running series that I really like. Firefly Lake with its small-town feel and its second-chance at love stories seems particularly apropos for the holiday season.
Abducted by alien slavers and taken to a lawless desert world, the last thing she expects is to be claimed by a handsome alien rogue. Rogue contains two action-packed novellas in the Galactic Gladiators series.
Information Rogue: arrogant information merchant Zhim doesn’t know what hits him when he collides with feisty human hacker Ryan.
Rescued by the humans and gladiators from the House of Galen, Ryan Nagano is working hard to piece her life back together. Her priorities are conquering her anxiety, recovering from her captivity, and using her exceptional computer skills to help the House of Galen decrypt alien data that could reveal the location of other abducted humans. That’s all she’s focused on. But when she needs help, she finds herself having to work with arrogant genius Zhim…and discovers that the two of them redefine the word explosive.
Zhim thrives on the need to uncover information and ensure his wealthy, carefully constructed life is exactly as he wants it. Then one infuriating menace of a woman blasts into his life. Ryan matches him skill for skill, drives him crazy, and worms her way under his skin. But forced to take her deep into Kor Magma’s shadowy hacker underworld, Zhim soon learns exactly what he’s willing to risk to keep Ryan safe.
Desert Rogue: prickly, independent human Neve doesn’t want or need any help…but a certain cocky desert rogue isn’t taking no for an answer.
Neve Haynes survived her abduction through grit and determination. She’s always made her own way through life, depends on no one, and is determined to achieve her own personal mission. So as she sneaks out of the House of Galen, the last thing she needs is help in the form of a tawny-haired, lean-hipped caravan master with more confidence and swagger than any man she’s met before.
Corsair is a man of the desert and leader of the Corsair Caravan. He listens to his gut and something about Neve draws him in. He can’t let her go off and get herself killed, but she’s the most skittish, strongest woman he’s ever met. As they trek deep into the desert on a dangerous mission to find a map to an infamous desert arena, they will fight side by side and be forced to depend only on each other to survive. And in Carthago’s desert sands, they will uncover a desire that burns hotter than the desert sun
Unlike the rest of the Galactic Gladiators series, Rogue consists of two novelettes instead of a single novella. The stories center around a bit of a theme, in that both of the heroes are rogues – as much anti-hero as they are hero, and more in the mold of a rogue-type character in a video game than the gladiators themselves, who are straight-up tanks. Not just tanks, but definitely tanks, big and strong and hard fighters who can take a lot of punishment – even the female gladiators.
But worlds don’t consist entirely of straightforward fighters, not even worlds whose economy is based on old-style gladiatorial contests. Fortunately for the gladiators, these interstellar blood and sand games have lots of very high-tech healing operating in the background.
But the heroes of Rogue are cut from another cloth entirely. The first story features the information merchant and data-hacker Zhim, our second hero is Corsair, leader of the desert caravan that assisted in the rescue of the women re-captured from House Galen by the Srinar.
Zhim, the hero of Information Rogue, has been part of the series almost from its beginning. As Galen discovered that there were more victims from Earth than he first believed, he reached out to Zhim to help him discover who they were, where they were hidden and how best to rescue them. As the series has progressed, Zhim’s services have been in increasing demand, hunting not just for any remaining Earth captives but also for any other people or creatures who have been enslaved and need rescue.
He’s also figured out a way – a very expensive way – for the Earth refugees to “call home” – because they are stuck on the far side of a collapsed wormhole and can’t go home again. He’s been a lifeline in so many ways, and now it’s his turn to find the woman he belongs to, and very much vice versa.
While many of the stories in this series have featured opposites attract romances, Zhim and Ryan have much more in common than they have differences. Both are their own galaxy’s variety of nerds, hackers and info-junkies who lust after the latest hardware almost as much as they discover they lust after each other.
But it takes a lot for two people who both have serious trust issues to give anyone else the cipher key to their hearts.
In Desert Rogue it is Corsair’s turn to find his HEA. Corsair first appeared out of the desert sands at least as early as Champion, if not before. It is his caravan that Galen trusts to help rescue the women who were kidnapped a second time while under his protection. And Corsair keeps coming back to help as the gladiators find themselves returning to the desert over and over to rescue more slaves and break up more underground fight rings.
Neve Haynes is a fascinating choice for Corsair. She’s a very different character from many in the series, because she has a hidden agenda, hiding under yet another hidden agenda, and its hidden agendas pretty much all the way down. She was on the Jupiter Station as a corporate spy, and she’s used to hiding herself in plain sight and operating completely alone.
Now that she’s stuck on Kor Magna, her agenda has shifted. She needs to rescue her sister, who is still in the hands of the slavers. But as much experience as Neve has in operations under all types of deadly conditions, there are no deserts in space. Or in the corporate headquarters she used to prowl. She may want to rescue Ever all on her own, but she needs Corsair’s help to navigate the deadly landscape that is second nature to him.
It takes her a long time to realize that she just needs Corsair, and it takes him every bit as long to convince her of what has become, for him, an unalterable fact.
Escape Rating B: I enjoyed both of these stories, but I wish that they had both been a bit longer. Not that I don’t always wish that Anna Hackett’s stories were a bit longer, but that seemed particularly true in this case.
If these were not part of an already well-established series, there wouldn’t be nearly enough setup to make the stories work. As it is, the romances still felt a bit rushed, especially in Desert Rogue. While Zhim and Corsair have both been around for awhile, and Ryan and Zhim have been teasing each other over their version of the interwebs for a bit, Neve was barely introduced in the previous books, and her backstory is so different from everyone else’s that I really wanted to know more of what made her tick and especially about her relationship with her sister, particularly as Ever is set up to be the heroine of one of the future stories in this series.
But I’m always happy to receive a treat from Anna Hackett, and Rogue was no exception. It made for a great Thanksgiving read!
MMA fighter Miles Dartman’s casual arrangement with personal shopper Maxi Nevar would be many men’s fantasy. She seeks him out, they have mindblowing sex, she leaves. Rinse, repeat. Yet lately, Miles wants more. And when Maxi requests his services via the Body Armor security agency, he’s ready to finally break through her defenses—and protect her day and night.
Receiving a large inheritance has brought chaos and uncertainty into Maxi’s life. Her ex has resurfaced, along with lots of former “friends,” and someone is making mysterious threats. Then there’s Miles, who doesn’t ask for anything…except her trust. Pleasure is easy. Now Maxi has to give her heart as well as her body…or risk losing a man who could be everything she needs.
The Body Armor Agency needs a new motto. Perhaps something on the order of “We’ll protect your body, and we’ll steal your heart.” Because this series, so far, is all wrapped in the trope of the bodyguard and his protectee falling for each other while dodging whatever is after her.
The start of Close Contact is a bit different from the other books, because MMA fighter turned bodyguard Miles Dartmann and personal shopper Maxi Nevar already know each other, in the Biblical sense, before the book begins.
That Maxi is the one who cut and run from their no-strings-attached fling still bothers Miles. A lot. And not just because he’s usually the one who leaves. It felt like they were really starting to get somewhere, and not just between the sheets, when Maxi disappeared without a trace.
But when she wakes up in the middle of the night, out in the middle of the field next to the house she inherited from her grandmother, with no recollection of how she got there, she remembers that Miles was about to start his new job as a bodyguard when they hooked up.
Because Maxi needs a bodyguard. She’s not sure who she needs guarding from, or even why, but someone keeps messing with her, her house, her stuff, and her life. At first, she chalked up the tiny incidents as misremembering or accidents, but waking up by the pond could only have happened the way it did if someone put her there.
The question is why. And for answers, she turns to Miles, his boss Sahara Silver, and Body Armor.
At first, only Sahara believes Maxi. Miles, still stinging a bit from Maxi’s rejection, is certain that there’s another jilted lover in there someplace who decided to get some payback. It’s not until he comes out to Maxi’s rather remote little farmhouse and witnesses things for himself that he finally gets on board.
And just as he does, the incidents ramp up. Whatever is happening is escalating, and Maxi still doesn’t know why.
It could have to do with her inheritance of the farmhouse and her grandmother’s surprisingly large assets. After all, her brother and sister both believe that they should have gotten a bigger share, and that Maxi should sell the property and just give it to them.
It could be her cheating ex-fiance, who suddenly seems to want her back now that she’s come into her inheritance, and won’t take no for an answer.
It could be the local law enforcement officer who seems to be waiting for Maxi to fall into his arms. A plan that is definitely thwarted by Miles’ presence in Maxi’s life – and eventually her bed.
But the longer that Miles spends with Maxi, the more of the potential suspects he is able to eliminate. And the closer that he gets to the woman who has staked out a place in his heart.
The hotter their romance gets, the more the suspense ratchets up. When the villain is finally revealed, it’s a surprise to everyone involved. Very nearly a deadly one.
Escape Rating A-: Close Contact is every bit as much fun as Hard Justice, the previous book in the series. And I absolutely loved that one.
One of the things I enjoyed about Close Contact was definitely Maxi. And not just because she feels not merely duty-bound, but actually enjoys taking care of all of her grandmother’s many, many (many) cats.
Don’t worry, she’s not a hoarder. The cats live outside, and mostly in the barn. But her grandmother loved them and Maxi cares for them – especially after one of them sticks by her the night she wakes up by the pond.
But what I really liked about Maxi was the way that she takes her life by the horns and learns to stand up for herself. She’s always felt like a bit of a failure, because she isn’t as ambitious and hard-driving as her siblings. But even though she’s used to jumping when they say jump, she still doesn’t give in or change what she believes is right, although she tries to keep the peace between them. It’s interesting watching that dynamic change over the course of the story.
Also, Maxi is right, at least about who isn’t her tormentor. Miles wants to suspect both her siblings and her ex, and they do all have reasons that foster that suspicion. But Maxi knows it isn’t them. I’m also glad it isn’t the ex, because that trope has been done to death.
And something else that was really well done was the forthright way that Miles dealt with the end of his MMA career and the reasons for that ending. I wish that the real-life NFL was half so honest about the risks of concussions and CTE.
The suspense part of this story ratchets up nicely. Or chillingly. It’s done well. The perpetrator is the person everyone least suspects, and the reasons for the whole mess are utterly tragic but at least began from a place that is easy to empathize with, even if the current results are well beyond the pale.
The romance in Close Contact is a bit fast, but it makes sense in context. They were already on their way to falling for each other when Maxi disappeared, so it makes sense that once they are forced into each other’s company, things eventually pick up where they left off. And it is right that they do.
If you like bodyguard romances, the Body Armor series is a winner. And you don’t have to read them all to get into them, but they’re fun, so why not?
We also get a chance to see hints of the next book in the series. It looks like Body Armor owner Sahara Silver may have finally met her match. And I can’t wait to read all about it in Fast Burn.
He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…
Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.
Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.
An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past...and step into a future together.
I picked this book for the cover. I mean that. There’s something about the cover that just drew me in when I saw it on Edelweiss. My friends at the Book Pushers had raved about the author, but sometimes I’m perverse about books that “everyone” tells me to read. The cover of Wrong to Need You grabbed me and sucked me in, and before I knew it I was downloading the eARCs of both Wrong to Need You and Hate to Want You.
After reading Hate to Want You a couple of weeks ago I discovered that all those people who told me to run out and grab this series were absolutely right. It was awesome.
It was so awesome that I couldn’t stop myself from diving right back into the author’s world with Wrong To Need You, even though I had a couple of weeks to spare before my stop on this tour was scheduled. That didn’t matter, I needed to read more RIGHT NOW. And I’m really glad I did, even if I now have a couple of months to wait until the eARCs for Hurts to Love You pop up in Edelweiss.
But about this book, Wrong to Need You…
The overarching story of this book extends from Hate to Want You to Wrong to Need You, and it looks like the long-buried issues between the Chandlers and the Oka-Kanes won’t finally be resolved until the end of Hurts to Love You. And there are plenty of big messy issues that seriously need resolution.
Which means that you should read this series in order. Not that it will exactly be a chore. Like I said, absolute awesomesauce. But the crap pile that these two families have dug for themselves needs a lot of explanation and exploration. While the romance in Wrong to Need You has plenty of fire and all the sweetness of forbidden fruit all on its own, the depth is in the “big picture” story.
In the first book, the forbidden-ness of the fruit was in the family feud. The Chandlers were on one side, the Oka-Kanes on the other, and the once-a-year hookup between Nico Chandler and Livvy Kane was a secret that desperately needed to be kept from both of their feuding families.
In Wrong to Need You, the forbidden nature of the fruit is much closer to home. Sadia Ahmed is Paul Kane’s widow. Jackson Kane is Paul’s brother. If Paul had lived, anything beyond friendship between Sadia and Jackson would have been verboten. And possibly a bit squicky.
But Paul is dead, and Sadia and Jackson are both very much alive. They were best friends before all of the family insanity went down, and Sadia misses her best friend. But Jackson has always had a secret. He’s always loved Sadia, and that is a secret that his brother Paul once exploited, with devastating results.
But Paul is dead, his twin sister Livvy is involved with the Chandlers again, and Jackson is back in town to see if he can fix any of the messes he left behind. And Sadia needs him, a siren song he simply can’t resist, even though he knows that he should.
Once Jackson inserts himself into Sadia’s life and her failing cafe, he discovers that the place he couldn’t wait to see behind him is the only place that he can ever truly belong. And that Sadia is the only woman he can ever love.
But love may not be enough to fix everything that’s gone wrong in his life, her life, or their whole town. And once he discovers the truth behind a long-held secret, Jackson is no longer certain whether the best thing he can do for Sadia, for his family, or for himself, is to disappear again just like he did before.
Or if it’s finally time to make a stand for what he wants, what he needs, and what he loves.
Escape Rating A: Wrong to Need You is every bit as much, well, everything, as Hate to Want You. Sadia and Jackson are fascinating characters, and their romance has every bit as much heat and naughty and sweet as Nico and Livvy’s. And yet, theirs is a completely different type of romance and this is a completely different version of that forbidden fruit.
In addition to the panty-melting romance, I also really loved the other part of this story. The family crap. The deeper we get into the mess that is the Chandler-Oka-Kane feud, and the events that led to it. the less able or willing I am to turn my eyes away from the tire fire. One of the big (huge, gigantic) secrets about the ten-year-old crap pile comes to light in Wrong. And it was so, so wrong, both at the time and even in the present.
Not that revelation of that particular secret would make things better, or at least it won’t now. It might have then. It might have just done more damage. The point is that the characters will never know if it would have been better to have let that particular cat out of the bag at the time. Now it’s just too late.
But it still matters to everyone involved. Because these are not just hot romances, they are also stories of two families in crisis that need to get back to being one family, before its too late.
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 12/8/2017 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.
The twelfth novel in Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series reimagines Sherlock Holmes in a richly-detailed alternate 20th-century England
Christmas is a very special time of year. It is special for Psychic Nan Killian and Medium Sarah Lyon-White and their ward Suki, who are determined to celebrate it properly. It is special for their friends, Doctor John Watson, and his wife Mary, both Elemental Masters, who have found great delight in the season seeing it through young Suki’s eyes.
It is also special to others...for very different reasons.
For Christmas Eve is also hallowed to dark forces, powers older than mankind, powers that come awake on this, the Longest Night. Powers best left alone. Powers that could shake the foundations of London and beyond.
It begins slowly. Women disappearing in the dark of night, women only missed by those of their own kind. The whispers only begin when they start to reappear—because when they do, they are no longer sane. And when Nan and Sarah and the Watsons are called on to examine these victims, they discover that it was no ordinary horror of the streets that drove them mad.
But then, the shadows reach for other victims—girls of good, even exalted families, who vanish from concerts, lectures, and evening balls. And it will take the combined forces of Magic, Psychic Powers, and the worlds greatest detective to stop the darkness before it can conquer all.
A Scandal in Battersea is the 12th book in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. I read the earliest books in the series long ago, probably when they were published in the mid-1990s. It doesn’t seem as if one needs to have read the whole series to get into this particular entry in it, although now that I’m diving back into the whole thing, it looks like A Study in Sable is more of a direct prequel to A Scandal in Battersea than any of the other books.
The original premise of the Elemental Masters series was to re-tell well-known fairy tales in a late Victorian/early-20th century alternate universe where magic works and is divided into at least four main branches representing the classic “elements” of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. But other forms of “magic” were introduced in later stories, notably telepathy and other ESPer powers, and the mediumistic power to communicate with spirits.
Over time, the series morphed into a single world, with some semi-continuing characters, including many of the protagonists in A Scandal in Bohemia – notably our main characters. John Watson (yes, that John Watson) is a Water Master, his wife Mary is an Air Master, while Nan Killian is a Psychic and Sarah Lyon-White is a medium.
It takes all of their combined powers, plus the rational mind of Sherlock Holmes, to solve this case. It all begins with a young woman having visions of a ruined London where a tentacled monster sucks people into itself, never to be seen again. While traditional medicine believes that the poor girl is mad, Dr. John Watson is all too aware that she might be sane – and psychic, warning of evil on the horizon.
And so it proves. Someone, some idiot, is calling up a power that he does not understand, in the belief that it will give him earthly power and vast wealth. And power. Lots and lots of power. All he has to do is sacrifice a few virgins to its ever-growing hunger.
Of course it all goes wrong. Bargains with demons, devils and otherworldly creatures of shadow never go well, at least not for the human bargainer. Plus, (or minus, depending on on your perspective) sometimes the monster gets out.
In order to keep this monster from getting out, every person and creature that our heroes can find on the side of the light, or even just on the side of keeping our world for us, wades into the fray.
And it might not be enough.
Escape Rating A-: For a book with Sherlock Holmes on the cover, where the title is a direct reference to one of the canonical stories, there just isn’t enough Holmes in this book. In the end, I had an absolutely marvelous time with this book and with this world, to the point where I ran out and picked up as many of the previous entries in the series as I could borrow from libraries, but there’s not enough Holmes to justify its description as, or to satisfy my yen for, yet another version of the logical, rational Holmes finding his way in a magic-working world.
But if you are looking for a version of Victorian London where magic works and where the cast of characters is both diverse and endlessly fascinating, you’ll love A Scandal in Battersea. That the main characters are a pair of independent young women and their intelligent birds just adds to the fun.
If you like this concept of a magical, or at least slightly alternate, Victorian London, the setting of A Scandal in Battersea reminded me quite favorably of Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles. And since I loved that series and it seems to have ended, it is very nice to find something that reminds me of it quite so strongly.
And if the monster in A Scandal in Battersea gives you the shivers as much as it did me, take a look at A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (included in his collection Fragile Things, which is a pastiche where Sherlock Holmes’ London intersects with the Cthulhu Mythos, with predictably creepy results. I include this reference because the descriptions of the monster that they have to fight struck me as Cthulhu’s cousin. A reference that left me appropriately creeped out.
As much as I missed Holmes until his appearance at the ¾ mark, I had a great time with this book and could not put it down. I enjoyed this world so much that I immediately picked up an earlier book in the series, A Study in Sable, which introduces readers to Holmes, Watson and Mary Watson in what looks to be a kind of prequel to A Scandal in Battersea.
We are Microsoft, resistance is futile, you (or at least your computer) will be absorbed.
We’re back from Thanksgiving. And my computer had a conversation with itself while we were away, did a Windows 10 update, and killed the driver for my old graphics card. Admittedly, my desktop machine was getting a bit long in the tooth, but it worked fine. Until it didn’t. Suddenly and without warning. GRRRRR! Galen decided that replacing it was simpler than fixing it, and so it has been put out to pasture, replaced by a new box. Which of course, needs a whole bunch of stuff installed. So much for our Sunday plans.
It’s still good to be home. We had a great time, and I always love Friendsgiving in Houston, but it is great to be home. The kitties seem to have achieved detente, but they still missed us. And we missed them.
I’m prepping this post almost a week early. As you read this, we should be on our way back from Thanksgiving with friends in Houston. I hope that you had a happy Thanksgiving, and that you haven’t gone too crazy with holiday shopping – at least not yet.
But speaking of going crazy, as you can see, I went a bit crazy with Merecedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. I read A Scandal in Battersea (review coming this week) and enjoyed it so much that I just had to get the rest of the series. I read the first few a LONG time ago, so now I want to get caught up. I’ve already started A Study in Sable because it looks like a direct prequel to A Scandal in Battersea – which made it utterly irresistible.
Because this is so early, I’m assuming that by the time this posts, I will have received Anna Hackett’s latest Galactic Gladiators book, Rogue. It’s due out on 11/28, so it should come this week. And, as always with Anna’s books, I’m very much looking forward to it!
As everyone knows, Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. It’s the day when all the stores run all the crazy doorbuster sales, starting at absolutely obscene hours of the morning. Or the night before.
Black Friday got its name because the opening of the holiday season was usually the first day of the year that retail outlets began operating at a profit, in other words, in the black, and out of the red that means debt and loss and other bad things.
But with Cyber Monday now happening all holiday season (and all year round!) things are not what they used to be in the world of retail and in-person shopping. Which won’t make today any less frenetic if you go to the sales.
I’ll be with friends, and doing my shopping online. What about you?
For a chance to get a start on your holiday shopping, fill out the rafflecopter for your chance at either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository.