Finding My Faith

Finding My Faith by Carly Fall is book two of her Six Savior Series. Who are those “Six Saviors”? And what are they supposed to save? All, well, some anyway, will be revealed in this romantic suspense series with a hint of SFR and what feels like more than a touch of inspiration from the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The titular “Faith” in Finding My Faith is Faith Cloudfoot. Faith works as a barista at a coffeeshop in Phoenix, just a little bit away from her overprotective father in Flagstaff.

You see, Faith is supposed to be the legendary, “Woman with Fire for Hair” among the Navajo people. Her red hair signifies that she will be the mother of a son who will cure the Earth. But only if she mates with a red-eyed night-wolf-warrior.

Faith doesn’t believe a bit of it. She just wants to expand her boundaries away from her overprotective parents. So, she fights to move to the “big city” of Phoenix.

Faith’s life in Phoenix is terrific for the first year. Then she is kidnapped and held in an underground “prison cell” with five other red-headed women. Even stranger, after she is unconscious, her spirit leaves her body and haunts the streets near the scene of the crime, until she finds one person who can see her–a big warrior with red shining eyes.

Rayner is that warrior. He is not a native to this planet. He, and his band of warriors, are from planet SR44. They’ve been on Earth for over two centuries, chasing a band of renegades their homeworld unimaginatively labelled Colonists, for originally escaping the law by colonizing a local moon.

Those Colonists are now on our Earth, becoming mass murderers, serial killers, and political despots and megalomaniacs. Oh, and interbreeding with humans. Colonists’ offspring usually become Colonists, too, but the strain does eventually become diluted. And nurture sometimes triumphs over nature.

Rayner and his band of brothers have come to Phoenix to hunt one of those Colonists who is kidnapping and murdering women. Rayner’s particular talent is to be able to unite spirits with their bodies, in other words, he can bring people back to life. But there’s a catch!

He can only do it if the spirit can find its body. And the body is still “habitable”. And if there is someone who loves the person and who they love back. A lot.

Rayner and his warrior band have been on Earth over two centuries, hunting down Colonists. They are inhabiting human bodies that never age. They can be killed, and they have to maintain their bodies, but no aging or death by natural causes.

Their natural forms are spirits of light. The light glows from their eyes at night. Rayner was a forest spirit on his homeworld, and the red light of his natural form glows from his eyes at night.

Faith’s spirit, wandering the streets of Phoenix, is the key to finding the Colonist that Rayner and his friends are out to catch. So it’s important that Rayner keep in contact with her as they hunt the bad guy. Very important.

There’s this one big problem. The Warriors can’t go back to their homeworld until the last Colonist is dead. It could be centuries. But if one of the Warriors falls in love with a human, and makes love with her (not just sex, but really makes love with her) he’ll lose his native form and become human, age, and eventually die.

He won’t be able to go home again. Ever. And he won’t be able to finish the mission. Rayner promised his mother he would come home. No matter how long it takes. He’s made a vow to finish the mission, no matter how long it takes. But he fell in love with Faith the minute he saw her spirit. What good is a warrior without his soul?

Escape Rating C: Based on the description, I was expecting more of a science fiction romance than this actually turned out to be. The SFR aspects are definitely downplayed in the story itself.  The story we have is über-powerful and über-huge band of good-guy warriors chasing down über-evil dudes who leave behind “ash” when they do something wicked.

Substitute baby-powder for ash. Sound familiar? I’m afraid it rang a bell for me. The band of testosterone brothers fighting evil is a tried-and-true theme, and it works, every war story uses it. But if you describe the good guys as all being over 6’5″, and the bad guys leave powder residue, then the theme is suddenly derivative. It might not be intentional, and YMMV.

The legend attached to Faith made the story a bit different. I liked her character, but  not the way she asserted herself one minute and then folded the next. If there was a reason for her willingness to bow to her parents’ wishes that I didn’t understand, where was that explanation? She is 23 not 16. If she feels like she can’t move out without permission, tell the readers why.

(This review copy was provided by Bewitching Book Tours. Bewitching requested additional reviews outside of the tour, and here we are!)

The Saint Who Stole My Heart

The Saint Who Stole My Heart by Stefanie Sloane is book 4 in her Regency Rogues series. It’s also very clearly the “setting up” story for the next two books, at least, in this series. There are definitely unresolved suspense elements hanging over the end of the story.

The prologue starts out with a bang. Let’s say it cuts to the chase. Childhood friends Dash Matthews, Nicholas and Langdon Bourne, and Sophia Southwell make the journey from carefree youth to painful responsibility in one sharp moment when they come in from playing outside to find Sophia’s mother, Lady Afton, murdered. None of their lives are ever the same.

As men, Langdon Bourne and Dash Matthews both join the Young Corinthians, a spy network based in England. They’ve both been warned off Lady Afton’s case. All they know is that she was the victim of a man code-named “The Bishop” and that she was murdered because Lord Afton was also a member of the Corinthians. The Bishop targets his enemies’ loved ones.

Dash Matthews is the Corinthians code-breaker. He is gifted with puzzles, locks and ciphers. Unfortunately for the spy, he has also got the looks of an Adonis. Spies should be able to blend into a crowd, and Dash, he just can’t. Everyone notices him, especially the women.

Since he can’t hide himself, he hides his intelligence. He pretends to be pretty, but well, empty-headed. Everyone except his closest friends thinks he’s an idiot.

Then Elena Barnes steps into his life. And his library. His late father’s library, to be precise.

When his father died, Dash inherited the title of Viscount Carrington, along with the estate. But his father’s prized library of rare books was left to Henry Barnes, Baron Harcourt, a noted expert in such things. And Baron Harcourt sent his bluestocking and equally expert daughter, Elena, to catalog and pack up the books.

Elena found Dash to be incredibly handsome, and completely vapid. The problem she had was that her physical reaction to his handsomeness overwhelmed her mental reaction to his vapidness. Which just seemed wrong to her.

Dash, on the other hand, found Elena fascinating. Which was equally problematic for him. Because when he was fascinated, he had an unfortunate tendency to drop his idiot act.

And Elena was no idiot. She noticed.

This is a Regency, if you will recall. Elena, as an unmarried woman, could not be living in Dash’ bachelor household unchaperoned. Lady Mowbray, Dash’ aunt, was temporarily in residence to serve that role. Bessie Mowbray wanted nothing more than to see her nephew happily married, and spent time, effort and Dash’ money to make it so.

Lady Mowbray knew perfectly well that Dash was no idiot. And she noticed everything.

The more Dash revealed of his true self, the closer he and Elena became. This wasn’t a courtship, it was a falling into the inevitable.

But as soon as Elena seemed important to Dash, she became a target of the Bishop, and the suspenseful part of the story really began.

Escape Rating B-/C+: The second half of this story is a real page-turner. Once the hunt for Lady Afton’s killer goes into full-swing, it’s really hard to put down. On the other hand, setup for the next books was a little too obvious. It’s not that there isn’t a happy ending, but there is so much unresolved that I was frustrated by a lot of the way the story ended.

Also, based on the prologue, I was expecting it to be Sophie’s story, and it’s not. She’s the main character in the prologue, and then disappears for the rest of the book.

For more of my thoughts on this book, take a look at Book Lovers Inc.


Random Acts

Random Acts by Alison Stone surprised me. It was a sweet romance that almost veered into inspirational territory, yet still told a good romantic suspense story.

Danielle Carson is a woman on the fast track to partnership at her high-powered law firm in Atlanta. She’s tried her best to leave small-town Mayport in her rearview mirror. It’s not that she doesn’t love her sister Jenny and her grandmother back home, she does, but the town itself holds a lot of bad memories.

In Mayport, everyone knows Danielle and Jenny as the daughters of an alcoholic who took up with a series of abusive men and finally abandoned her daughters. While leaving Danielle and Jenny with their grandmother was the best thing she could have done for them, she abandoned them. And everyone in Mayport watched Danielle and Jenny, waiting for them to turn out just like their mother.

Danielle had a crush on the boy next door, Patrick Kingley. He married someone else. Some of it was due to his four years’ seniority, but a lot more was small-town disapproval. His mother was sure Danielle would turn out badly. Instead, she just left. Being a lawyer hardly counts as bad, so the town disapproved of Danielle living in Atlanta instead.

When Jenny is the victim of a near-fatal car accident, Danielle rushes home, knowing the toll it will take on her ambitions at the office. But the accident is discovered to be no accident. And that boy next door is not a boy anymore. Patrick Kingley is all grown up, just like Danielle is. He’s been a soldier, a husband, a widower, and now a single father to a pre-teen daughter.

He’s also a cop.

And he knows that Jenny’s accident is no accident, because Jenny was working for him. Undercover. As a drug informant. And he hides that information from Danielle as the old ties between them start to knit together again. But it’s not just about him anymore. He can’t let someone into his life who will leave again, because it will break his daughter’s heart.

His own heartbreak is much less important to him. His daughter means everything.

And there is a killer on the loose who is willing to exploit that.

Escape Rating B-: The romance takes a backseat to the suspense. The suspense part of the story was handled well enough that I caught the red herring but didn’t figure out the final perpetrator. So that was good.

On the other hand, the romance definitely took the far back seat. The relationship between Danielle and Patrick’s daughter Ava is very sweetly handled, but the central love story gets very short shrift for what is intended as a romance. I know this might be intended as a “sweet” or “clean” romance, and so not erotic, but this couple didn’t generate a lot of heat, even of the banked fire variety.

And I kept wondering about exactly what happened in the way-back-when. It was clearly more traumatic for her than for him, but something happened. What was it?

The romance part of this romance needed more sparks somewhere, even if we don’t witness the actual fire.

Sunrise Point

Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr was my first trip to the lovely town of Virgin River in northern California. But I don’t think it will be my last. Not just because the town was beautiful, but because the people who live there are ones I’d like to see again, to catch up on their stories. And because the love stories that seem to happen there, like Sunrise Point, involve terrific characters and great storytelling.

Nora Crane is a single mother with two very young daughters. Her daughters’ sperm donor (father is so the wrong word) abandoned her in Virgin River in a house that not only wasn’t ready for winter, it wasn’t even fit for habitation. The whole town pitched in to help Nora get by.

But Nora wants to stand on her own two feet. The school of hard knocks is a rough teacher, but she’s learned better than to be dependent on anyone ever again. She was young and stupid when she dropped out of college to follow a minor league ballplayer who ended up a drug dealer, but she’s not stupid anymore. Now she’s still young, but she’s pragmatic as she can be.

And she needs to work to support herself and her girls. Harvest time at Tom Cavanaugh’s orchard is the best paying work she can get now that school is out for the summer and her teaching assistant job is temporarily over.

It doesn’t matter that the orchard is over 3 miles outside of town, that she has no car, and that Tom Cavanaugh is ruggedly handsome, overly opinionated…and only hired her because his grandmother made him take pity on her situation. Nora will prove to herself, and Tom, that she can learn the back-breaking, callous-making hard work of picking apples.

The thing is, Nora is all wrong about the reason Tom didn’t want to hire her. Oh yes, he’s worried about her learning the job, but everyone is new once. Tom’s problem is that he finds Nora much too attractive, and he doesn’t want to get himself involved with someone who works for him. And he’s just back from serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. He’s thinking about settling down, but he’s not ready for a ready-made family either.

Nora is both an employee, and a single mother. He should be declaring her completely off-limits.

And Nora has already made some seriously bad decisions about men once in her life. Getting involved with her boss is all kinds of bad.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. The head can be so totally wrong about these things. Especially in Virgin River.

Escape Rating B+: Watching Nora and Tom court and spark is the fun part of this story. When they are thinking and not feeling, they think they are wrong for each other. But when they simply interact, everyone around them can see they are so very right for each other. It just takes them a long time to see it. Their obliviousness is funny, and almost heartbreaking. The wrong choice does loom over them for a while.

There are two sets of background characters. The set that are part and parcel of Nora and Tom’s story are terrific. I’m not sure there is anyone who wouldn’t want Tom’s grandmother Maxie for their own. Or at least to borrow her for awhile. She’s marvelous. The story of Nora’s childhood, and the resolution, that part introduces some good things as well.

The other piece of the story is probably the setup for the next book, with some characters who had their HEA in a previous story and one new one. Because this was my first trip to Virgin River, I was a little bit lost in the parts with Luke, Jack and Cooper. But I think Cooper’s story might be the next book, since Luke (Temptation Ridge) and Jack (Virgin River) have already had their stories.

Speaking of temptation, I’m tempted to go back to find out exactly what their stories are. Before book 20 in this series comes out. I want to catch up with everyone!

For more of my thoughts on Sunrise Point, check out Book Lovers Inc.


The MineFields

The MineFields by Steven C. Eisner is one of those books that will keep me thinking, long after I’ve finished it. The author blurred the line so often between his own life story and that of his character that I’m not sure whether this story was really fiction, or whether the names were just changed to protect the author from any more lawsuits.

The story itself compels, but in the same way that watching an accident compels. The author’s bio lets the reader know from the beginning that the main character’s business success, and subsequent doom, mirrors his own. You know going in there’s going to be a crash and burn. And you can’t stop yourself from watching for the signs.

The story begins with a death, and then is told as a kind of flashback. Sam Spiegel is waiting at his father’s bedside at the hospital. And this final time, Harry Spiegel isn’t coming home. His father survived the Holocaust, but his bad heart finally does him in.

And with Harry gone, Sam begins to lose the advertising agency that his father created, and that Sam has owned for several years. Sam takes it to the top, and then he falls, all the way down.

So, this is a story about the advertising business, since Spiegel Communications is really a stand-in for Eisner  Communications, the advertising agency that is the scene of the author’s own rise and fall.

It’s been compared to Mad Men, which is also an advertising agency story, but Mad Men is about the 1960’s, and The MineFields is about the 1980s, 1990’s and post 9/11. Spiegel, and his creator Eisner, are both Baby Boomers.

The MineFields is much more about family, and family business, and what happens when it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Sam’s father starts the business when he comes to America after the Holocaust. He keeps everything tightly controlled, which probably doesn’t help his heart any. Harry is proud to be able to hand things over to his son, but the loss of control strains the family.

Family businesses strain family relationships — that theme recurs in the book — and with increasingly disastrous results. That’s part of the big train-wreck the reader knows is coming.

Spiegel’s story pulls the reader in because it has such immediacy. He’s telling you his life story, and it feels one-on-one. But, he’s the star. All the other people in his life feel like bit players. And that may be why things ended up the way they did.

Read it for yourself and see. Sam, or is it Steven, spins a good story. But you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you’re sold on his version.

Escape Rating B-: I couldn’t stop reading. That’s always the first test, and The MineFields definitely passed. I find myself questioning why he did what he did, and then wondering which “he” do I mean, Sam or Steven? I’m still thinking about it.

There was a lot of name-dropping. The author used names of real people and real advertising firms and accounts, except for a choice few. It made me wonder about the ones that were changed. I can guess who they really are, but the changes are probably significant, at least in the legal sense. The line between fact and fiction felt razor-thin in those cases.

And because I keep wondering how much of Steven is in Sam, I can’t help but have a question about the ending of the book. At the end, things are looking up for Sam. Is that just fiction? Is that wish-fulfillment? Or is that part of the “true” story behind the book?

I guess I’ll never know.

To read more of my thoughts on The MineFields, head on over to The Book Lovers.

Grave Mercy

Assassination has often been a tool of politics throughout the centuries. There is a classic quote that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. Assassination has historically been one of those “other means”–sometimes as a way of starting the war, sometimes as a way of stopping it.

But seldom outside of fantasy have readers had such a god-ridden heroine’s journey to follow, with an assassin as that heroine.

The heroine is Ismae Rienne, and the book is Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. It is the first in her series about, as the author’s website puts it “assassin nuns in medieval France”. That series is titled His Fair Assassin.

It’s historical fiction, not fantasy or science fiction. But Grave Mercy is still quite a trip.

Ismae grows up in a tiny farming village in Brittany. Not France, Brittany. That’s important. Brittany was still independent in the late 1400s and many people still clung to the old ways and the old worship. The old local gods were called “saints” by Ismae’s time, but people still brought them offerings.

Brittany was an independent duchy, and she wanted to remain that way. The tide of history was against her, but the tide wasn’t all the way out, yet.

Ismae was born with a significant scar on her back. Everyone in her superstitious town saw it as a sign that Ismae was the daughter of Death, literally, the guy with the scythe, Mortain. Why? Because that scar represented the effects of the drugs her mother took to abort her, drugs that failed. Only the child of Death himself would have failed to die.

Instead, Ismae spent her early life abused by everyone around her, including her father. And when it came time for her to be married, her father sold her to another brute, one who intended to kill her the moment he saw her scar.

But she was whisked away by Mortain’s followers to the Convent where his assassins were trained. After three years, she was sent on her first assignment. And thus became embroiled in the realpolitik for which the Sisters had barely prepared her.

Anne of Brittany‘s court turned out to be a spiderweb of intrigue. And even worse, the man the convent sent with her both for her to spy on and as her cover, Gavriel Duval, well, Duval is not what he appears to be. The Convent believes he must be betraying the Duchess, but Ismae knows he is not.

Which means that someone else is. Ismae must find the real traitor before he, or she, brings down the ducal house of Brittany. And Ismae must decide where her loyalties really lie.

Ismae is only seventeen. The Duchess whose realm she must protect at all costs is fourteen. The future rests on them.

Escape Rating A: This was one of those books where the pages fly by. Which was excellent, because there are a LOT of pages. This is a story that drags you in and doesn’t let you out until it’s wrung every emotion out of you.  At the end you’re completely spent and you feel satisfied, and slightly disappointed because you have to leave the author’s world.

This is historical fiction, not fantasy. The historical characters and the place and history behind this story did happen. Anne of Brittany, and the Mad War, and the fight over who she would marry, all happened. Gavriel Duval, Ismae and the Nine Old Gods or Nine Saints are fictional, but the blending of the fictional into the historic is seamless.

Grave Mercy reminded me of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study, the young assassin’s training and first target story, except that Snyder’s story is fantasy. The seriously politically insane fantasy version is Kushiel’s Dart, although that is in no way YA, and Grave Mercy and Poison Study both ostensibly are.

Grave Mercy is a story you won’t want to let go. It’s an excellent thing that the author is returning to the world of His Fair Assassin in the Spring of 2013 with Dark Triumph.


Haevyn: Humanotica Book 2

Haevyn is a way, way, way better book than Silver.

Why? Because Haevyn Breina, the title character of Haevyn, is not just the star of her own story, Haevyn is an adrenaline junkie. She is psychologically incapable of waiting for life to happen to her. She is forced by her own nature to make things happen. In other words, Haevyn has “agency”, sometimes too much of it for her own good. She’s never passive.

There are occasions when Haevyn plays the submissive, but she never truly submits. Her point of view is well worth following, even to the point of wanting to shake her for some of the choices she makes, because she makes choices and acts on them. Decisively.

If Silver was intended as the story of a trinex, a person equally identifiable as male, female and humanotic, Haevyn is a story that separates those roles into three individuals, Haevyn herself, Grishna, her childhood friend and sometime lover, and Entreus, the humanotic rebel from book one, and Grishna’s lover. This should be a triangle.

But Grishna loves both Haevyn and Entreus, and his role is that of healer, mediator, balancer. He’s a peacemaker between two warriors who need each other to be whole. But they also both need his healing as a calming agent. The trick is to bring them together in a way that Haevyn won’t find manipulative, because she is easily spooked.

And Haevyn is both fascinated and repelled by humanotics. Her first sexual experience was rape by a humanotic. It’s left scars on her soul that she’s never been able to erase.

Grishna brings Haevyn to a Cockrage, which makes Fight Club look not just tame, but bland. A Cockrage is a cock-fight, but those are men in the ring, not birds. The fight is not just about the violence, it’s a fight for dominance. The champions and their challengers fight  in the nude, just to make that point more clear. The loser gets screwed in the middle of the fighting ring, in front of the wildly cheering audience.

The audience is supposed to be only male. Grishna sneaks Haevyn in under the pretense of losing a bet. He wants her to see Entreus in Cockrage. Entreus is the reigning champion. Haevyn’s risk-taking nature overwhelms her fear of humanotics, and she is caught up in the overwhelming sexual atmosphere of the Rage, but only for Entreus, who is equally enthralled by Haevyn. She reminds him of the warrior-women of his home dimension of Oricta as none of the submissive ladies of Quentopolis ever have.

But there is more to this story than just the erotic. Haevyn is an officer of the military, even if the branch she serves are trained sex-workers assigned to personally serve high-ranking officers. It is the only way a woman in her society can earn a decent wage.

Haevyn needs that money. Her brother is addicted to body-modification. (And doesn’t that sound strangely familiar?) But on Quentopolis, if a person has more than a certain percentage of humanotic parts, they automatically become a slave. Haevyn is afraid that someday she will have to buy her brother out of slavery, and her fear is justified. She’s saving up.

Most importantly, the officer Haevyn serves, besides being a sado-masochistic bastard, which Haevyn is not just required to tolerate but trained to deal with as part of her duties, is also a treasonous bastard. Haevyn has to go undercover in many, many more ways than she was trained in order to save her city.

And she has to do it fast. Her brother and both her lovers are in danger. And there’s a sorcerer on the loose who might blow everything up just for spite, first.

Escape Rating B-: Once I started Haevyn, I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out how the whole thing turned out. This was so much better than Silver. I liked Haevyn as a character much better than Silver, which made a huge difference.

There are things about the worldbuilding that bothered me. Since this is the second book in a Science Fiction Romance series, there was stuff about the underpinning that I would expect to know by now. Other worlds are referred to as “dimensions”; how is travel accomplished? It’s never clear.

The branch of service Haevyn is in, the CompSociates, are military prostitutes. A society that restricts the roles of women the way Quentopolis does, would it also develop something like this? It was an interesting idea, but I’m not sure. On the other hand, it made me think, which is always good.

Another puzzle: Haevyn refers to damage to her sporiti from her rape. Is sporiti spirit or mind? That was never quite clear in context, not even in combination with the first book.

But if you  have an interest in very erotic science fiction romance, Haevyn might be your ticket. For more thoughts on Haevyn, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.


Wreck of the Nebula Dream

A passenger liner is launching with technology so advanced that everyone is just positive it will break all the speed records for the route! Lots of money is riding (yes, pun intended) on her making port on a record-breaking date.

And in order to get her out of her docking berth, she’s launched with untested technology. Oh, she’s ahead of her time, alright, but even advances ahead of their time need shakedown cruises.

If all this sounds just a little familiar, it should. With a little tweaking this could be an introduction of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. The 100th anniversary of her first, and last, voyage is this week.

But this is a book review of a slightly different story. The ship is the Nebula Dream, and her maiden voyage is a space flight. She’s still a passenger liner, and many of the conditions are intentionally the same. The Titanic disaster served as inspiration for this absorbing science fiction adventure.

Wreck was definitely inspired by the original events, but it is not slavishly devoted to them. Disasters make for great drama. They bring out the best in people…and the worst.

The Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott is the story of the maiden voyage of the passenger cruise ship Nebula Dream.

Instead of being an ocean-going vessel, the Nebula Dream cruises the space-lanes. Like the Titanic before her, the maiden voyage of the luxury Nebula Dream also includes some of the wealthiest people in her corner of her universe. They plan to be part of her record-setting trip.

But space and other factors make Nebula Dream‘s story a bit different from Titanic‘s, although not much less disastrous.

A chunk of that “less disaster” quotient is because the Nebula Dream‘s story is also the story of Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson.  He’s on board because his career has already crashed, and this trip is his last hurrah. Except that what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation turns out to be a mission unlike anything he ever undertook in his service career.

His last service mission was behind enemy lines. This vacation, well, this so-called vacation may not be as far from his last mission as it was supposed to be.

But from the minute that the luxury cruise starts heading towards disaster, Nick learns he’s not alone in this accidental adventure. The woman he’s been watching for days, the ice-cold business executive he was sure would think a simple Special Forces Captain wasn’t worth her time, well, she turns out to be the best partner he could want in this crisis. And maybe after…

If there is any after.

Escape Rating A-: I wanted this to be just a little bit longer. I also wanted to slap one of the side characters upside the head, or shake some serious sense into her. (Read the book and you’ll figure out exactly who I mean)

Wreck of the Nebula Dream is a terrific mix of science fiction, action adventure, and just the right touch of romance. I loved that there was both an alpha male and an alpha female! The heroine does not wait to be rescued, and she’s not just rescuing herself, she’s helping to rescue other people. The hero can either help or get out of her way!

The awesome assassin/sidekick from the mysterious Brotherhood was extra-special cool. I think the extra bit of story I want is where he came from, where he’s going, and are there any more like him at home? I’d like a sequel with his story.


Wanted: Handsome Alien Abductor

Every Star Trek fan has wanted Scotty to “beam them up”.

But Amber doesn’t want an engineer, she wants an alpha male with the body of a Viking hero and the same interest in history that she has. In fact, when Amber puts her wish list together in Myra Nour’s Wanted: Handsome Alien Abductor, the title pretty much sums up her perfect man.

Sounds like an impossible dream, and that’s just what Amber figures it is, a dream. Especially when her best friend Sarah tells her that she found her husband by praying to some Goddess in the middle-of-nowhere South America.

But what does Amber have to lose? South America is a nice place to vacation. Isn’t it?

So when she visits Sarah’s Goddess, and makes her offering, she expects nothing. Still, she dreams up her ideal man. That alpha male explorer, space traveler, historian, and oh yeah, alien.

Then she has the best erotic dream she’s ever had, and the star of the show is her perfect man. And is he ever perfect! In every possible way.

Then she wakes up. On his space ship. And discovers that her fantastic erotic dream–really happened.

Ryja travels the galaxy, and aboard his ship he has a time machine. He’s come to Earth to study its history. He couldn’t be a more ideal man for Amber, except for one major problem. His mission will only last for just a few short months, and then he’ll be travelling on. Amber isn’t looking for a fling, she’s playing for keeps.

Can this intergalactic love match find happiness among the stars?

Escape Rating B-: This isn’t so much science fiction romance as it is wish-fulfillment romance. Considered in that light, it is a blast of a good time. Amber dreams up a perfect man, and gets one perfect for her, with all the coolest toys imaginable.

I liked how the author dealt with the science fiction geek-speak, by not doing it. Ryja was not an engineer, so he didn’t pretend. Most of us don’t know how a TV works, we just click the remote. Most people wouldn’t know the ins and outs of their technology, they’d just use it. This kept from drowning the reader in polysyllabic pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo and went straight to the “good stuff”.

And it was very good stuff.


The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass is Katherine Howe’s second novel, after her fantastic breakout debut, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Both stories have a certain magic in them.

While Dane’s story was about the practice of witchcraft, Sybil Allison, the character who provides our entree into The House of Velvet and Glass, is interested in spiritualism. Sybil’s usually practical nature has found refuge in the search for contact with her loved ones who have passed “beyond the veil”. She was not alone in her search in the upper class of Boston of 1915, or anywhere for that matter. Spiritualism was very popular.

But membership in the seance that Sybil attended was special. Everyone in that select group lost a loved one at the same place and time: on April 15, 1912, in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, when the RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage. Sybil’s mother and younger sister were among the 1,517 dead.

Sybil now runs the house for her father and her younger brother, but life has lost its spark for all of them. By returning to the same medium that her mother used to visit, Sybil searches for reassurance that her mother’s spirit has found peace somewhere, while Sybil has none of her own.

In the real world of 1915, three years after the disaster, the Allston family is drifting apart, Sybil to spiritualism, her father to his shipping business, and her brother Harley to dissipation and ruin.

Harley’s dissipation leads him to a severe beating and hospitalization. as well as a discovery of how far he’s fallen, and who he’s fallen with. He’s been thrown out of Harvard, and has taken up with a young actress. In the wake of his injuries, his young lady is brought into the house, and Dovie shakes everyone back to life.

Sibyl takes Dovie under her wing; she fills the space in her heart left by her younger sister. And Dovie takes Sybil to places Sybil might never have otherwise gone, and she does things that she might otherwise not have done. The actress takes her to smoke opium one fine afternoon, and Sybil discovers that, with the help of the opium, she can see the last night on the Titanic, or so she believes.

Her friend Benton Derby is sure she’s just fooling herself. He is a psychologist, he doesn’t believe in spiritualism. His colleague, Edwin Friend, on the other hand, believes that spiritualism might have a scientific basis. Even though Professors Derby and Friend expose Sybil’s medium as a fraud, Dr. Friend still believes spiritualism might be real.

But it is 1915, and there is a war in Europe. Whether or not spiritualism is real is about to become the least of anyone’s problems in the U.S.

Just as there are three living people in the Allston family, the story of The House of Velvet and Glass is told in three separate threads. The major thread is Sybil’s story, in the present of 1915. The second thread takes place on the Titanic, on the last night, as Helen and Eulah Allston while away the last evening of their lives, not knowing until the very end that it was all about to go smash. And finally, the third thread is the story of Lan Allston, Sybil’s father, from his days at sea.  His story ties everything together in a way that will break your heart.

Escape Rating B+: The story takes a little while to really get going, but the end races along. The last bit, I didn’t quite expect and should have. Also, I assumed that the House of Velvet and Glass referred to was the Titanic, but it’s not. I like it when an author surprises me.