Review: The Quick and the Undead by Kimberly Raye

quick and the undead by kimberly rayeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Tombstone, Texas #1
Length: 158 pages
Publisher: ImaJinn Books
Date Released: November 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Book Depository

Welcome to Tombstone, Texas, where anything is possible, even your wildest fantasy. Once a haven to outlaws, Tombstone is now a tourist town that gives travelers a taste of the old West. What visitors don’t realize, however, is that the super-hot cowboys, gunslingers, and lawmen walking the streets aren’t actors—they’re originals. These ancient vampires claimed Tombstone two centuries ago.

So step right up, folks, and book your trip today! The outlaws of Tombstone will be waiting . . .

Travel blogger Riley Davenport loves her job, travelling to the most exotic places in the world. Even better, it keeps her one step ahead of her stalking ex. The last thing she wants in her life is a strong alpha male. But that’s exactly what she gets when she comes face-to-face with Sheriff Boone Jarrett, a hero right out of her most erotic fantasies.

Boone isn’t just the law in Tombstone, Texas. He’s also an ancient vampire and the target of a crazed killer. He certainly doesn’t have time for romance. But a temporary fling? Now that he can handle.

Unfortunately, their first night together ends in disaster when Riley witnesses a murder. And to protect her, Boone forces her into hiding. Only her “captivity” ends up becoming the realization of her wildest, most carnal fantasies. Still, Riley’s not going to fall for him, at least that’s what she tells herself.

But as she gets to know him—the man and the vampire—she starts to wonder if she can hold out . . .

My Review:

220px-Tombstone_year_1891The town of Tombstone that you’re probably thinking of, the one with the O.K. Corral? That’s in Arizona. Not that I’m not pretty sure that the name Tombstone isn’t designed to blend your memories of that Tombstone with this Tombstone. Using such a familiar name in popular Old West legends brings a whole lot of atmosphere to this new one, and it makes perfect sense both from the author’s standpoint and in the context of the story.

In this new Tombstone, some old gunfighters are bringing in tourists for a taste of the real West. The one that they lived in 150 years ago, when they were all feared outlaws. Becoming vampires back in the day made them faster, stronger and of course, virtually immortal.

There were 10 of them, but in this modern day, there are only nine. Nine men and women who remember the west as it was, because they lived it. They should have scattered to the four winds, but in this particular version of vampirism, the vampires have to return to the place where they were turned on the anniversary of that life-changing event. For all of them, that place is Tombstone.

In the 21st century, they have become entrepreneurs of an expensive and exclusive Wild West resort (Think of Westwood without the rampaging androids). The Tombstone Ten (minus one) need the money from the resort to buy the land they need for their annual pilgrimages – and just plain because Tombstone is home and they want to preserve it.

The Quick and the Undead, while it sets up the scenario of Tombstone and gives us peeks at the previous lives of the vampires who run the show, is also a romance between a travel blogger and a man she thinks is just an actor plying the part of Sheriff Boone Taggart. It’s also the setup of a long-term suspense plot about the certainty that other vampires know who they are and where they are, and that the old vampire who made them is on his way back with unknown and probably unwelcome intentions for the gang he created and the town they made.

Back to that travel blogger, Riley Davenport, and Boone. Riley has been on the run for three years from an abusive ex. Her travel blog keeps her moving, and therefore difficult to track. She posts on a time delay, so by the time her posts on location X are being run, she’s already at location Y or even Z. She lives out of suitcase but it makes her feel safe. Also tired.

Boone and his vampire friends (and enemies) upset all of Riley’s carefully made plans. Tombstone offers as real an Old West experience as they can make, so there is no electricity and no internet. Which doesn’t mean that the vampires running the show don’t have all the modern technology available to track their very modern business, but that tech is NOT available to the guests.

Riley has avoided relationships while she’s been on the run. She’s lonely but afraid of finding herself attracted to another alpha male who will take over her life and kill her personality if not her actual self. While she is attracted to Boone from the moment she sees him, it takes her a lot of story to figure out that while he may be as alpha as they come, he doesn’t want to control her.

Especially since his drive to keep her safe from a crazed killer vampire is to lock her up in a cave until things are safe.

Escape Rating B-: I love the setup of the town and the series, but I’m not so certain about the romance between Riley and Boone.

The idea that they might experience a whole lot of insta-lust and decide on a short-term fling for the time she’s in Tombstone makes sense. That she decides she really loves him while she is trapped in a cave, even if it is definitely for her own safety, smacks a bit of Stockholm Syndrome. That she calls herself on it doesn’t make it any less true.

Riley’s ex is also a bit of a failed ‘Chekhov’s Gun’. She has lived her entire life for the last three years in rightful fear of this bastard, but he’s neither the big baddie nor even the little baddie in this story. He’s swept out with the trash in a brief mention at the end that he’s in prison for battering some other woman. (The irony is that this feels ‘real’ in a real world sense while at the same time being disappointing in a story sense.)

The suspense angles of the story, the question about who is after the vampires and why, worked well both as suspense and as a way of illuminating a whole lot more about Boone’s character and his past. The way that his closure gets delivered worked well for me.

I will say that the all-inclusive tourist town run by vampires setup reminded me a lot of Nina Bangs’ Castle of Dark Dreams series. Bang’s series is lighter and Raye’s is spookier/darker, but the idea of vampires creating fantasies for tourist consumption is fun either way.


***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.

Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Rakes and Cowboys + Giveaway

Victoria in Jackson HoleToday I’d like to welcome Victoria Vane back to Reading Reality. Victoria is known as the “Queen of Georgian Romance”, but her new series takes place far away from what used to be her native habitat. Her new Hot Cowboy Nights is set in the contemporary American West, and it is off to a fine start. Just take a look at today’s review of Slow Hand to see just how fine a start!

But I wanted to hear from Victoria about how and why she decided to switch from opulent ballrooms to the wide-open range. so I had to ask, what made her turn to contemporary westerns after historicals and OMG DeVere? What kind of research (if any) did she have to do for Slow Hand?

Here’s her answer:

Hi Marlene! Thank you so much for having me today. It’s so great to be back with you again. It seems I have taken quite a few readers by surprise in leaping three centuries from Georgian rakehells to contemporary cowboys! Many people have asked why I decided to do this, so here is “the story” behind the stories.

The Sheik Retold by Victoria VaneAlthough I have established a fiercely loyal following with my Devil DeVere series, even after eleven published historicals, and a number of awards from reviewers, I have been unable to break out as a historical romance writer. The fact that my books get good reviews told me it wasn’t my writing, but perhaps I’d narrowed my audience too much by writing almost exclusively Georgian romances, (THE SHEIK RETOLD being the sole exception). Although the 18th century is my favorite historical era, it’s not all that popular with readers, but I just couldn’t see myself shifting to Regencies or Highlanders (although I don’t rule out anything anymore!)

One of my good friends who is an avid reader and reviewer, suggested I try writing a contemporary romance. Her argument was that there were far more contemporary readers compared to my beloved historicals, thus more opportunity. Although I knew she was right about the demographics, I immediately dismissed the idea, believing that I had totally the wrong writing voice for it.

But months later in growing frustration, I decided it was indeed time to try something new. For weeks she and I brainstormed ideas but nothing bore any fruit. I just couldn’t relate to the increasingly popular trope of corporate billionaires and virginal heroines, or the dark and angsty NA books. It just wasn’t me. I needed to find something that I could put my own unique spin on, an idea that would help me to stand out in a crowd of talented authors.

Since most romance readers gravitate to certain kinds of heroes, I started looking at what readers like best. I also thought about what heroes I was most attracted to. The answer was a no brainer- cowboys. I’ve loved them my entire life. I’d just never thought to write about them. While I still believed my writing voice would be an obstacle, I was willing to give it a try.

Once I settled on a hero archetype, my next hurdle was finding my story.

They always say to write what you know, so for the first time I began digging into my own life and the events and experiences that have shaped me, experiences that I thought readers might be able to relate to.

One of the most traumatic moments in my entire life involved the death of a loved one. I still vividly recall my hysterical breakdown at Newark airport when bad weather caused me to miss a connection on the way to my father’s funeral. I had literally sprinted through the airport only to arrive at the gate just as the plane was rolling away from the jetway. I stood there numbly watching it, knowing I’d never have closure. (This memory still brings a lump to my throat). Then I suddenly lost it. I went into a near hysterical meltdown and was so distraught that they actually brought the plane back to the gate for me! Suddenly, both Nikki’s character and the seeds of a story implanted in my mind.

By choosing something close to my own heart, I found the words hit the page with an ease that I never could have anticipated. To my shock I had found my story and discovered a new voice.

slow hand by victoria vaneWhile SLOW HAND is a fun and flirty story, it is also partly biographical in that many of my own life experiences crept into it. This even includes the cowboy! (Wade Knowlton is named after my first girlhood cowboy crush.)

While cowboy romances are certainly nothing new to readers, each of my stories has a unique tone and theme. In all four books (SLOW HAND, ROUGH RIDER, SHARP SHOOTER and SILVER TONGUE) my heroes are modern day cowboys facing very real and relatable struggles. Wade (SLOW HAND) is burning the candle at both ends between a rural law practice and a struggling family ranch. His brother Dirk (ROUGH RIDER) is a former bull rider, rancher and wounded vet. Reid (SHARP SHOOTER) is also a vet, a marine and backcountry hunting guide. Keith (SILVER TONGUE) is a Native American struggling between two vastly different worlds. These stories are all hot and sexy but still have well-developed plots and emotional depth.

Although this new endeavor marks a distinct departure from historical romance, readers will find that my trademarks still remain—well-researched, scorching hot, emotionally compelling, character-driven stories.

About Victoria
Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.
Twitter: @authorvictoriav


For all of us booklovers out there, Victoria is giving away five beautiful handmade bookmarks.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

My very special guests today are Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, the authors of the Cowboy and Vampire series. And one of the most fascinating (and detailed) interviews it has ever been my privilege to host. Read it and get a taste of why you should dive right into their Cowboy and Vampire thriller series (see my reviews of The Cowboy and the Vampire and Blood and Whiskey for all the deliciously gory details–we’re talking vampires, there’s supposed to be some gore!)

Marlene: Clark and Kathleen, can you please tell us a bit about yourselves? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Clark and Kathleen: Leading with an absolute stereotype, all authors are boring and we are not exceptions to that rule. Serious authors (and we don’t mean authors who lack cheerful dispositions, nor do we mean those who are financially successful — we’re talking about authors who take the pursuit seriously and place it equal to or above all others) tend to spend most (all) of their spare time locked in a room, examining the motivations of make-believe people moving across a fictional landscape. It’s self-imposed schizophrenia and there is simply nothing interesting about it other than, hopefully, how it makes readers feel later when they make their way through the finished product. But there is a lot of hard, boring work to get from idea to finished product.

That’s a long-winded way of saying the only thing we do when we are not writing is think about writing, talk about writing … and read. Reading is not only an enjoyable pursuit, it keeps the brain primed with what writing feels like once it’s delivered.

To make a boring story even more mind-numbing, we both work in communications — Kathleen for a research university, Clark for a national financial services company — so we spend all of our days writing, or thinking about the strategy behind how words will affect an audience. We both write for a living, and we both write to live, which is awesome, but also tiring. And boring.

Which is a shame because we live in Portland, Oregon — one of the coolest cities in the country. Along with all the creative people, great food and tremendous beer, it’s smack dab between the lovely, rocky and often undeveloped coast to the west, the sagebrush-covered high desert to the east and the mountains of the Gifford Pinchot Wilderness (where Bigfoot walks!) to the north. We do try to get away whenever we can, but generally tote our laptops and notebooks along with us to write or talk about writing.

Marlene: And speaking of writing, what is it like to co-author a book? What’s your process for writing a novel together?

Clark and Kathleen: Writing together is like making diamonds from carbon. It takes a lot of time, heat and pressure to end up with something rare, something that endures, something that people want to own. The time is something we carve out ourselves. The heat is generated by the shared creativity and the epic fights we have about … well, everything — from the phallic nature of em-dashes to the value of flashback sequences. As for the pressure, it’s self-imposed; we feel a responsibility to create simply the best work possible, work that — despite the seemingly crazy subject matter: cowboys and vampires — will stand the test of time and not do a disservice to the efforts of writers who came before us and those who will come after us.

For example, we’re not Kafka, but it’s okay — desired, actually — to aspire to that level of creativity and skill and to try and replicate his ability to change perceptions, if only for a short time, of readers. We write about cowboys and vampires, among other things. Kafka wrote about a man who turned into a giant cockroach. We want to be known for fun, entertaining books that still deliver quality fiction. Our books use familiar icons to take readers on a journey that examines the nature of reality, the meaning of consciousness and the nature of evil. And of course, it’s all wrapped up in a dark comedy and a sizzling love story.

The process of writing together is pretty straightforward. First, we come up with the concept. Then we plot it out. Next up is assigning chapters. After that comes the most crucial step: murdering our “regular” lives. We give up on social events, family obligations and anything fun. We immerse ourselves in the process, crank out chapters and then swap them to edit and back and forth, ad infinitum. Despite great odds, in the midst of all that madness and mayhem, a book begins to take shape. And after countless edits passing it back and forth, and countless fights and going to bed angry over the most ridiculous things, our two visions of the world are gradually, painstakingly shaped into a seamless whole. And hopefully that whole will be a glittering diamond and not fool’s gold (pyrite, which is formed under much less extreme conditions than diamonds).

Marlene: What made you decide to get into this whole co-novel-writing thing in the first place? There must be a story in there.

Clark and Kathleen: We started writing together to try and save our relationship. We were tentatively exploring the idea of reconciling after a two-year separation following an ugly break up. We had crashed together in an intense and passionate relationship but the intensity, the energy generated, was bigger than we were at the time, so we came up with creative ways to sabotage our own happiness and retreated to lick our wounds. In the time apart, we realized we had turned our back on something huge, something that deserved another attempt. But we wanted to be smarter this time, so we agreed on some ground rules.

We decided to write together to divert some of the crazy, creative energy into fiction. So far, so good.

Marlene: Would you care to tell us a bit about how you got together? It sounds like your story might make a good romance novel just by itself?

Clark and Kathleen: Right? Thank you! We think it would make an awesome story. We met while working survival jobs in a restaurant in Portland. We were both unhappily married to other people at the time and there was an immediate, visceral, magical connection like we’d met in a past life, or several past lives, but — and we want to make this very clear: nothing came of it. Other than having some fantastic conversations and, probably, flirting a bit more than we should have, absolutely nothing happened.

Several years later, luckily, our paths crossed again and we were both single. Lots happened then, so much so that we combusted into an epic break up (see above).

Marlene: The series you’re writing is Cowboy and Vampire. Western meets horror. Two genres that don’t normally ride together, so to speak. What inspired you to blend them?

Clark and Kathleen: When we got back together the second time and decided to write together, we wanted to come up with a concept that brought together our interests. Clark grew up in Montana and is a big fan of the west, interested in how modern life in cowboy country is built on all of the myths and legends of that short, golden era of the American west. Kathleen is interested in the intersection of science and religion, exploring concepts such as where the self exists, how morality is created and what Near Death Experiences mean. And we both have a macabre, dark side. Bring all that together, along with a desire to write something fun that would really grab readers, and you can see how undead buckaroos bubbled to the surface.

We met up after our two-year seclusion at a truck stop in Madras, Oregon, halfway between our respective homes — a neutral, no-man’s land. We started pitching ideas and when we got to cowboys and vampires, we both got really excited and the more we talked about it, the more possibilities we saw. We sketched out the rough plot line for the first book in crayon on the back of a paper placemat, then returned to our homes and started working on it. At the time, this was 1998, we didn’t have email (insert your own “when I was young” jokes) so we mailed the chapters back and forth written in long hand.

Marlene: Can you briefly describe the Cowboy and Vampire series, so readers know what to expect when they step into your world? Can they start with Blood and Whiskey, or do people really need to start at the beginning?

Clark and Kathleen: The Cowboy and Vampire Thriller Series is a love story about the power that exists when worlds collide and opposites attract. And Tucker and Lizzie, the main characters, couldn’t be more opposite.

Tucker is a down-on-his-luck cowboy living in LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. He’s got a small ranch, big bills, an overly-sensitive dog named Rex and a good, but simple life. His world is completely upended when he falls hat-over-boot-heels in love with Lizzie Vaughan. She’s a hot-shot reporter from New York on assignment from her magazine to chronicle the disappearing west. They meet, sparks fly and bed sheets get twisted, and that might have been the end of it — a few nights of passionate sex and enough good memories to last a lifetime — but Lizzie has ancient vampire blood in her veins and the ruling elite of the vampire world want it bad.

In The Cowboy and the Vampire, Lizzie finds out she is a vampire and turns to Tucker for help. They have to fend off a horde of evil vampires, led by her maniacal father who is bent on stealing the power in her veins and using it to reshape the world to his own twisted liking, while coming to terms with the fact that she will need blood to live.

In Blood and Whiskey, which picks up on the action but is a standalone read, they face a new challenge ­­— a race war brewing between the two species of vampires, Reptiles and Royals — and LonePine is caught right in the middle. As foreign vampires bent on testing Lizzie’s strength swarm to the tiny town, an undead assassin straight out of the old west has Lizzie in his gun sights.

Marlene: What book do each of you recommend that everyone should read, and why did you pick that particular book?

Kathleen: Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer. It’s a little outdated now, but it still gets you thinking about cruelty and our own role in it. Thinking about cruelty is a good state of mind to be in when you write about vampires.

Clark: Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo; I think it’s one of the greatest books ever written and the level of character development is inspiring. Hugo spent more time developing minor characters than many contemporary authors spend on their protagonists. And that final chapter is just heart wrenching. I’m not sure the book would get published today because modern readers seem to prefer less exposition, but I consider it is a true monument to the craft.

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Clark and Kathleen: We are hard at work on book three, tentatively called Undead Frontiers. And we are debuting a new paranormal detective series shortly after that. It has a tough female lead and is written in the old noir style. We call it “paranoir.” The first in the series is tentatively titled Plantlife.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Clark and Kathleen:

1) Pure entertainment. Our books are a great blend of funny and suspenseful. There’s intrigue, backstabbing, betrayal, pulse-quickening action and steamy romance all punctuated with deadpan black humor. For example, after barely surviving an undead assault at a horrific slaughterhouse and flash-freezing a vampire, Tucker has this to say:

“Vampire-sicles,” Tucker said. “There’s a flavor that ain’t gonna catch on at the Tastee Freeze next summer.”

2) Gets your brain juiced up. Our vampires are sustained by The Meta. They die every morning, completely, and their “souls” — the sense of individuated self — reside temporarily in The Meta, a giant energy field that contains, sustains and stores life in between physical incarnations. For vampires, who have a near death experience every morning, it’s fairly run of the mill. For humans, accessing The Meta is life-changing. This aspect of the story continues to draw interest.

“While a number of existentialist underpinnings give the series some depth, the book is first and foremost a thriller, upping the ante in every chapter as bullets fly and relationships strain under the weight of old loyalties and new revelations. In a way, it’s a shame more time isn’t spent exploring the existence of this meta world where consciousnesses wait out the daylight hours and immortality has all sorts of ramifications for human spirituality.” Kirkus Reviews.

3) Welcome to the real modern west. The western part is utterly realistic and based on Clark’s experiences growing up on a ranch in Montana as well as our shared love of the remote reaches of Oregon. For example, we so fell in love with tiny Plush, Oregon on a recent trip there to mine sunstones, we decided to feature it — and sunstones, the state gemstone of Oregon — in Blood and Whiskey. A review from the nearest paper, the East Oregonian, indicates that we got the cowboy part right.

“These books are billed as romantic thrillers, and it’s certainly non-stop action from the get-go. They are full of the down-home dry wit and laid-back attitude that cowboys do so well. And as unlikely as their relationship is, Tucker and Lizzie’s bond is what makes the whole scheme work. So if you’re looking for a combination of sex, blood and Western romance, pour yourself a shot of the good stuff and settle in for a wickedly good read.” Renee Struthers, The East Oregonian

Marlene: Each of you, morning person or night owl?

Clark and Kathleen: Neither of us are really night owls, but only because our work schedules get us up early and send us to bed pretty early, with our brains spent. In a perfect world, one in which we never had to leave our little world (lovingly referred to as Reclusia) we would probably stay up later and sleep later.

Thanks so much for letting us stop by!

And thank you for interrupting your real and writing life (or that much-needed trip to Reclusia) to answer all my questions. This was awesome! Vampire-sicles, OMG I’m still laughing about the vampire-sicles.

Review: Blood and Whiskey by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: Trade paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal
Series: Cowboy and Vampire #2
Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Pumpjack Press
Purchasing Info: Authors’ Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Wanted: Lizzie Vaughan, Dead or Alive. Relationships are always hard, but for a broke cowboy and a newly turned Vampire, true love may be lethal. After barely surviving an undead apocalypse in The Cowboy and the Vampire, Tucker and Lizzie hightail it back to quirky LonePine, Wyoming (population 438), to start a family. But she’s got a growing thirst for blood and he’s realizing that mortality ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when your girlfriend may live forever. With a scheming Vampire nation hot on their boot heels and a price on her head, how far will Lizzie and Tucker go to protect their unlikely love? Blending evolution, religion and an overly sensitive cow dog named Rex, Blood and Whiskey drags the Vampire myth into the modern west, delivering double-barreled action, heart-pounding passion and wicked humor.

Blood and Whiskey by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall is definitely “A Cowboy and Vampire Thriller”, just like it says in the subtitle. Meaning that it involves a cowboy, (actually multiple cowboys, but one in particular), a vampire (again multiples, some good, some definitely not so good) and is it ever a thriller.

Also, it’s the sequel to The Cowboy and the Vampire (reviewed here), and it helps a ton to have read the first book first. These vampires have a whole religion of their very own. (There will be spoilers here for the first book. You have been warned.)

When last we left out heroes, Lizzie was the new queen of the vampires, her nemesis (and father) Julius, was permanently dead, and she was pregnant with Tucker’s baby–with no idea whether said baby was going to be human, vampire or some combination of the two. After all the crazy changes in her life, she just wanted to go home, and that meant Tucker’s home, little ole LonePine, Wyoming.

Where the vampire world descends in droves. With Julius dead, there’s a vacuum of power, and everyone wants to know if Lizzie is even capable of filling it. If she isn’t, or doesn’t, chaos will rule. A chaos that will be very, very bad, not just for Lizzie, and for the “good” vampires, but also for the human race. They’ll just be food, like cattle. On the worst-tended factory farm anyone could possibly imagine…and probably for the shortest time in (unlikely to be) recorded history.

Then night will fall. A night that will make the first Dark Ages look positively bright in comparison.

While Lizzie figures out whether she can “woman up” (maybe that should be “vampire up”) and deal with the politics, Tucker has a mission of his own: helping his best friend, conspiracy theory-happy Lenny rescue his kidnapped niece Rose from a feed lot. It turns out Lenny’s conspiracy theories were right after all, just not quite the way anyone imagined.

It forces Lizzie to accept the consequences of her choices as a vampire, and not take the easy way out. Not as a vampire, not as leader, not as a queen. She can either consciously choose to consume evil, or she can become evil by default. It’s her choice, and her destiny.

The right choices are never the easy ones. Lizzie is lucky that cowboys learn that before they fall in love with vampires.

Escape Rating A-: Blood and Whiskey had less philosophy and more action than the first book, and that made for a much more action-packed, and more absorbing story. I picked this one up and totally lost track of time–always an excellent sign.

Every writer who tackles the “vampire question” puts their own unique spin on it, and Hays and McFall are no exception. Their take on vampire philosophy/metaphysics as “good” vampires being those who consume evil humans, and “bad” ones as those who just eat whatever they darn well please made for an interesting moral conundrum, along with the two different pictures of “love as redemption” painted by Tucker’s steadfast love for Lizzie in spite of her change, and the reptile-descended vampire Eliza’s surprising discovery of love for the beautiful Virote.

The question at the end, whether enlightened self-interest is enough to redeem an entire species, is one that I hope will be answered in later books in the series.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 9-23-12

If you haven’t hopped on over to the Naughty or Nice Blog Hop yet, what are you waiting for? Nat at Reading Romances organized a terrific blog hop around the age-old question, “what kind of romances do you like best, naughty romances or nice?” If you’re willing to answer that question on this blog, you’ll have a chance at a $15 Amazon Gift Card. There are almost 90 blogs participating, so there are lots of other fantastic bookish giveaways!

What else happened besides the blog hop this week? Funny you should ask. I did review a few books.

B+ Review: The Cowboy and the Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
B Review: Racing With The Wind by Regan Walker + Giveaway
B+ Review: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
C- Review: The Last Victim by Karen Robards

There is still plenty of time to get in on a chance to win a copy of Regan Walker’s Racing With the Wind. If you enjoy historical romance, especially if you liked Shana Galen’s Lord and Lady Spy or the historical parts of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, give this one a try.

But what about this week, I hear you asking? Or at least I hope I hear you asking. (Mostly, I’m hearing a cat with the “screaming me-me’s”at the moment because I’m blogging instead of paying attention to Her Highness!)

Schedules happen. That’s not quite how that saying goes, but we’ll take it as read. After Monday’s Ebook Review Central (this week it’s the Hexapost) this week I definitely have the interview with Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall about their fascinating journey towards each other and to the writing of their darkly romantic western vampire thriller series, Cowboy and Vampire. They’ll be here on Wednesday, along with my review of the second book in the series, Blood and Whiskey.


Before Wednesday, we’ll have a real treat. It’s that chocolate treat I promised last week. Suzanne Selfors will be here to talk about The Sweetest Spell, her fairy tale about an outcast girl who is the only person in her world who has the magic to make chocolate. Talk about a much, much better version of the King Midas power! Wow! One lucky commenter on the blog will receive a very special prize from Suzanne. Come back Tuesday to read the review and her interview and find out what the prize is and how to enter.


Chocolate on Tuesday, Vampires on Wednesday, what’s left? Mystery. On Thursday, my guest will be Carol Tibaldi, discussing her kidnapping mystery, Willow Pond. Part of the fascination of Willow Pond is the setting; it’s not just set in the 1920’s, so there’s the whole Art Deco/Roaring 20’s era style, but it’s also the time of Prohibition and speakeasies and the Mob. The story also has the hint of Golden Age Hollywood and a high-profile kidnapping.  This story has oodles of mystery and suspense in an utterly fascinating time.

It’s going to be a busy week. Looking ahead to next week, there’s something more important than any individual book I might be planning to read, and that’s the freedom to read whatever book I might want to read.

Next Sunday, September 30, is the beginning of Banned Books Week. A week that celebrates the freedom to read. Last year, there was a Virtual Read-Out, an opportunity to upload a video of a reading of a banned or challenged book. The list of books you can pick from is frightening. And ironic.

I’m planning to do it again this year. I’ll read from Fahrenheit 451, wearing my Fahrenheit 451 t-shirt, explaining why the book is important. Or maybe I’ll pick Brave New World this time. It’s also on the list. It’s all about the irony of not letting “Big Brother” choose my reading for me.

If you don’t want “Big Brother” to ever be able to choose your reading for you, support Banned Books Week.




Review: The Cowboy and the Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Format read: ebook provided by the authors
Formats available: Trade paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal
Series: Cowboy and Vampire #1
Length: 408 pages
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Reporter Lizzie Vaughan doesn’t realize it, but she has 2,000 years of royal Vampiric blood coursing through her veins. Neither she nor Tucker, her cowboy lover, has any idea that Julius, the leader of the undead, has a diabolical plan to reign over darkness for all eternity–with Lizzie at his side. Lizzie battles for her life–and her soul–as she and Tucker find themselves caught up in a vampire war, pursued by hordes of Julius’ maniacal, bloodthirsty followers. Who will be left standing when the sun rises?

To use the western vernacular that the cowboy-hero of this tale wears like a second skin, this dog should not hunt, but somehow, it does. It should buck the reader off like a ride on badly broken bronco. Instead, you stick with the tale until the bloody and bittersweet end. It’s a compulsion. Lizzie and Tucker were mis-matched when she was just a New York magazine writer and he was the man she dubbed “The Last Cowboy.”

By the end of the story, they should be even wronger (and yes, in this story that IS a word) for each other, but they have earned a little bit of peace.

Their enemies will be back. After all, I read The Cowboy and the Vampire to get ready for Blood and Whiskey, the second book in the series (review and interview with the authors on Thursday).

There’s more mystery than romance in this story that the authors subtitled “A Darkly Romantic Mystery” and with good reason. When the book opens, Lizzie and Tucker are already in the middle of their love affair. Their only problem is that Lizzie has gone back to NYC, and Tucker is in LonePine (all one word) Wyoming. Their worlds don’t normally intersect. Only they do. They just can’t figure out how to make anything long term work, no matter how badly they want to.

Then Lizzie’s heritage rises up to bite her. Literally. And there’s the mystery. And the solution to Lizzie’s and Tucker’s relationship problem, as well as the cause of a few zillion more problems. As the deep, dark secrets of Lizzie’s past, and her potential future, are revealed, she turns to Tucker as the only person she can trust when her world turns upside down. In life, or in death. And whatever comes after that.

Escape Rating B+: The idea that vampires have their own biblical-type texts and their own version of the creation was kind of cool, and more than a bit twisted, in a neat way. Also that one of the leaders of the opposing vampire camps was THE Lazarus. Eternity seems to make for twisted politics yet again, and this set of vamps was wackier than the usual run.

Tucker’s family and friends were an absolute hoot. Lenny as the crazy cowboy version of James Bond’s Q was beyond priceless, but he’s just who you’d want in this situation, not that anyone half normal would ever be in this situation.

I enjoyed the differences between Tucker’s internal thoughts and his actual words, he was always more sentimental inside than what he said out loud.

Julius, the evil vampire (this is not an oxymoron in context) was a bit overblown and over-the-top. I’d have believed in him as the big bad a little more if he’d been just a tad less out there on the demonic bwahaha scale.

I also sincerely hope that in the next book there will be an explanation of who or what Lizzie’s “voices” are. That one is driving me crazy. Blood and Whiskey, here I come! (The book, not the liquids–maybe I’ll need the whiskey…)

***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.

Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, July 2012

I can always rely on the Samhain titles to present me with no lack of options for the featured titles. And this July 2012 list of Samhain’s publications is no exception.

Also, as usual, the retro romances didn’t get many new reviews.

But the books that did, really, really did.

The book that was on the most reviewers’ lists this month, by an absolute landslide (which makes it the number one feature this month!) was Dee Tenorio’s The Virgin’s Revenge, (book 4 in her Rancho del Cielo series). This one is a combination friends-to-lovers story, and a small-town romance. There’s also a major element of heroine needing to get out from under her overprotective family. Most reviewers remarked about how much they loved the humor of the characters, but with this many reviews (27!) there were a few reviewers who were less than enthralled. For the thumbs up, read The Book Pushers’ review; for the lukewarm take, see Dear Author’s take.

The second-place finisher this month happens to be book number three in Moira Rogers’ dark and gritty (also hot and sexy) post-apocalyptic and post-Civil War steampunk western series, The Bloodhounds. I’m talking about Archer’s Lady. The Bloodhounds series is a mix of good werewolves, bad vampires, and crazy chemical experiments conducted by mysterious forces that might be working for good. The Bloodhounds are lone wolves, until they find their mate, and Archer, well, he’s been sent to save a town, or die trying. If he dies,  as far as the Bloodhound Guild is concerned, that just eliminates a problem for them. The town schoolteacher helps him eliminate the vampire threat, but that schoolteacher is running from a past that’s just as checkered as his. For steampunk fans, this series is, pardon my very mixed metaphors, catnip.

The final featured book this week is a secret. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to tell you. That means Sierra Dean has done it again. Keeping Secret by Sierra Dean, the fourth book in her Secret McQueen series, has clawed its way into the third and final featured spot for this week. Secret is half-vampire and half-werewolf, and this story is all about her trying to get herself to her wedding to a werewolf king. But her royal werewolf uncle does not approve (in a major way). And there’s a love triangle involved. Well, there’s always a love triangle involved. Oh yes, and an assassin. Family dramas at weddings are standard. Assassins, not so much. Unless you’re Secret McQueen, and someone has a contract on you.

So this time out we have a very mixed bag of featured titles: a contemporary romance, a steampunk western, and an urban fantasy. The one thing they do have in common is that they are all part of ongoing series. Building an audience really counts!

And now, my ERC audience, I will bid you farewell until next week, when we’ll come back to take a look at all of the publishers in the Hexapost (Amber Quill, Astraea, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver, Red Sage and Riptide).

See you next week!


Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, June 2012

The wheel has turned back around to Samhain Publishing. This issue of Ebook Review Central features Samhain’s June 2012 titles.

When I collect the reviews for this feature, I always wish I could see the sales figures for the Retro titles. It seems as if by their nature they would be a contradiction in terms; any reader longing for the type of romance represented by the “retro” label would be the ones least likely to be an ebook reader. And I may be absolutely wrong.  But the lack of new reviews always makes me wonder.

Most of Samhain’s list did not suffer from a lack of new reviews. So much so that I was spoiled for choices of which titles to feature in this week’s list. In the end, there were three books “out standing in their field”. At least, this particular field!

The author of the first featured title has been featured on Ebook Review Central before. All the way back in December, Lorelei James’ Cowboy Casanova made the list. Her Rough Riders series is a guilty pleasure for a lot of readers, featuring hot cowboys, rough sex and happy endings along with a dose of small-town western ranching life. Her latest entry in the series, Kissin’ Tell, reads like a country and western song, with a woman coming home to face a high school reunion (and her cheating ex) only to find true love with a sexy cowboy and get the last laugh on the man who done her wrong. Even better, she gets that laugh with the one she let get away back in high school.


Howling in the number two position is Wolf Line, the fifth book in Vivian Arend’s Granite Lake Wolves series. Of course they’re werewolves, but who could imagine werewolves on a cruise ship? Even better, an all-shifter cruise!  The cruise director and the stowaway would normally make for a fun romance, but when you add in wolfish mating urges, it makes the whole thing even hotter. But before they can act on what their chemistry is telling them, Keri the cruise director has to solve the problem of some thefts on board her cruise ship, and unfortunately her stowaway mate is the most likely suspect. The whole Granite Lake Wolves series is just plain fun, so much so that reviewers say you don’t have to read them all, but you’ll want to!

Devil’s Gate by Thea Harrison is this week’s third featured title. This novella is part of her Elder Races paranormal romance/urban fantasy series, following after the novella Natural Evil. Both Natural Evil and Devil’s Gate are between the full-length paperback Oracle’s Moon and the upcoming Lord’s Fall. Harrison’s Elder Races series is about a very powerful, and very ancient, species of shapeshifters known as the Wyr, which began in May 2011 with Dragon Bound. The Wyr are ancient, which means their politics are convoluted as hell. Some of them seem to shapeshift into dragon-form, which means they hoard. To add to the politics, this world has vampires. Did I mention politics? This series has absolute legions of fans, but start from the beginning.

You wouldn’t think that modern cowboys would have much in common with werewolves or ancient dragons, but these three book do share one thing; they are all the latest entries in continuing, and very popular, series. The anticipation added up to increased attention, and more reviews.

Probably more sales, too.

But that’s it for Samhain for June. Ebook Review Central shifts its attention to a new target next week, the monthly six-in-one post. Does that make it a hex-a-post? A multi-post?

I have a question for you readers out there. What do you think about “retro” romances?