Review: Master of the Game by Jane Kindred + Giveaway

master of the game by jane kindredFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance; m/m romance
Series: Demons of Elysium, #3
Length: 285 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: August 5, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Now that his lover is back in his arms, Belphagor is taking his own sweet time to say the words Vasily longs to hear: “You’re my boy.” And savoring the sweet torture of driving the firespirit into a frenzy of unfulfilled need.

As the undisputed master of Heaven’s gaming tables, Belphagor never plays unless he’s certain of winning. But this time, political machinations send the game—and Vasily—tumbling to the brink of even his formidable control.

Vasily can’t deny enjoying their delightfully edgy play—until the airspirit auctions him off for a night to the one demon with a gift for taking things too far. Seductive Silk, tight-lipped about the end of his relationship with the sweet submissive Phaleg, may also be involved with a new faction threatening the pregnant queen of Heaven.

Belphagor couldn’t be less interested in the games angels play, but when angelic and demonic intrigues overlap, he’s drawn in against his will. And forced to break his one inviolable rule: Never gamble what you can’t afford to lose.

Warning: Contains more than a mouthful of m/m ménage, with intense D/s situations featuring intricate rope work, balaklavas, and a flurry of snow.

My Review:

king of thieves by jane kindredMaster of the Game is a story on multiple levels; it’s the continuation of Bel’s attempt to rid Raqia of the child slavery ring from King of Thieves (reviewed here), it’s the foreshadowing the dynastic war among the supernal realms that blows into full eruption in The Fallen Queen (reviewed here), and it’s first and foremost the love, sex and domination story between Belphagor and Vasily.

Considering the Vasily is a fire-spirit, it would be correct to call Master of the Game one very hot mess, in a completely captivating way. Everything boils over into delicious decadence.

Master of the Game is still (and always) Belphagor’s story, no matter who might be occupying center stage on any particular page.

After three books of the Demons of the Elysium series, I still see these as the story of how Bel changes from the selfish bastard he presents himself to be (and clearly used to be, based on his history) and the demon who saves the supernal realms in The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy. There had to be a transformation, and this is the way it went.

prince of tricks by jane kindredThe first story, Prince of  Tricks (reviewed here) was mostly about Bel finally admitting to himself that he actually loved Vasily, and that they weren’t just mutually using each other. The second showed him rescuing a bunch of demon children who had been sold into sexual slavery, meanwhile risking his relationship with Vasily in the process.

Bel does the right thing using some of the wrong methods. And doesn’t learn his lesson, because he does it again in Master of the Game. The difference is that this time Vasily calls him on it when he’s gone too far.

But the stakes are even higher this time. A group of Angels from the higher courts is planning to assassinate the queen, before she gives birth to yet another baby, but one who might be male and cement her husband’s rule.

fallen queen goodreadsInstead, the wrong woman is killed and the events that follow set the stage for The Fallen Queen. The child that the queen bears is the daughter who falls.

But the trick is to try to get the King to let go of his idealism about demons, so that he can survive and not be overthrown. At least not now. Later will happen, well, later. Everyone hopes much later.

In the middle of the politics, a very personal quest surfaces. Bel needs to rescue the demon children that he failed to save in King of Thieves from a fate that isn’t worse than death, because it is death.

A very long, painful and drawn out death.

Bel uses everyone and everything around him to get the results he wants. He nearly loses Vasily, again. Vasily nearly gets killed, again. It’s what they do.

But the story that hurts the heart is that of the Angel Phaleg, who admits that he loves the demon Silk so much that he will risk his career and his life for a man that he is not supposed to be seen with on the streets, let alone love.

Angels are allowed to play with demons. Male angels are allowed to play with male demons. But letting it get serious is dangerous and forbidden and everything that Phaleg isn’t supposed to want. But still needs.

He uses his rank to save them all. And loses everything but the man he loves.

Escape Rating A: The world of Raqia and the Devil’s Doorstep is a place that is dangerous and seductive and will steal your soul.

Belphagor is not a good man. He’s not a good demon. But he seems to be what everyone needs to solve every crisis and patch up too many people’s broken places. He’s a savior who always sees himself as a tempter and a player.

He plays to win, but no outsider ever seems to realize that the stakes he is playing for are not the ones on the table. He’s not someone that anyone would be eager to meet in a dark alley–unless he’s their only answer to a prayer. Or a curse.

If you love the darkest of darks in your antiheroes, introduce yourself to Belphagor. He’ll steal your soul and your wallet, and possibly save your life. Or at least put you inside an awesome story.

JaneKindred_72dpi-optAbout Jane Kindred

Jane Kindred is the author of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy, the Demons of Elysium series, and The Devil’s Garden. Born in Billings, Montana, she spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.You can find Jane on her Twitter account and Facebook page and on her website,


Jane is giving away a Diamond Accent Devil Heart with Wings Pendant in Sterling Silver and a $25.00 Amazon gift card! To enter, use the widget below:


Masters of the Game

***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.

Review: King of Thieves by Jane Kindred + Giveaway

king of thieves by jane kindredFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, M/M romance, fantasy
Series: Demons of Elysium #2
Length: 386 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: April 29, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Belphagor can seduce demons with a look and bring angels to their knees with a single motion, but when it comes to being in love, the Prince of Tricks is out of his element.

At every turn, Vasily rebels against the discipline he claims to want, even refusing to use his safe word. But when Belphagor uses a scheme to shut down an underage brothel to test Vasily s limits, he loses Vasily s trust along with the boys he intended to set free.

Uncovering a smuggling ring that spans two worlds, Belphagor calls on a team of Nephilim mercenaries to rescue the Lost Boys from earthly gangsters. But his relationship seems beyond repair and a heartbroken Vasily beyond his reach in the arms of a sensual demon named Silk.

Belphagor has more than enough grand schemes up his sleeve to bring down the smuggling ring for good. But when it comes to putting things right with Vasily, his bag of tricks is empty. Except for trust and a plan to teach his boy a lesson neither will soon forget.

Warning: Contains two strong-willed lovers who will test the theory that without air, there can be no fire. Expect plenty of smoke, more than a few mirrors, and an old-fashioned Russian duel. You may need a shot of vodka when you re done reading this one!

My Review:

prince of tricks by jane kindredKing of Thieves continues the emotionally explosive prequel to Jane Kindred’s amazing House of Ark’hangelsk trilogy. I don’t think it is possible to read King of Thieves, or you certainly lose the emotional impact, if you haven’t read Prince of Tricks. It’s even better, although not strictly necessary, to read the fall of the House of Ark’hangelsk, as told in The Fallen Queen, The Midnight Court and The Armies of Heaven.

But if you enjoy fantasy romance, particularly on the erotic side, why ever would you deny yourself such a marvelous treat?

The story that underlies King of Thieves is in the concept that nobility can be found in the darkest of places, and that evil can be discovered where there should be nothing but light. A grand game of not judging the book by its cover.

master of the game by jane kindredBelphagor is the demon whose heart lies at the center of all the books in this series so far. Prince of Tricks and King of Thieves, along with the forthcoming Master of the Game, are the story of how the demon becomes the person who saves the House of Ark’hangelsk, and with it, the supernal realms.

By the time of King of Thieves, we have someone who uses everyone and everything around him to achieve his ends. But those ends are not as selfish as they often appear to be.

He is also not used to having anyone he cares about enough to worry about their opinion of him or feelings about him. Even though in Prince of Tricks, he admits that he loves the firespirit Vasily, Bel has no understanding that loving someone means considering their feelings and letting them in.

A lot of the time that the story of King of Thieves is taken up with the mess that Bel makes of his relationship with Vasily, and vice versa. They both work together and against each other as they tug violently at the intensity of the bond between them, something that neither of them has ever experienced before and that they can’t seem to find a good way of working out.

And sometimes Bel really is an ass.

But there are much bigger fish to fry, and in a way that forcibly reminds the readers that the supernal realms are not the world we know, and the morals and prohibitions that hedge the human world do not exist in Raqia.

The sex trade is quite legal, as long as all the parties are of the age of consent. It is also quite legal for demons to sell their children. But those two things are not supposed to work together. Someone is selling children into sexual slavery, and Bel is determined to put a stop to the traffic.

No matter what it costs him in reputation, money or even Vasily’s trust. Something that he doesn’t realize he can lose, or that it’s a price that will be much too high to pay.

Escape Rating A: Belphagor says in the story that “There are worse things to lose than one’s good name.” Not that he has much of a good name, but there are some things he will not consider. Leaving demon children in slavery is one of those things.

The plot to expose the ring of slavers and the angelic purchasers who support the trade is long, convoluted and utterly fascinating. Even though Bel only reveals his inner self in very tiny bits, we see that the core is utterly protective of those he considers as under his protection–something that seems to include more of the demon enclave of Raqia than anyone who knows him would imagine.

He lies, manipulates, steals and nearly gets himself killed in order to save those children. But he’s so busy with his plots that he almost loses the love that makes life worth living.

What fascinates about Bel’s relationship with Vasily isn’t necessarily the sex, although that is plenty hot and laced with a kind of exchange of loving punishment that both consumes them both. It’s watching the way that trust, and the lack of it, drives them to both excesses of pride and intense doubt. The many variations of the ways that they love and hurt each other is riveting, but it’s the exchange of trust that turns out to be everything.


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Jane is giving away a Bath & Body Gift Set: Heavenly Spa Retreat valued at $50 and a $50 Amazon Gift Card to lucky US commenters.

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***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 Jane Kindred on Loving Russia + Giveaway

jane kindredMy special guest today is Jane Kindred, the author of the absolutely fabulous House of Arkhangel’sk series, as well as the book of the day, the decadently delicious Prince of Tricks. Jane’s guest posts always pack one hell of a punch, and this is no exception. So do her books!

On Loving Russia When it Doesn’t Love You Back
by Jane Kindred

If you’ve spent any time at all on social media in the past six months, or own a television, you’re probably aware of the controversy surrounding the upcoming Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi in the Russian Federation. Following the passage of similar local laws throughout Russia in 2012, Putin’s government passed a Draconian law in 2013 that criminalizes the public discussion or support of “non-traditional sexual relations.” Anti-LGBT human rights abuses and crimes have been on the rise, with hate groups abducting and filming the torture of alleged gay youths to “teach them a lesson,” while authorities look the other way or actively encourage such crimes, even when they result in death.

Many LGBT groups have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics and of its sponsors. Others, including the International Olympic Committee and sponsors such as Visa, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola, have dismissed the concerns, despite the fact that the Olympic charter stresses human dignity and disavows “discrimination of any kind.” For better or worse, the Sochi Olympics go on.

And for better or worse, so does my Russian-based series featuring a pair of gay and bisexual demon protagonists whom I like to call my “Russian leather demons.”

prince of tricks by jane kindredMy erotic m/m fantasy novel, Prince of Tricks, takes place in Russia and in the celestial city of Elysium, patterned after St. Petersburg of the early 20th century. Russia has never been a particularly friendly place for men who love other men, so it hasn’t been easy for my boys, even before the recent political developments. Belphagor has been in and out of the gulag system over the past 100 years, so he’s experienced the country’s worst. And yet, like me, he still loves Russia. And loves it enough to share it with his Vasily, despite the danger.

Having spent the last eight years of my life falling in love with Russia and writing these books (the Demons of Elysium series and the related epic fantasy series, The House of Arkhangel’sk), I’m extremely disheartened by the path this country I love has been taking. It’s hard to maintain that love in the face of increasing hatred. I can no longer travel to Russia (my choice, for reasons of personal safety as well as taking a moral stance), and my books cannot be sold there.

As things began to escalate in Russia over the past year, I found it increasingly difficult to keep writing the Demons of Elysium series, to keep celebrating Russian culture and my love for it. I wondered if it was time at last to let these books and these characters go. But I believe the only positive act I can take is to continue my love affair with (almost) all things Russian by continuing to write my now subversive stories.

I dedicated Prince of Tricks to Pussy Riot (two members of the Russian feminist punk group were imprisoned in 2012 for staging a protest performance against Putin’s government in a Moscow church) and others in Russia whose voices are being silenced by these laws. I wish I could do more. But as the Human Rights Campaign says, Lyubov Pobezhdaet Nenavist…Love Conquers Hate.

About Jane:

Jane Kindred is the author of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy, the Demons of Elysium series, and The Devil’s Garden. Born in Billings, Montana, she spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.

Prince of Tricks Button 300 x 225


caviar-gift-basketJane is giving away a fabulous Caviar gift basket from the House of Caviar, or one $150 gift card to one US winner. Ten winners will receive their choice of a $10 gift card from either Amazon or B&N. Wow!
To enter, just fill out the rafflecopter below.
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Review: Prince of Tricks by Jane Kindred

prince of tricks by jane kindredFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance, M/M romance, fantasy
Series: Demons of Elysium #1
Length: 375 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

When desire rises, angels will fall. One, by one, by one…

Demons of Elysium, Book 1

Over the past century, Belphagor has made a name for himself in Heaven’s Demon District as a cardsharp, thief, and charming rogue.

Though the airspirit is content with his own company, he enjoys applying the sweet sting of discipline to a willing backside. Angel, demon, even the occasional human. He’s not particular. Until a hotheaded young firespirit steals his purse—and his heart. Now he’s not sure who owns whom.

A former rent boy and cutpurse from the streets of Raqia, Vasily has never felt safer than in the arms—and at the feet—of the Prince of Tricks. He’s just not sure if Belphagor returns those feelings. There’s only one way to find out, but using a handsome, angelic duke to stir Belphagor’s jealousy backfires on them both.

When the duke frames Vasily for an attempted assassination as part of a revolutionary conspiracy, Belphagor will do whatever it takes to clear his boy’s name and expose the real traitor. Because for the first time in his life, the Prince of Tricks has something to lose.

Product Warnings
Contains erotic sex: m/m, m/m/m, m/m/m/m…oh hell. Let’s just say “mmmmmm!” and be done with it. Also one m/f scene. Smart discipline meted out with a great deal of love and charm. Erotic sex acts requiring copious amounts of elbow grease.

My Review:

midnight courtIf you’ve read Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy (Fallen Queen, Midnight Court and Armies of Heaven) then Prince of Tricks serves as a even more decadent backstory to the action in that series.

If you haven’t read the Arkhangel’sk series, then Prince of Tricks is the start of something amazing. It’s an erotic love story between two demons in a world where Heaven is nothing like what we imagine.

When angels and demons fall, they fall to Earth. Our Earth. A place where history either presages or parallels the courts of Heaven, but in a way that both surprises and haunts.

The story is Belphagor’s. He is the Prince of Tricks of the title. Bel is an airspirit who has lived his life in the lowest places of the supernal realms. Once he was a rent-boy, now he’s a gambler who reigns over a table at a dive in Raqia, the demons’ quarter.

It’s clear that Bel has spent most of his life using other people, generally to their mutual satisfaction, so that he can survive a life where any vulnerability will be exploited.

His life has also been much longer than appears. At least a century, for all that he looks to be in his mid-twenties. Demons (and angels) don’t age while in Heaven. But Belphagor has fallen to earth more than once, and it’s marked him.

But someone has made him vulnerable, and that’s where this story begins. Bel has been in love with Vasily since the first time the younger demon attempted to pick his pocket. But he felt that he needed to wait until Vasily grew up. At least chronologically. A lot of this story happens because Vasily still needs to figure a few things out emotionally. He uses the wrong man to make Belphagor jealous.

Wrong not because of any jealousy Bel might finally discover that he feels, but wrong because Vasily sets himself up to be used in political maneuvering by an politically ambitious (and morally corrupt) angel. Vasily becomes the scapegoat for something much bigger than he or Belphagor imagined.

And Belphagor goes to surprising lengths to rescue the man he has finally managed to admit that he loves.

Escape Rating A: If you’ve read the Arkhangel’sk trilogy, Prince of Tricks is a must-read. Although the trilogy is about the fall and rise of the imperial family, Belphagor is often the prime mover of events, and he and his tempestuous relationship with Vasily are a big part of that story. If Vasily had not found a way into Bel’s heart, Bel wouldn’t become the demon who saves the queen.

But this story is about the beginning of the relationship. It can be read without having read the trilogy, but it cannot be read without fans and cooling drinks!

Not just because Bel and Vasily push each other to their sexual limits (Bel is extremely dominant, Vasily is not just defiantly submissive, but emotionally needy), but because Belphagor is an expert at using others’ sexuality both to prove his dominance and to seduce or beguile them into assisting with his own game. Or sometimes just for fun.

The combination is explosive.

Prince of Tricks Button 300 x 225

***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.

Once More with Feeling: The Best Ebook Romances of 2013

LJ 2013 Best BooksIn spite of what the opening paragraph of the article at Library Journal says, this is actually the third year that I’ve been asked to choose the Best Ebook Romances of the Year for Library Journal.

Just check the archives, if you’re terribly curious, here are the links to the 2011 and 2012 lists. This is one of the most fun things I get to do all year that can be more or less labeled as work, even though, as what I call reverse full-disclosure, Library Journal does not pay for the writing of this particular article or for the book reviewing I do for them.

Creating this list is always personal for me. These are books or series that I read or am in the middle of. They are the books that I gave either A ratings or 4.5 or 5 star ratings to, depending on where I did the review. Or in a few cases, B+ reviews of books I absolutely couldn’t get out of my head.

The first year, I was told to list 5 books. Last year, 5-ish. This year, my editor said 10 from the start. I think she figured out that I cheat and list series. I did again this year and went over the limit.

skies of gold by zoe archerArcher, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE (4.5 star review)

The first four books in the Ether Chronicles (Skies of Fire, Night of Fire, Skies of Steel, Night of Steel) were on my 2012 list for good reason; this series is simply awesome steampunk worldbuilding. Also we have all the story possibilities inherent in a world war, but with airships and “ether” power. While Skies of Gold is a more than worthy successor to the first four books in the series, it is unfortunately the last book in the series. If you love steampunk romance, you’ll be enthralled. And then sad that it’s over.

forged in blood 1 by Lindsay BurokerBuroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876. ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
I’ve adored the first five volumes of The Emperor’s Edge series (The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal) so much that I haven’t wanted to see it end. So I’ll confess that I put the entire series on the list even though only the last two books were published in 2013, and I’ve been saving reading the ending for a treat for myself. LJ was slightly puristic about things and only put the 2013 titles as the main entry on the list. The Emperor’s Edge is Epic Fantasy with a touch of Steampunk. The primary story isn’t a romance, but, and it’s a truly lovely but, there is a romantic subplot. Or maybe that’s sub-subplot. Our heroine convinces the best assassin not to kill her, and keeps on convincing him to help her, even though everyone tells her he’s just a heartless killing machine. Of course he’s not. Well, not completely.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE (A- Review)
What a difference just a few days makes! At the time I wrote the article, I was just about to read the second book in Croft’s Order series, Bittersweet Magic (B+ Review). I didn’t want to jinx things by listing it, but I shouldn’t have worried. What’s so much fun about this paranormal romance series is that the standard definitions don’t really apply; the vampires maintain the Order of the Shadow Accords on Earth to prevent the Fae and the Demons from repeating their use of Earth as the battleground in the long-running Fae/Demon war. The contemporary fallout seems to be over the descendants of the Fae Juliet and the Demon Romeo of that war. But Demons are immortal, so Romeo isn’t dead. But his half blood daughter is ground zero for armageddon, and only the vampires can protect her. Make that one vampire with a personal “stake” in the result. The world-building in this just keeps getting better, and the love stories more complex.

black dog blues by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE (4.5 Star Review)
This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic urban fantasy much more than it is a paranormal romance. There are several characters in this story who care a great deal for the elfin Kai Gracen, but Kai doesn’t even like himself enough to be ready for more than friendship with anyone else. He’ll get there, but he isn’t there yet. The story drops us into Kai’s world as it is; we know what he knows. We don’t know why or how the sidhe suddenly merged with what used to be our normal, just that Kai has to endure whatever crap gets thrown his way. It’s the person who emerges from the endurance that makes the story. That and dodging the dragons mating over the Mojave Desert.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyGrey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
Ignore the New Adult label. Take What You Want is an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance that just so happens to be about two people in college. Ellen can’t go away for Spring Break, so she takes a vacation from herself. Just for a few days, she tries to be someone a bit different; instead of being shy and retreating into her books, Ellen buys sexy clothes on sale, goes to a townie bar and picks up the hottest guy in the place. She pretends to be “New Ellen” for just one night. Josh thinks no-strings-attached sex with a girl that he’s had a crush on since freshman year is a fantastic idea, but he knows exactly who she is. Ellen really doesn’t recognize him without his glasses. The next night is where pretense starts butting up against reality, because he wants to turn their one-night-stand into something more and New Ellen and regular Ellen have a difficult time deciding the difference between what they should want and what they do want.

armies of heaven by jane kindredKindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE (4.5 star review)
The fall of the House of Arkangel’sk is a deliciously complicated blend of the historic fall of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with more than few tablespoons of the deviance, decadence and twisted political machinations of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. There is love to be found, but the path to reach it leads through dark places, and our preconceived notions of good and evil, right and wrong, do not apply in Kindred’s Courts of Heaven. The best man in the entire series is a demon, although he would never think of himself as good. The biggest fool is a certainly an angel, and he would definitely label himself as such. The series begins with The Fallen Queen (4.5 star review) and continues with The Midnight Court (A Review) before the conclusion in The Armies of Heaven. Prepare to be enthralled.

how to misbehave by ruthie knoxKnox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305. (4 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (5 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (A- Review)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This small town romance series set in central Ohio is all about the Clark siblings, Amber, Katie and Caleb. Knox specializes in contemporary romances where real people solve very real problems while going through major life experiences. The tension in her stories comes from the kind of situations that cause stress in ordinary life; trying to reinvent yourself, trying to maintain a marriage, dealing with grief, not dealing with grief, returning home, being part of the sandwich generation, financial stress. The difference is that Knox makes her characters people that we all identify with and lets them have a fantastically steamy romance while they resolve their problems. Her stories pull at your heartstrings and make you smile. Every single time.

case of the displaced detective omnibus edition by stephanie osbornOsborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times. SF ROMANCE
I adore Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, with the exception of the whatever-it-is that Guy Ritchie birthed with Robert Downey Jr. (who should stick to Iron Man). But I seriously digress. I read, and reviewed, Stephanie Osborn’s Case of the Displaced Detective somewhat in its originally published parts: The Arrival (A- Review), At Speed (B+ Review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (B Review). In the case of Stephanie Osborn’s continuing opus, I very much admire her concept of a Holmes who is not quite our Holmes and has an excuse for being so. She has used theories of quantum physics to create not just a possible universe where Holmes would have been a flesh-and-blood person, but to create causality that would bring that person into our 21st century. He is not quite the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction because he is not supposed to be, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Real human beings, after all, feel real emotions as they solve mysteries. Sometimes they even fall in love.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversRivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (A- Review)
There was only one thing wrong with this story. It was too short, and at the time it was written, it was the only thing available by Mary Ann Rivers. The story is absolutely awesome, I wanted more by this author, and there just wasn’t anything else, yet.
What’s a “story guy”? A story guy is someone who may or may not be long-term relationship material, but who will, sometime in the future after the heartache is over, make a terrific story. Librarian Carrie West answers a personal ad from a very hot guy for one hour of kissing in the park every week. The answers to the questions about why this unattached and gorgeous man is willing to settle for so little for himself, and to make sure that no one is able to get attached to him, make for one marvelous and nearly heartbreaking love story. (And if you fall in love with The Story Guy you’ll probably also love Ruthie Knox’ Big Boy.)

Anything for You book coverScott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766. (A+ Review)
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (A Review) MILITARY ROMANCE
Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series, which began in 2011’s Because of You (A Review) and continued in 2012 with Until There Was You (A- Review), is a military romance series that gets to the heart of what it means to love someone who serves in the military, because author Scott is herself a career army officer and is married to a career NCO. So instead of writing about the glory of the battlefield, she writes about the toll that deployments take on a family with inside knowledge of what it’s like to wonder if someone is coming home, and how hard it is to wait and worry. She’s able to convey the emotional cost to a soldier with a career-ending injury, not just because his body is messed-up, but because he’s lost his purpose and he’s worried about the people he’s left behind. If you want to read a military romance with real heart, read Jessica Scott.

That’s it for this list. The specific requirements for the Library Journal list were that they all had to be ebooks, either ebook-only or ebook-first, or ebook-mostly. In some cases, there is a print available on demand, but the ebook looks like the primary format, or it did at the time. Also, for this list, there had to be a romance in the story. Yes, a couple of times you have to be looking for the romance, it’s not the primary plot. But there had to at least be a romantic element.

I used to be able to put this list in preference order, but it’s gotten too big. And there’s kind of an apples/bananas problem. How do you compare a steampunk romance to a paranormal romance when they are both at the top of their respective trees?

I will do a “best of the year” list next week (which includes a few contributions from my friend Cass!) These type of lists are loads of fun. It’s great to look back and see what I’ve read and which books stick in the mind by the end of the year.

Review: The Armies of Heaven by Jane Kindred

The Armies of Heaven by Jane KindredFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Series: The House of Arkhangel’sk, #3
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Number of pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled Select
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Full-scale war has broken out in Heaven, and Anazakia must embrace her destiny, leading an army of Virtues into battle against a Host of enemies to restore the House of Arkhangel’sk. Furious with her for putting her trust in the angel who has done them all irreparable harm, Vasily tries to ignore his growing resentment, while Belphagor returns to the world of Man with a cadre of beautiful androgynous Virtues to restore the sundered alliance between the Fallen and the gypsy underground. Without their help in enlisting the terrestrial forces of Grigori and Nephilim, Anazakia’s Virtues are hopelessly outnumbered. But there are more things in Heaven and Earth than any of them have dreamt of, and those they cannot see will mean the difference between victory and losing everything.

My Thoughts:

Fallen queen by Jane kindredWhat goes around, comes around. Not exactly profound, but there is definitely a sense that everything, good and bad, from The Fallen Queen (reviewed here at BLI) and The Midnight Court (reviewed at Reading Reality) comes back around in The Armies of Heaven.

The chickens all come home to roost. Chickens and angels both have feathers, right?

The House of Arkhangel’sk is the heavenly reflection of the House of Romanov. And both were manipulated by the Snow Queen, Aeval, because she didn’t get what she wanted when she wanted it. Yes, she was just that petty. Aeval is that cold.

Aeval set in motion a series of events with far-reaching consequences on earth and in the Courts of Heaven. Because she is the Snow Queen, she had no care for any of those consequences, as long as she got what she wanted.

But now there are three players on the board. Aeval is still the Usurper Queen of Heaven. Anazakia is fighting to regain her throne. And somewhere, Anazakia’s former nurse Helga is holding Anazakia’s daughter Ola prisoner in an oubliette while she puts forward a surprise candidate for the throne.

All this time, Anazakia believed that Aeval had ensorcelled her cousin Kae into murdering their family, including the child her sister Omelia was carrying. His own child. Now the truth is revealed, that Helga murdered Omelia by performing a butchery of a Cesarean birth and taking the child.

Helga says she wants social justice. Many in heaven who want to see the aristocracy thrown down are rallying to her banner. There have been too many inequities for too long, and reforms are needed, but Helga is only out for herself. At any price, including the sacrifice of both children.

As the armies gather, as allies become enemies become allies, Anazakia and her friends fight to find the children, and to attempt to save as much of both heaven and earth as they can. Every relationship and belief is strained to the breaking point.

But this story is ultimately about the importance of the family you make. On her 17th birthday, Anazakia went riding with her cousin Kae. On that ride, he was ensorcelled by Aeval. Everything else happened because of that ride. Kae was her best friend then, and Anazakia has to admit to herself that she still loves him, that he was not responsible for the things he did while he was under Aeval’s blood-spell.

Kae has to let himself believe that too.

And Anazakia has to make a deal with her worst enemy in order to achieve the best part of what she wants. It’s a damn hard lesson to learn.

Fate is cruel. Even for the Queen of Heaven.

Verdict: What makes this story so fascinating isn’t the battles, or even the politics (although the politics are incredibly intricate), it’s the people.

This is a series that has to be read as a whole, because the relationships are so complex. Even with the summary at the beginning of this volume, there’s no way to understand who these people are to each other without reading the whole series.

Midnight court by Jane KindredBecause Anazakia fell from heaven, she becomes more than a spoiled princess. She makes her own family with the demons Belphagor and Vasily, and eventually with Ola, and then Love, and Kirill. And finally, again, Kae. She opens up and grows because she got shaken from her setting, even if that shake was in the worst way possible.

She’s a better person, and a better queen, because of what she experiences. Otherwise she would have been just another complacent, spoiled princess, and nothing would have ever changed.

If The Midnight Court was like Russian tea, The Armies of Heaven is more like baklava, made of of many, many individual layers, each of which has it’s own flavor (and is sometimes full of nuts) and is its own part of the whole melange.

Every single tiny piece of the story, from first to last, came back to haunt by the time this book ended. Every thread got tied off. And the weave of them all was complicated, and very much like the Kushiel series or Babylon 5, every detail mattered.

The end came around to the beginning, both with Aeval and with Kae, although with Aeval, I was left wondering what it was all for from the forest sprites’ point of view. Is there another tale yet untold?

The idea of using the Tarot to send messages to the internet from heaven was just plain cool.


I give  The Armies of Heaven by Jane Kindred 4 and ½ heavenly stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

12 for 2012: The Best Dozen Books of My Year

It’s surprisingly difficult to decide which books were the absolute best from the year. Not so much the first few, those were kind of easy. But when it gets down to the last three or four, that’s where the nail-biting starts to come into play.

Looking back at the books I reviewed, I gave out a fair number of “A” ratings–but not very many “A+” ratings. And that’s as it should be. But there were also a couple of books that I read, and loved, but didn’t review. I bought them and didn’t write them up.

Love counts for a lot.

And there were a couple that just haunted me. They might not have been A+ books, but something about them made me stalk NetGalley for the rest of the year, searching for the next book in the series. Something, or someone that sticks in the mind that persistently matters.

This is my list of favorites for 2012. Your list, and your mileage, may vary.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (reviewed 11/30/12). I started reading the Dresden Files out of nostalgia for Chicago, probably my favorite former hometown. But I fell in love with Harry’s snark, and stayed that way. Some of the books have been terrific, and some have been visits with an old friend. Cold Days is awesome, because Harry is finally filling those really big shoes he’s been clomping around Chicago in. He is a Power, and he finally recognizes it. And so does everyone else. What he does with that power, and how he keeps it from changing him, has only begun.


The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (reviewed 8/29/12). Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series are murder-mysteries. They are also intensely deep character studies, and none in the series more deeply felt than this outing, which takes the Chief Inspector and his flawed second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir to a remote monastery in northern Québec. The murder exposes the rot within the isolated monastic community, and the interference from the Sûreté Chief exposes the rot within the Sûreté itself, and within Gamache’s unit.


The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (reviewed 6/20/12) The latest volume in Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is a kind of historical mystery series. Lord John Grey solves military problems that tend to get wrapped up in politics. The Scottish prisoner of the title is Jamie Fraser, the hero of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and takes place in the gap between Drums of Autumn and Voyager. The Scottish Prisoner has to do with an attempt by Lord John and his brother to prevent yet another Jacobite Rebellion by working with Jamie. If you like the Outlander series at all, this one is marvelous.


Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (reviewed 12/26/12) is the latest in Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series. Elantra is an urban fantasy, but the setting is a high fantasy world. The emperor is a dragon, for example. But the heroine is human, and flawed. She is also a member of the law enforcement agency. It just so happens that her desk sergeant is a lion. The commander is a hawk. Her best friends are immortal, and one of them is the spirit of a tower.  Kaylin’s striving each day to make the world better than she began it changes everything, even the unchanging immortals around her. Her journey fascinates.


Scholar and Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I didn’t write reviews of these, and I should have, because I loved them both. Scholar and Princeps are the 4th and 5th books in the Imager Portfolio. The first three books, Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Portfolio were so good I practically shoved them at people. These new ones are in a prequel trilogy, but equally excellent. What’s different about these series is that Modesitt’s heroes in both cases are coming into their powers without it being a coming-of-age story. They are adults who are adjusting to new power and responsibility. It makes the story different from the usual epic fantasy.


The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay (reviewed 1/6/12). This book was an utter surprise and delight. A former Buddhist monk leaves the monastery, becomes an LAPD detective, and eventually, a private investigator. What a fascinating backstory! Tenzing Norbu, known as Ten, retains just enough of his outsider perspective to be a fascinating point-of-view character. I stalked NetGalley for months waiting for the next book in this series to appear, because I wanted more!


The Fallen Queen (reviewed at BLI on 7/3/12) and The Midnight Court (reviewed 8/14/12) by Jane Kindred. I said that Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminded me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. Also incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew. Take Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen and cross it with the history of the House of Romanov. Leaven it with the most complicated pantheon of angels and demons you can imagine, then stir well with the political machinations and sexual proclivities described in Kushiel’s Dart. Only with more heartbreak.

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (reviewed 6/8/12) had me at hand-knitted straight-jacket. But it’s way more fun than that. Also more complicated. It’s the story of a formerly bad girl trying so damn hard to make up for her past mistakes, and unable to forgive herself, and one man who has tried much too hard for much too long to live up to his family’s expectations, in spite of the fact that what his family wants has nothing to do with what he wants for himself. They make a glorious mistake together, that turns out not to have been a mistake after all.


Taste Me (reviewed 12/11/12) and Chase Me (reviewed 12/12/12) by Tamara Hogan. The Underbelly Chronicles were a complete surprise, but in an absolutely fantastic way. They are paranormal romance of the urban fantasy persuasion, or the other way around. Every supernatural creature that we’ve ever imagined is real in Hogan’s version of Minneapolis, but with a fascinating twist. They’re real because they are the descendants of a wrecked space ship. That’s right, the vampires, and werewolves, and sirens, are all E.T. And when they find the wrecked ship’s black box after a thousand years, it phones home. The family reunion is coming up in book three. In the meantime, there is a lot of yummy interspecies romance.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and The Line Between Here and Gone (reviewed at BLI 6/19/12) by Andrea Kane. I disappeared into The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and didn’t reappear until the end of The Line Between Here and Gone, although I still find the title of the second one more than a bit incomprehensible. Just the same, the Forensic Instincts team that solves the extremely gripping and highly unusual crimes in this new series by Kane is a force to be reckoned with. They have that kind of perfect balance that you see in crime-solving teams with the best chemistry. They are a fantastic “five-man band” which makes it a pure pleasure to watch them work, no matter how gruesome the crime they were solving.

Blue Monday by Nicci French. I’m currently stalking Netgalley for the next book in this series, Tuesday’s Gone. Which is not here yet, so it can’t be bloody gone! This is a mystery, but with a more psychological bent, as the amateur sleuth is a forensic psychologist. This one gave me chills from beginning to end, but it’s the protagonist who has me coming back. Because her work is so personal, she’s both strong and fragile at the same time, and I want to see if she can keep going.


And for sheer impact, last and absolutely not least…

The Mine by John A Heldt (reviewed at BLI on 9/28/12). There are surprises, and then there are books that absolutely blow you away. If you have ever read Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, The Mine will remind you of Finney. Heldt has crafted a story about a boy/man who accidentally goes back in time to America’s last golden summer, the summer of 1941. All he has is a few stories of Seattle in the 1940s that his grandmother told, and a fortunate memory for baseball statistics. What he does is fall in love, with a woman, a time, a place, and a way of life. And then he learns that he can come home, and that he must. No matter how much damage he does by leaving the people he has come to love, he knows that he will do more harm if he stays. The Mine will stick with you long after you finish.

That’s a wrap. I could have gone on. I though about adding honorable mentions, but that way lies madness. Definitely madness! I did list my Best Ebook Romances for 2012 on Library Journal again this year. There are a couple of repeats from that list to this one, but the qualifications are different. LJ has lots of other “best” lists, if you are looking for a few (dozen) more good books.

I’m dreaming of next year.


Review: The Midnight Court by Jane Kindred

Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminds me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. And incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew.

The Midnight Court comprises the second book in this tale, following The Fallen Queen. The title is apt; in The Midnight Court Anazakia’s court is definitely in eclipse. All is as dark as midnight in a Siberian winter.

And the situation goes all downhill.

At the end of The Fallen Queen, Anazakia and her temporary allies rescued the demon Belphagor from Aeval. In the process, they burned much of the Supernal Palace that Anazakia once called home.

When The Midnight Court begins, it’s been months, and the alliance is fracturing. So is Anazakia’s peaceful household near the earthly 21st century Russian city of Arkhangelsk. Belphagor came back from Aeval’s torture broken; not where it shows, but inside. He’s not the demon he used to be.

And Vasily, his lover, is caught between anger that Belphagor offered himself to save them all, and guilt that in Bel’s absence, he fathered a child with Anazakia.

Ola, the child, is the light of all their lives. She is also a pawn of powers. For Anazakia is still the last heir of the house of Arkhangel’sk, and Aeval has no right to the throne of Heaven she sits on. It should be Anazakia’s. Or her daughter’s.

And Ola’s power is greater than anyone could have imagined. Because Vasily is not, as he was raised to think, a demon. He is a Seraph, one of the host. The little girl is more than a little girl. More than a sweet child or a toddler with tantrums. She is the holder of the fifth radiance, not air, fire, water or earth, but aether.

Some of the powers of heaven want to control her; others want to kill her while she is still a child, to make sure that the “wrong” party does not control her.

Ola is kidnapped, and the hunt begins. Across all of Russia, and through all the orders of Heaven, one tiny little girl is bartered back and forth like a tiny bomb, or a pearl of great price.

Her parents will sacrifice anything to get her back.

Escape Rating A: The Midnight Court (and the whole House of Arkhangel’sk series so far) is the kind of densely multi-layered political pot-boiling gut-churning romance that doesn’t come along very often. The nearest comparison is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart series, as much for the very long game political machinations as for the kink relationship between Belphagor and Vasily.

The part of the comparison that I come back to is the politics. Every layer of every relationship, both personal and political, is going to matter before this series is over, and Kushiel had that same feel to it. Everything counts. Sex is sex but IOUs are forever.

The saying that “revenge is a dish best served cold” may have had Aeval in mind. She manipulated both the Romanov dynasty and the House of Arkhangel’sk to get something she wanted.

Waiting for the Spring of 2013 for the final book of the trilogy The Armies of Heaven, is going to be absolute torture. I stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish The Midnight Court. It ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, in a scene that reminded me a lot of something from The Dark Knight Rises. Read Fallen Queen and Midnight Court and see if you see the same thing. It’s so worth it.


The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 8-12-12

Have blog, will travel. I’m in Pittsburgh, PA, and the HP Notebook Smart Power Adapter turns out to be both smart and pretty darn adaptable.

We’re in Pittsburgh for a family re-union (part of me wants to type family “re-onion”–layers, tears–and it’s not even my family) and I only packed half the power adapter for the laptop. These things happen in the best families.

Best Buy is everywhere. Us geeks really have taken over the world. Spare power adapters don’t actually SAY they cover a two-year old laptop. But the HP turns out to be universal. Here we are.

And is there ever a ton of stuff going on at Reading Reality! After the usual Monday Madness that is Ebook Review Central, there will be three author interviews this week. What was I thinking?

Tuesday my guest will be Jane Kindred, the author of The Fallen Queen and The Midnight Court, the first two parts of her House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy. Jane’s going to talk about angels and demons, politics and history, love and kink, and the Snow Queen. Intrigued? Stop by on Tuesday.


While this isn’t quite Russia week, my guest on Wednesday will be Irina Lopatina, who doesn’t just write about Russian folklore, she actually lives in Siberia. Really, truly. As part of a tour from TLC Books, I had the opportunity to interview her as well as review her debut fantasy, White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors.


Things should warm up a bit (a lot!) on Thursday, when my guest will be Eve Langlais, for an interview and a review of her latest book, A Demon and His Witch. All of Eve’s stories are on the steamy side, but Demon is the start of Eve’s new series, Welcome to Hell, so, I expect things to be nice and toasty heading into the weekend.

As if Atlanta hasn’t been hot enough this summer!

What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 8-5-12

Looking at the calendar, it’s pretty clear that the break is over. Three tours this week AND three next week.

Oh, and I’m going to a family reunion over the weekend. Can I schedule or what?

Lucky for me, my friend Cryselle from Cryselle’s Bookshelf will be guest reviewing on Friday! Thank you, Cryselle!

But between now and Friday, what’s going on?

Monday’s Ebook Review Central features Dreamspinner’s June titles. This was the month they released their Time is Eternity Daily Dose collection of short stories, novellettes and novellas. Let’s just say it felt like eternity compiling the review list with all the added titles. You’ll see tomorrow.

Tuesday I’ll be interview Sheri Fredrick’s about her contemporary fantasy Remedy Maker, as well as reviewing this fun new book. Her Remedy Maker, Rhycious, is a centaur with PTSD after a century-long war against the wood-nymphs. One of the cooler things about this story is that the mythological creatures live in real-world Pennsylvania, in Amish country.

Wednesday is the day that Laurie Frankel will be giving away a copy of her new book, Goodbye for Now, in conjunction with an interview and a review of that absolutely fascinating story. I’m still trying to find the right words to describe the story. It’s a love story for the 21st century, absolutely. What happens when a geek decides that he doesn’t want to let go?

Thursday’s guest is Nana Malone. She’ll be at Reading Reality to talk about Forsaken Protector, the second book in her Protectors series. (The first book, Reluctant Protector, is available free for Kindle, check it out!) These read like superhero romances to me, and they’re fun!

And if this week isn’t awesome enough, there’s next week to look forward to!

Jane Kindred will be here early next week to talk about her wicked angels and protective demons series, The House of Arkhangel’sk. The first book in the series, The Fallen Queen, was amazing and intense, and the second book, The Midnight Court, promises more of the same. Along with convoluted angelic court politics and demonic love. Reviews will be posted with the interview. Yum!

Speaking of yummy, I couldn’t resist Adrienne Giordano’s Relentless Pursuit when it popped up on NetGalley. I’ve read the entire Private Protectors series, and I’ve loved every single one of them, so a new one is a real treat. If you like romantic suspense of the security-agency persuasion, give Giordano’s series a try. Start with Man Law. (Not thrilled with the title, but the book was terrific!)

That should be enough for one week. Or even two. But it’s not. The next Robin Owens Celta book, Heart Secret will be out on August 7. Yep. Already pre-ordered.