Joint Rant: Til Dragons Do Us Part by Lorenda Christensen

til dragons do us part by lorenda christensenFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Never Deal With Dragons, #3
Length: 179 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: October 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Savannah Cavenaugh became a top art thief thanks to a secret ability—a dragonmorph, she can literally fly away from the scene of the crime. Next up: stealing a priceless painting out from under the snout of Lord Relobu, North America’s fearsome dragon ruler. True, she’s never had to work in the midst of Earth’s most polarizing nuptials before. Keeping her identity hidden will demand she get creative, to say the least.

Cameron Shaw has one last chance to prove himself. As Lord Relobu’s interim security head, he’ll ensure the world’s first interspecies wedding happens without a hitch. That means keeping an extra close eye on the wedding planner’s pretty young assistant. She’s adorable, but something’s not quite right.

Fumbling her way through bouquets and linens turns out to be the least of Savannah’s problems. Crushing on Relobu’s hottest human henchman was not part of the plan, and neither was revealing her—ahem—ferocious side. But when her archrival shows up to nab the very same painting she’s after, all bets are off…

Our Review:

never deal with dragons by lorenda christensenCass: First things first, I (quite unexpectedly) adored Never Deal With Dragons. Myrna was a far cry from the usual UF/PNR heroine. She wasn’t The One, didn’t specialize in Snapping Necks and Breaking Balls, and wasn’t burdened by a Tragic Past.

Instead, Myrna was just a brilliant, accomplished, career woman who loved her work (if not her boss). She kicked ass negotiating with dragons – without actually kicking dragon asses.

Despite this love, the blurb did not fill me with confidence. Pro: More time with Myrna and Trian. Con: everything else.

Marlene: I read Never Deal with Dragons because Cass made me do it. I figured that any romance that she actually liked must be good. And she was right. It was good, fun, and often funny. I loved the idea of a heroine who kicked butt with her mind instead of her brawn. However, the second book Dancing with Dragons (ranted at, ahem, reviewed here) did not live up to the first one. I made Cass read Til Dragons Do Us Part in the hope that Dancing with Dragons represented a sophomore slump. Admittedly, once I read the blurb, I didn’t have much hope. I figured that we would at least get a good rant out of it. And here we are. RANTING!

dancing with dragons by lorenda christensenCass: Liar! You wanted to bask in my disgust and outrage. Also, I completely and utterly forgot how much I hated Carol in the second book. So utterly useless.

Let us start with Savannah and her Family Of Thieves. Namely her sister-in-law, a renowned chef, at the top of her game who decided to turn to a life of crime. Why? Because this one time a dragon was totally mean, and insulted how she cooked steak! (Side note: did it not occur to her that a dragon might prefer his meat seared rather than medium-well?)

Why use your expertise and fame to do what you love? Much more logical to become the operations manager behind a small-time theft ring. God knows all women base their career trajectories on one run-in with a douchebag client.

Of course we ultimately can’t have a Law Breaker for a heroine (only dude-bro romantic bad-boy leads are allowed to break laws), so Savannah & Co must See The Light and Renounce Their Criminal Pasts. Perhaps they realize that a michelin starred chef can bring in mountains of legitimate money. Or there could be a “Tragic” Medical Issue for Baby Thief which will awaken them to the inherent evil they are bringing into a child’s life. Dragging a kid willy-nilly all over the country is completely within the best interests of said child. Taking a child to a medical facility to receive basic care on a consistent basis, however, results in a huge existential crisis. WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING WITH OUR LIVES?!?!

Marlene: People have been known to base their career trajectories on experiencing a series of douchebag clients or bosses. But generally not on just one. I digress.

It seems like sister-in-law the chef gave up her fantastic career for “true love”, another trope that Cass hates with a vengeance. I can understand helping one particularly hot (and charming) thief do something nasty but ultimately harmless to get back at said douchebag client, but not giving up an entire career. Unless we’re missing an explanation here, which we generally are in this book.

That this version of the universes has no insurance to speak about, and that procedures need to be paid in cash, was a nice bit of worldbuilding, which there aren’t nearly enough of. However, the existential crisis that ensues is over-the-top. Their only options are presented as “go straight” and cash in the retirement fund, or steal the painting and use the proceeds to pay for the medical crisis. While the crisis proceeds semi-logically from its introduction as the baby needs constant medical supervision, which is awkward when mom and dad are perpetually on the lam and lying about their identities, said medical crisis was not the only way to deal with all the adults deciding to go straight.

Cass: Setting aside the paper-thin motivations for thieving in general, let’s focus on the caper at issue. Savannah, a dragon-morph, grew up utterly isolated and thinking she was a lone freak in a hostile world. Then, lo-and-behold, she learns of Trian, dragon morph extraordinaire from Never Deal with Dragons.

Expected response: Holy shit, I am not alone in the universe! I must meet this guy and see if there are any social, psychological, or emotional benefits to having a friend who is of my species. He might also be excited to learn about my existence. We could share our First Transformation stories, talk logistics of controlling the shift, and maybe make arrangements for proper medical care. This could change my life!

Savannah’s response: Guess I’ll just rob him, during his wedding, for which he and his fiance are receiving multiple terroristic death threats.

Marlene: The caper that was, wasn’t, was, wasn’t. Well it wasn’t much of a caper, it seemed like its purpose in the story was to give Savannah an additional reason for giving up her life of crime and introducing us to the Boss From Hell. Working in that bridal agency would be enough motivation to never work anywhere in the industry again, just to avoid any possibility of running into the self-centered bitch who owned the place. She came off as a caricature of driven career-women everywhere, and I hated every moment she was onscreen. Meeting her should have driven Savannah right back to a life of crime, but instead it helped her “bond” with the other women she worked with. Which actually might happen, but in Savannah’s shoes I’d be counting the days until I was out of Tulsa and away from the wedding planner bitch and any legitimate work for a long time.

Cass: Marlene, I know you want to talk “romance.” But seriously, who the fuck is this guy? Why do I care about him? Hell, why does she even care about him? He’s about as interesting as a glass of milk. On that note, why is Mr. Whole Milk interested in her? There was no spark. No chemistry. No nothing. In fact, I can’t even remember his name. Did they have sex? Hell if I know. If they did, it was damn boring and I fell asleep reading it.

Marlene: I do not want to talk romance in this book, because there isn’t much to talk about, except to wonder where the chemistry went. The married couple have more chemistry than Savannah and what’s his name. (which is actually Cameron Shaw, and yes, they do manage to have sex, and it was a complete yawn, as well as a fade to black.) His whole purpose in this story seems to be to motivate Savannah to go straight. He’s not just Mr. Whole Milk, but he’s Mr. Whole Milk who has a record of being on the wrong end of Savannah’s art thievery. Otherwise he has no distinguishing features.

Cass: I saved the worst offense for last. WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?! For a book set in a world that has humans and dragons co-existing in a never-endingly complicated political and social quagmire (basically the highlight of the first two books), we spend almost no time focused on any actual dragon issue. Are there any people in the world at all curious as to how dragon morphs are created? Is it viral? Environmental exposure in utero? A recessive genetic trait? Anyone? Bueller?

Escape Rating: D for denying me sufficient dragons. Never Deal with Dragons was amazing. I am going to re-read it to get the taste of this out of my mouth. The DRACIM world has so many amazing stories in it, I just hope the author gets around to telling us some of them.

Marlene: Galen described Cass’ part of this review as a “Cass Rant ™” and I have to agree with his assessment. I also have to agree with Cass’ rant in general. Never Deal with Dragons was awesome. I read Til Dragons Do Us Part and couldn’t wait to be parted from it. I found it to be completely and utterly “meh”. This is not a good thing.

Escape Rating C-: which is totally in keeping with that ‘meh’. It’s not horrible, there just isn’t much there there. Or there here. Whatever. To give either a higher or lower rating, I’d need to have more reaction than this. Myrna was awesome in the first book. Carol was too stupid to live in the second book. Savannah is perfectly named; she’s a boring grassland with no distinguishing features.

Cass: Note to Galen: “Cass Rant ™” was spurred by Marlene’s insistence I read this. Which I had every intention of ignoring. So maybe we should call it Cass Rant On Demand ™”

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

Dual Review: Dancing with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen

dancing with dragons by lorenda christensenFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Series: DRACIM #2
Length: 184 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: March 17, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

If Carol Jenski knows anything, it’s fashion—and it’s not in fashion to consort with dragons, even though they’ve coexisted with humans since World War III. Still, she would never have agreed to take part in a plot against them. Now a dragon lord has called for her head, her boyfriend is MIA and she’s been abandoned in a foreign country.

Only reporter Daniel Wallent is on Carol’s side…sort of. He offers his assistance if she helps him investigate his latest story. He’ll need Carol’s language skills to infiltrate in the organization run by one of the most dangerous and secretive dragons in the world.

Escaping one sociopathic dragon’s claws only to walk into another’s is an insane risk—and so is falling for Daniel. Posing as his blushing—and very affectionate—new bride as cover soon leads to an all-too-real attraction. But fighting off dragons and her desire for Daniel may be more of a challenge than Carol can handle…

Our Review:

never deal with dragons by lorenda christensenCass: I deeply – and unexpectedly – loved the everloving shit out of Never Deal with Dragons. (Though I still maintain it was inappropriately classified as PNR, and was really UF. Because I must justify this to myself in some way.)

Marlene: Whatever you want to call it, I read Never Deal with Dragons just because you liked it. I was flabbergasted that you liked anything with even a smidgen of romance!

Cass: That’s entirely fair. I read it because I was having a bad week, and I “knew” she’d ruin my dragons. I wanted to hate it and write and ALL CAPS RAGE REVIEW.

Then it turned out to be awesome. The romance wasn’t love-at-first-sight. It wasn’t the driving plot of the book. Myrna was brilliant and capable. Trian acknowledged his douchebaggery, and made appropriate amends. (And he continued to do so as a bit player here in Dancing with Dragons.)

Anyways. With all this in mind, I was actually quite excited to jump into Dancing with Dragons. Though I struggled with the realization that this would make THREE goddamn PNR series that I enjoy (see also: The Edge by Ilona Andrews and The Iron Seas by MelJean Brook).

Marlene: Never Deal with Dragons was terrific (see review)! Myrna was a great heroine who used her brains rather than her brawn to be absolutely kick-ass awesome. And there was none of the dreaded insta-love. I don’t mind in the least following another PNR series (well, duh) but it has to be good. This one got off to a great start, but then, we get Dancing with Dragons, and let’s just say the sophmore book does not live up to the promise of the first one.

Cass: I am absolutely devastated to agree. The opening chapter was riveting – a dragon car chase! BAM AMAZING. GIVE ME MORE. I was practically squealing with excitement (much to the consternation of the family trapped on the plane with me.)

Then Carol wakes up in the hospital (post-head trauma), and the whole thing went careening downhill. I actually stopped to re-read the end of Never Deal with Dragons, because I recalled that Carol knew what Richard had done, and chose to go with him anyways. Also that Richard was deeply and obsessively in love with her blah blah blah dragon killing terrorists need love too. I was correct. Although the author seems to have forgotten.

Carol went from dragonscript expert with shitass taste in men to every possible blonde stereotype in the book (never mind that she’s a ginger.) She threw a goddamn public hissy fit in the hospital when she discovered the surgeons had to cut her hair in order to deal with the head trauma and possible bleeding her her brain. You are alive. WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIR?! It didn’t help that this was a recurring bitch for her throughout the rest of the book. Woe is me, people think I’m a terrorist, I’m a fugitive from the law, and my boyfriend ditched me….but MY HAIR IS GONE!

Basically, I couldn’t stand her. She was TSTL.

Marlene: I’m sitting here watching the rant appear on my screen and just nodding. Or chortling.

Carol was such a poor choice for a heroine, even if it was set up in the first book. I don’t care. It wasn’t just her repeated bad taste in men (it happens) but that she seemed to have regressed from the first book, possibly back to the teenage hormonal-drama stage.

The repeated hair-fits–either screeching or bewailing her short-haired fate, seemed stupid and short-sighted considering that she was on the run for her life through the entire story. WTF?

Repeating her awful judgment of the male of the species by continuing to believe Richard the douche after he abandons her in the hospital in Budapest, leaving her with nothing but the hospital gown on her front. I’d be sending a dragon after his ass, not continuing to justify his assholishness.

Cass: Now, I’ll admit I was willing to give Carol a wee bit of a temporary pass due to the traumatic brain injury. But when you find out that you are wanted for questioning in connection with a terrorist attack that took place while you were in a coma, you TURN YOURSELF IN. Why? Because you have IRREFUTABLE PROOF YOU ARE INNOCENT. A hospital full of people who can document your coma is what we call an airtight alibi.

Or you can take the Carol route, and climb onto the back of a reporter’s motorcycle while wearing nothing but your hospital gown and go on the lam with him in a foreign country.

I guess I should take a moment to lay off Carol, and point out that my usually brilliant and competent Myrna failed to take the requisite 5 minutes on the phone to explain to Carol just what the bloody hell was going on – and instead said, “Oh hey, glad that coma’s over! I suggest you get lost. Bye! Call me. Love you.”

Regardless of Myrna’s temporary failure as a friend, Carol really should have started making logical decisions at some point in the book. But she never did. She repeatedly refused to take advantage of possible routes to immediately clear her name, did not even consider that Richard was guilty, and instead felt SUPER BAD about giving Mr. Sexy Reporter blue balls that one time. Which was like, totally, the worst thing ever! Because how could he cope with such pain?! (Clearly, she’s never heard of masturbation.)

Marlene: If he didn’t go into the shower and take care of business, then they are absolutely perfect for each other, because that would make him equally TSTL. Which would have been the end of the story, because he’s clearly the brains of the outfit, such as they are.

After all, he keeps manipulating Carol (not that that’s not a piece of cake!) and everyone else he comes into contact with. I could sort of understand why she believed him in the first place, but that she kept on believing as his cover got more elaborate, not so much. If his paper could supposedly afford her new designer wardrobe, why didn’t the budget run to a dragonspeaker?

Not to mention, the simple idea that she accepted that it was better to go deceive a second dragon lord rather than finding a straightforward way to get out of her problems with the first one was just bizarre.

If this was intended as screwball comedy, it falls heavily on the screwball side.

Cass: Carol’s stupidity was clearly a plot contrivance. In Never Deal with Dragons, she was put forth as an incomparable language expert, contract genius, and diplomat extraordinaire. Getting that Carol to engage in wee bit of international espionage while under investigation for bioterrorism would have been such a pain in the ass. Ergo, moronic Carol.

By the time we got to the James Bond portion of the book, I was sorely tempted to just stop reading. Carol clearly wasn’t going to get eaten by a dragon, which she richly deserved, and I was done. However, in this respect, her stupidity finally paid off, and we got an actual interesting and engaging dragon plot! Much like the first book, I was fascinated with dragon society, dragon laws, dragon customs, and dragon-human interactions.

Why couldn’t Carol have turned herself in at the beginning of the book, cleared her name (with ease), and been sweet-talked by whatever sexy piece of mancake they had on hand to go undercover for Lord Relobu in India and help avert another international dragon incident?! We could have gotten to the actual plot that much faster, and had a plausible reason for it, while capitalizing on Carol’s overactive hormones and shit judgement all in one go. She still could have hooked up with Mr. Sexy Reporter for their extremely tepid love scenes. And I could have spent more time actually caring about the book.

Marlene: Just in case anyone has missed the point, we don’t like the version of Carol that comes out of her trauma-induced coma in Dancing with Dragons!

Cass: We loved the actual dragon parts of the book! Especially the interlude in India.

Marlene: The Indian dragon lord and the whole story of the plots and counterplots to take over/save/protect the ex-Chinese dragon lord’s former territory was awesome. (Carol did finally get a clue once the entire compound was captured by the rapacious would-be dragon lord and his cronies.

Cass: Trian made a bloody brilliant entrance at this point! The suffering we endured at the beginning was largely worth his hilarious machinations and manipulation of the siege-laying dragonfolk.

Marlene: And just as Trian is resolving everything, Carol of course loses faith in the rescue that she set up and asks him to cart her back to the U.S. This is the point where she should have stuck it out, but Carol continues her pattern of making the worst decisions possible every time.


Cass: I can’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just make it known that the lawyer has OPINIONS about the Trial of the Century. I believe there is a military term appropriate to this situation: FUBAR.

Escape Rating: Carol gets a D for dumbfuck, but all the other parts (dragons!!!!) are pushing A material (except Lord Relobu. He’s clearly infected with Carol’s stupidity by association). I’ll split the difference and go with a C+. The + is dragon-induced.

Marlene: Carol is way too TSTL to make a half-way decent heroine. Adding the insta-love trope between her and Mr. Sexy Reporter as an attempt to justify why she goes on the lam with him does not make things better. (And some of his behavior does border on TSTL, it doesn’t take much brains to seem smarter than this version of Carol)

Escape Rating C: The dragon politics and backstabbing (or is that front-clawing) were generally awesome, but the choice of Carol as point-of-view character made the non-dragon parts very rough going. If she screeched one more time about her hair or her post-coma lack of muscle tone I was seriously tempted to hope a dragon would eat her. Maybe there’s hope for the next book?

Cass: Note: Stunningly for a PNR, there was no obvious set-up for the next protagonist. Maybe Myrna’s new assistant back in Tulsa? Or one of the bit players in India?

***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: Never Deal with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen

never deal with dragons by lorenda christensenFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Series: DRACIM #1
Length: 209 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: July 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Consoling a sobbing dragon and serving pig buffets are just part of the job for Myrna Banks. Working for a mediation firm, it’s her job to get humans compensated for damages caused by the dragons who now rule. But her “typical” day is interrupted by Trian Chobardan, an old flame who sneaked out of her bed two years ago, taking her heart and a handful of classified documents with him.

Myrna would love to show Trian the door, but he’s been sent by North America’s reigning dragon lord for help negotiating a truce with a powerful rival to avert war. Myrna agrees to help, even though she’ll be stuck with Trian as a partner.

As the two work together, Myrna finds Trian to be surprisingly supportive—and still irresistibly attractive. Though her brain tells her not to forget his betrayal, her body feels differently. When they learn the enemy dragon lord is planning something no one could have imagined, Myrna has to learn who she can trust before she loses not only her heart, but her life.

My Review:

I picked this one up because Cass liked it. The idea that Cass liked anything with even a smidgen of romance made this one too tempting to resist.

Never Deal with Dragons turned out to be way too much fun for a story that starts after World War III, but then, the causes (and effects) of that war are all part of what makes this story such a blast.

Somebody really screwed up genetic manipulation, and instead of curing cancer, they created dragons by accident. That’s one heck of an accident, especially since those brand new dragons got such an interesting mix of genes that they are pretty much indestructible, at least by anything that humans can cook up.

Mankind is no longer the apex predator on Earth. The societal consequences are enormous. If it weren’t for the fact that dragons find us useful (we farm, they don’t), the dragons would probably have wiped us out in a heartbeat.

Especially since the results of that war include global cooling and a nearly complete breakdown of telecommunications due to too much EMP radiation. We’ve lost a lot of history and communication, and everyone wants to live in the new temperate zones, which have shrunk and moved towards the equator.

This is only the beginning of the worldbuilding, which is fantastic as well as incredibly well thought out.

Our heroine is a dragon mediator. She speaks dragon. The lord dragon of North America prefers to negotiate rather than fight or enslave when there’s a dispute between dragons and humans, such as when a dragon eats a bunch of cows without asking permission first. Smoothing over everyone’s feathers and scales is definitely required.

But Myrna Banks is stuck in a dead end secretarial job (to an asshat boss) because even though she is one of the few dragonspeakers, she lost some confidential documents a couple of years ago. She says she lost them, but her ex-lover actually stole them, on his way out the door in the middle of the night.

Trian Chobardan is back, and with a job offer. It turns out he works for that reigning dragon lord, and Lord Relobu wants a dragonspeaker to mediate between himself and the crazy-but-powerful Dragon Lord of China.

Myrna sees the mission as her chance to get out of her dead-end job and back onto the fast-track. She just has to ignore her still-definitely-simmering attraction to Trian–and all the dragons who suddenly want to kill her.

Escape Rating A: This one is all about the dragons, and the new society that is created in their wake. And it’s awesome.

The reactions of the people involved in this thing are just so much fun, even when the people are dragons.

Myrna is in such an interesting position, because even though her talents are needed, there are a lot of humans who don’t want to admit that the world has changed. They hate dragons, and therefore undervalue anyone who can communicate with them. There’s an element of human society that thinks they can go back to the “good old days” if they just manage to eliminate the dragons. This is so short-sighted, because they don’t have a way to get rid of all the dragons, and because things never go back to the way they used to be. That genie is long past out of the bottle. (Yes, I see it as a commentary on current society, as always, your mileage may vary)

I liked Myrna a lot. She’s a great point of view character because she understands both sides. And because she’s a mediator and negotiator rather than a warrior. It’s marvelous to see someone who fights with their brains first as the heroine.

I also liked that, as much as she’s still attracted to Trian, they don’t get back together until he comes clean about his betrayal, his disappearance from her life, and his true identity. He has to rebuild her trust, and it takes the entire story for that to happen. And so it should.

***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.