Review: Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford

ink and shadows by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: paranormal M/M romance
Series: Ink and Shadows #1
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: DSP Publications (Dreamspinner Press)
Date Released: July 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

My Review:

Ink and Shadows is a paranormal romance of the angels and demons school. Well, sort of. Lots of demons, no angels in sight.

As the first book in a series, Ink and Shadows spends a lot of its narrative introducing the world that the author has created for the series. And it’s one hell of an introduction.

Not quite literally Hell, although I think you might be able to see it from there.

In Ink and Shadows, the world is the one we know, with one, big giant exception. The elemental concepts, Death, War, Faith, Hope, etc., have been embodied into beings that live behind “the Veil” and come to humans when someone calls them. It’s their duty, and this story is about the conflict between some incarnations that serve their calling willingly over the centuries, and some who are corrupted by the humans they serve and observe. That corruption is not always or necessarily intentional.

So the story is about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, except that they are no longer “horsemen”, they aren’t all men, and they predate the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Death and War have a conversation where they describe how they came into being. ‘When the first human looked around and realized that some day he wouldn’t be there, Death was conceived. And when the first human looked at the second human and thought to himself that he wanted what the other guy had and was willing to fight him to get it, well, that’s when War was born.’

They are still around, along with Famine and Pestilence. The difference is that Death and War are the same “people” using a very loose term for “people” that they have always been. Over the millennia, there seem to have been several incarnations of Famine and Pestilence, as the beings in those roles have become tired or depressed and have chosen to go back to wherever incarnations go when they cease to exist.

Famine is the only female in this group. Death and War, as the two oldest “horsemen” have a long-term case of mostly unresolved sexual tension. Death is afraid to let anyone get too close, out of fear that they will, well, die. War doesn’t care, he lives for today because tomorrow may never come, although since they are all immortal it probably will.

That Death and War love each other makes a certain amount of existential sense, too.

But Mal, the new Pestilence (and it’s never quite established how new Mal is) is still learning his role. He’s also still quite a bit human in his sensibilities. And he’s lonely.

Kismet Andreas is a part-time tattoo artist and sometime junkie who needs heroin to keep him from seeing the shadows all around him. The shadows populated with very scary creatures who want to eat him – and the ghost of his little brother, who still hasn’t figured out that he’s dead.

Kismet thinks he is crazy, seeing things that aren’t there, using the drugs to keep those things away. But he isn’t crazy, those things really are there. And someone is using his addiction to get him to cross over from our world to the Veil that the immortals inhabit. He’s a guinea pig, and now that the experiment is nearly complete, the mad scientist (read sorcerer) wants to grab his experimental animal out of the cage and take it apart to analyze what made it tick.

Experimental animals do not survive that type of testing, and neither will Kismet. If the magus and his allies catch him, that is.

Mal and the rest of the Horsemen end up intervening in Kismet’s mess, because whatever was done to him has worked so well that Kismet has become an immortal without a calling, but with a whole pack of shadowy demons on his trail.

The Veil between the worlds has been shredded, and it’s up to the Horsemen to end the threat before everyone can see the demons – and get eaten by them. It’s happened before and this is not a piece of history that the Horsemen are willing to see happen again.

Even if they have to break more of the rules to get the job done.

Escape Rating B+: There is a lot of set up to this story, but the payoff in the last third makes it definitely worth it.

The idea of embodying universal concepts so that they can act independently has been done before. This is, after all, the idea behind the character “Death” in the Discworld. Piers Anthony did something similar in his Incarnations of Immortality series in the (OMG) 1980s. Anthony used Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil and Good.

Death and War seem to be the constants. While I suspect the Anthony series doesn’t wear well (it’s been decades since I read them) the idea struck me as very similar to the Horsemen (and other immortals) in Ink and Shadows.

The world behind the Veil is much bigger than we imagine, and the Horsemen aren’t the only ones out there who deal with humanity. There are hints that there are lots of these “Fours” around. The one that comes into this story is the Four that consists of Faith, Charity, Hope and Peace. In spite of who or what they are, all is definitely not well at their end of the Veil.

You could say that this story is the result of humans corrupting the immortals. We do awful things to each other, and having to watch us takes a stronger stomach or higher moral fiber than even some immortals manage to possess.

Going with the theme of Kismet’s addiction, Ink and Shadows serves as a terrific gateway drug – for those who love angels and demons type paranormal romance or urban fantasy it is a great way to dip one’s romantic toe into the waters of male/male romance. For those starting from the M/M side, it’s a good way to introduce them to paranormal and urban fantasy.

And it’s a great gateway drug for everything Rhys writes. Count me an addict.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-5-15

Sunday Post

Happy day after the 4th to everyone in the U.S. It’s been a marvelous three-day weekend here. I hope that everyone has made the most of it!

Speaking of the Fourth, there is still time to enter the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card or a book of your choice up to the same amount. The freedom to add something new to your TBR stack awaits you!

Looking ahead to this week’s reviews it looks like speculative fiction week at Reading Reality. And speaking of speculative fiction, the latest issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly came out today, with all new reviews, new short fiction and terrific discussions of the genre we (I’m one of the reviewers) all love, SFR. Check out the new issue and be amazed!

freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 book of the winner’s choice in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A New Hope by Robyn Carr
5 copies of A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Ruthless by John Rector is Jo J.
The winner of their choice of a $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop is Anne

new hope by robyn carrBlog Recap:

B Review: Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson
B+ Review: A New Hope by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
B Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
B Review: A Sword For His Lady by Mary Wine + Giveaway
B- Review: Duke City Desperado by Max Austin
Stacking the Shelves (142)


ink and shadows by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (blog tour review)
Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford (review)
Among Galactic Ruins by Anna Hackett (review)
Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Stacking the Shelves (142)

Stacking the Shelves

Before I forget, I want to wish everyone in the U.S. a Happy Fourth of July and everyone in Canada a Happy Canada Day. Those of you who got a long weekend for one of the holidays are probably off somewhere celebrating and not blogging, but we’ll still be here when you get back.

And when I’m forced to skip a week of shelf-stacking, the following week is just too huge. So here we are.

I tried to resist the impulse to pick up stuff at the ALA Exhibits. I didn’t totally succeed. I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and hadn’t seen an eARC anywhere. While the print ARC is HUGE, I just had to scoop one up when I saw it. Art in the Blood is a Holmes pastiche, so it leapt into my bag. Deanna Raybourn is starting a new series, so I couldn’t resist A Curious Beginning. I also picked up a print ARC of Armada to pass around, even though I already have it in eARC. Galen raced through it on the plane home, and I think it’s going to make the rounds at his office.

For Review:
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher
Among Galactic Ruins (Phoenix Adventures #0.5) by Anna Hackett
Art in the Blood by Bonnie Macbird
Blade Dance (Cold Iron #4) by D.L. McDermott
A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Deep South by Paul Theroux
Ryker (Cold Fury Hockey #4) by Sawyer Bennett
Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz
The Terrans (First Salik War #1) by Jean Johnson

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-14-15

Sunday Post

We are on the road again, so I’ll have to let everyone, including the winners, know who won what of last week’s giveaways next week.

And I’m not just writing this early, but I’m writing in the middle of a thunderstorm. I’m wondering when we’ll lose either power or ‘net. Or both. The fweeping sound the UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) make drives the cats absolutely bonkers.

Or at least more bonkers than they are normally.

One of the things about being on the road is that while I may get plenty of time to read, time and space (and quiet) to write in can be hard to come by. Some people are multi-taskers – Galen can write and even code in the living room with the TV on. Me – I need surround-silence, as opposed to surround-sound.

On that other hand, when I’m reading, the world could go to hell in a handbasket right next to me, and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I’m not there. I’m in Middle-Earth, or wherever the book takes me.

Current Giveaways:

Hot Cowboy Nights book bundle by Victoria Vane
$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate
5 copies of Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperBlog Recap:

A- Review: Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman
B- Review: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane
Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Art Imitating Life + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + Giveaway
A Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper
Guest Post by Isabel Cooper on her Favorite Author + Giveaway
A- Review: Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (139)

favorite heroinesComing Next Week:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (review)
Zack by Sawyer Bennett (blog tour review)
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available:
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Highland Dragons #3
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: June 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

William Arundell is a detective working for a secret branch of the English government. When a young man is found dead, William’s investigation leads him to a remote Highland village and the intoxicatingly beautiful lady who rules MacAlasdair Castle.

The charismatic Judith MacAlasdair is not what William expected. The only daughter in a long line of shape-changing dragons, Judith is wary of William and his unrelenting questions. However, when William’s investigation takes an interesting turn, they must put aside years of bad blood and a mutual distrust of outsiders to band together to save the British Islands from its deadliest foe…

My Review:

This series just gets better and better. And we finally get a little more dragon.

legend of the highland dragon by isabel cooperIn this third book in the Highland Dragons series, after Legend of the Highland Dragon (reviewed here) and The Highland Dragon’s Lady (here) we also finally get to see the clan seat of the dragons in the Scottish Highlands, in the remote village of Loch Arach.

We also get an unusual heroine and hero. Not just because Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a dragon in her mid-180s, but also because the hero, William Arundell, admits to being 45. While there is a bit (more than a bit) of an age gap, it is great to see a romance where both the hero and heroine are mature adults and not only act like grownups but need their experience to solve the mystery.

And the hero and heroine take turns saving each other, both by fighting and by magical means. This is a partnership of true equals, and it is done well.

It helps that the chemistry between Judith and William is smoking hot, and not just because Judith is actually capable of belching smoke (and fire) in her dragon-form. These are lovers who both know what they are doing and are quite pleased that the other knows as well. Once they finally trust each other enough to get down to cases. And beds. And, for that matter, up against trees.

The story is that there is something wrong in the state of the Highlands, and Arundell’s colleagues at Special Branch D have traced it to Loch Arach. This branch of Her Majesty’s government investigates demon activity, or anything else supernatural that threatens the realm and its people. They have evidence, ghostly evidence, that someone in Loch Arach is summoning demons, and that never ends well. Or without a string of corpses.

Arundell’s colleagues also wonder about the mysterious MacAlasdair family. There is clearly something odd about them, and concern that it might relate to something sinister. Of course Judith is currently in charge of making sure that the dragonish side of the MacAlasdairs’ nature does not become common knowledge, or even rumored knowledge outside of Loch Arach.

But the MacAlasdairs have no truck with demons, so Judith and Arundell find themselves unlikely allies, and even more unlikely lovers, once they mutually agree that whoever is summoning demons, it isn’t either one of them.

Now they are both marked for death, along with anyone in the village who gets in evil’s way. William and Judith don’t put the pieces together until it’s too late.

Or is it?

Escape Rating A: One of the fascinating things about this book in the series is that we get a much broader glimpse of paranormal and magical activity in this story than the hints that we have had previously.

highland dragons lady by isabel cooperColin, in The Highland Dragon’s Lady, definitely dabbles in magic, but the existence and organization of William Arundell’s Special Branch D shows that there is a lot more magical activity going on than anyone seems to realize. Also that his group is well-organized because their opposite numbers are also, and they are fighting fire with fire, and sometimes other spells.

One ends up wondering exactly which branch of the government Arundell’s Special Branch D is a special branch of. It’s clear that it is not Scotland Yard, but in our world, MI-5 wasn’t established until 1909 (as the Secret Service Bureau). But this is not quite our world, so maybe.

Whoever they are, in this story it is clear that they are one of Britain’s players, or perhaps puppetmasters, in the Great Game of Empire that led to World War I, which is also on the horizon in this mid-1890s story. As it was in real history.

Perhaps we’ll see.

One of the things I loved about this story is the maturity of the hero and heroine. Arundell reflects on his own maturity and mortality, in that his knees may not last much longer as a field agent, but that his experience still sees him through.

While Judith may look under 30, she never hides the experience that her years have given her. She is in control and in charge of Loch Arach every minute. Arundell generally defers to her, once he has discovered her true nature. (Before that he doesn’t trust her enough, not that he doesn’t recognize her command).

These people are just plain good together, and are a match for each other. Nor does Judith change to a simpering miss when she falls in love. She’s still Lady MacAlasdair, it is still her land and her people, and she is still very much in charge, even when she is desperately worrying about the fate of her lover.

Speaking of which, the story does a good job of dealing with the problem of what the ultimate result will inevitably be when a near-immortal falls in love with a mortal. It’s a solution that is just barely possible. Blood transfusion did not become widespread until World War I. But in the late 1800s it did exist. It was regarded as not merely risky but downright dubious, but it did exist. The circumstances set up in the story are just plausible, and add to the drama at the end.

I also liked that the dramatic crisis in this story was NOT precipitated by any willful misunderstanding between the protagonists. They are working together, very successfully, but are overcome by events that they did not quite figure out in time. For this reader, it heightened the tension deliciously.

Although this is the third book in the series, because the setting and characters are so different from the previous books, this would definitely be a place where one could enter the story without having read the previous books. That being said, the first two books are also a whole lot of fun.

I hope that the author will return to this series. I’m going to miss these Highland Dragons.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-7-15

Sunday Post

I had a couple of really terrific books this week.

One of my terrific books here this week was The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, the epic conclusion of her Twelve Kingdoms series. I loved the series so much that I am giving away a copy of the winner’s choice of title in the series, so that I can share the love. If you like epic fantasy and/or fantasy romance, this series is awesome.

shards of hope by nalini singhAnd over at The Book Pushers I was part of the gang for one of our epic group reviews, this time for Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh. Shards was also absolutely awesome, and everything I’ve come to expect from Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. And now we wait for next year’s installment.

Speaking of awesome, my first book this coming week is Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman. It is a more than worthy successor to last year’s fantastic Spider Woman’s Daughter, and to her father’s terrific Navajo Mysteries series.

Current Giveaways:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller
Winner’s choice of title in The Twelve Kingdoms series by Jeffe Kennedy
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland is Anita Y.

talon of the hawk by jeffe kennedyBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway
A+ Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy
Guest Post by Author Jeffe Kennedy about Warrior Women + Giveaway
B Review: Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
B Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + Giveaway
A Review: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato
Stacking the Shelves (138)

sinners gin by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman (review)
Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane (blog tour review)
Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate (blog tour review)
Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper (blog tour review)
Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford (review)

Stacking the Shelves (138)

Stacking the Shelves

I already own a print copy of Snake Agent, but when I saw the sale dealie from Open Road, I couldn’t resist getting a cheap copy in ebook. I love the Inspector Chen series, which is an Asian-based urban fantasy set in celestial realms that are culturally diverse. It’s an awesome and strange place where “demon” is a cultural marker and not necessarily prejudicial. Of course, sometimes demons act demonically, and other times, they are just “people”.

open road logoIf you like seriously weird in your urban fantasy, the series is definitely worth checking out. And if you have an interest in seeing works of all genres from the last 50 years or so become available again, and in ebook, take a look at Open Road’s catalog. They publish ebooks from authors who have gotten their rights back, and do a terrific job with everything.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see ARCs at NetGalley and Edelweiss for books that won’t be published until January and February of 2016. I know time flies, but this is wild. It’s just barely summer, and the winter books are going up.

For Review:
The Crescent Spy by Michael Wallace
The Determined Heart by Antoinette May
Ink and Shadows (Ink and Shadows #1) by Rhys Ford
Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan #5) by Carla Neggers
The Perfect Bargain by Julia London writing as Jessa McAdams
Siren’s Call (Rainshadow #4, Harmony #12) by Jayne Castle
Too Hard to Handle (Black Knights Inc. #8) by Julie Ann Walker
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point #9) by Robyn Carr

Purchased from Amazon:
Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen #1) by Liz Williams


Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

pirates alley by suzanne johnsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: April 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that’s before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest “death,” returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ’s assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won’t be that easy.

My Review:

Pirate’s Alley, like all of the titles in Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series, is a street in New Orleans. In this particular case, Pirate’s Alley is a two-block-long pedestrian walkway between Royal Street and Jackson Square, at least according to Google maps and Google street view.

As a title, it also represents some of the events in the story. From Sentinel Drusilla Jaco’s perspective, it looks a lot like her own particular pirate, the historically undead Jean Lafitte, is building either a coalition or perhaps an army of preternaturals in the same way he build his pirate army in his real life. He takes on the dispossessed and the disaffected, and gives them a home and something to believe in.

It worked in the early 19th century, and it looks like it works just as well in the early 21st century.

In New Orleans, the boundary between what we call the “real” world and the Beyond was always thin. But Katrina reduced that thin (and always a bit permeable) line to absolutely nothing. And the powers-that-be, in this case the Wizard’s Council, have decided to make a virtue out of necessity and remove both the physical barrier and the rules and regulations that have kept the preternaturals out of the city, or hidden, for centuries.

New Orleans has become again what it has always been, an living experiment in extreme multiculturalism. Only in this case, it’s the wizards and the shapeshifters and the two-natured and the vampires and the elves and the fae and New Orleans own special part of this mixture – the historical undead.

Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonAfter the events in the first three books, Royal Street (reviewed here), River Road (here) and Elysian Fields (here), the preternatural community is gearing up, or winding down, to one big and probably deadly showdown.

The events in Pirate’s Alley all center around that upcoming conflict, with Sentinel DJ Jaco, as usual, caught squarely in the middle.

Pirate’s Alley is much more about political maneuvering than any deeds of derring-do, not that there aren’t some of those. Most of the action takes place at the several attempts to hold an Interspecies Council Meeting, and all the various and sundry ways that meeting keeps getting interrupted, hijacked and or just plain destroyed. Unfortunately along with the building it’s being held in.

It seems as though every single faction has an internal conflict, one that is being fought both at the Council table and in bloody assassinations back at home. And DJ is firmly stuck in the middle of every single one of those conflicts, whether she wants to be or not.

DJ is a member of the Wizards Council, and as Sentinel, she is supposed to be working for them. Which is ok until they ask her to do something that she finds not just questionable, but downright morally repugnant. So she not only refuses to obey, but finds a way to outmaneuver her boss.

Her boyfriend Alex Warin can’t make up his mind or heart whether to help DJ or obey the Council. They are his boss too, and he’s a good little soldier who generally obeys orders.

DJ’s elven bondmate is trying to get DJ to live up to the bond he forced her into, and to take control of his own faction, attempting to use DJ as leverage, bait or muscle as it suits him. It does not suit her.

The only person who seems to understand DJ and want to help her do what she thinks is right is Jean Lafitte, the leader of the historical undead and DJ’s enemy turned friend. It’s not that Jean is altruistic, because he never is, but that he sees and likes DJ exactly as she is, and pretty much vice versa. DJ isn’t totally sure how she feels about Lafitte, but she knows he has her back.

Which is a good thing, because when the dust settles Lafitte’s Barataria estate in undead Old Orleans may be the only safe place for DJ to retreat to. With the fires of all her burnt bridges blazing behind her.

Escape Rating A-: As much as I loved this one, I will say that the politics are starting to get extremely convoluted. I hope that book 5 comes with a guide or cheat sheet or dramatis personae, complete with affiliations. Or a summary in the prologue.

DJ is the center of the story. It’s not just that she is telling it in the first person, but also that all the action revolves around her. She has ties to every group, some friendly, some not at all, but she connects in some way to every faction. Except that fae, and it looks like that connection is forming at the end of the story. Also the fae are Jean Lafitte’s business partners (nearly everyone is) and DJ is certainly connected to Lafitte. The question that lies between them concerns the nature of that connection.

In the story, every faction is gearing for war. They are also, for the most part, individually self-destructing as the status quo falls to pieces. A significant chunk of the conflict causes collateral damage among the human population that is supposed to remain ignorant of their collective existence.

With the Winter Prince of the Fae bringing an unnatural Arctic winter to New Orleans, that can’t possibly last.

A significant chunk of the stated conflict, as opposed to the underground one, revolves around DJ’s best friend Eugenie, who also represents that human collateral damage. Because all the factions have an agenda for the baby that Eugenie is carrying as a result of the Elven leader Quince Randolph’s pursuit of DJ by way of her best friend. Eugenie is now caught in the middle, and DJ is right there with her, both trying to get the preternaturals to stop arguing about Eugenie and the baby as though they were mere bargaining chips and not people, and to protect Eugenie from all the preternaturals who plan to imprison Eugenie supposedly for her own safety. Or theirs. DJ wants to do right by her friend, which means doing what a whole lot of other people consider wrong.

Which is where DJ’s love life, or sometimes lack of it, comes in. DJ and Alex Warin are attempting to have some kind of relationship. But for the ultra order conscious Alex, DJ the chaos magnet is often more than he can handle. He always finds himself caught between helping DJ and keeping to the straight and narrow that he prefers. And DJ finds herself making excuses and pretending to be someone other than she is in order to keep the relationship going.

She does not know what she feels for Lafitte. But she trusts him. Not to always do what DJ believes is the right thing, but to always be honest about whatever scheming he is doing. And he always has her back – he’s already died once to prove that to her. But most important of all, Lafitte likes and respects and enjoys her company for who she really is, and not someone she pretends to be.

So in the midst of all the chaos, DJ is stuck in her own personal quandary, with no end in sight for either conflict. It’s a perfect set up for book 5. Which can’t come soon enough for me.

Pirate's Alley Banner 851 x 315

***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: Chaos Broken by Rebekah Turner

chaos broken by rebekah turnerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Chronicles from the Applecross #3
Length: 225 pages
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Date Released: April 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

The final installment of the Chronicles of Applecross trilogy finds Lora left in charge–and quickly losing control.

Lora Blackgoat is in charge. But after losing a lucrative contract, it looks like she’s also running her beloved benefactor’s mercenary company into the ground while he’s away on holidays. Her problems double when she discovers Roman, exiled nephilim warrior and current confusing love interest, is brokering a dangerous peace agreement.

When a new enemy emerges from across the ocean, threatening to tear the city apart, Lora finds herself taking on new and surprising allies, finally acknowledging the prophecy that haunts her and using it to her advantage.

My Review:

At least this time the cover picture of the guy looking over his shoulder actually makes a bit of sense. Not that every man, woman and otherkin doesn’t need to be looking over their shoulder (and in every other direction) just to stay alive in this story.

But the picture probably represents Roman, the exiled nephilim who is central to entirely too many people’s plots and plans, and many of those plans are not ones he would approve of or want to take part in.

In spite of Roman’s importance to the outcome of this particular story, it is still Lora Blackgoat’s show, and we still see events from her perspective. Unfortunately for her, one of those events is the financial catastrophe that the Blackgoat Runner and Mercenary Company has become under her watch.

Her adoptive parents, Gideon Blackgoat and Orella Warbreeder, left Lora in charge while they take a much-needed vacation. Unfortunately for everyone, Lora is no good at being in charge. She’s not terribly good with people, and she mostly does an excellent job of pissing possible clients off. The town of Harkin is going through an economic downturn, and paying clients are far and far between.

She doesn’t want to call her parents back to bail her out, but she knows they are expecting to return to a going concern, and not a bankrupt business.

Because Lora is always the center of chaos, things just go from bad to worse.

The only two jobs Lora can turn up are weirder than normal. She is contracted to find the cat belonging to the school headmistress (and her former teacher). Lora just thinks that job is beneath her. The other one is even worse – telling her life story to a playwright so he can turn it into his masterpiece. Lora hates talking about herself, her very messy origins, or how she feels or thinks about anything. The writer doesn’t like her either, but he needs a big hit every bit as badly as she needs the money.

But finding a cat should be (relatively) simple. Instead, she finds a dead teacher and what seems like a budding psychopath. Oh, and a magic calling circle around the dead body. Getting the local religious hierarchy into the middle of her business is the last thing Lora needs, because they suspect her of dark magic, they exiled one of her boyfriends, and they fired her.

In spite of that, the local chapter isn’t all bad. But the fanatics from the capital are a whole other matter, and they’re coming for a visit.

And that budding psychopath – well, that situation is even worse than Lora can imagine, even though if there is one thing Lora is good at, it’s finding the dark cloud around the silver lining. This time, she just isn’t thinking dark enough.

Escape Rating B: Once this story really gets going, it is impossible to put down. I absolutely adore Lora as a point of view character. It’s not just that she is a chaos magnet, although she certainly is – but that she is so human in the midst of her heroism.

She always needs more coffee and more sleep. Her love life is a confused mess. She misses her parents but knows that she needs to be independent. She dreads taking over Blackgoat Company, but knows that Gideon wants to retire. She can’t be diplomatic to save her soul, but she’s not afraid to step in and help people when they need it. She does what she thinks is right, even when everyone around her tells her that it’s wrong.

I’ll also admit that I loved her reaction when her friend kept handing her the baby. She has the same reaction I do. She isn’t sure what to do with the child, she doesn’t have a biological clock ticking, and she is uncomfortable as hell and scared of doing the wrong thing. Not all women want babies, and Lora certainly doesn’t.

That she is having a serious problem committing to anyone isn’t the issue in this case. She just isn’t pining for motherhood. Period. There may also be a bit of being correctly concerned about whatever genetic craziness she might pass on, but that definitely isn’t all of it.

The big, overarching story here is about freedom – especially freedom from religious fanaticism. Harkin is fairly far from the capital, and it has developed a kind of live and let live attitude toward all the otherkin in the city. The local Witch Hunters Guild is even relaxing some of the rules that their nephilim are forced to live under. That matters not just because Roman is a nephilim, but because the Guild’s treatment of nephilim is slavery.

Nephilim who agitate seem to go berserk, but the ones who have managed to leave the Weald for our Outlands are instantly cured. So is the berserker stage truly inevitable, or are they being poisoned to keep them in line?

The head honcho of the Guild descends upon Harkin in order to nip any possible resistance or rebellion in the bud. He starts witch burnings and otherkin exiles just after he threatens the local government into complete submission.

He decides that Lora is the biggest threat to his reign of terror out there (he’s actually kind of right) and tries to take her out. Everyone in town comes to her rescue, which was awesome.

This is a story with plots within plots, and wheels within wheels. Everything falls into place (or gets dropped, or is killed) in order to bring this series to an absolutely slam-bang conclusion – complete with lots of real slams and bangs.

However, the Chronicles from the Applecross are definitely a case where it is absolutely necessary to have read the entire thing for all the plots and all the players to fit together. In fact, it’s probably best to read the whole thing in a gulp. I read the first two books, Chaos Born and Chaos Bound back in December 2013. It took a good chunk of Chaos Broken for me to remember all the players and find my old scorecard. But it was definitely worth it.

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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.

Review: Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann + Giveaway

bite at first sight by brooklyn annFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal historical romance
Series: Scandals with Bite #3
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: April 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.

Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

My Review:

220px-Love_at_first_biteAs I finished up Bite at First Sight with a smile on my face, I found myself making a mental connection between the phrase, “love at first sight”, the title of the very tongue-in-cheek vampire romance movie, Love at First Bite, and finishing with the title of this third book in Brooklyn Ann’s Scandals with Bite series, Bite at First Sight.

The phrases and titles blend together in a kind of word game where you change or remove one word and get from A to B to C. And it all fits!

The amount of slightly campy humor that was injected into Love at First Bite fits right in with the Scandals with Bite series, even though this latest entry is a bit darker than the earlier pieces of fanged, fluffy fun in the series.

This one needed to be just a bit darker, so it works. I’ve also just realized that the story is a play on the “Beauty and the Beast” trope, and the darker tone works well for that, too.

This series uses the tried-and-true convention of matching an unconventional heroine with an even more unconventional hero, or possibly vice versa.

Cassandra Burton’s unconventionality is tied up into what she does, while for Rafe Villar is it part of what he is. The author definitely makes it work.

Cassandra was ahead of her time. She doesn’t merely want to become a physician, she is actively preparing herself for that role, in spite of a society that laughs at a woman who wants to go to medical school. (It’s the early 19th century, society laughs (and actively forbids) women from stepping out side a set of preconceived and limiting roles).

Like most of the would-be doctors in that era, her only way of studying human anatomy from the inside is to dissect corpses. Therefore, like many doctors of her era, Cassandra is forced into becoming an occasional graverobber.

bite me your grace by brooklyn annAnd that’s where Rafe comes into the story. After the events in Bite Me, Your Grace (reviewed here) and One Bite Per Night (likewise here) Rafe is now the interim Lord Vampire of London. There have been recent scuffles between vampires and hunters in London, and there are all to many vampires who believe that someone is disinterring recent graves in order to find more of their kind.

Rafe finds Cassandra in the midst of her body-snatching quest, only to discover two things – she’s not after his (or any) vampires and she’s one of the few people he can’t mesmerize. She’s immune to his power. But by the time he figures that out, it’s too late – he’s revealed that vampires exist, and that puts her under vampire house arrest until the mysterious Elders tell him what to do with her.

This is a kind of torture for both of them. Cassandra and Rafe have met before – Cassandra was one of Angelica Ashton’s friends long before Angelica became the Duchess of Burnrath (and a vampire herself). Rafe was Ian Ashton’s second-in-command during that rather messy courtship.

Cassandra has always been fascinated with Rafe, not because he’s quintessentially tall, dark and handsome, but because he isn’t. Rafe was horribly burned, and the doctor in Cassandra wants to repair the damage. He’s also quite striking, although handsome wouldn’t be the right word. Cassandra, a widow, has some other ideas of what Rafe could do to, or with, her that she tries not to reveal.

She just plain fascinates him, but he assumes that she couldn’t possibly be interested in someone as scarred and disfigured as he is.

Of course, they are both wrong, but it takes a long house arrest and a lot of shared danger for them to finally figure that out. When they do, it’s almost too late. Rafe’s enemies are using his tolerance for the all-too-human Cassandra as an excuse to stage a coup. And if the conspiracies don’t bring Rafe down, the Elders he has disobeyed just might.

Escape Rating A-: This series just keeps getting better. So much so that I really hope the author continues to explore this world where vampires meet the Regency. It’s a lot of fun.

I said that this book was darker than the first two, which definitely had a higher froth quotient. It’s darker because both protagonists have more pain and darkness is their own histories, and because the conspiracies and potential coup provide an underlying layer of dark deeds and betrayal that color the narrative.

Rafe is terribly scarred. He fought off a vampire hunter who attacked him during his daysleep, and was so intent on killing the crazed bastard that he followed the man outside into the sun to finish him off. The price was a scarred face and more importantly, a withered and dysfunctional left arm. People, including other vampires, see Rafe as crippled. Rafe seems to think that the scars only reflect his internal darkness. He sees pity or revulsion in people’s eyes, and he turns away, first and with rudeness, so that he doesn’t have to face them.

Cassandra wants to be a doctor, but in the society in which she lives, even her intellectual pursuits are frowned upon. She is used to hiding who she really is and what she really wants, or only associating with people who sympathize and understand. That she is a widow loosens some of the social strictures, but not enough. She is under scrutiny at every moment. In Rafe, she sees a personal and professional challenge. She wants to see if his arm can be repaired. She longs to discover if the hot dreams she has about him mean that he might possibly show her some of what she missed in her loveless marriage.

While they separately spend a lot of mental energy trying to stave off their mutual attraction, the reasons why they do so make sense. He neither believes in love, nor that anyone could possibly love his scarred self. Cassandra’s experience of what married life is like for a woman make her shy of shackling herself to anyone. Also she knows what Rafe is and can see that they have no future.

The political in-fighting in Rafe’s new dominion keeps the suspense level high. Cassandra does distract him, and he is new to the job. Also, he’s just plain new at the idea of managing anyone other than himself, and makes a whole lot of “new leader” mistakes. The underlying sense of privilege and prejudice that empower the leaders of the so-called revolution are properly disgusting. Their use of propaganda and whisper campaigning seems all too modern. They are good enough at being bad to be a serious threat to Rafe’s and Cassandra’s lives.

Cassandra finds a sphere in which she can finally be who she really is, providing she lives long enough to enjoy it. But Rafe is the one who really grows and changes during the story. He has to reach beyond his self-imposed isolation to discover that he has friends who will stand by him at any cost, and that he is capable of both inspiring loyalty and feeling it in return.

If the combination of paranormal and historical romance sounds like fun, this book proves that it really, really can be. Even better, this story can stand on its own, although once you’ve read it you’ll want to go diving into the previous books for the background.


Sourcebooks Casablanca is generously giving away 3 Scandals that Bite Book Bundles to lucky commenters on the tour. Just fill out the Rafflecopter to be entered!

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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.