Welcome to the review page! It’s where all my book reviews eventually end up so that they don’t get lost among the blog posts on my ever-changing Chalkboard. Scroll down and discover your next must-read.
An Unwilling Bride: A Medieval Highland Romance is the first book in a series by Avery Maitland. It’s sold only in ebook format and strickly through Amazon. It has a cliffhanger ending. I know some readers hate cliffhanger endings, but if you know there’s one when you begin reading, it’s far less jarring.
This book was a quick read, a single afternoon, and exactly what one would expect in a highland romance. Managing expectations is key when reaching for this type of book. Never does the author attempt to elevate the story to something more than a trade book romance. And sometimes, that is exactly what a reader wants. Entertainment for entertainment’s sake. And that is why these types of romances have always been popular.
This book has just enough of dinnae, lass, aye, and ye in the dialogue to allow a reader to imagine the Scottish brogue without it overpowering the story. If you are an Outlander fan, then An Unwilling Bride will help satisfy your craving for all things Scottish.
The characters are predictable but well-drawn. The writing is solid and the story fast-paced. I wished the book had been longer, more detail given about the time and world. But again, that’s not the sort of book this is.
The only real negative I have to share has to do with Catriona’s character. She’s presented to the reader as being fiery and headstrong, quite the opposite of her older sister, Morag. But at times, Cat’s actions and reactions to events puts me in the mind of Maureen O’Hare in The Quiet Man. She’s constantly over-acting her part. There’s no subtlety to her character at all. After a while, her stubbornness becomes annoying. And because she refuses to accept her situation as Lachlann’s wife through the majority of the book, when the pivot in the story happens, it feels rushed.
That in itself is probably too much criticism for this book, but I can’t help but feel like the author sprinted to end of Cat and Lechlann’s story in order to set up the beginning framework for what will occur in book 2.
Will I jump into the next in this series? Perhaps, but only to follow up with Morag’s character whom I found much more appealing.
So here’s my humble opinion…if you searching for a little Highland romance with tartans, raids, and muscled men brandishing swords then An Unwilling Bride is a nice way to spend a cold winter’s day.
The Water Princess Claiming of Earth is the first book in the Elemental Chronicles by Gina Manis and it was my first ever reverse harem book. Oh My!
So where to begin…
Firstly, Gina Manis weaves an engaging story. There are strong folklore and fantasy components to her world-building; beautiful princess cursed to appear as a hag to others, ogres, magic, and so much more. In many ways, this book is an adventure first and a romance second. It’s also a story told in first-person. I should pause here and say that I’m not a huge fan of the first-person perspective. I find that choosing that method of storytelling sometimes results in a choppy and abrupt feel to the sentences. But, that is a purely subjective reaction on my part and Manis’s prose and ability as a writer manages to rise above my personal objections.
Because this is a no-spoiler review, let me say that Celine’s character was likable, capable, and more than just a little naive in her expectations of bonding with her three male rescuers. Managing one man’s ego is difficult enough, but three? Tate turns out to be an old love and is an earth element. Lindon is charming and seductive, a wind element. Brier is the seasoned warrior whose water element is broken. Then there’s Brown. Fairly soon I realized that Brown wasn’t what he appeared and by the end of the book I was rewarded in my suspicions. After all, in the world of magic there are four elements not just three.
I easily read this book in a day. By the end I was ready to download the second in the series, The Stolen Princess Taken by Fire. However, according to Amazon it is still on pre-order until January 21st so I guess I’m stuck having to wait to find out what happens to Celine next.
If you like fantasy romance, you will enjoy The Water Princess.
Song of Smoke: A Dragon Shifter Romance
Song of Smoke: A Dragon Shifter Romance is book 1 in Jillian James’s King’s Series. It was independently published in August of 2018 both in paperback and Kindle formats and is a quick read for all you romance lovers out there. Honestly, I devoured this book. The characters were compelling, the writing was good, and I love dragon-shifter books. As for world-building, Jillian James does an excellent job of creating a universe that can sustain many more books.
This book’s beginning was dark and a little disturbing. Seda is living in an extremely abusive patriarchal society where women are property. Humans live most of their lives underground because of the war between humans and dragons but women find themselves thrown into the dungeon for the smallest offenses. Despite her circumstances, Seda comes across as a spunky, strong-willed heroine that I could immediately embrace.
Dederic is the insanely handsome and dangerous hero every dragon-shifter book should provide, and the chemistry between the two main characters was tangible in this slow-burn romance. There was one secondary character, Odin, that caught and held my attention. I hope James will return to him in a later book to give him a mate of his own.
There were the occasional spelling and typo errors but I’m beginning to accept this new reality in all published books whether self-published or traditionally published. Either way, the mistakes weren’t enough to slow down my reading or dampen my enjoyment.
All and all, I would highly recommend this series to any fantasy romance fan. Book 2 in this series, Whisper of Water, will be available January 19th according to her website and I am looking forward to reading it.
Kulti by Mariana Zapata wouldn’t have been a book I’d automatically pick up. Though it’s a contemporary romance, it’s also set in the world of women’s soccer which is something I don’t follow or have ever played as a kid. It’s a doorstop of a book. My copy was 560 pages long. I like long books, but in the romance genre it’s at least a hundred pages too long. The main character’s love interest is a retired legend of the sport, and he’s German. I’m sure there are plenty of friendly Germans in the world but I rode dressage for years. I’ve had several German coaches. They’re typically difficult as hell and demanding beyond words.
Mariana Zapata is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. This book has 1, 193 reviews on Amazon. The majority of readers like this book. So despite my very personal issues, I dug in and tackled my book club’s choice.
It wasn’t awful. As a matter of fact, mostly…it was quite nice. The writing was good; the internal dialogue funny.
The pacing of the romance was slow to the point of painful, which is a problem that I can’t ignore since this is supposed to be a romance first and a sports novel second. Two hundred pages in I couldn’t help but think, what the hell? Why didn’t her editor bother to rein in this author? I sighed, rolled my eyes, and then reminded myself that this is a bestselling author. That should mean something. Yes? There must be a big payoff coming. Hopefully. And then, I’d start reading again.
Sal, the main soccer-playing character, is in her late twenties. Despite being a leader, focused and driven to excel in her sport, and arguably the best player on her team, her reaction to Reiner Kulti is extraordinarily adolescent. I’m sure this might be endearing to some readers but not to me. I’ve been a tomboy all my life; horses, basketball, golf, cycling. I understand being competitive, giving your all, and hating to lose. Teenage crush or no crush, being a female athlete doesn’t automatically make you socially awkward.
What was far more endearing was her panic attacks around cameras. That sort of character flaw was palatable because it doesn’t play to stereotypes. Who doesn’t get nervous when a microphone is shoved in their face?
The very German Kulti, a David Beckham styled character, is not likable at the beginning of the book. As a matter of fact, he’s not all that likable for most of the book. That’s mainly because Zapata only sticks to Sal’s immature point of view. At the very end of this book, there’s a payoff of sorts. It’s not a huge payoff, but I can now understand why the single point of view was done.
Here are my final thoughts… If you like feel-good books or movies about sports, then Kulti is for you. If you are looking for your next steamy read-in-a-day romance, this book is a hard pass.
Broken Promises by Quell T. Fox is a paranormal romance and the first in a trilogy. It is written in first person, which is something that I don’t usually enjoy but after reading the book I realized that this story couldn’t have been told any other way. There are flashback/memory vignettes that are more impactful with the first-person point of view. The writing flows easily and once I’d started the book, I didn’t want to put it down until I’d finished it. It took me a day to read. With that said, I did stumble across several mistakes that could have been caught with another pass by a proofreader or by having Microsoft Word read the book aloud, but the mistakes weren’t jarring or frequent enough to set the book aside.
Broken Promises deals with love and time, favorite themes of mine. Asha’s character is introduced as a serial leaver. She leaves relationships and people as easily as she abandons places. She has always felt like she’s searching for something—but she doesn’t know what, where, or who that may be. This is a classic the heroine doesn’t know who or what she is book. Andrew is Asha’s drool-worthy boyfriend at the beginning of the book. She knows she’ll eventually leave despite moving to Rhode Island with him, the hot sex, and his sweet nature. She just isn’t normal and she knows it.
After arriving at Andrew’s family home, unusual things immediately start to occur. Eventually, the reader is clued in that much of the phenomenon is Jacob trying to find her. This book would have fallen into the love triangle troupe except that both Asha and the reader are already aware that she’s going to leave Andrew regardless of the unusual future Jacob is offering.
Be prepared to dwell over Quell’s explanation of what immortalites are and how they come to be. It can get a bit confusing but if you absorb that bit of information then you’ll probably want to read the rest of the series once book two and three are released. Also keep in mind that this a trilogy. Being a romance, the reader is going to get a happy-ish ending, choices will be made but Asha’s story-arc will not be wrapped-up in a tight bow and that might leave some readers unsatisfied.
To learn more about Quell T. Fox and her other books, check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/632201927243401/
Elisha Bugg’s Reluctant Guardian (The Otherworld Guardians) is the first book in what will be an interesting paranormal romance series. For those readers who love to find themselves immersed in a world of shifters, demons, witches, and vampires this book’s cover and blurb promises everything you would ever want. Thane Marrok, a wolf shifter, is deliciously dark and brooding. The heroine, Anya Shaw, doesn’t understand her past or why she’s drawn to Thane. And the universe the author builds for the reader is a world in which Guardians like Thane must protect themselves and others like them from a society of human hunters.
I eagerly jumped into this book and was hooked by the end of the first chapter. The dialogue between characters is well written and the description of each character was intriguing enough to keep me reading. However, as an indie author myself, I began to notice issues that had nothing to do with the quality of the story—the formatting of the ebook was one issue. Perhaps this isn’t a problem with the paperback, so I kept reading. (And it’s an easy fix if the author uses the kindle formatter provided by Amazon’s publishing company.)
Because this is a no-spoiler review, I can tell you that the author kept the pacing of the book brisk, giving the reader just enough world-building information to set each scene. She also treated the introduction of new characters in the same manner. As a reader, I appreciated that. But because Elisha Bugg is clearly not an American author, she thinks nothing of using British slang in her writing. And I’m usually okay with that! The only time the slang jarred me from the story was when she used the word floor for ground—when the characters were clearly outside.
So, with the formatting issues and slang aside, Reluctant Guardian was a fair introductory book. It can be easily read in a weekend. The slowly developing romance between Anya and Thane was maddening enough to make me want to finish the book. And the plot and character’s histories were tight, so by the end of the book, everyone got a happy ending, reader included.
This review was posted on Amazon and Goodreads.com. If you would like to learn more about Elisha Bugg, check out her website.
Elementally Yours by E.S. Smith is an indie paranormal romance that was a treat to read. I came across this book in an author thread on Facebook and so it was the first time this British author had come to my attention. As a lover of paranormal romance, I usually end up reading about werewolves or vampires. Luckily, Elementally Yours offered a refreshing change. Instead of witches and magick, the supernatural beings in this book are elementals, people who have an infinity for one of the four elements—fire, air, water, or earth.
The plot of the book was straightforward, a young woman, Vienna, who doesn’t know she’s an elemental is wanted by two different men. Of course, the men are extraordinarily sexy and tall. Hunter is the off-limits crush she’s always secretly nurtured, and Jackson is the easy-going hottie she’s been warned to avoid. “Oh, be still my fluttering heart. What a fun ride this was!”
Now as a reader, if the above was all that was going on in this book then I would have grown bored and walked away halfway through the telling, but Smith weaves an intricate tale of family deceptions and allegiances that kept me turning pages until Vienna finally chooses which man she truly loves. Smith’s writing is an excellent example of just how good so many indie published books can be. I’d happily recommend downloading a copy of Elementally Yours to your kindle. The book can be read in a weekend, or a day if you are a fast reader. Elementally Yours was published in 2017 and I hope Smith will consider making this a series.
For more information about E.S. Smith you can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Elementally Yours is only sold in digital format. This review was published on Amazon and on Goodreads.com.
Dark Illusion is the 33rd book in Christine Feehan’s Dark Carpathian Novel series. I know this because I’ve read all of them. It’s safe to say I’ve been a fan of this heavyweight of paranormal romance for a very long time. But for the last few books, I’ve been struggling with stories that have lost their freshness, and prose that feel as if Feehan phoned it in.
Publishers Weekly said about Dark Illusion, “fans will devour this masterfully wrought tale…” My response is, “Oh Nay Nay!” Talk about phoning in a book review!
The most irritating problem with this book and many of her others is the repetition of endless information dumps. Most romance readers devour a book in one sitting. I don’t need an author to recap a character’s motivation or history in every single chapter. It’s annoying.
The basic plot of Dark Illusion is that Julija Brennan, a mage, is trying to track down an evil book before her family of evil mages gets their hands on it or her. Enter, Isai Florea – the Carpathian hunter who is so ancient that he locked himself away in a remote monastery to keep from becoming a vampire while he waited on his lifemate to make herself known to him. So what does Isai do when he finally finds her? He spanks her for hiding from him. Are you kidding me! The rest of the book is just as problematic. And I wanted to like this book!
In my opinion, the entire series needs to come to some satisfying end, and soon. At least let the faithful fans move on to a new series knowing that Prince Mikhail and the Carpathian race have overcome all the forces trying to destroy them. I would rather the books live on in my imagination than read another Dark Carpathian novel.
I did not post this review on Amazon. Christine Feehan has (as of this moment) 300 reviews for this particular book and she doesn’t need my assessment of her work. She has enjoyed a long career and has been an influencing force in the paranormal romance genre for many years. For that accomplishment alone, I respect her.
I was so happy to discover Georgiana Field’s Crimson Series! I jumped into this series with the fourth book, Crimson Dawn, but was able to quickly sort through the large cast of characters and grasp the lay of the land because of the author’s storytelling skill. The plot is fast-paced, the dialogue sharp and sassy, and the action sequences snappy. I love the fact that Royce must work to woo Jennifer and that her character is strong enough to hold him accountable. I enjoyed rooting for them as they journeyed to the happy ever after this book delivers. I highly recommend Crimson Dawn and am now planning on reading the previous three books in the series.
Which I did…
The latest installment in Georgiana Field’s Crimson Series, Crimson Haze, is truly wonderful. As with her other books the dialogue between her characters is snarky and highly entertaining. The pace of this book is a little slower than Crimson Dawn, but I found it to be completely appropriate for a story about two characters who are healing from past traumas. Crimson Haze picks up not long after book four, and once you start reading it’s hard to put down. At the beginning of this book, Quaid is dealing with the loss of his leg and the loss of his wolf while Simone is learning how to cope with her past years of abuse and the modern world. Field’s does a great job of interjecting humor in what otherwise would be a heartbreaking story of recovery by having Simone struggle with mastering modern slang and lingo that we all take for granted. Overall, this is a very sweet romance story of hope and courage. You will not regret picking up a copy of this book. As a matter of fact, the entire series has found a permanent home on my bookshelf.
As much as I admire Field’s pacing and ability to write fun dialogue, I did discover that this talented writer has a weakness. And that is…sometimes the story was moving along so quickly that on occasion I would miss an important moment and later experience a sense of confusion during an action sequence. This is not an unusual problem for writers. Even the heavy hitters in the world of paranormal fiction struggle with choreographing fight scenes and keeping up with the movements of every character. I saw this small flaw in Crimson Dawn more than I did in Crimson Haze. There’s no easy fix other than as writers we must continually work on our craft and rely on good editors to point out where we need to improve.
Even with that small negative, I think that this series and author are well worth your time.
You can find all of Georgiana Field’s books on Amazon. There are links to the books at the top of the page. Learn more about the author at her website.
Crystal Jackson’s novel, Left on Main, is a contemporary romance set in a small Southern town. If you are looking for a sex-filled romp, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like a character-driven story that develops slowly and has honest emotional depth, then this is a novel you need to explore.
Left on Main is a book in which the town itself plays a role. For a Southern reader who is used to a storyteller taking his/her time, I appreciate the effort that the author took to describe the town and the supporting cast. There is something very familiar in a mother’s matchmaking, a sister’s overprotectiveness, and a best friend who just doesn’t always get it. And as in any small town, there’s the, “your dating who?” office gossip and that awkward moment when you realize everyone knows your business.
The author would be the first to tell you that this book deals with the emotional aftermath of divorce. The inability to trust someone again after a bad divorce is the primary obstacle that Libby faces. Crystal Jackson points out the theme of trust in her interview with Literary Titan. (Follow the link to read it.) Seth, the good-looking antique store owner, also has trust issues resulting from a past relationship. So how do two individuals with trust issues and this much baggage learn to love again? This is where the supporting characters step in to lend a helping hand.
My only negative takeaway, which I lay at the feet of Sands Press, is this…there are moments where the book’s pacing lags and the prose could have been tightened. An editor should have addressed those issues, but on the whole, this book is a fine debut novel and I am looking forward to the next from the Heart of Madison Series.
I would highly recommend Left on Main as your next book club choice, or for that cozy fall read. The book can be easily read in a single weekend and give you plenty to mull over while you’re having that glass of wine with your girlfriends.