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Please note that the stories reviewed in this blog are Romances, and as such, often contain explicit sexuality.

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Book Spotlight & Giveaway – Full Circle by Chudney Thomas

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He’s waited years for her…

In a pack of werewolves, a half human isn’t exactly at the top of the food chain. Half-human, half-werewolf, Ria Marlett knows her place in the pack. And she knows exactly how the pack’s alpha, Drake Neilson, views her; as a convenient lay. So far she’s managed to avoid his advances, but she knows his patience is growing thin.

Now he’s ready to claim her.

Ria does her best to avoid Drake, but the sexy woman can’t hide who she is. Tired of waiting, now he’ll do whatever it takes to win Ria, even woo her while dealing with rabid lone wolf attacks. With the pack in danger Ria is forced to face what Drake has been telling her all along, she just might be the strongest of the pack.

Length: 23,000 words

About the Author

I was born in Brooklyn New York, raised on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. According to my father, I learned to read at three and wouldn’t allow him to skip a page of a story. I grew up raiding my mother’s stash of books and my Aunt Patsy’s extensive library. There, I developed my love of literature, and specifically romance. Books transported me to different worlds, and encouraged me to learn about different cultures, continents, expanding my horizons. I currently live in Central Florida with my family and our interesting pet pooch Maya.  You can find me on the net at http://chudneythomas.com/ and on Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram 

Giveaway time! Ms. Thomas is giving one lucky reader a $10 Starbucks gift card! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below!
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Quickie Review: The Boy With The Painful Tattoo – Josh Lanyon

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Expected Release Date: October 5, 2014
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.joshlanyon.com/
My Source for This Book: Personal Purchase (Amazon.com)
Part of a Series: Yes, book 3, Holmes & Moriarity Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: The Dreaded “P” Word
Favorite Tropes: Subtle Comedy, Long Term Relationship, Cameo Appearances From Another Series (!)

Official Blurb:

It’s moving day Chez Holmes. Somehow, against Kit’s better instincts, he and J.X. are setting up house together. But while J.X. is off at a mystery fiction convention, Kit unpacks a crate that should contain old china. It doesn’t…

This, oh this, is what I’ve missed so much about Josh Lanyon.  The hilarity of some of the most improbable circumstances, the dry wit, the subtle mysteries, all intertwined with the complicated angst and sweetness that comes part and parcel with true love…

Kit and J.X have finally (freaking finally) moved in together, but of course things are never simple between these two. As J.X. goes off to a mystery fiction convention, Kit stays home to get things settled, only to have things end up decidedly unsettled, because as you know, where these two go, trouble is sure to follow…

I absolutely refuse to spoil any plot points, because this book had me glued to the pages from start to finish, but suffice it to say that there are many twists and turns in both the mystery and in the romance, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a perfect blend of humor, romance, angst, mystery, action, and steam.

5stars

resounding 5/5 Stars, and highly recommended to any fan of contemporary M/M Mystery Romance.

Review: In Despair – Megan Derr

In Despair

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Expected Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://maderr.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Princes of the Blood Series
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Mentions of sex outside of a monogamous/polyamorous relationship (not infidelity), “underage” sex
Favorite Tropes: Enemies to lovers

Official Blurb:

Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen has been groomed since childhood to become a Prince of the Blood and Commander of the Legion. He will be the youngest person to ever take the Blooding—if he can behave long enough to prove he can be trusted with the responsibility. But behaving is difficult when he is constantly forced to endure Korin: heir to the Reach of the House and the Temple of the Sacred Three, and the snotty brat Telmé is expected to someday marry.

Then the unthinkable happens, leaving Castle Guldbrandsen—and the Legion—in pieces. Overwhelmed by fear and grief, Telmé convinces Korin to help him attempt the impossible. But rather than relief, Telmé’s triumph is met with anger and rejection …

This is my first experience with a Megan Derr book, but if it’s indicative of her work, it certainly won’t be my last.

This was the third installment of the Princes of the Blood series, and yet it was very easy for me to follow along, probably because most of the story was told in the form of flashback to the youths of our heroes, Telmé and Korin. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers trope, which helped to both build the tension between our heroes and to highlight the chemistry that already existed between them.  Add to that the extra strikes against them such as the differences in their magic, and the apparent disdain that they received from their elders, and it seemed as though their relationship was doomed from the start. The emotional turmoil caused by the discord between Telmé and Korin, as well as some of the other events in the book added just the right amount of angst to the story without being overwrought.

Another aspect that drew me to this story was the fact that even though the romance remained a steady factor, it never overshadowed the action.  The world-building was fantastic, with a fascinating premise of the Legion itself, the Blooding, the Temple, and the mystery behind the murders of the Legion.  Throw in plenty of movie-worthy fantasy action, and I truly couldn’t put this one down.

Only thing I wasn’t keen on was the whole bit where it seems priests have sex with other people as part of their priestly duties, but that wasn’t dwelled upon, and was probably explained in earlier books.  This is one of my own personal hangups — I prefer all my sex in romance novels to occur within devoted monogamous or polyamorous relationships, and even though it seemed that all involved parties were perfectly happy with the arrangement, it wasn’t something that I was particularly comfortable with. 

Some readers may be a bit bothered by the fact the protagonists are what modern readers would consider to be “underage” for most of the book, but in their world, it obviously wasn’t an issue, so it wasn’t an issue for me either.  

Overall, I absolutely devoured this book.  Highly recommended for fans of action-packed fantasy with a delicious m/m romantic subplot.

4halfA very solid 4.5/5

Top Tens List & Giveaway: Top Ten Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Authors

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted Random Mutterings, so I thought I would shake things up with a Top Tens list of my favorite Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy authors.  I’m always looking for new authors, so be sure to drop me a line in the comments and let me know if your favorite made the list!

My Top Ten Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Authors

These are authors whose books have consistently captured my imagination, transported me into amazing new worlds, and given me characters that truly feel like family members as I’m reading.  I had a hard time putting these in an actual order, and finally settled on the *Squee* Factor when I find out they have a new book available.

10. Anne Bishop – http://www.annebishop.com/ – I admit feel almost strange including Anne Bishop on my list of Top Ten Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Authors, considering I’ve actually only read two of her books, but the simple fact is that the two that I read absolutely blew me away.  I’m a rabid fan of her Courtyard of the Others series, which as of date is only two books strong, with a third book due out in March of next year, and since the *squee* factor is definitely there for that series, it ended up nudging out a few other authors for a spot on this list.

9. Sherrilyn Kenyon – http://sherrilynkenyon.com/-  I’ve been reading Ms. Kenyon’s books from the very first moment I got back into reading as an adult, and she rarely disappoints.  I’m a big fan of her Dark/Dream/Night Hunter series as well as her somewhat lesser-known League series.  Though there’s a growing trend in her books to abuse her protagonists beyond what logic can accept as being survivable, she has some of the best tortured heroes of any author I’ve read.

8. Kresley Colehttp://kresleycole.com/ – Kresley Cole has a little something for everyone, from steamy erotica all the way down to young adult offerings — but her middle ground is what has me hooked. Her Immortals After Dark series is not to be missed. With steamy romance, unforgettably sexy heroes and feisty heroines, this fifteen-book series is a definite favorite of mine.

7. Delilah S. Dawson – http://delilahpaints.blogspot.com/ – Steampunk fans need look no further — the world that Ms. Dawson has created with her Blud series has everything we love about Steampunk — dirigibles, cogs, steam-powered everything — and pairs it with one of my personal favorites, vampires.  Throw in a bit of magic, and oh, yeah, a world that runs parallel to our own, and this is easily one of my favorite series.

6. Moira Rogers - http://moirarogers.com/ – This writing duo knows how to heat up the pages with some sizzling romance, and the worlds that they create never fail to capture my interest.  My favorite is probably the Wild-Western Paranormal Bloodhounds series, but their super-hot Last Call series is not to be missed either.

5. J. R. Ward http://www.jrward.com/ –  No list of PNR authors would be complete without J.R. Ward and her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. With her modern writing style and incredibly sexy heroes, her books will always be favorites of mine. There’s a hell of a lott of angst, and nothing is ever fully resolved by the end of the book, but never fear — this popular series has no end in sight right now, so we’ll all get our Brotherhood fix for years to come. 

4. Ilona Andrews - http://www.ilona-andrews.com/ – Though I’m a big fan of the (now ended — boohiss) Edge series, what really gives this husband and wife team a place on this list is their Kate Daniels series.  With a fun and unique premise (magic and technology unpredictably rise and fall, and when one is risen, the other doesn’t work at all), plus one of THE sexiest heroes of Urban Fantasy, this series has been a favorite of mine ever since the first book.  What even better about this series, though, is the fact that it actually gets better as it continues.  There are currently 7 novels and several novellas to the series, and while most series tend to flatten out right around the 4th or 5th installment, but this one just gets better and better.

3. Nalini Singh – http://nalinisingh.com/- Her Psy/Changeling series is not to be missed — alpha heroes, tons of intrigue, lots of sexytimes. I love how she splits the world into three main races. There are the Psy who have learned to govern their emotions to the point that they are outwardly non-existent yet have mental powers that can include such things as telepathy and teleportation.  Then there are the Changelings who are the physically strongest and most passionate race and who can shift into various animals (including prey animals, which is unusual for romance!), followed by the humans, who are neither physically strong nor psychically talented, yet are often underestimated by their foes.   Then there’s the Guild Hunter series (Urban Fantasy), featuring angels and vampires as you’ve never seen them before.

2. Stacia Kane – http://www.staciakane.net/ - Oh, how I love Stacia Kane’s books — in particular, her Downside Ghosts series, though I did enjoy her Megan Chase series as well.  The Downside Ghosts feature the most unconventional heroine I think I’ve ever read — a Churchwitch who also happens to be a drug addict — and does it in a way that makes even the most unsympathetic character a favorite. Not to mention, Terrible is one of my favorite heroes ever. *fans self*

1. J.C. Daniels  – http://jcdanielsblog.com/{the Urban Fantasy pen name for Shiloh Walker} I. Love. The Colbana Files series. As in, probably to the point of unhealthy obsession. I’ve read all three books at least six times each, and I still haven’t tired of them yet.  Kit is a beautiful mess. Strong and determined and yet perfectly flawed.  The emotional roller coaster that the author takes you on is one of the most dramatic and gut-wrenching journeys I’ve ever read in fiction. Throw the sexy shapeshifter Damon into the mix, along with a very important and eclectic cast of co-stars, and this is a series I will gladly follow wherever it may go for however long it may take.  By the way, at the time of this post, the first book in the Colbana Files, Blade Song, is free in ebook format at various retailers. I highly recommend you pick it up if you haven’t already.

So what about you? Did your top authors make my list? What authors are you rabid about that I neglected? Leave me a comment with your favorite paranormal authors, titles, and/or series, and one lucky reader will win a $10 Amazon.com gift card! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Review: The Duke of Snow and Apples – Entangled Publishing – Elizabeth Vail

Duke of Snow and Apples

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Expected Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Imprint: Select
Author’s Website: http://elizabethvail.net/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Chaste+
Pet Peeves: Some Pacing Issues
Favorite Tropes: Secret Identity

Official Blurb:

Frederick Snow, first footman, is the perfect servant: efficient, hardworking, and completely bereft of emotion. Unbeknownst to his employers, he’s the lost Duke of Snowmont, on the run from a suspicious stepfather and a powerful magic he can only control by burying his passions beneath his frosty demeanor. He’s managed to hide behind his carefully ordered life until an impertinent miss arrives and challenges everything he thought he wanted.

If Charlotte Erlwood wants to land a wealthy, titled husband at her great aunt’s house party, she has to stop losing her temper – especially with inordinately handsome footmen. Perhaps if she recruits Frederick for her matrimonial schemes, she’ll be able to direct her attention toward suitable single noblemen and away from inappropriate dalliances. But Frederick’s frigid control is no match for Charlotte’s irrepressible spirit, and her passionate kiss could summon the darker side of his magic…or wake his heart from its frozen sleep.

What Worked For Me:

  • I adored the fun, seamless blend of historical regency style romance with fantasy elements, such as Fae ancestry, small charms used to curl hair or add entertaining little moving embroidery on a young lady’s gown, or even tiny salamanders used instead of coal to keep the hearth warm in the many fireplaces in a wealthy family’s mansion.
  • I’ve always been a fan of secret identities in romance, and this one was no exception. I enjoyed watching Frederick act as a footman, and more than that, I was relieved that he wasn’t the completely emotionless automaton the blurb rather made him out to be, even in the beginning.  He merely had a much easier time of suppressing his emotions before Charlotte came along and upset the applecart, bad pun intended.
  • Though not a book I would consider steamy by any means, that doesn’t mean there was a lack of yummy tension — indeed the chemistry between Charlotte and Frederick was quite scrumptious.
  • There’s also just enough angst to keep the drama going, without being overwrought.  Though I was a bit annoyed at times when a certain someone would act in a way that was “best for everyone” instead of simply discussing it like an adult, I can’t deny that I enjoyed the bit of heartache that resulted.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • There were a few pacing issues that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. More than once I thought the story was winding down to the conclusion, only to realize that I had quite a ways to go before the ending.
  • A mild point, but I prefer my romances steamy, and this one was decidedly chaste. This will be a plus for many readers, and a drawback for some.

Billed as a gender-swapped retelling of Snow White, this fun historical fantasy debut novel from Elizabeth Vail was entertaining and romantic. I loved the blend of historical and fantasy elements, and I’ve always been a sucker for characters with a secret identity.  I enjoyed Frederick’s belief that his magic was deadly, and that he had to keep a tight control over his emotions in order to protect everyone around him, and more than that, I loved how Charlotte continually pushed his limits without always meaning to.

Though I prefer my romances to be steamy, I did enjoy the chemistry between Charlotte and Frederick, especially the reminder that while he may be a footman, he was still a man, which is something Charlotte had a tendency to forget at times.

There were a few pacing issues that stood out to me, where the story would hit a lull that made me think that it was winding down to a conclusion before revving back up to more action, but even with these issues, I still found it a very enjoyable read, and a great deal at the current price.

04stars
Overall, a very solid 4/5 Stars, and I look forward to more from this author.

Book Spotlight and Giveaway – Red Dirt Duchess – Louise Reynolds

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Red Dirt Duchess

 

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When English society playboy Jonathan Hartley-Huntley is sent to outback Australia after a disastrous affair with his editor, all he wants is to take a few pictures, do a quick interview and get back to his usual life of luxury as soon as possible. Until he meets his host, the irresistible Charlie Hughes, and suddenly the back of beyond is a lot more appealing.

Running the pub is a labour of love for Charlie and she has no desire to ever leave the tiny town of Bindundilly. That is, until Jon discovers an old painting that raises questions about both their lives. Charlie impulsively decides to follow him to London, and as the feelings between them begin to deepen, she starts to wonder if there’s more to life than the pub. But at Jon’s family home, the magnificent Hartley Hall, they become acutely aware of the differences between them, and it soon seems clear they have no future together – especially if Jon’s mother has her way. 

Family and tradition threaten the course of true love in this warm and witty novel from the author of Outback Bride and Her Italian Aristocrat. 

One lucky reader will receive a Kindle copy of Red Dirt Duchess just for “Liking” Louise Reynold’s Facebook page! Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below!

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About the Author

Louise Reynolds is an author of contemporary romantic fiction. Born in Sydney, she spent her childhood frolicking on beaches before moving to Melbourne at age 10. After one look at Melbourne beaches she got a library card and started to read. It was a logical step to take her love of romance novels to the next stage and tell her own stories. After some success in writing competitions she’s thrilled that her warm, heartfelt romances have found an audience.

By day, she works in the commercial lighting industry, lighting anything from bridges to five star hotels. By night, she’s working her way through a United Nations of fictional heroes.

After a lifetime of kissing frogs one finally turned into a prince and she lives with her partner in Melbourne’s inner north. She loves live jazz, cooking complicated meals that totally destroy the kitchen, and dining out. She has embraced Melbourne by wearing far too much black.

You can find her here:
www.louisereynolds.net | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Review: Engraved – Carina Press – Karina Cooper

Engraved

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Expected Release Date: August 11, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.karinacooper.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 5, The St. Croix Chronicles
Series Best Read In Order: Yes, but may work well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Cherry St. Croix returns to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London, where the balance of power threatens all that she loves.

I will not wither without laudanum. Sober and determined, I have chosen another way—alchemy, and the pursuit of wellness it embodies. My name is Cherry St. Croix, and though freedom is finally at my fingertips, I return to the blackened streets intent on righting the wrongs I’d left behind.

All is not well in London low. Caught in a war between gangs, men are torn limb from limb, and I am called on to ascertain how. The immoral Karakash Veil is no doubt involved, and Micajah Hawke, a prisoner in his own Menagerie, cannot soften the danger this time.

Armed with the alchemical arts I have learned, my ever present guardian, and what few friends are left to me, I embark on a campaign to rescue the ringmaster I cannot abandon, save the Brick Street Bakers from annihilation, and finally face that which frightens me the most—my own heart.

Book five of the St. Croix Chronicles

106,000 words

This book, nay, this entire series, has been such a roller coaster thus far, and I for one love it.

I take notes as I read so that when it comes time to write these reviews, I’ll (hopefully) be able to form somewhat coherent sentences. Yet, when I glance over my notes for this installment, I find that it’s mostly filled with expletives, excited exclamation points, quite a bit of angry underlining, and, well, even more colorful expletives.  That, in turn,  pretty much sums up my feelings in reading this book.

I will attempt to distill my wildly flailing emotions over this story into something readable, while still refraining from giving away too much  in the way of actual storyline.

Here we go.

We open the story to find Cherry still dried out from her laudanum addiction thanks to her guardian turned tutor turned friend, Lord Ashmore. Unfortunately for her, this means she’s still not quite at her physical peak, nor does she have the opium to give her the false courage and bravado she’s relied on since she began her reckless career as a Collector.

Hawke is still help prisoner at the Menagerie, but the real question remains as always — is he a prisoner of the Veil because they truly have control over him, or because he chooses to remain under their thumb for reasons that are his own?

Cherry has a lot of amends to make — Communion, Zylphia, the younger Lord Compton, and even her old servants may have been marked by the Veil for her previous antics, and it is yet unknown as to which ones may prove to be allies and which ones may have decided that their own hides are more valuable than whatever previous loyalty they may have felt towards Cherry.

We very quickly find a familiar and terrifying face from Cherry’s past has become a major player in the Menagerie, and the Veil itself has expanded its territory with the help of the Ferrymen. Not only that, but their horrifying experiments on the people under their rule have created a new breed of fighter to do their dirty work.

With Cherry’s fall from grace both from society and from her position as Collector, she finds herself in a sort of a no man’s land, unable to move as freely as she used to, with none of the easy welcome she’s accustomed to either above or below London’s fog.

Hawke’s horrifying behavior the last time we saw him left Cherry hurt and confused, and, stubborn as ever, she’s still continuing to refuse to heed the warnings from coming from practically everyone involved with the situation, nor has she yet taken to heart Ashmore’s lessons on learning to walk before you run in regards to her newfound knowledge of alchemy.

I find that that’s all I can really say without giving away spoilers. Everything else that I had angrily underlined or followed by multiple exclamation points gave away a major plot point.   I will say, however, that this was one hell of a ride, full of action, adventure, and emotional turmoil, and the very last thing in my notebook was yet another very colorful expletive, followed by several exclamation points. Infer from that what you will.

A very solid 5/5 Stars and I cannot WAIT to get my greedy little hands on the next (and I think final?) installment.

5stars