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

TopTens

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

 

Review: A Heart of Ice (Love is… Anthology) – Hailey Edwards

Love Is

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Expected Release Date: August 2, 2014
Author’s Website: http://haileyedwards.net/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 0.5 Araneae Nation
Series Best Read In Order: Works Well As A Standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Reine knows marriage isn’t about love. It’s about making the best bargain you can with what you have and then living with the consequences. Wedding vows are alliances given voice, and I do is on the tip of her tongue.

Ennis is a man on a mission to woo the future Araneidae maven, whether she wants him or not. Her clan is wealthy, prosperous and in dire need of the one thing his people have to offer—protection. But one look at her and all thought of his obligations vanish. He’ll court Reine, but he wants the feisty heiress all to himself.

Forced to entertain offers from her bevy of suitors, Reine is torn between duty to her people and loyalty to herself. Ennis is the man she wants, but is he the future paladin her fragile clan needs? She can choose to lead with her head or, for once, she can follow her heart.

This story is part of the Love Is… Charity Anthology. All profits go straight to the Reach Out and Read Program

As many of my readers know, I’m a huge fan of the Araneae Nation series, despite my own personal inherent dislike of spiders (shhh! Nobody tell Ms. Edwards!).  In this installment, we get not only Reine and Ennis’ story, but fans of the series also get a glimpse of a familiar face – Isolde – as a young and mischievous girl.

Reine is the daughter of the current maven of her clan, and her mother thinks it’s high time that she got married.  Knowing her stubbornness, Reine’s mother has invited potential husbands for her daughter from all of the clans with which her clan would benefit from forming an alliance with, much to Reine’s dismay.

One thing that I loved the most was that Reine is no wilting flower. She may be young and impulsive, but she stands up for herself when it’s important and she doesn’t hesitate in putting Ennis in his place when he needs it.

Ennis, too, gives as good as he gets, and is the perfect balance for Reine, even though she might not quite see it that way at first.

Of course, the trademark chemistry fans have come to expect from Ms. Edwards doesn’t hurt one bit, either. ;)

Overall, this tasty little tidbit was exactly what I was looking for. As a fan of the series, I loved getting a peek into the history of the Araneidae clan, and I think newcomers to the series will find this a perfect introduction.

4halfA very solid 4.5/5 Stars

Review: The Hunt – C.J. Ellisson

Copy of The Hunt NEW

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Expected Release Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Red Hot Publishing
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.cjellisson.com
My Source for This Book: Gift from the publisher
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 2, VV Inn Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Rape/Dubious Consent, Shifting POVs

Official Blurb:

Vivian thinks she can control every aspect of a deadly game with her usual manipulations… but what if she can’t? 

Seven vampires and seven werewolves pay to hunt a supernatural criminal across the cold, vast grounds of an Alaskan resort. The one to catch her, and live through the encounter, will increase their power by feasting on hers. 

The tiny vampire they track is more than she appears, however. To escape a fate of twelve years in silver chains, she’ll do anything to survive the weeklong excursion. This time, the darkness holds more than just the stinging bite of the Arctic–it holds death. 

Journey along, in this next installment of the V V Inn series, for a wild ride as the tale is told through the eyes of all the new seethe members.

Warning: This series contains explicit sex and is intended for readers over 18.

Though this book can be read as a standalone, I admit that at first it was a little hard to keep up with the sheer number of characters, especially since the first person POV kept shifting between the different characters throughout the story.  I think I would have fared slightly better had I read the first installment in the series, but even so, by about halfway through, it was fairly easy to keep up.

My biggest problem actually stemmed from the somewhat cavalier attitude to something that happened to one of the male characters fairly early in the story. Had it happened to a female, I felt that everyone would have been outraged, and yet at the time that it happened, it seemed that everyone was quite prepared to just brush it aside as though it were nothing. This bothered me so much that at the time, I almost stopped reading. I’m glad that I didn’t, however, as it was addressed later on, and much to my satisfaction.

To be honest, the one thing that held me back a bit was the overwhelming amount of sex in the book. I think I went into this story expecting a paranormal romance, but instead, this book firmly falls into the genre of a more lighthearted erotica.  Everyone seems to be having a lot of sex with everyone else, and romance doesn’t always seem to be a prerequisite, nor does a Happily Ever After seem to be a requirement, which was a bit of a disappointment to this romance addict.

That said, there’s no denying that the love scenes are hot, and while the shifting POV’s were distracting a first, the final quarter of the book was actually the best for me. That was where the main storyline with the rogue vampire got settled, as well as a very satisfying resolution to a bit of the storyline that had plagued me from very early on.

Overall, this was a fun, sexy paranormal romp, perfect for when you’re in the mood for quite a bit of no-strings-attached sex thrown in with a bit of intrigue and action along side.

4/5 Stars.

04stars

About the Author

C.J. Ellisson is the USA Today Bestselling author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Vanilla on Top, the bestselling V V Inn series, and several erotica shorts. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two children, three dogs, and a fluffy black cat who makes her sneeze.

Unlike most full-time authors, she’s also battling severe chronic illness. C.J. works daily to put her Lupus into remission and continues to fight numerous bacterial infections while her immune system slowly attacks her body. She turned to writing when she could no longer work outside the home and claims the escape of penning contemporary fantasy, erotica, and erotic romance has helped save her sanity.

To learn more about C.J. and her other books, please stop by the author’s website (http://www.cjellisson.com) or visit her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/c.j.ellissonfanpage.

Review: Stranger on the Shore – Carina Press – Josh Lanyon

Stranger on the Shore

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Expected Release Date: May 5, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.joshlanyon.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Favorite Tropes: Enemies to Lovers

Official Blurb:

Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped. Though the ransom was paid, the boy was never seen again and is presumed dead. Pierce Mather, the family lawyer, now administers and controls the Arlington billions. He’s none too happy, and more than a little suspicious, when investigative journalist Griffin Hadley shows up to write about the decades-old mystery. Griff shrugs off the coldly handsome Pierce’s objections, but it might not be so easy to shrug off the objections of someone willing to do anything to keep the past buried.

What Worked For Me:

  • Though I did figure out  the main “twist” very early on, I did enjoy the runaround Mr. Lanyon gave us on that point.
  • Even though the chemistry wasn’t quite up to par for what I’m used to from this author, I did enjoy the back and forth between Griff and Pierce, and the angst that resulted from several of the scenes.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The book got off to a much slower start than I’m used to for this author’s books. Though the reasoning behind this became apparent later on,
  • I solved the mystery — well, both mysteries, actually — rather early on, which was rather disappointing. One of the things that I usually enjoy so much about Josh Lanyon books is the mysteries, but this one fell flat.
  • Unfortunately, the romance, too, fell rather flat to me. There’s usually such lovely chemistry between the protagonists in Josh Lanyon novels, and the one things I can look forward to is the angst between them being complemented by this chemistry.  This just wasn’t the case in this book.  Don’t get me wrong, we still get the angst, and there’s still the asshat of a love interest for our main character, but I never really felt the chemistry between them.

Honestly, this wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Josh Lanyon.  I’ve been a big fan of his for many years, and was so excited when I saw this book available that I jumped at the chance to read and review it. Unfortunately though, it fell a bit flat for me, both in the romance aspect and in the mystery.

It still had the trademark angst and a lovely amount of tension between our heroes, and as always, he does write an enemies to lovers story oh so well.

For me, though, while I love the romance aspect of the story, I crave a strong mystery to go with it, and in this particular case, I simply wasn’t feeling it.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible way to pass the day, but I think I’ve come to set the bar a bit high when it comes to Josh Lanyon, and unfortunately this one simply didn’t feel like it hit the standard he’s set in the past.

3half3.5/5 Stars