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Review: Riveted – Berkley Trade – Meljean Brook

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Expected Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Trade
Author’s Website: http://meljeanbrook.com/
My Source for This Book: Edelweiss
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Iron Seas Series
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Warm
Romanceaholic’s Pet Peeves: Preachy
Romanceaholic’s Favorite Tropes: Physically Imperfect or Scarred, Starvation

Official Blurb:

A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airshipPhatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home . . . but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard.

Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam…

What Worked For Me:

  • I was very pleased with how well this book worked as a standalone. While I have, of course, read the rest of the series, I admit it’s been a while and a refresher was needed. While a few of my favorite characters were mentioned in passing, the rest of the story was completely self-contained, with all of the important parts of the world-building included.
  • Oh I’m such a sucker for a physically imperfect hero, and David was absolutely delicious. With a prosthetic hand, eye, and both legs, his imperfections were simply a matter of a dashing scar upon his cheek, but instead changed him at a deeper level.
  • On a similar note, I loved David’s insecurity, and relative inexperience as a result.
  • The sadist in me really enjoyed the misunderstandings between Annika and David that resulted in both of them thinking that they weren’t quite good enough for the other.
  • The chemistry between Annika and David was positively crackling, and the love scenes were deliciously hot.
  • I’ve always loved the world that Ms. Brook has created for this series, and this book was no exception. The trolls, the whale, the experiments — they all had just enough impossibility in them to make them bigger than life, without being utterly implausible.
  • I also really enjoy when characters are put through the wringer physically. David and Annika’s scenes towards the end of the novel were easily some of my favorites, and I especially enjoyed the very obvious emotional attachment they held for each other by that point.
  • The secondary romances in the story were just as lovely as the main one between David and Annika. No spoilers, but I was pleased that most of the characters did seem to get a Happily Ever After of their own.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I’m probably going to get crucified for mentioning this, but I was a bit annoyed with how we were continually bashed over the head about lesbianism/homosexuality and how it’s okay. I got that it played a huge part in the storyline, but it honestly seemed like every time we turned around people were discussing the social mores and ethics and whatnot of gay rights.  Regardless of topic, I don’t care for books that feel preachy, and this one seriously toed that line.
  • The villain was a wee bit over-the-top. This is just barely a negative point, but I think he did cross the line once or twice from “truly scary villain” into “mustache-twirling caricature villain”.

With one of the most creative steampunk worlds I’ve ever come across, the Iron Seas series as a whole has always been a favorite of mine. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this book stood on its own, even though a part of me was a tiny bit disappointed that some of my favorite characters didn’t make an appearance.

Even so, Annika and David were a truly fantastic couple, both full of their own insecurities and inner strength.  I really enjoyed David’s character, in particular, with his many physical enhancements that both made him physically stronger and emotionally more vulnerable.

While I didn’t particularly care for the rather “preachy” undertones that rose to the surface on occasion, I loved the characters and the overall storyline, complete with vivid imagery and wild technology.

Though not my favorite of the series (that will probably always be the novella, Here There Be Monsters in the Burning Up Anthology), this one was still a solidly entertaining installment of the series. New readers shouldn’t fear picking this one up before reading the others,  and I would definitely recommend this book to any fan of Romantic Steampunk.


4/5 Stars

Iron Seas Series Reading Order:

Review: When You Wish Upon A Duke – Isabella Bradford

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Expected Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Random House Publishing
Imprint: Ballantine Books
Author’s Website: http://www.susanhollowayscott.com/
My Source for This Book: Edelweiss
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, Wylder Sisters
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

In a sparkling new series filled with irresistible charm and sizzling romance, award-winning author Isabella Bradford introduces us to the eldest of three Wylder sisters—unruly country girls whose passion for life leaves their London suitors breathless.
 
Raised in the Dorset countryside, Lady Charlotte Wylder doesn’t care one bit about well-bred decorum. The dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty would rather ride a horse than attend a stuffy ball. So when Charlotte learns that she is to leave immediately for London to wed the Duke of Marchbourne, a perfect model of aristocratic propriety, she is less than enchanted with her arranged marriage.

But to her delight, their first encounters are brazenly flirtatious, and their wedding night burns with passion. March’s broad shoulders and dark countenance make Charlotte want to rip every button off his waistcoast. She may even be falling in love with her new husband. Yet whenever their desire boils over, March reluctantly pushes Charlotte away. Will past secrets and present misunderstandings mire their marriage in scandal, or serve to strengthen a bond that is destined to last a lifetime?

What Worked For Me:

  • I love a good “arranged marriage” story, and I found it very refreshing that Charlotte and March were actually really accepting of the idea of getting married even after a short acquaintance.  So often in romance, the hero and heroine are all in high dudgeon over being “forced” into marrying a stranger, but it was obvious early on that Charlotte and March would get along quite well in marriage.
  • I loved the angst between Charlotte and March. I admit, a guilty pleasure of mine is virginal heroines ashamed of their passion because they don’t feel that it’s “proper”. I even admit that I especially enjoy it when their husbands feel guilty following a passionate interlude for having treated their sweet proper wives with less respect than they deserve.  Like I said, it’s a total guilty pleasure, but I just eat that up with a spoon.
  • I was pleased to find out that, tree climbing aside, Charlotte wasn’t as much of a hoyden as the blurb rather made her out to be. Sure, she was more at home in the countryside, but she wasn’t a complete bumpkin, nor did she behave so badly that she was completely shunned by society. Instead, it was a matter of her having a bit of insecurity when it came to how to behave as a Duchess, and that led to a lot of the conflict in the story.
  •  While I know this may actually be something that other readers dislike, I quite enjoyed the mildly melodramatic dynamic between March and Charlotte. Sure, their conflict could have been easily remedied had they simply sat down and talked things out like adults, but I think that idea is borne from this reader’s more modern sensibilities — in those days, and certainly in the case of an arranged marriage, it would actually be beyond unreasonable to expect a Duke and a Duchess in their situation to actually sit down and calmly discuss the “proper” level of passion to be expected (and accepted) in their marriage bed. Given the times and the circumstances, I found it quite plausible.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I was rather disappointed with the villain in general. I personally think that there was enough drama and conflict between March and Charlotte in their marriage without external forces working against them. I hesitate to ever say that an author “should have done something differently”, but even so I can’t help but feel that I would have enjoyed this story more had the villain been written out entirely and the focus been left solely on the main conflict between the couple.
  • On a similar note, the final confrontation with the villain was absolutely ridiculous.  Duchess or not, there are simple some things that will get you shunned by the ton, and I can’t help but think that what Charlotte did is one of them.
  • An outcome at the end of the story in regards to Charlotte and March’s family was a bit predictable. No spoiler, but I did roll my eyes a bit..

I’m a sucker for a good “arranged marriage” story, and this one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed how March and Charlotte had, if not “love” at first site, at least attraction and compatibility from the start.   The main conflict between the two is, I admit, one of my favorite tropes in romance, despite it being a sort of “guilty pleasure” type of read, and I couldn’t get enough.

I was quite disappointed with the “villain”, however, and that’s what ended up pulling my enjoyment, and subsequently, my final rating, down a bit.

Recommended for fans of arranged marriages between strangers who hit it off at once, of struggling to adapt to what is “proper” in a new station of life, and of realizing that sometime what is “right” for society is not the right thing for you.

4/5 Stars

Review: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess – Forever – Jennifer Haymore

Expected Release Date: February 1, 2012 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Imprint: Forever
Author’s Website: http://www.jenniferhaymore.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 2, Donovan Sisters
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess…

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn’t resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he’d fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved Max’s reaction to learning of Olivia’s previous illness, and his treatment of her afterwards.
  • I was very pleased that this book worked so well as a standalone.  Having not read the first book, I was concerned that I might be a little lost.  While Jonathan and Serena (the hero and heroine of the previous novel) certainly make a solid appearance in this book, I never felt as though I were truly missing anything important as pertained to Olivia and Max.
  • Even though I don’t really care for over-the-top villains, I have to admit, that some of the situations that Max and Olivia found themselves in as a result were quite exciting.
  • I’m a total sucker for characters who suffer a serious illness or injury.
  • I really enjoyed the conversation about Olivia’s plans for the future as well.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The villain was a bit too much of a  ”bad guy” for my tastes. While their escapades involving the villain were certainly thrilling, I tend to prefer a little less mustache twirling with my evil lowlifes.
  • I was a little disappointed the the “bet” trope was included at all. While the angst resulting from it was of course wonderful, anyone who’s ever read a romance novel knows that when a hero makes a bet involving a woman, the woman will eventually find out and there will be hell to pay. It was a little too cliche for my tastes.

Overall, this was an exciting yet sweet romance, with just the right touch of passion.  While I did feel that the villain was a little much, I admit I did enjoy the excitement of the action that ensued as a result of his, well, villainy.  My only real complaint about the story was that I actually wish that the “bet” mentioned in the description had been left out entirely.  Sure, it threw the hero and heroine together, but to be honest, I think the romance was beautiful enough, and had enough outside conflict that it could’ve still been a wonderful book even without the bet.

Even outside of that though, Max and Olivia were absolutely perfect for each other, and I loved watching them both have to alter their plans for the future as they fell in love.

A very solid 4/5 Stars.

 

 

Review: A Midnight Dance – Berkley – Lila DiPasqua

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Expected Release Date: August 2, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Trade
Author’s Website: http://www.liladipasqua.com/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Fiery Tales
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Scorching

Official Blurb:
Born into wealth, Sabine Laurent and her twin sister lived a life of luxury, their father’s prestigious theater frequented by royalty and aristocracy alike. And Sabine dreamed of her own prince charming–the devastatingly handsome Jules de Moutier.

That was before the loss of her sister and her family’s fall from grace–a disaster Sabine blames on the Moutier family. Now, with her father’s death, she’s inherited his sizable debt and the responsibility of caring for his spoiled long-time mistress and her two wastrel daughters. But with the help of Sabine’s eccentric friends–the balance of her father’s acting troupe–she plans to get very close to her old infatuation, seduce the rake–and make away with a fortune. 

Resisting Jules’s skillful mouth and tantalizing touch is not as easy as Sabine supposed. And soon she must decide whether her desire for vengeance is greater than her desire for her one and only prince…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden by the name of Sabine, daughter of the most famous and celebrated playwright in Paris.  Young, and beautiful, the girl anxiously anticipated the time when she and her lovely twin sister would make their debut into Parisian society, attending balls and soirees, and of course, making an advantageous marriage.  But there was one man above all that Sabine had within her sights — her very own Dark Prince, Jules de Moutier.  While they had never had a chance to truly meet, she  pinned all of her hopes, dreams, and of course, heady fantasies, on the handsome and sensual aristocrat.

But all of these dreams crumbled into ashes when Sabine’s life was cast into the cinders — her father dead, her beloved sister cold in the ground, and the horrible Moutier family the very cause of their fall from grace. With the family’s land gone, and exorbitant taxes levied against her family by aristocrats and the monarchy alike, she knew that it was only a matter of time before she and what was left of her family were thrown into debtor’s prison, where a fate awaited her that was worse than death.

Determined to be the master of her own fate, she devised a plan to steal a fortune from a band of rogues — a fortune that would not only ensure her family’s safety, but would allow her to search for the truth behind her dear twin’s disappearance.  Posing as a skilled strumpet, she and her two male cousins intend to infiltrate the privateer camp, distract the leader, and feed the rest of them men wine tainted with a sleeping draught.

But this was not just any band of privateers. No, the leader proved to be none other than Sabine’s own Dark Prince, the man she both lusts after and despises with all of her being.   Suddenly, her simple plan is no longer simple at all, and within Jules’ arms, she discovers a passion and a freedom unlike any other. But can Sabine allow herself to succumb, knowing that his family is the one that ruined hers?

What Worked For Me:

  • I of course loved the entire premise.  Cinderella was one of my favorite childhood fairy tales (that’d be the original version where the ugly step sisters half-amputated their feet to try to fit into the fur slipper, but I digress), and to have a “Cinderella” story that combines lust, betrayal, thievery, and murder, I simply couldn’t resist.
  • Whoowhee, this book was HOT. From the carnal language.  to Sabine’s incredible responsiveness, to Julian’s fast-growing addiction to her, this is definitely a read that can warm up even the coolest of winter nights.   The sensuality blended beautifully with the plot, and of course the romance lover in me was thrilled that there was so much more than just physical lust involved.  The sex was plentiful, but not repetitive, with plenty of variety without ever crossing a line of what one might really do with a woman who’d just lost her virginity.
  • Sabine was fantastic.  Strong willed, intelligent, loyal, and sensual, she refused to believe that her sister was dead, just as she refused to be beaten down by the greedy nobility.  When presented with a chance to indulge her passions, she embraced it with everything she was, and yet was able to pull herself back when it became apparent that her family’s well-being depended on her actions.
  • Jules was also wonderful.  Stubborn, conceited, and a bit spoiled and naive in his dealings with the “lower” classes, he keenly felt Sabine’s betrayal, and yet his own honorable nature wouldn’t let him stand aside and allow her and her family to be abused by the very noble class that he’d once been a part of.   I loved how his attitudes remained unchanged for a large part of the novel, and slowly began to evolve into something much more closely resembling reality — that the lower classes were not simply lazy, ungrateful, blemishes on society, but were in fact typically hard working and loyal, and taken advantage of by the upper classes.
  • I liked that while selfish and conceited, Sabine’s “stepmother” and “stepsisters” were not nearly as bad as I’d expected. Of course, there were definitely moments where I wanted to shake them, but in the end, they were just a family like any other, with disagreements, personality conflicts, and an enormous amount of love and loyalty.
  • Sabine’s entire family was a surprising joy for me.  From her overprotective cousins to the quirky Agnes to her father’s long-time mistress, Louise, and her two daughters.  Despite the fact that most of her family does not get much of their own individual face time, they’re not flat filler characters as I’d first anticipated, and for this I was glad.
  • I also loved the seamless blending of the beloved fairy tale and a completely unique story. There were just enough nods to the original tale, such as a handsome prince, a lost glass slipper, and even a fairy god-mother of sorts, to remind readers of its connection to the classic. There were also, however, just enough differences to find yourself engrossed in a beautifully sensual and incredibly romantic story that stands entirely on its own two feet.
  • Oooh the epilogue! I refuse to spoil it, but I sincerely hope that it hints at a story to come.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I was a little disappointed that the villain was so over-the-top. I can’t really go into detail without giving spoilers, but this person was just so evil that it was almost unbelievable.  That said, it does fit in with the whole “fairy tale” scenario, because fairy tales often involve rather outrageous villains.

This book was so wonderfully, deliciously hot.  No, really, if you wear glasses, you may want to keep a soft cloth handy, because they’re probably going to steam up when you read this book.   Not only are the love scenes beautifully lush and erotic, but there’s also a delightful level of passion and emotion flaring between Sabine and Jules.

Perfect for heating up these cold winter nights, highly recommended for fans of luscious sensuality, heartbreak and betrayal, and one of the sweetest happy endings I could’ve imagined.

A very solid 4.5/5 Stars

Review: Lord of the Wolfyn – Harlequin Nocturne – Jessica Andersen

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Expected Release Date: October 18, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Harlequin Nocturne
Author’s Website: http://www.jessicaandersen.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3 of Royal House of Shadows Continuation
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden.

To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance.

Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

For practical Reda Weston, nothing could explain how reading a sexy version of “Little Red Riding Hood” catapulted her into another realm—face-to-fang with the legendary wolf-creature who seduced women. A wolf who transformed into a dark, virile man….

Dayn cursed the Sorcerer that turned him wolfyn and damned him to a lonely fate. As a beast, he mated with women to gain strength.

Strength he needed to rescue his royal parents. But as a man, he craved Reda’s heated, sizzling touch. With little time left, Dayn had to either embrace his wolf to save his kingdom…or fight it to save his woman.

What Worked For Me:

  • I really enjoyed the twists with Dayn’s powers, as well as the challenge to be true to himself — despite the fact that he has no idea exactly what that is.
  • I liked that it was obvious what fairy tale this story was based on.  All four stories in the Royal House of Shadows are based on a fairy tale, but honestly, this one and Lord of Rage were the only ones that were explicit about their fairy tale influencers.
  • The second half was much more entertaining to me than the first, with a lot of character growth on both the hero and heroine’s parts, and I did enjoy the final confrontation.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • It got off to a very slow start for me. So much so that I actually put it down twice and read several other books in between.
  • It took a while to warm up to Dayn. Something about a vampire prince hiding amongst werewolves while rocking the 90′s plaid look just really didn’t do it for me. Add into the mix the fact he was having a non-romantic sexual relationship with the alpha female in the first chapters and I think he and I got off on the wrong foot.
  • The villain was a little over-the-top for me, and I never really saw her as anything other than a random mustache-twirling villain — more of a caricature than a character.

To be perfectly honest, this one was a disappointment to me.  I adore Jessica Andersen’s Nightkeepers series, so I was excited when I heard she would be a part of the Royal House of Shadows.   Unfortunately, it got of to an incredibly slow start for me.  I didn’t like Dayn when I first met him, and while the premise was intriguing as it involved a heroine from “our” realm, I just couldn’t get back from the vampire prince-dressed-as-a-lumberjack hiding amongst the wolfyn.   Plus, the whole time limit thing of four days seemed ridiculously short, especially when two of those days were glossed over and not actually detailed.

That said, about halfway in, the action started to pick up, as did the relationship between Reda and Dayn.  While there was quite a bit of superfluous angst (wait, did I say that??), the relationship was much more satisfying, and the final showdown between our main couple and the evil witch went out with a bang.

While I do think this story worked well as a standalone, readers must be aware that it is a part of a four-installment continuity, and as such, the ending is very much a cliff-hanger (since the final Big Showdown will presumably be in the final book, Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh).  Despite this fact, I thought that Dayn and Reda’s personal story arc felt complete enough to count as a HEA.

In the end, though, I don’t think this book ever fully recovered for me after the slow start.  If I could split my rating, the first half would be 2 stars, and the second half would probably be 4.  Because of this, I’m going with an overall rating of 3/5 Stars.

Review – Bound – Shannon Mayer

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Expected Release Date: September 14, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Self Published
Imprint: N/A
Author’s Website: http://www.shannonmayer.com/
My Source for This Book: Amazon.com
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 2 Nevermore Zombie Apocalypse Trilogy
Series Best Read In Order: YES
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Nevermore Trilogy Book II

Rumours and whispers of a cure have reached Mara’s ears and hope that has been denied for so long begins to grow once more. But, if she is to find the cure, to help Sebastian, she must face down a whole new set of dangers. 
A sadistic army General whose hatred knows no bounds.
A brilliant scientist whose love for his lost wife drives him to madness.
And a new pack of Nevermores . . .

What worked for me:

  • Just as pulse-pounding as the first novel, Bound is unapologetic about the gritty reality of a world during a zombie apocalypse.  Major characters die horribly, Mara is forced to make choices that she never would have even considered in her old life, and the bullies of the world are the ones who have gained power in a time when civilized actions take the backseat to basic survival. So awesome.
  • I loved the new location with the militia group that was going about rounding up survivors.  Never make the mistake that they were doing so for altruistic reasons, however — survivors had to be useful or the militia would find uses for them that we’ll just call “incredibly unpleasant”.
  • I loved that this story was fast paced and full of action, but was also balanced out with quite a bit of character growth as well as expanding on the overall arc of Nevermore.  With understanding of the pack mentality from the Nevermores, it’s easier to see the humanity that still exists underneath the hunger, and helps to lend quite a bit of hope to the story, especially with the possibility of a cure being discovered.
  • I was also happy that there was a more “scientific” explanation of the condition — while I had a basic understanding of the Nevermore injection from the first story, it was expanded on in a way that made it sound realistic and yet was easily understandable by someone like me who has no medical background.
  • The new characters (with the exception to the Evil Scientist villain — more on him later) all have an amazing amount of depth considering the low word count and the sheer amount of action in the story. They could have easily been simple flat, cardboard cutouts of basic characterizations, but instead, each character is given a personal history and motivation that helps to explain both their actions and their attitudes.
  • Scout! I won’t say more as it would be a spoiler, but I was happy to see my second-favorite zombie make an appearance in this story.

What didn’t work for me:

  • There is another bleeding cliff-hanger at the end!  To be fair, it actually was a good stopping point for the novel this time, as opposed to the cliff-hanger at the end of Sundered that left my eye twitching in annoyance, but it is still painfully obvious that this is a book that lands smack in the middle of a trilogy.
  • I’m not sure how much I can say without it being a spoiler, but Mara’s reaction to a bit of news towards the end was incredibly more mild than I felt it should have been.
  • The Mad Scientist, Donovan, was a bit over-the-top to me.  While I definitely understood that he was quite a few cards shy of a full deck due to the situation with Juliana, I tend to find insane characters less frightening than those who are in full control of their faculties and are simply sociopaths instead.  I fear that the author may be setting him up for redemption, and frankly, I’m rather hoping he dies a fairly horrible death in the end.

Sensitive readers should know going in that there is a child death in this story.

While this one did end in what I would consider to be a “cliff-hanger”, I do have to admit that it was a much better stopping point than that of the previous installment, Sundered.

Even having not read the final installment, Dauntless (expected release October 31, 2011), I have to say my very strong opinion thus far is that the entire series should probably be consolidated into a single, longer story and given a higher price point.  While I understand that the current price of ninety-nine cents for Sundered, and right at three dollars for Bound, is a definite selling point for readers unfamiliar with the author, the fact that this book picks up literally a sentence after the last one left off makes it virtually impossible for readers unfamiliar with the series to really get the full benefit of the story.  While the general gist of the history of the apocalypse is covered, as is the relationship between Mara and Sebastian, I do think that some readers who did not read Sundered will be highly disappointed with just how obvious it is that the first book is an integral part of this one.

That said, I would still recommend both Sundered and Bound to any fan of zombie apocalypse fans, especially those who prefer a strong romantic theme.  Gritty, violent, tragic, and terrifying, this whole series also manages to be touching, romantic, and at times, even sexy (which let me tell you, is an achievement considering the hero is a zombie).  Just make certain that you pick up the first book before attempting this one and you won’t have any problems.

I am actually very excited to have found this author. Even with the slightly-campy feel to the initial premise, her skill in creating believable characters and writing both action and love scenes is truly much more than I’ve experienced in a self-published author in quite some time.  I am very anxiously awaiting the final installment on Halloween, and can’t wait to see what becomes of Mara, Sebastian, Scout, Buck, and the others.

Recommended for fans of fresh takes on the zombie apocalypse trope, of normal people surviving on their wits, and of a love that not even a zombie infection can stop.

A very solid 4.5/5 Stars

Review: Twilight Fulfilled – Mira – Maggie Shayne

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Expected Release Date: September 20, 2011 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Mira
Author’s Website: http://www.maggieshayne.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 18, Wing in the Night series, Book 2 Children of Twilight
Series Best Read In Order: Yes and No (explained in review)
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Utanapishtim has paid dearly for the sin of creating the vampire race—imprisoned in a living death for centuries, driven to near madness. With a single white-hot glance, he immolates his descendants…and the vampire Armageddon begins.

Beautiful and deadly Brigit Poe, not wholly vampire but fiercely loyal to that shared bloodline, is called into action. She abhors yet cannot deny her destiny: to vanquish the once-great king of the immortals and save the vampire race.

Two warriors, equally matched in power and determination, are soon locked in an unwinnable battle, only to discover a passion so shocking it threatens every truth they’ve ever known—even as they must face one final battle that seems fated to end in death and heartbreak for them both.

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved Utanapishtim in this story! I actually kind of liked him in the last one, but you actually get to see his regret over his earlier actions, and frankly, I agree with Brigit that if you were locked in a statue for as long as he’d been, you’d be a bit of a nutcase when you first woke up too!
  • I’ve also warmed up a lot towards Brigit since Twilight Prophecy, which is the first book I’d read in this series.  Always known as the “evil twin” for her power of destruction (the polar opposite of her brother James’ power of healing), and despite the love and loyalty of her family, has always felt like an outsider no matter how hard she tried to do right by the vampires.  Seeing her grow into herself and start to trust her own instincts was great, and holy cow I loved the twist about her powers. Loved loved loved.
  • I also enjoyed the fact that while almost disgustingly powerful, and obviously more immortal than most people could fathom, Utana was not invincible. He could be injured, and actually suffered some fairly serious injuries over the course of the novel.
  • Mmmmm Utana is a total Alpha Male. *fans self*  So used to being revered both as a king and a priest in his day, he quite literally can’t understand why the people of today don’t scrape and bow, and is completely bewildered and more than a little horrified at the concept of women’s lib.  Pairing him with Brigit was a brilliant move, because if anyone is a strong, independent woman who wasn’t afraid to call him on the carpet, it’d be Brigit.
  • While fairly light on the sensuality in the grand scheme of things, the chemistry between Utana and Brigit is scorching (er, no pun intended), and I loved their tryst in the palace. *fans self some more*. Utana’s alpha tendencies seemed as though they would clash with Brigit’s independence, but in the case of their attraction, I think she needed someone as bold and commanding as he was in order to balance her out. Anyone with less strength would end up as a doormat under her feet, and I just can’t see her putting up with that for long.
  • The concept of true immortality for vampires is incredible, fresh, and frankly, horrifying.   I can’t recall ever reading any vampire story where beheading/burning/etc. the vampire didn’t actually “kill” them, but instead left them conscious without an actual body.  That’s both incredibly cool and terrifying at the same time, and makes it absolutely understandable that Utana was cracked in the head when he was first resurrected. It’s not as if he were in stasis, but instead was quite conscious of everything for the thousands of years he was trapped in a statue. If that’s not enough to make someone go all genocidal, I’m not sure what is.
  • The ending. Oh, the ending. Both what happened at the compound (which was quite heavily foreshadowed but still shocking to read) and what happened afterwards were incredible, and wrapped the story up with exactly the amount of power and action that both Brigit and Utana deserved.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • A very minor point, but I was slightly annoyed that Utana was slightly annoyed that rape was illegal.  Yeah, yeah, I know, in his time women were property and rape was more a point of vandalism than of assault, but still. Ew.
  • Another minor point, I was a bit put off by Utana and Brigit’s first kiss. All I could think was “Holy Inappropriate, Batman!” at the time.  As I read, and was able to accept this strange soul-deep attraction between them, it made a lot more sense, but at the time it was a bit of a jolt.
  • There were two scenes in particular where the physics of what I was reading didn’t quite match what I was picturing in my head. One was where Brigit was handcuffed and kissing Utana, and she put her arms around his neck despite them being cuffed (it even mentioned that this was in spite of being cuffed). Sure, they in reality they had to have broken away from each others’ mouths long enough for that to happen, but when it’s not specified, it kind of pulls me out of the action to try to figure out how something is physically possible.  The second was in a basement, and we’ll just say I don’t remember her getting undressed but suddenly they were in the middle of making love.   I even re-read the scene to make sure, but as far as I could tell, she was still wearing pants when she wrapped her legs around his waist and then.. well, and then.    Sure, maybe an author shouldn’t have to spell it out, but it’s just jarring for me as a reader to go from fully dressed in my mind to naked enough to do the nasty. Kind of like watching a movie where two people kiss then BAM they’re rolling around naked.  *shrugs*

Yes, yes, YES! I was so happy to get my greedy little hands on this book, because I’ve been excited about it ever since I heard that Utanapishtim (the Big Bad from TWILIGHT PROPHECY, and pronounced “ooo-tah-nah-pish-tim” for those like me whose brains melted the first time they read it) was going to be the hero paired with the “evil twin”, Brigit.

After all that had gone down in Twilight Prophecy, I couldn’t fathom how Ms. Shayne could possibly redeem Utana, but she did a fantastic job of making him a sympathetic character without castrating the great Warrior King.  He’s still insufferably pompous and arrogant, old fashioned and misogynistic (because, really, he’s freaking Noah from the Great Flood for cryin’ out loud — a metrosexual this guy is not), and yet he also grieves deeply for the deaths of his vampire “children” and the fact that he must kill them all to appease his gods.

Now, earlier I said that this series both works well as a standalone and is better read in order.  Let me clarify — I think that as far as the entire Wings in the Night series goes, it stands perfectly well on its own. I actually came to the series quite late myself (book 17) and didn’t feel as though I’d missed the information necessary for me to keep up.   However, I do suggest reading TWILIGHT PROPHECY first for two main reasons. First, it’s important to see the dynamic between the Mongrel Twins (James and Brigit), and second, it’s the first half of Utana’s story. Granted, Ms. Shayne does a very good job of explaining the vital portions missed if you don’t want to go back and read the other one first, but even so, I personally would suggest reading these last two in order.

In short, I loved it.  While the ending was still open enough to leave the option of future installments of the series, nothing was left feeling “unfinished”, and I believed in the HEA, which is very important to me in any romance novel.

In the end, I really enjoyed this one.  Utana is sexy and powerful and delicious and yet is still deeply flawed, and is able to eventually own up to his mistakes.  Brigit finally breaks free of her Evil Twin designation, and weathers such betrayal and heartbreak over the course of the novel, but still remains true to herself.   The sensuality was exactly what it needed to be, and the actual romance itself, although fast, was actually quite believable.

Recommended for fans of old-fashioned alphas finally finding their equal, of heroines convinced of their unworthiness finally realizing their true powers, and of a romance that overcomes even the largest of obstacles.

A very cheerful 4.5/5 Stars