Blade of Darkness by Dianne Duvall


Blade of Darkness by Dianne Duvall
Immortal Guardians
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (382 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Dana Pembroke has been able to glimpse the future of those she touches for as long as she can remember. But she never saw Aidan coming. When the tall, dark Celt with the charming grin yet world-weary eyes walks through her door, the future she sees for him is one full of violence, danger, deception… and passion. Because amidst the terrifying battles that unfold in her visions, she also sees herself in Aidan’s arms and in his bed. Dana knows she should keep her distance, but the tender moments and laughter they share entice her even as she finds herself thrust into a world of vampires, immortals, and other preternatural beings.

Immortal Guardian Aidan O’Byrne has been hunting and slaying psychotic vampires for nearly three thousand years, so visions of bloody battles don’t trouble him. The battles Dana foresees, however, show Aidan’s brethren turning against him, so he can’t help but feel alarmed. While he spends as much time as he can with Dana, struggling to decipher her dire predictions, Aidan finds himself utterly smitten. Hope rises that he has finally found a woman who can banish the darkness and loneliness that plague him. But when vampires begin targeting Dana and a powerful enemy spawns chaos, will fate grant them time to find happiness together?

You know how some novels can take a week to read even though it’s really good but your progress is kind of slow because it’s heavily detailed, wordy or intricate and you have to spend time letting it gel? Well, have I got news for you. Forget that happening in Ms. Duvall’s latest Immortal Guardian adventure. Finishing the book was a compulsion that overtook even the interest to eat. Seriously, the balance of dialogue, descriptions and action, never mind the wonderful love scenes between Dana and Aidan – all of it was sheer perfection. The writing was strong and evocative, the plot suspenseful and gripping, and the characters are those a reader can fall in love with. There is nothing slow about this book. I devoured the entire story in one day!

Blade of Darkness left me breathless; every single feeling and emotion a story can evoke is brilliantly brought to life with an impact that left me clamoring for more. I don’t know how Ms. Duvall does it but she consistently delivers a high impact, thoroughly engaging story in each installment that follows a gifted one finding love with an Immortal Guardian who never thought to find true love. It’s the best hook in the world and this author does it justice.

I lost count as to how many times my heart was in my throat during the sword battles as Aidan and his brothers fought against the insane vampires. Drama and gripping suspense shot through the stratosphere when it became apparent that Gershom is back and has a few new tricks up his sleeve. It’s shocking and yet so typical of a Super Villain, a classification of which he more than earns – he defines it.

Only once does a reader get into the villain’s head and it was enough to convince me that Gershom deserves to be taken down. For the most part, the book stays in the point of view of both Dana and Aidan and that’s fine with me because there is no question they are the stars of this book and their romance is unconventional to say the least.

Secondary characters abound but they were more than welcomed. Practically every one of them is someone I’ve fallen in love with before in past novels. They do a wonderful job of supporting Aidan and Dana – more than this humble review can reveal. My heart hurts for Seth though. And David. When will it be their turn is what I’d like to know. In this novel I get to see Seth experience extreme emotion which makes him even more alluring as a future hero. I just adore his role and how he really loves the people under his command. They’re family and that theme of family shows itself in surprising and rewarding ways throughout Blade of Darkness.

I usually don’t talk about book covers but for this review I will mention just a couple of things. First, the guy is yummy, that’s a given. But look at his eyes! Finally someone has paid attention to some of the characteristics that make a hero so special. In this case, an Immortal Guardian named Aidan. The cover for this novel rocks!

There is so much more I want to say, to share, to comment on because Blade of Darkness.takes place in a world that is rich, vibrant, and at times almost real, that even when I reached the last page, I didn’t want to leave. Also, I’m guessing here, but Aidan’s ‘as you will’ seems like a nod to the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride – a movie I absolutely adore. As he says to Princess Buttercup, ‘as you wish’. I wish Ms. Duvall much success because I want her to continue writing about this world until every Immortal Guardian finds love, until everything Seth fought for and protects is relatively safe, and maybe, just maybe the two lone warriors we all respect will find love too.

Blade of Darkness is a must read, a must have and a book worth the space on a reader’s keeper shelf. Dana and Aidan’s story is extra special and wonderful and I’m thrilled that such a misunderstood hero finally finds a woman to love and cherish. What more could a reader wish? I’m a very, VERY happy reader.

Dreaming of a White Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear


Dreaming of a White Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

angling with a White Wolf—Best Christmas Ever, or Real Trouble?

Romance writer Candice Mayfair never missed a deadline in her life—until an accidental bite from a werewolf puppy turns her into an Arctic wolf shifter. She’s forced to isolate herself in the wilderness to cope with her unpredictable shifting while she works on her deadlines. After all, for Candice, Christmas is just another day.

Enter private investigator Owen Nottingham, a wolf shifter hired to find Candice so she can collect her inheritance. They have a real problem: she must arrive home in human form, and that’s not happening during the full moon. Besides, Owen has a new mission: to convince the pretty she-wolf her best move is to join his pack in time for Christmas…and to prove he’s the only wolf for her.

Ms. Spear has done it again. She has written another fun werewolf romance with an interesting twist on an often told tale. You know, a struggling heroine finds herself a possible heiress, has to compete with someone else to prove she is who she is and finds herself in a pickle because someone does not want her to prove it. Throw in a new way of life, a hero she’s not sure she can trust and finding out she is not a lone wolf after all, totally makes Dreaming of a White Wolf Christmas worth taking the time to snuggle down and get comfy with while reading.

I liked Candice and Owen’s romance. I liked how they met, how they courted and the dialogue that flowed back and forth between them. I enjoyed seeing how the heroine fit in with Owen’s small pack and I adored all the kids and their antics. One of the kids is of course extra mischievous and ends up having a special place in Owen and Candice’s heart. Mine too, for that matter.

The conflict is mostly character driven except when it comes to the heroine proving her authenticity. That’s where the external conflict shows up and it provides the suspense and drama needed to keep the plot moving. There are plenty of surprises and interesting twists so this story avoids being a cliché. Ms. Spear sure had a challenge ahead of her in trying to fit all the action in during a rushed but believable timeline that raced towards the final showdown and satisfying conflict resolution. It was well paced, used effective descriptions and engaged my emotions.

I know the title mentions Christmas and that it’s a really big holiday, but the season isn’t the focus of the story. The special time is used more to wrap up the happily ever after as it’s the perfect reason for a celebration of family, of hope, of dreams come true and the start of a wonderful future. It has a feel good, optimistic and charming ending all tied up with a beautiful, big bow of romance and love.

Dreaming of a White Wolf Christmas is a sweet romance that pulls the heartstrings because both Candice and Owen lost the lives they had before the ‘big change’. But, in each other, found happiness and joy for the life that’s ahead of them. I’m quite confident that their happy ever after is actually the beginning of a wonderful new life adventure for both of them. I’m a very content reader.

Immortally Yours by Lynsay Sands


Immortally Yours by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

One hundred and twenty-five years is a long time to nurse a crush. That’s how long it’s been since Beth Argenis first met Cullen “Scotty” MacDonald and he instantly became the star of her most X-rated dreams. Back then, he was rescuing her from a Rogue Immortal. Now Beth’s a Rogue Hunter—a damn good one. She doesn’t need saving anymore, despite what Scotty thinks. What she does need is the fierce, wild desire that finally erupts between them.

Scotty has hesitated to claim Beth as his own. But one explosive kiss confirms what he’s long suspected: She’s his life mate. But Beth is tough, fearless, beautiful…and in immortal danger. Unless he wants to lose her forever, he’ll have to rethink everything he once believed about love and destiny as well as confront an enemy who’s terrifyingly close.

No matter how fantastical the paranormal aspect is in a novel, it’s the human factor that helps a reader relate to the characters and the overall story. One of the plot conflicts is a tale as old as time in Immortally Yours and yet Ms. Sands injects a refreshing wrinkle, Argeneau style, and makes it her own.

In the last book with the mad scientist, I thought for sure the next novel would pick up that thread and in a way it did, but not as I expected. This tale shifts to the ramifications and effects on the rest of the Argeneau clan that were left behind when the others went to rescue their kidnapped family members. Reinforcements are called in from other parts of the world which introduces new personalities that the Canadian Argeneaus need to not only work with but trust. One would think that was a safe bet, they’re sort of like family after all, right? Nope, because not all of them are Argeneaus and there are other prominent Immortal families out there that are also movers and shakers. I found out that there is a Russian faction that, from the sounds of it, are rather fierce, who play hardball and are feared by many. So, how does that play into this plot? It’s effective, clever, interesting and surprising.

The mystery involves the basic questions of figuring out who is a traitor, who is betraying them and why do all the attacks seem to target specific people and how in the world are the villains always one step ahead? I didn’t find out until the heroine, Beth, found out the hard way. Once I read the ‘great reveal’, I sat back and thought, “Why didn’t I figure that out earlier? It seems like it should have been so obvious!”, except it wasn’t. Not for me. I was wonderfully stunned.

As for the heroine, that poor girl! I mean, seriously, how many times can a person get toasted like a marshmallow, skewered like a shish kebab or dodge other surprising attacks? Beth had some near misses and some attacks were dead on. Was she continually in the right place at the wrong time? Was it a jinx of supreme bad luck? The thing is, in the middle of one of the most physically painful times between Beth and Scotty, a/k/a Cullen, the author slipped in a brief moment of hilarity.(Ms. Sands does that a lot) It was their reaction that made me snort and guffaw. It was like a Loony Toons moment; totally snicker-worthy.

In addition to the mystery conflict, there’s a huge internal conflict going on. It seems Scotty has this noble idea about what is best for Beth. He also thinks he’s magnanimous, forgiving and enlightened. Yes, he’s giving, but he’s not forgiving or enlightened as he’s deluded himself to be. The hero had a rude wakeup call, that’s for sure. I liked watching him not only come to terms with his own failings but grow as person to become better – which seems incongruous as he was already totally swoon-worthy and sexy and heroic.

As for the heroine, her own internal conflict was substantial and mind blowing. Her early life was a nightmare. And yet, the analogy of the sword that Ms. Sands used totally made sense, was believable and basically summed up Beth’s personality. The heroine is a strong, stubborn and highly opinionated woman. I loved it.

Of the new Immortals that were introduced, I like Kira the best. She has a future, I think. She has attitude, confidence and her own serious conflicts to deal with which makes her an ideal future heroine especially if she ‘hooks up’ with an Argeneau. The conflagration from that could be highly incendiary, dramatic, and a perfect venue for more snickers and snorts. After a reader experiences Kira in this novel, I think they’ll understand my opinion.

The shared sex dreams of new Life Mates, and the physical sexual encounters were of course, hot, but what intrigued me was how Ms. Sands used the sex for something practical and altruistic. It also proved to me without doubt that Scotty and Beth are perfect together.

Immortally Yours is more about people than the paranormal. It’s about healing, challenging perceptions and admitting when you’re wrong. It’s about imperfect people falling in love in the face of the dangers of assumptions. It’s about why it’s important to take the time to really listen to the person you love, even if it hurts. And, it’s about fighting for what you believe in. There’s a lot of emotional depth to this novel that makes it more than just a fun, fluffy and entertaining read. Ms. Sands has another winner and is an easy recommend.

Her Montana Millionaire by Crystal Green


Her Montana Millionaire by Crystal Green
Publisher: Silhouette/Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

FROM LIFE IN THE FAST LANE…
New York socialite Jinni Fairchild would take care of her sister, even if that meant sacrificing, temporarily, her jetset lifestyle for the wilds of Rumor, Montana. No limos, no parties, no haute couture — she was barely surviving. Until she met Max Cantrell.

TO SLOW AND EASY.
Tall. Dark. Gorgeous. And rich as Midas. Jinni knew how to handle men like him. With one flirtatious smile, she would have him eating out of her manicured hand. Except Max had his own agenda, one that involved long talks, gentle kisses and an unhurried sensuality that tempted this city girl to stop and smell the roses — with him!

MONTANA MAVERICKS: THE KINGSLEYS
Nothing is as it seems beneath the big skies of Montana

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story where the heroine is so blatantly stereotypical – on purpose. She knows she’s got the looks, the charm, the style and the attitude and Jinni flaunts it for all she’s worth. She’s also used to having no problems getting men to propose and her saying ‘yes’. The heroine just has this little issue with commitment; the ‘yes’ never turns into ‘I do’ – until Max. He makes her question her sense of self. It’s that process and how Ms. Green wrote the journey that made this novel so engaging and charming. I actually liked Jinni and got the greatest kick out of her internal dialogues. She’s actually pretty funny.

Max is a loner, a man scorned, a single dad with a kid he can’t seem to reach – you know, the perfect tortured hero? Getting into his head allowed me to understand that the strong man people see from outside doesn’t give the whole picture of just who Max is inside.

Being in both their POVs was positively humorous especially when they took turns teasing, seducing, bantering and employing tactile innuendo; they basically drove each other crazy with lust. Even though I tagged this as spicy, I’d call it ‘spicy-lite’ because the culmination, when it finally, FINALLY happened, had just enough description to say the door was open and to assure readers that they were compatible in all the best of ways.

Max has a romantic streak in him a mile wide and I think Ms. Green had quite a ball imagining all kinds of toys, pursuits and eccentricities a millionaire might have if he indulged in flights of fancy. As over the top as some of them were, I give kudos to the author for creativity that invokes the word – FUN.

Max’s son, Michael is a plot/conflict mover. He’s on stage enough to be a pivotal player. As for Max’s brother, I’m not sure what to say about him. Actually, I’m not sure if I should add as a tag a ‘sci-fi’ aspect, or something. Guy is like an absentminded professor and his … discovery is the stuff of those old B movie horror flicks – totally implausible but fun. At least he’s a good guy. I’m disappointed that his loose end wasn’t tied up. I wonder if that means he will have his own story? I’m going to have to do some research because I simply can’t leave him where this book left him.

Her Montana Millionaire was pure, enjoyable escapism that was a pleasure to read. I had fun and I think its charm could be appreciated by many fans of romance.

I think a story that leaves you smiling is a good thing. Her Montana Millionaire does that.

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody by J R Pearson


A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody by J R Pearson
Monster Haven 1
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (128 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Werewolf Wild Child.
Taco Enthusiast.
Drunk Table Dancing Expert.
Queen of Shitty Relationships.
Me.
Kokoa Lovell. (Pronounced as cocoa)

I’m an honest-to-goodness, denial wearing- f*ck-up. My love life contains themes of extreme complication, washboard abs and mind-blowing romps in the sack. It’s okay though. I swallow the crazy sh*t life is bringing in buckets because I really don’t want to deal with what’s important… like finally facing my scarier than split ends great grandfather — the head honcho himself and why his decades long absence has come to an end in time for my birthday. And wondering why I collected lust cards from three different guys.

The next few days I face is sure to be a cluster–f*ck of epic proportions, during which, I will learn the following: It’s cute to cuddle with a lion but dangerous when he’s keeping secrets… Flirting and making hubba-hubba eyes at a vampire is just asking to get your neck chomped on. And sending Polaroid pictures of your ass to a dragon is all fun and games till he decides to kidnap you.

My solution: Eat a ton of birthday cake then run like hell.

It was the title that grabbed me but the story is what kept me. This book was a pleasant surprise because it was like nothing I’ve ever read before. Yes, it’s first person point of view but the heroine, Kokoa, with her internal dialogue, her turns of phrases and her unapologetic kookiness charmed me, engaged my interest and gave me so many reasons to smile or chortle that I lost count. She is not my typical heroine, her location isn’t like Mayberry and her relationships are mind bogglingly complex.

I guess I’m going to have to label this one as a happy for now because I think J.R. Pearson is just getting started in showing me that Kokoa isn’t the simple pancake-eating, taco devouring lover of food and family. She has three love interests but only one who she’s accepted into her bed. She’s lusting after all of them and she’s kind of happy-go-lucky about her friendship with them because for the heroine, being friends is key. She truly loves them all but … not enough to have indiscriminant sex with all of them. There’s just something about Gavin that does it for her, but Jon is the only one that is closest to touching her heart. Then there’s Adrian Galzra . Wow. Adrian is a loose cannon. He’s not a friend per se, but he’s not her enemy. The heroine kind of instigated his interest in her but from the sounds of the final chapter I’d say Kokoa may have bitten off more than she handle – if she handles the situation like she did that drink, boy is she in trouble!

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody has the potential to be a powerhouse of a series if this first book is any indication. In the beginning the heroine seems like she has a bit of a potty mouth but readers are going to be in for a bit of an eye-opening experience with her character. Kokoa has depth and it sounds like the revealing of her complexity is just getting started. J.R. Pearson is world building in this novelette and I am thoroughly fascinated with its history, its population, its secrets and how the heroine is going to fit within it.

Jon featured strongly in this story but the next one is going to focus on someone else, and I can’t tell if it’s going to be Gavin or Adrian – both men have something to recommend them and both perhaps are not all as they seem. I feel like I’ve been teased with a hint of intrigue and after her last interaction with Adrian, I’m hooked. And I mean seriously hooked. This story isn’t a short shot of an excuse just for having sex. No, this one has meat, intent, a rich community to work within and secrets to uncover. While I was reading I had the feeling that I was experiencing a quality of writing that I’m used to seeing from the bigger names in the industry. I’m duly impressed and feel fortunate that I chose this book to read. Thank goodness for the catchy title!

Keep your eye on the Monster Haven series because if it continues as it’s started, this is going to be one powerful ride. I can guarantee I won’t want to get off of anytime soon if the following books are as well done and surprising as this one was.

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody is an unexpected gem and I look forward to seeing it shine as the story arc unfolds. I think the adventure is just beginning and I’m glad I discovered this series early on. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Forever Wicked by Nina Bangs


Forever Wicked by Nina Bangs
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sparkle Stardust wishes she could take back the angry words she threw at Ganymede. Now the man she loves has left her and is on a collision course with death if she can’t stop him. When she finally tracks him down, Sparkle discovers he has stirred up more trouble than both of them can handle.

Ganymede storms from the Castle of Dark Dreams determined never to return. He vents his anger by creating chaos around the world, certain that the mayhem will drive Sparkle from his mind and from his heart. It doesn’t work.

But when a powerful enemy from their past threatens Ganymede and Sparkle, they stand side by side to protect their lives, their castle, and their love.

The conclusion of a story arc is always a joyously sad event. I mean, you finally get the satisfaction of seeing how everything comes together, usually in a big, dramatic event and it’s joyous and exciting because you’ve waited for it for what feels like forever. The sad part is because it’s concluded. The good thing about Forever Wicked is the happily ever after is one fans have been waiting for, for years upon years and it seems Ms. Bangs decided all hands should be on deck, so to speak. It was really awesome to see the ‘plants’ are still doing well. *grin*

The most fascinating revelation about Sparkle and Ganymede is their origins. That was something I never, ever saw coming. In the Castle of Dark Dreamsseries the two protagonists were always Cosmic Troublemakers – they wrought various forms of destruction and misery on worlds and on Earth. It’s what they did and what they were. However, throughout the series I saw them slowly morph into something else besides destroyers and troublemakers and this novel explains why. It was very cool. Actually, it was kind of sad too, and shocking. It’s that element that leads the plot into twists and turns that does Ms. Bangs justice.

As far as the romance goes between Sparkle and Ganymede, it starts off bumpy because they kind of broke up with each other in the previous novel. I say ‘kind of’ because it was more a matter of hurt feelings than either one not being in love with the other, so there was a lot of healing and attempts at reconciling in the first part of the story. It’s the threat they face and the realization that they are stronger together than apart when faced with the biggest fight in their long lives that brings them back together.

In fact, all of my favorite characters where brought back to play important parts in the final, dramatic and exciting conclusion. Seeing them again sparked an interest to read the whole series from beginning to end and relive why I enjoyed this series so much. The variety of personalities always kept the story arc fresh and interesting.

Anyone who has read Ms. Bangs’ works knows that humor is a big part in the lives of her characters and that remains true in Forever Wicked. Yes, there are sexy times to show that Sparkle and Ganymede are still hot for each other but it’s lightly sprinkled throughout the book. The main focus is on the plot, the characters and their personalities, and how they suddenly understand the meaning of ‘family’ – of which is an incredibly important component to the conclusion of the story arc.

I suppose this book could be considered a standalone story because the focus is on the two main characters but I strongly believe that the potential impact is greatly enhanced for fans of the series. With that in mind, I’d lean towards it not being truly a standalone read. Ultimately, it’s reader’s choice.

Forever Wicked was a tale worth waiting for. I am satisfied with their happily ever after and the story told to get there. It was pure Sparkle and Ganymede just as I’ve known them to be, but with more depth and surprises. I’m a happy reader.

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare


When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (376 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

If you think all prologues start the same or follow a pattern, then I think you might be pleasantly surprised by this novel. I had to read the beginning twice only because I was vastly amused and greatly entertained. It was so fresh, inventive and kind of charming that if the story continued as it started, I believed I was in for a grand read. I was right, and I loved it.

First, kudos to whoever came up with the title of When a Scot Ties the Knot because it snagged my attention immediately. I appreciate clever titles.

I also liked the author’s use of descriptions and analogy. I specifically admired her use of the ‘message in a bottle’ reference. However, the poem was a bit … well it was giggle worthy only because of who was reciting it. I can envision the audience’s reaction and it makes me smile.

What is fascinating is the conflict of the heroine. It’s daunting in its scope. It’s the very thing that caused this whole twisted, surprising journey and I think it’s perfect. No one seems to understand the severity of Maddie’s affliction and after a few stunning examples, the hero finally gets it. Logan is truly hero material.

Of course, Logan doesn’t see himself as a hero. He just does what he believes is right, is just and is for the best for the people in his care. The fact that a man who started off life with the conditions he survived to become man of honor and integrity made his happy ever after that much more sweet. I adored Logan. There is no greater testimony to his worthiness to be called hero than how he dealt with Grant. I was impressed.

Maddie was fun to read about. I liked her talent, her views on life, her goals and her dreams. I even liked the lobsters. The greatest thing about When a Scot Ties the Knot is how Maddie and Logan brought out the strengths in each other to balance their weaknesses, whether real or perceived. They were wonderful together, and that includes under the sheets, eventually.

This novel has so much to recommend it that I am not sure what else to add. I’m so glad I read it, I had fun; I enjoyed the dialogue, the interaction with all the secondary characters and the tone of the book. There were a few things that might be implausible but that was no match for the sheer perfect of the rest of the novel. If asked, I’d recommend reading When a Scot Ties the Knot in a heartbeat. It’s a romance with substance, just what I like.

The Deed by Lynsay Sands


The Deed by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (372 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

An innocent young beauty finds herself the fulcrum of a struggle for feudal power. Along with her ample dowry, Emma finds herself promised to Amaury de Aneford, a landless knight whose able sword has preserved the King’s crown-and whose rugged good looks make her heart skip a beat.

But on the wedding day, as a rival knight gallops toward the bridal chamber, Amaury will find that making love to his naive new bride will take consummate skill. For in the conjugal bed, Emma is astonished to learn there is more to a wedding night than just a sound sleep-and more to true love than she’s ever imagined.

The premise was cute but the book blurb could not do Emma’s predicament justice. It’s the prologue that sets up a reader’s understanding of the situation and conflict but it morphs into something that any historical romance fan would recognize – the quest for land and power. It can be pursued in two ways, the right way and the criminal way, and Ms. Sands does the theme justice.

Now, in the beginning, Emma seems an innocent. In fact, she is because her father and cousin sheltered her from ‘unpleasant’ things, or subjects that made them uncomfortable when asked to explain. That left Emma ill prepared for the marriage bed to the level that the poor girl was beyond naïve. Is that even possible? To be that clueless? I would say yes – mostly because women back in the day could be completely sheltered if the men in her life ordered it. Some people’s personalities would be rebellious; others turn bitter and resentful while others take a different route. The Deed was like a mashup of Cinderella and Susan Pevensie (the older sister) in The Chronicles of Narnia. Emma is kind of sweet, biddable, a hard worker and loyal to a fault, but with a spine of iron and deadly with a bow and arrow. I think that combination worked. As a matter of fact, the heroine’s complete naïvety was part of her womanly weapons that worked like magic on her growly, loud but well-put-together new husband, Amaury .

The hero, Amaury, is a soldier that earned the favor of the king. He’s been a warrior all his life so his rough, abrupt and hot-headed ways are all he’s known how to be. Emma confounded him, bemused him and put him through the wringer with emotions he’d never felt before and had no idea what to do about them. His confusion resulted in some smiles and giggles along the way. The hero was cute in his cluelessness and a source of amusement to his best friend, Blake. I liked Blake. But then again, I also liked Emma’s cousin, Rolf. He’s a good egg.

The villain of the piece, because you know there’s always a villain who conspires to take what they covet using any means possible, was believable and easy to identify early on. Even knowing that did not make the reading any less enjoyable. There were some unfortunate casualties that I felt sad about. Such are the victims of intrigue – the discovery of which causes the plot to thicken, sides be taken and plans to be made. Of course, plans go awry and that made for some exciting reading too.

Once Emma was awakened to what it means to be husband and wife, well, it was funny. The scenes were well written and sprinkled about the story in the right amounts, but it was Amaury’s confused reaction that made them humorous. He thought he knew what was proper and what was not, what was expected and what was not – boy, was he wrong. Cue giggle. Emma might have been naïve, but that sure didn’t last long. She’s a smart lady.
The Deed was wholly entertaining, enough that I read it in one day. I liked Amaury’s growth from a soldier to a duke. I liked that he had good taste in friends and Ms. Sands’ writing made it quite clear. He earned the title of duke but the best part is, he earned the love of his wife. I had sympathy for him because of his beginnings and what trials he lived through. The thing of it is, a man who has nothing knows how to cherish that very thing when he finally finds the ‘something’ he’s been searching for all his life. He may stumble because it’s so new, but that’s part of the story’s charm. It’s that joy of discovery, the wonder of love and the happiness that warms a reader from The Deed’s pages that made this book worth reading and recommending to others. I totally enjoyed myself.

So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks


So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks
Embraced Series, #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (496 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Love at Stake series comes a novel of the Embraced—an epic tale of two star-crossed lovers destined for doom—or desire…

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knew that she was born with the magical powers of the Embraced—even if she did not know how to wield them. But she has finally learned the truth: Brigitta is the lost princess of the kingdom of Tourin. She was sent into hiding as an infant to escape the wrath of her half-brother, the king. And now he knows just where to find her. . .

Rupert is a notorious pirate and sorcerer. He’s spent most of his life plotting revenge on the evil king—and Rupert believes that Brigitta could be the key to finally destroying his enemy. But what begins as a kidnapping of the innocent beauty escalates into something deeper, and more passionate, than either captor or captive could have imagined. Rupert soon vows to protect Brigitta against the king—but will they survive long enough to find their happily-ever-after. . .or does fate have something else in store?

Well blow me down! That phrase is not exclusive to pirates. Not at all, in fact it’s a delightful twist in this series. With anyone who is Embraced in this world that Ms. Sparks has created, they find that they are endowed with unique powers, or curses depending on what side of the planet they live on. I know that Superman had a small talent for it but he had nothing on the hero of So I Married a Sorcerer. Rupert has a few tricks up his sleeve that Superman would envy.

The opening act of this hefty novel doesn’t give a reader a slow build up. One moment Brigitta is safe with her sisters as they go to visit their other sister who is about to have a baby and bam! The next thing I know, the heroine is kidnapped, and the adventure begins.

I wanted to give this tale a perfect rating like the first book but one tiny area held me back – I guessed what was going to happen! Granted, I probably couldn’t have done it without my reading the first book, but now that I know what the carry-over villain is capable of, I am seeking clues, hints and diabolical surprises. Yes, the heroine and hero were certainly bamboozled by the plans of the slippery criminal so they were surprised, but not me. The only other character that caught on earlier was Brody.

I like Brody. Brody is a fun character and his role and personality grows in this novel. I hope he gets a happy ever after some day. But I digress. Even though I figured out what was going to happen, I did get a short burst of shock when the choice of doppelganger was revealed. The one thing that really made me go, ‘Oooooh!’ was when Rupert had to seek out the final object to win the contest. It’s who they met that got the thinking gears whirring. And, sure enough, that tickling thread was pounced on later and created the absolute perfect hook for the next installment in the Embraced series. That’s going to be so COOL!

Rupert isn’t the only person who finds something important in this novel. No, Brigitta finds something too and it’s bittersweet. I can’t say what it is, but man, I wish something could be done to … fix or help that which was found. It broke my heart!

As for plot conflict, it’s a doozey, it’s effective and it’s encompasses a wide scale – sort of like the movies made by Cecil B. DeMille, the filmmaker. Okay so there were some areas that seemed to be too – perfect. I mean what were the odds that not one person, even the vile, ‘beady-eyed’ Hilda, noticed or suspected that Brigitta wasn’t as compliant, alone or as dumb as she lead them to believe? It worked for the story, and don’t get me wrong, I liked the outcome so I don’t want to rock the boat, but I did think that it was a bit too easy. Then again, if the suspense and stress were any more intense and sharp, I probably would have needed some chocolate therapy to recover. As it is, a glass of lemon/iced tea with lots and lots of ice was needed for when Brigitta and Rupert succumbed to their passions. As always, well written and fun to read.

Oh! I almost forgot! I really liked the full circle story arc! Yes, that was rather romantic and special and I adored the fact that Rupert, no matter how much time had passed, really didn’t shake that promise. He has such honor and integrity; he certainly wore the title of Hero well.

I didn’t talk much about Brigitta’s Embraced gift because I thought Rupert’s was way more impressive. True, hers played into the plot conflict rather well, but the hero’s talent rang my chimes. Can you tell?

On the whole, So I Married a Sorcerer is a magical follow-up to an amazing new world that is just beginning to unfold. Ms. Sparks has created a rich, vibrant, imaginative and adventurous series in which the possibilities are astounding. I can’t wait to find out what new Embraced gifts will be revealed and how they’ll be used. The one thing that seems to be clear is, the author’s heroes and heroines are reshaping their world for the better, and the villains are fighting it every inch of the way. So I Married a Sorcerer is how great storytelling is supposed to be – epic, grand, exciting and full of fiendish plots. Love wins as it should and the happy ever after left me smiling. Now, how long do I have to wait for the next book? Too long.

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes


The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER…
The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse–a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he’ll take on any challenge–even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn’t the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she’s fighting battles of her own. For her, he’ll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

The Trouble with Dukes is like reading a verbal dance. The dialogue is oh, so proper while at the same time conveying all manner of nefarious or sensual intents. Even the villain attacks using proper peerage etiquette. Ms. Burrowes has a deft hand when it comes to writing in this period.

The story is mainly told through three points of view: Hamish, the hero, Megan, the heroine, and Sir Fletcher, the villain. Hamish may not be eloquent in his speech when conversing, but his dialogue in his head flows smoothly. Megan turns out to be a woman who knows her own mind and goes after her prey with single-minded purpose – the hero never stands a chance. As for Fletcher – he has the potential to be redeemed based upon his little sister, but alas, there are circumstances that dictate his course of action. Once I found out the actual facts of the matter, his comeuppance is a foregone conclusion but the way it is delivered is grin-worthy. It inspires a mental ‘fist bump’ of ‘high-five’ and it’s worth reading.

Megan’s family are prominent secondary characters that play significant roles in helping to unraveling the plot and pave the way towards the great conclusion. Their personalities are large and entertaining but Ms. Burrowes kept them in line so Hamish and Megan’s romance remains the focal point.

An interesting twist is who seduces whom. The ensuing sensual hijinks are a delight to read. It also inspires a few chuckles and snickers.

The novel is very well written and entertaining but it may give some readers a feeling of cotton-head in the beginning. What I mean is, the ‘proper’ method of speech between Megan’s cousins sounds contrary to the subject matter yet they have no problems deciphering the issues and making plans to route the villain. I had a very hard time processing the dialogue in the first half of the book as I’m used to very plain speech. Once my brain “re-wired”, I found my reading rhythm and quite enjoyed the story from then on. It won’t surprise me if the book gets higher ratings from other readers, especially if they are accustomed to the Regency style of speech that is employed in this novel. Ms. Burrowes has a solid and well-earned reputation as a storyteller and it’s evident in The Trouble with Dukes.

On the whole, I’m glad I read this novel. I was entertained and charmed by the romance between Hamish and Megan. The final wrap-up leading to their happily ever after is hilarious while at the same time, serious. Want to know the best part about the ending? It’s romantic. Very romantic. It’s exactly what this romance reader seeks and I couldn’t be happier.