Author Archives: lizreview

Review: Mark of the Bear by N.J. Walters

Liz’s Review

Mark of the Bear  by N.J. Walters
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing on April 16, 2013

When the devil wants a deal, there’s no bowing out gracefully.

Hades’ Carnival, Book 2

At twenty-nine, Hollywood scream queen Kellsie Morris is acutely aware the clock is ticking on her career. Luckily, the one big role she needs to pad her retirement fund has just come through—the story of an immortal, shape-shifting warrior trapped in a carnival run by the Devil’s minions.

When Kellsie arrives on set, she can’t resist climbing aboard an amazingly realistic carousel bear—and finds herself flung into a world where the horror is real. As real as the heat radiating off the half-naked hunk in her arms.

Marko has waited an eternity for the chance to free his goddess, the Lady of the Beasts, and his fellow warriors from an ancient curse. But once he lays eyes on Kellsie, he knows to the bottom of his soul that his purpose is to protect her life.

But in this hellish game, it’s the Devil’s move. And there’s no predicting when and where the final, brutal stroke will fall—and which lover will pay the ultimate price.

Warning: This book contains a heroine who’s a screamer—in and out of bed—and a warrior who gives a whole new meaning to “method”. After reading, please use caution when standing up. Your knees may be weak.

Since I read the first book in this series, Night of the Tiger, I already knew what to expect as far as general plot. Heroine rescues trapped hero and they have to work together to stay alive for twenty-four hours or Hades gets both of their souls. But because I also am a big fan of N.J. Walters, I know that even when she does a series, each book is unique. There are no cookie-cutter storylines with her. Yes, it’s the same scenario, but the characters, the background, and the details are very different. Not once when I was reading this book did I think, “oh yawn, I’ve read this before”, and that’s the hallmark of a great series for me. If an author can redraw the same scenario in each book so that it feels different, then it’s a winner.

I love a heroine that is emotionally damaged, but not so worked-over that she can’t function. Kellsie started off her acting career with a boyfriend who became a famous actor and left her behind in the dust to play quickly-killed characters as a b-movie scream queen. She’s all alone in the world and she only has herself to rely on. She’s the epitome of an independent woman, that doesn’t need a man to help her. She looks after herself, because no one else ever has. It’s that tough outer skin and bruised heart that make her so endearing. She takes an acting job on a film titled “Hades Carnival”, which takes her into a remote mountain area for filming. Immediately she’s aware that things aren’t what they seem, and in no time she finds herself in a battle for her soul.

Marko the bear. What to say about him? Several words come to mind. Yum. Hot. Big. Fierce. He was a fantastic hero, full of love for his goddess and his brothers-in-arms, the other shape shifters. Once freed from his animal form upon the carousel that inhabits Hades Carnival, he knows that the coming twenty-four hours will be the most grueling and important hours of his long life. He must keep himself and Kellsie alive or see both of them spend eternity in hell. As the hero in the previous book did, Marko tries to set himself emotionally apart from Kellsie, because a distracted warrior makes mistakes and he can’t afford to make any when the stakes are so high.

Hades proved once more to be as crafty as expected, offering first Kellsie and then Marko anything they desired. Hades needs the shape-shifting warriors to lead his armies against the other gods so he can take over the world. In the first book, we find out that two of the shifters have died with the women that freed them, one managed to survive, and one turned against his goddess and now works with Hades. But Marko isn’t going to give up so quickly, and Kellsie is just the woman to stand by his side.

What I really love about these books is the real emotion. Even though the majority of the book surrounds the twenty-four hour time frame when the beast is freed from the carousel and Hades and his minions go after them, nothing feels rushed. Can a person fall in love in twenty-four hours? Maybe you believe that or not, but in these books the emotions are real and timely, neither rushed nor too slow, but just perfect. And the author doesn’t shy away from allowing the characters to question their feelings. Both Marko and Kellsie wonder about the feelings they’re having, wonder if the other can be trusted, wonder if they’ll survive and if so…what happens next. While there is less sex in this book than in the first one, the scenes are no less scorching and emotionally powerful.

I enjoyed this book, losing myself in the mix of mythology and modern times, shape-shifters, a scream queen, gods and goddesses, minions, and souls-in-the-balance battles. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the series and finding out what happens to the two remaining shifters.

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Table for One by Ros Clarke

Liz’s Review:

Table for One by Ros Clarke
Contemporary Romance released by Entangled Publishing on February 13, 2012

When food critic Claudia Thomas gets dumped on Valentine’s Day, she finds herself occupying a table for one at London’s hottest new restaurant. If her job wasn’t on the line, she’d skip the whole affair, but her editor’s waiting for a review—and with luck, an interview with sexy chef Ward Nicholls. Ward, intrigued by the single woman in a restaurant full of couples, sets out to tease her palate. Claudia has never tasted anything so luscious as the special meal Ward prepares for her, but when the seduction moves from the restaurant to his bedroom, Claudia discovers the only thing more tempting than his food is the chef himself. Their connection is instantaneous, sizzling, and spicy—until Claudia comes clean about her job, reopening a wound Ward had thought long-healed. Could one accidental lie of omission end a delicious relationship before it even has a chance to start?

This short story revolves around the idea of one lie of omission being the thing that potentially destroys a relationship before it gets off the ground.  There is nothing new to the premise, and unfortunately, the author fails to bring anything to the table but the occasional witty bit of dialogue.

Claudia is spineless and weak.  She makes the wrong choices time and again and then is surprised when she loses the person she most wanted to have.  While her bossiness is funny at times, it grew stale quickly, and she appeared to be a very one-dimensional character.

Ward is the stereotyped overworked chef who takes an opportunity to seduce a woman with his food and then changes his mind when he finds out her occupation.  Ward has past demons to battle so it’s no surprise when he flies off the handle about Claudia’s selective truth.  He’s a shallow character at best, taking something that happened to his parents as a child and using it as a shield.  While that does happen in real life, it feels tacked on and trite so his reaction to the truth seems over the top and childish.

There is little more that annoys me in books then when characters do something so patently stupid just so that it creates tension in the story.  Claudia has several inner monologues about revealing her occupation as a reviewer to Ward, knowing that it is important to share it, but each time she decides to leave things as they are.  The very little bit of drama in the story was created by the heroine herself and left a lot to be desired.

The story could have been helped a great deal by adding to the length.  It’s quite a short book, and by choosing a shorter length, the author didn’t give the characters depth and time to shine, and to go further into their relationship.  The book is a quick read with a happy ending, but no surprises.  While I didn’t hate the book, I certainly won’t be reading it again.

Grade: D

You can read an excerpt of the book here, or buy it here.