Tag Archives: May 2012

Review: Patch of Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos

Patch of Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos
Urban Fantasy released by Samhain Publishing on May 15, 2012

All it takes is one weak seam for everything to fall apart.

Sierra Fox, Book 1

In a perfect world, Sierra Fox would have stayed away from the Council she left years ago. But in this world—where spirits have the right to walk among the living—it’s her job to round up troublesome spooks and bring them before that very same Council.

Though her desk is piled high with open cases, she can’t resist an anonymous summons to a mysterious late-night meeting with a bunch of other hunters, each of whom seems to have a unique specialty. The news is dire: something is tearing at the fabric of the universe. If the hunters can’t find who or why in time, something’s going to give in a very messy way.

As current cases, family secrets, new clues and her tangled love life slowly wind themselves into an impossible knot, Sierra finds herself the target of a power-sucking duo intent on stealing her mojo. And realizing she holds the key to the last hope of sealing the widening rift.

Product Warnings
Spook catching: may contain traces of ectoplasm and otherworldly nasties. Not recommended for those with allergies to ghosts, demons, and with boyfriends who think your power is theirs. While reading, avoid dark patches and stay to the light.

The first thing you will notice about this book is that it is not a true romance. Instead it is a paranormal fiction with some romantic elements. Patch of Darkness is the first in a series of books around the main character Sierra Fox. Sierra is a spook catcher. A spook catcher is sort of a mix between detective and bounty hunter. Her job is to go out to haunted places and ensure that ghosts are following the rules set out for them by society and if not to remove them.

Sierra is a rebel who struck out on her own to take on the mega corporation, using girls with her talents, for their own profit. She doesn’t necessarily play by the rules. But she is also vulnerable because of her time with the corporation and the constant abandonment in her life. She has a justified fear of being used, which makes it difficult for her to trust her judgment and intuition.

Which is where the romantic conflict kicks in. Sierra is torn between the guy she thinks she should be with (current boyfriend, Jonathon) and the hunky private investigator (Papan) with the office above her. The conflict is really a small portion of the book, except for underscoring Sierra’s weakness in regards to trusting herself and ignoring important clues due to her denial.

The real plot of the book involves Sierra being invited to join a group which includes a witch hunter, demon hunter, werewolf hunter, and vampire hunter to help protect this word from paranormal rifts (which allow banished paranormal beings back into this world).

The book involves lots of twists and secrets about Sierra and those around her (no spoilers here!). It did start off fairly slow, which made it difficult to connect with the story. Part of this was that many things just didn’t seem to click in my brain. I had too many questions and not enough answers. By halfway through the book, the answers started coming and my interest in the book really started to rise. I thought the author did a good job of dropping clues to the reader while allowing Sierra to miss/ignore them and it not feel contrived.

Overall, I thought this was a decent introduction to the series. It is a short novel and leaves many questions unanswered about Sierra’s life, but does wrap up nicely the immediate problem. It will be an interesting book for those that enjoy paranormal stories, but it is not a book to read for romance. That is not the focus of the book and is almost an afterthought. But that fits in with where Sierra is at this point and works well within the author’s plan.

Grade: C

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

Review: Drive Me Crazy by Jenna Bayley-Burke

Drive Me Crazy by Jenna Bayley-Burke
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on May 29, 2012

The quickest way to love isn’t always a straight line.

This was supposed to be Xavier Moreau’s long-awaited vacation. A few precious weeks away from his over-scheduled career to see the America his mother loved and still make it to his best friend’s wedding in time. Instead, he’s ferrying the bridezilla’s sister to the nuptials. The luscious Jaime Cruz makes his mouth water, but her near-frenzy to get to Oregon now would scrape on his last nerve—if he didn’t sense that she needs the break as much as he does.

Fresh off a teaching assignment in D.C., Jaime’s white-knuckling it. She’s got only three weeks to get home, find a job and a place to live, and ensure her sister’s big day comes off without a hitch. Except Xavier tosses her three-days-or-bust itinerary out the window. Even more annoying, Jaime finds herself succumbing to his relentless determination to make sure she enjoys every minute of the trip. And falling under the spell of his sizzling touch.

Three weeks and three thousand miles later, Jaime’s feet are on home ground, but her heart is pulling her in a completely unexpected direction. Toward Xavier and a new journey that will require the ultimate leap of faith.

Jenna Bayley-Burke is an author I try to keep up with. (Which is saying something because these days I seem to floating around on a sea of lost aimlessness with books.) I have to admit, the premise wasn’t something that made me go all *oooo grabby hands!* but I was willing to give it a try because of JBB. If you know me at all, you’ll know weddings aren’t my thing. (I know, a romance reader who can’t stand weddings! I blame it on my wedding experiences. Friends say I should sell them to authors for ideas.) Road trips also give me mental hives. Although, if ever there was a way to do a cross country trip, it would be with Xavier. I’d go with a Xavier.

Jaime Cruz is a bit of a contradiction. I didn’t particularly like her in the beginning, but she grew on me. I really started to sympathize with her when her back story (or childhood, really) came to light. For all that Jaime is a caretaker, she’s rather closed off. It’s explained, but for such a take charge person, I didn’t like how she wasn’t clear and articulate with Xavier at first. With their relationship (or lack thereof) it made sense for her to hold back. I really enjoyed seeing Jaime let go a little, and think of herself and having fun.

Xavier Moreau is a really good guy. A really good guy. Just… a bit of an idiot. He’s not in touch with his emotions, but it makes sense because he’s still grieving. He lost his mother a year ago from the beginning of the book, and he’s still grieving. Xavier just doesn’t quite know it. He’s mischievous and smart, but a little lost. Career wise, Xavier is entirely set. Socially he knows exactly what to do and is quite desired in the upper echelons of society… but when it comes to being personal he falters. It was cute watching Xavier realize his emotions, all the while dragging Jaime into all sorts of hijinks and out of the way tourist destinations.

The book starts with Xavier ready to embark on a personal quest to fulfill some of what he considers to be his mother’s last wishes. He gets a call to pick up his best friend’s future sister-in-law. Jaime. Xavier wants to meander about the country. Jaime’s determined to make it a straight shot. What bothered me a lot is they never communicate that to each other. There’s a huge emphasis on the famili(es) wanting Jaime and Xavier being in Oregon now now now… but no reason why. For Jaime, it’s to settle in. (Although there’s something later that totally negates it.) Beyond that, this is a point of contention throughout the book. It made no sense to me. Jaime harps on getting home quickly throughout the trip. Even when it’s obvious that’s not what they’re going to do, nor is it what she really wants to.

Now that I’m thinking about it, it felt like forced conflict. Perhaps another method to show us how “entirely different” Xavier and Jaime are from each other. Only… they’re not. They’re both take charge, direct, and very goal oriented. Xavier is just taking a vacation at this point – and who an begrudge him a relaxed and meandering journey? I will say though – at one point Jaime probably isn’t serious anymore with her protests, but she feels compelled to try to stand her ground and get her way. Xavier isn’t a guy you want to spoil, nor does he need it, exactly. At least not when it comes to getting his way with women.

The writing was of course great. Xavier and Jaime are extremely well written characters, and I felt like I knew exactly who they were. They were definitely the focus, and although there were a number of cameo appearances from both their family members, they never detracted from Xavier and Jaime’s story. I liked that there were no seconday characters stealing the show. The chemistry between Xavier and Jaime was also extremely well done. The pages fairly sizzled. Our hero and heroine are obviously compatible with amazing chemistry. While that’s generally cliche in romance novels, it was quite believable here.

The slightly pat ending bothered me – with Jaime’s mother doing an abrupt about face in her behavior, and I felt it was really the tool to give Xavier and Jaime their happy ending. (I did love the “pep talk” Xavier’s sister gave him.) I started out the book being annoyed with how it was going (the blatant and obvious disagreement that could be resolved with a two minute conversation instead of extreme pouting by Jaime) – but the journey and the fun they were having quickly let me get over that.

I know I harped on the flaws, but those were my only issues. And it’s because I have such high standards for Ms. Bayley-Burke. I expect I’ll re-read this book, and will definitely be looking for the next release from Ms. Bayley-Burke. I recommend this book to lovers of contemporary romance, and anyone looking for a fun summer read. Especially if you’re roped into a cross country road trip. 😉

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here. Oh and always of note… the cute addition to each Samhain book description:

Product Warnings
Caution! Dangerous curves ahead. Do not enter if you might be spooked by haunted hotels, embarrassed by sex in the great outdoors, or fear you might yield to a devastating Frenchman willing to drive you to distraction.

Review: Finding Chrissten by NJ Walters

Liz’s Review

Finding Chrissten by NJ Walters
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing May 8, 2012

Legacy, Book 5

She escaped hell. Now love must capture her heart.

For eighteen horrific months, Chrissten Lawton was at the mercy of a crazy doctor and his pureblood werewolf flunky. She was subjected to experiments, beaten, mated against her will…and fading fast.

Just as she reaches the breaking point, the Haven pack comes to her rescue. Although any strange male makes her nervous, one of her rescuers stays by her side night and day, and something within her responds to this wolf’s gentleness.

From the moment Hank Brewer picked up Chrissten’s unique scent, he’s been driven to help her overcome her trauma-fed fears. He may be a half-breed, but he never does anything halfway. As he dedicates every waking moment to her healing, their fragile link leads them toward something they both hesitate to name.

But the danger isn’t past. Chrissten’s mate is still on the loose and he won’t rest until she—and the rest of Haven’s females—are taken for the cruel enjoyment of his rogue pack. Even though Hank would give his life to save her, the biggest challenge lies ahead. Admitting their love to each other.

Warning: This book contains an evil doctor, a crazy pureblood werewolf, a dysfunctional family, hunky werewolves, hot, sweaty sex, a daring rescue and a love that will make your heart sing.

I read a lot.  And by a lot, I mean that I’m always reading a book.  My goal for this year is to read 100 books, which averages to one every three days, give or take, and I’m already a dozen books ahead of schedule (thank you GoodReads).  Because I read so much, I don’t often remember authors right away when I see a book that catches my eye, so I have to go looking for them to see if I’ve read something before.  It’s nothing against the authors per se, it just means that I’m a harried mother of two young kids and most superfluous stuff not related to school or dinner or where the dog is, tends to slip right out of my mind.  When I selected Finding Chrissten to read/review, I picked it because the premise of the book was interesting.  It was later, when I actually looked up NJ Walters, that I realized why her name had sounded familiar – because I had already read several of her books and really liked them.  Among her books, the Tapestries series is one that I really dig.  Besides being hot and steamy, she writes her worlds and her characters so well that it’s easy to forget that it’s fantasy.  A real mark of a fantasy author for me, is one that makes me forget that what they’re writing about isn’t actually plausible in real-life.  Even though I had not read the previous books prior to Finding Chrissten, I had no trouble at all stepping into the series at book 5 because it was well written and engaging.  Because NJ just writes that well.  In Finding Chrissten, you feel Chrissten’s pain and vulnerability, the sheer madness of her mate, and the awesome determination of Hank.  The characters don’t just leap off the page, they stand around you and watch you read.

When the book begins, we find Chrissten near death, locked in a cage and being experimented on by a demented doctor and brutally used by a werewolf claiming that she belongs to him.  Just being rescued isn’t enough to put her at ease, as the months of degradation and abuse she suffered have taken their toll.

Chrissten emerges from her captivity a changed woman.  No longer the sister that her brothers remember, she’s erected walls to protect herself from ever being a victim again.  As a half breed of a human woman and a werewolf father, she and her twin brother turn to the father who never knew they existed for help in finding and destroying the wolf who claims her.  She finds safety within Hank’s arms as she begins the road to recovery, but struggles to separate herself from him so she can face her mate on her own terms.  She is the very definition of a survivor, choosing not to be a victim forever but gathering strength where she can to set her world right and protect the people that she loves.

Hank is a man that enjoys simplicity in his life, but falls for Chrissten, an incredibly complex woman with serious problems.  Up to the challenge, he slowly shows her just what makes a real wolf, and helps her regain the things that she lost.  He gladly opens his life to her, vowing to set her free even if he has to die to do it.  The blossoming romance between the two is bittersweet and wonderful, as they both try and fail, but never quit.

The cast of characters is vast, including Chrissten’s twin Quinn, and their human half brother, Craig.  They’re desperate to have her back safe, joining forces with the Chicago pack led by Isaiah and his mate Meredith, their own father and his pack, and utilizing the mysterious vampire, Damek.  The pack is a family, and they accept Chrissten and her family readily when she’s rescued and she finds herself ensconced in genuine affection and care from people she only just met.

A sweet story about redemption, finding love, and survival, Finding Chrissten is a great addition to the Legacy series, but one that even new readers will enjoy.  It’s full to the brim with possessive werewolves (both half-breeds and full-blooded), more than one rescue, a mostly broken but feisty half-breed woman, and a man that is willing to go to any lengths to protect her.

Grade: B

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

Teaser Tuesday: Embrace of the Damned by Anya Bast

Hello friends! Today we have the very lovely and incredibly sweet Anya Bast sharing an exclusive excerpt of her upcoming book, Embrace of the Damned. It will be out on May 1, 2012 from Berkley Sensation! Whee!

A damned Viking warrior.

Centuries ago Broder Calderson committed murder. As punishment, he was given over to the dominion of Loki, the Trickster God, made part of the Brotherhood of the Damned and condemned to an immortal life of battle against the Blight, blood-drinkers from Hel.

A mysterious woman he can’t resist.

One thousand years to the day he was damned, Loki allows him a woman as reward for his good service and repentance of his crimes. Once Broder sees Jessamine Hamilton, he is overcome with need. But Jessa is no ordinary woman, and the truth of who—and what—she is could have dangerous consequences.

A tormented man she can’t deny.

Though a future together is impossible, the warrior’s touch ignites an irresistible passion in Jessa. But every heated kiss pushes them closer to destruction. Forced to return to the brutality of his Viking past to protect her, will Broder surrender forever to his darkest impulses?

He stared at her, the curve of her hip, the press of her breasts against her sweater. Her brown eyes flashed with temper and that only made them more beautiful. He’d developed superhuman control where women were concerned over the centuries, but Jessa was shredding it like tissue paper in a tornado. She didn’t understand the danger, had never met a man like him.
“Back away, Jessa,” he growled.
She shifted and leaned in toward him. “No.”
The slim tether he had on his control snapped. He lunged at her, sweeping her up in his arms. She yelped and dropped the bag of ice, but he barely noticed it.

He wanted her. On the bed. Naked. Not in that order.

He pulled at the hem of her shirt. “I warned you to get away from me.”
“What are you doing?” There was a note of alarm in her voice, but the note of musk in her scent said she wasn’t exactly scared—not totally. That note of musk only made him need her more.
He cupped her face in his hands, forcing himself to stop tearing at her clothes. “It’s been a very long time since I was with a woman and I want you. You, above all others. If you don’t want me touching you, get the fuck out of this room and away from me right now.”
She went very still, staring up into his face with wide eyes.
“Last chance,” he gritted out.
The scent of her was strong now, though he could clearly see the conflict on her face. She wanted him, but knew she shouldn’t. If he was a gentleman, he’d back away right now. Except he wasn’t a gentleman; he was an immortal Viking who hadn’t touched a woman in a thousand years.
“Are you sure?” he managed to force out.
She gave him an almost imperceptible nod.

* * * * *

What was she doing? She’d wanted so badly to not give in to him and here she was, giving in to him. Worse, her body was humming with need. There was no way she could say no. Not now. Not with his hands on her and that look in his eyes—like she was every Christmas he’d never had, like he would die if he didn’t get to touch her. Her libido had trumped her mind.

All that mattered right now was his hands on her body. Everything else was going to have to wait until later.

With a growl of pure lust, he yanked her around and dragged her to the bed. His fingers worked to free her clothes the moment he tossed her down. “I want you bare,” he breathed against her mouth. “I want your skin on mine.”

She wanted that too, wanted more than that. She wanted her hands sliding over the warm, hard muscle of his chest and arms, desired his body flush up against hers, hot and intimate.

Her fingers caught in his shirt, finding the hem and yanking upward, as desperate to find bare flesh as he. Her hands slid over his muscled stomach and he groaned at the touch of her fingers. Her breath caught at the white crisscross of ancient scars, her fingers tracing a couple of them. It made sense he had them, but they were still jarring—so deep, so brutal, such blatant evidence of his violent existence.

“You’re making me crazy,” he murmured. “I’m trying to hold myself back from you, but you’re making it hard. A taste. That’s what I need. Just a taste.”

“You can take more,” she breathed against his lips. Please.

She pushed her sweater over her head and he tossed it to the floor. Next came her jeans, off and discarded. Now she was clad only in her black bra and underwear. Pausing, he leaned back and seemed to soak in the sight of her, as though memorizing the lines of her body. A moment later and his ferocity returned. He came down over her, forcing her thighs to spread and slipping his hand between them. She let out a shuddering breath of surprise mixed with arousal as his fingers found all the places where she was hot and excited through the thin panel of her underwear.

A little whimper escaped her throat as her need built. His touch excited her in ways no other man’s ever had. It had to do with his masterfulness, his aggressiveness, or maybe it was simply his sexual appetite—so great and so obvious.

“I remember this,” he rasped. “How a woman feels. I want to make you moan with pleasure, Jessa.”

She gasped as a powerful wave of sensation radiated through her. “I’m already there.”

Broder shuddered against her. “No. I want more from you. More.” He lowered his mouth to hers, almost kissing her.  “You feel so good, so hot and sweet. I could get drunk on you.”

So what’d you think? Have you read anything by Anya Bast before? (If you haven’t you really should!) Isn’t that cover great too?! Very fitting. And you can read another excerpt here.