Enchanted Immortals by C.J. Pinard

Enchanted Immortals‘Enchanted Immortals’ is C.J. Pinard’s debut novel. This is a great book that put me in the mind-set of authors like J.R. Ward and Laurell K. Hamilton. As well as being a fantasy/paranormal it is also a good cop thriller. The novel is full of action, adventure, emotion, great characters and great storyline.

There are many characters and different groups of people. Each of them adding their own layer to the story. There are the Immortals, the sylphs, humans, vampires and shapeshifters. For a debut novel this is a splendid introduction to many of the characters, enabling the reader to connect instantly and thus, making it easier to follow them should there be more books in the series.

The main focus of the story is on Thomas O’Malley. Thomas O’Malley endured a life-changing ordeal and ultimately became an Immortal. It is an Immortal’s job to protect the sylph and humans from vampires and shapeshifters. To remain an Immortal they need doses of ‘Enchantment’ provided by the sylph. The vampires want to steal the ‘Enchantment in the hope that it will allow them to daywalk. But will they succeed in obtaining it? If they do, will it work? Thomas works with Jonathan and Kathryn and at times they find themselves in some predicaments with the vampires and shapeshifters.

One of my favourite elements of the story are the flashbacks throughout the separate era’s. The reader is taken on a journey through Thomas’ past and how his disappearance affected his parents. Joseph O’Malley, Thomas’ dad, is one of my favourite characters. His story is heartbreaking, sorrowful but completely full of unconditional love. He works as a cop for the San Francisco Police Department and tries to do everything within his power to try and find out what happened to Thomas. As Thomas is an Immortal he is not supposed to be known to man, and therefore Thomas must not contact his father in any way. This is beautifully written and I was very touched by these characters and this particular storyline.

The magic element of ‘Enchanted Immortals’ along with the ‘Enchantment’ and the fae people holds a similar imagery in my mind as that in the ‘Meredith Gentry’ novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. However, this novel has more realism, with the San Francisco Police Department, the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations (BSI) and Thomas’ parents and past. The combination of the two, fantasy and realism, remind me of J.R. Ward’s ‘Fallen Angel’ series.

In ‘Enchanted Immortals’ the government have set up a new body, the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations (BSI), to investigate the strange happenings of missing people, mutilated bodies, anything that seems to have no explanation. This set up brought back memories of watching ‘The X-Files’, although instead of ‘Dana Scully’ and ‘Fox Mulder’, C.J. Pinard has Agent Adam Swift and Agent Anthony Bianchi. These are another pair of my favourite characters. I love the thriller side of this novel, the investigations, the mysteries that these agents need to try and unfold.

There is also some romance in parts but I am sure this will become more intense during the follow-up novels. I was excited to hear that there would be a follow-up as the reader is left needing to know so much more even though this book is wrapped up beautifully. Thank you C.J. Pinard!

If you would like to contact C.J. Pinard you can reach her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CJPinardAuthor or you can e-mail her at cjpinardauthor@gmail.com.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Rapture by J.R. Ward

 Rapture (A Novel of the Fallen Angeles, book 4)
Compelling Urban Fantasy

Rapture is the fourth book in J.R. Ward’s Fallen Angel’s series, which focuses on the battle between good and evil for the souls of seven chosen humans. The chief protagonists are Jim Heron, a fallen angel, representing Heaven and Devina, a demon, who bats for Hell. I will try not to give away any spoilers in this review, in relation to events in previous books.

The soul up for grabs is Matthias’, Jim’s boss when he was human and worked for XOps. We met Matthias earlier on in the series and he has now been sent back to Earth and given a chance to redeem or eternally dam himself. Jim, aided by co fallen angel Adrian are doing all they can to influence him to make the right decision when he comes to the crucial cross-roads – except, as in previous books, it is not always obvious where that crossroads will be or what the decision is. Devina, on the other hand, is doing all she can to ensure that Matthias makes a very different decision, so that she wins this round.

Mels Carmichael, a reporter at the Caldwell Courier Journal, runs into Matthias when he stumbles in front of her car. Feeling guilty, she seeks him out in hospital to find out the extent of his injuries and apologize. Matthais is suffering from amnesia and Mels offers to help him find out who he is and they form an instant attraction that quickly turns to passion. As Matthias’ memory slowly returns he realises what he must do to redeem himself and seeks to distance himself from Mels to protect her from the dangers that begin to present themselves. Devina plots to thwart any signs of salvation for Matthias’ soul, taking actions against him and Mels and also measures to undermine Jim’s sanity so that he is less effective in supporting Matthias.

Matthias’ character is fundamentally alpha, even when faced with mental and physical challenges, loyal to his friends and devoted to his woman, to the extent of thinking that he is not good enough for her. He is also coldly efficient when it comes to dealing with his enemies or anyone he thinks is a threat to those he cares for. I loved the fact that even though he is suffering from amnesia he soon realised what his previous work had likely been and that he even seeks to protect Mels from himself. However, he is vulnerable due to past events in the series. Mels too is a strong, capable character, who can look after herself. However, she too has vulnerabilities since the death of her father, a cop and Matthais makes her feel more alive than she has felt for a long time. She is attracted to him, despite some initial suspicions and quickly finds herself drawn to his side and that of Jim and Adrian. She becomes more and more embroiled in his life, although she is ignorant of Jim and Adrian’s true nature and the wider forces at play.

Jim is becoming more confident with his powers, although he is not immune to Devina’s machinations, with the  intent of tormenting him, due to his reaction to events in previous books. His ongoing preoccupation with what is happening in Devina’s ‘Well of Souls’ linfluences his actions at the end of the book. Adrian is in self-destruct mode for much of the novel, as he too has been affected by previous events. Jim fears that Adrian cannot be trusted to keep his eye on the mission and provide the appropriate back – up. Both Jim and Adrian grow to both like and respect Mels and Matthias and the development of Jim’s relationship with Matthias, his former boss, is a powerful factor within the novel. Jim realises early on that Mels is the key to Matthias’ salvation and both angels do all they can to foster a relationship between the two.

Fewer scenes in the book take place in Heaven and Hell,  than in previous books, though the references are certainly there and Nigel, Jim and Adrian’s boss, does make a few key appearances. Ward does not shy away from describing violent scenes within the story and the horror that is Devina and we also have rather gruesome depictions of her actions. Devina’s character is as complex as ever and it is clear that her fascination with Jim is not going away. I liked the way Ward continues to highlight Devina’s weaknesses with her visits to the therapist.

I am a fan of this series and also Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Vampire series. I love how the author teases us with the occasional references to places and people who form part of the Black Dagger world. To me this adds both depth and breadth to both series and I am eager to see at what point, if any the two worlds will collide in earnest. I would recommend Rapture to all readers who are already following this series and to all those who love reading about the paranormal or urban fantasy and who love a complex plot and characters. Although the book could be read alone I feel that the reader would find it even more enjoyable if they had read the others in the series, which I also recommend.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Captured (The Captive Series Book 1) by Erica Stevens

 Captured (The Captive, #1)

Captivating Vampire Romance

 My sister recommended this book to me, knowing that I like a good vampire romance and I’m glad that she did as I found it to be a really entertaining read. It has an interesting take on vampires and is a sweet romance, with enough potential for violence and evil to satisfy my darker needs!

The world of Captive, is set in the future where vampires have come out of hiding and have gained supremacy over the humans who are either subservient to them or live on the fringes of society in the woods and caves, forming part of a human resistance. Arianna, daughter of rebel leader, is captured and sold to Prince Braith as a blood slave. Arianna is kept captive in the Prince’s apartment at the palace. Despite her status as blood slave she is treated well by Braith, and they form a friendship, which develops into more, although they both in their own way struggle with their feelings. Relationships between masters and their blood slaves are forbidden and both Braith and Arianna realise that there is no future for them.

Just as they begin to acknowledge their mutual attraction, the return of Braith’s younger brother, Jericho, after an  absence of six years, leads to shocking revelations, impacting on Braith’s and Arianna’s burgeoning relationship and paving the way for Book 2 in the series.

Although Arianna is young, 17, compared to Braith’s 952 years, she is a strong heroine.  Indeed, she was captured whilst saving a small boy from the vampires. When being put on the auctioneer’s platform to be sold, at first she prefers death, to the constant torment of being purchased and used as a blood slave. However, once she discovers that her childhood friend Max has also been captured, she resolves to help him escape. I loved how she was captivated by the beauty of the palace and its gardens, which contain luxuries she has never before experienced. Arianna is at first suspicious of Braith’s motives in being so kind to her, fearing that he plans to gain her trust, only to then cruelly destroy her. She comes to care for the prince against her better judgement.

Braith, the first born prince, has a fearsome reputation and demands respect. I liked the fact that although he was instantly drawn to Arianna and was compelled to purchase her, it was not for the usual reason in vampire romances – he does not immediately desire to mate with her or dominate her sexually for example! Indeed, she is not the type of woman he is usually attracted to. However, she does have a strong physical effect on him, which I will not divulge here as it would spoil the book for those who wish to read it.

He is both protective and possessive of Arianna, although there are scenes where he does dominate her and barely keeps his violence in check. He is also fearful of her being taken away from him if anyone discovers that she is anything more to him than a blood slave. I loved how he became increasingly attracted to Arianna, begining to empathise with her. He does not desire anyone else’s blood but hers, but at the same time will not force his attentions on her. Braith recognises the importance of gaining Arianna’s trust and it is this that he wants in the end more than her blood, which I found to be endearing.

There are many tender scenes between Braith and Arianna in the book. The tale is different from many vampire novels I have read in that the relationship between the hero and heroine is a slow burn, rather than them jumping into bed with each other from the start. However, I did not think that this detracted from the romance and it made it all the more meaningful. For example, I found that the scene where they experienced their first kiss and was very moving. Moreover, the level of heat certainly increases as the plot develops.

The main secondary characters in the book included the human Max, Caleb, Braith’s brother and Jericho, the youngest of his brothers. Max seeks to help Arianna escape. He believes all vampires are evil and his experience of being a blood slave is vastly different from Arianna’s. Caleb is pure evil and suspicious of Braith’s relationship with Arianna and Braith takes special care with how he treats Arianna when he is present. Jericho, who returns after an absence of six years is an interesting character. Whilst Braith is wary of Caleb and his motives, he feels more affinity with Jericho. However, it is Jericho’s actions, not those of Caleb, that have a profound impact on Braith and Arianna’s relationship at the end of the book and set the scene for the next instalment.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, which was fresh and direct. The story flowed easily and at its core focused on the relationship between the two main characters, which I liked, whilst still making me want to know about the world they inhabited and the other characters. I will certainly be purchasing book 2 in the series very soon as I am eager to learn what happens next. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages from young adult upwards, especially those who enjoy a good vampire romance.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Author’s website http://ericasteven.blogspot.co.uk

Cover art by www.EbookLaunch.com and image used by kind permission of Erica Stevens

Dead Seth (Kiera Hudson Series Two, #4) by Tim O’Rourke

Again, Tim O’Rourke has left the reader completely shocked. I do not usually begin my review with the end of the book, however, it is the end which unravels some serious revelations, after many twists and turns. I love how these novels surprise the reader. They are unpredicatble and yet still believable and in line with the whole series. Hence, the five stars that it truly deserves.

The writing is excellent, as in ‘Dead Seth (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book 4)’ we are subjected to the history and background behind Jack Seth, the Lycanthrope, the cursed killer wolf. This novel is written from mostly Jack Seth’s point of view as he narrates to Keira his story of how he became cursed and detailing the life that he led growing up. As in most of the Keira Hudson novels there are many twists and turns, especially on the emotional scale. This book is no exception.

We realise the many corners that Jack Seth’s life turned, how he was mentally tormented and how unstable his whole family life was. It would be wrong of me to reveal anything more without spoiling the story as this is a must-read. There are moments when the reader hates what he is doing and other moments when we feel compassion and understanding for him. Once the reader is engrossed in the thick of the story it is easy to empathise with Jack and I must admit that, apart from the paranormal/fantasy side, there are elements that feel very real. The mental torment, lies, betrayal, and the instability are all elements that real people, real children have lived through and are living through.

Keira’s point of view is also told in ‘Dead Seth’, as she is desperately wanting to escape in order to save her father and Potter. However, as Jack is telling her his story she does feel for him. At the same time she is gradually turning to stone which proves difficult for her to even talk to him at times. During the whole read I kept asking myself; will she escape, will she rescue her father, Potter, or both or will she turn into a statue?

Throughout the first half of the book I did feel the need to know exactly what Potter was doing and how Murphy and Kayla were. This is no different to when reading the novella, ‘Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets (Keira Hudson Series 2, Book 1.5)’, and ‘Dead Angels (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book 2)’ where we are told Potter’s story and in the latter, Isidor’s. As these books focus on the one character mostly I did terribly miss the others and was desperate to know what they were going through and what they were thinking.

However, in hindsight, I think that this is a fantastic way of writing as it allows the reader to get up close and personal with each character, good and bad, and become fully aware of them and understand their point of view. It also makes it the more exciting when we are reunited with the other characters in the following books as we have waited with eager anticipation and cannot wait to sink our minds into the next adventure.

All of the Keira Hudson books are interwoven and provide a great backbone for all of the others. I would strongly recommend that any reader of this book, along with ‘Dead Statues (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book 3)’, should read the earlier books and novellas of series one and series two. This would really assist the reader in understanding the whole picture: where these characters have come from, their adventures together and also their connection between each story and the other characters.

I simply cannot wait for the next instalment, ‘Dead Water’. However, I am glad that I am finally up-to-date with the series.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan

Warprize (Chronicles of the Warlands, #1)

Epic Fantasy Romance

Warprize is the first book in Elizabeth Vaughan’s Fantasy Romance Chronicles of the Warlands series, which continues with her Epic of Palins series. It has everything I like in a Fantasy Romance – a strong hero, sympathetic heroine, great world building and a plot brimming with action and adventure.

In Warprize, XyLara, daughter of king Xyron, of the Kingdom of Xy, has elected to serve her people as a healer until she is required to marry and form a political alliance. After her father’s death, her half-brother Xymund ascends to the throne. Xymund is not the beloved ruler her father once was and is not as competent in heeding his advisors’ advice in defending his kingdom from invasion by the barbarian Firelanders, led by the Warlord, known as the Cat.  The city is surrounded by the enemy, many families in the kingdom having fled to the safety of the city walls and the castle of Water’s Fall. Others have ceded control to the Warlord and have paid him tribute.

Lara works hard to heal her people injured in battle with the Firelanders. She also tests her brother’s patience by insisting to care for the enemy prisoners of war, which he permits her to do on the basis that she does not reveal her identity as the royal princess. The war escalates to the point where the Warlord forces Xymund’s surrender. Under the terms of the peace Xy will remain under Xymund’s control, taxes and tithes are reasonable and all prisoners and wounded are to be exchanged unharmed, and there will be no looting or rape. However, The Warlord has demanded tribute in the form of Xylara as his Warprize. Thus the scene is set for a tale of love, action and adventure, treachery and self-sacrifice.

The descriptive power of the author is cinematic and I could not help imagining all the action on the big screen as it pans the mountains, valley and the distant plains. The descriptions of the castle and city community, which evoke a more European type of society, are vivid. This contrasts with that of the Firelanders (or people ‘of the Plains’ as they prefer to be called) with their nomadic lifestyle of tents and horses camped in the valley below. The story is narrated in the first person, by Lara, – thus we are privy to her innermost thoughts, hopes and fears, and this is especially effective as we can see the differences between the two cultures through her eyes. This first person narrative is well balanced by Lara’s questioning nature as she seeks to understand her new life and as such we learn much about the contrast between the life and the customs of the two societies

The two main characters are well matched and the chemistry between them is immediate and strong. Lara takes her duty to her people seriously, even though she is clearly terrified, fearing abuse and dishonour, she accepts her fate as Warprize with bravery and tries to make the most of it. Lara is kind and compassionate to all around her, yet firm with her patients and Keir, the Warlord, when she needs to be. She also makes friends and allies easily in the Firelander camp, such as Gils who wishes to be apprenticed to her to learn her healing skills and Atira the female warrior.

Keir is a strong alpha male, loyal to those who serve him, who strives to be fair and listen to the views of all, even when he does not like what they say. In contrast to Lara’s initial fears he treats her honourably. I loved the various scenes in the book where Keir stands up for Lara, especially against her half-brother and how he protects her against any perceived threat and cares for her when she is hurt or injured. He also seeks to understand the vast differences between their two cultures and seeks to find a middle way, which I found laudable.

There are a host of secondary characters, too many to mention in this review, one of my favourite is Marcus, Keir’s man and token bearer who cooks and cares for both Keir and Lara. Marcus often scolds Lara for forgetting to eat and sleep and is sometimes irreverent to Keir, with whom he has a strong bond. Xymund by contrast is not only an incompetent ruler, but also insanely jealous of Lara and his treachery towards her and in threatening the peace becomes apparent as the tale unfolds. He is truly evil and it is his actions which drive much of the plot towards its startling conclusion.

I feel that the author could have been more graphic in the sex scenes. However, due to much of the book being concerned with the growing attraction and sexual tension between the main two characters, I found that this did not undermine the romance and perhaps makes the book more attractive to a wider audience. I was happy with the ending, but it kept me wanting to know more about what happens next in the relationship between Lara and Keir and I will certainly be reading more books in the series.

I would recommend this book to lovers of romance, fantasy romance and fantasy adventure novel enthusiasts. Lovers of historical romance would also do well to consider it.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Dead Statues (Kiera Hudson Series Two #3) by Tim O’Rourke

Dead Statues (Kiera Hudson Series Two, #3)This novel has left me feeling utterley shocked and impatient to find out exactly what is going to happen next. Keira Hudson is definitely back and the main focus of this book, along with Potter. The story is told from both points of view and is completely filled with mystery, emotion, action, adventure, fear and dread.

At the beginning of the book is an Author’s Note. This is a short account of what ‘Dead Statues’ has in store for the reader, i.e. the areas and characters it will be focusing on. It also explains the connections between the previous novellas, ‘The Wolf House’ and ‘Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets, and this novel. I, personally, would take notice if you haven’t already read the previous novellas as they do provide great background information and knowledge of certain characters that will help the reader understand the emotions behind this novel.

Keira and her friends have just escaped a huge attack from the Skin-walkers, however it did not end well. They are all contemplating what had just happened and are trying to rest before they figure out what to do next. Before much can be said we find that they are in the thick of it again with the Skin-walkers. When events begin to calm, Keira is made aware of secrets that Potter has kept from her. Keira is hurt, angry and confused. How could Potter do this to her? She thought that he loved her.

Because she feels deceived and has found out that her father is alive in this ‘pushed’ world, Keira decides to leave her friends behind in search of her dad. Her friends, in the meantime, have problems of their own. And Potter has a great deal of making up to do. Potter goes in search for Keira, hoping to explain himself to her.

Throughout this novel it is easy to sympathise with Keira as she is the one that was kept in the dark and deceived. However, for those that have read the two novellas, Potter is also easy to sympathise with as the reader will understand the how’s, where’s and why’s. On saying this, I do believe that Potter should have explained all to Keira, for at least then she would know the truth firsthand, without becoming more paranoid and having more questions and doubts.

Throughout this series we have been introduced to the statues. These statues seem to appear from nowhere and when unseen they change positions. Some appear to whisper, but without their lips moving. They are eerie and it is the whole mystery surrounding them that make the reader fear for what or who they are, at the same time as wonder whether this will end up being Keira’s fate.  These statues remind me of the Weeping Willows in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. And, likewise, they make me feel all goose-bumpy as they are strangely ghostly. Who are these statues, where are they from and what connection do they have to Keira and her friends?

The setting for this main novel is largely at a cottage where Keira’s friends are holding out for her, a graveyard near Keira’s fathers’ house and Keira’s fathers’ house. The atmosphere is very moody, very emotional, scary and terrifying. The snow is falling all around, in contrast, creating a more calm background, especially as the last novel was very stormy with thunder and lightning.

The ending of this novel is a complete cliffhanger and it is an absolute must to read the following novel, ‘Dead Seth (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book 4)’. Keira and Potter both seem stuck in at their own dead end and it is impossible to know what will happen next. Will their enemy succeed? Will Keira or Potter be saved? I hope both, but the chances are slim.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Dead Angels (Kiera Hudson Series Two #2) by Tim O’Rourke

Kiera Hudson, Kiera HudsonAfter reading ‘Dead Flesh (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book One)’ and the novella, ‘Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book 1.5)’, the reader is aware that Keira and her friends are existing in a different world, almost a parallel universe. A world that they once knew but has now been ‘pushed’ and life is not quite the way it was before.

The beginning of this novel carries on from ‘Dead Flesh’ as the gang are at Hallowed Manor with the addition of Sam, who, since leaving the chapel at Ravenwood Boarding School and almost being matched with a wolf, is ill and feverish. With Kayla looking after him she hopes he will make a full recovery but this is uncertain. It is not known how far the matching went. Will he die? Will he be human? Or, will he become a skin-walker? He does show some signs of this, however it is not absolutely clear.

Kayla will do anything in her power to try and save Sam. He is in-between stages of turning and he is very ill. So when he asks to be taken to the Fountain of Souls, this is exactly what Kayla wants too. After a discussion the whole gang prepare to leave Hallowed Manor. However, during the beginning of their journey they are followed by skin-walkers. Hopefully, without spoiling too much, there is a great deal of intense action in these first few chapters and the gang are on the run from the skin-walkers and Berserkers. They manage to find an old train station to rest in whilst the reader is given more insight into Isidor’s character.

As the story unfolds the reader discovers that this particular novel, even though written from the points of view of Keira and the points of view of Isidor, has it’s main focus on Isidor. Isidor is a character, until now, that the reader knew little about – especially about his past. This book opens up Isidor’s soul as we begin to understand his character and some of his reasons for the way he is. The action of this novel dies down and becomes more emotional, focusing largley on the storyline and using Isidor as narrator to his own past. There are questions that previous novels have left me asking about Isidor, and here the answers are revealed.

We are introduced to a new character, Melody Rose. I absolutely took to her from the first time we hear about her. She is a beautiful, kind human girl. She is treated differently by some of those around her as she has been brought up in a strange manner. But, as she is different it allows her to understand others that are different and, therefore is more accepting and treat them more as an equal. It would be cruel of me to go into any more detail regarding Melody or the storyline without giving any more away. I am, therefore, hoping that if you have not read this novel yet to please do.

I must admit that this is not my favourite novel of the series for a few reasons. However, bear in mind that I have read all of the books to this series, up to this point, including the novellas. As this book focuses on Isidor and the last novella ‘Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets’ focused on Potter I have missed Keira terribly. Her character has not been featured as much and I would like to hear about her ‘seeing’ ability again in solving mysteries and crimes – a return of her investigative side. Also, Potter did not feature too heavily in this book either. But, as said above, I do understand that the reader needed to be more connected to Isidor and understand his past and character.

I was missing a little action in the middle of Isidor’s story, however this did pick up a little towards the end of the novel again, knowing that the following book ‘Dead Statues (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book Three)’ will begin with more adventure to come. I felt that this novel was a little short and towards the end we are given the chance to read some short stories that the character, Isidor, had written after being influenced by humans and the world above ground. I wasn’t too sure about these, however, after reading some other reviews I should have guessed myself that Tim O’Rourke certainly does not write these stories without having an underlying meaning to them. As the series continues to grow the reader will discover their meaning and connection and I am excited to be on this magical journey. I would love to become Keira just so I could piece it all together myself!

One of the things I love about Tim O’Rourke’s writing is that he always sets each scene well. He never overstates anything, allowing the reader to visualise for themselves, however he does give us enough atmosphere to create our emotions and connect with the characters, storyline and scenery. I have noticed, especially in the more recent books, that the weather plays a huge part in this. It is either night time or dark and cloudy, with stormy weather, i.e. wind, rain, thunder and lightning.

The use of music, usually playing on the iPod, also means a great deal. This also sets the mood of the scene that we are reading. It helps to tell the story of the characters. There is no iPod in this novel, but a radio. There is a song that is referred to more than once, regarding two of the characters in this book and it does help everything connect beautifully. The song is not for me to name, but for the reader to discover. The song choice initially surprised me but it does fit perfectly well.

At the time of writing this review I have begun to read the following novel, ‘Dead Statues (Keira Hudson Series Two, Book Three)’ and although I have only read a few pages I am gripped!

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Eden by Louise Wise


Engaging Sci-Fi Romance

Eden is a beautiful story. At its heart it is a science fiction romance, a retelling of beauty and the beast. However, it has a lot of depth, exploring the themes of survival and discovery, overcoming prejudice and redemption. It is also full of action and adventure. It defies being put into a specific genre or even sub genre and in my opinion it is books like Eden, which should be winning major literary awards.

In Eden, Jenny is a pilot on a space shuttle team sent from Earth to survey the planet Eden, the others being Commander Brodie and Matt, the Mission Specialist. Just as they are about to descend to the surface, the shuttle is damaged by asteroids. Nevertheless the crew descend onto the planet in their buggies. Once there, after a brief foray into the immediate environment to assess its flora and fauna, they discover a large crater containing the remains of an alien spaceship, which appears to have crashed some time ago. Excited, yet full of trepidation, as no evidence of extra terrestrial life forms has been found by humans, they approach the craft. Jenny impulsively enters and is apprehended by a large, dark, humanoid, alien who drags her back outside. Brodie and Matt, followed by Jenny, who escapes the alien, run towards their buggies intending to return to the shuttle. However, Jenny falls and is knocked unconscious.

Jenny finds herself stranded on the planet with the alien, whom she names Fly, as it sounds like a shorter version of his name in his own language (they are able to communicate with the aid of an alien translation device which has survived). What follows next is an extremely original story of survival in a hostile yet strangely beautiful environment. Fly is intrigued by Jenny and recognising that she is female views her as a potential companion to satisfy his sexual needs. Jenny is initially terrified of Fly, who although humanoid in appearance has expressionless black eyes and a battered face and is unemotional and at times violent. Fly is pretty upfront about what he wants from Jenny and for some time she lives in constant fear of rape which puts a severe strain on their relationship.

During this time Jenny manages some sporadic communication with Brodie and Matt, using the transmitter on the buggy. She ignores their advice to keep away from Fly as she recognises that she needs his help to survive and she initially plans to gain his trust and kill him. The shuttle is severely damaged and is losing fuel and they too are effectively trapped with nowhere to go. Jenny spends a number of nights taking refuge on the buggy. However, one night some of the native wolf- like creatures violently attack her whilst she is in the buggy. Matt and Brodie hear her screams and the creatures’ howls over the transmitter and believe that she has been killed, although she is eventually saved by Fly. The buggy is badly damaged and she loses contact with the shuttle. Matt and Brodie repair the shuttle as best they can and argue about whether to return to the surface to confirm what has happened. Meanwhile Fly, seeing that Jenny is afraid of him, seeks to try to gain her trust and encourage her compliance. Through sharing his food and shelter with her and eventually teaching her valuable survival skills they slowly get to know each other, discussing their respective cultures and form a growing mutual attraction, friendship and eventually fall in love. They begin to build a life together on Eden.

I do not want to give away any more of the plot, but suffice to say that the love between Jenny and Fly is severely tested in the remainder of the book as the both face prejudice and danger and revelations about Fly’s past.

The two main characters held my interest from the start. Jenny, the human, is a strong, feisty individual at the start of the book, but is severely challenged by the situation she finds herself in. She is ashamed of her initial dependence on Fly for her survival and is repulsed by the very idea of physical contact, let alone sexual relations with him. Fly has been damaged physically by the crash but he is also harsh and unemotional, making it clear to Jenny that is only because she is female that he has not killed her. For a long time she fears that he will rape her to get what he wants and there is one harrowing scene where it appears that her fears are being realised, before Fly redeems himself and begins to open up emotionally.  I loved the way the relationship between them progressed and the turning point in the book where Jenny sees Fly as just another person and they succumbs to their mutual attraction is beautiful. I liked how their love for each other enabled them to grow and learn from each other.

There is a lot of sexual tension in the book between them, but the sex scenes themselves are not graphic, just a natural expression of their feelings at the time. The descriptions of the flora and fauna on Eden are also believable and the planet, which starts off as cold and uninviting, begins to thaw and reveal its beauty mirroring the relationship between Fly and Jenny.

The secondary characters, Brodie and Matt appear weak in comparison with Fly and Matt’s personality in particular is not attractive. He is jealous of Jenny’s professional achievements and like Brodie opposes her relationship with Fly. Brodie is very defensive of Jenny and her safety for reasons that become clear in the book. They too have to grow as individuals and overcome the prejudice they exhibit.

I read a lot of science fiction romance and I can say that this story stands head and shoulders above the others in its freshness, depth and intensity and character development. I would recommend this book to lovers of straightforward romance, science fiction romance and straight science fiction adventure novel enthusiasts. I read the book in one sitting so eager was I to find out what happens. The story can stand alone but Louise Wise’s website states that a follow up novel, dealing with the further adventures of Jenny and Fly, will be released in 2013. I will be purchasing this novel as soon as it is released.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets (Kiera Hudson Series Two #1.5)

Dead Night - Potter's Secrets (Kiera Hudson Series Two, #1.5)I have read at least one review that says that this novella is as good as a full novel and I have to agree. As with the regular Keira Hudson novels, there is a great storyline with plenty of mystery, action and emotion. Not to mention intense characters, be they human, wolf or Vampyrus. In this novella the world has been ‘pushed’ and not as we know it: the wolves are living among the humans and the Vampyrus do not exist!

The main focus for this novella is Potter’s search for his first love, Sophie, as she is the only person from his last world that he thinks may exist in this ‘pushed’ world. He is hoping that if she exists here and he can find her, then maybe she will hold some answers to help him understand how the world was ‘pushed’. His aim, ultimately, is to ‘push’ the world back to how it once was.

When we are introduced to Sophie she has problems of her own. She has been ‘pushed’ with the rest of the world. Sophie is running from the wolves and police, desperate to seek out answers to her own questions. Will she get caught? Will she discover the answers she needs? It becomes clear that Potter’s role is to find out as much about this world from Sophie as he can, at the same time as trying to keep her safe from the wolves. Will this rekindle their original feelings for each other?

Even though we know from ‘Dead Flesh (Keira Hudson Series 2, Book 1)’ that this novella is completely about Potter and the twenty-four hours he went away from Hallowed Manor, I missed Keira. This surprised me as Potter is my favourite character, but without Keira it wasn’t quite the same. That said, we must not forget that she is part of the reason for him tracking down Sophie, so that everybody can go back to the world as it were and maybe their curse from The Elders will be lifted in some way.

The world in ‘Dead Night – Potter’s Secrets’ does not seem to be set in the past or the future but more like a parallel universe. As there are no Vampyrus in this world it is uncertain that Potter and co ever existed. However, if there is anyone from their previous life in this new ‘pushed’ world advice is given that it would be best not to track them down, meet them or engage with them in any way to ensure that circumstances are not changed. This reminded me of the ‘Back to the Future’ movies, that I have been watching recently with my son, where the ‘Doc’ is advising ‘Marty’ to not interfere with his family or friends in the past in order not to meddle with the time space continuum. I had to smile when beginning ‘Dead Angels (Keira Hudson Series 2, Book 2)’ as Michael J. Fox is referred to and he plays ‘Marty McFly’ in the ‘Back to the Future’ movies. However, please remember that this novella is not set in the past or the future as far as we know, just a different version of the world we are used to.

As Potter reminds me of ‘Gene Hunt’ from the ‘Life on Mars’ tv programme, this novella and previous novel ‘Dead Statues’ felt that it was like ‘Gene Hunt’ waking up in a different world rather than the character ‘Sam Tyler’. ‘Gene Hunt’, just like Potter, would be grouchy, aggressive and temperamental on the outside, but on the inside would be confused and in search of answers in a similar way to Potter. These types of characters do not wear their heart on their sleeves, and in many ways this supports their mysteriousness and their dark side, thus making them unpredicatable but so loveable.

Throughout the Keira Hudson novels, the iPod is a regular mention and a favourite of mine. For me, it helps me connect more and adds a little reality to the fiction. In this particular book, there is a scene which uses the song ‘Fix You’ by ‘Coldplay’ which is more than appropriate. It completely sets the mood and atmosphere of the feeling of the character and where their head is at. Perfect.

In between the emotions and action that the reader is taken through this novella did hold a few nice surprises, which help keep the hope alive for Potter, Keira and co to ‘push’ the world back to how they once knew it. However, that is not to say that all is well. After reading, I am left wondering whether Potter will keep his secrets or not. How will they affect Potter and co in future novels?

As with all of Tim O’Rourke’s Keira Hudson books this novella is fast-paced and adventurous. It is written from Sophie’s perception as well as Potter’s. This enables the reader to connect with the characters more by understanding them and knowing more about each one. This style allows the reader to feel like they are a part of the story. It is truly amazing.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Lawless by Patricia Potter

I just love a good western historical romance! Childhood memories of watching John Wayne films, spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood, not to mention episodes of Zorro, inspire my imagination. My mind conjures up hard working and often god fearing folk living in small isolated communities, farming a barren landscape upon which cattle roam, juxtaposed to violent gunslingers, seedy saloon bars, Indian attacks and land disputes to mention some of the popular themes. This book, by Patricia Potter contains references to all of these themes and more.

In Lawless, rancher Alex Newton hires Lobo, an infamous gunfighter with a fearsome reputation to do whatever necessary to ‘convince’ spinster school teacher Willow Taylor to sell him her homestead. Willow lives with her adopted family of four orphans, a former whore and an ex-sheriff who is now a drunk. On his first visit to her home Lobo rescues one of the children who has fallen down a well and, against his better judgement, finds himself drawn to Willow and her family. Without revealing his true purpose and identity Lobo continues to act as their ‘guardian angel’, coming to the aid of the household on a number of occasions before he is compelled to renounce Alex Newton’s commission and reveal his true identity to Willow.

Lobo, captured as a young boy and raised by Apaches, has little experience of giving or receiving love and affection and as such, coupled with his occupation as an itinerant gunslinger, feels that he can only bring Willow heartbreak. He resolves to leave once Willow and her family are safe from Alex Newton’s continued machinations. Willow, convinced of Lobo’s inner goodness, despite what many of the townsfolk think, recognises her soul mate and seizes whatever time she can spend with Lobo, whilst recognising that he will choose not remain at her side forever. What happens next impacts greatly on their lives and those around them, as the battle for Willow’s ranch hots up.

I particularly liked both main characters. Willow is a strong and independent minded heroine who is no stranger to controversy, her adoptive family bearing witness to this, At 25 she has attracted male attention in the past but has not found her true love and does not want to settle for second best, being resigned to spinsterhood. The way she encourages Lobo to open up to her, revealing his traumatic past and little by little peels away his protective layers, to find the true heart of the man underneath, is a joy to behold, Willow is also kind hearted and supportive of her adoptive family who have all had their own share of personal trauma. The references to Greek mythology throughout the book concerning the adventures of Odysseus and his quest to be reunited with his Penelope become increasingly poignant as the story progresses.

Lobo’s character is complex. A loner, his character has been shaped by his brutal past which has driven him into the life of a gunslinger. He lives on the fringes of Apache and white society, belonging to neither and to no one. However, as soon as we meet him glimpses of his true self are revealed, which are at odds with his fearsome reputation. The way Lobo supports Willow and her family and tries to fight his growing attraction to her, as he believes he is unworthy, is a major factor in the narrative and is done beautifully and realistically. I quickly found myself wanting a HEA for Willow and Lobo.

The other secondary characters in the book were also sympathetic. There are two secondary romances in the book which do not detract from the main romance or the plot but enrich it. One is between Dr Sullivan, Willow’s friend, and Marisa, the daughter of Alex Newton. This romance has echoes of that of Lobo and Willow’s situation, as Dr Sullivan believes that he has little to offer Marisa. The other members of Willow’s adoptive family also have interesting back stories and it is heart warming to witness how their characters react over time to the events and the actions of other characters, principally Willow and Lobo. I also enjoyed how the actions and opinions of the townsfolk also play a pivotal role throughout the book.

There are, as expected from a romance, a number of sex scenes. I found these to be very well done as they reflect the growing emotional connections between the characters. The story made me eager to turn the pages to find out what happens next, not just in relation to the main romance, but also the sub plots involving the other characters.

I would recommend this book to romance readers in general, particularly those who enjoy sweet, western romances with a strong heroine and hero who come together in adversity and in doing so find their soul mate.

Heat Level – Sweet

Reviewed by Tina Williams