Storm's Heart (Elder Races #2)

Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There is this something about Thea Harrison’s characters and style of writing…when, even if usually I would’ve found this ‘teeny-tiny girly woman that likes pink lipstick and stiletto heels’ and ‘very big and very scary power man’ pair of main characters too cheesy and stereotypical, there’s something about the insight into them and their interactions that makes me ignore the voice of cynicism and actually enjoy the story.
I did feel a little put off at first at how much sexual undertone there was in this, in descriptions on both sides from the very beginning. But the plot was also there and not actually lost behind it. I have a feeling the first book was tamer, with more focus on fantasy setting, but I might be not remembering correctly. Also, the floating POV…
This is very much a female ‘comfort book’ through and through. Tricks was about to leave the safety of her found family out of necessity and begin a new life all alone surrounded by people she couldn’t trust, and this is about having a person who not only came to save her from danger, but decided to stay forever and trade a whole old life for a new one with her, and take it all in a stride. I might not understand high heels and lipstick, but I understand ‘tell me when are you going to leave me, because I need to know what will happen’ and the dream of someone saying ‘never’ and meaning it. And also actually enjoying it.



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A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland, #1)

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A well written archetypal historical romance.

While 14-16 y.o. me would’ve loved this, given it 5 stars, and squealed in delight while re-reading favorite parts multiple times, there’s a part of me that is apparently a bit too old and cynic for this.
The younger me loved that the heroine was actually clever, resourceful, resorting to unusual choices, and not simply blindly stubborn and arrogant; loved the conversations between main characters (even though there were 1-2 dialogs my fingers just itched to re-write); loved that many of the characters actually used their heads and altered their opinions. Also the hero… Big, strong, fearsome and fearless “Black Wolf” on a big black horse? He is practically the model (template) hero for the majority of these romance novels (the ones that don’t deal with the ‘fair-haired and beautiful noble hero’ type). It feels like I’ve seen a few dozen of his twins before. Even if it works…
(Though I do suppose an allowance should be made for the fact that this book was published in 1989 and I’m influenced by the books that came after.)
The older me narrows her eyes at how young the main character is (I know it’s historically accurate, I can’t help it), and at the fact that this book suffers from the ‘I got addicted to the angst and added some more…and more…and more again’-syndrome. I’m not convinced that the final family-related angst sequence was entirely necessary. As wasn’t the mini-angst detail of the Epilogue. Some of the plot turns, especially the ones that sacrifices positive characters, felt excessive.

Overall, I think this is definitely one of the better examples of ‘romance with actual plot’ variety, but I also think that it would be mostly appealing to younger readers.

(Unrelated to the content of the book, I happened to get the edition with rather terrible printing. The problems ranged from about twenty extra pages getting stuck in a wrong place in the book, to constantly missing punctuation marks… Even for a 30 y.o. edition, it’s a bit too much.)



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Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2)

Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Why do so many of ‘second novels’ in so many series turn into these pits of angst, I wonder?
I found this book much more difficult to enjoy than the first one. I think there were three major reasons. Firstly, is that while I can get behind a tortured anti-social hero who is hunting a murderer, I find it much more difficult to get behind a tortured hero who runs illegal gin still and sleeps with people’s wives in public places. Even though Reading is perhaps a more pleasant person personality-wise. Secondly, this novel takes a very specific and very obvious format. The one where you know with 100% certainty how the story will go from the very first chapters: everything starts from a low and angsty point, then it will become gradually worse and angstier, until it reaches the climax where something terrible happens and forces people to take their heads out of their asses, so that the happy end you expected from the very beginning is brought about. And you know all the major story points that are going to happen before they do. It’s hard to remain interested and not just skip to the end and save yourself from suffering through all the angst and misfortunes. And thirdly, the fact that the main theme of this novel seems to be infidelity. Whether it’s sleeping with other people wives or fiancés, or falling in love with someone else while being engaged, or telling your lover that you can’t marry them and will marry someone else and have an affair with them after a year or so… I don’t like this topic and don’t find it exciting.
Additionally, I also felt like Lady Hero turned out to be a much weaker character here than she appeared to be in the first book, which was rather disappointing.




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A Werewolf in Manhattan (Wild About You, #1)

A Werewolf in Manhattan by Vicki Lewis Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


What can be more self-indulgent than a werewolf romance writer writing about a werewolf romance writer getting it on with a (hot, rich, super smart, practically a prince) werewolf?
Normally, I have a giant soft spot for self-indulgent novels.
I can even live (though not for long) with the whole ‘(reluctant) cinderella’ concept (as old and stupid as it is), where a woman suddenly needs to be introduced to all the riches and luxuries by some kind of protective prince charming, but she’s also going to bitch about it on every step. And with the overly-fantastical romance scenes. They do give me a toothache, but I can live with them as long as the book doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s enough humor to cover it up.
So normally I would’ve given this kind of book a higher rating, if there wasn’t one substantial problem… of the main character turning from ‘egoistically stubborn’ to ‘utterly idiotic’ towards the end of the book. The whole ‘Werewolves are very much against being discovered by public. But I’m a writer so I’m going to remember every detail about their lives and write about it’ and ‘Now that I saw the real thing I will only want to write exactly how it is and you can’t censor me!’ <- is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever read. She’s a fantasy romance writer for fluff’s sake, not a documentary journalist. The ‘I will write the reality and present is as fiction’ attitude is no better than plagiarism, it’s like saying ‘I don’t want to use my imagination anymore if I can just observe and describe you and then tell people I made it up’ and as a representation of a fantasy writer is frankly nothing but insulting. And then there’s also ‘oh, they took my laptop so I’m going to snoop around people’s private offices until I find it because I’m the most important one here!’ Seriously though, I know how it is to be hysterically protective of your writing laptop, but unless there was a valid possibility that people were going to go through it or destroy it before they could be stopped (which was not the case in the book), there’s no way any human being with a brain would’ve handled the situation the way the main character did.
Nothing turns me off and away from a book as characters who make me scream ‘why in hell do you need to be so stupid??!!’ in my head…
Also, on my quest of combing through all sorts of ‘comfort literature’, I’m getting increasingly sick and tired of the representation of heroines that makes you pity the heroes for having to put up with all the selfishness and blindness to everything but themselves…




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A Strange Hymn (The Bargainer, #2)

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Book 2, and my verdict remains mostly the same.
The world is interesting and well-developed, the hero is all what you’d want from a comfort book, plenty of elements that speak of a book made for mental self-satisfaction (dream-like landscapes, too-convenient magic, overprotective mate, etc), but the problem is that we are forced to experience it through the prism of a just barely tolerable heroine.
On first pages I almost believed that together with the wings and scales the heroine might finally start growing some brains. As in, being in the place where her manipulative powers don’t work, and after suffering through a pretty terrible ordeal, I hoped it would shake some sense into her.
Alas, the main character and her manner remains the single most annoying feature of this book, which is hard to ignore when the book is in the 1st-person pov. And still inspires a lot of pity towards the Bargainer who saddled himself with her.
She still refuses to be pulled down from her high horse, bristling on everything and everyone. She still calls the ‘love of her life’ bastards, asshole, creep; they are having a ‘romantic moment’ and she calls him ‘slippery f**ker’ in her head, and finds a reason to be angry and hateful towards him at least 3 times every chapter. Even when essentially every thing he does is for her.
She bitches at him when he tries to make her like her new appearance, she bitches at him when he teaches her to use her wings and fly, she bitches when he wakes her up with coffee in bed and makes her breakfast, she bitches when he tries to teach her to defend herself so she wouldn’t feel like a victim anymore (something she should have been begging him to do, and jump at every opportunity… and don’t even get me started on the shockingly naive and simplistic essence of the said ‘training’ where they just take swords and swing at each other), she finds a reason to bitch at every second word he says to her (or do little mean things like cover his painting with black paint because she’s a little shit who doesn’t care about anything but her darling self). She bitches, and bitches, and bitches non-stop about almost everything, and it makes reading this book unfortunately tiring, where it could have actually been pleasant.
Another issue is the writing that tends to go okay-bad-okay-bad again sometimes 3-4 times on a single page. It is also mostly tied to the manner in which the main character expresses herself, ranging from ‘I might hate the process, but I kind of dig the results. I also am coming to love the sweet pair of blades strapped to my hips. … I feel like a bad bitch tonight, which I totally dig.’ to her dialogs with her best friend which mostly made me want to wash their mouths with a toilet brush.
She sounds immature, uncultured, and often disgusting.
I’m not saying she should be a gentle damsel in distress. But some respect, culture, and dignity would be nice.
…. But then, about a dozen or so of chapters before the end, something suddenly changes, and the book snaps 90 degrees: the presence of super-powerful constantly-swearing best friend almost gets forgotten, while the main character suddenly actually begins to act selfless and uncharacteristically brave. Which would be a welcome change, if the whole story also didn’t suddenly change into a constant anxiety dump, with enemies hiding at every corner and main characters remaining completely blind to them even though everything that is about to happen is a bit too clear to the reader (which, again, is a difficult dissonance to wrap your head about when you read from a 1st-person pov, but see and understand more than the said protagonists deigns to).
This book is made up from two very different parts. Unfortunately, both of them have some elements I dislike quite a lot, also entirely different. But I also still like enough about this story to continue reading anyway… The question is how much angst will we have to deal with in book 3, and will I feel like it is worth it or not.



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Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1)

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When I first started reading this, I was genuinely impressed.
And my impression was that I have picked up a well-written ‘hunting Jack the Ripper’ type novel sprinkled with some romance as a bonus.
When the balance of “Georgian era mystery/porny content” shifted from 70/30 that I imagined it would be, to about 20/80, I felt genuine disappointment.
Still, I think this is a very well-written book. The writing and world-building are extensive, detailed, and both real and imaginative. The writing is very very solid. I just could do without a few of the bedroom scenes. Especially the ‘I will heal you with my touch’ kind.
As someone who actually found herself empathizing with the character of Caire because of some shared characteristics, the turn of ‘he felt the pain because he wasn’t loved and it will be all healed by love’ turn felt disappointing.
I’m interested in continuing to read these series, at least for a while, but I feel like I’ll have to do so fighting against the disgust towards covers and titles… I feel like these novels were done a big disservice with these choices.



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Chasing Earth: Saving Askara Part II (Tori & Aderus #2)

Chasing Earth: Saving Askara Part II by J.M. Link

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(This review is for both first books combined.)
I’m in that place of mind where I grab a book that says ‘sci-fi romance’ on the cover myself, and then promptly get genuinely surprised why the characters won’t stop thinking about sex.
This book has a multitude of interesting sci-fi premises, which tease the imagination and made me think that I would like this book more if any of them were actually addressed… but the characters have a lot of difficulty to find time to indulge in such things as providing more detailed worldbuilding, whether regarding the Earth history and why are they suddenly so friendly towards another race that they appear willing to fight their battles, or Askara, their ship, their war, multitude of briefly introduced side characters, any actual relationships between them, how their group operates, and so on… because they are too busy with all the angry sex. (At least the author stopped using the P word for the lady parts after the first time, it was a giant relief. Also made me glad that the hero wasn’t human and we avoided cringy language choices in that respect.)
The main character is entirely too unconvincing in her setting. She is supposed to be a medical professional, and enough of a professional to be the one sent into the midst of things when humans supposedly make their very first contact with extraterrestrials. Which kind of calls for an expectation that she must be a highly skilled, reputed, and respected medical professional. Instead, she gawks, gets injured, is too embarrassed to properly talk about reproductive system, rushes head first into unprotected sex with aliens without thinking about any kind of consequences, and doesn’t really do anything medicine related for 80% of the story but ‘go on rounds’ with the alien medical professional which are never shown in detail, and are only mentioned as a background setting for characters to think about sex or actively try to not think about sex.
I have a strong nagging I should be feeling like an idiot for trying to take these books too seriously. I was trying to read it as a sci-fi, when it probably was written mostly as a PWP (the ‘plot what plot’ variety).



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Laird of the Mist (MacGregors, #1)

Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Would be a good comfort book of romance variety if it wasn’t for rather unfortunate quality of writing, at times bordering on cringy, and undeveloped/missed story opportunities that stand out like thorns. Also, very unfortunate cover design that is likely scare people off. If you can ignore the writing and cover problems, then you might discover some interesting side characters and a heroine who seems to know what she wants and listens to people around her for a change. I think the main thing about this book is that it avoids a lot of angst by featuring people who are actually willing to think for themselves and change their mind about things, without remaining stubbornly blind for too long.



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Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Another one of my ‘I needed more books and wasn’t really paying attention to what I was buying’ episodes. When I skimmed the description, I ended up under impression that, despite of its title, this would be more of a contemporary fantasy thriller set in universe divided onto three major races–humans, shifters, and psy; and involve unusual alliances and hunting serial killers. With some romance as a bonus.
However, the first impression I got when I started reading is that this was going to be a book where characters think about sex 98% of time, and then somehow maybe find time to do something else in between…like hunt a serial killer, or build a housing project (which everyone seemed to completely forget about less than half way through), or hack the psy network. I don’t know if it got better or I just got used to it, but it did stop bothering me eventually.
What didn’t stop bothering me is the less than stellar quality of writing… Constant head-hopping, poor wording choices, same thoughts repeated over and over again, and unfortunate ‘romance’ related narratives that mostly enticed a lot of eye rolling. After first 6 or so chapters I felt that if I had to see words ‘sensual’ or ‘predator’ one more time my eyes would bleed.
Also, the rather disgusting habit of the main male character (and some other characters) to call the main female character pet names. ‘Kitten’ I can live with, but all the ‘darlings’ and ‘sweetcheecks’ or whatever it was… More than a bit disturbing, really.
All of the ‘mysteries’ were a bit too obvious. The main characters identity, the serial killer’s identity, the answers to many of their problems, all of it was amazingly easy to predict half way through the book. Though, to be honest, right now I appreciate the simple answers and non-angst happy ending more than I would have things being more complicated.
All in all, this book has a lot of flaws you could pick up on. But there are also some interesting ideas and story elements that maybe just enough to ignore the other uncomfortable stuff, and I personally am currently grateful to any book that actually deals with its angst and puts emphasis on such ideas as loyalty, honor, love.
P.S. No Russian would ever call their daughter Nikita, only western people do. Some research before assuming would be nice.



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Warsworn (Chronicles of the Warlands, #2)

Warsworn by Elizabeth Vaughan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Excessively angsty, and so deeply unsatisfying it hurts

I honestly hoped to be able to give this book a higher review. I even thought I could dedicate a full star just for the letters from Simus… but that’s just it. Those letters are literally the only enjoyable thing about this book, and there are very few of them…
This book deals with sickness and death for its entirety. It heavy, it’s full of angst, and negative emotions I didn’t need to experience. There is too much faceless death, and also death that hit too close to home.
I can’t really say anything negative about the writing or world/character building.
It’s just that the decisions that were made regarding the events and directions of this book are so very deeply unsatisfying, unreasonable, and hateful.
And the negativity goes on and on. Just as you think that it’s about to let up, something bad happens again. And then again, but worse. And it continues in that manner all the way to the end. And even when you think something good is finally about to happen, someone prevents it. The characters that used to bring joy are mostly gone in one way or another. And there were many frustrating moments where much reasonable things could be done and said to stop more bad from happening, but they for some reason’t weren’t.
It feels as if the author was in a very dark place of mind, and then took it all out on this book and us, unsuspecting readers who thought we were reading a fantasy romance. Which is understandable, but not appreciated.
While I had already read the first book twice, and am likely to read it again sometime, I really don’t think I will ever want to put myself through torture of reading this volume ever again. (Maybe only Simus’s letters…)



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Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)

Radiance by Grace Draven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I thought I’ll love this book when I reached the part where human appearance was described from the ‘outside’ eyes in all its ugliness. I liked the touch.
In the end, I did love some things about this concept, but I can’t say I 100% believe that it was executed to its full potential. I feel like there was a big stress on differences between races regarding concepts of beauty, and such things as food, but then we hardly got to see any substantial cultural differences. I feel like there are human cultures that have more behavioral differences than humans and Kai have, and in that respect I feel like the concept was underdeveloped.
Also, in our day and age(of watching all kinds of aliens and fantasy races on tv), I do find this idea difficult to actually believe… Should we have been imagining Kai to look like Uruk-hai so it would be easier to get behind the idea of humans being repulsed by their appearance? Otherwise, I didn’t really find much reasons in the descriptions to understand why were they considered ugly by humans.

And minus points for the bloody ending. I find it’s very unfortunate where the ending makes you not look forward to the sequels.



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My Lady Mage (Warriors of the Mist, #1)

My Lady Mage by Alexis Morgan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Remarkably simple fantasy romance with knights, horses, animal companions, disgusting villains, and mleh ending

I couldn’t stop thinking that this book held striking resemblance to something I would write when I was about 13-15 y.o. It ticked all those points – a heroine with magic power related to horses, a handsome knight on a black horse, an instant romance with the aforementioned knight, a group of overly protective and honorable warriors with animal companions, etc.
Unfortunately though, the villains in this book were a bit too villain-y and disgusting in the beginning, and then were thrown away in a mangled and abrupt ending in a rather disappointing way. For an ending like this, I really don’t see a point for building up the resentment towards them as much as it was built up.
Another point would be that the heroine could do with a bit more brains (as usual). I literally couldn’t stand the way she behaved and acted in last few chapters.
I think, that even for a silly fairy tale (with sex) for girls this book had some promise, until about 70% in, when it suddenly flew off the hinges and the plot was washed down the toilet.



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Warprize (Chronicles of the Warlands, #1)

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A healthy fantasy romance to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

A easy ‘comfort book’ through and through, with a handsome and overprotective warlord, likable side characters (also very protective), a ‘stubborn healer archetype’ heroine, a healthy relationship (admittedly, an ‘insta’ one, though), and grand gestures. Nothing else to say really. A good romantic read to put some balm on your soul and get away, without having to read about much angst and intrigues.



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