Thursday, March 23, 2017

JD Tyler - Black Moon

A group of former Navy SEALS, the Alpha Pack is a top-secret team of wolf shifters with Psy powers combating the greatest dangers in the world. But sometime those dangers are more intimate than they bargained for…
Ever since he saved Dr. Mackenzie Grant’s life, panther shifter and sorcerer Kalen Black has had trouble keeping the beautiful doctor out of his thoughts, and his heart. The brush with death awakened an intense passion between them—one that for the first time had the notorious loner letting down his guard.
With the Alpha Pack battling an evil Fae who is slowly gaining control over Kalen’s mind, Kalen can no longer trust his own actions, and he breaks off his affair with Mackenzie in order to keep her safe. But when Mackenzie learns that she is carrying Kalen’s child, no amount of danger will keep her away from the man she loves. To be with his mate and unborn child, Kalen will have to unleash the full fury of his power, and risk destroying them all…


Comment: This is the third installment in the Alpha Pack series by author JD Tyler. I didn't particularly like the first book but the second somehow won me over and I was eager to see if this improving trend would continue. I didn't have as much fun reading this one as I did with the second but there enough elements to make me want to read the next one, at least.

This book features Kalen, one of the youngest members of the pack, and a sorcerer. Kalen has been suffering with the influence of Malik, the villain behind many of the bad things that have happened and with which the pack has had to deal with.
Kalen also deals with his feelings towards Mackenzie, one of the compound's doctors, and the fact she is his mate. They can't seem to agree on their relationship because of Kalen's issues with his own perception and the bad influence that takes a toll on him, but will Kalen be able to overcome all that in order to be free and find happiness with Mac?

This story focused very heavily on Kalen's struggle to fight against the influence of Malik. We've been knowing about this since book #1 and it's obvious it was a difficult part of plot, how could Kalen simply fight the influence Malik had on him. In a way, this made sense, after all, this was an important part of things, but I also admit it felt like it was the only things going on. I think it would have suited the story a lot more if we could have had more interactions between Kalen and everyone else in the pack.

The romance between Mac and Kalen had its moments... I don't mind seeing them together but as it usually happens in the genre, it revolved a little too much on physical scenes and not much on their intellectual or emotional matching. Yes, they say things but the way they act doesn't always seem very appropriate to what they say. Oh well.
It also annoyed me a bit because it's one of my per peeves, that she was older. I can't remember by how much, and I really don't care but just knowing got in my way of reading everything else.
I guess the relationship isn't badly done overall, but more scenes with them just getting their bond stronger would have added the reader to feel more confident in the certainty of their feelings.

The plot outside Malik's influence seemed very non existent. What else is happening? After the way this book ended, it seems books will be more centered on couples again? I hope so, because that is one of the best elements in the stories. I guess I'd love to have the sense of community for everyone to be more accentuated in each book. I really hope that happens in the next installment.

I think the author has a great concept here, interesting details and situations in which characters need to prove themselves. For a paranormal romance, things seem to be well placed. But I think every series needs something to make it more compelling than something else, in order to grab and keep out attention. I just wish things could go a more personality/character interaction way than a usual bad guy fighting/sex with mate when possible kind of story so often seen in these books.
I liked this book overall, but it won't be a favorite for sure.
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lorraine Heath - The Last Wicked Scoundrel

William Graves is the last of Feagan's scoundrels. A onetime grave robber turned royal physician, he has devoted his life to saving others—because he knows there is no way to save himself. Especially not around a lady like Winnie. Though undeserving of her touch, he cannot resist. His passion cannot be tamed…even in the face of certain danger.
Winnie, the Duchess of Avendale, never knew peace until her brutal husband died. With William she's discovered burning desire—and the healing power of love. But now, confronted by the past she thought she'd left behind, Winnie must face her fears…or risk losing the one man who can fulfill all her dreams.


Comment: This is the last installment in the Scoundrels of St James series by Lorraine Heath. I've enjoyed all the books in the series and I was quite eager about this one, since book #1. This final book, however, has a change because it's only a novella when the others were full length stories and, in a way, I think this was what made it weaker in my eyes.

In this novella, we finally have William Graves' romance. He is a doctor, now even at the queen's service and is very well respected. Like the other boys, and Frannie, he was part of the group who survived the London streets. He was called in previous books to help in this or that situation, including when Winnie, Catherine's best friend, was hurt by her husband. We have been aware of a spark at that time but since Winnie was very fragile, nothing else was mentioned.
Now that Winnie has recovered, now that all their friends are happy, it's finally their time to see if happiness can be in their future. But William has a secret that Winnie will never accept. And strange clues are left for Winnie, she starts to doubt she is actually a widow...

This story suffers from a limited page count sort of syndrome. It's positive that we are familiar with all the characters, with the things that have happened (it is necessary to read the series in order for everything to make more sense) and that makes it easy when it comes to simply follow certain plot lines. But the fact this is a novella, means some things have to happen more quickly or aren't described with as much detail. I found this to be a negative point, because I finished the novella thinking it was way too quickly solved in order to be satisfying. Plus it wasn't fair in a way too, all the others had the chance to have their romance develop at a acceptable pace and this couple didn't.

The central point in the plot was how Winnie, years after becoming a widow, is finally ready to embrace life again and she wished William could be part of it. She got used to him while he took care of her, medically, but now she looks at him and sees a man she cares about and not only a doctor.
The problem is that she isn't completely confident he feels the same and she doesn't want to crate a situation that might ruin their friendship. Besides, she feels like someone is watching her and strange little things are happening, like a necklace showing up beneath her pillow when she knew it was in a safe or her husband's cologne in the air when no one else uses it. She thinks she might be going crazy and wonders if William will think that too.

William, however, certainly doesn't think crazy when he thinks of Winnie, he is very attracted to her and has been acting as a friend when he actually wants something more from her. He doesn't act because he fears she might not welcome his advances and also because he feels guilty by keeping the secret of how her husband really disappeared from her life.
Obviously, there are some tricky situations but eventually honesty is best way to deal with things. I just think that, considering the amount of time necessary to solve this and to develop the romance in a credible way, the author has picked a lot more things to deal with than she should. In a full book, this might be amazing but being this story a novella, less issues should have been done.

I think that, at the end of things, the romance, despite cute, wasn't explored as romantically as it could and we know they like each other but I would have liked more page scenes with them seducing each other or something. William is a great character and I kind of wish he had as much time to develop his HEA as the others had.
I liked this but it could have bee done better.
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Maddy Barone - Sleeping With the Wolf

Rising country music star Carla boards a plane in the year 2014. But it crashes in the future, fifty years after Armageddon has destroyed technology and plagues have reduced the female population to a precious few. She finds herself offered as prize in a Bride Fight, where only the strongest and fiercest men are allowed to compete to win a wife. Alpha werewolf Taye knows Carla is his mate. He wins the Bride Fight and takes her to his den, ready to give her everything, even his heart. Will Carla ever be ready to give him anything?

Comment: I like shifter stories, especially if they are about wolves. So, I added this book to my list in hopes of it being the next best series featuring wolf shifters and their community but it certainly wasn't as pleasant as I imagined...

This books presents us Carla, the heroine and main focus of this novel, after the plane crash that sent her 50 years into the future. Carla is a young woman, she was about to become a country singer star and now she is facing men fighting to be the winner of her person in marriage. How this can be possible she has no idea but it seems the future is now a place where there aren't many women and all men want the chance to have a partner/mate.
One of the men, also a wolf, wins the Bride Fight that will "give" Carla to him and they set off to his house. Can Carla find happiness?

Yes, I'm very aware the premise of this book is a little bit weird and far fetched but there are many series/books out there in several genres that can be quite great in presenting something like this as a start and the development is well done. It wasn't the case here and in order not to turn this into a post about only bad issues (I found very little to appreciate), I'll simply enumerate my issues in topics.
But I'll start by saying that the good things were the concept, I was actually interested in reading about wolves, a pack and a world where women are seen as sort of treasures and how their presence could change a family or a pack.
I was also very interested in having a good world building and interesting scenarios to see developing in further books.

Apparently, I was too expectant because this felt like a story the author thought of, focused on the details necessary and the rest was just put there with no real complexity nor credible development (even considering the sci fi scenario).

Ok, some issues:
1) I didn't like the story simply because there is no solid explanation about anything. Why has the world suffered an apocalypse? Why did it affect mostly women and not men? Why, inf so, are some women spared and others not?
2) Why are there Wolves? Did they exist before or after the apocalipse?
3) Some cities seem to work out well enough, despite the erasing of most commodities and energy and stuff we would consider vital to a contemporary world. Why didn't people simply organize themselves again?
4) Everything changed in 50 years. Is this really time enough for things to change so radically in terms of world's population and technology and social situations but not in people's ages? Can wolves really just show up because of whatever happened and act and live as they've been there for longer?
5) In terms of people and pack structure, where does so many wolves come from?? Weren't women just a few? And if not much time went by to renovate a generation....

I also thought the romance wasn't good. It was not romantic and the couple never seemed to be as in syn as we are told. The constant "no, I don't know you" to "you're so hot and I want to have sex with you" from the heroine were very annoying.

This story has many ideas, yes. But the way this is written seems very superficial and I think it didn't pinpoint the important/necessary situations to turn the story - and eventually the series - into something complex and well structured in general.
Because I didn't like the story much nor the writing style, I think I won't read any more books by this author.
Grade: 3/10

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Clive Cussler - Serpent

On the bottom of the icy sea off Nantucket lies the battered remains of the Italian luxury liner, Andrea Doria. But few know that within its bowels rests a priceless pre-Columbian antiquity—a treasure that now holds the key to a puzzle that is costing people their lives. For Kurt Austin, the leader of a courageous National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) exploration team, the killing begins when he makes a daring rescue of a beautiful marine archaeologist. The target of a powerful Texas industrialist named Halcon, Nina Kirov was attacked off the coast of Morocco after her discovery of a carved stone head that may prove Christopher Columbus was not the first European to discover America.
Soon Kurt and Nina embark on a deadly mission to uncover Halcon's masterful plan—an insidious scheme that would have him carve out a new nation from the southwest United States and Mexico, and ride to power on a wave of death and destruction. With Austin's elite NUMA crew attacking the murderous conspiracy from different sides, an extraordinary truth emerges; that Columbus may have made a fifth, unknown voyage to America in search of a magnificent treasure. And that the silent, steel hull of the Andrea Doria not only holds the answer to what the explorer may have found—but the fate of the United States itself.
 


Comment: After some positive recommendations, I decided to try this book because it adds two things I like in the adventure/action genre: interesting historical or scientific facts and smart characters. I got this book last year this month I added it to my reading list.

In this book we meet the NUMA team, a group of people who work to defend archeological sites, to study whatever comes their way, to provide help in scientific explorations, to work in any capacity needed to salvage and help and enhance whatever situation that comes their way.
In this book the team is working near the coast of Morocco when they rescue an archeologist, Nina Kirov. She claims her team and and fellow co workers have all been killed and the important piece she found was stolen. The NUMA team joins the search after several clues point out to an organized action against many other archeological groups in the world. What can possibly be behind killings and steals? How is Nina involved in all this and how did the killers know where to find those also involved?

I read this book in Portuguese, thanks to a special deal I found but I confess I wasn't very aware of this author, apart from knowing his name and what kind of books he wrote.
As with everything, my taste for this type of book has changed in the past years but here and there I still enjoy reading the genre. I was very interested after seeing the prologue dealt with a ship that sunk in the 50s, a real one and it would be great to see a book that would exploit something related to this. Things weren't as simple, though, since the book wasn't the protagonist I thought would be.

This story actually focuses on several historical subjects. We have the ship, the Mesoamerican culture, Colombo and other smaller historical facts that add up to the plot. I really like this aspect, in fact this is the best part of these kind of books, the way we learn new things or how we can have a different perspective on things we hear about but can't really explain and how that helps with the plot and its veracity. Of course, some things are only useful for a while but I always feel intrigued but how many funny details we can learn, from ancient brotherhoods that barely anyone would know about or even theories about things we believe as facts.

The characters are very generic, since their personal development isn't the focus. We know things about them, we learn about their personalities but anyone would have done the same job, had they had different names. I can see that personal relationships' development isn't the interest here, we have just enough to like and support them, to understand why they are driven to work and help but nothing is overdone in this regard. We obviously have a bit more focus on the why behind some actions and in the motives of the villain - which seem very silly in one way.

The plot has a good resolution, meaning we get to learn things but I didn't think the over the top scenario would be accepted as real. This is supposed to be an adventure story but based on reality. How realistic that end was I can't really say I would buy it.
There are also many exaggerated situations, especially when the good guys are trying to survive or get away from a problem or situation. Yes, there is to be expected some dose of incredible accomplishments but I'd hope that such a clever cast would find a more believable course of action in some cases.

All in all, this was certainly enjoyable if not always easy to focus on some nautical information (which was quite a lot, from the ship's descriptions to the machines that exist nowadays the good guys used to recover stuff from the ocean). I don't feel like running to read more right away but I'll probably try another one day.
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TBR Challenge: Jojo Moyes - The One Plus One

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages... maybe ever. 

Comment: This was my choice for this month's installment of the TBR Challenge. March would be a month dedicated to a Comfort Read. As Wendy has said, a comfort read can be open to interpretation and in this specific case, I looked at it as in a book that I knew would be entertaining and I'd want to spend time with, feeling comfortable. By opinions and and other comments I knew this would be something along my tastes so I felt pretty content with picking this one and, joyfully, I was proved right and comforted.

In this book we meet a British family which includes a single working mother, a math's genius child, a eyeliner user teenager and a not always good smelling dog. This family isn't at its best but when the opportunity to gain some money appears in the form of an Maths' Olympiad in Scotland, the family goes there with the help of mr Ed Nicholls, one of the patrons the single mom Jess works for. But the journey isn't easy and all characters must learn something from it, even if the lesson isn't easy to accept. In a both humorous but deep style, we learn that first impressions aren't always the most trustful and everyone can hide a better person inside.

I was very expectant of reading this book, especially because I've read other books by the author and liked the style (if not always the content) and I saw good opinions and people mentioning things I know I'd like.
This book is told from everyone's POV, one chapter at a time, always alternating between Ed, Jess, teenager Nicky and little Tanzie. It's not always easy to keep the flow using this writing tactic but in this case, it worked out pretty well.

What truly made me eager to get to this book was Jess. She is a single mom and she works two jobs to support her family. Her situation with her husband, trying to deal with a depression at his mother's is part of the plot, so I won't say much about it, but Jess herself was fascinating. She is the epitome of so many women, women who work, who have bills to pay, who feel the weight of their actions on their shoulders, who can't always meet ends meet, who love and defend their children but don't always have the power to change things. Reading about this type of character could be depressing and sad but the author has an optimistic Jess, someone who tries to see the best of everyone. And I like when a working woman, even facing adversity, can find someone to trust in, like Ed and can be her own person even when things don't go as easy as she wanted but at the end, all goes well, because hope always moves us.
I really liked Jess, not because she is perfect - she isn't! - but because she tries her best.

The plot isn't too complicated but in every page we learn something new, we see something more in each character's development and the situations that seemed easy to deal with have more layers we didn't anticipate, even if we did wonder about them at times.
It was great to see how each character was changed by getting to know the others better, especially Jess and her kids knowing Ed and vice versa. Every day's feelings we don't always think about were portrayed here quite well, especially when it came to deal with family and expectations others have of us.

There's a subtle romance  between Jess and Ed which I liked to see develop but their lusting after one another isn't the focus and it never feels cheap. They bond somehow and their feelings just happen. The evolution of their romance is in sync with the plot development and this now only makes everything seem well structured but also reveals how the author has thought about how to insert every detail at the right moment. It just seemed flawless for me.

The character's themselves are amazing. None is perfect, all have a bit of introspectiveness in them, but who hasn't at our weakest moments?
Jess I liked a lot, Ed was a good surprise because he faced a bad situation and he acted very realistically. Nicky is the bullied teenager just because he is different but he is a wonderful person and Tanzie is a genius but still a little girl. All these characters interactions with one another and other people show us always a little bit more about them and how they change to become better somehow. I really liked the sense of hope we get from the end of the book.

After finishing this book, I realized I had gone through the major emotions, from laughing to crying, from feeling sad to very happy and this book feels very good. I think that, in terms of enjoying the read and getting some comfort, this was quite the success for me. Sometimes, things align themselves in a way with books and they just make sense and feel right for us. I really liked this one a lot and I think this is now my favorite by the author. I'm curious to see if the ones I haven't read yet (but that I have in my TBR) will be as amazing.
This one I really recommend!
Grade: 9/10

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Anne Bishop - Etched in Bone

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…
As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.
With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.


Comment: This is the most recent installment in the Others series by author Anne Bishop. This series has been very successful and the world building one of the best that probably has been created in the last years in fantasy.
Although this was also the last book in the series that focused on characters Meg and Simon and the Lakeside Courtyard community, it appears the series will continue in another setting, still featuring Others and humans and this is great news!

In this last installment we see the repercussions of the Elders' actions in the last book when the humans' movements against the Others were defeated in a huge counter attack.
In the Courtyard life seems to go on as usual, with the normal situations to be dealt with but suddenly things change because two Elders decide to see what's special about the human pack within the Courtyard and also because Monty's brother and his family come to live in Lakeside. But the brother's reputation isn't the best and his actions shady and with second intentions. How will his presence affect the balance the community has? Can Meg and Simon maintain the human pack intact?

As it has happened with the other books in the series, I was very eager to red this one and when I finished it, this feeling of having been with beloved friends was still with me as well.
I know I keep repeating myself in every comment I write about this series' installments but this author is an absolute genius when it comes to give life to every character, to construct a community and our understand of it. Even when nothing more serious than a simple conversation happens we still have the feeling is an important part of the whole thing. I really like how each single word seems to matter and always gives us some feeling or notion.

The plot isn't too complicated, basically the Elders show up, they don't reveal themselves to many characters but they are key in why certain decisions are taken, namely why it's allowed for Monty's brother Jimmy to stay in the Courtyard for so long. All action revolves around this idea and many decisions seem to derive directly from Jimmy's actions and choices. There's an interesting sociological aspect here, even from a reality POV, and obviously things don't go too well for Jimmy... but there's a good pace in the story and, like I said, because everything feels important, it feels like we are just getting news from people we care about and time doesn't seem to go by in a unsatisfactory way.

The personal relationships are the best part of this series...it's amazing to see characters that were "designed" a certain way or come from a specific background, I'm referring to the Others in particular, and how by dealing with humans, other emotions and expectations come to surface.
Simon and Meg, an Other and a human (even if special) have a strong bond and in this book we finally have them talk about it. I do confess the end wasn't what i expected but it was extremely sweet and adorable.

I don't have enough words, nor can I write them with talent as mrs Bishop does - and she makes it seem to easy and flawless - but this series really is amazing. It offers such a large range of emotions and human aspects, even in the characters who are not human. The best thing I always get out of these books is simple: be a good, honest and loyal person and no matter what is around you, no matter how bad things can get, you'll always have your own conscience and, eventually, maybe, someone else will know the goodness of your heart.
Grade: 9/10

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Avery Cockburn - Play On

Duncan Harris is on the edge. Scandal has shredded his LGBT soccer team’s history-making season, and now the once-unflappable striker is lashing out. Only one person can tame Duncan’s rage and make him feel like himself again…
Bullied by schoolmates in his wee village, Brodie Campbell lurked deep in the closet before coming to the city of Glasgow. Here at university he’s out and proud, but the years of abuse have left him emotionally paralyzed. Can flatmate Duncan help Brodie escape his past and heal his wounded heart?
As the two lads grow closer, Brodie can’t forget how athletes like Duncan once tortured him. When Duncan attacks an opponent who threatens Brodie, the situation escalates. Soon Brodie doesn’t feel safe anywhere—especially in Duncan’s arms.
To defeat the bullies who’ve wrecked his life, his mind, and his ability to love, Brodie must find the strength to fight his own battles. And Duncan must find the strength to let him.


Comment: This novella is the prequel of Avery Cockburn's series Glasgow Lads. The first book was the title that caught my attention but having the possibility to start with this one, I decided I could read in order.

In this novella we meet Duncan Harris and Brodie Campbell, two university students at Glasgow University. The two of them are roommates and one night got involved but things didn't went well and they were drunk. After that, Brodie got sick and Duncan sort of feels responsible and is now helping Brodie to recover.
The two guys aren't much alike, Brodie is more reserved and quiet and Duncan has more confidence and even plays football in an LGBT team. While trying to find common ground and figure out if they could be a couple, they also need to deal with those around them and the pressure of studying...but can they overcome the experiences of the past, their own personalities clashing and assume a relationship?

I won't take long in this comment. This was a sweet story at times and overall, I liked it.
Some things were a bit too difficult to understand and I admit the element that gives this book some uniqueness was a challenge. The Scottish words and some Scottish looking sentences he guys spoke weren't always easy to follow and imagining the accent also made it weird, simply because it's not something I'm used to.

The setting isn't bad, I actually liked the plot and all the themes sort of explored. 
I especially liked the contrast in personality between Duncan and Brodie. Their family and past experiences with being gay certainly affected the way they behaved and how they saw others and how they acted, Brodie being cautious and not being fond of athletes and Duncan just wanting to be his own person and not the gay poster boy for their proud parent's business. I did understand their issues and how each one processed them and in some way, it made sense how they reacted to outside things or living among other fellow students but details aside, it was still a little bit difficult to really read them and that made the reading experience less than ideal.

The detail I think wasn't as well done is how the relationship is looked at by each of them. I wasn't convinced they were actually falling in love and the way each one reflected or thought about it and what being with one another felt like seemed a bit...superficial and not really coming from their personality differences and tastes. I can't explain it but it didn't feel like the most balanced story and I wasn't much upset when it ended.
Overall, an interesting beginning of series, interesting details here and there but the romance didn't feel strong.
Grade: 5/10

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mary Balogh - Slightly Tempted

Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction…where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal…and where Morgan Bedwyn, the willful youngest daughter, discovers that true love is a temptation no woman can—or should—resist.
Young. Ravishing. Exquisitely marriageable. From the moment he spies Lady Morgan Bedwyn across the glittering ballroom, Gervase Ashford, Earl of Rosthorn, knows he has found the perfect instrument of his revenge. But wedlock is not on the mind of the continent’s most notorious rake. Nor is it of interest to the fiercely independent Lady Morgan herself…until one night of shocking intimacy erupts in a scandal that could make Gervase’s vengeance all the sweeter. There is only one thing standing in his way: Morgan, who has achieved the impossible—she’s melted his coolly guarded heart. For Gervase, only the marriage bed will do, but Morgan simply will not have him. Thus begins a sizzling courtship where two wary hearts are about to be undone by the most scandalous passion of all: glorious, all-consuming love.


Comment: This is the fourth installment in the Bedwyn Saga series by Mary Balogh. I've enjoyed the previous books quite a lot, so i was very eager to try this one as well. This is Morgan's story, she's the youngest sister of the six siblings.

This story begins with Morgan in Brussels, attending a ball. She's been there for a while and traveled with a family whose son will join the Cavalry in any upcoming battle against the french, if that happens, It is also known that son is looking for to court Morgan. However, everything feels very boring to Morgan until she meets Lord Rosthorn, someone captivating but who she assumes only wants to flirt with her.
Gervase, Lord Rosthorn really just wants to create a situation that somehow will humiliate the duke of Bewcastle, Morgan's older brother because of something that was the cause of Gervase's exile. He thinks Morgan will be as arrogant and uncaring as the duke and he will find it amusing to play a part that will make everyone talk about her and, eventually, the duke.
These two weren't counting on a battle though, whose repercussions would make them change their opinions of one another...

Like I said, I have enjoyed all books in the series so far and I didn't expect less from this one. As a matter of fact, though, this ended up being the one I liked less in terms of romance, although as an overall feel, the first one seemed less balanced between romance and plot.

The story was very interesting, especially because of the characterization's differences we could see happening in Morgan and Gervase while they were helping those who were part of the battle or treated wounded people. In fact, this was probably what made this story as good as it is, how we get to have a serious take on something that hurt many people and that is part of History. The main characters seemed to change, almost, Morgan in particular went from someone who looked arrogant and too certain of her status to a person that cared and tried her best.
Obviously we know the main couple would always be redeemed to a certain extent so we could feel they are "earning" their HEA but I did like seeing this improvement in their case.

The social conventions were also explored here. It was interesting to see the limits people had and n matter how many historicals we read, it's clear some authors try to be closer to reality than others. I always have the feeling this author is as strict with those rules as possible without making the stories too boring.
It was still weird, though, to see conventions so easily addressed after a tragedy affected the family. I fully expected daily situations to feel more serious or at least that the way the characters behaved would show their devastation but it seemed not much importance was given to that.

The romance, like I said wasn't totally perfect for me. The beginning wasn't interesting to be honest, and I usually dislike when people play games just because, without having a good enough cause. Although Gervase had a reason to try to get revenge, I still think that Morgan was too much of a conceited young woman to make things even.
Then circumstances changed, and both their behavior and nobility of spirit came forward. This was very interesting, I was looking for to see them become the characters I hoped for and things were progressing a good way until Gervase's past was revealed and I was convinced he was the one who suffered the most. So, when Morgan sort of believed he played her, she decided to do the same and, sincerely, I didn't like how their relationship developed. Yes, everything turned out to be perfect but...there's some balance missing in all this and I don't mean in terms of age difference.

This story was a good one, no doubt about that. But with such strong elements, I wasn't as positively surprised as it seems I would be after Morgan and Gervase became friends and the HEA, despite deserved, didn't seem to be as sweet as some of the others were. Or maybe their relationship didn't strike as romantic as the others...
I still like the series a lot and of course, now I'm very eager to read Alleyne's book next month.
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Jill Sorenson - Badlands

Every day, bodyguard Owen Jackson puts his life on the line — and keeps his feelings for Penny Sandoval locked away. Assigned to protect Penny's father, a presidential candidate, Owen can't get emotionally involved. That is, until Penny and her young son, Cruz, are abducted and taken deep into the California badlands.
Owen knows the bleak territory from his childhood. Worse, he knows the gang leader making ransom demands — his own brother, Shane. When a terrified Penny escapes into the desert with Cruz, Owen has to save her: from the elements and from the gang in close pursuit. Owen has hidden the darkness in his past from Penny. Now his only chance of keeping her alive is to let her see the man he really is — even if it means losing the only woman he'll ever want.
 


Comment: This is the third story in the Aftershock series by author Jill Sorenson. I liked the previous two books, I think the plots were quite original in their way and while getting to know those protagonists, we were also told about Owen and Penny, two characters strongly active in the first book. We've been aware of the attraction between them and now it was finally their awaited story.

Owen is an ex convict with a sweet and fair soul who simply got mixed in problems he couldn't avoid or situations he didn't fully control. He paid his dues, he got his lesson learned while at prison and he just wants to live his life in peace now. He proved his value during the earthquake that brought him to Penny's group and now his life is more or less organized but he still thinks he isn't good enough, much less to be with Penny.
Penny is a teenager mom, she loves her son dearly but she feels like her parents still control too much of her life. She grew up a lot since she was a mother at 17 but now that some years have gone by, she knows two things, she will protect her son and she loves Owen.
Dealing with a kidnapping is stressful and can be dangerous, but will Penny and Owen finally come together?

I liked this story, I think the expectations readers have come to hope for were met well enough. I really liked how the romance progressed and how people from different spectrum of society can find common ground and be happy. I think this is one of the best things about these stories, how different people somehow find their other half in someone apparently not the one they should be attracted to.

The greatest strength of this story is the main couple. We are aware of both their low self esteem feelings and how things just don't happen easily for neither, despite the different status in life they have. There's a certain realistic flavor here that I appreciated a lot when it came to their relationship.
Owen in particular is a fascinating character, the things he went through, even his darkest confession closer to the end of the book didn't demote him as a character or as someone we can consider worthy of a good HEA or love. I really think Owen is the best character in the series and I was very happy he could own his happiness and try, despite all the negative aspects of his past.
Penny is a likable character, I liked how she wasn't just cruising through life, she had a purpose, she was still naive despite what she saw and along with Owen's vulnerability, they became the best couple.

The plot isn't too complex but the scenes we go through give us glimpses of the character's thoughts, including a pretty good idea of the bad guy's background and reasons. Thankfully it's a third person narrator so to my personal taste it was good we didn't spend too long on this, things happen very well involved with the main romance taking center stage. But we still get to understand why some things happen and, as always, we get to understand too nothing is ever only black and white, there are shades of color that justifies - or not - some actions. It was good to have several layers to be "studied" while moving along the story.
And, as it has become a habit, we have a sort of secondary romance - which I definitely don't consider a romance but offers some other notions - to, in my opinion, work almost as a counterbalance to the main one.

I enjoyed reading this story, I especially loved rooting for Owen and wishing he got all the best. A great example of a story not featuring an alpha male type but someone we can connect with and whose sensitivity makes us want to see him succeed.
I hope the last story is as intriguing.
Grade: 8/10