Bound by Night ~ Larissa Ione

  • Title: Bound by Night
  • Author: Larissa Ione
  • Series: MoonBound Clan Vampire #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  The first installment in a sexy new paranormal romance series by Larissa Ione, author of the bestselling Demonica series!

A WOMAN OUT FOR BLOOD

Nicole Martin was only eight years old when the vampire slaves rose up in rebellion and killed her family. Now she devotes her life to finding a vaccine against vampirism, hoping to wipe out her memories—along with every bloodsucker on the planet. But there’s one thing she cannot destroy: her searing, undeniable attraction for the one man she should hate and fear the most . . .

A VAMPIRE OUT FOR REVENGE

A member of the renegade vampire MoonBound Clan, Riker is haunted by demons of his own. When he recognizes Nicole and remembers how her family enslaved his loved ones, his heart burns for vengeance. But when he kidnaps Nicole and holds her in a secret lair, his mortal enemy becomes his soul obsession, his greatest temptation, and, perhaps, his only salvation—a hot-blooded lover who could heal him with her touch . . . or bury him forever.

Review:  Bound by Night is the first book of a new series by Larissa Ione, a paranormal romance author known for her Demonica series. This series combines vampire mythology along the lines of Lara Adrian and J.R. Ward (vampires are a distinct breed from humans) with Native American lore. In this world, vampires are the victims of slavery and exploitation at the hands of humans.

The story begins with a flashback of Nicole watching her family being murdered at the hands of wild vampires. Flash forward to the present, and Nicole is now at the helm of a corporate empire whose foundation was built upon vampire exploitation. Meanwhile, Riker, a fierce warrior, must free a captive vampire to prevent war between tribes. His solution is to kidnap Nicole to use a leverage to gain the release of the female. Nothing goes as planned, including the sparks that ignite between Riker and Nicole.

I will give Ms. Ione credit, this book is steeped with chemistry and emotional longing between her main characters. For all of the paranormal alpha male lovers out there, the sexy times are smoking hot in this one. Yet, the author takes the times to develop affection between the characters beyond just sexual urges. This is the heartbeat and strength of this story.

Alas, the world-building suffers in the wake of the romantic emphasis. As a result, the mythology is a bit bland. The Native American theme, in particular, is not very well executed. It almost feels as if the tribal elements are thrown in as an afterthought. In contrast, the socio-political themes are much more distinctly drawn. However, the trope of the newly down trodden race is just a tad overplayed these days. In truth, I doubt that most readers will care as much about the depth of world-building as I, reveling instead in the romance, rightly so given the PNR genre of the book.

I did enjoy the book. It was a quick and fun read, a good beach book. While I won’t rush out and get new books upon release, I plan to follow the series. Who knows, maybe the world-building will improve, it definitely has that potential. In the meantime, I know some PNR gals who will eat this up.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.

 

Stone Guardian ~ Danielle Monsch

  • Title: Stone Guardian
  • Author: Danielle Monsch
  • Series: Entwined Realms #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Description:  Gryphons flying past skyscrapers? Wizards battling it out in coffeehouses? Women riding motorcycles with large swords strapped to their backs? All normal sights since the Great Collision happened twenty-six years ago.

Well, not normal for everyone. Larissa Miller may have been born after the Great Collision, but as a history teacher who lives in the human-only city, she has never come into contact with any other race or species, nor has she wanted to. Her life is as ordinary as it gets – that is, until one day she walks out of her apartment and is attacked by a mob of Zombies, only to be saved by a Gargoyle.

Gargoyles trust no one outside their Clan, but due to a cryptic prophecy, Terak, Leader of the Gargoyles, has been watching over the human woman for months. While he can find no reason why the woman has been singled out, something about her stirs every protective instinct within him. When the attack confirms that the threats against her exist and are real, he convinces Larissa that though their races have never been allies, the best chance of discovering why she has been brought into his world is by working together.

In the course of their investigation Terak becomes entranced by his little human. But when he discovers why Necromancers want her and the great reward that awaits him if he betrays her, he must choose between the welfare of his Clan and not only Larissa’s life, but the fate of this New Realm as well.

Review may contain spoilers.

Review:  I was very intrigued by the concept of a gargoyle hero. I read a LOT of urban fantasy (if you haven’t noticed by following my reviews) and I was eagerly anticipating the prospect of new mythology. The further I read, the more my excitement dimmed, as it revealed that the story was not well executed.

The concept of the world was great. Two realms (dimensions) collided, leaving the inhabitants of both realms struggling to find balance. Larissa found herself the target of attacks from magical creatures, the kind from which she had been sheltered her whole life. Terak, the leader of the gargoyle clans, stepped in to protect her based on advice from the Oracle. Of course, they found themselves drawn to one another as they fought to keep Larissa safe.

Let me start with Larissa. I didn’t really care for this heroine at all. The big tough gargoyle kept saying that she was brave, but I couldn’t see it. Yes, she was soft and pretty and different from gargoyles. I get the fascination. However, she was also meek in the face of danger and made stupid decisions as a matter of habit. I did like Terak, but I felt he would have found Fallon, a warrior character, to be a much better companion. Beyond the obvious physical attraction between Larissa and Terak, there was not a whole going on in this romance. The author TOLD kept telling us that there were feelings developing between them, but never really demonstrated a basis for those feelings.

The magic system itself wasn’t bad. Heck, it was Dungeons & Dragons 101, hard to fault that. It was just not overly original. The plot also played out very much like a D&D campaign; skirmish, win, regroup, skirmish with a higher foe class, win, regroup, rinse, lather repeat. It is fun when PLAYING D&D, but slightly less fun to read.

*WARNING: The following paragraph contains a MAJOR SPOILER. Turn back now, or risk a major plot reveal.*

The biggest flaw with this book is that Ms. Monsch violated her own rules of world-building. I hate inconsistent mythology. The reason Larissa is being targeted is for ability as a null (one who can cancel magical effects, for those less dorky than myself). That can be a useful quality, but wait, didn’t the battle mage cast a protection spell around her early in the book? Why, yes, the author remembers, explaining that her null power requires direct contact. I got it, except, why then does the null power render the battle mage useless later in the book. Surely she could target her magic upon other villains? This was just plain sloppy.

*END of SPOILERS*

It wasn’t a waste to read this book, after all, I get credit for a gargoyle book in an urban fantasy reading challenge. (Do you know how hard it is to find UF with gargoyles???) As for the book, the concept itself has promise. What this author needs is a really good editor to help her polish and refine her work. Until then, I’m just in it for the gargoyles.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.

Kiss of Steel ~ Bec McMaster

  • Title: Kiss of Steel
  • Author: Bec McMaster
  • Series: London Steampunk #1
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven. But at what price?

Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

Review:  This was a fun paranormal steampunk adventure. While not overly deep it had a really solid plot and interesting characters.

Review:As the first book in the series, it was a nice start toward world building. I thought it featured an interesting take of vampire/were lore. The author did a really good job of setting up of the nature of this world without allowing the plot to be distracted by monkey-button details. I would have liked her to have gone deeper, but I suspect more will unfold through the rest of the series.

I found both of the lead characters to be engaging. Honor was a good blend of strength and vulnerability and I do so enjoy a flawed hero, such as Blade. McMaster also cast some interesting secondary characters. It will be interesting to see how they develop, especially within the context of the political intrigue set in motion.
I really like the cover. While it is not quite in the context of the story (Honor would never show that much leg out on the foggy docks), it is sassy and eye-catching. It does capture the dashing tone of the book well. The color scheme is nicely done, hinting well at the vampiric nature of the hero.

What this book lacked in depth I think it made up for in entertainment value. It left me wanting more, but in a good way.

Heart of Iron ~ Bec McMaster

  • Title: Heart of Iron
  • Author: Bec McMaster
  • Series: London Steampunk #2
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal
  • Format: Audiobook and eBook
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict ‘blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…

Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…

Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena—a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect—he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.

With the humanists looking to start a war with the Echelon, Lena and Will must race against time—and an automaton army—to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city on the brink of revolution, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

Review:  This was a fun paranormal steampunk adventure. While not overly deep it had a really solid plot and interesting characters.

ReviesHeart of Iron is the second book in the London Steampunk series. This book features an all-new tale of intrigue in the paranormal steampunk world created by Bec McMaster. While this book had enough adventure to satisfy me, I would say it leans heavily toward the paranormal romance category.

This book revolves around Lena, sister to Honoria the primary character from the first book, and Will, right hand man to Blade, the Devil of Whitehall and Honoria’s husband. Lena finds herself involved in a dangerous plot and Will is determined to keep her safe, even from himself. Suspense and romantic tension ensue. Lena is a bit of a prissy character, but with a core of strength within her, making her a good match for Will’s tortured and savage verwulfen soul.

On the romance side, McMaster does a great job of creating that heart-wrenching passion between her romantic leads. The intense chemistry between Lena and Will was smoking hot. This is not what usually draws me into a book, but I don’t romance when it is well-written, as it was in this case.

The adventure, on the other hand, IS what draws me into a story. I won’t lie, I wish there had been more action in this book, but that is because the author does a fantastic job with it. For a book that is mostly focused on romance, I was delighted with the tangled web of subplots created by McMaster, building the intrigue throughout the story. The action scenes enhance the pace of the book. It is THIS aspect of the series that has drawn me in, and will likely keep me reading.

I also enjoyed McMaster’s nod to Jane Austen, highlighting the limited options for women in society, albeit, ever so slightly different than those posed by Ms. Austen. This goes along with the setting of the time period, and yet the author plays it out in a way suited for a steampunk world.

I consumed this book as a combination of audio book and ebook, using Whispersync for Kindle/Audible for the first time. I had originally purchased the book for my Kindle, but thought that the audio book would make the accents come alive. The narrator did a great job of capturing the prissy tone of Lena, but alas, she fell short when it came to Will and Blade. This was disappointing for me.

As for the cover, I found it to be less striking than the other covers in the series. Maybe there is just too much going on and the characters don’t pop out. Also, the female character on the cover looks so aloof, like she is bored by the situation and the man holding her. It is not an awful cover, but certainly not one that draws my eye. I also don’t understand why the audio book has a different cover which looks like it is trying to capture the same feel as the book cover.

Regardless of the covers and audio book productions, I am really enjoying this series by Bec McMaster. I look forward to the next book of this series and future works from her.

 

My Lady Quicksilver ~ Bec McMaster

  • Title: My Lady Quicksilver
  • Author: Bec McMaster
  • Series: London Steampunk #3
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Determined to destroy the Echelon she despises, Rosalind Fairchild is on seemingly easy mission. Get in. Uncover the secrets of her brother’s disappearance. And get out.

In order to infiltrate the Nighthawks and find their leader, Sir Jasper Lynch, Rosalind will pose as their secretary. But she doesn’t count on Lynch being such a dangerously charismatic man, challenging her at every turn, forcing her to re-evaluate everything she knows about the enemy.

He could be her most dangerous nemesis—or the ally she never dreamed existed.

Review:  I have followed the London Steampunk series from the beginning, so I was thrilled to receive an ARC of My Lady Quicksilver from the publisher through Net Galley. I am a lucky girl to get my hands on it prior to its October release. My Lady Quicksilver takes the reader back into Bec McMaster’s dashing steampunk world full of plots, intrigue, and things that go bump in the night. In this book, the author broadens the circle of characters, focusing the plot outside of the inner circle of Blade, the Lord of underworld.

We’ve met our hero, Sir Jasper Lynch, a rogue blueblood and head of the Nighthawks, in passing in previous books. This time Lynch has been placed front and center as he must either capture the humanist terrorist that plagues London or forfeit his life. However, he finds himself not only distracted by Rosa, an assistant who is clearly more than she seems, but also by nagging doubts about justice within his dark world.

McMaster created a formula that was bound to be explosive. Both Rosa and Lynch are characters that cultivate a controlled, cold, and calculated demeanor that has kept them isolated. Yet both of them are both passionate and idealistic at their core, no matter how much they try to hide it from themselves. Pitting them against one another created so much grey area that it was tough to determine a “right” side.

While the stories are steeped with adventure, the London Steampunk series falls firmly into the paranormal genre. The sexual tension in this book is smoking hot. I have noted that McMaster is very adept at creating chemistry and writing sexy times, thankfully. If I am going to read a romantic plot, I want it to be well-written rather than ridiculous.

The action and mystery in this book is very well-crafted. In fact, in My Lady Quicksilver McMaster actually deepens the political intrigue within her world, which makes me do the happy dance. I am sure future books will still fall into PNR category, but it is the adventure the keeps me coming back.

It helps that the book cover is very eye-catching. The artist has used just enough color to create a feeling of vibrancy within a dark world. Rosa is depicted as sensually dangerous, while Lynch seems a bit aloof (odd, that, until you recognize it is fitting). The overall impression is one of adventure and romance that is well suited to the story contained within.

This was a quick and enjoyable read that is not overly deep, making it well suited as a bubble bath or vacay read. I consider this series a must-read for the paranormal romance crowd. Urban fantasy readers, especially those who like it dark (like me!), save this one for time when you want to lighten it up bit.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the NetGalley program.