Move over Bluebell, Sparkle has arrived!

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Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh (Guildhunter #9)

Superb! Nalini Singh does it again, she couldn’t write a bad book if you paid her.

I adore this cover.  Yet, today I’m staring at it rather bleary eyed.  Normally I’m dreaming by 10pm.  Instead last night I was still reading at 2am. I was so swept up in this wonderful story, I couldn’t even consider putting it down.

So, this book revisits Raphael and Elena and in particular focuses on Elena’s past.  I’ll admit at first I was disappointed that Bluebell wasn’t meeting his match, in fact it’s Aodhan who plays a huge part in this story.  And little by little I fell in love with Aodhan.  His steely strength, soft humour and love of art coupled with a depth of character that is slowly coming to the surface meant I was a goner. Illium who?

Nalini Singh’s writing style is so gentle, it’s like a friend whispering in your ear.  Slowly she sucks you in, and it’s not until the end you realise you’ve been subsumed. Hence at 2am I’m reading ‘just one more chapter’.  When I finish a Nalini Singh book there’s a sadness, I’ve lost that friend’s voice in my ear.

Nalini’s beautifully gentle style contrasts sharply with the Machiavellian angel politics and the evil surrounding the Cadre as they try to solve the riddle of Lijuan.

Aside from Aodhan, the other star of the show is Morocco. The descriptions of the buildings and town market were so perfectly evocative, that I imagine the Moroccan tourist board has been on the phone!

And so back to my wonderful Bluebell. Yep, I’m kinda sorry but Aodhan has replaced him in my affections. Oh well, something tells me that the blue winged one will cope.

Let’s hope that Aodhan is next! Would saying please help?

 

Thank you you to netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review. However at midnight my preordered book I arrived and I happily finished reading that! 

 

A new fave

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Tulsa Thuderbirds series by Catherine Gayle

In case you don’t know I have a soft spot for ice hockey romance. I don’t know why.  Other than once at the last Olympics I have never seen ice hockey, and even then it was the TV highlights.

Luckily, I think I have found a new hockey writer to join my two faves Sawyer Bennett and Kate Willoughby.  Catherine Gayle’s Tulsa thunderbird series is surprising, challenging and fun – just the kind of read I like.

The challenging starts with the heroine. Blushing virgins need not apply!  And certainly don’t go looking for flowers and chocolates!

These are different heroines – a beauty queen with her reputation in tatters, a porn star and a spiky disabled girl. They make life complicated for their men and it’s not down to the usual communication misunderstandings (thank goodness). Catherine Gayle has her heroes confronting their issues and pasts as their relationships with these complicated ladies grow.

Now, I have to admit the blurb for the second book – Smoke Signals – put me off reading it for ages.  And that pretty sums up what I admire about Ms Gayle’s writing – it’s brave, passionate, unconventional and just a tad humourous.  She focuses on the story she wants to tell, not so much what the reader expects and wants.

Ms Gayle also has her Portland Storm series, most of which I’ve four starred so another good read for hockey fans!

To go back to my two original faves, in case you don’t know… Ms Bennett’s writing is hero led, fabulously hockey rich and with a strong message in tow. Whereas Ms Willoughby has the sweetest writing style creating characters that you can’t help but love.

Catherine Gayle’s Rites of Passage (Tulsa Thunderbirds #4) is out Nov 10th

Sawyer Bennett’s Max (Cold Fury #5) is out Dec 13th

Kate Willoughby’s Falling for Flynn (first in a new series) was out Oct 19th review soon! 

 

The brutal Milky Way

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Blood Bound by Lindsay J Pryor (Blackthorn #7)

I want to say I enjoyed reading this latest instalment in Ms Pryor’s sharply written Blackthorn series. But I’m not actually sure enjoyed is the word.

It didn’t feel like reading, it was more like watching from the sidelines.  And it was unbearable. I fought it. I put my kindle down, I uploaded another book. Yet, the angry furious tears leaked out in a Tesco car park and I became a social pariah at a kid’s party choosing my kindle over champers with the other mothers. (How will my street cred ever recover?!).

So why did I keep reading?  It wasn’t easy, Blood Bound is a brutal story, made even tougher for me because Eden is my fave Blackthorn character.  I was a wreck, veering from despair at Eden’s situation and absolute joy at Jessie’s unconditional love for him. Yep, my emotions took a hammering all whilst reading through scrunched up eyes!

It is a truly brutal read, but it grabs your soul and doesn’t let go. It gave me one hell of a good shake.

The last book (Blood Instinct) blew me away with its relentless pace and kick in the teeth shockers. Blood Bound has a painstakingly rhythm of hellish detail.  I was begging for it to go faster, to skip bits.  But no.  Put me through the wringer, stick me on a roller coaster and throw me bungee style off a canyon.  This book had it all. I wasn’t coming back. For the first time ever I couldn’t take anymore. But the author knew that and threw in a cracker of a line.  Finally I could smile and relax. Then wham she got me with the ending. Lindsay J Pryor totally knows what she’s doing. Wow!

This is para normal romance without rules.  In fact, its completely lawless phenomenal story telling.

And it isn’t five stars it’s the damn Milky Way.

 

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC in return for an honest review

Brave new world

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Allegiance of Honour Nalini Singh psy changeling series #15

Truth be told, I knew I would love this book before it even appeared on my kindle (two days after the rest of the world!). After all the pupcubs finally appear, and Ms Singh had promised updates on favourite characters.

And love it I absolutely did.

With this book the author starts a new story arc, I just have to marvel for a moment at both her skill and bravery in doing so.  This book is so different from Ms Singh’s usual classy fare that she did risk fans not going with it. Yet, by combining glimpses of much loved characters and a new challenging story line that will move on from these favourites, she’s managed to extend the shelf life of an absolute gem long before it needed an update.  Many of her PNR peers could learn a lesson or two.

So, three aspects stood out for me. Firstly, and this maybe fresh in my mind with the recent Brexit campaign debacle, Ms Singh shows us the strength in genetic diversity and how isolationist tendencies create inherent weaknesses. Strength comes from tolerance and learning to appreciate others’ strengths. Absolutely the message of our age.

Secondly, let’s hear it for the girls!  Each psy changeling book has featured the story of an alpha male finding his mate. These are never silly dim girls, but it’s always been the men who’ve been front and centre. Not this time, damn these girls rock!  They may not all have Mercy’s dominant personality but the tone is set by the women. And you’ve gotta love that the men know it!

Lastly, I loved the author’s concept of family. Or the bonds that can connect people who aren’t always family.  Kaleb’s realisation that he’s acquiring ‘people’ and Judd’s reply had me laughing and tearing,  and then examining my own familial bonds. It’s just gorgeous when an author has you looking deep inside yourself.

The psy changeling world now has a fantastic new future, waiting for the next book will be a killer.  Thank you Nalini, just don’t make us wait those extra two days, please!!

ooh what a cover….

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Archangel’s Heart Nalini Singh out November 3rd

I don’t usually preview covers, it kind of seems like an odd thing to do.  A book needs a cover right?!  So, no big deal.

But sometimes a cover is just too beautiful to ignore – this is one of those.  Artistic, interesting and emotive.  And the fact that the UK one is loads better than the US cover?  Well, that’s just a bonus.

So, fair warning if you aren’t upto date on Nalini Singh’s Guildhunter series you’ve got some reading to.  Go!

Here’s the blurb which will no doubt be another favourite – this woman cannot write a bad book!

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.
 
Accompanying her archangel lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, Guild Hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within – truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is . . .

Who’s beast?

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The Beast J.R. Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood #14

JR Ward’s sublime skills are on show again as she not only keeps this series going but makes it fresh, funny, new, compelling – urgh should I keep going?!  Quite simply I adore this series.

The Beast returns to book two and the story of Mary and Rhage.  Whilst most of us struggle to some extent with our inner demon, he is cursed to grapple with a real beast when he loses control.

Is Rhage’s purple scaly dragon his only beast?

For me this is the story of the inner beast, that demon that can roar in even the most seemingly gentle souls reigniting the issues buried inside.  JR Ward uses Rhage’s cursed dragon to shed light on the struggle with the inner beast.

Despite his deep love for Mary, the book opens with Rhage’s death wish. Why? Could it be that the couple’s infertility looms large?  He wants children when illness means Mary is infertile. Can he voice his needs and desires when he knows the pain it will cause? And should he? They are both aware that she doesn’t feel she lives up to his sheer beauty. Can she deal with his disappointment in her in this most female of ways?

Whilst, the beast is Rhage’s curse from the Scribe Virgin we see Mary’s own curse.  As she is immortal, she alone will choose her time to go into the Fade. Clearly, Rhage assumes and expects she’ll immediately follow him. But what if she has a pressing need, could and should she delay?  Can she confront the issue with Rhage?

How difficult must it be for both of them to see Layla pregnant with twins, knowing that she and Qhuinn don’t share a mate’s connection.

The demons facing the other characters we’re fascinating. As always JR Ward totally nails the cast of characters. This time Assail tries to steal the show, perhaps if Rhage wasn’t my all time fave he’d have done it.  What are the demons that drive him and have him imprisoned to his substance abuse?  Does he have the strength to confront his demons?

As the book draws to a close a new character who will no doubt have his own inflicted demons to deal with, brings up Zadist’s own demons. Does he have them under control? Can he control his own rage to offer support?  And can Assail use this abused male’s example to overcome?

All this, and we’ve yet to touch on Layla and how she’ll confront what she’s done.  And not to forget Havers, what set him on this path and can he be rehabilitated?  Does he even want to?

All kudos to Ms Ward, another fantastic book, she continues to add layer upon layer to a wonderfully rich and intricate story arc.  Yet, at its heart is the simplicity of love both romantic and through the various ways her characters have bonded.

Yummy beach thinking

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On the Brink Kate Willoughby out June 28th

I finished this book a little while ago. I should have written my reviews then, it would have been a simpler review: ‘Kate Willoughby’s latest has been written for hockey fans to hit the beach with, it’s a yummy, sweet, fun and easy read’.

However, a few weeks later I’m kind of rethinking.

Yep, it’s yummy, sweet and fun. And it was easy to read – that’s the author’s trademark after all. But maybe I got her trademark wrong. Maybe Ms Willoughby gives us sweet and easy whilst she grabs you when you’re not expecting it. Bit naughty hey?

I should have known, she did it with Tim and Joe!  Because I’m still thinking about Hart and Jeremy.

The essence of the story is whether Hart can accept himself as gay and if he can, should he hide it? This is especially difficult given his potential partner’s open nature (think poster boy!).

What is the impact of having a hidden life?  Hart isn’t an idiot, as a top athlete he knows the potential impact of keeping such a secret on his athletic performance.  Can the hidden you, be the best you?

There will be plenty of people who feel that none of this should matter, Hart should join Jeremy’s poster boy status.  Yet, an athlete’s life is very finite. It also takes a level of complete dedication that most of us can’t comprehend. The story is set in the past but today we have nutters in the U.S. worrying what bathroom you use. So, must you be the poster boy just because you want to play hockey? It’s your dream. Is it anyone else’s business? What would you do?!

My only criticism is that if you read the series you’ll get more Hart including his family interactions and the ending of his story. I would have loved to have this woven in here for a longer novel. But on the plus side we’ll get another Barracuda book sooner. Silver linings and all that!

Go grab the latest Barracuda book, hit the beach and enjoy!  Thinking allowed but not essential!

I received an ARC in return for an honest review.

Scrambled brains with breadcrumbs

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Blood Instinct by Lindsay J. Pryor out May 5th

This series just went through the roof.  Ms. Pryor has kept her Blackthorn series dark, gritty and romantic, only now it’s also an action packed thriller.

The previous books had readers swimming in Lindsay J. Pryor’s world, this time Blackthorn completely submerges you.  Where her last book had my heart pounding and made me all sweaty, Blood Instinct is brain scrambling and gut wrenching.  A week later, I’m still looking for the factory reset button.

Ms Pryor is a seriously brave author in many ways.  There’s a scene where I knew how it would play out. When it didn’t my jaw hurt from hitting the floor.  I had to immediately re-read it to make sure. It was gasp inducing.

And then there’s the way she shows the ugly sides of her heroes.  I found one scene somewhat distasteful, but it was a necessary element for the story to move on.  As much as I love contemporaries like Nalini Singh or J.R. Ward, I can’t see them confronting an issue so graphically.

Jask fans will relish that this is his book, but this time the ensemble cast steal the show. The POVs from the wider cast were ingenious. Whilst each twist is a complete shocker, yet on reflection you see the author’s trail of breadcrumbs. It’s a trail that goes back six books, now that’s clever!

Apparently it’s bad etiquette to reveal if there’s a twist mid way through a book or even at the end.  That’s ok.  I’ll tell you that there isn’t a twist here. The damn book is full of twists, with a relentless pace.  I wanted to rush through it, I needed to know what would happen. Yet, some of it was so unexpected I had to stop to re-read.  Over a week later I’m still connecting the dots – a sign of a truly great book.

I feel I must say something about Ms. Pryor’s fantastic characterisation. All the main characters get decent airplay as the story moves to the penultimate book. But what stands out is the growth of her diverse bunch of characters, this is especially true of Phia, Jask and Eden. Phia’s struggle was so real to me that I wanted to google for solutions.  And Eden has really stepped up in a way I could only hope, my little heart sang to see him totally comfortable in his own skin.  Just wow!

Starting this sixth book in Lindsay J. Pryor’s blackthorn made me really quite nervous. The last book Blood Dark, was so good and you don’t want to be disappointed. And when you get an ARC from a fave author you don’t want to let them down. The truth is this is the hardest review I’ve ever written, I don’t think I can do justice to the nuances and brilliance of Blood Instinct.

On the 5th May go submerge yourself in Blackthorn – see you on the other side!

Thank you to the author and publisher bookouture for an ARC in return for an honest review.

 

More than a second chance

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Hawke by Sawyer Bennett out March 15th

First up, I adore Sawyer Bennett’s writing, she’s so much more than my go to sports romance writer – she sets the standard. And Sawyer’s standard is damn high.  As for the Cold Fury boys and gals, well she can’t write them quickly enough for me!

The blurb will tell you that this is a second chance romance. Yep, it is. But it’s a hell of a lot more.

As young lovers, there was no doubt about how much Hawke loved Vale. Ms Bennett made sure his feelings oozed from the pages and yearned to be a young Vale.

Then wham – it was over. So, it’s a second chance romance and the story of how they are reunited.

I wasn’t the same.  She wasn’t the same.  What we had was different now…”

Yet, the real story isn’t how they get back together (as cute as that is) but the impact their first love had on their journey from teens to adults. It’s kind of heartbreaking. You can see how the pain they suffered led to choices they might not have made. Equally, as adults learning about their own history leads to real personal development.

I’m falling in love all over again, and it’s just beautiful to me

It was beautiful to me too.  Thank you Ms. Bennett for capturing the essence of a second chance like I’ve not read before.

She must have dated a real lot, because Sawyer Bennett writes men like few romance writers.  For me Hawke is probably along with Zach my least favourite of her men, yet thanks to her wonderful writing I loved the book. Watching him struggle with all these emotions and a new understanding was simply gorgeous!

As for the cast members great to see Captain Alex and Ryker in their new roles. Loved Vale’s dad and when is it Max’s turn?!

Oh and about that cover, I’m not into bearded blue eyed men but I couldn’t stop staring. Wow!

 

Thank you to netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review.

Not so Forbidden

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The Forbidden Duke Darcy Burke out 15th March

I’m struggling to say anything beyond this is absolutely and totally adorable.

The best kind of read – simple, charming and engaging. You won’t put it down to the end and even then you’ll be looking for more.

Two gorgeous characters get a second chance at life, love and happiness. And for once there’s no dilly dallying – “does she or doesn’t she?” “Would he or wouldn’t he?” – whole chapters can be devoted to the inability to communicate. Not here. Thank goodness.

Bring on The Duke of Daring – let’s hope he’s half as gorgeous!

Thank you to netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review.