Beyond Farwin Wood by Drea Damara

Wickrits, stroomphblutels, and skithers oh my!

What’s it About? 

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Agatha Blinney’s curse is unleashed when Franci Doltman dresses up as her favorite movie star. Now the storeowners on Blinney Lane must rally together to save Franci before the possession claims her forever.

Valerie Millville is tired of her controlling mother, disappointing men, and being misunderstood. Determined to escape her life on Blinney Lane, she and troublemaker Ricky Allister volunteer to find a cure by venturing inside one of the cursed weeping books.

From mythical lands to peculiar allies to other worldly creatures, Valerie learns not all stories are written in stone—or even in one dimension. Can she and Ricky save Franci in time or will their friend become another casualty of the curse that binds Blinney Lane? Will Farwin Wood show them secrets undiscovered or are mysteries merely in the eye of the beholder? Get ready for an adventure that will transport you into the pages of a fantasy world beyond reality.

First Impressions

This book was almost like if Dr. Seuss had an influence in creating the world from the NeverEnding Story. Needless to say, there’s some interesting lands and creatures to discover here! The residents of Blinney Lane exist in what we would identify as the present day, albeit with some intense supernatural elements at work, as they are impacted by an old witch’s curse that restricts them to living within a 3 block radius of this small Salem town. However, some of the residents have successfully traveled to a faraway place: the land of Farwin Wood. This world is more fantastical yet also historical in nature, and it doesn’t exist in this dimension. Rather, one must fall asleep on top of a magical weeping book which describes this fictional world in order to go there.

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At first, I wondered where the heck this story was going! We have so many characters introduced rather quickly that exist in two different worlds linked together through magic and the written word. I wasn’t sure who or where the focus would lie. However, it’s when we see these two worlds collide that the story truly comes alive. Farwin Wood ended up being a delightfully intriguing world that I couldn’t get enough of! We didn’t know what might lie around the corner in wait for our characters with every turn of the page. We feel like we’re going on the adventure right along with them discovering new lands, new creatures, new maladies, and even new passions.

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Setting the Scene

So let’s do a crash course in the plot of this book. We begin with Franci, who is a bit of a misunderstood wall flower on Blinney Lane. She’s just lost her mother, and is desperate to break out of her shell. Franci decides to dress up as her favorite movie star from the golden years of Hollywood in the hopes of acquiring just a bit of her moxie. But because this is Blinney Lane, where the curse of a witch from hundreds of years before haunts its residents, Franci becomes literally possessed by the personality of this long lost Hollywood starlet, and her friends on Blinney Lane fear the real Franci might be lost to them forever. They have only one option. Some of them must travel to the mystical book world of Farwin Wood in the hopes of finding a magical remedy to Franci’s possession.

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Enter Valerie and Ricky. Valerie ends up being our primary female lead character. She has a background in potions, lotions and herbal remedies, so she feels she’s the best person to travel to Farwin Wood in search of a cure. She’s also looking for an escape from her overbearing mother, as well as the monotonous day-to-day of being trapped on Blinney Lane. She’ll need a guide to get her through the book, which is where Ricky comes into play. He’s the younger nephew of the lead character from book one, and has been to Farwin Wood before. I initially assumed we’d see a romance develop between Ricky and Valerie, but there’s actually a man of Farwin Wood whose path she’s about to cross. This is when the adventure truly begins!

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Ranthrop is one of the rulers of Farwin Wood, looking for adventure following the end of a war which had been waged throughout the land for over 20 years. This violent war ended at the end of book one, and peace now reigns supreme. He’s restless, and desperate for something to capture his attention. Who should come along but two visitors from the mysterious faraway land of Blinney, looking for a cure to help their friend back home. Ranthrop knows where this cure might be found, but it’s a several day’s journey to another land which the residents of Farwin Wood fear above all else. He’s determined to accompany Valerie on her quest, not just because it will provide him with some action following the end of the war, but also because he can’t deny his immediate attraction to the young and outspoken woman who has ventured into his world.

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Where Worlds Collide

This was such a fun adventure, and I can’t deny that I wore a stupid smirk on my face for a large portion of this read. The chemistry between Ranthrop and Valerie was enchanting, and you can’t help but be seduced by their verbal sparring matches. She’s convinced upon first meeting that he’s a brute, seeings as he initially mistook her for a new wench in his castle keep. However, throughout their journey she starts to discover the caring and selfless side to his character. Valerie also sees how Ranthrop must confront the errors and guilts of his war-filled past with each passing day. Their journey may have started off with Ranthrop acting as Valerie’s protector, but by the end their roles have almost been reversed. She must step in to comfort him as he faces all the pain he’s caused others through years of war. Valerie questions if she can really be falling for a man in a story book. Surely he’s pure fiction, but then why do the feelings she’s starting to develop for this soldier seem so real?

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I must say I was personally enamored with Ranthrop. He’s obviously a very masculine and physically strong character, yet he also has this kind of sweet innocence and genuine curiosity about his nature. You can tell he’s eager to learn everything about something new he happens upon, so when Valerie makes her way into his world he’s immediately enthralled. As for Valerie, she’s outspoken and full of spunk. Far from the demure and soft-spoken ladies that you’d expect to find in Farwin Wood. She’s not afraid to speak her mind in front of Ranthrop, and let him know when he’s being an ass. For his part, Ranthrop can’t quite understand what it is about her that intrigues him so, but by the end of their journey he’s come to realize that he’s finally met his match in a woman. His other half. You couldn’t ask for a more entertaining couple.

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Back on Blinney Lane

At the same time that Valerie and Ranthrop are roaming the world of Farwin Wood, we have another side romance happening between Franci and another character back in the real world of Blinney Lane. At first I was worried how these multiple story lines would blend together, especially considering we have the couple from the first novel coming back into play as well. I wondered if it would be too many story lines going on at once. I will admit, at the beginning it was kind of tricky to keep all the plots and various characters straight, but over time you really do get to know everyone, and know them well.

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We become fully invested in every story, and you really don’t want any of them to end. Throughout the book we would focus on Valerie and Ranthrop in one scene as their journey through Farwin Wood progressed, and then we’d switch back to see the progression of Franci’s madness on Blinney Lane, as well as how a young man becomes fully invested in helping her survive. To see how this man starts to develop deeper feelings for Franci, a woman whose friendship he’d always taken for granted, was just as entertaining as the journey through Farwin Wood. It was a fun dynamic back and forth between these two worlds that never felt forced or unnecessary.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Blinney Lane, book 2. I would probably recommend reading book 1 before starting with this one. It helped that I received a crash course of the events from book 1, but even then I felt like I missed out on some of the background details for our character’s personalities. That being said, I’m fully in love with Farwin Wood, and can’t wait to visit again in the future.

Final Impressions: It takes a bit of time to set up our story and learn how to distinguish all of our characters, but once we see Valerie fall through the book into Farwin Wood it really does become a fun adventure. Farwin Wood was such a unique world full of fun and entertaining characters, I really didn’t want to leave it! Although, if I actually happened to find myself within this mystical world full of wickrits and skithers, I’d probably want to get the heck out of there as fast as possible!

Smut Level: Very tasteful. Nothing overly smutty.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. BHC Press/Indigo. 288 Pages.

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The Rookie by Abigail Owen

Aidan has convinced himself that he’s not worthy of ever finding a mate. And yet the need he feels for Sera is undeniable. When he discovers she carries the sign of being a dragon mate, he starts to hope that Sera could be his.

What’s it About? 

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To escape exile, Aidan Paytah has had to prove himself worthy. Every second of every damn day. He fought with everything he had to earn his precarious place on the Huracán team of dragon shifter enforcers. He can’t fail or afford distractions, no matter how temptingly sweet. Total loyalty to the clans and dedication to his team is the only way.

Sera Morrison lost her parents and her husband in short order, leaving her a single mother running her family winery alone. Nothing could ever have prepared her for the discovery that she’s a destined dragon mate. But once she finds out, there’s only one man she wants—the one who walks away.

However, the Alliance Council has its own agenda. They want to use her as a political pawn and force a mating that could ultimately kill her to save the High King. Aidan has no choice but to kidnap her, even if it means their close proximity reinforces their own mating bond. And mating with him could end up being a far worse fate for Sera….

First Impressions

It’s pretty clear to us readers that Sera isn’t just your average widow looking to protect her young son, Blake. She’s a dragon mate, and her mate is Aidan. Bada boom bada bing. No mystery there. That being said, it’s still a fun ride to see the process of Sera and the rest of the Huracán enforcers discover the truth of what she really is. Something I really appreciated about this book was that it added some surprise elements which truly distinguished it from the previous two novels in the series. We aren’t just dealing with another woman who discovers she has a significant role to play within the world of dragons.

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The sign of being a dragon mate is that the brand of the dragon clan the mate is destined for suddenly appears on the woman’s neck. The fact that Sera has not just one dragon clan brand on her neck, but three, throws everyone for a loop! What could it mean? Could she pick and choose anyone from among those three clans? Could she possibly have three mates instead of one? Not to mention we all question what her sign as a dragon mate might mean for her young son, who is a mere mortal. The truly brilliant aspect of this novel though was that we didn’t just see these events carry out from Sera and Aidan’s perspectives. There’s a third villainous character whose identity remains a mystery, but he’s convinced that Sera is meant for him. She appears to him in his mind, and he’ll do anything to have her as his mate in real life. The added problem is that we learn he’s one of Aidan’s fellow dragon shifter enforcers. Duh duh duhhhhh.

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The Risk of Mating

Sera has always been wary of the connections she’s felt to Aidan, which is stronger than any she’s ever felt before. Even when compared with her late husband, and the father of her son. However, she and Aidan have an undeniable chemistry, and when she’s told that one of the dragon brands on her neck is the blue color of Aidan’s clan, she starts to wonder if they’ve been destined to end up together all along. The fellow enforcers inform her that she’ll feel the link with her one true mate in her gut, and her thought immediately goes to Aidan. The fact that he’s always treated her son Blake as a treasure rather than a nuisance makes her realize the importance of her mate accepting her and her son as a package deal. And yet, there’s still a sense of doubt.

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She’s fully aware of the dangers of what could happen if Aidan isn’t her mate, and the two attempt to come together. She’ll burst into flames, die a painful death, and Aidan would be able to do nothing but watch on as she turns to Ash in his arms. Not the prettiest picture here! When Sera realizes the distinct possibility of death should she choose the wrong mate, she really doesn’t express any immediate concern over her own life. Instead she immediately thinks of Aidan. The pain it would cause him to watch her die in his arms, and the loss of half his soul should it turn out that they aren’t actually mates. She worries about how he’d survive after something like that. Who would comfort him? The fact she was more concerned with his well being rather than her own demonstrates how truly selfless she is. She can’t help but notice though that Aidan doesn’t seem too excited at the thought of seeing his clan’s blue color on the back of her neck.

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From Dreams to Reality

As for Aidan, you’d think that the frequency of sex dreams he’s had recently featuring Sera would have been a sure indicator to him that this human was his mate. However, he just assumes she’s the star of his wet dreams because of his physical desire for her. He never allowed himself to hope that it signified she belonged to him. After all, he’s an orphan. A nobody. He’s had to fight his way up to become an enforcer and earn the trust of his teammates. The death of his parents when he was a youngster turned him into an outsider within his former community. Never in his wildest dreams, even though they featured Sera, did he every think he’d be worthy to be selected as someone’s mate. That must be an honor reserved for those who are leaders in their community. Especially when he discovers that one of the three clan brands she carries on her neck belongs to the High King who is near death for lack of a mate. Surely an outcast orphan like himself could never stand a chance compared to the king of kings.

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A Broken System

The broken system of the mating process really comes to the forefront in this book. It was hinted at previously in books one and two, but really wasn’t as much of a focus as we see here. We’re starting to understand a bit more regarding the inner workings of this world, and the political aspirations of the Alliance Council which brings possible dragon mates together for the official mating process. In addition, we see how the sheer desperation of these male dragons to find a mate is so strong that it even has the ability to pit teammates again each other. This Huracán team consists of dragon shifters that have fought and flown together for years. They are brothers in every sense of the word. And yet, when Sera appears with the brands of three different dragon clans on the back of her neck, each team member of the relevant clan is overcome with an intense feeling of jealousy and possession over the right to mate with her.

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They’re desperate to finally feel that pure emotional and physical connection with another, and the fact it stops them from aging is an added bonus. We can understand how this desperation which has been built into their society could impact one’s ability to determine if someone was actually their true mate, or if their hope at finding her would turn into an unhealthy desire to mate with anyone who might give them that link. The repercussions of mating with someone who isn’t your true mate brings disastrous and traumatic consequences to the extreme. Seeing someone you were convinced was your one true mate burn to ash in agonizing pain in front of you. To live through that, and then be presented with the possibility of another mate? It’s clear how that might make someone go crazy with need.

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The Hidden Villain

This brings us to our “villain”. I must say the constant hinting as to the hidden identity of this person was brilliant!! We don’t know who it might be, but then we see the list of possibilities narrowed down to being just one of the other two men whose brand she wears on her neck. While we see things from his point of view, and hear his delusional inner musings about how Sera must be his destined mate, his identity is kept a secret until the very end of the book. Just when you think that maybe a chapter or scene will end with a big reveal of who is thinking these thoughts, we switch to focus on something else. It ramps up the suspense to an amazing level!

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I was constantly switching back and forth from thinking it was one dragon, and then in the next scene you start to wonder if it might be the other one. Talk about suspicion whiplash!!! Throughout so much of the book we see this “villain” as someone who has lost grip with reality. You want Aidan and Sera to figure out who it is, and for them to succeed in realizing that they are destined mates. But by the end you see how easy it could be in this world to be overcome with the hope of finding a mate that you could go slightly crazy in the search for it. That desire ultimately pitted this man against his brothers, and it was such a heart breaking realization for him to make in the heat of battle. It’s eventually a surprisingly emotional and touching reveal, I definitely had tears in my eyes.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 3. Why isn’t book 4 in my hands right now? I have a feeling the next one is going to be an emotional roller coaster from start to finish.

Final Impressions: I really appreciated the fact that this book started to tear away at the intrigue and political deviousness of the Alliance Council. It’s something that’s been hinted at and touched upon quite briefly in the previous books, which were much more focused on the process of a dragon finding his human mate, the shifting process, etc. We also finally uncover the identity of the spy within this group of enforcers. In spite of all the espionage and political discussions at play here, I was shocked at how emotional of a read this book ended up being. I was NOT expecting that at all, and it knocked my socks off.

Smut Level: It might take a while for Sera and Aidan to come together in the waking world, but these two engage in some dream sex that is guaranteed to set the sheets on fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 298 Pages

Alpha Dragon Awakes by TJ Shaw

Find out if Amari and Jaxon will both survive when her dragon tries to make an appearance.

What’s it About?

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Part three and the exciting conclusion to the epic fantasy romance serial trilogy, Rogue Dragon Rising, marking the beginning of the Outside the Veil series. With no memories to guide her, Amari Hawke seeks to discover the identity of the animal trapped inside her. Days away from Trinity, when her beast will appear for the first time, she must learn to communicate with her animal or she’ll turn rogue from an unsuccessful shift.

Both Jaxon Blackthorn and his stubborn dragon have succumbed to Amari’s charms even though her animal designation is unknown. Determined to use the power of his beast, Jaxon faces the impossible challenge of saving Amari while protecting her from rogue shifters determined to capture her. Can the strength of their love achieve what has never been attempted in the shifter realm, a successful transition of Amari’s animal and acceptance of her true heritage?

First Impression

The entire series has been building towards this climactic finale, and it’s basically everything we’ve been waiting for! Trinity moon, the arrival of Amari’s parents to bring her back to the Veil, her memories coming back full force, the big reveal of her dragon designation and even the dreaded transformation to her inner beast. Yessssss!! This is everything I wanted to see, and it all comes crashing together for one suspenseful conclusion that will have you holding your breath for so much of the book in anticipation. When Amari’s father comes to take her back to the Veil we see how dependent Jaxon, as well as his entire cadre have become towards her. Their vulnerability at the prospect of her departure is so moving and heartbreaking you wanna gather them all up in one big dragon family hug. Mind the claws, fellas.

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The Secret Dragon

After all this waiting we finally get an explanation as to why Amari’s parents chose to hide her dragon identity from her. Apparently, Amari sustained an injury when she was just a toddler and she expended all of her energy to save her dragon instead of herself, which would have resulted in her death. Her parents realized that she never would have survived her transition phase during the Trinity Moon awakening, as all of her energy would have been spent to see her dragon safeguarded through the process. As a result, they constructed mental barriers to keep her dragon chained within her mind. Only by staying within the confines of the Veil would the effects of the Trinity Moon be diminished, allowing her to survive maturity into adulthood. Jaxon adamantly declares he can guide her through transition, but everyone around him insists it’s never been done before, and the risk to both of them is too great. So what will Amari decide? Will she remain outside the Veil with her mate, and risk both of them dying when her dragon emerges, or will she return to the safety of the Veil by leaving Jaxon behind? Her decision will shock you.

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A Mysterious Mastermind

There was one aspect of this book which prevented it from achieving damn near perfection status, and that has to do with our villain. We finally get a glimpse of the madman who has been seeking out Amari since the start of the series. Personally I felt this introduction should have come earlier on in the second book. We learn about how he ordered his henchmen to lure Amari and her sister out of the safety of the Veil in order to kidnap them. His experiments on shifters are demented, as we know from the fact he was responsible for the years of torture to one of Jaxon’s cadre members, Slade. I couldn’t help but wonder how everything would come together with this villain and our heroes. Would he ultimately succeed in capturing Amari? Will Jaxon rush to her rescue? Will Slade find his way back to seek vengeance on the madman who tortured him for years on end, and rescue the other innocents still under his control??? So much suspense and so many questions!!!

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Whelp, turns out those questions will go unanswered, as just when our villain’s dastardly plans are starting to come to the forefront, he fades once again into the background. We never see a final confrontation between him and Amari, Jaxon or Slade. Instead the focus shifts back to Amari’s transition, and we never see him mentioned again for the rest of the book. This is the conclusion of the series, how do we not get a conclusion to the villain?? Maybe this will come back if we get a spinoff series featuring Slade as the main focus? And btw, I would totally read that in a heartbeat. But here’s the problem. This whole series started because this villain lured her out from the safety of the Veil, which in turn made Amari meet Jaxon, discover her dragon, etc., etc. To not bring the story back full circle to the driving force of how the story started left the series feeling unfinished. I wanted more!!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Outside the Veil, Part 3. I gotta say, this might just be my favorite book in the entire series. Although…dang the first book was pretty good too, but this one is such a delightful climax to everything that’s been building throughout the last two novels. I do hope we get some kind of spinoff series, maybe with cadre member, Slade, as the focus. He is such a troubled and mysterious character with a complicated history, I’m desperate to learn more.

Final Impression: While this novel might be a fantasy with dragons, shifters and Eldian magic, one thing that feels unbelievably true is the love and connection between Amari and Jaxon. There is one scene in particular where Jaxon simply wants to hold Amari in his arms in the hopes of spending just a few more moments with her, and I gotta say it touches the heartstrings! This book answered so many questions that were presented in the previous two books, and yet also had some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I will say I was disappointed that we didn’t get to learn more about the mastermind behind Amari’s kidnapping back in book 1. It was the one thing that prevented the series from forming a completely full circle, but it came pretty damn close!

Smut Level: Hot damn, things definitely come to a head in this one. Not only are we presented with a few sex scenes in this book involving Jaxon and Amari in the waking hours (considering their first sexploration was during a dream-state), we even see Jaxon and Amari come together at the same time as Jaxon and Amari’s dragons come together. I’m not sure if technically that counts as a foursome, but it was intense either way!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing LLC. 200 Pages.

 

Sleeping Dragon Stirs, part 2 by TJ Shaw

Jaxon likes it when Amari strokes his dragon horns from base to tip. Tee hee hee, chuckle chuckle. If that’s not sexual innuendo then I don’t know what is.

What’s it About? 

sleeping dragonAs the day of her awakening nears, Amari Hawke struggles to control the beast inside her. Basking in the energy of the approaching Trinity moon, her animal’s strength has increased to the point it can control Amari’s mind and body. Fearing she is about to slip into madness, Amari is forced into a tough choice.

In a desperate attempt to save Amari and her beast, Jaxon Blackthorn encourages his cadre, the men in his trusted circle, to establish mental links with her, but when his plans fail and Amari’s animal exerts control, he must fight for the beautiful woman who is lost to her beast. Together, can Amari and Jaxon’s developing bond for each other overcome the urges driving Amari’s animal as they also thwart an unseen enemy vying to keep them apart?

First Impressions

This novel picks up immediately where we left off at the end of the previous book without missing a beat. Seriously, it’s almost like book one ends with us taking a deep breath, and book two commences with our exhale. Normally I’m not always a fan when we have this kind of immediate continuation in a series, as I always enjoy a slight summary of events from the previous novel. That’s why I was absolutely tickled pink with the excellent job this novel does of recalling the major events from the previous book so that we can jump right back into the story. It flows together so seamlessly you can’t help but appreciate it. Hands down my favorite feature of this novel though was the increased focus on how Jaxon is dealing with Amari’s presence in both his life, and his dragon’s life. It was fascinating to read how Jaxon talks about his dragon, as though it’s a completely separate being even though it is contained within him. Sure, it seemed slightly schizophrenic in that regard, but somehow in a completely logical way at the same time!

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Stuck in Place

While we do see some big steps between Amari and Jaxon in regards to their relationship, I do wish we had made a bit more progress with the development of the overall storyline happening outside the veil. If anything I feel like I have even more questions now than what was answered by the end of the first book. Again, it was really interesting to see Amari and Jaxon grow closer together through their mental link, and for Jaxon to finally acknowledge that he wants this woman as his mate even if he isn’t sure of her designation. I guess that’s what I wanted more advancement on though, what is her designation (although I think we can all guess at this point), when will she get her memory back, etc.?

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And then one of the major aspects we did get progress on was kind of brushed aside, and that was the scene when Amari finally admitted to Jaxon that she couldn’t remember her past. This was a moment that had been building throughout the series, and I was really looking forward to that vulnerable confession where Amari must risk the possibility of Jaxon rejecting her when she admits that she lost her memory. But instead it’s mentioned in a brief sentence simply to say that it happened. All in all I must admit I was kind of disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to witness it directly. I think it could have been a really revealing moment for Amari, and an important sign of her trust in Jaxon.

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here we go, Here We Go, HERE WE GO!!!!

One thing this series does brilliantly is build up the anticipation. Trinity soon approaches when first time shifters transform into their inner beast. The fact that Amari can’t remember her beast designation, and has received zero training on how to handle the transition means that Jaxon and his dragon cadre fear Amari will become stuck in transition and go rogue. Essentially she’ll go mad from it. With the turn of every page Trinity grows nearer, Amari starts to exhibit some puzzling and disturbing qualities related to transition, and we fear and question what madness might ensue when Trinity finally arrives. Trinity is coming people!! Although the fact we don’t really see a resolution to many of the questions which were raised in part one was kind of a let down, you also can’t deny that it significantly adds to the building suspense of what might be lurking just around the corner in wait for Jaxon and Amari.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Outside the Veil, book 2. This part of the series definitely seems like a suspense builder, gathering everything together for what must be one heck of a Trinity finale. The next book is the last one in the trilogy, where we’ll finally reach the climax where sh*t goes down!

Final Impression: While we might not find a resolution to Amari’s beast designation in this novel, we definitely see her resign herself to the fact that she isn’t a sheep. She starts to break away from that herb designation and in the process her feistiness really shines through. Whereas part 1 saw things more from Amari’s point of view, and her frustration at not being able to remember her past, I loved that in this part we see more of Jaxon’s thoughts regarding this tempting redhead who has come under his care. It’s a window into Jaxon’s soul and beast, and we see him realize that this woman is meant for him. Nothing will stop him from seeing her safely transition and ultimately becoming his.

Smut Level: Their first time together is surprisingly in a dream rather than in real life. It’s rather convenient to be able to just think the clothes away, lemme tell ya!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 157 Pages.

 

 

 

Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold by Demelza Carlton

A tale as old as time. With a few updates here and there of course!!

What’s it About? 33627778

Once upon a time…The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance. Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

First Impressions

My initial first impression for this novel? Gorgeous cover, and yaaaaay short chapters! After about 1/4 of the way in though? Cover is still gorgeous, but shit, more short chapters. I discovered I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to chapter length. Sometimes short chapters are the perfect break for when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, or pasta to boil. Not to mention a great way to kill time during commercial breaks. The fact that before tackling this book I had just come off a novel where the chapters were crazy long, well I was just in Heaven. However, it really didn’t take long for the frustration to start seeping in. In all seriousness, I would say the average length of time it took to finish reading a chapter in this book was just under 2 minutes. While this was an excellent way to introduce our characters and provide a brief back-story to our enchanted curse, it became a clear problem in later chapters where key scenes were rushed. This made the book itself feel almost stunted since you had so many short chapters at work which could flip-flop so easily between story lines, as well as switch point of views between our Beast and Beauty.

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An Enchanting Beauty

Personally I just love adaptations of classic fairy tales. It’s so fun to see which elements the author will keep the same, and how they’ll bring their own unique twist to the story. For this version, perhaps the biggest change involves our beauty. Her actual name is Zuleika; a far cry from Belle, and she’s not just the peasant daughter of a poor inventor. Oh no. She’s the enchantress who sets the curse upon our beastly prince. Gotta say, I totally loved this twist! From the classic tale the enchantress feature was always a bit of a mystery, and her motivations were kind of muddled. But in this we see how Zuleika is threatened by an evil king to put a curse on an object intended for his sworn enemy. Enter mirror.

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To save her life and that of her family, Zuleika puts a curse on the mirror not knowing it will eventually end up in the hands of our prince. Upon using it for the first time he transforms into the Beast, while the servants and citizens of his kingdom become invisible. A unique change to a dancing clock and candlestick! When Zuleika magically appears in Prince Vardan’s kingdom after an accident he finds her indescribably beautiful, and because she refuses to reveal her true identity he resorts to calling her Lady Belle. And of course, it wouldn’t be Beauty and Beast without a ball featuring our beautiful enchantress in a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.

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A Kind-Hearted Beast

Although I really enjoyed some of the variations to our classic tale, there were some I wasn’t a huge fan of, or at least had trouble understanding. When Zuleika first curses the mirror, she says that whoever uses it will transform into whatever they truly are on the inside. Therefore, when our prince first uses it he becomes this hairy beast with tusks. Not exactly the picture of a guy you’d wanna introduce to the folks. But here’s the strange part. When Zuleika arrives in the prince’s kingdom and speaks with his subjects, they all say how he’s always been a kind-hearted and just ruler. Soooo shouldn’t he have like, turned into a puppy or something?

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In all the descriptions of his character, he was never revealed to be cruel, vain, or beast-like in any way. So why the beast form?! In my opinion, it was the one main flaw to the story. The other thing I found hard to believe was it took soooooo long before Zuleika realized she was the enchantress who cast the spell over the prince and his city. It just seemed strange that she wouldn’t have even been able to sense her own power within the magic blanketing the city. Hell, at one point she does sense it, but just brushes it aside. Come on now, you have all that magic, listen to it once in a while!

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Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, book 1. Zuleika seems like the key that will unlock all the other novels in this series. During her travels throughout the novel we overhear her encounters with magical slippers, and even a trouble-making witch she banished to a lamp in a hidden cave. Sounds a tad familiar, no?

Should you read it? A fun and fantastical retelling of a beauty who falls for a beast. Spotting all the classic elements within the new changes was like a fun scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, I think the short chapter format of the novel impeded the depth of the writing, and made the story seem stunted. Overall an interesting start to the series, but there’s some definite room for improvement going forward.

Smut Level: Only at the very end of the novel do we get one beautiful love scene. It didn’t hurt that some witches had previously cast a spell on the prince’s…saber…to always please his woman in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE! Lost Plot Press. 248 Pages.

Beyond the Mist by Casi McLean

Traveling through time with the determination to save one, but the temptation to save thousands.

What’s it About? 

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Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes. The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams. Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond the Mist?

First Impressions

We all remember the date. We all remember where we were. For me, it was the end of my 9th grade English class, September 11, 2001 when our class learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I remember not knowing what the World Trade Center was, having never heard of it before in my small suburban Ohio town. I remember watching the news on TV during my 3rd period History class, with my classmates talking incessantly behind me as they reveled in the fact that we were skipping the day’s lesson, when the second plane hit. Everyone realized in that moment that history was happening. It’s been over 16 years, and yet this novel made me realize how raw that moment still is.

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In this novel we see Nick travel through time to save his former girlfriend, Carly, who was at the Marriott Hotel at ground zero when the towers came crashing down. He feels guilty for fighting with her the day before her death, and never understood why she was there in the end. He’s determined to save her, yet also realizes he can’t save the countless others, or else risk a massive butterfly effect by changing history so dramatically. But once he goes back Nick wonders if he can simply sit by and do nothing. As I became more entrenched in this story I must admit it became increasingly difficult to want to pick up and read. It’s not that the story wasn’t interesting, far from it! It’s just that eventually you realize, whether or not Nick is successful in his quest to save Carly, whether or not he warns the government of events about to unfold, it doesn’t change anything. There’s no way for us to go back and save just one, let alone all. We root for Nick to succeed, yet also must acknowledge the sad truth that it’s something we can never hope for in real life.

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Time Traveling from Book One to Two

This is the second book in the Lake Lanier series, and when push comes to shove I’d have to say I enjoyed book one a bit more. It was a less anxiety-induced read than transporting back to the days preceding 9/11, and was all about an accidental trip through time rather than one which was premeditated. I remember enjoying the first book, from the plot to the characters involved, but my goodness did I need a refresher course when it came to the start of book two. It’s been so long since I read it, and seeing as this novel picks up literally where book one finishes off, I’ll admit I was kind of lost. Eventually I could sort of put together all the pieces of the puzzle to remember exactly how book one ended, and understand the dynamics of all the characters. A brief summary of what went down, or maybe a character list at the beginning would have been much appreciated though. You know, for those of us who have an embarrassingly terrible memory!

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When comparing the time travel elements of books one and two, I preferred the serendipitousness of Lacey’s fall through time to the 1950s. She not only had to find a way to quickly adapt all on her own, but also try to find a way back home. All while falling in love with a man from the past. The time travel element in this second book was much more orchestrated, and therefore dealt so much more with all the possible consequences of altering the past. Let me put it to you this way, whenever we have a time travel novel which mentions having vast repercussions to the space time continuum, my head kind of starts to hurt. We have the risk of running into a past self, the confusion of alternate realities and changed memories that bring the anxiety level through the roof. Add to the fact that we learn one of the characters introduced in book one has a plethora of powers from telekinesis to teleportation, and it was a lot to keep straight.

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A Lost Love and an Uncertain Future

There were two different aspects of this novel which surprised me, dealing with not only the past, but also the future. First, Nick’s motivations for going back in time. You initially assume it must be because Carly was the love of his life, and he’s willing to go to hell and back to try and save her. Well, kind of…but not really. Whilst planning this trip back in time, he falls deeply in love with Piper, and quickly realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. And yet his deep love for Piper doesn’t prevent him from going back for Carly. When he travels back and runs into Carly for the first time, he even admits to himself that being in her presence again doesn’t evoke anywhere near the same feelings he had for Piper. So why does he continue with this mission even though he knows the risks to the space time continuum could be catastrophic, and his feelings for Carly have obviously diminished with time?

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Turns out, his determination to save Carly has more to do with feelings of guilt rather than love. Nick feels guilty that his last words with Carly were exchanged in anger, and is convinced their fight drove her to stay at the World Trade Center Marriott at the worst possible moment in history. So what drives Piper to get involved? She initially goes after Nick to, in a word, babysit him and ensure he doesn’t do anything stupid to possibly alter history. As 9/11 approaches though, Piper starts to wonder if maybe Nick’s drive to save Carly, and Piper’s own journey to follow Nick to the past had more to do with fate and destiny than simply wanting to save an ex-girlfriend. Phew, mental mind game right there!!

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Another aspect of this novel which I wasn’t expecting was that we don’t merely encounter a trip to the past, but we get one to the future as well. This part of the story was probably the most surprising, as well as intriguing. It becomes a cautionary tale of what could be in store for our future if we don’t change the path we’re currently on. My one complaint though is that we are only given a very brief, cursory introduction to this world. This results in it feeling slightly out of place in the overall scope of the story. At the same time though, it’s practically a guarantee we’re in store for more in the next novel. It’ll be interesting to see how the series might switch gears when dealing with how to possibly change the present to impact the future rather than wondering how an alteration to the past could influence the present.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Lake Lanier Mysteries, book 2. All in all I’d have to say I preferred the first novel in the series, but it’ll be interesting to see where things go in book 3!

Should you read it? Not gonna lie, this was a tough book to read at times. We’re dealing with such a momentously tragic event in history, and it’s kind of depressing to see how characters re-live it knowing they can’t do anything to save everyone. Overall still an intriguing read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I may have fallen off mine a few times.

Smut Level: You had to wait awhile to get it, but eventually we’re privy to a pretty spicy sex scene between Piper and Nick in the doomed World Trade Center Marriott.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 282 Pages.

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Lachlan by Hazel Hunter

This book is like Gladiator meets Outlander meets…Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Shockingly, it works!

What’s it About? 

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When Kinley Chandler abruptly lands in medieval Scotland, there isn’t much she’s leaving behind. With her body shattered and her military career over, Kinley has resigned herself to death. But in the past, all that changes. Lachlan McDonnel, the laird of a clan of immortal highlanders, can hardly believe his good fortune. Not only does the mysterious lass save his life, she awakens his heart in a way he’d thought no longer possible. But the druid spells that allow Lachlan’s clan to live forever have a dark side as well. He and his men know all too well that the magic folk never give without taking. Though he is sworn to protect them, the price of his loyalty may finally be too high.

First Impressions

We open on our heroine, Kinley, who has been gravely wounded as a soldier fighting in Afghanistan. She’s experiencing intense PTSD, has no family or friends for support, and has given up to the point where she’s ready to end it all. On a day trip away from the VA hospital in California, she’s prepared to roll her wheelchair off the edge of a cliff when she is suddenly transported to 14th century Scotland where her body is magically healed. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, a clan of immortal highlanders are battling against a legion of Roman vampires, and Kinley is able to assist the Scotsmen by shooting fire out of her hands. So…yeah. Believe it or not, the highlanders and Romans actually make a lot of sense story wise! Now, why a magical portal would transport someone from California to Scotland? Not sure.

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A Fantastical Blend

I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much this story pulled me in and wouldn’t let go! I finished reading it in a day as I traveled from Denver to Salt Lake City for work. We have history, fantasy, time travel, fierce warriors, magic, betrayal, revenge, and some unbelievably steamy sex scenes between Kinley and our highlander laird, Lachlan. Altogether I would say there are three main components at play here: the developing relationship between Kinley and Lachlan, the battle against the Roman legion, and the mystical element concerning Kinley’s travel through time and newfound fire powers. Shockingly, I think my favorite component was actually the fighting, and for one very important reason. Kinley is a freakin’ badass!

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You Go Girl!

As you all know, I love a strong female lead character, and Kinley represents this to the max! She’s not afraid to stand up for herself, and show the men a thing or two about fighting, strategy and hand-to-hand combat. Her persona is the perfect combination of sass, physical and mental strength. This is a woman who is taking advantage of her body’s sudden healing and will live her life to the fullest, even if it’s in another time and place than she’s used to. Kinley knows she’s in a historical era and land where women are inferior to men. But you know what? She doesn’t…give…a f*ck!

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Kinley isn’t afraid to speak up until she’s heard, even if it’s not necessarily what others want to hear. You go girl! And you go all day long! In addition to Kinley’s overall badassery, we also have this larger never-ending battle at hand between highlander and Roman that’s been raging for centuries. It’s a dark and violent battle, and these Roman vampires are merciless and pretty disgusting. Be prepared for some nasty descriptions of battle and blood-sucking murder/mayhem. ‘Twas interesting though!

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Druid Magic and Wonder

The mystical aspects of the novel, while interesting, also left me slightly confused at times. As I mentioned earlier, the reason Kinley is transported from present day California to 14th century Scotland isn’t fully explained. There is Druid magic at play which has made these highlanders immortal, and Romans become vampires. However, the interactions with the local mortals left me a bit befuddled, as these are small villages and the highlanders have been interacting with and protecting them from the Roman vampires for centuries. Yet their immortality is supposedly a secret?

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Then there’s Kinley’s fire power, which is so honed at one point and then completely vanishes the next. Huh? Lastly, the passion between Kinley and Lachlan is off the charts amazing, with so much detail and dirty talk, but at one point Lachlan’s snake tattoo gets involved in the bedroom activities in a rather…disturbing way. At least in my humble opinion! Can’t say it was a feature that was absolutely necessary. Their link is already undeniably intense, so I’m not sure we had to bring the tattoo into the grand scheme of things too?

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Immortal Highlander, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing with this series. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our other highlander warriors.

Should you read it? This is an entertaining and action-packed read! It’s definitely dark at times, but the strength truly lies in the personalities of the characters. From Kinley’s strength to Lachlan’s soft side, his highlander brothers’ loyalty and even the evil of the Romans. It’s all just very believable even though we’re dealing with so many fantastical elements. It’s a uniquely compelling story, and while I can see how it might be too dark a read for some, I’m excited to see where this story is headed!!

Smut Level: Holy sh*t here people! Just because this is a historical read, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s tame!! We’ve got extensive detail, and dirty talk galore. Which I must say whenever we have dirty talk mixed in with old time 14th century speak it kind of makes me giggle. Such a stark juxtaposition.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Allure Press. 382 Pages.