Tag Archive | paranormal

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: River Road (Tortured Souls #3) by R.C. Matthews

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When a pirate and voodoo priestess must lift a deadly curse on those they love, do they dare let a relationship blossom amid danger? River Road is the gothically satisfying end to this fan-favorite series!

Charles Moore relishes his dangerous life as the pirate Hatchet, since manning a clipper ship keeps his mind off the role he played in the brutal Civil War. But now an ancient curse has killed two of his loves, and he can’t ignore the whispers that New Orleans’s Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau herself, has hexed his family.

Creole widow Hope Leblonc bristles under the city’s Black Codes that have stripped her of so many freedoms and forced her practice of voodoo underground. When Hatchet treats her like the respectable woman she is, she offers him a deal: she’ll lift the curse if he’ll steal back a family relic she needs to become a mambo in her religion.

But they’re both holding secrets that endanger their lives. When ghosts from the past exact revenge for the skeletons in the Moore family closet, they reveal a connection between Hope and Hatchet that makes the curse more powerful than ever. Will they discover that love is worth the risk in time to survive the coming darkness?

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EXCERPT

“What nonsense do you speak of?” his father asked with a lift of his brow. “Charles is cursed? By whom?”

“Something about a voodoo queen,” Maribeth replied with a shrug. “I should like to meet her. Do you know her?”

“Certainly not,” his father said with a sniff. “Marie Laveau hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. She might be dead for all I know. Do not speak of her or this voodoo nonsense again unless you’re keen on spending the night in a dank jail cell.” His gaze met Hatchet’s. “That’s what happens these days to those who practice the dark arts.”

“Well, what’re we going to do with this baggage?” Victor asked, scowling. “Can’t very well send her back to England unattended.”

Father set her back on her feet. “She’s more than welcome to join us. Charles, your mother will return to the plantation after a short stay in the city. You and Maribeth should accompany her. Harmon Grove offers many amusements for a curious young lady.”

Hatchet could not commit to anything until he found a quiet moment to mull over the situation. Dammit! Maribeth’s presence was problematic, robbing him of hours that would be better served in pursuit of information on the curse.

“Let me think on it after we settle in. The girl is young and fragile, making her vulnerable to disease,” he said with a pointed look in her direction. “I don’t want her too close to Mother.”

His little charge growled. “I’m not fragile.”

Father waved his hand. “No worries on that front. Lucetta is already back on her feet and a woman about town. Been at least a week since she recovered. Only last evening, she prayed for your early arrival so we might celebrate your birthday. She’ll be delighted when I share the news.”

“Is that so?” Hatchet asked with a long drawl. “Your letter left no doubt as to her condition. ‘Mother lies on her deathbed and begs for your return.’ Those were your exact words.”

Brushing away an imaginary speck on his jacket, his father avoided his gaze. “Yes, a remarkable recovery. Well, I must be off. I’ll send the carriages around before noon. Please, do not dally. Your mother will be intolerable company until you arrive. Perhaps I shall keep your early arrival a secret.”

“Speaking of secrets,” Hatchet said, walking with his father to the gangplank, away from prying little ears. “What business do you have on The Angelica? The captain and crew are untrustworthy, the lot of them. Best not to be seen dealing with them.”

Father folded his arms and puffed out his chest. “You’re advising me? I’m rather more than seven, my dear boy. Did you fail to notice the early-morning hour of my visit or my black attire? The Moore-Lloyd Shipping Co. is the most successful shipping venture this side of the Gulf. Believe me when I say I know precisely what I’m doing. But I thank you for your concern.”

A few moments later, Father entered his carriage, and Hatchet let out a sigh as the horses clomped away.

“Yes, Father, I noticed both the early hour and your fine clothing, along with the company crest on your carriage.”

Little had changed in his absence. Mother still manipulated the people who loved her by any means available, and Father knew what was best for them all. Well, with his mother in good health, at least he would have plenty of time to investigate the rumors of the blasted curse. His Nicolette and Emma were dead, as well as the spouses of his siblings. With four deaths among them, Hatchet could no longer blame coincidence. He must rid his family of the hex. And then he would get the bloody hell out of New Orleans, again.

As he turned to attend his duties, another carriage rolled to a stop in front of The Angelica. The driver hopped to the ground and assisted a woman out. Unlike Isaac, this woman did nothing to disguise her appearance as she boldly boarded the pirate ship.

Even from a distance, Hatchet discerned her beauty: a rich, bronze skin tone and lustrous black hair. New Orleans had many attractive women, but the best among them were the Creoles, forbidden as wives but coveted as lovers. His loins stirred as his gaze roved over her full bosom, to her cinched waist and the gentle swell of her behind.

“I’ve sent Maribeth to break her fast with Mercy,” Victor said, leaning his hip against the rail. “We’ve a lot to accomplish before noon.”

His gaze followed Hatchet’s to the forecastle deck of The Angelica, and he whistled. “Captain Corbin doesn’t waste time. You should seek out female company while in town. Tomorrow is your birthday, after all. We buried Emma nearly six months ago. You must move on at some point, and a brothel poses no risk. You will not fall in love with a lady of the night.”

Lie with another woman? No, he could not. But as he watched an argument unfold between Captain Corbin and the exotic minx, he couldn’t deny her allure.

“Maybe,” Hatchet amended as the black-haired beauty slapped the captain then stomped down the gangplank. “I’ve never sought one night of pleasure in the arms of a comely wench. Perhaps I must accept that as my fate, because falling in love three times in one lifetime seems against all odds.”

At least he had that going for him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

R.C. Matthews lives in Michigan where she enjoys the four seasons and indulging her imagination while writing romances. Find R.C. Matthews at http://www.rcmatthews.com/, on Facebook, and on Twitter @RCMatthews123.

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray

a-most-extraordinary-pursuit

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February, 1906. As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of scrupulous character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected her duties to involve steaming through the Mediterranean on a private yacht, under the prodigal eye of one Lord Silverton, the most charmingly corrupt bachelor in London. But here they are, improperly bound on a quest to find the duke’s enigmatic heir, current whereabouts unknown.

An expert on anachronisms, Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And from the moment Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a suspicious nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. As they travel from port to port on Max’s trail, piecing together the strange events of the days before his disappearance, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the motives of men, and the nature of time itself…

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Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, October 2016

Time and Setting: 1906, England and various locales in the Mediterranean
Genre: Historical mystery with paranormal elements
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

The beloved Duke of Olympia is dead, and his great-nephew and heir is nowhere to be found. The duke’s grieving duchess calls upon Emmeline Truelove, the late duke’s secretary, to travel to the Mediterranean, find the heir, and bring him home to his new dukedom. The duchess has also arranged for the Marquess of Silverton to accompany Emmeline, which does not make her happy, as her first impression of him is that he’s a shallow wastrel. The marquess (Freddie) is, in fact, a rakish, witty man, but he’s also an excellent fighter and a trained agent. Emmeline, who is called by her last name “Truelove” for most of this story, is not at all delighted with this situation, but agrees to travel with Freddie to find the missing Mr. Haywood, now the new duke. Truelove’s agreeing to go on this quest is also against the advice (demand) of the deceased Queen Victoria, who regularly appears to have conversations with her. Yes, Truelove communicates regularly with the former monarch, as well as with her own deceased father.

During the course of their travels, the prickly Truelove fends off any flirtatious attempts by Freddie with biting remarks, which he happily volleys. It soon becomes apparent that Haywood has not just gone off on his own – there is some nefarious plot afoot. The current events happening are directly related to a mythological tale (or is it?) from the past – and even involves the future.

This adventurous story is certainly a departure from previous books by Juliana Gray, and I give her credit for this intricate and detailed plot. A Most Extraordinary Pursuit undoubtedly held my attention and entertained me, but I did not become invested in the protagonists and their almost-sort of-romance. When I don’t find myself rooting for the characters to be together, or truly care for their future, the book doesn’t touch my emotions, and isn’t my preferred type of read. There are many unanswered questions, which I’m sure will be addressed in future books featuring Emmeline Truelove. If you enjoy a rollicking adventure with a bit of time-travel, some paranormal elements and plenty of witty banter, I believe this might well hit the spot.

Forevermore (Darkest London #7) by Kristen Callihan

forevermore

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Isolated and alone, Sin Evernight is one of the most powerful supernatural creatures in heaven and on earth. As an angel of vengeance, he hunts down the darkest evil, but when his long-lost friend, Layla Starling, needs him, he vows to become her protector. Even though she will be horrified by the man he has become.

Now a famous singer and the toast of London, Layla believes that Sin is only here to guard her from rabid fans and ardent suitors. However, the truth is far more sinister. Desperate to avoid losing Layla a second time, Sin will face a test of all his powers to defeat an unstoppable foe – and win an eternity with the woman he loves.

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, July 2016

Place and time: London 1890
Genre: Paranormal/Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

It’s sad to say goodbye to Kristen Callihan’sDarkest Londonseries. This was my first foray into the paranormal genre and I found it to be compelling and addictive. Forevermore brings together many of my favourite characters of the series, not least the Ellis sisters – Miranda, Poppy and Daisy and their lovely husbands, Benjamin, Lord Archer, Winston Lane and Ian Ranulf. Their baby brother St.John, known as Sin, is the star of this final book and is the protégé of the oldest and most powerful Angel of Judgement, Augustus. Next to Augustus’, Sin’s powers are the most astounding and impressive of all of the paranormals living their weird and strange lives in Darkest London. But Sin has a dark secret, one that fills him with self loathing and which has separated him from his family.

Sin has known Layla Starling since their childhood in Ireland, where she lived under the protection of her guardian, Augustus. Now Augustus’s own powers are fading, he needs Sin to not only take on the mantle of Judgement Angel – which will make him very powerful indeed when coupled with the skills he already owns – but he also charges him with protecting his beloved Layla, who is herself only just coming into her own powers. Layla’s mother, Lena, whom we met in an earlier book in the series, is Damnation – a demon in direct opposition to Judgement. This means that Layla is in danger; as her mother’s daughter, she is sought after as a mate for THE Damnation – not an Angel but a son of the first fallen. Child of the devil… a means of breeding pure-blooded and strong Damnation demons and therefore carrying this dying line on. Layla must be protected at all costs.

I loved Sin’s character; beautiful, good and not at all unworthy as he believes himself to be. His dark secret is in no way his own fault and I did wonder why his powerful and intelligent sisters failed to realise that. There is also one quite noticeable inconsistency – in the beginning Sin is not able to bear human touch: … as if he’d sooner flay his skin off rather than endure another moment of contact… and then, quite suddenly and without further explanation, he is able to tolerate it quite readily!

There are some pretty impressive, catastrophic battles between the various forces for good and evil; gory and very descriptive. All I can say, is that I shall be looking up into the sky at night when next I visit London – St. Paul’s and Trafalgar Square will never seem the same again.

Whilst on the subject of St.Paul’s, there are a number of inconsistencies in the author’s description of it that had me scratching my head; she gives the impression of great age with her descriptions of the stone sarcophagi of England’s long-dead royalty, Knights, and heroes, which don’t exist – only the far more recent tombs of Wellington and Nelson who, although great and famous servicemen, are not royalty. At one point she refers to it as “the Abbey” – but it’s a Cathedral.

Apart from those inconsistencies, my overall enjoyment of the story was not spoilt. It was lovely to see this great series so neatly finished off with all threads brought together and good triumphing over evil. Recommended.

AUDIO REVIEW: The Renegade’s Heart (True Love Brides #2) by Claire Delacroix, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

the renegade's heart

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Released from the captivity of the Fae, Murdoch Seton wants nothing more than to forget his lost years. Undertaking a quest to recover treasure stolen from his family seems the perfect solution – but Murdoch is not counting upon a curious maiden who holds both the secret to the theft and his sole redemption.
Isabella is outraged to find her brother’s keep besieged by a renegade knight – especially one who is too handsome for his own good or hers. After a single encounter, she becomes convinced that his cause is just and decides to unveil the true thief, never imagining that their single shared kiss has launched a battle for Murdoch’s very soul. As the treacherous Fae move to claim Murdoch forever, Isabella seeks to heal the knight who has stolen her heart. But will Murdoch allow her to take a risk and endanger herself? Or will he sacrifice himself to ensure Isabella’s future?

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Publisher and Release Date: Deborah A. Cooke Publishing, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Medieval Scotland
Genre: Historical/Paranormal romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

I admit that I opted to review this audiobook principally because I enjoy listening to audiobooks, because actually, the premise of this Medieval/Paranormal was somewhat outside of my comfort zone. Initially, I struggled to enjoy it, and had it not been an audiobook, I may not have finished it. But I persevered and ultimately found it to be a passable listen, but even so I had to backtrack a few times to get the gist of the rather complicated storyline.

Murdoch Seton has returned to his homeland after an absence of three years, although to begin with he is unaware of the lengthy time lapse. His father has died in his absence and his brother, now the reluctant Laird, is blaming Murdoch for the misfortunes that have befallen the family. Murdoch, has in fact been ensnared by the Elphine Queen and has unwittingly sold his soul to her in exchange for his short term release to return home to see his family. Unknown to him, his freedom will last only one short month, after which the queen will take Murdoch forever into her fae world. She holds a replica of his heart in a rather macabre orb – throughout the story we get glimpses of the heart turning black and slowly dying within it.

Murdoch is as yet unaware that he is living on borrowed time, but is determined to make amends for his unintentional desertion of his family. He sets out on a quest to retrieve a stolen holy relic, and is led to Kinfairlie where he meets nothing but cool hostility from the Laird, Alexander. He does, however encounter an unexpected ally – Isabella, one of the Laird’s younger sisters. Although she does not believe her brother to be a thief, she does believe he is lying and so begins to help Murdoch; no doubt the fact that the two immediately clicked helped her in her decision.

As the story progresses we see more of the fae, an apparently parallel universe of tiny creatures, living out of sight of all but a few of the humans of the medieval keep of Kinfairlie. While I am not a lover of this kind of story, I can see why Claire Delacroix has such a following – she writes well and with great imagination. And if you like fairies and fae creatures then this story might hold some appeal for you. The author does, however, have one particularly irritating writing trait – she uses the character’s names so often that I felt like screaming; whilst listening I counted the use of Isabella’s name alone sixteen times in five minutes! Once Murdoch and Isabella embarked on their courtship she became ‘my Isabella’ which had me cringing.

Narrator Saskia Maarleveid does a decent job – she captures the honourable, trustworthy and knightly demeanour of Murdoch Seton particularly well, with her slightly husky tones. Her portrayal of most of the characters is good and each one is different enough so the listener is able to know who is talking at any given time. Unfortunately, her regional accents – particularly the Scottish and Irish ones – are very disappointing.

Ultimately, The Renegade’s Heart was just an “okay” listen. I doubt that I will become a follower of Ms, Delacroix, although if you are a fan of paranormal romances, then this title may work for you better than it did for me.

The Lost Soul of Lord Badewyn (Order of the M.U.S.E #3) by Mia Marlowe

the lost soul of lord baedwin

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He vowed to never fall in love…tead, she grew up amongst grifters who used her unique “finding” ability for their own selfish purposes. Re

Meg Anthony was never raised a lady. Inscently, she’s been taken under the wing of the Duke of Camden and the Order of M.U.S.E., learning not only the fine art of becoming a lady, but how to use her extraordinary talent to help others,

But Meg’s gift is a beacon to unsavory characters who would possess her.

Charged with her protection, Lord Badewyn knows—too well—that his wild, Welsh castle is no safe haven for this lovely, all-too-desirable creature. Part human, part fallen angel, he is one of the Nephilim. He is a recluse sworn never to love. As the dangers to Meg grow more threatening, he cannot help but find himself tempted beyond all reason…and tested to see if he has both a heart and a soul.

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Select Historical, November 2015

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: England, 1814
Genre: Paranormal historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

This is the third book in Mia Marlowe’s paranormal historical series, The Order of the M.U.S.E. It has some themes similar to those found in the wildly popular young adult novel, Twilight, in which both hero and heroine do not feel they belong or even deserve love.

Lord Badewyn, Samuel Templeton, is the son of a human and a Fallen Angel. He truly believes he has no soul, much like vampire Edward Cullen; while Meg Anthony is a woman from the much lower classes who just wants to be accepted. With her special gift of “finding,” and her wholehearted acceptance into the Duke of Camden’s household, she feels as if she has finally found her home.

She needed her gift. It was all that made her special.

Meg is a minor character in the first two books in the series. In this one, she is on the run from her unsavory and unscrupulous relatives, uncle Rowney and cousin Oswald, whom her uncle wants her to marry. Before she escaped from them, Meg made her living on the rough streets of London’s poorest neighborhoods, using her gift as a “Finder” to locate lost objects and people. Her nimble fingers as a pickpocket also helped her survive, but Rowney and Oswald haven’t had much luck since she disappeared. And they are still looking for her.

Because of a recent break-in and Meg’s discovery that Rowney and Oswald are looking for her, the Duke of Camden has sent Meg to Faencaern Castle in Wales, the home of Lord Badewyn, for protection. Samuel is a “Watcher” who can spot approaching danger, but Samuel fears for Meg while she is in his safekeeping. He is attracted to her and therein lies major trouble.

The Order of the M.U.S.E. – Metaphysical Union of Sensory Extraordinaires – is a collection of people with unique gifts, collected by the illustrious Duke of Camden, whose special talents are ferreting out paranormal and treasonous plots against the Crown. Previous stories in the series feature an uncontrollable fire mage new to her gift and a viscount who hears voices and was once banished to Bedlam by cruel relatives. On her Goodreads page, Ms. Marlowe describes the series as “A psychic ‘Leverage’ type team meets Jane Austen in King George III’s Court…”

Also in the preceding books, there are some tantalizing glimpses into the Duke of Camden’s troubled personal history and it is resolved and revealed here.

Grigori, Samuel’s handsome but confused father, is a Fallen Angel, doomed to repeat a tragic “Grand Cycle,” but I cannot disclose more because it would spoil the story. Grigori has his own demons that he must overcome, despite fearing he never can. I really like how Ms. Marlowe reveals the inner compassion of this complex character.

“Wicked things are so much more interesting, don’t you think?”

This is a rather sweet romance. Both Meg and Samuel are virgins and the love scenes are remarkably tame compared to Ms. Marlowe’s usual repertoire, especially those in her sexy and playful Touch of Seduction series.

“I may be a virgin, but I’m a well-read virgin.”

Though this is a paranormal historical and Ms. Marlowe clearly takes some liberties, there is still close attention to the customs and etiquette as well as fashion of the Regency era. For example, she describes the complex process of cleaning an elaborate gown and how difficult and long it might take to clean thoroughly.

Ms. Marlowe’s pacing is energetic and fast, and this novel has plenty of plot twists, witty dialogue, colorful characters, and a romance between two lonely souls. If you enjoy Brooklyn Ann’s Regency vampire series, Scandals with Bite, this is a satisfying instalment in an engaging and original series.

Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3) by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon
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They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.””The lady?” William asked.”Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”

In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword-and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land-and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.
William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.

He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1898
Genre: Historical Romance/Fantasy
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Like her brothers, Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a nearly immortal shape-shifter who has managed to keep her identity safety hidden from the local villagers and society alike. All the MacAlasdair siblings have managed this over the centuries by periodically leaving their ancestral home at different intervals and returning decades later as a younger relative. During this last turn living at home, Judith has come to relish her small, insular village life. She understands that some suspect that there are secrets on the estate but that they are willing to keep those secrets because the MacAlasdair family has always done its best to protect and help their neighbors.

Meanwhile, Special Agent William Arundel, who has secrets and special abilities of his own, has arrived in Loch Aranoch. William works for a secret branch of the government that hunts down demons, and his most recent investigation has lead him to the door of Lady Judith, a woman who never seems to age. The two immediately distrust each other and when local farm animals turn up mutilated they each suspect the other of committing the crimes. But to find out what is happening in Loch Aranoch, Judith and William must call a truce. As they work together to protect the town their respect grows to understanding and attraction.

As I was reading Night of the Highland Dragon I realized that I had actually read the first book in the series, Legend of the Highland Dragon, when it came out in 2013. I loved the story, which was an interesting mix of period romance and fantasy. Ms Cooper definitely delivers with Night of the Highland Dragon,which is just as entertaining as its predecessors. The relationship between Judith and William is interesting, since they both have abilities and need to dance around each other, trying to figure out how much the other knows. The mystery aspect of the book is an extra bonus, giving the romance a place to grow without using some of the regular ‘misunderstanding’ tactics that can start to feel formulaic.

After finishing the novel, I was excited to go back to the first and second in the in the Highland Dragons series and read all of the books. While Night of the Highland Dragon works as a stand-alone novel, it is always a great feeling to be able to jump right back into the lives of awesome, well-written characters. Pick up one – or all three – in the series and settle in for a romance filled winter!

The Curse of Lord Stanstead (Order of the M.U.S.E #1) by Mia Marlowe

curse of lord stanstead

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London, 1819

Wherever Cassandra Darkin goes, fire is sure to follow. It’s not until she’s swept into the arms of a handsome, infuriating stranger that she learns she’s responsible for the fires. As it turns out, Cassandra is a fire mage…and with her gift comes a blazing desire for sins of the flesh.

With his preternatural ability to influence the thoughts of others, Garrett Sterling is sent to gather Cassandra for the Order of the M.U.SE. He’s entirely unprepared for his immediate attraction to the comely little firestarter. But it’s an attraction that he must quell, even as his body craves her touch and her fiery, sensual hunger.

For Garrett’s gift has a dark side…and the moment he begins to care too much for Cassandra, he knows he will doom her to an inescapable fate.

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Select Historical, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1819, London and Brighton, England
Genre: Paranormal historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Mia Marlowe writes a fast-paced and sensual romance and, though I didn’t care for her recent Somerton Park series, she’s back on track with The Curse of Lord Stanstead. The first in her new Order of the M.U.S.E. series, I read early chapters of this as a work-in-progress on the author’s blog and felt it had great promise then. I have also enjoyed her previous paranormal Regency era Touch of Seduction series and this is similar to those quirky, sexy books.

This story is a nice combination of paranormal, historical and romance with some exciting extras. There’s espionage, a group of smart men and women fighting for the common good of God and country, and a heroine finding self confidence and true love.

Cassandra Darkin is the younger daughter of a newly minted baronet who made his fortune in trade. She is a vulnerable and insecure young woman who gave her virtue to Roderick, an undeserving sycophant who had no intention of marrying her. In her silent rage, she unknowingly sets fires in her home and all around London. At a ball in the first chapter, she sets yet another unexplained fire when she realizes that not only is Roderick going to marry another but that he has also bragged about her to his friends who now think she’s an easy mark.

The illustrious Duke of Camden works for the Crown but his specialty is sensory intelligence. Hence, he collects “Extraordinaires,” people with unique gifts and talents. He helps them come to terms with and control their gifts so that they can find some semblance of peace and happiness in their lives. They are known as the M.U.S.E. (The Metaphysical Union of Sensory Extraordinaires) and they work to divert unexplained phenomena plots against the king.

There is Westfall, a viscount who hears thoughts in people’s heads (and who was recently released from Bedlam into Camden’s care), Meg Anthony, a former maid who can find lost objects, and Vesta LaMotte, a femme fatale fire mage and courtesan with whom Camden once had a short-lived affair; and Garrett Sterling, Camden’s newest and unruliest acquisition. Garrett can send thoughts into people’s heads. Think Jedi mind trick.

But all of the Extraordinaires’ gifts also have a downside (or curse). For example, Garrett dreams horrific nightmares of those closest to him… and they always come to fruition. This terrifies him and so he has made it a point to never get close to or care about anyone.

When it comes to Camden’s attention that there is a new fire mage on the loose in London, he sends Garrett and Westfall to locate her and bring her to him so that he can help her as well as use her talents to help stop the threats against the Crown. And when Garrett learns the beautiful and young Cassandra is the fire mage, he is assigned the delightful task of helping her control her fire in more ways than one. He will help her release her sexual energy and frustration so that Vesta can help her control her fire making abilities.

This is an amusing allusion of fire and passion as Cassandra is a passionate and sexual woman who must learn to temper not only her lusts but also her anger. When she gets agitated, she sets fires and only sexual release can help her to control her uncontrollable heat.

At first, Cassandra rebuffs Garrett’s “assistance” but, as she gets to know him and enjoys his touches and kisses, she permits him to help her. He only satisfies her, however; he does not seek pleasure for himself. Vesta told Cassandra that her dreams of a husband and children are no longer realistic, but Cassandra still hopes she can have all of those things. With Garrett.

Garrett is a woman’s sexual fantasy. Tall, handsome, virile, funny, with a devil-may-care attitude, he introduces Cassandra to a world of pure sexual pleasure and helps quench her passions so she doesn’t set fires all over London or harm herself in the process. But despite his greatest fear, he soon falls in love with her.

I liked the romance between Garrett and Cassandra. He’s the heir to an earldom who reluctantly comes to care for Cassandra while she learns to control her talents. She in turn helps Garrett overcome his fears of love and commitment. The passion between Garrett and Cassandra is smoldering (no pun intended). He is very sexy and I envied Cassandra; all women should be so lucky to have such an attentive, considerate, and generous lover who sees to satisfying her needs before his.

The paranormal and espionage elements run nicely parallel to the growing romance between Garrett and Cassandra. The humorous interactions of the characters in M.U.S.E. and the team collaboration reminds me of both Tracey Devlyn’s Napoleonic era Nexus series as well as Zoe Archer’s Victorian Nemesis, Unlimited series (but with a dose of unreality tossed in just for fun). I enjoyed meeting the entire cast of Extraordinaires and see the potential for happy endings for Meg, Westfall, Vesta, and even the duke himself.

If you like metaphysical elements in your historical romance, pure entertainment, a sensual love story, and stories about spies, then this is a book for you.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Deception (Demon Hunters #2) by A.S Fenichel

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Lillian Dellacourt is beautiful, refined and absolutely lethal. She’s also the most feared and merciless demon hunter in The Company. She’s come a long way from the penniless seamstress’s daughter sold to the highest bidder, and it wasn’t by trusting a man, let alone an exiled Marquis with more on his mind than slaying the hellspawn.

For Dorian Lambert, Marquis de Montalembert, being sent to keep track of Lillian is no mean task. He’s wanted the fiery vixen since he first heard of her five years ago. But wooing the lady while fighting the demon uprising is no easy feat, especially when the lady’s tongue is as sharp as the Japanese sai blades she favors for eviscerating the spawn of hell.

These two will have to learn to trust each other fast, because the demon master is back, and he’s planning to turn Edinburgh into a living hell…

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EXCERPT

Holding up her hand, she pulled the horse to a stop. Dorian slowed, watched, and waited.
Lillian touched her nose, alerting him to the scent of wood burning. The wind came out of the northeast. The almost full moon lit the night well enough. They dismounted, and tied the horses to a low bit of brush along the rocky pass.

Spending the bulk of his time with the hunters behind a desk, he willingly took a step back and allowed Lillian to take the lead. She was far more experienced in the field. The fact that she was a woman meant nothing in The Company.

He wished he was as unaffected by her feminine allure.

To his astonishment, she pulled a string at her waist, which lifted her skirts, and she tucked them into some kind of belt hidden at her hips. Above her high leather boots, he glimpsed her creamy thighs. His gaze dropped to her curvy flesh and an array of weapons cleverly stored insideher skirts instead of focusing on the danger ahead. He met her gaze.

“Try to stay alive, Dorian. Do not get distracted.”

He looked her up and down one more time. “You ask the impossible, Lilly.”
The wicked look she gave him was almost as enticing as the curve of her leg. She turned and climbed up the rock-strewn hill to the right. He followed, making an effort not to admire her bare legs or the throwing knives strapped around her right thigh. When they reached the precipice, flames blazed as high as ten feet in the center of a clearing. Two demons fed the fire, one a small trebox with scaly dark skin and the other a larger, dumber malleus covered in slime. To the far left of the fire, three children huddled together. The smallest girl wept loudly while the other two tried to comfort her.

Alive! A surge of elation followed by a wave of fear assaulted him. Could he and Lillian keep those children alive?

The malleus stood as tall as the flames and sang in a low grating tone. Firelight reflected off its slimy skin as it tore a year old tree from the ground, roots and all. As if it were a twig, the malleus tossed it on the fire. Flames roared higher and his voice grew louder. Dorian knew nothing of the demon language, but the eerie cadence churned his guts.

The trebox slunk around the fire. He used two hands on a sword, carving symbols in the hard ground. This trebox had shed his human clothes, exposing his hunched back and visible ribcage.

A recent report had crossed his desk depicting a similar scene in England. When they completed drawing the runes, the innocents would be sacrificed. “They mean to open a gate. We only have until the song ends.”

Lillian’s eyes widened. She reached into the folds of her underskirt and released a small crossbow from its holster, chocked an arrow, and took aim. “We will need to move fast.”

“Ready.”

She let the arrow fly.

It pierced the malleus demon’s left eye, silenced the song mid-word, and dropped the enormous monster to the ground before he even had time to roar.

The trebox screamed in the language only demons understood. He took up the song his comrade had been chanting and wrote faster in the dirt.

Dorian pulled one throwing knife from the belt strapped around Lillian’s smooth skin. He jumped over the hill and ran down, dagger raised in his left hand.

The trebox rushed at him with its eyes focused on the long knife.

When he was within range, he let the smaller blade fly.

It buried deep in the greenish creature’s throat. He crumpled with a whine.

Lillian ran behind him down the hill.

All three children screamed and cried.

She charged past them and kicked dirt on the fire.

“What are you doing?”

“I think he might have gotten the incantation finished. Look at the way the smoke curls in on itself. Evil will find a way in even without the sacrifice. Once opened, I don’t know how to close a gate.”

It was unnatural the way the smoke did not move with the breeze. The ground rumbled. Dorian kicked dirt on the fire and rubbed out the carved runes from the ground.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical, 7 July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scotland (mostly Edinburgh), early 19th Century
Genre: Historical Fantasy Romance
Heat level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Claudia

DECEPTION_CoverLillian Dellacourt is the most feared and lethal hunter in The Company, an organisation dedicated to hunting and destroying demons. When she decides to pursue an enquiry of her own, she is ordered not to leave the castle without being asigned a new partner, but she ignores that instruction and heads off to Edinburgh anyway.

Dorian Lambert is the right-hand-man of the leader of The Company and is ordered to follow Lillian and to keep track of her. Soon the sparks between them are burning hot but demons are appearing all over Edinburgh and wooing the lady who has stolen his heart is no easy feat – especially as Lillian has a tongue as sharp as her swords and no reason to trust Dorian’s intentions.

This is the second book in Ms Fenichel’s Demon Hunters series and although it is possible to read it as a stand-alone there are some references and consequences from the events of the first book, which are a little confusing at the beginning. Nevertheless the story and the plot are well thought-out and the characters are well-drawn, and it is interesting to plunge into the story and find out how the central relationship will work out and if Lillian and Dorian will be able to learn to trust each other well enough to work together to save the day.

Lillian is an interesting character who was brought up under difficult circumstances and whose sense of self-esteem is largely connected to her work as a Hunter. But her “kick-ass” exterior hides a vulnerable woman who is unsure of herself in other situations. I really liked that she is able to defend herself and has a quick wit and a very strong empathy for others. She always places others above herself and is dedicated to her mission, which means that she has to make some very difficult decisions.

Dorian, on the other hand, is used to seeing battle through the eyes of an observer and therefore has no similar issues when it comes to setting the aims of The Company above everything else. But this ends with his connection to Lillian. His character is dependable and his love for Lillian is a steady force with which he supports her. I liked that he never underestimates her, recognises when he is not equipped to do things and lets Lillian do her job – although it is difficult for him to step back at times.

There are, however, some weak points in the story which detracted from my enjoyment. The book seems to be split into two parts; the first in which the romance is established (which I found to be the weaker section) and the second part, which is when the plot plays out.

In the first half of the book we see Lillian and Dorian get to know each other. Dorian’s brother was Lillians trainer, so Dorian knows a lot about her and fell in love with the image his brother conveyed to him in his letters. Lillian is immediately attracted to Dorian, but there’s a touch of the insta-love going on, which meant that I had trouble feeling the connection between the characters. Lillian is also very conscious of her place in society and that Dorian is far and away her social superior, yet she doesn’t give so much thought to such things in other areas. I did, however, admire Dorian for his willingness to wait for Lillian and for her acceptance.

The pacing in the second half of the book ramped things up, and I really enjoyed how the plot develops and the action that takes place. We get to know some new characters whose stories I hope will be part of the series.

Overall, Deception is good read, although I’d rate the second half higher than the first. Giving the love story 3 stars and the fantasy plot 4 makes it a strong 3.5 stars for this interesting fantasy romance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.S. FenichelA.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.

A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

Multi-published in erotic paranormal, contemporary and historical romance, A.S. is the author of the Mayan Destiny series, Christmas Bliss and many more. With several books currently contracted to multiple publishers, A.S. will be bringing you her brand of romance for many years to come.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.

You can connect with the author at: her website * ~ * ~ * her blog * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

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Pennsylvania, 1730

Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.

A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it’s Selah’s sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there’s no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.

When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope—that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.

But when news of Samuel’s death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice—forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?

Publisher and Release Date: Carina Press, May 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Colonial America (18th century)
Genre: New Adult Historical Romance (with paranormal elements)
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

A descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, eighteen-year-old Selah Kilbrid has the power of healing, though she must use it carefully and under the guise of the limited medical knowledge of the eighteenth century or else risk raising the fears of the superstitious community in which she lives. But with the death of her beloved father, Selah is a young woman alone in a world very much ruled by men. Hounded by Nathan, a Quaker elder obsessed with making her his bride, Selah has one chance to stay true to her heritage and fulfill the sacred duty entrusted to her by the goddess: she must get to Philadelphia to marry a man she has never met, her cousin Samuel, due to arrive from Ireland any day. As a fellow Kilbrid, Samuel knows about Selah’s gift and is sworn to protect her. But when Selah arrives in Philadelphia, she discovers that Samuel tragically died on the voyage over, and she is now truly alone. But she is unable to reconcile her fate of marrying a fanatical man and hiding her gift until it eventually withers away, so when she stumbles on an indentured servant auction and locks eyes with a handsome man who seems oddly out of place, she crafts a bold and daring plan. She purchases Henry Alan and convinces him to pose as her new husband.

Nathan is furious at having his plans thwarted, and soon rumors of witchcraft start to swirl. As if pretending to be married isn’t stressful enough – and they do get off to a rocky start – Selah and Henry find themselves the target of threats and eerie happenings, and as the situation grows more intense and Selah’s life is endangered, Henry vows to protect her at all costs. Torn between her growing feelings for Henry, her secret obligation to the goddess, and the rising suspicions of her fellow townsfolk, Selah resolves to carry on as best she can, but will she be able to defend herself against the ultimate charge of being a witch? And when the truth is finally revealed to Henry, will he stand by her side or turn against her? And what will Selah do when she discovers Henry is hiding a pretty big secret of his own?

I really wanted to love this book. And there were things about it that I did love, but there were also some things that I didn’t. For example, it seemed as though a few steps were missed between Selah and Henry growing tolerant of each other and then declaring their love for each other. I felt like I missed out on that dance of emotions in between, and so it made the declarations less satisfying. I also found the behavior of the villains of the story to be too over-dramatic to be believable. I like a heroine who can get herself out of a jam once in a while, and Selah had to be rescued too many times. And finally, I was not a fan of the ending. I felt like a whole other chapter of the journey was just beginning, but instead it ended, and without enough closure for me. But now I know that this was intentional as this is apparently the first book in a trilogy. It would have been nice if there had been a “to be continued in book two” notice so I was not left shaking my head! So I won’t count that against the book. But I’ve read through my friends’ reviews – all of whom are loving it – and none of them mentioned my hang-ups, so they may be just that, MY hang-ups. I read a lot of romances, so I tend to be tough on them. So that being said, don’t let me dissuade you from reading what is definitely one of the more original romances I’ve read in some time. Which leads me to what I did like about this book…

I adore novels set in Colonial America, and the small Pennsylvania village of Hopewell comes to life in this story, complete with depictions of day-to-day life, friends and neighbors, Native American visitors, the customs of the time, and the clash of co-existing religious beliefs. I also loved how Celtic mythology from the Old World was woven into the canvas via Selah’s heritage. And Selah is a worthy heroine to root for: she’s smart, compassionate, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I didn’t feel like I really got to know Henry quite as well, but I’m hoping that will be remedied in the other books, and what we do get to see of him in this story is quite swoon-worthy. The novel is well written, the plot is perfectly paced, and I burned through the pages, anxious to solve the mystery of who was really behind the witchcraft paranoia engulfing the village and to see if Selah and Henry would be able to overcome their differences and find a happily ever after. With a unique setting, a touch of magic, tons of historical context, and a couple to fall in love with, Goddess Born is a welcome addition to the historical romance genre, and I look forward to future books from Kari Edgren.

The White Forest by Adam McOmber

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Blurb

Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable and frightening gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. She finds solace in her only companions, Madeline and Nathan, but as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by jealousies and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Publisher and Release Date: Touchstone, September 2012

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian England
Genre: Historical/Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Lizzie English

Jane has a terrible secret and only her two best friends know the truth about her. She’s not a witch, she’s not a magician, but she’s something else, something of the Earth, almost, and she can see the souls of objects. It’s a promising start – an odd power, and it takes a lot of explaining through the novel. It’s pretty much in this very point that the author had lost me. Something new and unheard of, hearing the souls of man made objects? What could that lead to? How does it manifest? That questions that I kept having didn’t really get answered through the book. It never really gives an orgin for her powers.

Everything that Jane is involved in leads to disaster. She’s isolated and living in a house where her only family is barely around and the servants are scared of her; she’s even isolated from her friends. Her best friend Madeline is scared of her and unfortunately Madeline can’t stand to touch her. When someone touches Jane they experience seeing the world as Jane does where everything has a soul and it’s not pleasant. That leads to some awkward moments: how can you have a friendship of that nature when you can’t even touch?! This is in the time of Victorian London where aristocratic girls and women are each others bosom companions, often lacing arms and hugging. Her other best friend, Nathan, is the opposite; he craves her touches and experiences. It’s Nathan that story centers around, Nathan’s obsession with Jane’s power and finding out the answers that she can’t give him.

At the start of the novel, Nathan has gone missing. He had just returned from war and joined a cult that promised that he would understand Jane’s power even more.  There are a number of twists and turns in the story, involving him and what exactly happened when he went off to war, because he wasn’t involved in the fighting. He gets stuck in a monastery that just happens to worship a long lost Earth goddess.  The White Forest  was easy to picture, but it reminded me a lot of The Time Machine by HG Wells as Nathan goes into the future complete with subhuman primates. But what is never explained is Why? Primates? What is this place? How was it suddenly inaccessible one minute, and then all the characters are there the next? The description of the White Forest though is lovely, it’s one of the few things that’s a saving point. It’s not what you would expect but it holds a certain beauty that makes the reader realize why it was so wanted.

The romance in the book is pretty straightforward. Jane thinks that because Nathan is so attracted to her power that he is in fact in love with her, but it’s not like that at all and eventually gets thrown in her face in the worst way. That was pretty hard to read, even though the author has foreshadowed it, especially with how Jane is treated, but to read her actually going through it is heartbreaking. But this shows Jane’s naiveté in relation to her secluded life. Any slight form of affection shown toward her is almost guaranteed to be seen on her part as love. It makes you feel sorry for Jane and what she has to do in order to finally be accepted towards the end of the book. There are a lot of awkward moments in the novel, especially revolving anything involving potential love and Jane. It makes the reader wonder if the goal of the author was to show that Jane was unlovable and how no one understood her. It makes the reader feel sorry for her more than anything, but frustrated at the same time.

The White Forest is really captivating as it has an interesting plot and it’s very unique. Taking into account my misgivings I could only give it a three star rating, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it more.