Ellie Reads Fiction

27 May 2016

Promo post and giveaway for Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

Book 15 in one of my favourite PNR series, Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh comes out in a little over 2 weeks. I can't believe there have been 14 books already. Allegiance of Honor promises to catch up the readers with everything that has been going our favourite couples since we left them in a happy place in their own books.

Here is all the info about the upcoming release, which btw, will take coincide with my birthday, June 14, making this book a special birthday gift to me :)

Ms Singh and her team have been kind enough to offer a giveaway to celebrate the release of Allegiance of Honor. You have the chance to win a SIGNED US paperback edition of Tangle of Need (one of the most emotionally complicated and intense stories in the series for me). The giveaway is open internationally and you just need to fill the rafflecopter below to be enter in the draw.


Title: Allegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling #15)
Author: Nalini Singh
Date of publication: 14 June 2016
Genre: PNR, Shapeshifters

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

Pre-order links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks / ARe



Blurb

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

GIVEAWAY


a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 May 2016

Review: Peril by J. E. Lorin

Title: Peril
Author: J. E. Lorin
Date of publication: 16 May 2016
Genre: Queer fantasy, Sci Fi

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 3.5 Stars




Blurb

Two hundred years after the first spontaneous genetic mutation occurred, the world has accepted the idea of superpowers. Damon Kelly, bright, hard-working, kind-hearted, and yet lacking any mutation, is deeply involved in the powered community, writing his dissertation on superpower genetics. He’s got his work, he’s got his friends, and he’s got a new love interest, the handsome and sexy Eli Emmert. Just when everything seems like it’s falling into place, however, a new supervillain emerges in the city, and Damon finds himself swept into his orbit. Will he figure out how he attracted the villain’s attention before it’s too late, or will he succumb to the peril? 


Review by Edwin


I'd been in a bit of a book slump when I came across Peril semi-randomly on a new releases list. The blurb sounded intriguing, the cover art is kind of cool, it was well priced, so I decided to take a chance on it. I'm really glad I did so, because while I had a few reservations about it, I really enjoyed the book.

Starting out with the technical aspects, which really are the reason this is knocked down below 4 stars. Lorin is a new author - this is only her second book - and it does show. The plotting is a little all over the place, most notably in terms of the sheer number of crises suffered by the main character, Damon. He's a scientist, not an action hero, and the fact that he gets into life or death situations no less than four times in the book is a little too damsel in distress, and a little too over the top. Similarly, the pacing is slightly clumsy, with the middle half of the book dragging and the final parts arriving in something of a rush. On the plus side, Lorin's technical command of writing is good. Well put together sentences, free-flowing dialogue, and the occasional nice turn of phrase. Also well proofread for a self-published title. All of these are a pleasant change from some of the poorly written stuff I've read from established names in the m/m field recently, so kudos to Lorin for that.

Turning to the substance of the book, one think that I think is important to highlight is something Lorin states outright in their blog bio: "In the J.E. Lorin universe, there are no “coming out” stories, as homosexuality and bisexuality are not considered unusual. The intent is to create fun, action-filled, dramatic romance stories for those readers who’ve been longing to see such stories with two male leads." Peril delivers on this approach, and it's something I really appreciate. While coming out and dealing with homophobia are obviously (still) major issues in the LGBT community, I feel like they are sometimes focused on as the defining experience of being queer, and they're just not. So much of being queer is just living your life, part of which is having a different orientation or gender identity than the norm. And what we see here is a superhero story and a romance with two male leads. That's it. And it really is quite refreshing.

The basic plot here is quite simple: boy meets boy, boy gets repeatedly attacked by supervillian, boy tries to keep relationship with hot boyfriend going in the midst of all this drama, boy tries to work out who supervillain is and why it keeps attacking him. Around this, though, we have really nicely drawn characters. Damon has a tragic past involving his sister, which has ongoing implications for his relationship with his parents. Eli, the hot boyfriend, has shared caregiving responsibilities for his nieces and nephew (his brother's wife has died). There are a few well drawn friends in there too, who are more than two dimensional support players. They "who's the supervillain" mystery is not a total headscratcher, but neither is it super obvious. As noted above, it's not completely flawless, but it largely does the job in terms of keeping the plot moving. It really is the adorable romance between Damon and Eli, and their interactions with their families, that keep my attention here, though. Without this good characterisation the book would just be a mediocre superhero story. With it, it's a promising early effort from an author whose next book I'll be looking forward to. Recommended for superhero nerds and those into urban fantasy or light SF.

Purchase link: Amazon


23 May 2016

Review: Blackshear Family series by Cecilia Grant

I seem to be on a roll of reading historical romance series, so here is another joint review of three books I enjoyed a lot.


Title: A Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family #1)
Author: Cecilia Grant
Date of publication: 27 Dec 2011
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars




Blurb

Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate and beloved servants from her malevolent brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes . . . for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all . . . love?


Review by Ellie


I have had this series on my radar for a while now and somehow it was never the right time to start it. Now when I finally did it I'm so happy with my choice. 

I loved this story so much. The plot may not be the most original in historical romance but it read and new and intriguing for me. The writing won me over completely, it is elegant and beautiful, very thoughtful and engaging. 

Martha and Theo were fantastic characters - complex, rich, well developed. The deal they make seemed outrageous but it turns out not to so out of the ordinary for the times. The fact that it grew into something more can be expected but the way this happened, slowly bringing out the true nature of the characters was fascinating to read.

I liked how the romance developed slowly (despite the sex taking place early on, though you can hardly think of it in sensual or romantic terms at the beginning), how they actually got to know each other and their lives got more and more merged as the story progressed. 

The romance was not part of plan for either of them had for their future but by the end the of the book it seemed inescapable and the way the story developed did leave the reader convinced of it.

Martha and Theo are nothing alike - he is a bohemian and she is all about being proper and dutiful. Yet, it's she who proposes their deal, she who risks everything to help others in need, she who takes action, who moves on with her life as a widow on her own terms as much as possible. I loved the contrast between her opening her heart to love and sensual pleasure and his opening to caring about people, to making something with his fortune, to creating. She was the driving force behind his entrepreneur activities.

In a way they both brought out the best in each other and their interaction. I loved their dynamics and the complexity of their relationship.

It was a very sweet, very tender and very captivating feel-good historical romance which I can recommend to everyone.

Purchase links: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Title: A Gentleman Undone (Blackshear Family #2)
Author: Cecilia Grant
Date of publication: 29 May 2012
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars





Blurb

Lydia Slaughter understands the games men play—both in and out of the bedroom. Not afraid to bend the rules to suit her needs, she fleeces Will Blackshear outright. The Waterloo hero had his own daring agenda for the gaming tables of London’s gentlemen’s clubs. But now he antes up for a wager of wits and desire with Lydia, the streetwise temptress who keeps him at arm’s length.

A kept woman in desperate straits, Lydia has a sharp mind and a head for numbers. She gambles on the sly, hoping to win enough to claim her independence. An alliance with Will at the tables may be a winning proposition for them both. But the arrangement involves dicey odds with rising stakes, sweetened with unspoken promise of fleshly delights. And any sleight of hand could find their hearts betting on something neither can afford to risk: love.


Review


This second book in the series is my favourite. It's much darker and more intense than the first one and I loved every minute of it.

We have two broken characters fighting their demons who come together despite all the odds and this is just my favourite kind of romance story.

Broken war hero and courtesan may be a familiar trope in historical romance but nothing about Will and Lydia was stereotypical or predictable. Their dramatic story on many levels but it was also fitting. There was not much room for tenderness and being gentle and tentative and slow. Life had been far too harsh to both of them making it difficult for Will and Lydia to believe in love and a happy ending.

The romance in the story is unforgettable but there is also a lot more going on in plot and all of it mixed together made this a very powerful and delightful read.

There is a a strong sensual element, which is not particularly common with regard to heroines in historicals. Here is the feminist in me speaking and I can say that I very much appreciate how both the hero and heroine are portrayed as human beings equally entitle to enjoy themselves, to experience carnal pleasures. Yet, it the romance went much deeper than lust and physical attraction, Will Lydia shared secrets which they never before told anyone, they forged a bond that was really unbreakable and were truly able to give and take love to each other, to provide each other with comfort and support.

I absolutely loved the ending and found it very fitting. Things couldn't have turned perfect for everyone and some people got hurt but that was the reality of the times. That is not to say there was no HEA for the hero and heroine, rather it was the best for them.

Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Title: A Woman Entangled (Blackshear Family #3)
Author: Cecilia Grant
Date of publication: 25 June 2013
Genre: Historical romance
Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars




Blurb

Kate Westbrook has dreams far bigger than romance. Love won’t get her into London’s most consequential parties, nor prevent her sisters from being snubbed and looked down upon—all because their besotted father unadvisedly married an actress. But a noble husband for Kate would deliver a future most suited to the granddaughter of an earl. Armed with ingenuity, breathtaking beauty, and the help of an idle aunt with connections, Kate is poised to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a familiar face—albeit a maddeningly handsome one—appears bent on upsetting her scheme.

Implored by Kate’s worried father to fend off the rogues eager to exploit his daughter’s charms, Nick Blackshear has set aside the torch he’s carried for Kate in order to do right by his friend. Anyway, she made quite clear that his feelings were not returned—though policing her won’t abate Nick’s desire. Reckless passion leads to love’s awakening, but time is running out. Kate must see for herself that the charms of high society are nothing compared to the infinite sweet pleasures demanded by the heart.


Review


This was a nice addition to the series but it somehow ended as my least favourite. I was curious to read Nick's story, especially after what happened with Martha and more importantly with Will, in the previous book, so I probably had too high expectations and felt disappointed in the end,

It is a very well written story like the previous ones but I didn't feel that strong a connection with the characters here and found the heroine particularly annoying at times.

Kate's obsession with making it in her rightful place in high society did not sit very well with me. I understand it and I appreciate her desire to heal and reconnect her family but she appeared pushy and vain and far too occupied with appearances for me to really like her.

Nick was also nice enough, and I did like him much more than Kate. His struggles were easier for me to understand and relate to - trying to make it in a world that thinks bad of you because of a family scandal was not easy. In a way he was similar to Kate in his ambition to succeed but he was also feeling guilt and pain over having to give up his brother. This made him more human in my eyes and made me like him so much more.

I'm also not a big fan of the way their romance happened, all the pretending, lying to oneself did not work very well for me. I very much prefer the openness and honesty of Will's and Marths's stories to Nick and Kate agreeing that they are not suited for each other and yet, they go ahead being together behind everybody's back.

I miss the breathtaking beauty and intensity of the previous romances in this series but this one is still a good enough installment and fans the Blackshear family will hopefully enjoy it more than me.


Purchase links: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


16 May 2016

Review: Lively St. Lemeston series by Rose Lerner

This is a joint review of the first three books in the Lively St. Lemeston series of historical romance by Rose Lerner which I binge read in a week some time ago.

In short: I loved everything about these books!

Title: Sweet Disorder (Lively St. Lemeston #1)
Author: Rose Lerner
Date of publication: 18 March 2014
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars



Blurb 

Political intrigue could leave his heart the last one standing…alone.

Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he’s lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings.

But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.

One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town’s by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl’s son, she can’t. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe’s last-ditch defense against her sister’s ruin is her vote—and her hand.

Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they’ll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty…or love.


Review


This is one of those rare historical romances that are not about dukes and ladies and ballroom dances but rather about more common ordinary people and how politics affect their struggles to find a respectful place in life.

The heroine, Phoebe, is an amazing character whom I loved so much. She is a somewhat overweight widow, writing stories for a living and trying to cope with living on her own. She is strong and independent but also caring and deeply connected with her family (her sister, to be precise) and ready to sacrifice herself for her sister's well-being and happiness.

Nick is an ex-army officer, wounded and using a cane, a young man who is not sure of his direction in life. Throughout the story we see him as a kind man, a little lost but ultimately noble and true to himself. Like Phoebe, he is bound by family obligations and his own sense of duty, but also fumbling around to find his own happiness and the right way to move on in life.

The romance was unexpected for both of them, it was not something they were actively looking for, but it felt so right and it was the thing that they both needed at that moment. It develops against the background of Tory/Whig political struggles which add yet another obstacle before they could be together.

The complications before Phoebe and Nick coming together were numerous and seemed impossible to overcome, yet they did overcome them in a way that worked well for everybody as well. It was a fitting happy end, realistic, fraught with difficulties and sacrifices but all the sweeter for that.

The story has a strong cast of strong supporting characters, each with their own story, adding richness and depth to the plot, making it real and easy to relate to.

I loved the twist and turns, the unexpected changes kept taking me by surprise and I absolutely enjoyed them all.

The writing it beautiful as well, not too flowery but rich in historical details, with a refreshing sense of humour. It was a pure delight following Phoebe and Nick's romance and I whole-heartedly recommend this book to all lovers of historical romance.

Purchase links: kindle / kobo / nook / iBooks / samhain / all romance


Title: True Pretenses (Lively St. Lemeston #2)
Author: Rose Lerner
Date of publication: 13 Jan 2015
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars



Blurb

Never steal a heart unless you can afford to lose your own.

Through sheer force of will, Ash Cohen raised himself and his younger brother from the London slums to become the best of confidence men. He’s heartbroken to learn Rafe wants out of the life, but determined to grant his brother his wish.

It seems simple: find a lonely, wealthy woman. If he can get her to fall in love with Rafe, his brother will be set. There’s just one problem—Ash can’t take his eyes off her.

Heiress Lydia Reeve is immediately drawn to the kind, unassuming stranger who asks to tour her family’s portrait gallery. And if she married, she could use the money from her dowry for her philanthropic schemes. The attraction seems mutual and oh so serendipitous—until she realizes Ash is determined to matchmake for his younger brother.

When Lydia’s passionate kiss puts Rafe’s future at risk, Ash is forced to reveal a terrible family secret. Rafe disappears, and Lydia asks Ash to marry her instead. Leaving Ash to wonder—did he choose the perfect woman for his brother, or for himself?


Review 


This is the second book in the series but can be read as a standalone, set in the same universe as the first book but not closely connected with it. This is the most unusual historical romance I've read, even though I haven't read that many.

We have a Jewish hustler hero and a heroine who needs a husband to able to access her inheritance money.

This story shows us the other side of politics - the world of Tories and the politics of the rich and influential. It offers a nice contrast between the heiress Lydia, well established in her world, rooted in her home, with clear sense of who she is on the one hand, on the other, we have Ash, a Jewish man in disguise, drifting around England, with no past and no home.

Their romance was a truly challenging and eye-opening journey for them both, a discovery of what it means to be a brother, a sister, a lover, what the meaning of family is and how to love them, what home is and how to make one for yourself and your loved ones.

Both Lydia and Ash had to change their expectations and plans, give up their presumptions and find their free will and road to personal happiness.Ms Lerner presents the reader with a profound exploration of identity which I found fascinating in the given historical context. 

We have the same exquisite writing as the first book, the same attention to detail, the same depth of character development (with even more intensity) and abundance of plot twists.

Overall, this book was both similar to and different from the first one in the series but it was an equal pleasure for me to read it.

Purchase links: kindle / kobo / nook / iBooks / samhain / all romance


Title: Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston #3)
Author: Rose Lerner
Date of publication: 5 Jan 2016
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars



Blurb

When upstairs valet meets downstairs maid, the line between work and play blurs. Lively St. Lemeston, Book 3 John Toogood dreamed of being valet to a great man...before he was laid off and blacklisted. Now he's stuck in small-town Lively St. Lemeston until London's Season opens and he can begin his embarrassing job hunt. His instant attraction to happy-go-lucky maid Sukey Grimes couldn't come at a worse time. Her manners are provincial, her respect for authority nonexistent, and her outdated cleaning methods-well, the less said about them, the better. Behind John's austere facade, Sukey catches tantalizing glimpses of a lonely man with a gift for laughter. Yet her heart warns her not to fall for a man with one foot out the door, no matter how devastating his kiss. Then he lands a butler job in town-but there's a catch. His employer, the vicar, insists Toogood be respectably married. Against both their better judgments, he and Sukey come to an arrangement. But the knot is barely tied when Sukey realizes she underestimated just how vexing it can be to be married to the boss... Warning: Contains a butler with a protective streak a mile wide, and a maid who enjoys messing up the bed a whole lot more than making it."


Review


This is the latest book in the series and I can honestly say it's my favourite. The is an amazing under-the-stairs romance about a valet/butler and a maid of all work and I loved everything about it.

There is so much depth in this story and both the characters of John and Suckey are drawn up with such love and care and understanding by Ms Lerner that the reader can't help but fall in love with them.

The romance follows the common trope of marriage of convenience but it's done so exquisitely and absolutely captivating, that it felt like I was reading something fresh and in many ways unique. Suckey and John feel like real people and their fears and dreams and hopes and mistakes and small victories are easy to relate and understand.

This is not your typical romantic love at first sight, though both hero and heroine were attracted to each other from the beginning. It was in their marriage, in actually living (and working) together that they discover who the other person really is and learn to love and respect them.

On the surface, John and Suckey were such an unlikely couple. He is a perfectionist, hard-working, and ambitious, always trying to do his best. She is much more easy going, not really lazy but definitely not as pre-occupied with her work as he is. Finding a balance between their conflicting natures was fascinating to read. Both John and Suckey had to face their fears and learn to trust the other, to be honest and open about their feelings. It really is a lesson of communication and though set in the world of servants in Regency England and I found it universally relevant and applicable to any love couple at any time of history.

The richness of details about the servants' lives with its joys and troubles made a very engaging, rich story and was a pure pleasure to read.

Purchase links: kindle / kobo / nook / iBooks / samhain / all romance

Overall, this is a fabulous historical series - rich in details, diverse in characters, impeccably written and really engaging. There will be more stories in the series coming, hopefully  soon and you can learn more about them on the author's site.

12 May 2016

Review: Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane

Title: Behind the Mask (The Associates #4)
Author: Carolyn Crane
Date of publication: 19 May 2015
Genre: Romantic suspense

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars



Blurb


To save her twin sister she must switch places with her...

When her long lost sister—a prostitute—is won in a card game by a brutal drug cartel, Zelda knows what she has to do: take her place. Save her. Focus on infiltrating the shadowy group on behalf of the Associates, and try not to think about why she left the spying game years ago. She’s slept with dangerous criminals before; she can do it again. 

Hugo Martinez is one of South America’s most lethal and wanted men, a legendary mercenary living on a windswept mountain. Even at the height of the war he wasn’t in the habit of taking women captive, but the American whore has seen his face. And he and the orphan boy need a cook. He shouldn’t want this woman, but there’s something so unusual about her…

Little by little, Zelda finds herself falling for her captor…but is he the killer she’s been hunting all these years?


Review


Trigger warning for torture/interrogation

This is the fourth book in the Associate series of romantic suspense stories and I have read and enjoyed all of them though I haven't reviewed them on the blog. Most of the things that I can say about this latest installment holds true for the previous books as well.

This book, like the rest in the series, can be read as a standalone, but I think they are all worthy of your time and if you like well plotted and character driven romantic suspense, you should definitely give this series a try. 

Behind the Mask is really dark at times as both the hero and heroine have been through a lot and struggle with the daemons of their pasts. It's their shared darkness in way, coupled with their caring nature that brings them together. 

The story is told from dual POV and the insight into the minds both of Zelda and Hugo worked really well for drawing me into the story. I loved seeing so much of their thought processes and the day they changed through the story.

Zelda is an amazing heroine. She is one of the Associates, strong, independent, but hurt and carrying guilt and scars that can never be healed or forgotten. There is determination and violence about her that are to not common for romantic heroines. Yet she was not cold or heartless, an Ice Queen of sorts, but rather a very vibrant woman full of feels some of which she tried to deny and hide. 

Hugo is even darker than her, assassin, merciless on his enemies, lost in his own world of pain and regret and guilt. Yet, like Zelda, this is mostly on the surface, very deep down he is selfless, ready to sacrifice  himself for the people he loved. 

Their romance and connection was violent and rough and the few tender moments they shared stood out even more. The author pushed my boundaries in many ways - the graphic violence and torture were hard to read, the issue of redemption and second chance stood out prominently and left me thinking about it long after I finished the book

The whole botanical/farming aspect of the story was more than mere curious addition to the plot. It gave the whole story a much needed lightness, a sense of re-birth and hope for the future,

The suspense element was really strong and I found it quite intriguing. It was full plot twists and did keep me on the edge most of the time while reading. The Associates are rather an unpredictable bunch when it comes to following orders.

We see more of Dax (the head of the Associates) in this book than in the previous ones and I find myself impatient to read his story. By the looks of it, it will be even darker and more violent than Zelda's which is equally scary and exciting.

Purchase links: AmazoniBooks | Nook | Smashwords | Kobo | ARE 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...