Review: The Protectors – Duncan by Teresa Gabelman

Duncan

4.5 tortuously touching Stars

I read a lot of books. Like, A LOT. And there is no shortage of books with irrevocably damaged characters who, with a combination of their own inner strength and the love and devotion of their significant other, make it back into the land of wholenes once more. These days, there are more books where characters have had to survive something horrific than not. So what could possibly make one more stand out?

Teresa Gabelman’s choice to infuse a great deal of humor, a terrifically diverse ensemble cast of characters who are more of a family than anything else and her brave and bare bones choice to simply allow her most broken character to fight for her own sanity and healing. That’s what.

Pam Braxton is one of the most courageous and undaunted characters I’ve ever read and believe me when I tell you that she was put through absolute hell. The kind of hell you read about and then stop reading halfway through because you simply cannot make your brain wrap around that level of cruelty. But here’s what Pam does – she transcends what was done to her and simply allows it to fall from her as if she was shedding a skin. She chooses life, she chooses love and in that choosing heals herself. And it is a joy to read.

Duncan Roark is the Warrior who loves her. He is tightly coiled danger wrapped up in sin and wields a knife as if it’s an appendage. And he’s been in love with Pam from the moment he laid eyes on her. He devotes his entire life to her and helping her to recover her passion and purpose, as she wants it to be and it’s his unconditional love that helps to balance her absolute determination. That lets Pam rediscover her softer, feminine side while at the same time being solidly unbreakable.

This book continues to pull more and more of the rest of the characters into the larger storyline of human trafficking and the continued trade of Crimson Rush. We get to see more of Sloan – head of the Vampire Council. We continue to get to know more about the other half breeds that were turned against their will and are now training to become Warriors (especially the only girl, Jill, who is spunky and fierce and I adore her). And my favorite, we get more of Sid Sinclair. That man can have me laughing so hard I can’t breathe in one moment and then have my heart swelling so big with his tenderness that I don’t want to breathe in the next.

The author weaves this incredibly varied cast together seamlessly. And not only do I care about each and every one of them, I want every book to have each and every one of them in it. Each character has something so uniquely their own, something that defines them and allows them to bring their piece to the bigger puzzle that allows this whole Warrior family to function in such a bad ass way. They are tested over and over again, and they are invincible.

Alongside being extraordinarily insightful, Teresa Gabelman is a master storyteller that just keep getting better and better with each book in this series.

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Review: Winged by L.M. Pruitt

Winged Cover

4 floating Stars

I’m a huge fan of angels.  Always have been.  I don’t know what is exactly about them, but if you hand me a book about angels, I will immediately plunge into with abandon.  It might be that there is a clear-cut mythology around angels and so very many variations on that mythology to keep it interesting.  It might be that even though they often consort with humans, there is still always something just a little alien about them; something that keeps them just a smidge above, unrelatable.  It could be their intense beauty and strength.  It could be the wings.  Probably, it’s all of the above.

Winged presents another spin on angels that is incredibly imaginative and interesting.  When a human dies, he or she can be recommended to become Winged – the front line to the battle against demons on earth.  You have to go through immense training (at the hands of the archangels) of both body and mind in order to earn your wings; endure extreme trials of fortitude, intelligence and survival.  All so that you can get tapped anytime a demon is raising a ruckus on earth.

Joanne Watson arrives after death with a choice:  go back to earth, go to heaven or become Winged.  She chooses Winged without reservation, because she’s always wanted to do something important.  Joanne goes from a proper Southern lady to warrior in under a year.  She goes from being a little mouse, allowing her family to cow her into submission, to leading fellow soldiers into battle, and winning.  Her transformation is one to behold.  So much so, in fact, that she attracts all sorts of attention of both the good and bad variety.

The archangels are really interesting.  There’s quite a variety between the seven of them ranging from outright aggression in Michael and Remiel to acute lack of interest in Saraqael and Raquel to jovial in Gabriel and Uriel to a mixture of all of the above in Raphael.  And watching Joanne walk into their midst and blow up their perfectly ordered world is even more interesting.  To say that she gives them a run for their money doesn’t even begin to give her enough credit.  She is whip smart, witty and one of the strongest female characters I’ve read in a long time.  I absolutely love her.

LM Pruitt has managed to do several things with this book:  weave an interesting new story using the oldest of mythology, create a cast of characters so incredibly diverse that they could each easily fill their own book and then she ties the whole thing together with effortless prose that transports you and expertly manipulates your emotions so that you are laughing one minute, screaming the next, panting the very next.  Pruitt’s writing is smart, polished, accessible and most importantly, pulls you right into the heart of the story to the extent that I couldn’t turn pages quickly enough.

I am ecstatic to have found this series and cannot wait to pick up the next book.

Review: A Tale of Two Kingdoms by Victoria Danann

Two Kingdoms Cover

4 hopelessly romantic Stars

This book is a wee bit of a caper story. A caper story with heaping amounts of political intrigue, dashing romance, humor and the true meaning of family – doing everything you can to see to the happiness of those you love. It’s also a classic fairytale story. In other words, it’s another perfect addition to the Black Swan cannon.

This is Duffy and Song’s story. Finally. We first met Duff and Song in The Witch’s Dream when they accidentally ran into each other in Edinburgh after Litha almost burned down a pub. Duffy is the Prince of the Fae. Song is the princess of the Elves. The two factions don’t get along and thus these two are plunged head first into a magical Romeo and Juliet type of romance. Except without the tragedy, thank goodness. Because Duff Torquil and Aelsong Hawking are soul mates.

Usually in love stories you get to know the characters as they interact with each other. You get to see their best and worst assets illustrated as they figure out their love and relationship with and to each other. Not here. We’ve been getting to know Song for a few books now in different ways as she’s used her gift of sight to aid in several situations and her gifts in general to add lovely dimension and humor to just about every scene she’s in. We get to know Duffy in this book as he plans his and Song’s elopement. He is methodical, romantic, driven and unbelievably charming. And the two of them together? Fairy tale. Er, Elf Tale. Ahem. Gorgeous.

The caper bits of this book let us see the playful pieces of Elora and Litha as well as get a broader view of the dimensions (used in the most obtuse way) of this world. We get a peek into the inner workings and who’s behind the curtain. And I am thoroughly intrigued. As if having multiple versions of reality wasn’t enough, now we know that there are hands pulling the strings, lining up the billiards, adjusting the rudder.

This book is written with more than Victoria Danann’s usual dose of whimsy and I could not wipe the smile off my face for almost the entirety of the book. The lovely moments between Duffy and Song made me lose focus and sail into dreamland. Watching Ram and his father erase a lifetime of miscommunication in one heart-wrenching scene brought tears to my eyes. Being privy to the orchestration that goes on behind the scenes to make sure these two lovers get to ride off into the sunset was a gift – a big, stuffed with joy, crackling with tension, humming with life, take your breath away with sorrow gift.

And now we wait. We wait for book #7 – Soloman’s Sieve. We wait for the continuation in this extraordinary world so gloriously brought to life on the page by this exceptional author. We wait with baited breath to see which characters will love and live and fall and cry as this epic series continues. I find myself always starting a new Black Swan novel thoroughly prepared to fall in love anew and I cannot think of a better way to live.

**This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.**

Review: Gathering Storm by Victoria Danann

Gathering Storm Cover

4.5 besotted Stars

When I was little, Superman was my favorite because he was really the only superhero I knew.  I was an only child, so I didn’t have an elder brother to show me the ropes of comic books.  But then I got older and a family friend showed me the world of X-Men and I was a goner; Superman forgotten.  I like my superheroes to be a bit on the dark side, you see, maybe a little tattered around the edges, but stark and strong and uncompromising.

Engel Storm is Superman.  He stands unbowed in the face of whatever comes at him.  He shines like the light to vanquish all darkness.  And now that he can travel the passes with Litha, he can fly as well.  I’ve always liked Stormy, he’s affable and effective and he always rises to the occasion.  But I’ve never done anything more than just like him, really.  I much prefer some of the more colorful characters in this series.  Elora and Ram have been my favorites.  I’ve got a hefty crush on Sol and Glen both.  Kay and his affinity for disco just makes me giggle.  I’ve already waxed poetic about how much I adore Baka.  And now I’m utterly infatuated with sweet Rosie.  The list goes on, but Storm has never really been on it.

Until now.  Permit me a moment to publicly state that after this book, I am officially a giant fan of Engel Storm.  Not because he shows a dark side in this book, but because he is so utterly possessed of such awe-inspiring grace in the face of, well, pretty much anything you could possibly imagine to put in front of him.  He is Superman and I don’t think I’ve ever loved him more.

I can’t really tell you much about what happens in this book except that Elora is tested, yet again, against her heritage and those around her find new and previously unknown strength in the face of adversity in order to help protect her.  We get to meet a new motley crew of Knights that are more than a little intriguing.  And there is so much lost and so much gained.

This book is an epic song.  It absolutely entranced me right from the start.  You know those songs that reach in with fingers made of wishes and wrap around your heart and before you know it, you’re a different person with a different point of view?  This book is one of those.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, probably every time I write a review for her, but Victoria Danann is brilliant and she has absolutely outdone herself with this book.  To say that it’s gorgeous is vastly inadequate.  To say that this is one of those books that I will want to keep with me, right up next to the skin, for the rest of my life, comes closer.

**This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.**

Review: Moonlight by Victoria Danann

Moonlight Cover

4.5 utterly romantic Stars

Many books are defined by the events that happen in their pages. You can immediately pick out what book someone is talking about just by listening for key words in the conversation. The Knights of the Black Swan, however, is defined by its characters. Gorgeous, multi-dimensional, immersive characters that, by this point, I’m not only becoming personally invested in, but that are also starting to feel like old friends.

And, how do you not immediately fall in love with a book that has this opening line:

“’What do you know about my sister and that prancin’ prick of a fairy prince?’”

Rammel Hawking will never cease to simultaneously bring a huge smile to my face and make me swoon.

This installment brings us the story of the enigmatic King of Werewolves – Stalkson Grey. He is stoic in the traditional sense of the word – a man who always puts his people first in everything he does regardless of his own happiness. He is strong, chiseled from granite, with a glittering sense of humor that always takes everyone around him off guard.

In an effort to save his people, he is dimension jumping with Deliverance and happens to catch site of the one woman he thought never to find – his one true mate. And after spending some time courting Luna, he takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps her back to his own dimension. The very last thing she ever thought would happen, happens – she falls just as in love with him as he is with her.

Their romance is a glorious thing to watch. Luna chips away at Grey’s hardness to reveal a heartfelt and tender man underneath the leader. Grey opens up a world to Luna that she never thought to want. Watching their intellects battle in their conversations is ridiculously fun and just more proof of the genius that is Victoria Danann.

We get a good bit of Ram and Elora, Storm and Litha, Deliverance, Glen and a whole new angle gets added to the slippery vampire epidemic when some new visitors from another dimension arrive with a new answer to the original issue.

To go back and try to summarize this book makes it feel quite busy. But as I was reading it, it felt like a languorous stretch after sleeping in a lover’s arms – endearingly comfortable, warm and I never wanted it to end. The characters just wrapped themselves that much tighter around me and I never want them to let go.

Victoria Danann is just flat brilliant. There’s really no other way to say it. Her writing is meticulous and mind-blowingly illustrative. She is a first-rate storyteller to be sure. She has managed to burrow so deeply inside of my heart, I will never let this series go.

Seriously, how many more adjectives do you need? Start reading this series yesterday.

 *This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.*

Review: Sick Day by Morgan Parker

Sick Day Cover

4 heartbreakingly infuriated Stars

I am the biggest hopeless romantic I know.  I wear my heart my sleeve and I am always the one cheering for love. I tear up at cheesy happy endings.  I sniffle my way through scenes of reconciliation.  I outright sob when true love wins.  I’m just a big ‘ol sap and completely unapologetic about it.

I was sold on this book before I even read the first page because the premise was so utterly romantic.  A man using one sick day to convince the love of his life to choose him?  Once and for all?  Yeah, I was all in right from the very beginning.

Cameron is my kind of man.  He’s smart, funny and well spoken.  And even though he seems to have a bit of a hard time making a decision and sticking to it when it comes to the women he loves, overall he’s a character that draws me right in.

Hope, the love of Cameron’s life, is one of those characters that is incredibly hard to like.  There is very little time spent in this book giving the reader any reason whatsoever that she deserves the love Cam lavishes upon her.  Over the space of close to 15 years all we see is her continually playing yo-yo with his emotions.  One minute she’s so there you can wrap your hands around the love these two people share.  The next she’s putting every ounce of strength available into pushing Cameron away.  She’s smart and can be pretty funny and witty but she’s not a very nice person.

I found myself cheering for these two characters simply for Cam’s sake.  I just desperately wanted this man to be happy.  He’s so honest and so willing to flay his heart and soul open for Hope that I just wanted him to find something, anything that would make him happy.  He was dead set on that anything being Hope.  So I did my duty and cheered for them to get their shit together and finally just allow themselves to be together.

Morgan Parker is a masterful writer.  He crafts a gorgeously written story that is laugh out loud funny one moment and heartrendingly tender the next.  I have to applaud him for letting his characters be as authentic as they are.  It would have been easy for him to correct Hope halfway through the book, make her more accessible and likeable, but the fact that he let these two characters just live and fight their way to and away from each other is a testament to the quality of writer he is.

Sick Day is a singularly interesting story.  It keeps you guessing until the very last page while at the same time engaging both intellect and heart on a deep level that you don’t encounter every day.

This may be my first exposure to Morgan Parker, but I can assure you it will not be my last.

*This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.*

Review: A Summoner’s Tale by Victoria Danann

Summoner's Tale Cover

4.5 head spinning Stars

I spent the whole of this book desperately trying to keep myself from sobbing.  The tear triggers varied from mirth to anxiety to heart wrenching sadness and restoration of hope.  This book is utterly tender in so many ways.

Istvan Baka is one of my favorite characters in Loti Dimension.  It’s possible that he would be in all dimensions, but I’ve only this one version upon which to remark at present time.  More than six hundred years old, a cured vampire doing his best to finish living his human life in a way that celebrates his humanity and the tortured soul of an artist.  He is genuinely gorgeous in every definition of the word.

Heaven McBride despises him at first glance.  He’s given her no good reason for that ire, but it exists in spades nonetheless.  She is whip smart, tireless in her ability to solve problems and utterly disconcerted when she’s appointed Baka’s assistant.  She goes about her days focused on work, committed to ignoring Baka’s very existence.  Until he disappears one day and she rallies the troops to find him, awakening her greater purpose and a heartbreaking tie to the past.

Elora is back to hunting down every piece of trouble she can possibly find while waiting for sweet Helm to be born and Ram is, once again, put to the test to keep up with her and pull her out of the dire circumstances in which she once again finds herself.

Storm and Litha put a particular cherry on top of their favorite sundae and Kay once again, goes through hell and high water to support his teammates.

The gang is all back and what a glorious, glorious gang it is.

Victoria Danann once again amazes with her ability to weave a tale so rife with humor and heart that when I finish I have to stare into space for a solid chunk of time just to acclimate to no longer inhabiting Loti Dimension.  She doesn’t write books, she writes songs that wrap around your heart and fly you on the wings of dreams you never knew were possible.  And I will be forever grateful to her for that ability.

Although I’m afraid that I’m going to have to side with Ram after this book in his anger towards Victoria at constantly putting his mate in danger.  The trials and tribulations this couple has had to live through are harrowing at best and enough to make anyone want to just crawl into New Forest and never be heard from again.

I keep thinking there’s no way to top the last story.  And yet, Victoria keeps doing it.  I keep finding myself on the magic carpet that is the Order of the Black Swan, journeying through space and time, head spinning, laughing with abandon just with the sheer joy of being along for the ride.

*This review was originally published for Wicked Women Book Blog.*