Tour’s Books Blog

September 10, 2009

Book Reviews: Short Reviews of New Ebooks

Well, the usual suspects in the erotic romance epub list was visited by me to examine this weeks crop.  Didn’t see anything that interested me at Loose-Id or Siren and nothing at Ellora’s mid-week release appealed to me, but I had one left from last week and found 3 more – all at Samhain.  None really lit my fire but none were awful either.  The other odd thing is all felt more mainstream than usual.  Aside from some brief elements in Dance of the Dragon and Songbird, none really qualified a ‘erotic’ in my mind.  Romance, yes, but two of the four were romantic adventure and less erotic than Lora Leigh’s Nauti series, which is sold as mainstream.  The other two didn’t hit the ‘hot’ level of her Elite Ops books.  Just because a book is sold by Samhain, doesn’t make it erotic romance, and unlike many publishers, Samhain does not provide a relative measure of intensity for the sexual content.

  • Title: Songbird
  • Author: Maya Banks
  • Type: Contemporary Romance
  • Genre: Tear jerker; death, remembrance and sex
  • Sub-genre: ménage
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating: x – but limited
  • Length: Novella – about 43,000 words
  • Where Available: ebook at Samhain

If I were to pick my least favorite trope it’s the tear jerker filled with guilt, self recrimination, secret abuse, and senseless murder.  The only angst missing for our heroine is a secret baby, amnesia, and/or terminal illness.  That said and with a firm understanding of my natural bias, this story wasn’t up to Ms Banks standards, mostly because of the ending.  Plus there was just too much  angst to be believable.  More importantly, there’s just too many compounded, longstanding emotionally traumatic incidents for an emotionally fragile young woman to recover from in the short span of time of this story.  I would think even with professional counseling it would take years to work through such complex issues like survivor guilt, an abusive father, and the desire for a sexual relationship with her dead husband’s brothers – a ménage relationship at that, something a small town in the west is unlikely to just accept.  If you’re willing t suspend your credibility, Ms Banks does a good job, sort of.

Emily ran from an abusive father to the Donovan brothers, all three of whom she loved.  Greer and Taggert turned her away, not knowing about her father, but their youngest brother Sean took her away to Las Vegas and married her.  She became a famous singer/songwriter and when she and Sean returned to their hometown in Montana for a visit, Sean was murdered protecting her from what was thought to be a crazed fan.  She disappears for a year, unable to deal with Sean’s death.  Greer and Taggert find her and take her back to the ranch in Montana.  They didn’t believe she loved all three brothers and now they hope she still loves them, because they love her and regret their stupidity in turning her away.

The next 100 pages of angst are kind of beyond the fringe of believability, but the what got me was the killer.  At no time prior to this kidnapping of Emily is there mention of the killer not being caught.  The brothers don’t talk about looking for their brother’s murderer.  Everyone just wallows in their emotions and guilt.  Suddenly we have kidnapping and an attempted murder?  A true eye roll “You’ve got to be kidding me?” moment.  Plus there was a ‘good fairy’ ending where you wake up in the hospital after talking to ghosts and go straight to the epilogue with kids.  HUH?  What about all those unresolved issues?  I guess that chat with the dead worked it all out.  Not even Ms Banks fluid style can get this story out of the Jungle of ‘Meh’.

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  • Title: Blade’s Edge
  • Author: Val Roberts
  • Type: Alternate World
  • Genre: Enemies to lovers
  • Sub-genre:  Warrior woman meets match
  • My Grade: C (3*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length: Novel 100,000+ words
  • Where Available: ebook at Samhain

Blade’s Edge is an alternate world novel with futuristic elements and is a decent effort, but no match for atmospheric, well developed stories like Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn or even Undercover by Lauren Dane.  Undercover and Blade’s Edge do have one thing in common, an ill-defined ‘world’ in which the story unfolds.  Undercover had better characters and a more complex plot.  Warprize was a balanced, fully realized ‘world’, with well developed characters and an interesting plot, but suffered somewhat with a spare writing style that lacked verve.

As for Blade’s Edge, there is a certain familiarity to both characters and plot here, rather like an old Star Trek episode.  You have a power crazy twin sister, blind prejudice based on 300 year old events, a Queen who seems willfully blind to the point of stupidity, and a younger, honorable twin with with not quite believable battle skills using advanced weapons she’s never seen, and this bizarre self-destructive urge to commit some form of self sacrifice in the name of honor.

Taryn Penthes is a Commander in the famous all female Silvergard warriors of the Matriarchy of Zona, a low tech state on the planet Timarron, a planet dominated by the patriarchal Barain.  Zona was established by a female who had been a Barian sex slave centuries before and the loathing of all things Barian remains to this day.  Especially suspect are the males and it’s a group of all males that Taryn has been sent to escort to the palace.  Only these men don’t look like diplomats, they look like soldiers.  Her welcome to the city of Balsom is as curt as a group of soldiers deserves.  But Taryn is not ordinary Commander, she’s the twin sister to the Crown Heir, Talyn, to the Matriarch of Zona, .

(I must digress for a moment to comment about these names – Timarron is Cimarron, Barian is Bahrain, and Balsom is Barsoom, Edgar Rice Burroughs name for the planet Mars in his John Carter series, Blademir is Boromir – and so on.  I realize creating place names is a huge challenge, but sometimes I just wonder what possesses authors.  Digression over.)

Blademir is not a diplomat, he’s the eldest son and Crown Heir to the Barian throne.  He is in Zona to help bring aid to a country suffering from crop failures, a rejection of technology, and its own isolation from off-world trade.  Up to now, they had been more or less self-sufficient and could afford their isolation, but bad weather and other events have left many hungry, especially along the borders of Barian.  Blade has spent the last 6 months setting up depots that Zoran’s can raid so they won’t go hungry and can stay clothed.  Their semi-medieval lifestyle is costing the ordinary citizens dearly.  Before they can even reach the Lady Palace, their cart turns into a blind alley and snipers armed with crossbows start shooting.  Two die before the Barians start fighting with their own advanced weapons and swords.  Taryn, who had been leading the way on her horse, turns back and sees the fighting and immediately begins attacking the attackers.  She’s stunned when she realizes the soldiers trying to kill these men are Silvergard warriors and the man with them is Talyn’s Prime – her highest ranking lover.  There’s no choice but to go on the run with the men and see them safely over the border back into Barian.

The story, though long, remains surprisingly shallow – so do the characters.  The Matriarch and the King of Barian both have prejudicial blind spots the size of  our budget deficit.  These annoying attacks of stupidity are almost as bad as Taryn’s persistent lapses in basic logic and good judgment.  Then there’s the over-the-top evil twin thing.  Good grief, she was just eye-roll worthy.  Oh, and the off-worlder that inspires her to such idiotic acts – for reasons of his own.  Obviously, another lost opportunity to escape the Jungle of Meh.

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  • Title:  Dance of the Dragon
  • Author: Cathryn Fox
  • Type: Paranormal romance
  • Genre: Dragon shifter; opposites attract
  • Sub-genre: Dying breed, sex magic
  • My Grade: C (3*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length: Novella – about 28,000 words
  • Where Available: ebook at Samhain

Obviously with such a short piece one cannot set the expectations very high.  It’s hard to cram a lot of story into the very compact format and few writers have the gifts necessary for doing first rate novellas.  This piece is the written equivalent of an uninspired 30 minute TV episode of Outer Limits.   It’s not bad.  In fact it’s decent in spots, it just never rises above the mundane.

Chloe Stevens is a zoologist on a mission from her ex-lover and soon to be ex-boss to investigate the reported presence of a dragon on Ryuu island.  She gets an all expense paid 2 week stay at a singles resort and her ex-lover gets 2 weeks uninterrupted time to ‘break in’ the new girl.  In the pocket of her sun dress is a piece of skin hat looks like a turkey wattle – red and wrinkled.  The man who showed up with it claimed it came from a dragon’s wing.  Right, now that’s real likely.  Dragons.  Jeeze.

Jared has been living on the island for many years, but his magic is running out.  It’s getting harder and harder to retain his human form.  When he comes on shift at the beach bar, the lady at the bar seems troubled and really interested.  He’s never been so drawn to a human before.  In minutes he’s going down on her behind the bar while she serves customers drinks.  Then they go to her room for some horizontal enjoyment that’s spoiled when she tells Jared why she’s there.  The dragon is sleeping with the dragon hunter.  But his magic is also fully recharged.  (Perhaps a set of jumper cables would be an ideal wedding gift.)

As you might imagine, Chloe finds out Jared’s big secret and – well, take a guess where it all ends.  Predictable, and slightly boring read.  I was hoping for something more original.  The Jungle of Meh is crowded this week.

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  • Title: The Egytian’s Demon Keeper
  • Author: Ciar Cullen
  • Type: Paranormal Romance
  • Genre: Demons and evil
  • Sub-genre: Only love can save the world
  • My Grade:C+ to B- (3.6*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length: Novella – about 43,000 words
  • Where Available: ebook at Samhain

Ciar Cullen is a really good alternate world romantic adventure writer.  She might not be at her best here, but she brings the skill she showed in the Anfall books to this better than average novella about good and evil and fate.  In The Egyptian’s Demon Keeper she once again displaces a modern woman who is more than what she seems into a situation that’s not of this world.

Eliza Schneider has been driven all her life, but never more so than now at a dig near Karnak in Egypt following an old scroll that only she believes will lead to a treasure.  Dehydrated, exhausted and alone, she continues to dig even when the workers take their afternoon break.  She strikes metal and the voice, the one that she keeps hearing, urges her on.  She opens the box and smells frankincense.

Wordlessly, he held out a hand as if to help her to her feet. She scrambled backwards, fearful of his size, stunned by his sudden appearance.

“Where did you come from?” Her words were barely audible in the wind, her mouth parched and throat raspy. But he heard her.

“Eliza, my servant.” His voice rolled on the wind, the voice of her hallucination.

“Excuse me? Who the hell are you and what the hell do you mean by calling me your servant?”

This romance that needs to happen to save the world is off to a rather rocky start.  After a brief appearance of the beautiful, and evil, Duemos, Eliza collapses.  The action moves to New York and starts again some weeks later as Liz is on forced medical leave for what is believed to be sunstroke.

Kasdeya is a demon, an angel that fell when he succumbed to lust, but he never became evil.  He is doomed to father the the child who will destroy the world if he cannot find his mate, a Cambion, the child of an incubus and a human, to claim him and fight Duemos for him.  Eliza is that woman, but he cannot force her.  The choice must be hers.  But Eliza is a modern woman and doesn’t believe what he says, even when she feels the truth of it inside.

The ending is rather anticlimactic, the weakest part of the story.  The confrontation between Eliza and Duemos is much too sketchy and kind of disappointing for the whole ‘end of the world’ thing.  That weakness cost this novella a B grade, but up to there, it was a good story.  I just wish this story had been a little longer with a little more meat on the mythology of the beings involved and the ending more exciting and original.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for reviewing my book.
    –Val Roberts

    Comment by ladybriony — September 18, 2009 @ 1:20 am | Reply


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