Tour’s Books Blog

February 12, 2010

Book Review: Moira Rogers and The Southern Arcana Series

Filed under: Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 5:40 pm
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Samhain might be best known as an erotic romance publisher, but they sell a lot of mainstream paranormal and romantic suspense as well.  One of their writers is Moira Rogers, a pen name for two women who have started the Southern Arcana series.  The first book, Crux, was released in print in January.  The second book, Crossroads, was just released as an ebook this week with print likely to follow in 6 to 9 months.  Having read both books within weeks of each other – even though the ebook has languished waiting for me to get to it since early last year – I figured the two should be reviewed together.

  • Title: Crux
  • Author: Moira Rogers
  • Type:  paranormal Contemporary Romance
  • Genre:  Woman with mysterious past on the run from danger
  • Sub-genre:  Shifters and magic
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price: Novel – about 65,000 words; print $15.00 with discounts available, and ebook $5.50
  • Where Available: Where books are sold and publisher’s website
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased from online bookstore and ebook from publisher

Crux introduces a world of magic and shifters set in New Orleans.  Mackenzie Brooks is on the run from a man who is determined to marry her.  A man she barely knows who insists that she is his destined mate.  Plagued by strange dreams and terrified because they keep finding her, she abandons the last thing she has that they could use to track her, her car, and runs to New Orleans.  Bar owner Nicky Peyton thinks she’s a shifter, but she isn’t a wolf like Nicky.  A wolf she’d recognize.  But she does know a frightened woman when she sees one.  Nicky gives Kenzie a job and starts makes an effort to look out for her.  She asks her friend, PI and magic user, Jackson Holt to check up on Kenzie and make sure she gets home safely.

Jackson is immediately drawn to the obviously terrified woman.  He’s really, really good at following people, but Kenzie spots him trailing her.  He clams her and walks her back to a very bad part of town.  Jackson convinces Mackenzie to allow him to walk her home.  As they make small talk, he’s startled to realize she has no idea she’s a shifter, or that there is such a thing a magic.  He’s also very drawn to her.  Once Jackson sees where Kenzie has been living he knows she isn’t safe, so he convinces Kenzie to stay in the apartment above the bar where Mahalia used to live.  He gets her there and then starts to work on the question on how a shifter could reach maturity without a clue they’re a shifter.  And what kind of shifter is Mackenzie?

Next day he tells his partner, Alec Jacboson, about Kenzie.  Alec is a wolf shifter, the alpha of the New Orleans shifters.  Alec came to New Orleans to avoid shifter politics, something his father had grand ambitions in.  When Derek was turned, it was Alec who taught him how to gain some control over his wolf and the instincts he suddenly had.  He’s a bit older than the others and knows more about shifters and magic than many.  Jackson asks him to help with Mackenzie to see if he knows what she is.

Jackson is just beginning to work things out when Marcus and his henchmen show up.  Marcus doesn’t seem bad, but the henchmen play for keeps, and one of the is a powerful magic user.  They need more answers than Jackson and Alec can get, so Jackson takes Kenzie to the one person who might be able to help them, Mahalia.  But it isn’t Mahalia who knows the story, it’s her lover, Steven Donovan, a cougar shifter.  And only Nicky’s sister, Michelle, a wold Seer, can help unravel the spell keeping Kenzie from shifting.

The story unravels on several levels.  Mackenzie is a cougar shifter, a very rare breed that cannot covert humans, so their ranks can only be grown through birth.  This has lead to a downward spiral in their numbers.  Decades ago a powerful cougar Seer, Charles Talbot, drew other cougars to him with his near evangelical teachings of reestablishing the cougars.  But his power was driving him insane.  His ‘followers’ grew wary and then terrified of him.  Charles’ goal was to create a cougar that could transform humans to increase their ranks.  Marcus is his adopted son.  Steven is his nephew.  The fear that shifters have for Seers born into their ranks is because of people like Charles Talbot.

Then Talbot shows up at Mahalia’s and takes Mackenzie.  The story moves quickly along as the people trying to save Mackenzie from a forced mating with Marcus follow them to the Talbot compound.  The ending is slam bang and satisfying.

One of the problems with Crux is the inconsistent use of nicknames.  The cast of characters is large, the names confusing and throwing in nicknames that vary is frustrating.  Nichole is ‘Nick’, ‘Nicky’ or ‘Peyton’.  Derek Gabriel is either Derek or Gabriel. (I kept thinking it was two different people.)  Mackenzie is Kenzie AND she’s Jessica.  Everyone has multiple names.  It’s hard to keep who’s who straight at times.  (It got REALLY bad in Crossroads and it frustrated the hell out of me.)  Pick ONE NAME and stick with it.  The readers have to work too hard to keep the characters straight.

Aside from the name frustration and the character confusion it caused, Crux was a really good read.  The story was satisfying for plot and character development.  The writing style was a bit choppy at times and it felt like too there was just too much plot jammed into too short of a space to really do the characters justice.  Mackenzie and Jackson were both characters that the reader could feel for and become involved with.  I just wish we had a bit more time with them.

Is Crux worth the price?  Well, at a discount for the print book it’s $10.80 or so while the ebook is $5.50.  I’d say buy the ebook if you can.  Crux was borderline for my keeper shelf, but likely won’t make the cut because the second book, Crossroads, rather annoyed me.  See review below.

*********************************************************************

  • Title: Crossroads
  • Author: Moira Rogers
  • Type:  Paranormal contemporary romance
  • Genre:  Shifter ‘princess’ and the mutt
  • Sub-genre:  Self-sacrificing and the werewolf princesses; Love will conquer all
  • My Grade: C (3*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price: Full Novel – about 86,000 words;  ebook $5.50 – current discount $4.95
  • Where Available: Where books are sold and publisher’s website
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased ebook from publisher site

Like most people I’ve started reading a book when I realized it was part of a series.  Usually this isn’t a big issue.  If you need it, there is some kind of a summary to orient the reader so they’ll know what is going on.  Well, take my word on this, DO NOT read Crossroads unless you have already read Crux.  Not only had I read Crux, but I had finished it just 3 weeks before I started Crossroads, so the story was fresh in my mind.  I still got confused.  This is a rare thing for me.  About the only author that frustrated me this badly was Robert Jordan with his Wheel of Time series.  Then again, Jordan took years between books, each of which was a 1,000 pages and each of which had a dozen different concurrent, complex stories going.   Unfortunately, the reward here wasn’t like the reward you get with Robert Jordan.

Crossroads picks up with the story of Derek Gabriel, a human that was transformed by a werewolf attack, and Nichole Peyton, the werewolf owner of the local bar where supernaturals hang out.  Derek is still trying to come to terms with his transformation two years later and Nicky is trying really hard to keep away from her father and the werewolf politics that surround the North American Alpha in New York City.  But Nicky is a prize.  An alpha female, stands to inherit a fortune, has impeccable bloodlines sure to breed more alphas, and any male she marries will be able to jockey for position on the Conclave, possibly made be her fathers heir.  But Nicky wants no part of that life.  And then there’s the attraction to Derek.  Transformed humans are called ‘mutts’ by born werewolves and Derek is all too aware of his second class status, and just as aware that Nichole is out of his league.  It doesn’t matter to either of them.  The attraction is too primal, coded in the DNA.

Nicky is tired of waiting for Derek to ask her out.  Derek is having trouble adjusting to his wolf’s reactions to any competition Nicky, even though they haven’t even had a date.  In the middle of this comes Nicky’s sister, Michelle, the Seer, with her closest bodyguard, Aaron.  Michelle is pregnant and her magic is uncontrollable.  It’s also impossible to hide.  She and Aaron are mates.  the Conclave knows and Aaron is guilty of treason under werewolf law.  It’s forbidden for Michelle (also called Mickey and Shelly to add to the confusion) to have sex or children.  The Conclave wants them both.  More to the point, they’ll want to control the child if it’s gifted as Michelle is.  Nicky loves her sister deeply and will do anything to protect her and save her life, even if it means giving up what she wants for herself.

Nicky calls for help from Alec and Jackson.  They need Jackson’s magical talent and Alec’s reputation as the New Orleans Alpha, and his position as a son of a very high ranking family – as well as his access to a magically protected safe house where Michelle and Aaron can hide while Nicky tries to work out terms that keep them all alive – is critical for a happily ever after.

In the middle of negotiations with the Conclave, an elite team of werewolf enforcers try to grab Kat, Derek’s younger cousin a empathic psychic, and his business partner Andrew is near death and the only thing that might save him is transformation from the werewolves that attacked him.  Two of the enforcers are dead and Kat is in shock – she literally burned out the minds of the enforcers leaving them as little more than vegetables.  Alec broke their necks as an act of mercy.  Apparently, they tried to make her tell them where Michelle was by attacking Andrew.  She without thinking to protect him, but is horrified by what she saw and what she did.

Despite the relationship that Derek and Nicky start in the midst of this chaos, both know it can’t happen.  He needs to protect Kat.  He’s been her only family, and her guardian for years.  Nicky has to do all she can to save her sister and the unborn child she carries and that means she must return to New York and to the life of the Alpha’s daughter that she fled.  Will love triumph?

Unfortunately, our lovers are apart for much of the book and it’s a bit angsty for my taste.  If you like your romance with lots of self sacrifice and sorrow, then this works.  I found Crossroads less interesting than Crux because of all the trite Lifetime melodrama that buried the more interesting parts of the plot.  More to the point, I found the writing lost my attention with way too many stories all happening at once combined with acute character confusion follow by a second half that was just so BORING.  It was like the ideas tumbled over each over as multiple story lines spilled out in a rush and then the whole story went generic ‘poor little rick girl with fur and fangs’.  The ending was a bit anti-climatic.  Somewhere in the middle I just wanted the book to be done with.

Crossroads was more of an average read for me compared with Crux and with other better written paranormal/urban fantasy romances.  It certainly isn’t in the same league as most mainstream books.  More telling, had this been a first book rather than a second, I wouldn’t continue reading the series.

Is Crossroads worth the money?  As an ebook, yes.  In print?  Nope.  There are so many excellent paranormal series out there these days that are better reads, try one of them.  I recommend Linda Robertson, Anya Bast, Larissa Ione or any number of excellent authors available in mass market paperback.

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