Tour’s Books Blog

March 6, 2010

Misc. Reviews – Five Paranormal Books: Print and Ebooks

Paranormal romance has been reigning supreme in the romance genre for some time now.  Tough as nails heroines are a blessed relief from the barrage of fan wielding beauties of the Ton that populate Regency Romance.  Yes, I do read Regency, but after awhile, there’s just so much you can do with men in frock coats.  The rage for paranormal has given a lot of talented writers – and an even bigger pool of copycats – a whole new area to explore.  As with any genre, tropes get overworked and some writers are far better at world building.  No, they might not J.R.R Tolkien, Raymond Feist, or Robert Jordan, but then romance readers want different things from their stories than mainstream fantasy readers.  And the best of today’s writers deliver that in spades.  Then, thanks to Paperback Swap, I can get many books in print version that I would not otherwise buy.  Here are some short reviews of a few books I got thru various swaps for erotic paranormal romance as well as some recently released titles that I’ve bought.

  • Title: Hunters: The Beginning
  • Author: Shiloh Walker
  • Type:  Paranormal romance
  • Genre:  Vampire and werewolf enforcers and witches
  • Sub-genre:  menage and sex magic; single author anthology
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  XXX
  • Length and price: Category novel and long novella – about 100,000 words total
  • Where Available: Publisher’s website as ebook, in print from publisher, some book stores and used book websites
  • FTC Disclosure: Book from a book swapping site

Shiloh Walker has a pretty loyal following in erotic romance and steamier mainstream.  With erotic romance, many readers are less concerned about the story than they are the steam.  The two book anthology has one of each.  The first story is a category length novel titled Declan and Tori.  It’s one of the better erotic romance paranormals.  The second, Eli and Sarel is more steam than story.

Declan Reilly is a Hunter, and a werewolf.  For some time now he’s been attracted to Tori McAdams, a private investigator, who regards her own attraction to him as something to be avoided.  Then the unthinkable happens, a creature out of a horror novel attacks  Tori as she searches for the sick bastard playing at being a vampire and terrorizing her client.  The vamp deliberately leaves her alone after turning her, thinking she’ll arise in a haze of bloodlust and go insane.  It’s what she deserves for trying to shield him from his prey.  But Tori has a little voice in her head that reaches thru the fog of pain and exhaustion and helps her control the change sweeping over her.

Three days later, dirty and starving, arrives at Declan’s door.  He knows what’s happened by her smell, but oddly, she doesn’t smell completely vamp and eats food.  But he can also see her bloodlust – a lust she controlling like no newborn should be able to.  Cue the really hot sex and blood donation by Declan.  They go see Declan’s friend and fellow Hunter, Elijah Crawford, a master vampire.  Eli has trouble believing that Tori can tolerate daylight with minimal damage and eat like a starving wolf.  Having Declan as her first meal helped her too, but it seems she also has a natural gift as a witch.  Not even Eli is certain what she, though like Declan, he suspects.

Tori is surprised by her intense sexual urges for both Declan and Eli, a person she’s only just met.  Neither male seems troubled by them, though Eli immediately realizes that Tori is Declan’s mate, a bond that is severed only by death.  Cue menage scenes – well done ones.  Then two things happen – the vamp that made Tori comes looking for his ‘child’ and a powerful self taught witch, Sarel, comes looking for Eli thinking he’s the vamp responsible for the awful murder of her sister.

The ending is worth it and this was a definite cut above the typical erotic paranormal romance.  The second story is that of Eli and Sarel that takes place years later after Sarel has been trained as a witch.  Her attempt to kill a master vampire put her in the Council’s net and she’s going to be working with one of the Hunter’s.  The Hunter she’s assigned to is Eli.  Eli was furious with her after his recovery.  She suspects he hates her, now she has to work with him.  Eli has spent years battling the reality that Sarel is the woman he wants.  Now he has to train her to work with him as a team when what he wants is her in bed – and not because she feels guilty about she did.  Declan and Tori aren’t so forgiving and are less than thrilled about her being back in Eli’s life and don’t hesitate to make that clear.

Eli feels guilty about wanting a young, inexperienced woman.  Sarel feels guilty about nearly killing Eli, but the guilt has been shifting to love for a long time, a love she doesn’t expect he wants. They give in to mutual lust.  Afraid Eli won’t love her forever, Sarel says no to the bonding.  Eli does ‘the noble thing’, sending her away, but it seems it was already too late.  It’s Malachi who brings her back when another witch realizes the bond had already formed.  Then it’s Eli’s turn to be thickheaded.

Eli and Sarel was much more of a romance than Declan and Tori, which had a central story around which the romance unfolded.  For that reason, I found Declan and Tori the better of the two, but that’s just a personal preference.  Byron, the third in the menage scene, was window dressing, not a well developed character and a real weakness in the story due to his presence in such a key scene.  The writing quality is a cut above the usual for erotic romance, as are the characters.  Also unusual for erotic romance, there was no sense of cookie cutter plotting or characters. The fascinating Malachi flits in and out of the story as he did with Declan and Tori.

Hunters was a hot, sexy read and for erotic romance, the stories were actually quite good.  Was it worth the cover price of $14.99?  Not for me, not did it make my keeper shelf, but that’s just taste.  Buy the ebooks on the Ellora’s site and try them.  If you feel moved to get a print copy for your shelf, then by all means, buy it.  I recommend buying used from Half.com, Alibris, or even through Amazon or Barnes and Nobel.  Better still, get it through a book swapping site or from a friend, or try buying new from a discount book site.  It’s worth around $10-11 dollars thanks to its substantial length and the quality of the writing.

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  • Title: Midnight’s Daughter
  • Author: Karen Chance
  • Type:  Paranormal
  • Genre:  Vampire and vamp hunter – world with magic
  • Sub-genre:  urban fantasy
  • My Grade: B- (3.6*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price: Novel over 100,000+ words
  • Where Available:  Any bookseller
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased from online bookstore

This is my first Karen Chance book and that put me at a disadvantage in understanding the ‘world’ in which the story is set.  As is usually the case, I read the book reviews AFTER I read the book, or I’d have been warned about that.  Despite the lingering feeling I was missing a lot.

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir – the off-spring of a male vampire and a human female.  The children of such unions usually have short, unhappy lives and early deaths.  Dorina has lived to be 500 years old, but not without incident.  She’s prone to berserker rages that leave a trail of bodies and her with gaps in her memories.  Her father a member of the North American Vampire Council finds her kneeling over a dead body – a body she made dead.  He is the epitome of Continental class against her poor grunge tough girl, and he’s a vamp – and vamps and dhampir’s are the deadliest of enemies, and she isn’t exactly fond of daddy dearest, though he seems somewhat fond of her.

Mircea was neither born a vamp, nor made one by another vampire, he was cursed by a gypsy and turned into a vamp over a period of days.  As the eldest son of a ruler, he was accustomed to sleeping with many women and Dorina’s mother was a peasant.  He never even realized he left behind a child.  When she was born, the peasant’s family wanted her dead.  Instead she was given to a passing band of gypsies with the promise they care for her and she would protect them.  Dorina has become a vamp hunter, sometimes for the vamps themselves.  Now, in exchange for the Council’s help in finding her friend and roommate, Claire, a powerful null who went missing a month ago, Micrea wants Dory to capture an escaped prisoner – her uncle, Micrea’s younger brother – Dracula.

Dory remembers all too clearly what it was like catching Drac the last time.  That she didn’t die was more luck than skill.  The damn vamps should have killed Drac when they could, instead, they imprisoned him.  He’s had a hundred years of solitary to plot his revenge.  Despite her general reluctance and above her strenuous objections, Dory ends up hunting Drac in a mutually unsatisfactory partnership of Louis-Cesare, the darling of the European Council, their best swordsman, and the only ‘child’ of her the youngest son in the family, Radu.  Most vamps make children to grow their power, influence and wealth, but Radu never did.  The loyalty of Louis-Cesare to Radu and Micrea is far deeper than her own and he dislikes her attitude toward father and the family in general.  Here was the big problem for me – Louis-Cesare was a huge turn off for me and was not a strong enough character to be an adequate “love interest” for Dory.  Not that there was a real romance of any kind, just some attraction, no steam.  The story didn’t really need the addition of a romance,

Dracula was creepy, cunning, and evil.  Many of the historic details often reported about the historical figure Vald the Impaler are used to flesh out Drac’s history and give him context and he comes off a suitably evil creature.  Micrea and Radu are both well developed, as one of my favorite characters, Caedmon, a Fey.  The secondary characters are good too and the setting gritty enough to work.  There is a review on Amazon by Leslie Vanadeford that pretty much sums it all up for me too.  You can read it here.  I can’t say it was an ‘easy read’, but it was a good one and even worth the effort if you haven’t read the Cassandra Palmer series like me.

Was the Midnight’s Daughter worth the $7.99?  Yes it was.  Well written, told in the first person with style, and a good plot, it was an interesting read, even if  it did leaving me feeling like I need a Dummie’s Guide to Cassie Palmer’s world a good part of the time.  I did find the periods of visions or memory recalls or shared memories a rather distracting affectation.  For those who are not Cassie Palmer fans, there are books out there that I thought were better reads, in particular Hallowed Circle and Vicious Circle by Linda Robertson or The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay, all A- to B+ books worth both the time and the money.

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  • Title: Death’s Mistress
  • Author: Karen Chance
  • Type:  Paranormal
  • Genre:  Vampire and hunter’s
  • Sub-genre:  urban fantasy
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length and price: Novel over 100,000+ words
  • Where Available:  Any bookseller
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased from online bookstore

I read this book as soon as I finished Midnight’s Daughter. It was better in some ways but not as good in others.  It follows Dory as she again finds herself hunting for an enemy of the vampires.  This time she and the vamp she’s attracted to, Louis-Cesare, is searching for his mistress who is being held hostage.  In the middle of all this drama are troubles with the fey who seem to be hunting Claire and her son.

Possibly, the best part of the whole book is the opening chapter where Claire shows up at the house in Brooklyn – only she isn’t Claire, she’s a dragon and she scares the crap out of Dory.  It’s really funny. Claire is there for a reason.  The fighting among the fey has her uneasy and fearing for the life of her son, the heir to Caedmon, king of the light Fey.  A rune was stolen, one intended for her son.  It was to be presented in a public ceremony.  The rune confers protection against death.  Dory would do anything for Claire.  She’s the only real friend Dory has had in her long life. No sooner has Claire told Dory her, than the house comes under attack by Aesubrand’s doppelganger – manifestations of their power in an elemental form.  The son of Caedom’s sister and the king of the Dark Fey, he was the presumed heir to the throne of the Light Fey before Aiden was born to Claire and Caedmon’s half human son.  Like Claire, Aesubrand wants the rune talisman.

Dory searches the underbelly of the Supernatural society looking for the rune.  In the process she gets herself accused of murder.  She also finds herself once again involved with Louis-Cesare who is out searching for his mistress, Christine.  Somehow, Christine and the rune are the same search.  Along the way, high ranking vamps keep dying and Louis-Cesare gets in serious trouble with the Council.  Now both Dory and Louis-Cesare are murder suspects and being hunted even as they are hunting a serial killer to not just stop the murders, but to clear their names with the Vampire Councils.

There are highlights along the way, blood and gore, but the ‘big reveal’ of the murderer was very predictable for me.  In fact, the whole rational for the actions was something I could see coming from Midnight’s Daughter.  Where the rune was hiding was really interesting.  I just think that Ms Chance is more than capable of writing something MUCH better than such a predictable plot.  Yes, it had lots of style and verve, until I once again hit that wall with the relationship between Dory and Louis-Cesare.  The too pat ending detracted a LOT.

Was it Death’s Mistress worth $7.99?  Yes it was.  Not a great book, but a good one.  I just can’t completely get past my dislike of Louis-Cesare, or how predictable I found much of the plot.  The fun secondary characters added lots of ‘local color’ to keep things interesting.  The torture scene and flashbacks to male rape (not too graphic, but disturbing) would be a bit much for most younger readers, so I gave this book an NC-17.  As with Midnight’s Daughter, I can’t really call this one a ‘romance’ because it’s not.  It’s a paranormal that has some slight romantic elements.  For alternative, see Midnight’s Daughter.

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  • Title: Born to be Wild
  • Author: Christine Warren
  • Type:  Paranormal romance
  • Genre:  Part of The Others series – human and cat shifter battle Aryan Human Only group and bio-weapons
  • Sub-genre: Vet, shifters and contagious virus
  • My Grade: C- (2.8*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Length and price: Novel over 100,000+ words
  • Where Available:  Any bookseller
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased from online bookstore

Christine Warren’s books about the Others started as erotic romance with Ellora’s Cave and moved mainstream with Wolf at the Door.  Her early mainstream books were mostly quite good but her last few have have become increasingly lightweight and that’s what Born to be Wild is, a lightweight romance.

Josie Barrett was raised in the rural Oregon town of Stone Creek that was home to many Others long before they came out a few years ago.  Her dad was the local vet and now she runs his old practice while her mom and dad enjoy retirement in Arizona.  She’s in the office late one night when the local sheriff, lion shifter Eli Pace, rushes in with a badly wounded wolf shifter he found in the woods.  Eli has only been in Stone Creek 3 years and somehow she’s not really paid attention to him, and now that she has, she wonders how she could have ever ignored him.  But the female shifter is in bad shape, and not healing as a shifter should, and she can’t figure out why.  When she needs to do emergency surgery, she’s shocked that a shifter would even need it.  The only MD in town is away, so even though she’s a vet and not qualified to treat shifters, she does all she can.

Eli is very concerned that the wolf made no attempt to shift to human to speed healing.  It’s instinctive in all shifters.  The slow speed of healing is very troubling as well.  It’s unheard of for a shifter to need stitches.  They get cancer, they get poisoned, but they heal fast when injured and they’re immune to most human diseases.  He goes to find Rick Cobb, the local Alpha of the wolf pack who hasn’t been answering his calls.  He finds him in the woods near where Eli found the wolf burning a young wolf who died from no apparent cause.

When a male shifter shows up at Josie’s and identifies the female wolf as his wife, she allows him to stay overnite.  A surprise awaits the staff in the morning when the wolf, Billy, refuses to shift to human and won’t let anyone near him or him wife.  Eli arrives and with no thought shifts to lion and goes after the wolf threatening Josie.  Wow, Josie is just so turned on by Eli, and she gets a real eyeful of him when he shifts back to human.  OK, find me a reader who can’t take the plot from this point.

The story progresses with mindles predictablity and with few complications and limited tension.  At the end of each chapter is a journal update by the person experimenting on the shifters, but the villains don’t get much screen time till the very end, which does the big denouement so fast, you’ll miss if you blink.  What a huge letdown.  The general lack of tension, flimsy plot, and superficial characters left the whole story flat and lifeless.  Born to be Wild is the paranormal equivalent of a Regency romance.  Slight and insubstantial.

Was Born to be Wild worth $7.99?  Well, if you like puff paranormal, it’s OK, but there are just so many better books out there you should really try one of them instead.  So I’d say, unless you’re a huge fan of the Others series, give it a pass, borrow it from a friend, or wait a bit and buy it used.

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  • Title: Blood and Destiny
  • Author: Kaye Chambers
  • Type:  Paranormal urban fantasy romantic suspense
  • Genre:  Lioness and vamp lover
  • Sub-genre:  Treachery and betrayal
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Length and price: Novel about 60,000  words
  • Where Available:  ebook available from Samhain
  • FTC Disclosure: Book purchased online from Samhain

Samhain’s motto of ‘It’s all about the story’ holds true here.  Samhain publishes some of the best books of any small publisher.  While they certainly have their fair share of average entries, they have an above average percentage of hits, at least for me.  I simply cannot resist a combination of PI and shifter, so Blood and Destiny was an immediate buy even though I knew nothing of the author.  Yeah me!  I was not disappointed.

Destiny St. George is a lioness and a private investigator.  Her sister Yasmine, well not by blood but by virtue of a shared past, is a wolf shifter about to marry/mate to the local pack Alpha’s son and heir.   The party the night before has her exhausted and yawning at her newest client – potential client.  Destiny’s competitor, Cajun transplant Frank LeCroy, sent Matthew Vincent her way for a reason, not as a favor.  Somehow, Betsy Vincent’s disappearance couldn’t be run of the mill.  Sure enough, there are vamps involved and Frank knew Destiny was ‘connected’ to the local vampire king.  Well, shit.  She was not happy, but a hundred grand cashier’s check overcomes a lot of resistance and Destiny has a new client.

Mystic Vantage is one of the hottest clubs in San Francisco.  It’s also owned by Destiny’s former lover, Marcus Smythe – or at least that was his current name.  Vamps his age had many over the years.  Destiny wasn’t looking forward to seeing him again, not because she hated him, she didn’t, but because she hated herself for being with a man who couldn’t be faithful because of his need for blood, the payment for which is sex with the donor.  Destiny couldn’t live with being his twice a week regular, knowing the spent the other days with different women.  Not even a lion shifter could be a vamp’s single source. Destiny wanted emotional security and that went hand-in-hand with a monogamous relationship in her book.  No way was she getting hurt worse than she already was.

Marcus had been waiting as patiently as he could for Destiny to return to him.  He could never give her what she so desperately wanted.  it was a just what he was, a vamp that needed to feed daily and that required multiple donors.  Sex was the coin with which donors were paid for their pain.  Destiny was here again, but not for him, for information.  But it was a chink in her armor and he would exploit it any way he could.

Destiny is determined to do two things, find Betsy Vincent and avoid getting entangled in another affair with Marcus that end only one way.  Enter Luke, a very handsome lion friend of Kale, Yasmine’s mate and her partner in the wedding party.  Destiny has never met a male lion and she’s surprised at the reaction of her inner cat, who is very interested indeed.  But Destiny wasn’t raised in a pride and she’s no more comfortable with their lifestyle than she is with the vamps.  Luke is as persistent as a tick.  It was true, by nature a lioness was no more monogamous than a vamp.  The males all had harems.

Marcus doesn’t want to hurt Destiny, but he is what he is.  And now he must deal with his bastard of a father who has set his sights on taking Marcus down and making him pay for the humiliation he was dealt centuries before.

Against the background of the strange triangle, Yasmine and Kale’s wedding, and apparently conflicting physical and emotional needs, there is the search for Betsy Vincent and threat from Marcus’ father.  When Betsy is found, her bitter attitude is something that was far more realistic than what you usually get.

Blood and Destiny is a well crafted story that is mainstream paranormal and a worthwhile read.  part of the ending is predictable, but there’s a twist that’s interesting.  It does not come up all hearts and flowers, with neat, simple solutions to the fundamental conflict.  I liked that.  Like many paranormals, it was told in the first person, also a plus for me.  I don’t much care for first person in erotic romance, but I do like it in mainstream and romantic suspense.   The characters were interesting and the world building good – though it could have been a little more atmospheric to pack a bigger punch.

Was Blood and Destiny worth $5.50? Yes it was.  I can recommend it to those who want to read an interesting mainstream paranormal.

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1 Comment »

  1. Interesting read. What did you think of Charlaine Harris’ new release – Dead in the Family. I’ve just started writing a blog myself on paranormal books.. paranormal.booksonboard.com/wordpress. Would appreciate it if you checked it out.. and tell me what you think

    Comment by Tamara Blunt — July 21, 2010 @ 12:51 pm | Reply


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