Showing posts with label Retro-Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retro-Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Retro-Review: Angel's Pawn (Hunters Guild, Prequel) by Nalini Singh

Angel's Pawn by Nalini Singh is an e-book and a novella, so it's not too long and a fast read. It's actually called a "companion book" to Angel's Blood. As a companion book, I think it works well. The story works by giving the reader the starting blocks to the Hunters Guild world without giving away too many details -- the ones Singh really gets into in Angel's Blood.

I read Angel's Blood first, so I was already familiar with its main character. The two main characters are Ashblade or Ashwini, a Guilt Hunter, and Janvier or The Cajun, a Vampire, as he is referred to in most of the book. These two characters share a history and some serious chemistry. However, there's not a "conclusion" to their relationship in this novella. My hope is that their will continue to be developed throughout the series because I really loved both of these characters, and unlike Elena -- whom I really liked, but took me a while to embrace -- I liked Ashwini from page one. There's a lot we still need to learn about this character and I'm very curious about her. Janvier is too charming for words and I'm definitely rooting for him.

You'll also meet a mid-level angel in this novella, Nazrach, who rules the Atlanta territory and who's having problems with two different factions of Vampires trying to take control from each other. An old family that has been ruling for centuries and a new, ambitious Vampire who wants to take over. Although the Vampires have autonomy when it comes to their own businesses, etc... they have to ensure that they don't ultimately challenge the Angel who rules them in any way.

The conflict here involves all factions -- Nazrach, the Angel, the Beaumonts, an old Vampire family and Callan, a new and ambitious Vampire trying to take over. Ashwini and Janvier come in to help resolve the problem and in the process make more enemies than friends. They also learn to see each other in a whole new light and gain an appreciation for each other that they didn't have before.

I read this prequel second and Angel's Blood first, so I was already familiar with the worldbuilding. I wonder how it would be to read this novella first? Either way, it's a good one and I personally loved it!

Category: Urban Fantasy/Romance
Series: Guild Hunters Prequel
Released: March 3, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Visit Nalini Singh here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Retro-Review: Angel's Blood (Guild Hunter Series, Book 1) by Nalini Singh

I won an ARC of Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh at her website before the book first released in 2009. At that time, although I didn't have my blog, I wrote a reader's review and posted it on a message board.

I loved this first book and I can't believe I'm behind on this series, especially since I also read and loved the follow-up short story Angel's Pawn.  I decided to read this review to refresh my memory about the series and the book and decided to post an edited (shorter *snort*) version of my original review. I will definitely be catching up with this series!


Nalini Singh, known for the tight world building in her paranormal romance Psy/Changeling Series, doesn't disappoint with Angel's Blood. In this, the beginning of her new UF/Romance series, expect to find the starting blocks to a new intriguing world full of possibilities. And what a start it is! Singh has already proven that world building is one of her many talents, and Angel's Blood is obviously just the beginning of another great series.

Singh uses an alternate earth where archangels, angels, vampires, vampire hunters and humans live in relative harmony and out in the open. Here's how they all interact with each other. Called the Cadre of 10, there are only ten archangels in existence, but they are powerful and rule the world by territory. Archangels and angels are the only ones who can make vampires. Vampires are then bound to the angel who “makes” them for a period of 100 years through a "contract." Vampire hunters work for the Guild of Hunters and their job is to hunt down those vampires who break contracts (or run away) with the angels before the 100 year deadline expires. Humans mix with vampires socially, marry them, and feed them if they so desire (or in some cases even if they don’t).

Raphael, the Archangel of New York, is our hero and he is ruthless, cold and feared. He is old, although not the oldest of his kind. He is also a beautiful, arrogant, sexy hawt and complex character; one that I loved from the first. Through Raphael, Ms. Singh gives the reader an understanding of what the immortals are, or could be. Although there are still mysteries about him at the end of the story and getting to know him is a slow process, Raphael's character is well developed.

Elena, our heroine, is a born vampire hunter – not trained -- and is considered the best at her job within the Guild of Hunters. She can smell, sense, track, and capture vampires, plus as a warrior is stronger than a regular human. Her past is both sad and terrifying and that gives her a vulnerability that makes her a more sympathetic character. There are some aspects to Elena’s character that I still don’t understand and hope to see explored in the future. It took me a while to appreciate Elena's character, however once I did, I fully embraced her as the heroine.

There's also a cast of gorgeous and dangerous secondary characters that I know we’ll be encountering in future installments. Some of these secondary characters were better developed than others, but all were fascinating. Other characters were kept in the periphery and not developed yet, although there's no doubt we'll see their full development in the future.

Raphael engages Elena for a dangerous mission. He wants her to hunt, not a vampire, but another Archangel. This is a suicide mission, since Archangels are immortal and this particular one is more dangerous than most. Both Elena and Raphael prove themselves to be worthy of being our protagonists when confronted with this challenge. Raphael’s commitment to what must be done is admirable, even when confronted with tough decisions, and Elena definitely lives up to her reputation of being the “best.” There are no moments where you wonder why she was chosen for the mission. She delivers the goods, and does it by whatever means necessary. This part of the story line develops slowly and, at times, too slowly for me. I found myself eager to get to the action. The last third of the book finally gave me what I was waiting for.

Ms. Singh labeled this series an Urban Fantasy/Romance. The first thing that I noticed about this book was that it is not written in the first person from the female’s point of view, as most UF books are presented. Refreshing, I’m sure, for most UF readers. Singh, however, keeps some of the elements that make UF the genre that attracts so many readers: the strong heroine, the urban setting, a conflict that will not be easily solved and therefore will need further installments in the series for it to be properly addressed.

She managed to do all of the above, while writing a romance worth reading as well. Yes, there IS romance in this book, one with a satisfying conclusion. The interactions between the Archangel Raphael and Elena are fraught with tension and heat from beginning to end. Raphael is powerful, ruthless, frightening and one sexy archangel. Elena's personality is complex and full of contradictions. She is strong talented and hardheaded, yet she's also vulnerable, frightened and sexy. Elena also tends to alienate almost everyone she encounters on her way. Together, Raphael and Elena make for an explosive combination.

Ms. Singh has done an excellent job of combining the best of both worlds, UF and Romance, with this installment. I am more than looking forward to the next installment.

Category: Urban Fantasy Romance
Series: Guild Hunter, Book 1
Release Date: March 3, 2009
Rating: A-

Original review posted on The Phade February 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Retro-Review: A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James

This is one of those retro-reviews I promised to post once in a while, this is the perfect time for me! Eloisa James is an author whose historical romances I enjoy -- some books and series more than others. I waited a long time for Villiers story and this was my review of the book when it was released.


A Duke of Her Own is the last installment in Eloisa James' Desperate Duchesses historical romance series. This is the story that we have all been waiting for -- we finally find out what happens to Leopold Dautry, the Duke of Villiers. He is one of the most interesting characters of this series and one I fell in love with from the first.

In Desperate Duchesses, Villiers was portrayed an arrogant Duke with a dismissive and cynical outlook for the ton I couldn't help but admire. He was a man of contradictions who seemed to care much for his outward appearance; a true rake who didn't think twice about having illegitimate children with his mistresses, and an egotistical chess player who thought he was the best and didn't have a problem saying so. Our Villiers didn't have the best of profiles, but he seemed to have the sex appeal and fire to attract the Georgian ladies like months to a flame. Yet, he disdained those around him. The more he was admired, the more cynical he became. How could I not be intrigued?

As the series progresses, our not-so-pretty and not-so-nice hero is jilted by two different fiancés. He thinks love is for fools and it's not something he wants in his life. By this point I just think Leopold deserves some love, weather he wants it or not.

Our story in A Duke of Her Own begins right after Villiers makes the decision to raise his six illegitimate children (yes, six!) under the Ducal roof. In order to achieve this, he needs a wife quickly -- one willing to take on his illegitimate children and strong enough to face down the ton. Only a Duke's daughter will do for him and only two are eligible.

Eleanor, the Duke of Montague's daughter, is both beautiful and intelligent. She is also a woman whose heart was broken at a young age and who thinks she's still in love with her old beau, a man who is now married. She once said she would only marry a Duke and now one is available -- her family is putting on the pressure.

After a first meeting full of sharp, witty dialogue and some excellent sexual tension, Villiers decides that Eleanor will do. Especially since he's under the impression she is his only hope. Leopold wants to make her his fiancé immediately, but she declines and lets him know that there is one other woman who qualifies. Eleanor convinces Leopold, he must meet this woman before making a final decision in regards to the betrothal.

Lisette, daughter to the Duke of Gilner, resides in the country and never comes to town. It is rumored that she's mad. A house party is quickly planned and all our characters retire to the Duke of Gilner's residence. Lisette is a beautiful woman who seems to have a disregard for the manners and restrictions of the ton. She works closely with an orphanage, loves children and seems to possess a vivid imagination. Villiers is immediately taken with her.

There is also an ongoing storyline that pertains to a search for two of Villiers' illegitimate children. Lisette's charity work with the local orphanage makes this a convenient trip for our hero. The children play an important part in this story, with Tobias, his eldest son, as a somewhat key player. Tobias and Eleanor's sister turned out to be my favorite secondary characters.

Once they are all gathered in the country, the story gets interesting. Sparks fly between Leopold and Eleanor... the passion between them is sizzling and I enjoyed every one of their scenes together. Eleanor is sexy and smart but her 'blind love' for that old flame gets old after a while. As a couple, these two are a pair of flawed characters whose wit and passion outweigh their insight and judgment.

I had fun with this book. Villiers was not the keenest of men when it came to understanding women or children, and he knew it. He admitted it to all and sundry and still went ahead and made one mistake after another. As his young son Tobias told him, he was "such an ass!"  I still liked him even though I thought his future Duchess forgave him too quickly. She should have made him beg for at least a year!

The edginess I found in Villiers' character at the beginning of the series was mostly gone by the end of the series. He was a reflection of the man we first met in Desperate Duchesses. Ms. James developed his character throughout this long series and his growth and change took place slowly throughout. In the end, I found myself liking Villiers, but not quite loving his character as much as I did in the beginning. I missed that edge.

All in all this was a good Georgian romp, with a full set of great characters and quite a few enjoyable moments for me. A nice ending to a long series, I give this one a B.

Complete series:
Desperate Duchesses
An Affair Before Christmas
Duchess by Night
When the Duke Returns
This Duchess of Mine
A Duke of Her Own

Visit the author here. Read an excerpt here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile September 5, 2009

Friday, November 5, 2010

Retro-Review: Vision in White (Bridal Quartet, Book 1) by Nora Roberts

As some of you may or may not have noticed, Musings of a Bibliophile is off the air. I'll be highlighting some of my favorite books or reviews from 2009 once in a while here at Impressions. I thought since the last book in the Bridal Quartet has been released and I'm gathering all my impressions of this series, Vision in White would be the perfect review to highlight at this time.

Looking back at my review, I find it interesting that the business, Vows, struck me as a secondary character when I read that first book. That feeling never changed throughout the series for me.


I have read many of Nora Roberts' books --part of my book case is full of what I refer to as my "comfort reads" and Nora's contemporary romances make up a large percentage of those reads. So, I was quite happy when I heard she was releasing a new quartet of contemporary romance books, no paranormal, suspense or villains included, thank you. Vision in White, the first book in this quartet is just that, a romance.

Parker, Emma, Laurel, and Mackenzie are both childhood friends and co-founders of Vows, an upscale wedding planning company in Connecticut. They run the business together and each plays a key role. Mac is Vow's super talented wedding photographer and from the beginning it's obvious that she feels most comfortable when behind the lens. She almost seems to prefer living life in "moments" she attempts to capture through her camera.

Mac's childhood was an unhappy one--her parents divorced and promptly remarried several times. Linda, Mac's mother, also had multiple relationships throughout Mac's life and is portrayed as a selfish, self-centered woman who neglected Mac and her needs. Most of Mac's inner conflict comes from trauma caused by a dysfunctional relationship with her parents--mainly her mother--a trauma she can't seem to shake even as an adult. As a result, Mac's family are her friends; they are the only ones she can trust and who have been there for her since childhood. Roberts succeeds in portraying this group of friends as a family who loves, disagrees and fights when necessary.

While planning the wedding for a childhood friend, Mac meets the bride's brother, Carter Maguire, in an unforgettable scene that is painfully amusing. Mac doesn't quite remember him, but Carter certainly remembers her. Mac was that unattainable and unforgettable high school crush for him and here she is again in all her glory--the crush flares up again with a vengeance. Shy and clumsy, Carter is also a handsome and eye catching high school English teacher. His honesty and insecurities provide some of the most humorous and sweet moments in the story.

Carter's friend Bob, a fellow teacher, who decides to give Carter unsolicited advise on how to "go get" Mac, became one of my favorite secondary characters. I enjoyed more than a few chuckles between their dialogue and some of Carter's internal debates about Bob's advise. Bob went as far as giving Carter a list of suggestions and lines to use at strategic moments. Carter started calling them the "Law of Bob." Of course, the dreaded list became a problem; I thought the Law of Bob was going to drive the poor man to drink.
Following, there were several suggestions for greetings or initial conversation points such as You look beautiful, Great dress, I saw these (flowers) and thought of you.

Carter stuffed the list back in his pocket before any of them imprinted on his brain. But not before he'd noted Bob's decree to tune the car radio to classic lite or smooth jazz, on low volume.

He might end up killing Bob, Carter mused.

He drove the next few miles while obsessing about background music before snapping off the radio. The hell with it. He turned into the long, winding drive of the estate.

"What if she's not wearing a dress," he muttered, as despite all efforts Bob's list popped into his mind. And unfortunately, his own question had the image of Mac in black pants and white bra crowding Bob out.

"I don't mean that. For God's sake. I mean, she might be wearing something otherthan a dress. What do I say then: Nice pants? Outfit, outfit, great outfit, You know it's called an outfit. Dear God, shut up."
I liked the way Carter pursued Mac. He gave her the space she needed to come to terms with her inner conflicts, but he was also persistent and honest about his feelings to a fault. I truly couldn't see how she was going to resist him. On the other hand, Mac was more than surprised when she fell in lust with the professor--he was definitely not her type and she didn't really believe in love or marriage. So what was her answer? An affair. Mackenzie's struggles with her feelings and Carter's belief in his are the core of this story.

Mac's friends are very much a part of Vision in White. We not only get to meet Parker, Emma and Laurel, but also a slew of brides, grooms and assorted family members that make the business as much a part of the story as the characters. Mac's friends as secondary characters, were developed enough for this story --we definitely get a good sense of the dynamics in their friendship and individual personalities are well established. I'm sure we'll get to know each one of them better when their stories are told.

Their business Vows is portrayed almost as a secondary character instead of just the background for the story. Nora's research on wedding planning was excellent; the details are amazing -- from the planning, to the flower arrangements, to the catering and the dresses, this reader learned more than she thought possible, or maybe even cared to, about the business.

I found this to be a sweet, enjoyable romance between the two main characters with plenty of humor and a lovable Beta hero, where the conflict between them was minimal but concentrated mostly on the heroine's personal issues to reach that happy ending. A nice group of friends who are obviously going to have their own romantic happy ever afters added depth to the story. And I can't conclude my impressions without mentioning Vows, the business that felt more like a secondary character and where I thought Roberts' research on wedding planning was excellent, but personally found it to overwhelm the story at times. I give this one a B.

Visit Nora Roberts here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile May 28, 2009