Tangled in Time- Barbara Longley

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I’ve long enjoyed Barbara Longley’s time-travel books, so I was especially looking forward to this one, which is set in Ireland, not Scotland, and is the first book in her new McCarthy Sisters series.

The Story-
Regan can see ghosts, and it is inconvenient. So, she has decided to go to Ireland to see if there is some sort of ancient magic which can help to rid her of this gift. When she meets what she thinks is a ghost needing to cross over, her desires will change. Faelan has been a prisoner of a fae princess for over a thousand years and cursed to remain there until he finds a woman to love. Every year on solstice, he is able to materialize for one day, but when a woman can see him before he materializes, he feels that she is the one.

My Thoughts-
This is so different from most time-travel romances. First of all, the Ireland setting is not just window dressing; it is well-researched and is almost a character in itself. I also enjoyed the paranormal aspects to the story and how they were dealt with. This isn’t just some slippage through time that is never truly explained. Much of the plot is devoted to the couple actually getting to know one another and fall in love; imagine that! I was totally invested in the relationship and believed it, so when the climax came, nothing felt forced, too fast, or like it didn’t deserve the payoff. Much of the story takes place in current day Ireland and feels a bit like the movie “Ghost” which was fun and unexpected.

The Bottom Line-
Longley is my “go-to” author for time-travel and historical paranormal romance. This book went fast and kept me intrigued the whole time. 4 1/2 stars

The White Lily- Juliette Cross

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The imaginative Vampire Blood series has just gotten better. This clever Snow White retelling is (so far) my favorite book of the series. Brenna and Friedrich are so hot together, and there are twists you will definitely not see coming.

 

The Story-

Brennalyn Snow is a school-teacher and has adopted 7 children. She is also a secret supporter of the underground “Black Lily” movement. While trying to gain information about the local vampire duke’s loyalties, she unknowingly stumbles into his weekly selection of women who wish to be bleeders for the duke. Friedrich was intrigued by Brennalyn from the moment he met her, but her secrets make him want to know the woman behind the teacher facade in a way that surprises even him.

 

My Thoughts-

This story does an excellent job on building on the background from the previous books, but also deepening the world so that we have a greater grasp of the ramifications of the evil we’ve been introduced to. Again, the fairytale component is dealt with a light hand, never on the nose or what you’d expect. Cross is exceptionally good at adding the appropriate level of darkness and danger to her plots. Although you know it has to have a HEA, it is, at times, very difficult to figure out how exactly that will happen.

As someone who has struggled with infertility, I connected with Brennalyn and loved the emphasis on her personhood as a woman and how it is not inherently connected to being a natural mother. And, can we talk a minute about Friedrich? His character brings Cross’s sexy level to a new stratosphere. But, it is totally appropriate to the story and doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in.

 

The Bottom Line-

If you like paranormal, historical, or fairytale retellings, I wholeheartedly recommend this series. It continues to get better, more dangerous, and more suspenseful, book by book. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, but will be sad when it is over. 5 stars

 

Immortally Yours- Lynsay Sands

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I love paranormal romance, especially vampires, so it was pretty crazy that I hadn’t read Lynsay Sands yet. And yes, I am coming in on the 26th book in the famous Argeneau series, but I quickly found that it wasn’t a problem at all. No need to be caught up to understand what is happening here!

The Story-
Scotty has known Beth for over a hundred years, back when she first became a vampire. Only now is he ready to claim her as his life mate, but with her life in danger, it’s proving a little difficult to do that.

My Thoughts-
Sands can write a freaking action scene! I could picture every fight, every detail perfectly. So many times, I have some trouble imagining what is happening, but Sands makes it play like a movie in my head. Scotty is a hottie (c’mon, I had to), and his devotion to Beth is sigh-worthy. This book went super fast; I couldn’t quit turning pages. The best things about this book are the characters, the action scenes, and the pacing. The small quibbles I have are the bad guy (a bit cliche and meh) and the long monologue descriptions of the characters’ backgrounds. I absolutely LOVED those backstories, but I wish I had been able to see them play out via flashback or something. Maybe prologue? I don’t know, but the stores are sooooo good that I hate that they were relayed simply through monologue. Those issues aside, I enjoyed the world of Argeneau vampires and am convinced that Sands is one of the better paranormal writers out there.

The Bottom Line-
Sands is firmly on my paranormal list now, and I plan on going back into her back catalogue for some more Argeneau vampires. Is it terrible that I wish she would write some historical paranormal, kind of a prequel for this series? 4 stars

Guide to Historical Romance- Part 3

Cheers all! So far this week, we have examined the “Standards” and the “Comedians” of historical romance. I’ve saved my favorite category of historical romance for last. Considering that the other genre of romance that I read regularly is paranormal, it should be no surprise that I LOVE dark and edgy historical romance. Danger, fighting, slightly twisted sex scenes, and anti-heroes that make you wonder if they can ever be redeemed; these are the components that make me swoon. If you combine historical romance with paranormal or fantasy, I am in heaven, but that is another blog post altogether. Without further ado, here are my top picks for “Edgy” historical romance.

Elizabeth Hoyt

Hoyt is pretty much the reason I created this category. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love the best about her Maiden Lane series which is set in Georgian London and ping-pongs between nobility and the slums of St. Giles.  This class struggle which allows for a wider variety of couples than you would think possible also keeps the dirt and danger close to the surface at all times. The sex scenes are edgier than you’d expect in historical romance with a little BDSM thrown in here and there for fun. Anti-heroes abound with one of the most irredeemable characters I’ve ever read as hero in “Duke of Sin”. (Unlike some, I loved him) I think I read more Hoyt this year than any other author, so I had some trouble selecting which Maiden Lane book to recommend…

Recommended: Thief of Shadows

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Again, I had so much trouble deciding, but eventually I settled on this tale with a virgin hero who acts as a vigilant at night. The heroine a wonderfully confident woman; she’s the kind of woman I am thrilled to read about and kinda wish I was more like. Seriously though, start at the beginning or anywhere you choose. I have not been disappointed by a book in this series yet, and I am anxious to finish it. (Except for the fact, of course, that I would be done with my favorite series I’ve read in historical romance. Sigh.)

Kerrigan Byrne

I don’t think historical romance can get much more dark and twisted than Kerrigan Byrne. Victorian romances that kick off with a bang: asylums, train robberies, undercover prostitutes…you never know WHAT you will find in a Byrne book. During my first read of hers, I literally stopped about 1/3 of the way through and went “WHAT?! How’s that gonna work?” But it did. Because that is what she does: create crazypants, wonderful plots and then make her couple fall in love in the middle of all that insanity.  Once again, I had trouble picking a recommendation, so I cheated and selected two.

Recommended: The Duke AND The Scot Beds His Wife

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“The Duke” is the original Kerrigan Byrne that made me wonder how in the world the story would work out. I found it wonderfully captivating and dark. It is a page turner in the truest sense. Her new book that is coming out next month, “The Scot Beds His Wife” isn’t quite as dark as “The Duke”, but it still keeps the drama and intensity that are synonymous with Byrne at this point. I particularly LOVED the hero (he has the hottest Scottish accent…) So, my suggestion is to read “The Duke” now, and “The Scot Beds His Wife” next month. If you like twisty, intriguing romance, you won’t be sorry!

Courtney Milan

For months I had been reading historical romance and saw people recommending Courtney Milan everywhere I looked. Finally, I bit the bullet and sat down to one of her books and was immediately hooked. Next thing I knew, I had flown through a couple more. While Milan’s style isn’t dark and twisty like the authors I mentioned above, I still categorize her as edgy because of her obvious intelligence and the brazen way she tackles social issues in her books. These are what I would call the “thinking woman’s books”, but while they make you think, they also make you swoon and sigh and laugh and cry. I am at my most feminist when I read Courtney Milan.

Recommended: The Duchess War

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I feel like this is the best place to start with Courtney Milan. It is the perfect introduction to her style and characters. Set in the Victorian period, it is rife with material for social issue exploration but is also steamy as all get out. Loved it! And once I read the prequel novella for this book, it made me love it even more. Milan weaves her characters and backgrounds together in ways you wouldn’t expect. So good!

Shana Galen

My final “edgy” author pens some of the best spy/adventure/mystery historical romance I’ve read. I considered putting her on the comedian list for her wit, and while she is a funny lady, what really sets her apart is the way she constructs a suspenseful scene. You hear the lock click, you smell the blood dripping, you feel the breath of your pursuer on your neck. Galen is the master of setting a scene and making you feel like you are there. Whether it is the poorest hovel in London or the bloody streets of Revolutionary France , she uses real historical places and events to great effect.

My Recommendation: Earls Just Want to Have Fun

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A little bit “Oliver Twist”, a little bit “Pygmalion”, this one was a lot of fun, but also kept me on the edge of my seat. There’s danger, mistaken identity, a wonderful rogue hero, fast-paced action…all my favorite elements of a historical romance. There’s also some wonderful humor here. Now, if you want something a good bit darker and more suspenseful, go for her newest release, Traitor in Her Arms. It is a romance set in the world of The Scarlet Pimpernel, blood and gore and all. I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails. I cannot wait to read more Shana Galen.

Honorable Mentions

For my honorable mentions, I want to throw a little love to the darkest of historical romance: historical paranormal!!! I will be writing a full blog post on this at some point in the near future, but for now, I have to say that I love the intensity and intrigue of two of my fave authors: Bec McMaster and Juliette Cross. McMaster is famous for her steampunk series (which I LOVE), but also has an excellent historical magic series that starts with the book “Shadowbound“. Juliette Cross has crafted a historical fairytale world with vampires in which she retells beloved classics in new and twisted ways. Her newest addition to this series is “The Red Lily” which is a super-dark and sexy spin on Little Red Riding Hood. The third book, “The White Lily” releases next month and I cannot say enough about how she has turned the Snow White tale on its head.

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Okay peeps! This concludes my ode to historical romance. While I feel like it is a great place to start, I know there is so much wonderful historical romance out there that I still need to read. If you have suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them. And, obviously, I love to review historical romance, so feel free to check out the myriad of in-depth reviews on this blog. Cheers!

 

The Deepest Well- Juliette Cross

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Re-releasing today for .99! This book is a prequel to the upcoming Dominion series from Juliette Cross which also takes place in the same world she introduced in the Vessel series (starts with Forged in Fire). You can read this as a stand-alone or read the Vessel series first. The benefit of starting with the Vessel series is that you know the outcome, so seeing how the characters get to the outcome you already know is lots of fun. That being said, you will be able to follow completely if you are new to this world of angels and demons.

The Story-
Lady Katherine is going through the motions of her life. When she meets a handsome stranger on the same night that she realizes what a sham her marriage is, her life changes forever.

My Thoughts-
Y’all, this goes dark. It is not fun and flirty. The characters go through hell before they can find their HEA, but that makes it even more satisfying when they do. This is such a beautiful journey, and Cross will rip your heart out along the way. I love everything about this book. I can almost guarantee that it won’t be what you expect: it is so much more. Cross’s prose is beautiful with wonderful imagery and lovingly-crafted characters that you immediately connect with.

The Bottom Line-
This book is paranormal historical, perfect for fans of Karen Marie Moning, Bec Mc Master or high-concept dark romance. An RT top pick, this is an excellent book that didn’t have the release it deserved because of Samhain Publishing’s collapse. This is such a great opportunity for new readers to discover an amazing author and two fabulous series. 5 stars

Buy it Now! Amazon

New Author Live Blog and Review “Slave to Sensation” Nalini Singh

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This is the first post in a new series where I try an author who is new to me. As a paranormal fan, I feel like my knowledge is lacking, having not read Nalini Singh. A few months ago, I bought “Slave to Sensation” with plans to read it soon, but it has sat on my Kindle unread, partially due to the cover.

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For some reason, this screams ’80’s to me or at least early 90’s. The eyes, the stance, all of it is cheesy and repels me from this book. At least the British covers (above), while somewhat boring, aren’t “Teen Wolf” like this one. I mean, doesn’t this scream “Nancy Drew and the Case of the Wolf Man”?

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Still, over and over all I hear is how wonderful Nalini Singh and the Psy-Changeling Series is.  So, here I go giving it a chance and hopefully getting hooked. I like paranormal, so this should be a slam dunk. I love different worlds and how paranormal worlds transport me to a place where my daily worries don’t exist.

How this works:

I will live blog as I read this book, noting my reactions along the way.  There will likely be spoilers, but I will endeavor to not spoil big surprises that would ruin the book for future readers. Much like Goodreads, I will note the percentage  or chapter I have reached with each reaction. I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to your comments along the way! Here we go!

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1 Chapter in….

I’m interested in the heroine and what this whole “psy” business means. She switched pov in the middle of the chapter with no warning, which was interesting. I’m gonna read more, but it wasn’t the hookiest first chapter I’ve read. Lots of questions….

3 Chapters in…

Singh is brilliantly building a case for her heroine. I have to know what is going on with her; the mystery is wonderful. She is also gradually introducing me to the dichotomy of the changeling world vs. the psy one. Of course, we are meant to identify with the changelings since they are closer to humans. Nice build of sensuality with a simple hair stroke. Yeah, I’m getting hooked…

5 Chapters down…

Brava, Ms. Singh, brava! Sex dreams are my fave, and you turned it on its “head”.  So to speak… 😉 THIS is how you build sexual tension. Sigh.

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61%

Whew! This is going fast. I’ll admit: I got drawn in and couldn’t put it down. It’s so interesting how Singh builds her world through mystery. We find out new things about the world as the characters do, and the rest is assumed knowledge, which is still meted out piece by piece. It’s so interesting how she treats her paranormal characters. I can’t quite place it, but even though they are paranormal, that isn’t what drives the character. Like, sometimes I feel when I read a paranormal, the author is so intent on building that world around that type of creature that everything is about that, whatever it is: vampire, werewolf, something I’ve never heard of, whatever.  Any feelings they have are secondary to that paranormal drive. (the beast within, the lure of blood, etc.) Singh’s characters feel more real to me because their paranormal natures almost serve to illuminate human characteristics and failings that we all deal with.

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Also, there is so much tension and danger throughout that the pace just flies because I am constantly intrigued by what will be discovered next. Yes, I am liking this book quite a lot. More to come!

Finished!

This was the perfect paranormal to get me out of my recent reading funk. Although it got a little much for me toward the end with finding the bad guy etc., I loved this paranormal world and Nalini Singh’s writing. She is the master of building heat and suspense while still stringing you along until she’s ready to let loose. And boy, does she ever let loose! I am so glad I finally read this one, silly cover and all, and I will be delving deeper into the Psy-Changling World soon. 5 stars!

Drakon’s Prey- N.J. Walters

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Second books in paranormal series can be difficult. The first book often has all of this interesting world-building and the introduction of the “big bad” to make it exciting. That was certainly the case with this series. I loved the first book, and I feel that it is absolutely necessary to enjoying this one at all. I’ll explain:

The Story-
Picking up where we left off in book 1, Valeriya, the sister of the big bad, has pocketed a secret address to the hideaway of a drakon (dragon-shifter). She heads there, of course being tracked by sis’s men, then gets kidnapped/stowed away by Tarrant, a drakon we met in the first book. He keeps her. They have insta-sex. Bad guys try to find her.

My Thoughts-
If I didn’t love this author’s characters and world so much, this one would have been difficult to get through. But, I do want to know what happens to the drakons and how they will eventually defeat the bad guys. My biggest issue was that the plot didn’t feel like it moved forward overall. It felt more like a chess move: Valeriya to the drakon’s side of the board. The sex was hot, and Tarrant is a true Alpha-male that keeps it interesting. But, nothing happens! It’s like a snowed-in trope without the witty banter and self-revealing that usually comes before the sex and love.

The Bottom Line:
I will read the third book in this series and hope that the action picks back up. If you read the first book, this is a natural progression, and you will probably enjoy it enough to give it a read to continue the series. If you want to read a “stuck-together so they have sex and fall in love” book with heat, this one will also fit that bill. 3 stars

Best of 2016

2016 was a big year for my romance reading hobby.  I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, downloaded Overdrive for library books, and of course, started this blog which led to even more books.  So, without further ado, here are my favorite books that I read in 2016. (Not all books were released in 2016, but all were read by me in 2016.)

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Best Closed-Door Romance

Although I usually read romance that is very open-door, sometimes I enjoy a sweet story that doesn’t need to give me salacious details in order to be a very good romance.  My favorite romance in this category this year was “Her Unexpected Engagement” by Kyra Jacobs. It’s a very uplifting come-back story that left me feeling like no matter how bad things can get, there is still hope.

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Best Erotica

I also don’t tend to read erotica, and although I’m not sure this is technically classified as such, it should be. Friends, this is everything they said that 50 Shades was, but with much, much better writing. Why, oh why was this book not made into an international sensation and movie? I would watch that movie. This book is crazy-pants, that’s for sure, with the Russian mafia, sweat lodge bdsm, and some other insanity that I don’t want to ruin. A roller-coaster ride of a book that is totally worth it and impossible to put down.

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Best New-Fave Genre Book

Before this year, I had never read steampunk, and oh boy, did Bec McMaster provide an amazing introduction to this romance sub-genre for me with “Kiss of Steel”. McMaster is the “master” of the anti-hero, and this one is a doozy.  For literally like the first quarter of the book or so, I was like, “who is going to be the hero because, surely it can’t be this guy?” But it was. And it was so, so good. I loved this book and its sequel, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series and start the next series and so on and so forth. McMaster has a fan for life. If you like paranormal or historical, try the steampunk genre. I think you may just love it as much as I do.

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Best Medieval Romance

It’s no secret that I love historical romance. In fact, I love it so much and read so much of it, that I had to create some sub-categories to include more of my historic faves. Sarah Hegger’s “Conquering William” was definitely my favorite medieval romance of the year.  Her world-building is so solid, which is not normal for medievals, and her characters are compelling- flaws and all. This was such a fast read with a plot that never let up and kept me engaged to the very end.

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Best Regency/Victorian Romance

Oh my goodness, I had so much trouble selecting my favorite for this category. I was between this one and Tessa Dare’s “Any Duchess Will Do”, but gave the tie to this book because it was actually released in 2016.  I love a good house party story, and this one with an identity swap and chocolate and bosoms accidentally spilling out at dinner had me in stitches, while still providing the heat.  Bell’s focus on character and comedy made me an immediate fan, and just writing this snippet has me wanting to revisit this one.

Best Fantasy Romance

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Juliette Cross is one of my favorite authors, and her Vessel series would be my best paranormal if I had read it this year, but I also love this fantasy series with hot half-dragons called Morgons.  Her first book with a Morgon heroine was wonderfully fresh and is a great continuation to this captivating series. Her world-building is second to none, and her continual reveal and tease of secrets and deeper plots is addicting. I recommend reading “Waking the Dragon” first, and you are in luck because I have decided to give away 5 copies of this book. Enter the giveaway by clicking on this link.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7f756ccc03e143d9

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Best Paranormal Romance

Rhenna Morgon who, by the way is also my favorite new author of the year, hits it out of the park with the finale to her Eden series.  Morgon writes alpha males like no other, but just when you think she’s gonna zig and have this alpha save our broken heroine, she zags and totally surprises the reader in delicious ways. Yes, it is the 4th in a series, so if you want to catch up on all her amazing world-building, you need to read “Unexpected Eden” first, but I think this one can also stand on its own.  Hot, hot, hot sex and such wonderful characters will keep you coming back for more with Ms. Morgon. Speaking of…

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Most Anticipated of 2017

Ok, I’ve already read this one, but you should be anticipating it. Hard. This book is everything, and I can’t wait for you all to read it so we can fangirl together. Jace is one of the most drool-worthy alphas I’ve ever read, and Vivienne is so relatable that you will just want to let your hair down right along with her and cozy up to the Haven Brotherhood for as long as possible.  More books are coming in this series in 2017, and I cannot wait!

So that’s my list of 2016’s best. How many have you read? I am super-excited for 2017 and all the romance I’ll read along the way. I’d love to hear all of your suggestions in the comments below. Happy Reading!

Here’s another link for the Waking the Dragon Giveaway in case you missed it above!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7f756ccc03e143d9

 

Tyranny- Gemma Brocato

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“Tyranny” is the first book in Gemma Brocato’s new paranormal series about the Greek muses:  The Goddesses of Delphi.   Having read a couple of Ms. Brocato’s contemporary romances, I was looking forward to seeing how her writing would translate to paranormal: I think she has found her niche with this genre.

The Story

Clio is one of the nine Greek muses, daughter of Zeus and Gaia, and is a university librarian.  She inspires history and politics, so it is no surprise that she should feel an immediate connection to the hot new history professor.  When an ancient enemy sets into motion a plan by which he may conquer the world and end her inspiration, she must team up with a man and fight to save the world from Tyranny.

After a demoralizing decision forces him to find a new job, Jax begins to see the bright side of his new position when he meets the sexy librarian with secrets.

My Thoughts

One of the reasons I enjoy the paranormal genre is that the story pulls you in because the stakes are so high: usually life and death or the end of the world.  By the time I got to the second half of the book, there was no putting it down because I had to find out what happened.  Another reason I love paranormal is the chance to escape to a different world through detailed world building. I thought this book could have had more world-building, especially early on.  I want to know about Delphi: where it is, why they are there.  I want to know about how Clio (and the other muses) insinuates herself into the lives of these important people to influence them.  Later in the book, we got some explanation of their births and deaths, but it wasn’t enough for me.  I want to know all about this world she has created so I can have a clear picture in my head for the rest of the series. I think the idea is a clever approach, and it isn’t overdone, so she really has a chance to build something with this series.

The Good-

I really like the idea behind the whole series.  The villain has strong motivation and the path is certainly set for the future books.  Even though she is a muse, Clio was very human to me, and I understood her insecurities.  I loved that she wasn’t some perfect woman with the perfect response to everything, even though she has seen and experienced so much.  The historic references and tidbits throughout the book were like fun little Easter eggs for this history buff; the author has clearly done her research.  I can’t wait to see what she throws in when we get to the art and comedy/tragedy muses. (Gemma, if you want to talk theatre or art as “research” for those books, give me a call!)

The Bottom Line-

I see potential in this series and look forward to seeing where it goes, especially since we have eight more sisters!  I think there are secrets and details to this world that we have not yet been made privy to, and I want to know them.  I like that this is “lighter” paranormal, not the kind I have to prepare myself for the terrible images and things I might read about.  A nice start to this new series!  4 stars

Heart of Iron- Bec McMaster

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Heart of Iron is the second book in Bec Mc Master’s London Steampunk series.  I’ll admit: I had to actively hold off on reading this book after finishing the first one in the series in order to read other books for review.  But after a couple of weeks, I had to give in, and I am glad I did.  The focus in this book has switched from vampires/blue bloods to werewolves/verwulfen, and while it wasn’t what I expected, I enjoyed it immensely.

The Story

Will has always been a bit of a lone wolf.  Despite his loyalty to Blade, he has never had strong connections to anyone else.  New threats in London cause unlikely alliances to forge, and Will is called upon to help.  Lena is doing her best to fit into the world of the blue bloods, but something keeps holding her back.  When she is called upon to prepare Will for his new role, old feelings resurface and both face danger.

My Thoughts

McMaster did such a thorough job of creating her world in the first book, that I really thought the second book would be a continuation of that story.  Little did I know, Ms. McMaster had way more in store for this world than I expected.  The romance is a very hot slow burn that pays off in very satisfying ways, but every little step along the way is smoldering.  There was one scene in particular where I could actually feel myself blushing and started looking around to see if anyone noticed, and it wasn’t because it was explicit, it was just pure heat.  The conflict(s) involve so many players and facets that I am even more eager to complete the series.  The steampunk is expanded in this book with more fun creations and details. I loved the addition of the new characters, and even though there were quite a few, I felt like they were fully developed.

The Good

The hero is very appealing in a simmering-below-the-surface kind of way: the kind that you can’t wait to see what happens when he finally lets go.  He’s also a virgin which adds to the intrigue.  The verwulfen backstory and lore are wonderful.  This is honestly one of my favorite kinds of love stories where it is pretty much impossible for the hero and heroine to be together, and I loved the unexpected surprises of the plot.

The Bottom Line

If you enjoyed the first book, this is a no-brainer.  This is one of those series where you really should read the preceding books to understand all the wonderful plot developments and characters.  And you should read the preceding book, as well as this one, if you like paranormal or steampunk or historical or if you are just willing to take a chance on a great series and author.  Maybe it is my catnip: both paranormal and historical at the same time, but I also recognize great writing when I see it, and this is great writing. 5 stars