Stars of Fortune- Nora Roberts

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I love Nora Roberts.  I’ve read every single one of her trilogies and usually buy the new one as soon as it is available.  This one caught up to me as I’ve found so many other amazing authors to read.  Nonetheless, I knew that I would have to make time for Ms. Roberts’ newest trilogy, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Story-

This one does have paranormal aspects in the form of “gods” which seem to come from the idea of Greek gods.  Since this takes place in Corfu, it works just fine.  This is the intro book for the series, so we meet all of the characters as well as the big bad, and are introduced to the problem/mythology surrounding our main 6 which will form our 3 couples.  This is Sasha and Bran’s story.  Sasha is a seer and artist who knows something is coming and follows her visions and intuition. Bran is an Irish sorcerer/witch who will fall for her.  Of course, everyone must meet, give background info, and come together for the first big fight/victory of the series.

My Thoughts-

I tend to like Nora’s first books in a series a great deal because I love seeing how she sets up the relationships and setting.  Her heroines always have jobs that most women would die for, and Sasha is no exception.  Who wouldn’t want to be an artist in the mountains?  This book had the added element of a foreign country with mythological origins, which adds some depth to the background.  I’ve been to Corfu, and there is something to Greece and its people which feels ancient and magical.  I wish that one of the six had a Greek background; I think it would have added to the mystique.  The second half of the novel didn’t go quite as fast for me as the first did, but I don’t get into the dark battles as much as the romance. (Which is why I tend to stick with her trilogies) That being said, I read the first half in the space of one slowly cooling bath…

The Bottom Line-

If you like Nora, reading this will feel like welcoming an old friend to dinner.  It is by no means one of my least favorite of the trilogies, but I don’t think it will rank up there with the Born In, Chesapeake Shores, Three Sisters, or Irish Trilogies for me. 4 stars

The Highlander’s Vow- Barbara Longley

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Sometimes you happen into a series that suits your interests perfectly, and you simply HAVE to read any book in the series which is published. Such is the case with this recent addition to Barbara Longley’s Loch Moigh series, “The Highlander’s Vow”.  About a year ago, I was reading the Outlander books because 1. I love romance 2. I love Scotland 3. I love time travel stories. Unfortunately, after a couple of books in the series, I lost interest. Enter Amazon Prime who noticed my proclivity for Scottish time-travel romances and suggested “True to the Highlander” by Barbara Longley which, luckily, checked all my boxes. I read it in about a day and was grateful to notice that there were two more books in the series, so I could keep going. (And they were all on Kindle Unlimited, yay!) This most recent entry into the series, which is actually a second generation continuation, popped up on my suggestions, and it immediately became compulsory reading.

The Story- All of these stories feature the hero or heroine time-traveling from either Medieval/Renaissance Scotland to a current Renaissance Festival or vice versa.  There is always a fish out of water component, which I love, as well as a little bit of magic, which is necessary for the whole time-travel thing.  In this one, Skye is engaged to someone she just realized is a jerk who is plotting her death. She rushes to find her father to explain the danger, and happens to fall through time right into a jousting demonstration at a Renaissance Festival.  She falls in with a great family who happens to be experienced at the whole time-travel thing since Struan fell into their lives from the 14th century ten years ago.

My Thoughts– Longley does the fish out of water bit better than most and spends some time imagining how people from the past would view some of our technology and customs. The story flows well, and, if you have read the previous books, it is fun to revisit many of the past characters.  I liked the heroine as she seemed more inclined to take control of her life than most women of that time period would have been. The hero was a bit too stoic for me, but there was adequate justification for his brooding nature.

The Bottom Line– It should go without saying that if you like Scottish time-travel romance, this is a sure bet.  It is breezier and more fun than Outlander, but not without depth. I will continue to read any Scotland-based books that Ms. Longley publishes with great anticipation. Best enjoyed in a long bubble bath with a glass of wine!  4 stars.

Kiss of Steel- Bec McMaster

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“Kiss of Steel” is the first book in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk Series, which she has recently expanded to a spin-off series with “Mission: Improper”.  This was my first steampunk read, and while some “true steampunk” readers have critiqued this for not being representative of the genre, it was an excellent introduction to steampunk for me since I already love romance and paranormal. Oh yeah, did I mention that this book has a great paranormal storyline? Let’s dig in!
The Story- Honoria is struggling to keep her family fed after the death of her father and their escape from the cultured world of the Echelon.  When she is summoned to the rogue who dared to rebel against high society, she fears that her safe seclusion is at an end.  Oh, and there are vampires, robot arms, werewolves, and mechanical soldiers.

My Thoughts- I always have trouble writing a story synopsis for books I really enjoy because I hate giving anything away that the reader would have a much better time reading in the book itself.  I had no idea what to expect coming into this book, and I liked it that way.  I had trouble putting this book down.  It was one of those captivating books where you want to read really fast to find out what happens next, but you know that if you read too fast, you’ll miss some great writing and details.  Like a plate of cheese fries you want to devour, but you have to remind yourself to breathe. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I loved this world, I really enjoyed the characters, and the story clicked along just right.

The Good- World-building: each layer is revealed like an onion, and the reader is like “oh! That’s what’s happening.”  The author also has an amazing vocabulary, which is often lacking in these books, and her attention to detail and description is masterful.

The Bottom Line- I had so much fun reading this book.  The author swept me up in her world, and I felt like I was along for the ride.  If you are open to steampunk and paranormal, I highly recommend this book, and I intend to finish the series. (So many books; so little time!) For me, this is 5 stars for pure enjoyment.

Wild Irish Heart- Tricia O’Malley

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“Wild Irish Heart” is the first book in the Mystic Cove Series by Tricia O’Malley.  In this story, she brings us to Ireland and introduces us to an ancient magic which binds the women of Grace’s Cove to each other and to the amazing landscape.

The Story-  A mysterious book stating “it is time” forces Keelin to face her past and accept a new future in Ireland.  Seriously, Keelin has the set-up with a cottage that has a view of the ocean and a glorious cove to explore.  The townspeople are suspicious, due to her family’s heritage, but she meets a hot guy within the first couple of minutes.  Flynn just happens to be rich, beautiful, and there to rescue Keelin again and again.

My Thoughts- Despite some overused tropes (girl and guy don’t like each other initially), I was drawn into this world and story very quickly.  I wanted to be Keelin, starting a new life in Ireland, making new friends at the local pub, and, of course, hanging out with the hottie. Some conflicts were resolved too quickly with an easy, “I’m sorry”, but the pacing and interest of the story never let up.

The Bottom Line- I intend to continue with this series as I am interested in what happens to Keelin and the other women of Grace’s Cove.  There was just enough supernatural mixed in with wonderful descriptions of Ireland to keep me happy.  This was a short, easy, fun read that brought a nice little bright spot to my week. 4 stars

Unexpected Eden- Rhenna Morgan

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“Unexpected Eden” is the first book in the Eden series by Rhenna Morgan.  I had heard good things about Morgan, but hadn’t jumped to read this for a sort of silly reason: the cover. I am just not big on enormous burly man chest as a representation of a novel.  I will always make accommodations if said burly chest is accompanied by a kilt or if the book in question is by an author I already trust.  That being said, I’m glad I finally started this series, and I have to admit that I learned a little lesson in judging a book by its cover.

The Story- Lexi is a stressed-out bartender who, in the opening scene, is being ogled by a guy who could pass for a Greek god.  Why would he want her? Turns out, he’s been looking for her for a long time since she is literally the girl of his dreams.

My Thoughts- The world-building is simply amazing.   I kept reading these crazy words, but I knew exactly what they meant even though the author didn’t spend pages explaining.  She is that good.  The transition into this other world with its different customs is wonderful, and I felt like I was learning along with Lexi.  The sex scenes are HOT.  No weird wording or uncomfortable phrases, just hot. The secondary characters are interesting and serve the plot, as well as foreshadow romances to come.

The Bottom Line- If you are reading this review, you should read this book. If you like fantasy and different worlds, you should read this book. If you are looking for a new author with a great start to a series (that I plan on finishing ASAP), you should read this book. 5 stars!

Dragons Among Them- Kyra Jacobs

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“Dragons Among Them” is the first installment in Kyra Jacobs’ series, The Kingdoms of Ice and Fire.  As a person with eyes, I was completely drawn in by the cover, (isn’t it gorgeous?) and was really looking forward to reading this book.  I had read and enjoyed Jacobs’ introduction to the contemporary Checkerberry Inn series, but it was so different from this that I was definitely curious if she could pull off fantasy and dragons.

The Story– Adelaide (love the name) is a photographer who falls through time and space into another world where she encounters Prince Zaine, who also happens to be a dragon shifter.  She is immediately in danger, and he is driven to protect her, even if it means threatening an alliance-driven engagement.

My Thoughts– I had a little trouble getting into this book, even though I was excited about it. I actually read the first quarter or so, then put it down for a couple months.  I’m not sure what made it difficult to connect with in the beginning, but I am so glad that I picked it back up.  As soon as I got past an unexpected twist of a sort, it was smooth sailing and I devoured the rest.

The Good– I love time travel/trapped in another world books.  There is something about finding someone in a place that you never expected that I really enjoy.  Adelaide is a fun character, and her reactions to her new world are just right.  I loved the wizard and his interactions with just about everyone. He is a great character that I hope to see more of in upcoming books.  The setting and world-building was interesting, but I hope for more of that in the future as well. Each bit of lore or backstory added to the current story immensely.  The dragon element was fun without being forced and raises some questions about how the dragons fit into this world. Are new shifter dragons being born?

The Bottom Line– This is a nice start to a series, but does leave some unanswered questions that I look forward to being resolved. It is definitely worth the read. I give Dragons Among Them 4 stars due to the slow start and desire for answers to world-building questions. Ms. Jacobs can absolutely pull off fantasy and dragons.

Dragon In the Blood- Juliette Cross

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Dragon in the Blood is the second book in the Vale of Stars Series by Juliette Cross, but is the 5th book which is set in the world of Morgons (part dragons). It continues a mystery built in the last book, but stands alone as a great romance story.

The Story- Valla and Conn are members of the Morgon Guard who have been tasked with tracking down the Blood King and his followers. As they traverse the dangerous terrain of the Aria region, they become closer which brings about a different kind of danger.

The Good- I feel like this book really delves into the Morgon world, giving mythology, new regions, new creatures, and more details than any set in this world to this point. I liked the different perspective of two Morgons mating because it introduces us to the mind and nature of a Morgon woman. Independent without being sassy and over-confident, Valla is a wonderful heroine. I also especially enjoyed the new character of the Priestess; her POV chapters were some of my favorite in the book. I cannot wait to see what she will do in the future. I also love the variety of locations and the map in the back to help me track the journey. I almost wish for a list of the Morgon “clans” with their special powers and region just so I can get a better handle on this world. It is so immersive, and Cross has created a vast world to write from.

The Bottom Line-While this is a very good love story in its own right, I think you should definitely read Waking the Dragon first in order to set up the over-arching mystery. The three novellas in this world are great companion pieces, but not required. I give this book 4 1/2 stars.