The White Lily- Juliette Cross


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


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


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


“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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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”?


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!


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.



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.


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!


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


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

The Black Lily- Juliette Cross

My two favorite genres are historical and paranormal.  Imagine my delight when one of my favorite authors, Juliette Cross, decided to write a series of fairytale retellings with vampires.  The first book in the series, “The Black Lily” is Arabelle’s (Cinderella) story and beautifully sets the stage for the books to come. You see, this isn’t a normal YA-style fairytale retelling… this one is full of the dark edge I’ve come to expect from Juliette (side note: You must read her Vessel Trilogy if you haven’t).

The Story-

Arabelle is going to the ball, which is actually a chance for the Prince to select his new blood concubine.  But, she doesn’t isn’t there to win Prince Marius’s heart: she wants to pierce it with a gold dagger.  Arabelle, aka The Black Lily, is the leader of a resistance organization of the same name.  She is a badass woman, entirely in control of her own sexuality and agenda.  Marius goes through the motions, but is beginning to sense that something is not right in his kingdom.  An attempt on his life sets him on a path he never expected to find a woman he never should have wanted.

My Thoughts-

World-building has always been a strength of Cross, and this is no exception.  I completely understood the vampire monarchy and the “rules” within this society almost immediately.  While these vampires are legally limited from killing humans, these are no sparkling, animal-eating creatures.  There is true danger here, and Arabelle’s strength and intelligence in fighting that threat drive the book as well as the undeniable chemistry between her and Marius.  Can we talk about that chemistry for a minute?  From almost the first meeting, there is this spark that is completely believable between the two, and I was actually surprised by the outcome of that meeting.  Throw in a late-night lake bath that gets interrupted and a surprise visit to her cottage, and you have some very hot moments. But, even more than the sexual tension, what comes across through the snappy dialogue is that these characters really “get” each other.  Even with the fast-paced plot, the secondary characters are true people that we get to know and root for and cry for.  I can’t wait to see some of them again! Finally, the twists and reveals are wonderful. I love when everything is not as it seems.

The Bottom Line-

This is an excellent introduction to a series that I cannot wait to devour.  These vampires feel fresh, and the fairytale premise is less of a restrictive plot device than it is a creative frame in which the author flourishes.  If you love the dark edge of paranormal AND the transporting world of historical, this book is a must-read.  5 stars

Amazon: The Black Lily

Drakon’s Promise- N.J. Walters

“Drakon’s Promise” is the first book in the Blood of the Drakon Series by N.J. Walters, and was my first book by the author as well. (Searching through her back list now…) It is a great beginning to a series AND it was my first paranormal/fantasy in a little while, so I really enjoyed being swept away to a different world with mystery and intrigue.

The Story-

Sarah is a research librarian in a new job that happens to be an introvert’s dream: poring over old books, alone, for hours on end. Can that be my second job when I retire from teaching? She also has a unique gift with items, especially books, which enables her to envision their past.  When she stumbles onto a mysterious conversation that threatens a man and finds an evil book which holds secrets that could destroy this man, an intense chase is on. Darius Varkas is the man in question, and when Sarah shows up to warn him, his protective instinct kicks in like never before. 

My Thoughts-

This was an exceptionally quick read for me: I was immediately sucked in and along for the ride.  This book does what I enjoy best about paranormal/fantasies; it transports me to another world by great characters with high stakes and high interest. Darius is an intense alpha-male and a no-nonsense attitude that gets straight to business. Sexy business.  Sarah was easy for me to identify with, and I liked her immensely. She is one of those heroines that you can easily put yourself in the shoes of, instead of going “what are you thinking, girl?!” or “quit the second-guessing!” She is refreshingly real and likeable, even in crazy situations

The Bottom Line-

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this is a dragon-shifter book, and the mythology and handling of that feature is seamless. If you like your paranormals or fantasies with an edge of danger, high intensity, and a sexy alpha, this is a great pick. It honestly read a little like one of Nora Roberts’s paranormals (and I love those). I will be reading the rest in the series, especially since I can’t wait to read more about Darius’s brothers. (Didn’t I mention his hot brothers?) 5 stars

Edens Deliverance- Rhenna Morgon

Eden’s Deliverance is the last book in Rhenna Morgan’s paranormal/fantasy Eden series.  I read the first book in the series a few weeks ago in preparation for this release, and I will definitely be going back to finish the two middle books very soon. The Story-

The prophecy about Eden is coming to a head, and a threat still looms large.  A human, Brenna, may be the key to Eden’s entire existence, and after everything she’s been through at the hands of Myren’s, she could certainly hold a grudge if she wanted.  Ludan has always been a protector, but his protection instincts are through the roof where Brenna is concerned.  The question seems like it will be: can she trust him even though she has been hurt, and can he give himself to her completely?

My Thoughts- 

Notice how I said “the question seems to be”? Yeah, this book is NOTHING like I thought it would be.  And that is a good thing. It’s not like it would have been a bad book if it had gone the way you’d figure, but Morgan turned everything on its head and gave us what we didn’t even know we needed.  What is it with me lately and reading about strong, silent heroes that are simmering under the surface so tightly that you just can’t wait to see them let go?  Ludan embodies those things, and to see the tables turn and have Brenna saving him instead of being the damsel in distress is so refreshing and rewarding.  

The Good-

OMG, Morgan can write a sex scene.  I keep thinking that if she had written 50 shades instead of James, kindles would have spontaneously combusted from the heat instead of everyone wondering what an “inner goddess” was. I digress.  I don’t really read erotica, but if Rhenna Morgan wrote it, I would read it.  And it isn’t that the scenes are super explicit: they are just so smartly crafted with amazing sexual tension that is released in interesting and different ways.  Hot, hot, hot!!! Her characters are amazing; you can tell that she creates them first, then follows where they lead instead of forcing them into a prescribed story.  

The Bottom Line-

Read the first book in the series first to get an introduction to what Eden is and who the players are.  While there were a few things I missed by not yet reading the in-between books, it didn’t keep me from following this story at all. Last books in a series can be tough because of the wrap-up and let-down. Not this one.  You almost forget it is the last in the series until the last couple of chapters when you are like “oh, no! I won’t have any more Eden books to read!” I will be surprised if another in this series passes this one up in my esteem, but I cannot wait to find out. 5 stars

Tyranny- Gemma Brocato


“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