The Art of It All

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Another one by Steffanie Holmes, this one the first in the Crookshollow Gothic series. So I enjoyed Digging the Wolf enough to check out another kinda in this series, though technically I only read half of this because I didn’t realize the free book I downloaded of it was like a preview, but the half I read I enjoyed.

I liked this one because it was more unusual than most of the shape shifting romances out there. This one was all about a recluse fox shifter billionaire Ryan Raynard, descendant of the local fox shifters, heir to their throne, but of course there are always contenders.

I’m not wholly sure what the back story and the history is here since it was only half the book I read, all I know is sexy fox shifter is under attack by several different kinds of shifters who have been attacking humans in the area recently. I think they want to start a human vs shifter war?  And of course the innocent art museum curator Alexandra Kline  is caught up in the middle of things and takes up with the fox before taking time to figure out his whole story.

The best part about this half book thing? After Ryan told Alex she was his mate and they have sex, Alex is woken up by another woman who also claims to be his mate.

Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

Fuzzy love triangle right there.

I want to know how this story ends, but honestly not enough to pursue it right now. These Crookshollow books are firmly in the ‘when I have time’ pile for now.

More wolf romance!  Rogue Alpha by Kimber White is next.

Biology student Laura Prince lands a plum internship deep in the Michigan wilderness. When she discovers a lone black wolf with piercing gold eyes in the forest, she feels a connection to him she can’t explain. Stranger still, no one believes what she saw was real. Then, she encounters Malcolm Devane — a very real, tall, dark, brooding stranger with hauntingly familiar golden eyes. Laura is drawn to Mal in ways she knows are dangerous. But, when everything Laura has worked for gets torn away, he’s the only one she can turn to.

Exiled from his native pack lands, Mal is on a mission of redemption. If he can bring down a rival Alpha wolf and reclaim his pack, he just might get the chance to return home. But when he meets Laura, she stirs a dark passion in him he thought he could never have again. He knows instantly that she’s his fated mate but it may be the very thing that gets her killed. For a powerful enemy with nothing left to lose won’t hesitate to hurt Laura to get to Mal. Even though Mal knows the safest thing to do is walk away, the dark wolf inside him may be too strong to deny.

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Digging for More Than Gold

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Digging the Wolf is the first in the Wolves of Crookshollow series by Steffanie Holmes. I was a little skeptical of this at first, but I ended up enjoying it.

Young research assistant Anna meets older broody werewolf male Luke who is trying to keep humans away from his family’s shame, but someone else is trying to keep them both away from an even darker secret.

I wish they would have gone into the lore of the world a wee bit more, it’s basically our world with magic, and Crookshollow is apparently a convergeance of ley lines so lots of supernatural creatures are drawn there, and there are next to no shifter females so the males have to mate with humans. And of course those females who are destined for them or at the very least are capable of bearing shifter offspring can be identified by smell, but that’s about it.  Like what created the shifter races?  How do witches get their magic?  Are there any other supernatural creatures out there aside from shifters?

Fluff romance is fluff. The narrative is interesting, shifting from one character’s PoV to the other’s each chapter.  I liked the characters, the leading lady was nerdy and awkward and very endearing, leading man was a bit too hard headed and stubborn for me, but otherwise not bad.  Don’t think I’ll pick up the series, but not bad.

Another Crookshollow book is up next, the Art of Cunning.

Alexandra Kline has landed her dream job – curating her first art exhibition at the prestigious Halt Institute in the small English village of Crookshollow. But the dream quickly turns into a nightmare when she’s forced to work with Ryan Raynard – the arrogant, reclusive artist who refuses to co-operate with her. When Ryan’s paintings don’t show up at the gallery on time, Alex heads out to his crumbling, gothic manor to give him a piece of her mind.

Billionaire artist Ryan Raynard hides a dark secret. He is a fox shifter, who shuns the company of humans and hunts alone at night in the forest surrounding his home. But the moment he laid eyes on Alex, he can’t help but be drawn to her. He can sense that she’s the descendent of a powerful shifter clan, and she is destined to become his mate. If only he was ready to fall in love again …

As Ryan and Alex are drawn together, they realise they are facing bigger problems than Ryan’s stone-cold heart. Crookshollow is being overrun with a different kind of shifter – ruthless and deadly, these shifters are killing humans indiscriminately for no apparent reason. And they are hot on Alex’s scent. Can Ryan keep Alex safe from harm, or will his need for her endanger them both?

A Different Kind of Sacrifice

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First in the Stonefire Dragon series by Jessie Donovan, Sacrificed to the Dragon is a new twist for me when it comes to dragon shifters.

I’m used to reading Sherrilyn Kenyon’s works where all these shape shifters are running around right under the noses of the very humans they often try to protect, but this one actually brings the shifters out into the open in present day.

So in this cosmology, the dragons of our mythology exist and can actually shift into human form like werewolves. They were hunted to near extinction before declaring their existence to the world and bargaining a truce with humanity by offering their blood (a cure all for 99% of diseases science is unable to take care of) in exchange for peace.  Five dragon clans carved out their territories and negotiated where they could and could not go among the human lands, and for the most part the two races have lived in peace.

Of course there are still dragon hunters around who capture, torture, and kill them to sell their parts on the black market, but there is peace for the most part.

Existing only in the UK (as far as I know from this one book) there is even a whole department of government dedicated to continuing and nurturing ties between dragons and humans, including the sacrifices.

No, not the ‘om nom virgin’ sacrifices, but rather human females willing to sacrifice some of their time along with their bodies to help the dragon shifters continued existence.

Being hunted almost to extinction is never a good thing, and the dragon shifters find themselves in need of females and young to continue their line. So women volunteer to live among the dragons for six month, and sleep with an assigned male in an attempt to be impregnated by him.  Only women with a certain genome can breed with the dragon shifters, and there is rigorous physical and mental tests to ensure the health and safety of the female while she lives with the dragons, but if all checks out away she goes.  If she gets pregnant, she stays to give birth, after which she can leave and resume her normal life.

Melanie Hall is one such sacrifice. With her younger brother dying of an otherwise incurable infection, she offers herself up and is found acceptable.  Paired with a dragon male who is such an ass at first, albeit with good reason, Melanie tries to make sense of her temporary new world and after seeing the disparity between humans and dragons first hand, is determined to change it.

The only thing is, there is no real Big Bad to focus on for this installment. It’s all focused on the main characters, with world building backstory which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hard to put a finger on what the overall series plot it.  Aside from hot dragonman sex.

There is mention near the end of a particularly cruel and vicious group of dragon hunters with some fancy new weapon to take dragons down on the wing so I assume that’s them, but they literally come in like two chapters before the end of the books so I’m not wholly sure.

Either way this series is now on my wish list so it’s only a matter of time till I find out.

Up next, Digging the Wolf by Steffanie Holmes.

Anna: It’s been five months since my boyfriend was tragically killed in a climbing accident. I didn’t think I was over him … until Luke walked on to the archaeological site. Tall, dark, sexy, tattooed, funny, dangerous. Everything I want in a man. But he’s hiding something. He acts strangely in the moonlight. He won’t tell me anything about his life. And I caught him trying to destroy an important find. My body aches for him, but my heart tells me I’m not ready to make myself vulnerable again, especially not for a guy who isn’t being straight with me. If only …

Luke: Anna Sinclair – archaeologist, geek girl, totally and utterly delectable. I knew from the moment her intoxicating scent wafted across my wolf senses, she’s meant to be mine. And that knowledge is terrifying. The last thing I expected was to find my fated mate on an archaeological site. Whenever I’m near her, all I want to do is claim her. But she’s broken. The last thing she needs in her life is a werewolf out for revenge. I’m here to destroy the site, to keep my family’s past buried forever. If Anna finds out the truth, she’d never speak to me again. But I can’t deny the bond between us. I’ll do anything to make her mine.

There is Strength in Ivie

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A novella set in the Black Dagger Brotherhood universe, Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward, I was a teensy bit disappointed in this one, mostly because I thought it was about a different character and I was SO EXCITED to read her story, but oh well.

Featuring our leading lady Ivie, a nurse at the vampire clinic, she deals with death and illness on a daily basis. Then a handsome stranger Silas comes along, worms his way into her heart, and in the end it seems like she has to say goodbye to him too soon.

Apparently he suffers from a rare disease that only affects aristocrats because of all the inbreeding, and is 100% fatal. He’s in the end stages when he meets Ivie, and hides it from her as long as he can.

But in the end, the truth will out. And stubborn Miss Ivie winds up saving more than just him.

Good little side story to the BDB world. I don’t recognize Ivie from any of the other books, but you can bet I’ll be looking for her now.

Back to saucy, possibly bad romance!  Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan next.

In exchange for a vial of dragon’s blood to save her brother’s life, Melanie Hall offers herself up as a sacrifice to one of the British dragon-shifter clans. Being a sacrifice means signing a contract to live with the dragon-shifters for six months to try to conceive a child. Her assigned dragonman, however, is anything but easy. He’s tall, broody, and alpha to the core. There’s only one problem—he hates humans.

Due to human dragon hunters killing his mother, Tristan MacLeod despises humans. Unfortunately, his clan is in desperate need of offspring to repopulate their numbers and it’s his turn to service a human female. Despite his plans to have sex with her and walk away, his inner dragon has other ideas. The curvy human female tempts his inner beast like no other.

Arkansas Werewolves

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Sexy werewolf romance! By the Light of the Moon is the first in the Arkansas Wolves series written by Jodi Vaughan was a bit tropey towards the end, but otherwise was a really good read.

So once upon a time, there were at least two breeds of werewolves: red wolves and grey wolves. The red wolves were thought to be driven to extinction ages ago by their own primal and violent society, but here they’re making a resurgence.

Determined to repopulate as quickly as possible, the red wolves are kidnapping female grays with the intent of breeding them against their will. The plan is to force them into repeated heats with some special secret serum they have, then using them as sex slaves until they are impregnated and give birth.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

One such kidnapped female Ava is the daughter of a high ranking pack member known as the General. A lone wolf Damon recently acquired into the pack is sent to retrieve her, and of course the sexy sparks start to fly.  On the run to keep the Ava protected, she is introduced to THE most awesome grandmother EVER, and they learn of at least one other female who has been kidnapped, as well as the fact that the females are being targeted for the purity of their bloodlines.

Which, of course, Ava is the bluest of blue bloods.

Aaaaand of course when it looks like all is lost and the lovers are never destined to be together, it’s revealed that OMG! Damon is a blue blood werewolf too! They can be together yay!

Eh. Still a good story. Might not continue with the series, but still enjoyable.

Sooooo excited for this next one!  A Black Dagger Brotherhood novella, Dearest Ivie by J.R. Ward is next!

The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing.
 
Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . .

Shadow’s End

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Shadowbane: Eye of Justice by Erik Scott De Bie is the 8th installment of the Shadowbane saga, and as far as I can tell the last even though it doesn’t feel that way.

Everything pretty much comes to ahead here. Picking up shortly after Shadowbane leaves off, we come across Kalen and Myrin travelling to Westgate to try and save their friend Rhett if he is still alive, or bury him if he is not.  Little do they know, they are but pawns in a larger play, with a mysterious Trickster following their every move.

Really so much goes on here it’s hard to keep track of it all, but in the end nothing is really resolved. I’m glad Myrin finally learns about her past, but it’s still a mystery how she is over a century removed from the timeline she was born in.  The relationship between Kalen and Vindicator is so complex.  We learn that has the sword is an instrument of the Three Fold God, so too then must it have three wielders, one sworn to each god Vindicator represents.  Kalen seems to accept his role as Helm’s wielder of Vindicator, but doesn’t seem to follow through on it.

I still hate Myrin’s character. She demands that Kalen trusts in her to make her own decisions and to protect herself and essentially accept her the way she is, but refuses to do the same for him. Ok, yes he is overprotective.  But she just throws common sense out the window and refuses to listen to caution despite what she’s personally experienced.  She was kidnapped and almost killed by someone she trusted for crying out loud, and she places more faith and trust in complete strangers than she does in someone who has fought and bled and almost died for her several times over.

Myrin: ‘Oh you’re a dark and mysterious stranger with crazy shadow magic and you hint at knowing my past without telling me anything? WE ARE NOW BEST FRIENDS AND I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER’

Kalen: ‘Um…not saying NO here…but…maybe…slow down a touch?’

Myrin: *starts crying* ‘Kalen why don’t you trust me to make my own decisions I can take care of myself and wah wah wah’

Again, I get the issues they have had, but she is just so driven to find out about her past she ignores everything else and she refuses to place the kind of faith and trust in Kalen that she demands from him.

And the ending doesn’t even feel like and ending. It feels like there should be more to this story because so many threads are left untied.

I like the whole premise of this series, but the relationship between Kalen and Myrin (nevermind Myrin herself) and the fact that despite being alone for a few weeks they don’t even attempt to try and discuss anything about themselves to resolve their issues just kinda puts me off the whole thing.

Back on a paranormal romance kick and finishing off the freebies I got for my Kobo.  We’re checking out By the Light of the Moon, first in the Arkansas werewolf series but Jodi Vaughan next.

Werewolf Guardian, Damon Trahan lives by a Code: Protect the Pack with his life. Damon has experienced death and betrayal, now all he wants is the freedom of his Harley and the loyalty of the men he rides with, the only family he has left. Those are the things he knows and believes in. Love and the hurt that comes with it has no place in his world…

Until he receives new orders: Rescue female werewolf, Ava Renfroe from a Pack of rogue wolves.

Bartender Ava Renfroe is tired of Alpha males running her life. Being raised as the daughter of a Military General made her want independence more than air—and she has it! Until she’s kidnapped. Damon Trahan, her alpha male rescuer and bossy pain-in-the-ass, is exactly the kind of man she doesn’t want, but try telling that to her libido. His brooding good looks are panty-dropping hot. Too bad he’s bat-shit crazy and thinks he’s a werewolf. Worse, he claims she’s a werewolf too. But when Damon shifts in front of her, she begins to doubt everything she’s known to be true.

On the run from the rogues, Ava and Damon can’t ignore the red hot passion between them. But Damon knows it can’t last. Will he sacrifice everything he’s ever known to have the one thing he’s never meant to have? Or will the war between the Packs destroy them before love is given a chance?

Return of the Raven

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Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker is the second and as far as I can tell final installment of Jack Ravenwild, a fast talking con artist with a moral compass, a gold tongue, and a taste for the finer things in life.

Prince of Ravens starts up a little bit after City of Ravens ends. Jack awakens out of what turns out to be a century’s long sleep after being trapped in the ancient Mythal beneath the city, and awakens in the company of drow, along with what appears to be the petrified Myrkessa Jelan, infamous warlord.

With no knowledge of how he came to be trapped, or even what has happened within the past century of his imprisonment, Jack is easily captured and enslaved by the drow who were working to rebuild their ancient forgotten city.

Slaving away in the drow rothe paddock, Jack held out hope of escape when he meets a young noblewoman. Finally seeing his chance to escape, he does so and takes the noblewoman, heir to a great house with him.

Once above ground again, Jack seeks out the few old friends that remain, tries to figure out who exactly entrapped him to begin with, as well as play the part of a long lost nobleman and rack of a few jobs to bring in the coin.

But all is not well within his old –and new- home. Beset by drow and slavers who are rumored aided by the high council, Jack finds his city embroiled in mystery.  Mystery he just can’t seem to keep away from.

Overall I enjoyed it. It had been a while since I read of Jack Ravenwild in the City of Ravens. He’s actually a funny character and watching him trying to fast talk his way into and out of everything that crossed his path was the best part about this book.

FINALLY going to finish the Shadowbane Saga with Shadowbane Eye of Justice next.

Rumors are swirling around the dark corners of Westgate that vigilantes are dealing violence and havoc in the guise of Shadowbane. Kalen and Myrin have just arrived from Luskan, in search of Kalen’s former apprentice, Rhett. Though Kalen believes Rhett to be dead, Myrin won’t give up hope as she in turn seeks more information about her past. And Kalen too must find his place, perhaps in the Eye of Justice, though that’s the last place Kalen wants to end up. But who are these vigilantes who wield the vaunted sword Vindicator? Myrin and Kalen have no idea that a game is being played in which they are only pawns. All is not as it seems in Westgate

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