Best of 2015 list.
For my end of the year list I usually try to include the most memorable books for me, so if I cannot remember the book without looking through my reviews it does not make the list.
1. Astrid Amara “Song of the navigator’
I was in love with this book since the moment I bought it and inhaled it. I enjoyed this writer’s work before but as I said in my review her artistic choices do not always work for me and I have not had much luck with betrayal/slavery stories where betrayed guy forgives the one who did the betrayal. More often than not I do not find them convincing. Not so here – Cruz and Tover stayed with me long after I read the book and I still remember them vividly.
2. M. Keedwell “Dark economy”
And to think that but for my friend’s recommendation I could have missed this one. I have not read too many memorable historical romances in the last year and considering that historicals are one of my favorite subgenres, I consider this to be an unfortunate occasion. This is a historical mystery and some reviewers found that romance was secondary storyline, but to me there was so much unresolved tension between protagonists that I was extremely happy with the romance in this book. We have excellent antagonistic chemistry between the men which is based on real conflict. Cadell is a medical student who is robbing graves because he genuinely wants to become a better surgeon and to help people and he does not have enough bodies to practice on and Blaine knows that robbing graves is still illegal and he wants to catch Cadell because he is sure that Cadell is guilty. The main storyline of the book is Cadell investigating a murder because he becomes suspicious about what happened to one of the men whose body he was going to dissect and he decides to go and get justice for the deceased. I enjoyed this one a lot. Review Here
3. Charmed and Dangerous anthology.
I thought this was a very strong offering – I think I enjoyed six or seven stories in this anthology, but the reason it made my list was mostly because of once again Astrid Amara and Ginn Hale. Here is what I said in my review about their stories.
Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.
From my review:
I think for me this story was the darkest and the best in the anthology. It is no secret that I love Ginn Hale’s work, but for me past performance is no guarantee of the future success even with my favorite writers, so I definitely did not approach this story as a guaranteed win. This novella explored the themes of what consequences winning the revolution can often be for its participants and for the society.
Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.
This was one of the most romantic stories in the anthology for me. Although it is a standalone novella, this story made me feel as if I had known Tim and Vincent for a long time. In a world where characters in m/m books often forget that they have jobs and professional responsibilities, it was so refreshing to read about two men who, despite being deeply in love with each other, broke up because Tim could not handle the demands Vincent’s job put on him and his health. Of course I could see why Vincent, who is essentially a magical healer, would not stop helping sick and often dying people to get rid of hexes, but I also get how Tim just could not deal with what Vincent’s job demanded from him. There is nothing better to make you believe in the realities of magical healing than to see the consequences of a deadly hex on yourself. When Tim comes to see Vincent again, he is very ill and if they do not act fast he might die pretty soon. I could feel the love and regret between these two. And neither of them wanted to get his heart broken again, but love was still there and of course it ends well. I anticipate rereading this story more than once.
Full review of the anthology could be found here.
4. Joanna Chambers “Unnatural”
I thought this book was lovely. As the blurb states, this story is about Captain Ian Sinclair, who briefly appeared in “Enlightened” as Murdo’s friend.
I loved this book despite the fact that for most of the story not really much happened in the present storyline, but the author made me care about these guys so very much that I just was so eager to figure out what is stopping them from being together and how they could overcome it.
5. Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) – Ilona Andrews.
At the end of the previous book in what I can probably call my favorite urban fantasy series the writers send the main characters Kate and Curran in the new direction. Curran resigned from the position of Beast Lord of Atlanta and they went to live quiet suburban life. If anybody can imagine Kate and Curran’ life ever being quiet that is ?. I think of this book as relative quiet before the push to the last confrontation with the series Big Bad (if he is still the Big Bad, because I am honestly not sure anymore).
6. “Affiliations, Aliens and Other Profitable Pursuits” by Lyn Gala.
I reviewed the first two books here and I loved the conclusion as well, however I hope that this is the last book in the series. I loved it, I just do not feel there is much left to explore in the characters and the plot – in fact plot wise not much really happens in this one already.
Review to come.
Dear Ilona Andrews,
Fans of your Kate Daniels series are rejoicing at the glad tidings that unto us a new novella is born, just in time for Christmas. Even better, it features just about everyone’s favourite secondary characters, Derek and Julie.
At around 60 pages it is a short novella and it doesn’t waste time setting up any world building; for that reason, this is not an entry point to the series. It also fits squarely at 8.5 in the timeline, so anyone who wants to skip to this novella early be aware that there will be spoilers for previous books.
Also there are series spoilers in this review so be ye warned.
A few months before the events of Magic Stars, Kate and Curran left the Pack and took with them (they volunteered) various other (now-former) Pack members, Derek included. Derek belongs to Curran and where Curran goes, Derek goes. Kate is now the Guardian of Atlanta and has an interest in keeping the city safe. Curran shares that interest but is particularly concerned about people who have a connection to the Pack – such as the Ives family who makes excellent knives.
When the entire Ives family is brutally murdered, Curran sends Derek to:
Find the people responsible and make sure they never do it again.
Which he does, with ruthless and brutal efficiency.
Shortly after, Julie, Kate’s adopted daughter, who now refers to herself as Kate’s “Herald” (“the city has a Guardian, and I’m her Herald.”) finds Derek outside the Ives house. A call came in from Luther, the mage working for Biohazard. He was assaulted and a magic rock of some sort has been stolen from him. Kate is out with Curran, so Julie is on the case. She has tracked the magic rock to the Ives house.
Julie arrives during Derek’s confrontation with some young shapeshifters at the house of the murdered family, and he does not like the way one of them leers at 16 year old Julie.
“Shut up. If I decide to ask for your opinion, I’ll say, ‘Hey dickhead,’ so you don’t get confused.”
After teaching the wayward shifters a lesson (that’s a euphemism), Derek and Julie team up to find the magic rock and figure out what it is about it that is worth killing for.
Apart from just spending time with Derek and Julie, there are some very interesting things revealed in Magic Stars. (I won’t tell what they are but let me say to readers: if you read the series, you’re going to want to read this novella. Let me also say that while this isn’t a romance, there is romantic tension in the story and I have expectations.)
As much as I enjoyed the story, it is probably those interesting things which make it a must-read and will, no doubt, be the subject of endless speculation in the Kate Daniels fandom.
Derek has changed a lot since he had molten silver poured on his face; reading from his POV was enlightening but the biggest treat was to see Julie kick ass and take names. Her magical talent is growing and I’m sure she will continue to surprise readers.
I’m not good with ambiguity; there were some subtle clues in this story which I didn’t quite get. I’m looking forward to discussing the novella with friends who can explain to me the things I missed.
I enjoyed the dark humour – something both Derek and Julie share (I think they learned it from Kate and Curran) and the tight storytelling and I can hardly wait until the next full length novel in the series to see what happens next.
Even more exciting, in the Amazon listing, it says “Grey Wolf Book 1” That means there will be more, right? Right? Please make it be so.
After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Kate and Curran know that separating from the Pack completely is a process that will take time.
But when they learn that their friend Eduardo has gone missing, Kate and Curran shift their focus to investigate his disappearance. Eduardo was a fellow member of the Mercenary Guild, so Kate knows the best place to start looking is his most recent jobs. As Kate and Curran dig further into the merc’s business, they discover that the Guild has gone to hell and that Eduardo’s assignments are connected in the most sinister way…
An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece.
SOME SPOILERS FROM THE PREVIOUS BOOKS, BEWARE.
Dear Ilona Andrews,
I love these series, but I have never reviewed a Kate Daniels book at DA. This is the eighth book in the series, so readers, you cannot start reading from this book. You just can’t. You will miss *a lot*. My review will make a couple of references to the events of the previous books – it is impossible not to, but really the blurb tells you the main spoiler of the previous book anyway.
The confrontation with Kate’s Daddy Dearest at the end of book seven ended up with Kate and Curran leaving their positions of Beast Lord and Consort and separating from the pack. Technically they cannot even visit the pack for 90 days in order not to influence anyone who may want to leave the pack as part of their “separation staff,” and I believe there is a month or so left of this period when the book begins. I think it was very wise of the writers to come up with the “separation staff” idea, because while I love Kate and Curran very much, I cannot imagine these books without Derek, Andrea, Jim, Barrabas and several other people anymore. Thank goodness that their friends who did not leave with them still remain their friends, as this book makes clear, but I definitely missed the Pack much more than I thought I would.
Do not get me wrong, I absolutely understand and appreciate why the writers gave Kate and Curran’s lives a new direction. Overall, this book read to me as an interlude before the last (hopefully!) big arc in the series, which will be occuring in books nine and ten.
There was a villain, a scary villain, but overall the book definitely left me with a less intense feeling than the last one – probably because Kate’s fight with her father, which is supposedly a main conflict of the series, did not have any new developments (dinner does not count ;)). It is also possible that I was not as worried when I was reading this book, because the person they were trying to save was a character I did not really know or have any emotional attachment to. I was worried for George, sure, because I did not want her to be devastated. But Eduardo himself? So far he has had such a tiny role in the books that I do not think I would have been too upset if the mission of this book had failed.
I am not saying this as a criticism. As I said before, I think the book was an interlude and I appreciate that the writers gave their readers a chance to catch a breath in this book. Of course, “catching a breath” is a matter of degree – lives are in danger, Kate gets a serious injury – so it is business as usual in a way.
I really appreciate that Kate did not lose her sense of humor. I smiled and laughed many times while I was reading. Humor is such a subjective thing, but the Andrews’ humor works for me pretty much all the time in this series.
Before Kate and Curran learn about Eduardo’s disappearance and decide to take on the case, they need to defeat some ghouls (don’t ask!). Usually conversations with your opponent before you actually decide you may want to start the fight make me roll my eyes, but here it all made sense, because Kate does not just chit-chat with them. At first, she tries to get them to leave, but then she distracts them in order to prepare her weapon of choice (and give Curran a chance to attack). *And* she is funny.
“This is your last night. These are the last breaths you will take. I will kill every one of you.”
The leader ghoul snarled, dropping all pretense. “You and what army?”
I began pulling magic to me. This would hurt. This always hurt. “That’s the great thing about werelions. You don’t need an army. You just need one.”
The ghoul twisted his face.
“You’re not a werelion, meat”
“I’m not.” I nodded behind them. “He is.”
The leader ghoul spun around.”
Readers of the series know that while echoes of mythology (Russian and a couple of others) show up in the books quite often, several of the earlier books have focused on specific mythos from very different origins. The writers have incorporated these mythologies into their stories very well, and this book is no exception. I cannot tell you which mythology plays a major role here, though, because that could be a spoiler about the villain of the story.
I always love Kate and Curran’s developing relationship, and I cannot give it enough praise. I love that they made me like an Alpha hero (because to say that I usually don’t would be a huge understatement). I love that they are constantly growing and become more and more attuned to each other with every book. They love each other’s best parts, but they also seem to know each other’s flaws, and more importantly, they learn to deal with them without being silly. I have read reviews which felt that when Kate and Curran finally got together they became boring, but I disagree. Yes, they do not engage in as much hilarious bickering as they did when they were dating (if one can call their courtship “dating” ?), but they are still dealing with matters of life and death on a regular basis. They both have very strong personalities which clash sometimes, but more often than not they know that they love each other, need to accept each other’s quirks, and deal with what life keeps throwing at them.
I have always loved Kate holding her own with Curran when he is issuing directives (even when he has the best intentions in mind), as she does here:
“Fine. I’ll stay here with this thing, and you will drive herself to the hospital.”
He hit me with the alpha stare.
I opened my eyes as wide as I could.
“Why, of course, Your Majesty. What was I thinking? I will go and do this right away, just please don’t look at me.”
“Kate, get in the car.”
“Maybe you should growl dramatically. I don’t think I’m intimidated enough.”
“I will put you in the car.”
“No, you won’t.”
“He snarled. “Argh! Why don’t you ever do anything I ask you to?”
“Because you don’t ask. You tell me.”
We glared at each other.”
Then there is a time later in the book when Kate realizes that Curran is justifiably upset with her for rushing into another fight when he specifically asked her not to do “one thing,” and she apologizes because she realizes how much of a toll her previous injury took. These two just exhibit so much real couple behavior to me.
I think that one of the big reasons why I love these books so much is because I have no idea what is going to happen at the end. Wait, let me scratch that. The authors hinted very strongly that they are not so edgy as to kill Kate and Curran at the end (I am pretty sure they actually came out and said that), but how the “Kate versus Roland” storyline will be resolved? I have no idea. I surely hope that it will not be “Star Wars” like resolution but one never knows!
I have a new job that requires a commute that is about an hour each direction. I find that audiobooks pass the time perfectly for me in the car. Here’s a list of what I’ve been listening to in the last new months. Perhaps you’ll find something that you’re tempted by. Note: I generally buy audiobook versions of books I own in eBook format because Amazon will sell the audiobook for somewhere between $1.99-$4.00, which results in literally 10-12 hours of listening time for me.
This is the first “new to me” book I’ve listened to in a while. It’s one of Nora Roberts’ more recent romantic suspense novels, and I’m actually quite enjoying it. While I think the heroine engages in a bunch of TSTL behavior, and I think the hero suffers an abundance of “do as I say” attitude, I’m really enjoying their dynamic. The story is reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic “Rear Window” in that the heroine witnesses a crime while staring from a window. One of the victims is the hero’s brother, and their romance sets off from there. The narration is wonderful, with the narrator able to nimbly step from voice to voice. I really loved it.
I picked up the first two Kate Daniels book on audio due to this DBSA interview with Renee Raudman, the narrator. I came very late to the series, but have developed a very passionate adoration for everything about it, most particularly Kate’s snark. During the podcast, Raudman did a little of Curran’s voice, and though I was quite skeptical (that’s not how Curran sounds in my mind), I decided to give it a whirl. What I found is all sorts of little moments within the series that I’d missed in my reading of it. Kate’s snark is highlighted in a wonderful way. I guess I knew the series was funny, but Raudman infuses all of the characters with such warmth and personality. It’s a fantastic listen, and worth every moment of enjoyment it afforded me. This is a series I’ll listen to again and again.
I adore Nalini Singh books. They are go to comfort reads for me. I really love the Guild Hunter series for its grittiness and for the evolution of Elena Devereaux, the heroine of some of the series. One of the things I really love about the Guild Hunter world is that it is multicultural. I truly admire the narrator, Justine Eyre’s ability to slip quickly and easily from accent to accent while capturing each character’s unique voice. The series itself is gripping and Eyre’s narration makes it a ton of fun to listen to.
The Wallflower series is another comfort read for me, as Marcus, Lord Westcliff is a particular favorite of mine. I love the antics the Wallflowers get up to, and I find each romance fully engaging. That engagement, and the fact that a couple of them were on sale on Audible at the time is what made me decide to listen to them. What I really love about this audio series is that Rosalyn Landor, the narrator, switches easily back and forth between highbrow British accents, American accents, and the lower class English accents of the servants in the stories. The four books make for wonderful listening and I thoroughly enjoyed my time revisiting Stony Cross Manor and its inhabitants.
Your turn! What audio books do you love listening to? Who are your favorite narrators?
Recently I finished Night Shift, an anthology by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin and Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook). Here are mini-reviews of all four novellas:
Secrets at Midnight by Nalini Singh
The Psy/Changeling series has been going on so long that it sometimes treads what is now familiar ground, but this story was fresh and enjoyable. It’s about Bastien, Mercy’s brother, the panther changeling who manages DarkRiver’s finances, and Kirby, who is….well, to say more about who and what Kirby is would constitute a spoiler, since Kirby herself doesn’t know, and Bastien is confused and confounded by her changeable scent.
Kirby and Bastien meet through a mutual acquaintance and Bastien recognizes her as his mate, though he’s had a devil of a time tracking her scent. They begin courting and make a good couple. Kirby’s backstory is sad and she’s not used to so much affection and concern, but she doesn’t rebuff it.
The way Bastien helps Kirby figure out and cope with the truth about herself is romantic and affecting. I generally don’t like it when the hero knows the heroine better than she knows herself, but I have to admit that in this story it made sense. There is a great scene that takes place when Kirby arrives in DarkRiver territory for the first time. I won’t spoil it but it’s so playful and fun and right that it’s heartwarming.
Grinch that I am, I could have done with less baby Naya, but on the other hand, Mercy makes a great appearance. For the most part, the focus was squarely on the romance, which is how I like it. Kirby was loveable and Bastien devoted to her. I enjoyed reading about them both. B.
Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews
This was a story about Jim and Dali from Curran’s pack. Dali and Jim’s date for dinner at Dali’s home, and Dali’s fears that she doesn’t measure up and the pack won’t accept her as a fit mate for Jim, are interrupted when Dali is asked to investigate a nefarious spell cast on an older woman who like Dali is a member of Atlanta’s Indonesian-American community.
Since I’ve only read the first book in the Kate Daniels series, I wasn’t familiar with Dali, who narrated, but I really enjoyed her as a character and her POV. Jim was more of an enigma to me, as I only remembered him vaguely from Magic Bites and we don’t get his viewpoint here, but I got to know him better through this story and what I know of him from it I like a lot.
There was a reference to Dali saving Jim in the past that made me wish I’d read the other books first, but even without having done so, I liked this novella a lot. The villain’s spell involved jenglots, among other things. I was previously unfamiliar with this myth, but it felt well integrated into the novella to me.
I really liked the chemistry between Dali and Jim, each of whom had strengths and insecurities when it came to their relationship. There was also a mystery to solve: Who had cast the spell? Though I guessed the identity of the villain I still enjoyed the way battling this person brought Jim and Dali together and helped each of them overcome his or her fears. B/B+.
Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin
This novella gets off to an engaging start:
It was four in the morning. I was in a stolen bakery delivery truck that’d been nearly totaled by three gargoyles. In the truck with me were two hungover elves, a pair of stoned leprechauns with the munchies, a naked Russian werewolf and a hot partner, who was actually more of a bodyguard, in a race against a goblin dark mage to retrieve a leprechaun prince with a tracking chip embedded in his left ass cheek.
Then we backtrack six hours. It’s Makenna “Mac” Fraser’s first day as a new hire. She’ll be working as a seer for SPI (Supernatural Protection and Investigations), a New York security firm. After some set up we learn SPI is on the hunt for a leprechaun prince and his four friends, who have disappeared for a bachelor party. If captured, the prince will have to grant his captor three wishes, and these could destroy the New York financial world. Mac and her fellow agents including the reluctant, competent and attractive Ian Byrne are sent to retrieve the little green men. This proves more dangerous than Mac expected.
This novella reads like what it is—a prequel to Shearin’s SPI Files urban fantasy series. It’s there to introduce us to the characters and the setting, and while it does that very well, it’s not as successful as a standalone novella, partly because as soon as we flash six hours back, there’s a lot of exposition up front, and partly because the stakes aren’t high enough.
Mac is a country girl new to the big city, likable enough and possessing a good sense of humor, but her character doesn’t leap off the page. I didn’t care about her fate until late in the novella, and the other characters also don’t make a good case for why I should give a damn if leprechaun wishes destroy the financial world. There’s some chemistry between Mac and Ian but if there’s a romance in future books, it doesn’t get off the ground here. What we have is straight up urban fantasy with good worldbuilding, and by the end, a compelling conflict that should make for a more entertaining follow-up. Still, I probably won’t read this novella again. C.
The Beast of Blackmoor by Milla Vane
This is Meljean Brook alter ego Milla Vane’s “barbarian” story. It’s set in a Conan the Barbarian style fantasy world. Early in the book, the hero, Kavik, then a teenager, pisses in a goddess’s offering bowl and her priestess vows that he will be brought to his knees by a woman in a red cape. Years later Kavik meets that woman, and she is the girl whose presence has recurred in his dreams, now on a mission from her goddess to tame him.
Kavik, who fights the evil but seemingly invincible Lord Barin, is convinced that Mala’s taming task means putting a slave collar on Kavik, and he fights Mala’s tenderness to him so as not to fall prey to her, hurting Mala in the process. When Kavik realizes what he’s done, will it be too late?
This story is so beautifully written, but I also felt that Mala’s values were at times too 21st century for a supposedly barbaric world. The characters wore fur and ate lizards, and I prefer my settings more urbane than that, but there was such emotional power in their conflict that I was won over anyway.
Mala’s determination to be kind to Kavik was endearing, and she was a character of faith in a story that wasn’t an inspy—yay for that. Kavik was less interesting to me. I wanted his falling in love to be more drawn out (some of it was relegated to brief flashbacks), but I liked and enjoyed this quite a bit. B-.
My overall grade for the Night Shift anthology is also a B-.
Readers please note: A reader told me her ebook opened to the first chapter, skipping the prologue, and so she didn’t even know it was there. The prologue is important to the story, so if you get the ebook and this happens to you, I recommend backtracking to read it.
Trigger warnings: In light of our recent discussion of ableist language, I feel a need to state that the hero’s nickname (mentioned far more frequently in this book than his first name) is ableist. Kidnapping and interrogation come up in the review as well. If any of these are among your triggers, you may wish to avoid reading this review.
Dear Ms. Andrews,
Ever since I’ve heard about your new Hidden Legacy paranormal-romance-with-urban-fantasy-elements series, I’ve been eager to read this first book.
Burn for Me begins with an untitled section which explains that in 1863 the Osiris serum was discovered. It had the capacity to awaken dormant magical powers in people, and these abilities were inherited by future generations.
Magical abilities manifest differently in each individual, both in terms of the nature of the power and in terms of its degree, but only the wealthy and socially powerful could afford the serum, so it is they and their descendants who hold most of the magic. Their families or “Houses” remain influential and powerful as a result.
Next comes a prologue that introduces us to Kelly Waller. Kelly’s teenage son Gavin has fallen in with a pyrokinetic named Adam Pierce who involved him in burning a bank. Innocent people died or were harmed, and now the authorities want to capture Adam and Gavin dead or alive. Kelly fears her son will be killed on sight and she approaches her cousin Connor, known as Mad Rogan, for help.
But asking the head of House Rogan for help is dangerous. Kelly hasn’t been in touch with him for years, and he has since grown into a lethal force. His telekinetic power is unbelievably strong, and he is thought to be unstable, perhaps even a psychopath. Kelly fears for her life but oddly, Rogan agrees to find Gavin and turn him in so he can have a fair trial.
The book then switches to first person and our narrator is Nevada Baylor, a private detective. The first chapter, in which Nevada steps in between a cheating husband and the wife who hired her to track him, reveals that Nevada is brave and protective.
Nevada’s only magical power is lie detection, and she keeps it a secret because she doesn’t want to spend her life interrogating others. But even so she can hold her own in a physical fight.
Nevada is also the head of her household. Her family is poor and lives in a warehouse. Her father is dead and her mother,a former sniper, disabled. Her sisters are still in high school and her cousins, who live with them, are in school or in college. Her grandmother, a mechanic who fixes armored vehicles, also lives with them but the family is scraping by. Thus, when Nevada is called in to see Montgomery International Investigations executive Augustine Montgomery, who holds the mortgage for her agency, she has no choice but to report.
Augustine has an impossible mission for her – capture pyrokinetic Adam Pierce alive and deliver him to House Pierce, which has hired MII to do just that. But Adam’s magical classification is prime, the highest, and Nevada has no way to keep him from burning her alive should he decide to.
It’s easy for Nevada to detect the truth—Augustine believes she has no magical abilities and is therefore expendable. He must save face with House Pierce so he’s threatening Nevada with foreclosure to get her to die in place of magical detectives whom he values more. But Nevada can’t bear to see her family homeless, so she agrees.
Things go from bad to worse when Nevada goes home and learns from her cousin Bern, a technology mage (this power made no sense to me) that Mad Rogan is connected to the case. She has a miniscule chance of convincing Adam to turn himself in, but if Mad Rogan decides to interfere, she’ll be up against two, not one, very dangerous men.
Using her investigative skills, Nevada finds a way to get a message to Adam. She meets with him at a park and while he’s not about to turn himself in, she manages to intrigue him enough to stay alive. But after Adam leaves, Nevada finds herself face to face with the terrifying Mad Rogan.
Rogan captures Nevada, chains her in his basement, and attempts to use a magical ability to interrogate her into revealing the nature of her connection to Adam. But Nevada’s own ability is will based, and she succeeds in breaking his spell without revealing the information he wants. Rogan returns Nevada home, but she knows he’ll be back.
I won’t reveal what happens next, except to say that eventually a change of circumstances prompts Nevada to ally with Rogan despite her distrust of him in a partnership that, as she tells him, is strictly professional. Trouble is, Nevada is attracted to Rogan, even though there’s plenty of evidence that he’s bad news. She may need his help to stop Adam from hurting more people, but can she accept it without getting hurt herself?
Reading this book made me think of some of the recent discussions of “id reading” on Sunita and Liz McCausland’s blogs. For me, Burn for Me was an id reading kind of book. This novel taps into some of my favorite tropes and I had a hell of a blast reading it.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t notice flaws, but rather, that although I noticed them, I still had a terrific time. The book also has merits, and I’ll recount both merits and flaws, but keep in mind that this was my kind of catnip.
First, Nevada. I loved her. I loved her down-to-earth quality, her resourcefulness, her role as the breadwinner for her family, her human fears and her bravery in the face of them. I loved her backbone and I appreciated her mixed race background. I loved that she resisted Rogan, kept saying no and laying down her boundaries, instead of jumping into bed with him at the first opportunity. I also loved the way she discovered her full capabilities and powers and came into her own bit by bit.
Since I love morally ambiguous characters Rogan was right up my alley too. He could swing between callous and remote to funny and supportive, so it was hard to get a bead on him. I tend to prefer characters to have a moral compass, even if they ignore it, and I wasn’t always sure whether Rogan had one. I wanted a sense of whether he had a code of honor, whether he cared if people died– sometimes it seemed he did and sometimes it seemed he didn’t.
This was confusing, but it also put me in a similar position as Nevada’s. She has to keep guessing about his true nature. I’m hoping we find out more about this in future books, but regardless of this and regardless of my reservations about Rogan, I loved reading about him.
I also loved the nature of Rogan and Nevada’s partnership. Each was a mentor to the other. Rogan pushed Nevada to defend her life better and to bring her magic to the forefront, just as Nevada was Rogan’s mentor in not killing more than he had to, having a little humiliity, and just in general what it means to be a regular person.
Initially the dynamic between Nevada and Rogan reminded me a little of the first book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. In both books the heroine wants nothing to do with the hero because she recognizes the danger he presents, but they must work together to track down a villain. This book is written with more humor and it appears the romantic arc will be more drawn out, which is all to the good IMO.
Another thing I loved was that Nevada and Rogan’s working relationship develops into a full partnership and not just one character always saving the other one. Here they each took turns saving the other, both taught and began to learn from each other and on occasion they each took the other down a peg or two with their banter. It really was wonderful to read, and I love that they didn’t jump into bed and time is being taken with the physical side of their relationship.
The side characters were also great, especially the strong women in Nevada’s family, including her mechanic grandmother and her disabled former sniper mother, both portrayed with dignity and strength. Nevada’s computer geek cousin Bern was also delightful.
The action comes fast and furious for much of this book. It’s not a thoughtful and contemplative read but it sure is exciting, like a high adrenaline roller coaster ride. This may not be everyone’s cuppa but it sure was mine.
Now for problematic elements. Ableist language was used a lot in this book, and there’s also cultural appropriation in a plot twist involving a magical artifact from another country (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here). The hero may or may not have a moral compass; he kidnaps the heroine and chains her in his basement and that’s clearly problematic too.
There are other types of flaws too. The setup takes a while and Rogan and Nevada don’t meet until about a quarter of the way through the book. I got a little impatient waiting for that to happen.
Adam Pierce’s motives are still shrouded in mystery at the end of the book — I hope we learn more about them in the next book.
My other issue had to do with the characters’ magical abilities. The world itself was interesting and entertaining but the way the magic worked seemed inconsistent. I’ll hide these details because they involve spoilers.
This book wasn’t perfect, but I just couldn’t help loving it. It was so entertaining, almost pure fun. I had such a great time reading it that I will be anticipating the next Hidden Legacy novel even more eagerly than I did this one. B+.