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REVIEW:  Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles) by Anna Zaires

REVIEW: Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles) by Anna Zaires

CL

Dear Ms. Zaires:

I bought this book because a friend on Twitter was looking for a Sci-Fi book, and Katiebabs suggested this series. She characterized it as “cracktastic” which of course, was enough of a recommendation for me. Generally speaking, I’m probably not the intended audience for Sci-Fi romance. As with Steampunk, I tend to get bogged down in the technology and it distracts me from the story. While this was somewhat the case with this book, it was much more the hero that got my attention.

Mia Stalis is a grad student in New York. She’s a relatively non-descript, hard working kid who is generally overlooked, just because she works hard at not drawing attention to herself. One day while in Central Park, she draws the attention of a Krinar, an alien, named Korum. The Krinar are an alien species who now inhabit the Earth. It turns out that they are from a far away planet and were actually the creators of the human race, which they made in their image. Twenty years ago, they came to Earth, worried that humans were advancing too quickly, destroying Earth and its abundant resources. After K-Day, the day they invaded, and a short war where the human resistance was squashed, the K’s set up “Centers” where they lived and left humankind mostly to themselves. There are awful rumors about the K’s though. That they are vampires who feast on human blood and they’ve outlawed a number of things that mankind was doing (like eating meat) that could have harmed the life expectancy of mankind. But mostly, they are just the ruling class, scary and unknown, but generally leaving mankind alone.

Needless to say, Mia is both baffled and horrified that Korum would show even the vaguest interest in her. He flirts with her, but her responses are stilted. He’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen, but she’s terrified of him and wants nothing more than to escape his notice and interest. No chance. Not only is Korum interested, but he’s captivated by her beauty and fiestiness that seems to rear its head any time she’s nervous. Given their obvious attraction to each other, Korum is interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with her. Mia is both terrified and elated at his interest. She can’t believe how attracted she is to him, but at the same time, she knows he’s a killer and she’s bound and determined to fight her overwhelming attraction. Korum decides to take it slow, as he knows Mia is a virgin. He explains that even though he really, really wants to, he’ll hold on having sex with her:

“But I’m not a rapist. And that’s what it would be right now – rape – because you’re so frightened of me, and of your own sexuality.”

What a guy. It’s so handy that she has him there to explain that it is in fact NOT her sheer terror that he might kill her that’s making her not want to sleep with him, but instead, it’s her discomfort with her own sexuality. Thank goodness we cleared that up.

Soon enough, they are involved and she agrees to have sex with him. Korum is apparently in possession of a…extraordinarily large appendage, and sex hurts Mia. She has no interest in having sex with him again after the first time and tells him as much. Korum tells her that she in fact will be having lots more sex with him because HE knows she’s attracted to him and wants him, even if she doesn’t. You see, he’s lived for a really long time (the result of all that healthy no meat eating stuff) and he knows that a “connection” like he and Mia have doesn’t come along very often. Despite Mia telling him over and over again that she has no interest in having sex or being in a relationship with him, in fact she tells him over and over that she hates him, he’s decided they will be in a relationship and there will be no more opinions or discussion from Mia on the topic.

And Mia basically acquiesces. On top of that, Mia scrapes her palms at some point during the story, and he heals her using nanotechnology, which puts a tracking device in her, so no matter where she goes, he knows where she is. Christian Grey wishes he had this guy’s stalking ability. He tracks her movements endlessly and shows up at one point to almost strangle to death a boy who shows interest in Mia. Because she’s his toy and no one else’s.

While they are starting their relationship, Mia’s roommate Jessie’s cousin and his friend come to see her. They are part of the Resistance. They are fighting against the K’s, along with the help of a small number of K’s who are sympathetic towards humans…or something. Anyway, the Resistance wants Mia to find out what Korum, who is a leader among his people (some sort of business tycoon), is up to. The friend, John, tells Mia that she’s Korum’s “charl”, his sex slave, and that she’s unlikely to her relationship with Korum, since he’s likely to kill her when he’s done using her for sex. John knows this because his sister disappeared a few years ago, and John knows she’s being kept in a Center, presumably as a sex slave. The Resistance knows if they can neutralize Korum, they have a chance of winning. At first, they just ask Mia for information, but soon they give her a ring that will pull all of the information he has in his palm computer (a literal computer in his palm) so that they have the blue prints to the K’s largest center – sort of like a capital. Even though she’s torn about it, Mia agrees, and seduces Korum, and gets the information from him. She supplies it to the Resistance, but stipulates (probably because she’s got a raging case of Stockholm Syndrome) that Korum is going to receive safe passage back to his home planet. The Resistance agrees (even though Mia hasn’t thought far enough ahead to figure out what will happen when Korum just jumps back on a space ship and comes back to Earth) and they opt to move on the center.

To no one’s surprise, Korum knew EVERYTHING Mia was doing. Why? Probably because Mia is the most obvious spy ever, but also because besides being a well hung tiger in the sack, he’s way smarter than she’ll ever be. Anyway, the Resistance is defeated, Korum is victorious, and he decides that Mia is in so much danger, she can’t go to stay with her family in Florida, she must come to Costa Rica with him where she’ll be safe. Because at this point, Mia has realized that she was very wrong for ever doubting Korum’s motives or anything else, she agrees. The book ends with the two getting off his ship in Costa Rica.

There are two other Volumes in this series. None of which I’ll be reading. This book had issues galore for me. Not the least of which was the fact that the hero starts off an overbearing douchebag, and never ceases being one. The entire time, I kept wondering why Mia would decide to be with him. Except, I knew why, because she was terrified of him. Even at 80% through the book, she positive he is going to kill her. At no time does he express more than warm feelings towards her. He does care for her by buying her new clothes and insisting that she do what he tells her, and sexing her up in various and sundry positions, but generally speaking, he treats her like a housepet. These are two of the most unlikable characters I’ve read in a while.

The worldbuilding is quite good. While I couldn’t exactly picture some of the technology you described, for the most part, I understand the general principles of world’s mythology and was able to suspend disbelief enough to follow the story. I think that you have a gift for writing interesting sex scenes, although the entire cervix ramming and giant appendages part struck me was unnecessary, painful, and overkill. I also think that you have a very confident authorial voice. I thought the book was really well edited and I can understand why so many readers would call this series “cracktastic”. While it didn’t work for me, I get why the book might really work for other readers. For me, I’ll just have to live with never knowing what happens next to Korum and Mia. Final grade: D.

Kind regards,
Kati

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REVIEW:  An American Duchess by Sharon Page

REVIEW: An American Duchess by Sharon Page

An-American-Duchess

At the height of the Roaring Twenties, New York heiress Zoe Gifford longs for the freedoms promised by the Jazz Age. Headstrong and brazen, but bound by her father’s will to marry before she can access his fortune, Zoe arranges for a brief marriage to Sebastian Hazelton, whose aristocratic British family sorely needs a benefactor.

Once in England, her foolproof plan to wed, inherit and divorce proves more complicated than Zoe had anticipated. Nigel Hazelton, Duke of Langford and Sebastian’s austere older brother, is disgraced by the arrangement and looks down upon the raucous young American who has taken up residence at crumbling Brideswell Abbey. Still reeling from the Great War, Nigel is now staging a one-man battle against a rapidly changing world—and the outspoken Zoe represents everything he’s fighting against. When circumstances compel Zoe to marry Nigel rather than Sebastian, she does so for love, he for honor. But with Nigel unwilling to change with the times, Zoe may be forced to choose between her husband and her dreams.

Spoiler (Possible Trigger Warning): Show

Zoe suffers miscarriages and attendant depression

Dear Ms. Page,

Oh, how I wanted to like this book. It’s got the hot setting of the British aristocracy in the 1920s, it’s American heroine meets British hero, it’s duty and love but it turned out to be – for me – guilt, grief and gaiety with a heavy helping of the first two elements.

From opening page, I can see that Zoe is a woman of determination and practicality. She’s all modern and fully aware that it’s only her money that has opened doors for her. But she’s going to get her money from her trust fund and then see to it herself, investing and managing it as she wants. She’s embraced the changes sweeping the world in the post-war era and won’t apologize for it.

Nigel is appalled at her and her American ways. He is old fashioned and is proud to cling to social norms, manners and gentility that seems to have got blown away by the four years of war that have scarred him mentally as well as physically. He’s not some romantic clinging to ideals of married love but he finds the arrangement made between this brash American and his younger brother to be vulgar and in the height of bad manners.

It’s modern vs old world, full speed forward against trying to maintain the standards of a lifetime. Yet even though these two look at the world in very different ways, they’re more alike than they initially think. Both are fiercely devoted to family, determined to see to the welfare of those dependent on them and grudgingly admit to finally seeing the good in the other’s way of thinking. Each also sees below the surface mannerisms the other uses to shield feelings – Nigel pretends to be icy and in control while Zoe rushes into wild society and either shocks or – in the case of Nigel’s older relations – lives down to their horrified expectations of her.

Zoe discovers in Nigel a man who has been raised on not only the word duty but the meaning. He sees to the needs of not only his immediate family and the family stately pile but also the tenants who live there and who would lose their livelihood if he’s forced to sell off estate land. In Zoe Nigel finds a woman who revels in the modern technologies that he saw at work during the war and which he sees the world racing to embrace. She shows him that fast cars and aeroplanes aren’t just things he must endure but things that can set you free and make you feel alive again.

So far, so good.

When I read the blurb, I wondered what event would precipitate the marriage. Well, these two certainly did flirt with propriety enough along the way and participate in so many possible public scandals that it was a wonder they didn’t get caught earlier than they did – tonsil tonguing outside a popular London nightclub, skinny dipping in the estate pond during a massive party attended by all society, public sex on the estate grounds… they all but stripped naked, dyed themselves orange and did backflips through the portrait gallery.

Unfortunately, once the engagement/marriage starts, my problems with the characters and story really began.

Zoe supposed to be so “in charge” and “not to be messed with” yet making her bold rebel statements, she keeps yielding to everyone about almost everything. True she’s doing it from the heart and to help people but in the end, her backbone is a touch bendy for how strong a woman she was initially presented as being. The section wherein engagements are broken and marriage proposals are made is draggy. Zzzzzzz. This is also the point at which the soap opera starts.

Zoe and Nigel just keep racing around the same closed track of their issues and not really getting anywhere for a long, dank, mournful time. This is not happy, light reading here – be forewarned.

Grief and woe abounds. Lots of grief and lots of woe. This is where the trigger warning applies and if it applies to readers, then I would strongly suggest they heed it. OMG – this is a never ending soap opera of angst and woe. Every chapter does a two step forward of slight healing followed by one and a half step back of horrible event. Zoe sinks to the depths of depression over their loss then Nigel goes all “woe is me it’s all my fault” about the war affecting the families of his dead men and how he ought to have saved them all.

Then Zoe treats us to another attempt at defying the restrictions placed on her – though they are really not many – followed by a reason why she must give up her dreams/plans which ends in still more grief. This time though, I totally agree with Nigel. What the hell was she thinking? I wanted to grab a chamber pot and bash her over the head.

By this time I was anticipating some new awfullness that was going to befall Zoe or Nigel, or both of them, in each chapter. It was morbidly fascinating to guess what new disaster would be heaped on them. Instead of continuing to read in hopefulness of them finally starting to get past the PTSD haunting Nigel and the grief felling them both, I frankly just wanted the whole book to be over.

Even when they’re attempting to reconcile they fight and flail at each other. Plus guilt – mustn’t ever forget that. Nigel has finally decided to break out of his shell – and BTW there’s no mention of if he continues to have his PTSD nightmares on the ocean voyage or rail trip – and go to American and get his wife back but he still argues and orders and they’re back to the same old, same old with few pages of the book left. Finally he tells Zoe, “maybe I should do the decent thing and let you go” and I thought – hell yes and put us all out of our misery.

Then we wind things up with some good old Southern California therapy wherein Nigel finally bears his inner scars to Zoe, does some cathartic crying while Zoe holds him close and soothes him followed by very public sex on the hood of a car on a street at night – yep that’s all that’s needed to overcome five years of PTSD. No wait, the guilt is still there even after hours of hawtness. Finally Zoe saves the day in a subplot of Nigel’s duty and guilt and responsibility.

Looking for an angsty historical with hawtness? Look no further. Want to watch two characters torture themselves with angst even up until the very end? It’s right here. Want the confessions to drag until the final page? This is your story. After a beginning that had me hopeful, came the second half that I just wanted to end. B- for the first half and D for the second.

~Jayne

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