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REVIEW:  Kinked by Thea Harrison

REVIEW: Kinked by Thea Harrison

Dear Ms. Harrison,

I’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series on audio – this is the first one I’ve read. Having listened to Sophie Eastlake narrate the previous five books though, I still heard her voice reading me the story as I devoured Kinked. I also have a confession to make.  Aryal was never my favourite Sentinel.  She’s difficult and abrasive and hard to like.  I have a thing for Graydon but Aryal never really caught my attention much.  Perhaps that was because she didn’t like Pia and I did?  Nevertheless, as much as I wasn’t Aryal’s number one fan I was still keen to read this book and see where your world building would take me next.

Kinked Thea Harrison

Recommended by Kati and Jane ( A | BN | K | S | G )* Paranormal Romance

What a surprise then to find that Aryal was an amazing heroine.  Spending time in her head gave me a new (and previously unheld) appreciation for her character. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was that Quentin was not at all phased by her abrasive charm – in fact, he reveled in it and came to value it.  So Aryal realised new depths and revealed a softer side that perhaps even she didn’t know she had but she didn’t have to go through a personality transplant to find her HEA.  Aryal may be an unlikeable heroine but she is essentially the same person at the end of the book as she is at the beginning and for that alone you deserve the applause of Romance Stadium.  She didn’t have to conform to find love.  She didn’t need “fixing”.  I loved that. I can’t even tell you how much.

As it happened, Aryal and Quentin were perfect for each other – each of them driven and wild and just a little bit out of step with the rest of the world.

She quieted that internal whip that drove him because she became the whip, her soul as sharp as a knife.

He could cut himself on her, wrap her in his arms and be her buffer. Heal her from herself, bruise himself on her.

Let her heal him. Let her be his buffer.

They were so unapologetic, so kinked.

He said, “We’re perfect.”

The story begins closely after the end of Lord’s Fall – Quentin and Aryal are fighting and all the other Sentinels and Dragos are at their wit’s end  – Dragos sends them on an assignment together and orders them to work out their differences. They are to be away for at least two weeks, no longer than one month and if they don’t work out their differences, they will both lose their Sentinel positions.  Dragos is not fucking around here.  He is Over. It.   He sends them to Numenlaur – the elven Other land which was closed to everyone for many many years.  The Numenlaurians were held in thrall by Amras Gaeleval and those who survived the events in the previous book have not yet recovered sufficiently to return.  The way is open and Dragos wants Aryal and Quentin to scout around and ensure there is no looting and also to secure any sensitive items which may be unprotected.

I think the book works best if readers have read the previous books because it is easier to understand the world, the events that led to Quentin becoming a Sentinel, his and Aryal’s antipathy to one another, as well as the assignment Dragos gives them.  The romance is fairly enclosed so I suppose readers could pick this up as a stand alone, but I don’t think they would get as much out of it if they didn’t understand the background to this point.

On the way to Numenlaur, the sexual awareness of each other which has recently bloomed becomes an itch which has to be scratched.  Aryal and Quentin make a bargain with each other – fifteen minutes each totally in the other’s control.  As is so often the case in romance fiction, such a bargain only leaves them wanting more.  That, and the way they have to work together, how they actually start talking to one another, has each of them reconsidering their previous plan to arrange for someone to conveniently kill the other while they are away – thus solving the Sentinel problem.

When they get to Numenlaur, things there are eerie and incredibly sad.  And something or someone is watching them.  The main action does only traverse two weeks or so, but the pressure cooker environment and their previous two years of sniping at and baiting each other meant that I had no difficulty in buying into their romance.  Even when they hated one another, they each also respected the other’s strengths and abilities.  As they are forced to trust and rely on one another, their bond deepens.  And when they are threatened and their lives hang in the balance, they find in each other a true partner.  And, through it all, they remain true to their characters – while there is tenderness,

As the panther found his peace, the harpy stroked his hair and discovered tenderness. Then everything that lay twisted between them came clear as they reached the heart of the labyrinth they had been traveling together.

there is plenty of snark too.

He paused to make sure that sank in. Then he said, “Number four. There are people who love you. Niniane and Grym. Hell, maybe Grym is right, and Dragos does too. Graydon’s pretty mad at you, but you know he loves you.” He took a deep breath. It was time to throw himself on his sword. “Me.”

Her eyes dilated until they were mostly black. “You?”

“Yeah, don’t dwell on it,” he said. Okay, he was done now.

I completely bought into their partnership and their mating.

There was also plenty of action to the story and some very sad moments too.  I think the villian of the piece was lightly drawn.  I was so caught up in Aryal and Quentin and their perspectives of events that I didn’t really notice until very near the end, but her motivations were only very lightly touched upon and although she caused a lot of damage, she wasn’t featured strongly as a character.  I found the pacing of the book fine while I was reading it but it occurred to me afterwards that there is a huge flurry of activity and information right near the end  and up until then it was mostly about Quentin and Aryal working out their relationship (vastly entertaining as it was).  This didn’t bother me all that much, as I’m primarily a romance reader but those looking for a more evenly balanced mix of action and romance might find it a bit uneven.

In some respects, this book reminded me (in a good way) of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series – perhaps that was in the nature of the magic that was used, I’m not sure.  It was sexy and romantic and refreshingly different.  I really liked it.  I give it a B+.

“I think you might be both my suicide and my salvation.” And he needed her for both. “I love you like a heart attack, woman.”

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

 

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REVIEW:  Tracks by Robyn Davidson

REVIEW: Tracks by Robyn Davidson

Tracks

I arrived in the Alice at five a.m. with a dog, six dollars and a small suitcase full of inappropriate clothes. . . . There are some moments in life that are like pivots around which your existence turns.

For Robyn Davidson, one of these moments comes at age twenty-seven in Alice Springs, a dodgy town at the frontier of the vast Australian desert. Davidson is intent on walking the 1,700 miles of desolate landscape between Alice Springs and the Indian Ocean, a personal pilgrimage with her dog—and four camels. Tracks is the beautifully written, compelling true story of the author’s journey and the love/hate relationships she develops along the way: with the Red Centre of Australia; with aboriginal culture; with a handsome photographer; and especially with her lovable and cranky camels, Bub, Dookie, Goliath, and Zeleika.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The book cover and the opening line are what hooked me on reading this book. And they about say it all. The cover might be a bit misleading in that Davidson usually walked alongside her camels rather than riding one of them and they were probably not as stair step perfect in size but still the cover conveys desert journey with camels and dog. The line pretty much shows both the humor inherent in Davidson’s writing and the fact that frankly she was in no way ready for this trip when she started. Or for that matter, for a long time into the preparations.

I quickly realized that amide the chuckles there would be a lot of grim information about the Australia of 1977 – and maybe of Australia today though I sincerely hope things have changed and from what’s written in the epilogue, it seems this might be the case. Rampant misogyny, alcoholism and racism – and sometimes all 3 at once – were alive and well in Alice Springs then.

Camel handling seems to be an art crossed with a strong arm and not something I’d be looking to take up any time soon but good onya for deciding to make the dream come true. I read with fascination and horror all that’s involved with getting a trained camel to do what you want and trying to train a newbie to do the same. Not my cuppa. I can see this taking a good long while to learn and become confident with but when it’s mentioned that it’s been two years since she arrived there, I thought, “Lady it’s time to either go or get off the pot.”

And when, from what was written, she appeared to be reinventing the camel wheel, I had to wonder, “Why?” This wasn’t rocket science. This wasn’t inventing how to get to the moon. People had been saddling up camels and loading them with pack supplies for 1000s of years. Why is she seemingly contriving her own camel tack and saddles? Shed been working with 2 people for 2 years now – one an Afghani camel herder for chrissakes. I kept wondering why can’t she just look at their tack and saddles and copy them?

Then when she went to meet with National Geographic people about sponsoring the trip and she admitted to us the readers that she hadn’t plotted a route yet. I think the words “you’ve got to be fucking me” crossed my lips. Talk about babe in the desert woods. At this point, I sat down with grim determination to see this adventure, via the book, through. She was like watching a toddler walk around with a loaded gun. Would she avoid killing/injuring herself and any more animals under her care before it was all said and done?

We then started the second third of the story and the change in her was almost night and day. Now that the journey has begun, she’s almost … competent. Much more in control and less hysterical than before even though the opening stages of the journey are even more of a learning experience. What items are needed and what she should have jettisoned before even starting? What’s the best way to pack the gear and distribute the weight? The coming days pared down not only the baggage but Davidson and this is where the book gets wonderful.

In the beginning, she was often among other people: tourists, the National Geographic camera man, rangers and Aborigines. Some of them were helpful, some annoying and some transformed her. Her time with Eddie, the elder Aborigine gentleman was illuminating and from him she began to see Australia as they always have. To slip into an almost dreamlike state of existing and coexisting. But this part also kept hammering home how much colonization has almost destroyed them.

Her description of her relationship with Rick, the camera man, came to annoy me. A friend of hers points out that without his advice to seek out National Geographic’s sponsorship, her trip might not have happened. But along with the money comes the stings and while I can see that, based on her original hopes for what the journey would be for her, having him tag along and document it in pictures utterly altered things, her whingeing got on my nerves. To answer her own question, yes she got too precious about it. He was only part of the snakes in her Eden and it was never going to be as pristine as she imagined. Maybe that’s my middle age speaking to her youthful 70s idealism but get over it.

We quickly see how dependent she is on the camels and their health. But while she takes good care of them, she totally falls down on the job in another quarter. She gives fair warning of what is going to happen, right before it happens, but I was sick at heart to read what befalls one member of their little party – especially since it could have been avoided. So while the opening line makes this sound like it could be fun to read, the reality is that this was anything but a breezy jaunt across Australia.

As I was reading the final third of the book, I kept thinking that this trip was a product of its era. That it probably couldn’t be done or repeated today and the epilogue confirmed this. Regulations and the modern thirst for publicity and fame would either condemn it or the person trying it for attempting to stay below the radar – to keep a tiny bit of privacy and have the journey, external and internal, remain their own. With the internet and GPS the prep and actual travel would be inevitably changed – maybe for the better but changed all the same.

Overall, I enjoyed the journey though the prep sounded like hell at times. I hated to see the privacy and ownership of the trip drift out of her hands, hated to see her get upset about this, hated to see the worst aspects of it too. But the trip is an interesting thing to read about and see how it all came together and, in some places, fell apart. I’m basically an armchair adventuress so I’ll leave such things to others to do and the reading of them for me. B

~Jayne

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