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REVIEW:  Kinked by Thea Harrison

REVIEW: Kinked by Thea Harrison

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Dear Ms. Harrison:

I’ve been a fan of your Elder Races series since Dragon Bound. I’m one of those readers who is always delighted to hear that a new entry in the series is coming out and was even more excited to hear that Aryal, one of Dragos Cuelebre’s Sentinels, was going to get her Happily Ever After. Why? Because I really strongly disliked Aryal (as I think you intended) and I was really interested to see how you would make me root for her.

Aryal jumped off the page from the moment she is introduced into the series. She’s a Harpy, an Ancient, and vicious. She’s the only female on an all male crew of Sentinels, and is just as lethal as any of the guys. She’s recently won her way back onto the Sentinels in the Games, a gladiator-like competition that Dragos organized to find two additional Sentinels, as his most trusted team has been falling in love on a routine basis and leaving him to be with their mates. His remaining Sentinels all won their battles, and two new team members were added. They included Quentin Caeravorn, a Wyr Panther, and owner of the bar where Pia (Dragos’s mate) used to work.

From the moment Aryal meets Quentin, she’s suspicious. This is a bad guy. He’s shifty, clearly dangerous, and obviously up to no good. She basically hates him on sight, and will stop at nothing to prove that he is colluding against Dragos and is an imminent threat to all Dragos holds dear (including his new infant son). She begins digging into his life, leaving no stone unturned. She’s positive that she will find something. This starts off irritating Quentin, who is not a danger per se to Dragos, although he doesn’t particularly like the guy. But one night, Aryal oversteps herself by coming to his home and Quentin is enraged. So furious that he drives to the Tower (Dragos’s fortress) and attacks Aryal the moment he sees her. Aryal is delighted. This is what she’s wanted all along. To beat the snot out of this guy, who she’s sure is betraying Dragos. Sadly, the two of them decide to go at it in very close proximity to Pia, who was walking her infant son, trying to get him to sleep. Needless to say, they’ve now seriously pissed off Dragos, who has had enough of their sniping, fighting, and endless battles. He banishes both of them. His plan being that they’ll either work it out, or one of them will literally die trying.

He sends them on a mission to Numenlaur, an Elven Demense, that has been abandoned after the last battle between the Elves and the Wyr. Quentin, who has very close ties to the Elves, is suspicious of Dragos’s intent, but all Dragos wants is to be sure that Numenlaur isn’t being looted. And, he wants his Sentinels to work it out. Forced to team up with the very woman he has come to hate, Quentin must put aside his loathing for Aryal and work with her to secure Numenlaur. But as the two work together, they come to admire each others abilities. And a grudging admiration and attraction grows. They hate that they are attracted to each other, but can’t seem to fight it. And when they find that they must depend upon each other wholly to survive what awaits them in Numenlaur, that attraction boils over into something more.

Oh I liked this book. Particularly, I liked Quentin. He’s complicated, difficult, moody, loyal, gorgeous, and a consistent character. He’s an amazing foil for Aryal, because even as he hates that her tenacity has her invading his life, he’s attracted to those things that make her a pitbull. Their chemistry is really incendiary, and I so appreciated that their relationship was intense from the start. This is not a romance that turns hearts and puppies when the couple falls in love, they are tough on each other, they fight, they argue, and you never doubt that they are falling in love. I appreciated that there were no punches pulled between them.

I also liked that you somehow redeemed Aryal in my eyes. I think probably because as a reader I’d never been exposed to her inner thoughts, I didn’t understand her motivation. She has her own code of honor. It’s not pristine, it’s not shiny, but it IS a code of honor, and she lives by it. When she gives her loyalty, it’s forever, and those she loves, she protects, no matter what. I found her to be admirable. And I found myself rooting for her to find her way with Quentin. I really liked that Aryal’s edges were only slightly softened by love. But her ferocity and her deep well of love was uncovered as well. While her nature is doesn’t change, her ability to love is uncovered for the reader. It really was lovely to experience.

I should also note that the title is not really indicative of BDSM. The sex is down and dirty, but it never really ventures into what I would call BDSM. I do not think that this book stands alone well. Plus, reading the series is a treat that I think readers should experience. But I think that regular readers of the series will be pleased with this entry and will happily come back for more. Kinked gets a B+ from me, and a happy recommendation.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

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REVIEW:  Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe

REVIEW: Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe

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German-occupied Brussels, Belgium
December 1915

Rose Culver is in grave danger. For months the Red Cross head nurse has been aiding Allied soldiers caught behind enemy lines, helping them flee into neutral Netherlands. It’s only a matter of time until she’s caught. Which makes it the wrong time to fall in love with a handsome German military doctor as devoted to the sanctity of human life as she is.

The Great War has caused Dr. Herman Geoff to question everything he once believed. He knows Rose has been hiding British soldiers in her hospital—he’s even treated some of them, refusing to go against his own Hippocratic oath. As a doctor, he admires Rose’s skill and conviction. As a man, he can no longer deny his attraction to her. But when Rose is arrested for treason, Herman must choose between love for her and duty to his country…

Dear Ms. Rowe,

I read and was disappointed by the first novella in this trilogy last year. Despite the WWI setting in Belgium, it relied on far too many clichés for my liking. I didn’t make much effort to seek out the next story but when I saw this one listed at Netgalley and realized the hero would be the German doctor who appeared briefly in the first book along with the heroic English nursing matron, I decided to give it a go.

This one worked much better – so much better – for me. Since it is a novella, the fact that Herman and Rose have worked together, side by side, through the difficulties of running a hospital treating war casualties helps me believe in a quicker than usual declaration of love. But poor Herman had his work cut out for him in getting Rose to even consider marrying him much less telling him she loved him.

Rose has finally been arrested by the German military and charged with aiding the enemy. Herman had known all about it but winked and nodded and pretended to see nothing. But now that the woman he’s openly admired and – in turns out – secretly loved since he met her has been sentenced to death. He had already questioned the actions of the German military but this action, coupled with the drafting of his younger brother into the army, seals his determination to help Rose.

By a believable escape, he gets her free and then convinces her that marriage is the only way to hide from the military police searching for her. I was very impressed that both of these events make sense and don’t come off as contrived for the plot. Rose resists saying “I do” but it’s not because she’s holding out for “twue lurve” or any of the usual rot we see in romances. No, she admires Herman and doesn’t want to see him potentially throw away his career or become hunted by the police either. She also doesn’t want to see his family suffer because of him aiding her. Again, this actually makes sense to me.

But wait! There’s more. A dash for freedom during which Rose’s quick thinking and actions save the day and then a choice both make that allows them to continue helping those in need and not end up in a country where either would be arrested. I will admit to going into the novella with a “wait and see” attitude but by the end I was happily convinced that all ended well. Well done. B

~Jayne

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