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REVIEW:  Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins

REVIEW: Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins

Realm Walkers Kathleen Collins

Dear Ms. Collins,

There’s something almost guilty about watching two characters who should be together, and aren’t, interact. It’s even more decadently wicked when the two people in question are married – and can’t see what’s in front of their noses. Such is the case with Agency Walker Juliana Norris and her estranged vampire master husband, Thomas. It’s enough to have Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers” playing in the background – though not for the reason the song suggests. When Thomas comes back to town to claim his wayward bride, he’s in for a somewhat rude awakening. The cadre of people he’s been squeezing for information about his mate seems to enjoy playing matchmaker for the pair, even as Juliana and Thomas are forced to fight for their lives against a specter from their pasts and a demon who delights in taunts, both of them revealing secrets in a dark comedy of errors that could have far reaching consequences for them all.

As much as I enjoyed the story and characters, I’m afraid to say that a lot of the plot was boilerplate and rather forgettable – though, in its defense, it flowed beautifully. It’s a standard gifted, bad-ass female with a secret meets brooding, super powerful vampire with secrets and they’re surrounded by friends who have secrets love story. While the slightly surprise magical fix to the demon infestation problem was well crafted and a pleasant surprise, it just came off as a little “meh.”

Juliana, as the protagonist, is well developed. She’s strong, mentally and physically, and she tends to think outside the box – which she definitely needs when dealing with everything in her life, especially the demons. The problem with her, though, is that she spends way too much time in pain. If she’s not been beaten senseless physically, she’s been battered emotionally and wants to drink her cares away. Let’s not mention how many times she’s died. At one point, it even becomes a self-referential joke. I flashed back to the movie “Pitch Perfect” and the line “We get it. You have NODES.” Of course, I’d have to paraphrase slightly to “We get it. You’ve DIED before.” Honey, in this genre, it’s the rare heroine who hasn’t died / had a near death experience / had a dead dream lover / dealt with some other kind of death fetish. Death has become the new black, and it’s everywhere.

I’m a little torn on Thomas. The dark, broody vampire thing has become so overdone that you might as well stick a fork in it. Thomas broods so much that I wanted to reach under him to check for eggs. I wanted to see a little more of him, get a bit more of the personality besides the Team Edward oldest fan aspect. Most of the time, he came across as flat and possessive. I didn’t really feel or see the love aspect. On the other hand, he did have flashes of brilliance where I couldn’t help but grin at him, no matter how over the top the situation. Throughout the story, it’s clear that he cares for her, but I don’t know that the love can overcome his static feeling. It’s not giving away too much to say that Thomas arranges for Juliana to have access to Elder Vampire Blood (his, of course – he couldn’t have his precious wife drinking a lesser vintage). Only he has his lackey NOT tell Juliana that it’s Thomas’ blood. And that…left me with a very strange question. See, I figured that if a pair was as mated and bonded as Juliana and Thomas, she might be able to tell the vintage. Apparently, though, all blood tastes the same. Who knew?

I enjoyed the supporting cast of characters, though some of them felt quite interchangeable – particularly Juliana’s boss, Jeremiah, and her boss’ boss (I think?), Ben. Nathaniel and Michael, Juliana’s partner and best friend, respectively, are very well done – I wanted to see a whole lot more of Michael. The interplay between the two way too brief. Actually, even in their short interludes, they had more chemistry than Juliana and Thomas.

All in all, I wanted things to be a little tighter and a little more memorable. I enjoyed the book, but it was easy to put down and didn’t grip me as much as it had the potential for. The ingredients were there, but it could have stood a bit more mixing and a little extra time in the oven.

As always, thank you for sharing a piece of your mental universe with readers. A little escapism never goes awry. For this being your first book as well as the first book in the series, I think you did well – and I look forward to reading more as you grow as an author. C-

Mary Kate

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REVIEW:  Run to You by Rachel Gibson

REVIEW: Run to You by Rachel Gibson


“There’s nothing like fleeing Miami to ruin a girl’s day.

Stella Leon’s bartending gig was going fine until gorgeous retired Marine Beau Junger decked her mob-connected boss, spirited her out of the city, and claimed that Stella’s half-sister—the one with the perfect life—sent him. Now Stella has no choice but to go along for the ride . . . and seduce Beau’s military-issue socks off . . .

The Marine Corps was Beau’s escape from his old man’s legacy of naval heroism and serial philandering, but no amount of training could prepare him for the day he looked in the mirror and saw his father staring back. The answer: swear off meaningless sex. Oh, and find a way to make Stella Leon quit being so damn hot . . .”

Dear Ms. Gibson,

We’re back for the (I think) 2nd book in this series and it’s about Sadie’s illegitimate sister Stella. Stella has always felt unwanted by her rich father who basically paid a huge trust fund to Stella’s mother to manage until Stella’s 25th birthday or marriage to keep them all away from the Hollowell family in Texas. Stella has never felt as good as beautiful blonde, debutante Sadie and has stumbled through life with a few jouvie incidents with the law and by working as a singer and bartender. She’s apprehensive about meeting her sister and stunned to learn that up til now, Sadie hasn’t known about her.

RuntoYou_RachelGibson_300Beau is a former marine sniper who now runs, surprise surprise, a security company who has been tasked by his twin brother, who is friends with Sadie’s fiancé, to find Stella and deliver the news her sister wants to meet her. Only events don’t play out like Beau planned and he inadvertently gets Stella in trouble with her boss who has mob connections. Now Beau has to drive Stella from Florida to Texas and both of them aren’t sure they’re going to survive being in that close contact with the other without one of them committing murder. Can love bloom along the interstate?

I can take one or two characters being unlikeable or difficult but so many of them makes a book hard to read for me. Stella is a woman with some quirks and annoying habits while Beau is downright crude. And no I’m not going to give him a by based on 18 years in the military and a dickwad of a father. Being in the military doesn’t have to mean you’re a uncouth bore. Even Stella’s family sounds like a pack of bloodsucking leeches living off her trust fund. And then there’s her boss Ricky and his mob buddies. I was halfway into the book and not really liking anyone – including Beau’s mother who gives off a slightly creepy vibe and spills family secrets the minute she meets Stella, hinting that she wants her son to marry and start giving her grandchildren.

On the plus side, the plot is coherent and well thought out. It’s a road trip from Annoyance Land as these two tick each other off yet feel a strong sexual attraction. Neither of them will dive into that for two reasons – he’s tired of his “hook up for a night” lifestyle which suddenly reminds him too much of his philandering father and has decided to remain celibate until he finds his One and Only while Sadie is still a (technical) virgin depending on how one feels about oral sex and also waiting for Mr. Right before giving it up. Then suddenly after their night of hot and heavy in New Orleans – whether or not it’s sex depends on your idea of if Bill Clinton was right or not – feelings seem to be developing. Really?

Beau’s thinking Stella isn’t as annoying now that he’s gotten his hands on her fine ass while Stella is annoyed that she lost control and yelled she loved him as she hurtled towards her orgasm while he maintained his icy control. Added stress arrives now that they’ve arrived in Texas and the sisters meet but it just as quickly dissipates as Stella’s “feeling of inadequacy” plot line fizzes out.

Well, okay then what’s left to settle? Why it’s whether or not Beau will admit to any feelings beyond caring for Stella. She’s pissed, he’s confused and now off to help his twin brother in what will probably be the set up for a future book. Then, suddenly, Beau realizes his feelings are lurve. How did this happen?, he asks himself. And I’m wondering the same thing. There’s a grandiose public statement of love, delivered Marine style with sound/light effects but I’m sorry, I just didn’t see the love striking any more than Beau did. It is a fast read but not a very convincing one. C-



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