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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:  Falling for the Marine by Samanthe Beck

REVIEW: Falling for the Marine by Samanthe Beck

Falling for the Marine (McCade Brothers #2) by Samanthe Beck

Dear Ms. Beck:

Like many books these days, the love relationship between the couple happens nearly instantly and the conflict comes after. In order to enjoy this book, you have to overlook that. Chloe Kincaid is a massage therapist who works for a temporary agency that places her all over the US. Her latest gig is in San Clemente with the Camp Pendleton Massage Therapy Clinic.

Chloe’s got restless feet. She doesn’t like permanent relationships and the itinerant nature of her current position suits her perfectly. In a series of incredulous but somewhat plausible events, Chloe ends up getting kicked out of her temporary housing and ends up staying with her neighbor, Major Michael McCade. Michael is a Marine helicopter pilot grounded due to a sciatic back condition. He’s ordered to get massage therapy which he doesn’t want to do. (He’s so uncomfortable he leaves his socks on – a visual I found hilarious).

Chloe’s massage is so fabulous that she and Michael start fulfilling the age old assumption about what really goes on in those massage rooms. While Chloe acknowledges their cliched encounter with the phrase “Happy Endings” I’m still left wondering why Chloe, a professional, would let things get so far out of hand. I guess they are just so swept away by their passion for each other?

Chloe and Michael are put in the position of needing something from each other. Chloe needs a place to stay and Michael needs for her to pose as his fake fiancé. What follows is predictable and the two suffer what most do in a fake engagement. There isn’t anything surprising in this book but the narrative is swift and the banter is quite good. Not just the bedroom banter but the banter between Michael and his doctor friend as well as the interaction between Michael and his CO. In fact, their exchange at the very end of the book was one of my favorites – a perfect injection of humor at a black moment.

This is a category book and there isn’t any deep exploration of feeling and because the narrative moves by so swiftly, there isn’t any lingering over a particular feeling, not a high or a low. I found Chloe irritating at times (rearranging someone’s furniture when you’re a guest seems like the height of rudeness to me). I understood I was supposed to find her flighty but I didn’t think she needed that characterization. Her inability to settle down was due to past failed relationships and the trauma of her parents’ ugly divorce. That she was trying to find her chi in some rude and silly way detracted from her rather than made her character charming.

I didn’t love the first McCade book because of what I felt was unnecessary slut shaming and the good thing is I didn’t see that in this book anywhere. The sex is just as hot. Michael is a dirty talker (my fave) and even though I didn’t like Chloe moving the furniture or acting like a dumb ass at her place of business, I still found her character appealing. It’s low priced and I think a reader gets the value of the $2.99 so long as she goes in with the expectation that its a fun, sexy contemporary that will occupy a couple hours of her time. C+

Best regards,

Jane

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