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REVIEW:  Midwinter Magic by Erica Ridley

REVIEW: Midwinter Magic by Erica Ridley


After an eye-opening congressional hearing, former corporate shark Jack Morgan redirects his ill-gotten gains toward charity work. However, his attempts to bring holiday cheer to a Bolivian village meet with one disaster after another: canceled flights, crumbling luggage, implacable customs officials. His plans disintegrate further when he runs into a sexy tourist with . . . wings?

As Jack’s guardian angel, Sarah Phimm has her work cut out for her. When his latest volunteer mission risks his life, she’s forced to reveal herself to him—but only in part. She can’t risk him knowing the truth. He’s everything her immortal heart desires, but can never have. She soon discovers that keeping him safe amidst death bridges and tumbling telephone poles is far easier than guarding her heart.

Dear Ms. Ridley,

For me to not finish a novella, things have to go terribly wrong. Usually I don’t even bother to file these write-ups in my Reading List posts much less do a DNF for them but this one compelled me to. It isn’t just that it failed me as a nice, little holiday sugarplum tidbit. It failed me because took my holiday cheer away and stomped on it.

It starts innocently enough with former corporate raider Jack determined to make up for all the rapine and pillaging his companies have done to little hamlets everywhere. He’s Seen the Light and is all about Doing Good in the world. His guardian angel is only concerned with keeping him safe until his predetermined date with death at age 70. She has guidelines to stick to.

After a major screw up on her part in letting Jack see her at all, Sarah has no choice but to stay with him in order to try and keep him from discovering her true identity. But she messes that up too. Then throws herself a pity party when Jack asks her about birthday parties and holiday celebrations in her neck of the woods and it dawns on her – after 1000 years?? – that she’s never had either. But it’s not this maudlin goopiness or having an angel lusting after her super hawt charge that caused me to toss in the towel.

No, there is much more along the way that did that.

Jack is determined – determined, damn it! – to Do Good. He’s got the money so he’s going to not only to spend it on the poor of the world but he’s going to put sweat equity into the bargain. At first this is nice however as the story progressed it began to take on the “white male arrives to save the poor but noble brown peasant” tones. Jack is just so rich and the Bolivians are all just so impoverished and dignified yet so grateful at his generosity.

As I was getting more and more uncomfortable about all this, the final nail in the novella coffin gets hammered. Sarah reveals to Jack that she’s his guardian angel – a mistake of major proportions for her. Her end of the month review will be harsh. Then comes the kicker. Jack wonders why the Bolivians they’re helping are in such desperate straights. Don’t they have guardian angels too? “Well …. um, no,” Sarah tells him. Seems like there aren’t enough to go around and poor, third world Christians apparently need not apply. Then she tries to justify the fact that this rich, white American dude gets one by telling him how much good he and his money are doing for the world and that somehow this balances out. Despite the fact that it was his businesses that have ruined the world, or so Jack thinks.

Pope Francis would be pissed about this and so am I. Slack jawed at the hoops the story is now jumping through to try and maintain the plot, other inconsistencies jumped out at me. Sarah is 1000+ years old but goes into brain freeze when she appears to Jack and picks some bizarre outfits. She’s stuck by his side his entire 35 year life and hasn’t noticed what people usually wear? Then there are her wings. Jack hears them ruffling at times and at others they’re an inconvenience – like when Jack sleeps and drools on them – yet there are times – such as when Sarah sits in the passenger seat of an SUV for hours – where they’re not mentioned at all.

So I’m down to nitpicking at this point but I was just so deeply disappointed in this novella that it’s hard to stop. I think I need to go watch “Bad Santa” to get my holiday buzz back.


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REVIEW:  Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

REVIEW: Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

She was an angel at the gates of Hell.

When Kenan, an incubus, finds a caged angel for sale in the Hellsgate marketplace, he sees her as a challenge. Certain that his skills in seduction will work as well on a heavenly creature as they do on mortal women, he buys Jahel, intent on having her soul as a novelty in his collection.

Knowing he must gain Jahel’s trust if she is to come to his bed willingly, Kenan treats her more as his guest than as his slave. When she reveals what brought her to the mouth of Hell in the first place–retrieving the soul of a young girl she was guarding–he even offers to help her complete her mission.

Though he has promised Jahel freedom, Kenan soon realizes she has captured his heart instead. And as their passion for one another grows, they find themselves caught in a struggle between Heaven and Hell, one that will lead them to the very edge of the apocalypse…

Dear Ms. Lee,

After my fantastic experience reading “Back Across the Styx,” I went on a Karalynn Lee book buying binge. It didn’t matter that I usually avoid angel/demon books like the plague, if it had your name on it, I bought it at Carina. Then I sat eyeing my new bright, shiny ebooks and, flipping a mental coin, opened this one. Oooh, hawt angel/incubus sex. Now I know you can write some smexy stuff too.

The world building is solid with concrete images, sensible actions, and logical set ups and payoffs. The writing style isn’t quite as elegantly spare as “Styx” yet I enjoyed the time spent wandering through the streets and businesses of Hellsgate. Talking cats and hellhounds are fascinating, quirky characters to meet and as much fun as the image of Jahel feeding Edom, one of the four talking horses of the Apocalypse, the remains of her apple pie.

Demons-FallKenan is an incubus and, as such, not exactly a demon prince so the pairing with an angel didn’t sound “I can’t quite buy this” alarm bells. The fact that he wants to lure Jahel into freely loving him and then giving him her soul, rather than forcing her in any way had me breathe a sigh of relief as forced seductions don’t generally work for me. I needn’t have worried as the angels here are also sexual beings though it’s usually just a physical release and nothing deeper. When Jahel and Kenan get down to business, it’s smoking – and not just because they’re at hell’s gate. Their sex is preceeded by trust which slowly builds a firm foundation beyond the physical and even if Kenan initially uses this as a way to lure Jahel to him, it takes their relationship forward.

I found the concept of an archangel and Lilith working together at first contradictory but then totally plausible. It’s kind of like the Baptists and the bootleggers in the South working to keep counties “dry.” In the story, both the denizens of hell and the inhabitants of Heaven have an interest in maintaining the status quo, so when someone sticks a spoke in the wheels, it’s natural for Jahel, Kenan, Lilith and Balaqiel to end up strategizing and fighting on the same side.

But is there a place for a reformed incubus and an angel who willingly gives him her soul? Yes, there is in this world. With the example already included in the story, the efforts Kenan takes to prove himself worthy and the breathtaking trust exhibited by Jahel, I could totally buy their hand-in-hand walk into their sunny future though I might miss talking with Edom when he’s not saddled for world destruction. B



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