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Latina heroine

REVIEW:  The Devil in Midwinter by Elise Forier Edie

REVIEW: The Devil in Midwinter by Elise Forier Edie

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A handsome stranger, a terrifying monster, a boy who burns and burns…

Mattawa, Washington, is usually a sleepy orchard town come December, until a murder, sightings of a fantastic beast, and the arrival of a handsome new vintner in town kindle twenty-year-old reporter Esme Ulloa’s curiosity—and maybe her passion as well. But the more she untangles the mystery, the more the world Esme knows unspools, until she finds herself navigating a place she thought existed only in storybooks, where dreams come alive, monsters walk the earth and magic is real. When tragedy strikes close to home, Esme finds she must strike back, matching wits with an ancient demon in a deadly game, where everything she values stands to be lost, including the love of her life.

Dear Ms. Edie,

Fantasy novels aren’t usually my forte but when I read your submission to our site, what caught my interest was that it’s not about the generic vampire, shifter, were-creature, European-centric characters that populate this genre. No, we’re going to get NA skinwalkers and – better still – Aztec mythology and a Latina heroine here.

Even after reading the excerpt, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this novella. Monsters, fantasy, a handsome guy who can set things on fire and heirloom apples. It’s definitely not the usual paranormal. Finding out just what was going on was half the fun yet also frustrating at times.

This is a novella so words count. Using a compact, quick writing style to get in necessary info works well. The descriptions can neatly nail a situation such as how Esme’s suddenly chaotic life is “like an upended junk drawer.” Or the prose can gently settle around you.

Grief is a little like being in a fresh snowfall. A light, cold curtain falls between you and the rest of the world. Simple things like opening your front door, walking down your front walk are suddenly more difficult. You slide unexpectedly into hurtful places. The earth seems to shift under your feet. You find yourself wanting to stay inside, hunker down. You stare out the window at a place you no longer recognize. It used to be your world, but now it belongs to the white, bleak cold.

However at the halfway point I noted that “I’m grasping part of what the plot is but there’s enough which is hidden that intrigues me. Obviously Esme doesn’t quite get it but delicate clues are dropped along with some wowzers like the mystery man suddenly appearing but then she doesn’t know what we know.” It’s not all mysterious – like the initial funny bits with Esme’s boss Annie and their mutual hotcha reaction to their interview with Colter. And I adore Great Pyrenees so was happy to see Blob, Fluff and Fitzsimmons taking active roles in the story.

But then I’d go back to being frustrated that no one will tell her the truth. Why the secrets if – as they’re hinted at – they’re so important? Only to draw out tension and suspense over the course of the story? Okay so once the whys and wherefores are revealed it kind of makes sense in this world building but it still gets annoying over the course of the story that the people who can help her seemingly won’t.

Suddenly! she “wakes up” by visiting Tia Donna across the river? Suddenly! everything makes sense. Okay let’s go with that. Esme has made mistakes, as Tia Donna points out, which makes her real, makes her human instead of some cardboard superhero. But she also, as Donna points out, gets to be her own hero, her own savior. Xavier can help but it’s Esme who has the power to save herself and must save herself.

The final showdown with evil is enough to make me want to stay away from skinwalker stories for a while. But I do desperately want to learn more of Xilonen and could certainly use the Goddess of Corn’s help with my scraggly roses. Esme and her love might be young but after all they’ve gone through, I think they’re ready and mature enough for their HEA.

I think the strengths here are the writing style, unusual mythos, and a heroine who triumphs by her will and inner strength instead of being merely kick-ass. The main weakness is a frustrating seeming lack of clarity. Overall, glad I read it. It makes me want to taste some of these heirloom apples and read Aztec myths. B

~Jayne

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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-

~Jayne

 

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