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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:  The Dark Witch: Book One in The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy by Nora Roberts

REVIEW: The Dark Witch: Book One in The Cousins O’Dwyer...

Dear Ms. Roberts:

Winter, 1263. Sorcha, the Dark Witch, is being relentlessly pursued for her power by the evil sorcerer, Cabhan. Her husband is fighting in another war, and she’s home with her children: Brannaugh, Eammon and Teagan. Each of her children has the gift of magick as well, as evidenced by their special animal guides, a hawk, a horse and a dog, who protect each child. She’ll go to any length to protect and defend them, and the magick within her. But in order to vanquish Cabhan, she must harness both her power and that of her children. Sadly, in banishing Cabhan, Sorcha dies, and the legacy of the three who comprise the Dark Witch lives on, as does Cabhan, who will stop at nothing to steal their power.

Nora Roberts Dark WitchCounty Mayo, 2013. Iona Sheehan has sold all of her belongings and left her beloved Nan, and neglectful parents to move to Ireland and find work. She’s hoping to meet and make a connection with her cousins, Connor and Branna O’Dwyer. She knows the story of Sorcha and knows that magick lives within her, but she has no idea how to harness it. But she’s hoping in finding her cousins, they’ll complete the Dark Witch three and she’ll be able to learn to control the power within her.

Of course, Iona’s coming to Ireland revitalizes Cabhan. He wants her power and immediately identifies her as the weak link of the Three. Iona must scramble to catch up with her cousins who have known of their power and been taught from a very young age to handle it. Branna immediately invites Iona to come and live with her and her brother, Connor and to begin to learn about the magick within herself. Iona readily accepts and finds a job at the local stables working for a man named Boyle McGrath. Iona is an exceptional horsewoman, always having enjoyed a mental connection with horses.

The horse, big and beautiful at easily sixteen hands, tested his rider with the occasional buck and dance, and even with the distance, she could see the fierce gleam in his eyes. His smoke gray coat showed some sweat, though the morning stayed cool – and his ears stayed stubbornly back.

But the man, big and beautiful as well, had his measure. Iona heard his voice, the challenge in it if not the words, as he kept the horse at a trot.

And something in her, just at the sounds of his voice, stirred. Nerves, excitement, she told herself, because the man held her happiness in his hands.

But as they drew closer, the stir grew to a flutter. Attraction struck her double blows – heart and belly as, oh, he really was as magnificent as the horse. And every single bit as appealing to her. – Kindle location 1637

Of course, Alastair (the horse), is Iona’s animal guide for her adventure. The connection between Boyle and Iona is every bit as strong, but Boyle, aware of the impropriety of wanting someone he’s just hired to work for him, is reluctant to become involved with her. That being said, he can’t seem to stop hauling to off her feet and into his arms. But he’s cranky about it. As the two of them fall more deeply in love with each other, Cabhan’s power grows and the cousins must join together to again try to vanquish him before he steals the power of the Dark Witch.

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Nora Roberts book as much as I did this one. The last series didn’t work for me, nor have the last few stand alones. But this book features two things that I’ve always connected with in Roberts’ writing: Ireland and witches. The “Born in” trilogy and the “Three Sisters” trilogies are my two favorites by her. So this series was already almost a “gimme”. The book sets up an interesting mythology by focusing the first three chapters on Sorcha and her battle against Cabhan, raising the stakes and investing the reader in the power and a mother’s determination to protect her children. By the time we arrive in modern day Ireland, I found myself fully invested in the urgency of the battle to protect the Dark Witch’s power.

I very much liked the heroine, and I always enjoy Nora’s cranky heroes, of which Boyle is most definitely one. But really their characterization doesn’t necessarily cover any new ground. That being said, the sense of place, of County Mayo, is so vividly drawn you can almost smell the peat moss burning. As always, the relationships between siblings, cousins, and friends are entertaining to read about. I also really enjoyed that when the couple hit a speed bump (and it’s a pretty good one), they handle it like adults, even though it pains both of them to do it. The final battle in the book doesn’t really seem like one, but that’s probably because there are two more books to come.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure if my enjoyment of this book came from the fact that I was finally reading a new Nora Roberts that I actually really liked, or if the book is really that well done. Either way, this is a book that I really liked and am happy to give a recommendation to, particularly for readers of Nora’s who haven’t really liked her more recent releases. This feels like “old school” Nora Roberts to me, and I mean that in the very best possible way. The Dark Witch gets a B+ from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

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