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REVIEW:  Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

REVIEW: Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

Dear Ms. Ione:

I enjoyed the “Demonica” series and liked the spin-off “Lords of Deliverance” series even more, but this book, which debuts a new paranormal romance series set in a different alternate universe, just didn’t work for me. I’m having some troubling articulating why, but my biggest clue is that I’m having no desire whatsoever to return to this world or to follow any of these characters into future books.

boundEight year old Nicole knows something’s up. Normally a vampire servant (yes, vampire servants!) would keep his eyes humbly down, but not today: “This time, he looked at her the way her dad looked at the Thanksgiving turkey.” But no one listens to her, and just a little while later, most of Nicole’s family is dead and she is badly injured and severely traumatized.

Twenty years later, Nicole is a scientist at her family’s company, specializing in exploiting vampire physiology for human uses. But she’s aghast when, as the new CEO, she’s accused of ordering the death of numerous vampires — although she’s very frightened of them, the memory of her beloved vampire nanny (yes, her vampire nanny!) keeps her from seeing all vampires as vicious animals. When she’s kidnapped by a vampire named Riker, who needs her to order the release of one of her company’s test subjects, she begins to understand how wrong the human treatment of vampires really is. Also Riker? Really hot.

I think the aim was for something new and interesting here, but for me the mix was just so off. The elements that strive to be new — the worldbuilding — seem confused and ridiculous. There’s all kinds of complicated who-has-to-drink-what-kind-of-blood-when scenarios that made me tired.  The clan names — MoonBound and ShadowSpawn — have an incongruous, off-putting high fantasy sound to them. And enslaved, defanged vampires as nannies and butlers — seriously?  The blatant parallel to American slavery makes no sense whatsoever — though the use of the vampires for scientific experiments sadly does — and it’s presented in a squirm-inducing way. The racist who loved her nanny is such a well-known cliche — perhaps that was the point but if so, it didn’t come across, especially when late in the book Nicole then goes on to think about the enemy clan as “what amounted to a den of wild animals.” Yeah, some real consciousness raised there. There’s also a Native American connection to vampirism which made me uncomfortable. Again, possibly I missed the point, but it felt exploitative.

And then the elements that strive to be the usual enjoyable mixture — the basic characters and relationship — came off as a little stale. Dudes are cruel, violent, and kinda homophobic — until they inexplicably fall for a woman, and then they’re also protective and endlessly horny. Women are tough — especially on each other. I’m having trouble commenting on the relationship between Nicole and Riker because there just isn’t much to say about it. The sex is hot, there’s a bit of a twist caused by Riker’s guilt over his dead mate (the previously mentioned nanny — slightly icky, but that’s probably just me) and it did make my heart happily twinge a few times.  I’d say I mostly enjoyed the relationship — just not quite enough. I never got swept away with fast-paced excitement, which is really what this type of book is for.

In the end, what it all came down to is that neither the worldbuilding nor the romance were captivating enough for me to not be bothered by how intensely violent and upsetting much of the book is. (It’s the same thing that eventually happened to me with the show “TrueBlood” — and the comparison is an apt one.) Other issues aside, there’s a lot of gore, torture, and general awfulness.  I really needed to be swept away to make it worthwhile.

I wish I were sharing this review with another reviewer, because I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of conveying what other readers might like about the story.  I’m sure there’s an audience for it, and honestly, because of how much I got into other Ione books, I’m surprised and disappointed that it isn’t me. But it isn’t.  C -.

Sincerely,

Willaful

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REVIEW:  Artful Deceptions by Patricia Rice

REVIEW: Artful Deceptions by Patricia Rice

Dear Ms. Rice,

I bought this book several weeks ago after another of your books was featured in one of our daily deals. I’ve always meant to get back to your trad regencies after enjoying “Mad Maria’s Daughter” and the description of this one made it look like slightly madcap fun. The positives of star crossed lovers, a stolen painting with Deep Significance and lots of family connections are undone by a meandering plot and dry romances that seemed to drag more slowly the further I got.

Artful-Deceptions
I have to be honest and say that this book sounded better in theory than it turned out to be in reality. Generally I enjoy a mismatched lovers plot – but with the caveat that I know who belongs with whom – which can be a goldmine of opportunity for fun as they and those around them zig zag and backtrack to a HEA . Here I was initially unsure for quite a long time of exactly what the final pairing would be which made me feel off balance. It’s a personal bugaboo but I want to know who to root for romantically. Eventually the pairing became clear but the romances still left me unsatisfied for a number of reasons. First, all four characters are stubborn and too mule headed for most of the book. Watching them crack heads, seemingly willfully disbelieve their own feelings and those of others quickly moved past interesting and into boring. How many times would they spout the same nonsense? How many times would another character attempt to talk sense into someone? How long would the misunderstandings continue? It felt endless. Arianne is practical and Melanie is emotional and they both managed to annoy me as one obstinately refuses to see love in front of her and the other mulishly pushes for love Right Now just because she wants it Right Now. The hero who dodges her sulky self is the lucky one, IMO.

The heroes aren’t much better. Galen has decided he’ll make an offer more because it’s expected, does so and is rejected. His next offer takes place practically overnight and he can’t see that the new woman he offers for has trouble believing his sincerity? At this point he decides to pursue this romance slowly which then drags this relationship to a crawl. Meanwhile, Rhys has muddied the waters by seeking a marriage of convenience despite being madly in love with another but refuses to act on that due to family circumstance. He practically has to be dragged, kicking and screaming into admitting his love and even then refuses to make a bid for true love. At this point, I simply wanted to kick some sense into the four of them as there appeared to be no HEA in sight.

The book is further hampered by one of my least favorite stock characters: the muddle headed, idiot father. Dumbass fathers/husbands who can’t get their heads out of their cracks to realize the appalling mess their moronic selves have created by their endless devotion to something stupid drive me mental. His wife’s health is declining, his eldest daughter is left to try and keep his other neglected children from acting like monkeys in a zoo and daddy dearest can only rarely pull his head out of a fog to acknowledge they exist. Most of the other characters merely wander through the story from time to time in order to force me to try and keep yet another of them straight in my head.

There is a long held secret to be uncovered but by this point, I just barely cared enough to keep reading. With one couple held at arm’s length by the hero’s pride and the other only slowly getting to know each other, the romance is pretty dry here. By dint of skimming I got the the end but the payoff didn’t match the effort expended to get there. D

~Jayne

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