Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


REVIEW:  Embrace the Dark by Caris Roane

REVIEW: Embrace the Dark by Caris Roane

Dear Ms. Roane:

I am a big fan of the Guardians of Ascension series and I was excited to see another volume from you despite it being in a different world. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing in this self published novella (or published with the help of an agency) is just not as strong as it is in the traditionally published series. There is a combination of poor copyediting along with poor content editing which made for a confusing and stuttering read.  While not a part of the Ascension world, this story borrows heavily from elements contained in the Ascension world (as if it is almost Ascension fan fiction)

embrace the dark caris roaneThere are two parallel realms as in the Ascension series. The second realm is the paranormal one with wraith pairs that wreak havoc on the Nine Realms of North America.  The wraith pairs are the evil that the faeries, vampires, trolls and other paranormal creatures fight.  Mastyr Vampire Gerrod is the ruler of Merhaine, one of the Nine Realms and he has an attraction for Abigail Kirkland, a human baker.  I think this is billed as an erotic romance but it wasn’t any spicier or more explicit that the traditionally published works (or kinkier because what could be kinkier than a vampire who tongues the flesh of tangerines pretending it is his mate’s sex, see for exampleWings of Fire)  At one point, Gerrod mentions that Abigail tastes like rosemary (the characters all have smells in the Ascension series which practically translates into “by their smell you shall know them”).

Vampires aren’t supposed to mate with humans.  It is akin to taking forest gremlins to bed, but Abigail is able to speak telepathically to Gerrod; she can tune into his frequency and stir his mating frenzy.  Gerrod does not want to respond to her for she is too weak to survive in his realm and his people would not accept him taking her as a mate.   Abigail has always thought Gerrod has disliked her and she has tried to stay away from him.  Seeing him fight the wraiths stirs something in her.

The major story arc concerns Gerrod’s softening not just toward Abigail but toward life in general.   The romance is very familiar and jumps from hate to lust to love quickly even for this lengthy novella.  But the weak story is combined weak, unpolished writing.  There are several awkward sentences. “Of course” and many other bridges are inconsistently punctuated, sometimes with commas sometimes without. Northern Realm was sometimes capitalized and sometimes not.

The story had blatant inconsistencies, often within the same scene. After a wedding that Abigail has provided food for a troll comes up to her.  Abigail knows that trolls can’t keep a secret.

In fact, the saying among realm was that if you kept a secret like a troll, it meant you never kept a secret, that you couldn’t keep a secret if your life depended on it.

The troll tells her that the hero loves her even if the hero treats her poorly.  She immediately starts confiding in him, this total stranger whom she knows has no compunction about gossiping far and wide:

He met his gaze once more. Because she wanted to understand the position of the castle staff, and especially Gus’s take on the subject, she said, “Gerrod kissed me this evening.”

Gus’s eyes went wide. She couldn’t help but laugh. She knew his gossipy kind well, but she also knew something else. He was a wise troll and she trusted him, so she added, “I kissed him back.”

Even the voice, the crazy and confident nature of the writing of the Ascension series, was missing here.  I’ll definitely be picking up the next Ascension book but this self published effort was definitely a step down in quality.  D

Best regards,



REVIEW:  Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

REVIEW: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

Dear Ms. Frost:

I haven’t read you in a quite a while but many readers, including those in my “trust” circle thought this was a great story. Given that it was the start of a new series, I felt like I could safely enter the world without being too confused. I was able to rustle up a free copy that Avon had sent to my house for a no risk read.

Once Burned (Night Prince Series #1) by Jeaniene FrostThe story is narrated in the first person by the female protagonist Leila. As a teenager, she was electrocuted when she touched a downed power line. This event transformed her instead of killing her. Now her right hand sends bolts of electricity into whomever she touches and she can read the greatest sin of a person or their thoughts before dying. She may even have a little foresight gift.

Because of her gifts, she is targeted by vampires who wish to take down Vlad, the Impaler, a centuries old vampire. Vlad comes to her rescue and offers her a bargain – protection in exchange for her services. Leila has little choice. If she doesn’t go with Vlad, she’ll be targeted by more vampires. If she goes with Vlad, she becomes somewhat of an indentured servant, albeit a cosseted, protected one.

I was taken aback by how easily Leila assimilated to her new world, being Vlad’s business partner aka prisoner, drinking blood from the source, using her powers regularly to see people’s worst sin and gain insight to be used for Vlad’s furtherance, and giving up her virginity. She easily accepts that he is a “good” guy and I really didn’t understand why. Perhaps she was clued in that he was the main male character in the book and thus must be good like we readers.

It was told in the first person and thus Vlad’s obsession toward her seemed sudden and out of place. This centuries old vampire is calling her “mine” just after a short acquaintance. She’s the only one who has slept in his bed or shared the room adjoining his. Why her? I wondered if I had missed out on Vlad’s character. As I read other reviews, many of them referred to Vlad’s appearances in previous Frost series. Perhaps if I had met him before, I would have understood his character better. I think the first person narration really affected my enjoyment of the story. I wished I had known more about Vlad but not simply through Leila’s eyes.

About the midway point, the story picked up speed when Vlad and Leila try to discover who is the source of danger to them. Leila’s abilities ease the way.

I felt like this was a safe story. It was apparent from the beginning that Vlad and Leila would be lovers when her electrical bolts appeared like foreplay for Vlad instead of painful punishment; when Vlad’s feelings for Leila are intensely returned. Even when Leila was in danger, I never had any moments of uncertainty. One scene has both Leila’s legs broken and the next scene Vlad’s blood has healed her and they are passionately kissing and fondling each other. Possibly the biggest uncertainty came at the end of the story which ends, not quite in a cliffhanger, but unresolved. But because of its safe nature, it’s a bit of a comfort read. It’s a sexy story with a hot billionaire vampire who dotes upon his mortal but powerful girlfriend. C+

Best regards,