Review: The Black Towers (The Grimm Chronicles, Volume 10) by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky

the black towersReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Alice Goodenough is not pleased, not when her loved one has been claimed by Death once again. With only her tears to comfort her waking nights, she mourns a world without a hero, and she is plunged into a world of despair for she realises no one she loves is safe from the evil that walks the earth, not her friends, her lover or her family.

Review: The story starts with Alice and the gold child, a young boy who begs to be taken away from the darkness that comes for him on a busy street. The smoke that comes for him is all consuming, but at least there is a recap of prior events in the previous novels that stops us feeling confused.

You can really feel how unhappy and frustrated everyone is at Seth’s demise. As he is not around anymore, it makes every moment worse than the last. He was a key character and the one true hero they could all rely on when all else felt it would be lost. It is Alice who bears the pain most though, and this could either make her want to fight against the coming evil, or surrender to it depending on how much pain and sorrow she feels.

Good bits:

  • There’s a recap of the previous events in the novels, which is a good idea.
  • Lots of characters to enjoy!
  • It’s a novel instead of being several stories in a compilation.
  • You can feel the pain of the characters.
  • The references to Twilight and Lemony Snicket and various other pop culture references. Hilarious!

Bad bits:

  • It starts slower than the previous novel, but other than that – it’s a good read.

Final Thoughts: For those who have read the previous novel, they won’t be able to wait until the next one after reading this one. It is a sad one at the beginning with the death of Seth as it has a detrimental effect on everyone who knew him. I found it almost comical that he had been tested by Chase and passed. I couldn’t blame Chase for what he did, he wasn’t sure about him at the start of their friendship, and as Seth knew of Alice’s double life, he thought he might eventually betray her. Lucky for her and the others it didn’t happen, but Seth did die, which was a shame as he was a decent character. It’s not easy getting rid of a main character, but it does create some great turmoil as a result. The real question to ask Alice is whether his death will cause her to fall into a deep despair so bad she won’t be able to defeat the evil if it comes back, or whether she will get her revenge on it.

After this novel, I’m looking forward to the next.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Black Towers (The Grimm Chronicles)

Fall in Love with these Beastly Heroes

when beauty tamed the beastI don’t know about you, but I grew up on Beauty and the Beast, and to-date it is still my favorite Disney cartoon. I love Belle’s quiet grace and inherent sweetness, not to mention she doesn’t flinch at the unexpected, like talking objects. She knows when her imagination is caught up in a book and when reality can inspire the imagination to take flight.

But let me be honest, as much as I love Belle, I love the Beast more. I’m tempted to say I like him best in his beastly form, but he’s a pretty hot French prince too. Some think his name is Adam, but this distinction comes from another source, not the Disney cartoon. To Disney and little girls everywhere, he is simply the Beast.

My love for this particular movie has translated to my romance novels. In the romance genre, a beastly hero is not actually a beast (unless we are talking paranormal romances, and then that’s a whole other ball of wax.) Instead, he’s a man who is either naturally ugly (think big noses, harsh features, black eyes… hawk-like) or horrifically wounded (heroes with aching heads fit here too.) Generally speaking, the hero is scarred on his face and/or torso and has a beastly temper to match his beastly looks. He is almost always a (rich) recluse, locked away in a mansion or castle.

His heroine, like Belle, is usually a beauty who sees beneath the surface of his gruff exterior to the aching heart within the man. As she tries to crack the protection around his heart and scale the walls to the softie lurking within — he’s trying to build more barriers. A beastly hero constantly pulls away and tries to hide from his feelings. Every extrication attempt fails, until suddenly he yields to the love he feels. When he does, it’s extremely hot. No wonder this is one of my favorite plot tropes!

Here are some of my particular favorite romances, featuring beastly heroes:

Tell me about the beastly heroes with whom you fell in love. Share in the comments, because I am always looking out for the next diamond in the rough!

Audio Review: The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, Book 4) by Eloisa James

ugly duchessHeroine: Theodora “Daisy” Saxby (am I the only one that thinks sackbut at that last name?) isn’t ugly, but she’s not the standard of beauty. Her features are very foreign but some haters call her features mannish and dub her the Ugly Duchess. Daisy is determined to catch the eye of some buck on the marriage mart, but after James’ lovely proposal, realizes she’s loved him all along. She wants to be his bride and show him how much she loves him.

Hero: Sinfully handsome James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, must marry and soon because his father gambled it all away and he also dipped into Daisy’s funds as her guardian. James can’t imagine marrying his best friend, not because she’s ugly, but because the idea for why he must is so repugnant and deceitful. Then of course he’s not in love with her. So when his father spills the beans and humiliates his new bride, James doesn’t argue with her dictate that he leave and never come back. He’s ashamed to have betrayed his Daisy and realizes too late that he does love her.

Review: This romance features a married couple and is classified as an estranged romance because they are apart for many years before the real wooing begins. James returns to Britain as a bonifide pirate, tattoo and all, just in time to stop the House of Lords from declaring him dead. I like him as a pirate, much better than as a near-virgin hero – he was a beta hero in many respects. I preferred Daisy at the beginning of her marriage, not her new persona she developed after she kicked James out. The chemistry was good at the beginning of the story and peters out quickly. My favorite scene is James’ reappearance in London and Daisy swooning.

Narrator: I did not like Susan Duerden’s voice. It had a nasal quality to it that bugged me from the get-go. She can whip out a crazy evil father voice that sounds like another person is reading though. Wow. Good voice acting there!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: The Ugly Duchess

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Audio Review: Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed (Sons of Sin, Book 1) by Anna Campbell

seven nights of sinHero: Jonas Merrick is the illegitimate son of the late Viscount Hillbrook. In his youth, his cousin, William Merrick, the new Lord Hillbrook, slashed his face deep leaving him permanently disfigured. His deepest desire to exact revenge on William and his plans are going smoothly right up until William’s wife, Roberta, sends her virgin spinster sister to pay of the debt she owes Jonas. What the hell! Intrigued by her gumption and her beauty, Jonas strikes a new deal – and might just wind up offering his heart in the bargain too.

Heroine: Sidonie Forsythe will not let Jonas ruin her sister, who is in a very difficult situation at home, so she takes Roberta’s place in the beast’s bed. When they meet, she is able to change the agreement a little bit. Instead of taking her virginity outright, Sidonie is allowed to resist, if she can, his charms. Seven nights in Jonas’ bed, sparks a desire in her heart to be with him for always and she wants to give into it, but the secret she holds could be her undoing.

Review: Despite the fact that Jonas is not quite beastly enough, and the Gothic atmosphere is not quite heavy enough, the story is undoubtedly a great retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was very drawn to both the hero and heroine. Their chemistry was off the charts. Like Sidonie, you will want to give into Jonas. His emotional scars are deep and you want to see them healed. If you are like me, you will be grabbed by the get go and be sad to see it end.

Narrator: Antony Ferguson has a wonderful voice. I loved to listen to him. He can read me a historical romance any time he wants.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed (Sons of Sin)

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Review: For the Love of a Goblin Warrior (Shadowlands, Book 3) by Shona Husk

For the Love of a Goblin WarriorI loved the first two books in this series. Hush has an amazing ability to weave a mesmerizing story with a magical dark fairytale feel to it. And she achieves that again in For the Love of a Goblin. This book can be read as a stand-alone, but I recommend reading the first two because compared to the first two books this one doesn’t quite measure up. It is good, but the pacing of the story is a little awkward.

Meryn was the first of Roan’s men to go goblin and spent 2000 years as one. When the curse was broken and Dia pulled him from the Shadowlands he was about as broken as a man could be. And like all fairytales, his fate is entwined with another. Nadine’s world fell apart when her mother was murdered 20 years ago and her father was convicted. She was witness to the crime but can’t remember what she saw and hasn’t communicated with her dad at all. Her father is now out on parole. Meryn and Nadine are both wanting to move on with their lives, but not sure how too. Their emotional wounds are deep and dark.

Husk spends most the book slowly developing their relationship and there is a big build up to their first kiss and love making, which is totally worth it. There is a lot of time spent on them working through their individual issues such as Nadine and her father and what really happened the night her mother disappeared and Meryn coming to terms with why he turned goblin and having to face his king and adjusting to his new life. While I liked the characters I think too much time was spent on this aspect of the book.

The big reveal when Nadine finds out about Meryn’s past life and how she reacts is dealt with in the last four chapters. It all happened way too fast compared to the pace of the rest of the story. Sort of a let down from a writing perspective for me.

Not every book in a series can be a homerun to a reader and this one is more like a double with a RBI for me. I will keep reading this series because I love the beautiful and dark fairytale Husk has created.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: For the Love of a Goblin Warrior (Shadowlands)

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Review: Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women edited by Kristina Wright

Angela Knight says in the foreword, “Now, I loved the Disney version of that story [Beauty and the Beast] – but am I the only one who wondered if Belle felt cheated when her raging Alpha beast became a handsome Beta male?”

I too have wondered the same and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who would like to read a sexier edge in fairytales. Here are my quick reviews of shorts in this anthology collection:

The Obedient Wife by Delilah Devlin (5 Stars) – A very naughty fairytale retelling where a miller’s daughter tries to earn enough gold on her looks to thwart her greedy father’s attempts to marry her off. Before she could save enough to disappear she finds herself at a castle with a great hulking beast inside ready to pleasure them both. She, unlike Belle, gets the best of both worlds: the sex starved Beast and the extremely handsome man.

How the Little Mermaid Got Her Tail Back by Andrea Dale (4.5 Stars) – This BDSM fairytale has a whole lot of exhibitionism. Her mermaid outfit involved nipple clamps and a tail with an attached vibrating dildo. How many diners at this fancy new restaurant can tell she’s orgasming over and over at her lover’s command?

Ducking by Craig Sorensen (2 Stars) – Not one of my favorites to be honest. As a retelling of the Ugly Duckling it didn’t do much for me. A masculine looking athletic woman gets a makeover and buys herself a new closet and gets it on with a neighbor.

Three Times by Justine Elyot (3 Stars) – The Kingdom’s Princess was trapped by a sinister vine that wound up and down her naked body, invading places no Princess should have invaded except by her husband, if you catch my drift. One lucky person would get to marry the Princess if they could free her from this evil plant. I liked the premise of the story. I would have been more comfortable with it had it been strictly F/M instead of F/F/M. It’s a matter of personal preference really.

Ellie and the Shoemaker by Louisa Harte (3 Stars) – Mild mannered entrepreneur with a shoe business is quickly heading into debt until his sexy assistant begins making sexy shoes that sell for high prices. When he discovers her one night, the next he presents her with her own pair of shoes and a proposition she can’t turn down. It’s a cute little story about sharing burdens and passions.

The Pub Owner’s Daughter by Alegra Verde (3.5 Stars) – As a baby Treasure was gifted/cursed with a chastity-like spell. She could partake in sex, but she was not fulfilled by it. The man who could unlock her would have to be special indeed. He was and he was equally cursed himself.

Sleep Tight by Janine Ashbless (3 Stars) – A house cover in bramble for ten years is finally going to see the light of day when a man with a yard business is hired to clear a path to the front door. He sneaks inside the house and finds to his surprise a very still very beautiful woman lying on a bed. Is she dead or alive? He must find out. Fun surprising twist at the end.

Her Hair is a Net, Woven by Shanna Germain (3 Stars) – Sensual. Dark. A woman made of the sea with red stockings takes for herself a lover. He is a man ready to drown, but she does not want that for him. Another figure threatens both.

Mind Your Peas and Qs by Allison Wonderland (3 Stars) – A reversal of roles makes this short a retelling of Prince and the Pea. A thirty year old princess wants to date and with her parents permission she starts interviewing potential princes looking for the Real Deal.

In the Dark Woods by Kristina Wright (4 Stars) – Pretty hot stuff. A man cheats on his wife with an artist. The more they are together the more the man infiltrates her art. Everything is primitive… raw.

Gildi and the Unwieldy, Ineffectual Committee of Bears by Jeremy Edwards (2.5 Stars) – This one was kind of meh for me. A horny singer is looking for a place to get herself off. The first is too loud. The second has a cat. The last… well the last is just right.

Frosted Glass by Aurelia T. Evans (2 Stars) – A retelling of the The Snow Queen which involves glass in the eye and losing ones ability to feel. The point of this one is the distance and the author does a good job with it, but it wasn’t for me.

Gingerbread Man by Carol Hassler (3.5 Stars) – A woman bakes herself a life size replica of the husband she lost and it comes to life in this quirky little erotica short. Can a gingerbread man replace a real man?

All in a Day’s Work by Saskia Walker (2 Stars) – A sex fairy godmother is going to grant a boss and secretary their secret wish. I felt this one ended kind of abruptly. It hinted at a lot which is good for the imagination, but it left a lot out too.

Big Bad Wolf (An excerpt) by Alana Noel Voth (4 Stars) – Not the expected Red Riding Hood… though there is a wolf. A well written piece. After you read it you’ll want to read the full version.

The Kiss by Michelle Augelllo-Page (3.5 Stars) – Be careful what you say while having sex… that’s all I’m saying. This sexy encounter doesn’t end like you’d expect.

The Return by Charlotte Stein (5 Stars) – A wife is surprised by the changes in her husband. In my opinion this is definitely one of the best shorts in this collection. It’s hot, sensual, and a little bit forbidden.

The Stone Room by A.D.R. Forte (2 Stars) – A man good at winning and achieving victory learns to let go and be submissive. I liked a few things about this piece and if there had been more with the “old” wise woman I would have liked it more. As it was there was some sharing going on and I’m just not into that.

In the end I think fairytales should be for grownups too, yes? So if you’re in the mood for a dive into the more sensual side of fairytales this would be a collection to try on for size.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women

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Get into Bed with Erica Ridley (Author Interview)

I’d like us to extend a warm welcome to a Kensington Zebra debut author. Her name is Erica Ridley. Welcome Erica, to Love Romance Passion! We respect every author’s privacy and try our best not to intrude in their private lives. That being said, when did you have your first romantic kiss? I’m kidding, of course! Actually, here’s what I’d really like to know:

Susan: You became a reader at a fairly early age, age three to be exact; what do you like to read?

Erica: In those days, fairy tales. These days, romance! (The more things change, the more they stay the same… LOL.) Actually, I’m a huge fan of genre fiction in general, including mysteries and thrillers and just about anything that packs a punch. But my very favorite is definitely romance, primarily historicals, paranormal, romantic suspense, and contemporary romantic comedies.

Susan: What is it about Regency-set historical romances that appeals to you?

Erica: Oooh, everything! I love the clearly defined roles, the equally defined rules, and the characters who do their best to bend and break them. I love the fashion, the witty banter, the glamorous lives of the ton, and the not-so-glamorous lives of everyone else. In fact, some of my favorite stories involve just such class differences. I also really like the complete lack of modern technology–it opens up the door to so many plot twists that simply wouldn’t work in a contemporary story!

Susan: What states and countries have you visited?

Erica: So far (because it’s my goal to explore as many as possible!) I’ve been lucky enough to visit Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands (Holland), Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. I’ve visited exactly half of the continental US (namely: AZ, CA, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI) and I hope to some day have visited all 50 of our states!

Susan: Do your travels inspire you to write?

Erica: Well… on the one hand, my travels inspire me to procrastinate. I absolutely adore exploring new places, particularly when if the language and/or culture is different from my own. On the other hand, I’ve stumbled across the best surprises while traveling. Tours of historical houses, museums with period furniture or costumes, libraries of old texts. And every time I do, my head overflows with story ideas, and I definitely long to sit down and write!

Susan: In your novel Too Wicked To Kiss, you introduce us to one H-O-T hero named Gavin Lioncroft. Does Gavin know the effect he has on women?

Erica: Mmmm, Gavin Lioncroft…! When he was younger, it’s safe to say he was pretty arrogant about his effect on women. But after being away from Society for so long, he no longer takes that for granted. If anything, he’s now suspicious that those who try to engage him are concealing ulterior motives… and he’s almost always right.

Susan: (Blushing) Does he know the effect he had on me?

Erica: He may not, but Evangeline sure does, and she’s giving you the hairy eyeball right now… ;-)

Susan: The sequel for Too Wicked To Kiss is Too Sinful To Deny. Will it be another whodunit mystery romance?

Erica: There’s definitely a murder to be solved (the hero’s primary goal is avenging his brother’s death) but it’s less of a whodunit-style mystery. It is definitely full of Gothic romance goodness, however!

Susan: Shameless self-promotion here. What would you like to say to readers who haven’t read your novels?

Erica: I would like to say… it’s release week! What are you waiting for? LOL. Actually, I’d like to say that I try to write sensual, suspenseful, atmospheric love stories, and I hope you enjoy Too Wicked To Kiss!

Thank you Erica, for spending the day with us here at Love Romance Passion. Please feel free to visit us anytime!

Buy: Too Wicked To Kiss