Tag Archives: Manhattan

December Read-a-Thon: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan Will Insure You Have a Very Merry Christmas

25 Dec

Sleigh Bells in the Snow (The O’Neill Brothers #1 – Jackson and Kayla) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, November 1, 2013)

If I’m going to bother to write a review for Christmas morning, you can be darn sure it’s going to be a really good book that I’m recommending. Knowing that I wanted a story with serious oomph, I deliberately held off on even reading Sarah Morgan’s Sleigh Bells in the Snow – I wanted it to be like a present to myself. So one night with the snow drifting outside, the ski slope lit up in the distance (you can see one from my living room windows) and a fire crackling, I sat down and read it in one sitting.

It is always so exciting to watch a terrific category romance author take the plunge into longer length, single title books. Granted, it’s nerve-wracking – can they make it? Are they able to fill all those extra pages with solid character development and tension or will the book feel like a category romance with way too many scenes?

No one who loves Sarah Morgan has anything to worry about with the recent release of her outstanding Christmas novel, Sleigh Bells in the Snow. Not only has she graduated to writing emotional longer books with compelling characters and sniffle-inducing families, but (thank god) this book starts up a series, the O’Neill Brothers, that feels a lot like Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series or Bella Andre’s Sullivan series, so if you enjoy those two contemporary authors and their family dynamic, you probably want to take a look at the sexy, skiing O’Neills.

Jackson O’Neill has made more than a name for himself in the global skiing industry with his running some of the most successful European skiing locales. But after his father’s tragic death, he dropped it all to come home to Vermont and take over Snow Crystal Resort, the ski resort founded by his great-grandfather and handed down to each eldest son. Unfortunately for the entire O’Neil family, Jackson’s father loved the skiing but not the business side of things, meaning Jackson has inherited not only a property inches away from bankruptcy, but also a large family grieving his father’s passing while also having a noisy stake in the business. Arguing with his irascible grandfather, his concerned grandmother and mother, as well as his two brothers is the norm but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting. He knows they need serious help and Jackson has a line on a fabulous PR firm in Manhattan which supposedly has some kind of wunderkind in the ranks who can turn around businesses like his. Wasting no time, he goes to New York to take a look.

How I picture some of the O'Neill's resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

How I picture some of the O’Neill’s resort. And how do I get some of that Belgian hot chocolate??

Kayla Green was happy to leave London for New York for the plum position at Innovation PR and she’s well on her way to being the youngest vice-president in the company’s history. Right now her major problem is that she hates Christmas and yet is living in a city known for attracting tourists just to enjoy the holiday atmosphere…and it’s killing her. When she hears her workaholic boss is interested in her taking over the O’Neill account – and that doing the preliminary pitch and research would involve her being at a secluded mountain cabin with no holiday decorations – she’s all over it. That Jackson O’Neill is one of the handsomest men she’s seen in forever is just an added complication, but it’s something she’s sure she can ignore.

That is, until she gets to Vermont, and then nothing can be ignored – not the weather which she’s woefully unprepared for, or the fact that she didn’t even know what a moose looked like, or that she’s never skied. What really can’t be ignored is the tumultuous, lovable, frustrating O’Neill family who seem to live and breathe not just every aspect of the holiday but also highlight to Kayla everything that is missing in her life, bringing up the most painful memories and forcing her to face her demons. But facing all those dark fears while trying to be a professional and help Snow Crystal find its deserved place on the map is next to impossible, particularly while fighting her growing attraction to Jackson – it’s like Kayla is in the middle of an emotional blender.

The O'Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

The O’Neill family has a history of horse-drawn sleigh proposals. Seriously!

When Jackson realizes that this vulnerable side to Kayla is even more attractive than the sexy, blonde killer with that knee-weakening British accent he saw in the Manhattan boardroom, nothing is going to stop him from getting under her skin and into her bed. O’Neills are renowned for knowing what they want and going after it with serious determination, and Jackson knows that Kayla is not only what the resort needs, she’s also precisely what’s been missing in his life as well. But getting past her icy walls is going to take some serious maneuvering and possibly the help of his whole family to win her.

Oh, wow. I defy you to not fall for each one of these frustrating, flawed, sexy, wonderful O’Neills! At just shy of 400 pages, Sleigh Bells in the Snow has ample time for character development beyond just the hero and heroine and Morgan takes advantage of the extra length, sussing out family history and conflicts and giving us a little backstory on each of the family members and secondary characters. It’s easy to see the other brothers’ future matches (and how hard it’s going to be to make those work) while being reminded that it’s often very easy to see other people’s problems while being blind to your own. Kayla’s backstory is so painful that I want her parents invited to the resort simply so the O’Neills can detonate an avalanche above them – it’s not hard to appreciate how much she has to overcome in the space of a short week to face what she could have with Jackson and his family.

Suddenly Last Summer (The O’Neill Brothers #2 – Sean and Elise) by Sarah Morgan (HQN, June 24, 2014)

Perhaps because of all this great character development, there is terrific potential for the future books in the series, and not just with the wonderful brothers. Peppy cousin Dana and the outlier sheriff Josh are ripe for their own novella(s) and I can picture a prequel or two for both the O’Neill brothers’ parents and the grandparents considering the hints dropped regarding their proposal stories which also happened at the resort. This is one romantic mountain!

The only disappointment to be had with Sleigh Bells in the Snow is that 1) these gorgeous men are sadly fictitious and 2) this mountain resort with its private cabins and hot tubs doesn’t actually exist. So, you are left with doing the next best thing and booking your time with the first of Sarah Morgan’s fabulous series. Stay tuned for the second book in the series, which focuses on the hilarious, very French chef of the resort, Elise, and Jackson’s twin brother, Boston’s top orthopedic surgeon, Sean, who are both confronted with the memory of a spectacular summer night together when he comes back for a visit. Their story, Suddenly Last Summer, will be out by the end of June 2014 and this reader has already pre-ordered it!

Many thanks to Sarah Morgan for giving me such a great book (and such a terrific family) to love this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

December Read-a-Thon: Heidi Rice Shows Us What Lucky Looks Like in ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky

19 Dec

‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky by Heidi Rice (Entangled: Indulgence, November 1, 2013)

What does “getting lucky” look like in a holiday novella? How about a sexy playboy with a heart of gold, a soaking wet British achluophobe (fear of the dark), and a department store closed for Christmas where you can have anything you want? Exactly.

This fantasy is exactly what every salivating reader gets with Heidi Rice’s fabulous novella, ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky, and it’s worth way more than the $.99 price tag since 1) it’s packed with vivid detail and a startling amount of emotion and 2) it’s Heidi Rice, people, and she’s awesome.

Kate Braithwaite’s long distance boyfriend has just dumped her via email so she trudges to the office she’s called home for the past six months (through a horrifying rainstorm) to remind herself why she left England behind. Doing PR for one of the premier stores in Manhattan has been a dream come true, but even Kate realizes how pathetic she is being the only person at work besides the security guard on Christmas. Thankful no one can see her, she exchanges her soaking wet clothes for a way-too-small elf costume and decides to try and be productive. At least she works more than the no-show playboy son of the owner who draws a massive salary and never comes to work.

Ryan Sinclair is in fact “at work” that day, and is busy pondering over what appear to be slutty elf dolls actually meant for children, when one (very sexy) elf startles him so much that he tackles her. This British beauty has a face to match her luscious body, but her frosty demeanor and workaholic attitude make her undesirable, or so he tells himself. Until the rainstorm which has become a blizzard kills the store lights and suddenly Katherine (he likes that better than Kate) is shaking, showing a vulnerable woman under the bitchiness. Over the course of a snowstorm which traps them in the store, these two people discover that the other person is not at all what they imagined…and that a Christmas blizzard may have deposited much more than snow on their doorstep.

Okay, this is Heidi Rice, a superhero in the world of category romance (way to go, Entangled!) and she delivers her usual brand of hot, sexiness wrapped in a hero and heroine who seem like a total mismatch but are really very similar under the skin. Kate has (understandable) abandonment issues and Ryan has worked to insure his daughter never, ever feels abandoned. I honestly could not believe that this novella was listed at 57 pages – if you told me it was closer to 100 pages, I would have believed you with the emotional evolution experienced by the characters between its covers. Does it move quickly? Of course, it’s a novella, but that doesn’t mean this story is anything but quality writing. Don’t move until you check out such classics of this author’s like Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger and/or Cupcakes and Killer Heels! They are the reason I love Heidi Rice and you’ll understand the minute you read them. 🙂

Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love by Heidi Rice (Harlequin E, January 6, 2014)

Yet despite my being a fan, I only just managed to realize that her author bio clearly states that Rice also works as a movie journalist in her spare time. I was extremely excited to see on her blog that she has a movie guide specifically for romance lovers coming out in early January, Movie Bliss: A Hopeless Romantic Seeks Movies to Love. Seriously? Even better, it’s about 150 pages of recommendations AND it’s also only $.99. Whaaa??? Color me having pre-ordered it (and maybe my blog readers will get some movie reviews peppered in here since we all enjoy great films that make our HEA a visual reality, don’t we?).

Remember that ‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky is part of the same Entangled series as yesterday’s ‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa by Kate Hardy, so you now have two reasons to take a look at these great books. With all the busyness and running around of the holidays, these books are exactly what you need to take a mental time out for yourself and do something just for you.

Happy reading!

A Riveting Affair Anthology Features Three Page-Turning Steampunk Tales

25 Oct

A Riveting Affair by Patricia Eimer, Candace Havens, and Lily Lang (Entangled Ever After, March 2013)

I love anthologies. I know I’ve said it before and yet it’s amazing how many reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon complain about them. You have to wonder if these are the same people who loooovve novellas, not realizing that the anthology they crankified about online (yes, I invented that verb) happens to contain multiple tales of the same length. Sheesh.

Feeling in a Steampunk/Gaslight mood last night, I decided to read the anthology, A Riveting Affair, largely because it contained a story by Candace Havens, whose writing I uniformly love. I would have paid $2.99 for just her story, but the bonus is that I got two other outstanding novellas for that price, plus found additional authors whose writing I know enjoy. Bargain!

“Beauty and the Clockwork Beast” by Lily Lang

Rose Verney arrives in a steampunk Manhattan on Sebastian Cavendish’s doorstep and she’s sacrificed quite a bit to get there – running away from a controlling older sister, a pestering suitor, and having her pregnant best friend hide her before she could sell her last pieces of jewelry to buy a one-way train ticket from New Haven to the city. But it will all be worth it if her late father’s star pupil can help her finish his teleportation machine.

The Imposter by Lily Lang (Samhain, 2012)

She’s escorted through a dust-filled empty mansion to his bedchamber, shocked that the formerly handsome boy has come through the war with a disfigured face and pronounced limp. More shocking than his physical change is when he begins kissing and groping her, having mistaken her for the prostitute he ordered for the evening. When she instead explains that she is to deliver the blueprints for the teleportation device per her father’s will – and stay to help him finish it – he rejects her out of hand. Rose doesn’t realize that Sebastian has sworn not to build any more machines after watching his work take so many lives during the war.

When Rose not only refuses to leave the following morning, but begins to clean his mansion, revitalize his clockwork servants and rebuild his laboratory in his old nursery, Sebastian finds himself unable to cling to the bitterness and anger he’s nurtured since his time in a Confederate prison. His nightmares come less often when he wakes up to Rose holding his hand, he feels the thrill of inventing again with the best partner he’s ever had working next to him, and the light and comfort in his home reflects what he feels in his heart. But as these two people fall quietly in love with one another, Sebastian’s beliefs about what he truly deserves threaten to come between them and the happiness that lies within their grasp.

This story strongly resembles a gothic tale with a scarred and bitter hero, a dark, scary mansion, and a beautiful, innocent heroine who brings the hero back from the brink. I loved Lang’s character development, the steampunk angle of the recently concluded American Civil War, and the fact that she introduces the moral question of how responsible an inventor is when his creations are used to kill. The only piece I did not enjoy was that Lang is rather “closed door” in her sex scenes, making this story a little sweet for my tasteLily Lang has a small oeuvre (unsurprising as she lists her main occupation as a graduate student) but she’ll be an author I keep a close eye on. I may try one of her intriguingly blurbed historical romances just to see if she carries these strengths in her other works.

“The Clockwork Bride” by Patricia Eimer

Aida Mulvaney feels that her attendance at a Christmas ball is a waste of time when she could be at home with her family working in the lab, but her best friend Esther uses blackmail to get her there. Blackmail is exactly what it takes, considering that this Irish engineer is heading straight to a masquerade given by Lord Capshaw, the Empire’s leading anti-Irish, misogynistic leader of the Luddite party.

Luck of the Devil (Speak of the Devil #1) by Patricia Eimer (Entangled, 2011)

It’s also been three weeks since Aida’s friend Leopold walked out on their engagement, one undertaken to spare him from an arranged match. That he’s a prince and son of Queen Victoria (who is nothing short of enraged at Leopold’s temporary defiance and Aida’s Irish cheek) doesn’t put Aida in a great position, either from a business standpoint or as the butt of gossip throughout London. Still, she’s in disguise this night, so how bad can it be?

Being at the home of her greatest enemy is taking her mind off losing her friend, particularly when a mystery man helps her escape the arrival of Leopold and his insipid German fiancee. Her savior seems happy to take his payment by kissing the stuffing out of her in a dark alcove, but it’s a welcome development to the night. Welcome, that is, until he takes off his mask and she discovers the gorgeous son of her enemy, Julian Capshaw.

Aida also discovers that Julian is actually a talented scientist, a profession unheard of among the nobility, and he demonstrates the extent of his rebellion by whisking Aida away to a party on a dirigible. When he boldly suggests that she solve her current scandal by helping him free himself from his father via marriage, she’s startled but intrigued. She knows that as a scientist who respects her chosen profession, Julian will understand the time she needs for her engineering work so she capitulates to the idea. That there is plenty of steam being generated between them physically doesn’t exactly hurt either. But as this unlikely partnership grows into something more tender, Julian’s powerful father and a resentful Queen attempt to insure these two will never have a chance to explore the future they could have together.

My single criticism of the story was that it was told in the first person from Aida’s perspective; Julian was SUCH a gorgeous hunk of a hero I wanted to experience his point of view throughout the story, too. I loved the steampunk world Eimer created, particularly appreciating how Aida’s loving Irish family created an environment where she could thrive as a brilliant inventor despite political and social obstacles. Julian is the most unlikely match to an Irish commoner, yet from a personality standpoint he is her ideal partner and that comes through with both their heat and their banter. Even though Patricia Eimer seems to have her other books published under the umbrella of contemporary paranormal, I’d strongly encourage her to keep up the Steampunk since she does it damn well!

“Demon Express” by Candace Havens

Lions, Tigers, and Sexy Bears, Oh My! by Candace Havens (Entangled, July 2013)

Professor Maisey Clark has left her research to work as an assassin with a single target – her former fiancee, Julian Darvil. Following him from London to deep in the heart of Texas, she’s glad to capture three grave robbers for her client as his recent trouble – isolated attacks against cattle in the Forth Worth area, coincidentally happening around the same time as grave robbing – indicates Julian’s evil involvement. When the three men turn out to be investigators also hired by her client, she’s annoyed that they have gotten in her way, particularly the leader, Marshall Jake Calloway, fresh from helping the Texas Rangers. His long hair and facial scar do not detract from his overall appeal, but right now she sees this tall hunk of man as an obstacle rather than an ally.

Working and living in her private steam engine, the Iron Witch, Maisey spends her time analyzing blood samples in order to determine if the presence of Julian’s supernatural creatures is causing the phenomena in the area. Created by her father with enhanced abilities and raised from childhood as an assassin of supernatural creatures, Maisey wanted to pursue her intellectual interests but ended up using her natural born skills once Julian attempted to seduce her into creating Wollstonecraftian creatures mutated by viruses in order become the ideal warrior. Needless to say, Maisey hasn’t had an easy road with men, but luckily for her she is surrounded by people who love her, whether it’s her English mastiff Henry, her enhanced acerbic butler Barnes, or the ghost of her dead nanny who sticks around to clean and cook for her, while leveling judgement on Maisey’s choice of clothing.

This outstanding story will leave you wanting more, both from the fascinating world (more gaslight than steampunk since it includes the supernatural as well as clockwork elements) to the wonderful characters which inhabit it. While I was a little miffed at Patricia Eimer telling her story from the first person, Havens does the same and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest because the tone of the story lands closer to Urban Fantasy. I’m really hoping that this story is a prequel to a full-length novel since Jake and Maisey do not get together (although there’s plenty of sexual attraction) and there is an abundance of conflict and plot developments to support a longer storyline. While Havens is a varied, talented writer able to pen seemingly any genre (her contemporary romance, nonfiction about popular culture, and her paranormal writing are all equally wonderful), I don’t think she’s done a tone of steampunk/gaslight, a fact I hope she rectifies considering how much I adore her writing.

A Riveting Affair is a fantastic steampunk anthology for lovers of the genre who enjoy strong female protagonists filled with intelligence and gumption. I strongly recommend this terrific bargain of a book for anyone wanting to be riveted for a few hours. Happy reading! 🙂

Enthralled Anthology Adds Great Novella to Iron Seas Series…and Much More

6 Jul

Enthralled by Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, Meljean Brook and Lucy Monroe (Berkley, July 2, 2013)

Based on the image I clearly chose to lead this post with, as well as the fact that I can’t not blog about additions to the Iron Seas series, which readers know I consider the best steampunk writing currently published, it’s rather obvious which novella propelled me to pre-order the Enthralled anthology the moment it became available on Amazon.

That said, I was thrilled to discover that the list price – which I will always pay for a Meljean Brook book – was more than fair after I cheerfully had devoured each story in the volume. I had read Lora Leigh before and enjoyed her Breed series so she was no surprise, but consider me a newly minted fan of Alyssa Day and Lucy Monroe!

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Lora Leigh – “The Devil’s Due” (Breeds #28)

Tempting the Beast (Breeds #1) by Lora Leigh (Ellora’s Cave, 2008)

Can you believe that Lora Leigh’s Breeds series has had 28 installments? God love this woman and her ability to create romance and intrigue around science gone awry. To be honest, the Breeds series books have often proven a little too much for me. The sex is blazingly hot, but the heroes are usually too alpha – bordering on asshole level of alpha – with their animal counterparts so close to the surface as to dominate much of their decision-making. Heroines run the gamut from strong women to wishy-washy vacillators, but the most interesting aspects of the stories come from the network of villains inhabiting the labs that knowingly created and tortured these people. As the series has progressed, they’ve gone from hidden entities to a group of people enjoying nation status similar to that of Native Americans tribes, so there is no an overlay of government interest which helps propel story lines.

Gorgeous Devil has a reputation like the angel of death (to see him is to know that you are about to die) yet one glimpse of sixteen year old Katie and he knows she’s his mate. Unfortunately for everyone, the red-headed and talented Katie is a special Breed, one whose genetics do not kick in until she is in her early twenties. She reads as human, yet years later gets taken to a human hospital because she’s experiencing a 107 degree fever with her Breed qualities emerging. This fact inspires a conniption by the paranoid government in Ireland and also puts her between the sight lines of crazy anti-Breed proponents. Feeling betrayed by her parents, who knew her secret yet chose not to tell her, she agrees to go to the United States to live in the Navajo compound with other shifters, some of whom Katie considers friends. That the stunning man known as Devil is around, clearly avoiding her, is bound to lead to not only a confrontation but the acknowledgment of the unbelievable desire Katie feels whenever she is around him.

Honestly, this novella posed more questions than it answered, which is clever on the part of Leigh who will undoubtedly address the “lost but still living fathers” issue in a full-length novel. Even with my not having read every Breed book to date, this story was an enjoyable read with compelling characters and a quick-moving plot filled with intrigue.

Alyssa Day – “The Curse Of The Black Swan” (League Of The Black Swan #1.5)

The Cursed (League of the Black Swan #1) by Alyssa Day (Berkley, May 7, 2013)

While the title of this novella might seem like a ballet romance gone very, very wrong, in actuality Day’s writing felt like one of the reinterpreted fairy tales I enjoy, maybe with a dash of urban fantasy thrown in. This makes perfect sense since the League of the Black Swan series is categorized under urban fantasy and has all the elements necessary – a secret area of Manhattan (known as Bordertown) dedicated to shifters, demons and fae, dark magic and intentions looming around every corner, and naturally a good/evil battle that threatens to bring the world down around everyone’s ears. In other words, awesome!

This novella begins with a beautifully written prologue detailing a curse brought about by the moon. A lovely young woman, in a desperate effort to save herself from a marauding leader bent on her submission, sends a plea to the sun and moon to which she sings daily. The moon chooses to save her, but exacts the payment of every third night the woman turns into a black swan and must sing all night long to the moon, with each eldest daughter of her line taking over the duty.

This is not a recipe for happiness. Brynn has made a good name for herself with her pet grooming business in Bordertown, but has stayed far, far away from any man that she might deem really tempting. She feels out of control every third night when her curse compels her to make her way to the Black Swan fountain and sing and she has no wish to inflict her curse on a daughter.

Firefighter Sean O’Malley is having a rough night when he stumbles across a beautiful swan singing in the midst of bordertown. Not only is he keeping his fire demon identity a secret (prejudice abounds regarding them), but a murderer is setting dangerous fires around the city with lives lost as a result. On top of that, Sean’s loving mother has just received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Yet all those troubles get pushed to the back of his mind when the singing swan morphs into a stunning, very naked woman. One who agrees to go to a local diner to get something to eat with Sean.

Sean might be Irish, but he’s not been blessed with a silver tongue with the ladies, so he’s worried about convincing Brynn to see him again. She walks away from the diner having enjoyed herself so much that she clearly spells out she never can see handsome Sean ever again. But fate has other plans when he appears on her business doorstep with a cranky Persian with gum in its tail. Seeing these two work their way through all obstacles to their happy ending (plenty of witches to help with those moon curses, FYI) is wonderful and very sexy to boot. I’ve ordered a copy of the first book in the series, The Cursed, and if this novella is any indication, I’m going to enjoy every page.

Meljean Brook – “Salvage” (Iron Seas #3.5)

Here There Be Monsters (Iron Seas #0.5 – Mad Machen and Ivy’s story) by Meljean Brook (Berkley, August 2010) – this book has a clear connection to “Salvage” with both protagonists referenced by Thom explaining his time away

Despite my adoration of all things Meljean Brook, it’s a fact that I hate reading reunion romance stories. Estranged couples just rub me the wrong way (I know that it makes no sense), so it’s a testimony to how much I trust Brook that I didn’t hesitate to dive into the story of Thom and his wife, Georgianna.

Thom was always a quiet and steady man, appearing on Georgianna’s father’s doorstep with his skeletal iron arms after the tower fell and the masses were freed from the Horde. Working with her father, he learned the art of salvaging while also wooing Georgie when he was not out at sea. When she agreed to marry him, she thought she was getting a man who understood that she wanted a husband “who would hold her in his arms at night”, but Thom left her – after three disastrous nights of their marriage – to go back to sea.

Four years later, Georgie is astounded to discover his body washed up on shore near her home. He’s horribly wounded and the bug fever that sets in might very well kill him, but she’s shocked to discover that his skeletal arms have been replaced with fully functioning ones of a lovely grey metal. Nursing him back to health, it’s clear that he plans on leaving again right away, this time to spare Georgie from the pirates which took his salvaged treasure and sunk his ship and submersible. She’s not about to let him leave without a proper divorce and, inflicting further pain in her heart, he agrees.

Thom cannot get over how Georgie is even more beautiful than when he left her four years ago. He didn’t want to reveal his shameful behavior under the Horde to this lovely woman who had lived in relative safety, but after her father encouraged him to go out and make a fortune for Georgie, he was obsessed with doing so, particularly when it occurred to him that he might be able to pay for real arms, ones that would hold Georgie at night. Thom is horrified to discover that her parents died soon after he left, leaving her alone, but his horror is nothing to pain he feels when she asks him for a divorce. But they are both snatched by the rich bounder who injured him and took his gold before they can go to town to file the paperwork.

Captive aboard the ship, Georgie and Thom are united in their desire to escape, and their proximity to one another inspires another kind of desire. As the couple finally reveals their past and innermost feelings, they tear down the wall built over the years to find that they are two people still very much in love. Committed to fighting for a future, they each do what they must in order to go home.

I had tears in my eyes at the misunderstanding between two naturally reticent people and loved the fact that Brook interjected all the drama and heartbreak with some very real moments of humor. Her writing goes right to my heart every time and this is an outstanding addition to the Iron Seas series. For anyone who hasn’t read the novella telling the story of the pirate Mad Machen and the talented Ivy Blacksmith, take a look at the Burning Up anthology for the novella which tells their story in “Here There Be Monsters” or wait until October of this year for the stand alone novella to be published. Ivy and Mad Machen are both referenced and tied to Thom during his time away from Georgie.

Lucy Monroe – “Ecstasy Under The Moon” – (Children Of The Moon #4.5)

Moon Awakening (Children of the Moon #1) by Lucy Monroe (Berkley 2007)

I love shifter romance (particularly great series like Jennifer Ashley’s Shifters Unbound) but I was intrigued with the idea of the usual constructs regarding shifters finding mates and tension between breeds in an older setting. In the highlands of Scotland, the shifter clans, long estranged from one another and now interwoven with humans who are usually kept ignorant of their true nature, are finally beginning the formal motions of re-establishing ties between the species.

Una lives a life of self-imposed solitude among her her Eagle shifter clan and is shocked and fearful when her king and their spiritual leader announce that a convoy of wolves will soon arrive to live among them. Una was captured by wolves years ago who tortured her for sadistic fun and her father was gravely wounded as a result, losing his eye and his ability to fly in his eagle form. Her fear and guilt have kept her from taking her role as a protector and warrior in her clan and she cannot keep the panic at bay as the wolves arrive.

Bryant is a wolf who believes in his leader’s intentions of reuniting the clans. With recent matings falling between shifter clans and even with humans (and so perfect that the couples are dream tied to one another), he believes that healing the rifts between species to be of benefit to everyone. When on his first night in the eagle village he falls asleep only to meet a lovely woman who kisses him on the spiritual plane, he knows that his life is going to take a drastic turn, one he welcomes.

But Una is not convinced. Her dream self is far more bold and does not experience the panic of being trapped as she does in real life. She does not deny that Bryant is handsome, compelling and gentle. When she finally drums up the courage to meet him in person, she knows that he must be confused by her reticent demeanor compared to her ease with him in their dreams. His patience with her prejudiced father does not go unnoticed by her, just as Una’s interest in Bryant does not go unobserved by her all-too-aware mother, who is happy to help both her daughter and husband accept a mating that was clearly meant to be.

Bryant was a fantastic character who was very easy to fall in love with right alongside the lovely and damaged Una. Patient and caring with firm convictions and a sense of honor, he was exactly what a strong hero should be, and the fact that he turns into a gorgeous wolf who climbs into Una’s treehouse to sexily consummate their relationship (after he has killed the remaining men who hurt her) is icing on the cake. I fell so in love with Monroe’s writing that I promptly ordered several of the books from this series and can’t wait for them to arrive. I have a feeling I will greatly enjoy reading about shifters in her well constructed world!

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The title for this anthology could not have been more appropriate – each of the couples are truly “enthralled” with one another, but I think the real magic is going to come from the readers, when they fall under the spell of each talented author as they read the four novellas in the work. Many thanks to all of them (and to Berkley publishers) for such wonderful additions to these series.

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