The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu by Michelle Franklin

Title: The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu
Author: Michelle Franklin
Series: Haanta #1
Publisher: N/A
Release Date: 6/14/2011
Length: 185 pages
Format: PDF
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Challenges: N/A
Source: Author (thank you!)
Purchase: E-book

The Kingdom of Frewyn is being invaded by the Galleisian infantry and at the forefront of the battle is Boudicca MacDaede, a First Captain in the Frewyn armed forces. Her regiment is charged with defending the borders between the two nations, but when Frewyn’s last line of defense falls, Captain MacDaede enlists the assistance of a Haanta, one of giants from the islands to the far north. Promising to free him from his imprisonment in exchange for his help, she gains his trust long enough for them to win the battle and save the Frewyn border from being breached. The giant’s freedom is granted, but Rautu cannot return home unless he redeems himself in the eyes of his people for his past transgressions. He is offered a place by the captain’s side, and together, they defeat the Galleisian forces and become the saviors of Frewyn.

One year later, King Alasdair Brennin takes the Frewyn throne, Boudicca is made commander, Gallei and Frewyn reach an accord, and Rautu is granted an invitation home. He is eager to return and see his brothers but finds it difficult to leave Frewyn without Boudicca at his side. He has become accustomed to her company and the idea of being made to live without her begins to distress him. Rautu invites the commander to the islands in hopes of finding a way for them to remain together, but when they arrive at the white shores of Sanhedhran, not everything goes as planned: one of the dangerous Haanta magi is freed, Rautu’s three brothers are strangely missing, and the neighboring nation of Thellis leads an attack on the islands.

Together, the commander and the Den Asaan Rautu must find a way to unite their two nations and defend against the Thellisian fleets, but can they do so successfully when outside forces are attempting to keep them apart?

Let me start out by saying that I didn’t finish this book. I know, I know. It’s really short and I couldn’t manage to finish it? I probably could have, but I just wasn’t as into it as I wanted to be and one of my resolutions for this year is not to waste my time reading books I’m not enjoying. Now, that was just a little heads up before I talk about the book and why I wasn’t enjoying it.

This book is like a weird mix between fantasy and romance. It’s set in this fantasy world and Rautu is this crazy huge warrior giant. All the names of everything in his country looks like the English spellings of sanskrit or something. The story begins by giving some background on the commander (who is barely ever called by name). One day during battle she stumbles upon an imprisioned giant. He was supposed to be executed, but was forgotten about when war broke loose. She strikes a deal with him: she’ll give him freedom if he’ll aid her in the war. He agrees, the war is won, and when he is called home he asks her to come with him. I’d say I made it close to halfway through before I started skimming rather than reading. I was pretty disinterested in the politics of his country.

I also felt like their personalities weren’t fleshed out enough. I mean, I got the gist. She was a strong female lead, but not too serious. She always brought the humor out in everything, and she made a big trend of mocking Rautu’s caveman-like tendencies and the culture he was raised in. While, she did this in a joking manner, it still came off pretty condescending. Rautu was pretty much a caveman. So much so, that it was annoying. I’m okay with big, tough guys, but this was ridiculous. All he ever called her was woman, and heaven forbid he admit his feelings for her. That would be a disgrace to manliness. I think I understood the characters, but I definitely couldn’t connect with them, and that’s probably the root of my issues with the book. I just couldn’t sink into it and get comfortable.

I really don’t mean to tear this apart, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing either. It’s not that Michelle Franklin is a bad writer, it’s that she writes in this sort of summary form. She just tells you that Rautu fought with the commander and they defeated their enemies and he always stayed close to her. While I’m getting the facts of the story, I’m getting absolutely no character connection, and for a book that’s so short, I think details would have been a good thing. I think it would have been much more effective if I had been given time to warm to the characters and get a sense for who they really are.

I don’t want anyone to read this and just think they would hate this book or something. There are a whole bunch of people who loved it. I’ve seen numerous 4 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. I spent a few days trying to get into this book, and just couldn’t, but you might feel differently.

If you do decide to give it a try, I suggest it for more mature readers due to some sexual content. Also, if you’re not into fantasy, this wouldn’t be a good choice.


Much Ado About Rogues by Kasey Michaels

Title: Much Ado About Rogues
Author: Kasey Michaels
Series: Blackthorn Brothers #3
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: 4/1/2012
Length: 379 pages
Format: Electronic Galley
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK
Rating: ★★★★★

Who is the darkly handsome Don John “Black Jack” Blackthorn? With his air of mystery and menace, the whispers about him hint of highwayman or government agent or even dark prince. But no one knows what it is Black Jack does… or how dangerous he can truly be. Now Jack’s mentor has disappeared, and Jack must track him down before it’s too late. His unlikely help: the man’s daughter—the very woman Jack had once wooed and betrayed.

Lady Tess Fonteneau knows more about the fine art of clandestine activities—and about the mysterious Mr. Blackthorn—than he realizes. As their journey leads them on the adventure of a lifetime, their reunion is fraught with passion, high-stakes danger and the one twist of fate Jack never saw coming….

This is most definitely the best book in this little trilogy. It’s definitely a close race, but I think Black Jack really outshines his brothers. I was positively riveted throughout the entire book, and only a little deterred by a little plot confusion.

Intrigue and cunning games can be confusing. I think any author writing about them needs to be very careful. While, I really enjoyed the book, the plot could get a little daunting and I had to spend a little time working through it. I will say that the confusion also kept me very interested in that part of the plot. I was eager to see how things with Tess’s father and the Gypsy would turn out. I did see some of the plot twists from a mile away though, and while it’s nice to say “I knew it,” I think I’d rather be surprised and blown away. But you know what, at least it had a good plot to begin with. Sometimes historical romances get too caught up in themselves to bother with that, and they end up just being about sex and fancy words. Fortunately, that was not the case in this book.

It’s really something to have the mystery of Black Jack revealed and realize that he’s just as likable and compassionate as his brothers. He’s just a little rougher around the edges, and he has a lot of ghosts from his past hauting him. Actually, it’s pretty simple to see why his story is the best. There’s a lot more to it. Tess was his rock. He would never admit it, but she’s the reason he developed. It took a lot of nagging and fighting to get him there, but she put in the effort. She is in love with him, after all. The two of them make quite the team and I really loved their banter. It was always entertaining.

I think Kasey Michaels perfectly executes regency language. It’s not too much. It’s easy to understand, but also not too current. Conversation is one of my favorite things about reading historical books. I love how witty people could be without being rude. You could cut someone down and still seem like a perfect gentleman. It’s pretty awesome.

This is a great one for historical and regency romance lovers, especially if you like intrigue.

Previous books in this series:
The Taming of the Rake
A Midsummer Night’s Sin

One Wicked Sin by Nicola Cornick

Title: One Wicked Sin
Author: Nicola Cornick
Series: The Scandalous Women of the Ton #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 10/26/2010
Length: 360 pages
Format: ePub
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lottie Palliser was once the toast of the Ton but now is notorious for being divorced—and penniless. Shunned by society and disowned by her family, the destitute beauty is forced to become a courtesan in a Covent Garden bawdy house. Refusing to oblige her customers, Lottie is about to be turned out onto the streets when a dangerous rake saves her with a scandalous offer…

Ethan Ryder is the illegitimate son of an Irish Duke and a circus performer. He rose through the ranks as one of Napoleon’s most dashing cavalry officers—until his capture landed him in England as prisoner of war. Now on parole, Ethan is planning his most audacious coup yet. But he needs to create a spectacular diversion. And having infamous Lottie as his mistress will lull everyone into thinking he’s busily bedding her instead of plotting deadly treason. Both Lottie and Ethan believe that their cool heads and selfish hearts will give them the upper hand in their ruthlessly passionate union. Yet their unexpected bond will scandalize even them.

Though I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read in this series, this one felt a little different. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. I was immediately intrigued when I began and remained that way throughout the entire book. I also found myself wanting to squee a little because there were some seriously touching moments in this book. Those came off much more sincere than most love scenes in romance novels do.

I love the plot. It’s what really interested me. I went in disliking Lottie for her actions in the first book, but I was hooked by the plot. There was just something about the two characters and thier lack of morals that promised some nice intrigue. Though there was plenty of that, I was a little moved by their romantic development. While two months doesn’t sound like a long time, it might as well be a century in romance novels. Most often, characters fall in love in a matter of days. Though, I’ve always found this unrealistic, I’ve chosen to overlook it. It was pretty refreshing for it to take them a couple of months. Some of it was still stereotypical romance, but that’s okay. I like romances. The scene where Ethan declares his love was actually really sweet. One of my favorites ever!

The thing I really love about Nicola Cornick’s books is that it’s not all about sex and romance. That’s there, but the character always have something deeper going on within themselves that they have to get through. It’s where the romance comes in. They get through these things together. They get support from one another and their romantic connection. Lottie and Ethan are both hesitant to give their hearts away because of the possible hurt. They both have experience in abondonment, and though that is what keeps them from giving their hears away so easily, it’s also what binds them together. There’s development and some complexity, something that I can’t always find in romance novels.

I also really love Nicola’s style. She always creates a perfect balance in her dialogue. the characters speak in the language of their time, but it’s still easy to understand. I’m excited to get more of her style when I pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend this to historical romance lovers. I do suggest you read the first book in the series though. You don’t really have to, but I think it helps to understand how Lottie’s character changes.


Previous books in this series:
Whisper of Scandal

The Darkest Passion by Gena Showalter

Title: The Darkest Passion
Author: Gena Showalter
Narrator: Max Bellmore
Series: Lords of the Underworld #5
Publisher: Harlequin/Audible
Release Date: 7/16/2010
Length: 13 hours, 23 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Challenges: 2012 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆

For weeks, the immortal warrior Aeron has sensed an invisible female presence. An angel-demon-assassin has been sent to kill him. Or has she? Olivia claims she fell from the heavens, giving up immortality because she couldn’t bear to harm him. But trusting – and falling for – Olivia will endanger them all. So how has this mortal with the huge blue eyes already unleashed Aeron’s darkest passion?

Now, with an enemy hot on his trail and his faithful demon companion determined to remove Olivia from his life, Aeron is trapped between duty and consuming desire. Worse still, a new executioner has been sent to do the job Olivia wouldn’t…

I feel like I was a little slow getting back into this series. While I enjoyed the last one, getting back into the world was a little rough. I think it stemmed a little from the fact that I didn’t like some of the things that happened in that one, and that I was having just a little trouble following the plot lines. This one got me back into the swing of things though. I mean, seriously, there was some serious plot work in this one. Also, Aeron was awesome when he wasn’t being broody. Maybe my favorite lord so far… though I do say that about pretty much every book.

How crazy and complicated can this plot get? Sometimes I feel like that’s what Gena Showalter asks herself when she’s writing these books. Sometimes, I have trouble. I don’t even try to guess where things are going because I’ll never be right. It’s never obvious. And I’m always on the brink of despair for the couple in each novel toward the end. She stacks those odds so high against them that I can never see how it will work out. Then she miraculously pulls the solution out of freaking nowhere. No one is that lucky, not even gorgeous, soul-tortured immortals. Nevertheless, I keep listening because I need to know what happens next. If there’s one thing this author can pull off, it’s a hook.

There’s not much depth to the characters. Then again, who am I to make a statement like that about immortal lords who are trapped in their own bodies with demons that compel them to act against their wills? I guess it’s difficult to have any realistic depth when you’re in that kind of situation. They do develop a little though. Aeron has never understood humans and their blase acceptance of their own deaths. How could they act normal when they had so little time? When he’s standing at death’s door, he starts to understand. Olivia, a joy bringing angel, decides she wants to experience what it’s like to be human with Aeron, she finds true joy in his arms. It’s not much, but it’s enough considering the genre.

If there is one definite thing I don’t like about this series it’s some of the turns of phrase Gena Showalter uses. Sometimes, I’m thinking “who the hell talks like that?” Some of it just sounds so… immature. It’s distracting and I get disconnected from the characters for a short time. It’s something I’m choosing to overlook for the sake of knowing what the heck happens next!

Max Bellmore does his job pretty well again. He could be a little more consitent. Sometimes names are pronounced a little differently and every now and then character voices change. For the most part he does really well though. His voices for Torin, Lucien, and Sabin are really distinguishable. That’s pretty nice.

If you’re into paranormal romance, make sure to check these out!


Previous books in this series:
The Darkest Night
The Darkest Kiss
The Darkest Pleasure
The Darkest Whisper

The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter

Title: The Darkest Whisper
Author: Gena Showalter
Narrator: Max Bellmore
Series: Lords of the Underworld #4
Publisher: Harlequin/Audible
Release Date: 9/1/2009
Length: 12 hours, 20 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Challenges: 2012 Audiobook Challenge, 2012 TBR Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆

Bound by the demon of doubt, Sabin unintentionally destroys even the most confident of lovers. So the immortal warrior spends his time on the battlefield instead of the bedroom, victory his only concern…until he meets Gwendolyn the Timid. One taste of the beautiful redhead, and he craves more.

Gwen, an immortal herself, always thought she’d fall for a kind human who wouldn’t rouse her darker side. But when Sabin frees her from prison, battling their enemies for the claim to Pandora’s box turns out to be nothing compared to the battle Sabin and Gwen will wage against love…

I wasn’t really that excited about this one. I mean, I was, but I didn’t think it would measure up to The Darkest Pleasure, which has been my favorite so far. But I was wrong! It trumped The Darkest Pleasure. I enjoy both Saben and Gwen, and I like how the overall series plot is developing. I’m never much for paranmormal romance, but this is so my guilty pleasure series.

Like I said, I like where the overall plot is going. I was really sad about what happened to Gideon, but since he appears in one of the later books, I know he’ll be okay. There were a couple of twists I didn’t expect. They definitely made for a more interesting story. I am worried about how long Paris’s story is getting drawn out. I’m afraid I’ll be building it up so much that by the time I make it to that book it will disappoint me.

As far as characters go, there’s not much to them. That’s one of the reasons I call this my guilty pleasure series. It could definitely be better. The characters are mostly surface characters, but I still like some of them. For instance, I love Anya because she’s so funny. Well, I love Saben because he’s intense. I’m not sure how else to describe him. All I know is that there is a serious intensity about him and I like it. The characters could use some depth, but I’m much more interested in the plot of these books than the complexity of the characters

Though there’s nothing particularly special about Gena Showalter’s writing, I think it fits. It works for this series and the genre. It doesn’t get in the way, and it’s appropriate. I also like her plot writing, in case I haven’t made that clear. She writes interesting stories and gives me my paranormal romance fix when I need it.

I like Max Bellmore for the most part. He definitely has the right kind of voice for this series. I think he does well in trying to makes the voices of the different Lords distinctive. I don’t always love his delivery though. Sometimes it’s a little off. Honestly, though, I don’t have the patience to actually read these books so I keep listening to the audio. It’s so much easier.

My excitement about this series has died down a little, but I still think paranormal romance lovers would enjoy them. So, if that’s your thing, make sure you check these out.


Previous books in this series:
The Darkest Night
The Darkest Kiss
The Darkest Pleasure

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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