Book Review · Fantasy

#BookReview #FantasyRomance // The Rising Wave series by Michelle Diener

The Rising Wave (#0.5), The Turncoat King (#1), The Threadbare Queen (#2)
by Michelle Diener

A princess intent on escape . . .
Ava has everything ready for her last chance at escape from her years’ long imprisonment. She knows if she doesn’t succeed this time, she will die. When an injured warlord is thrown into her cell with her, upsetting her plans, she faces a dilemma . . . leave him to die or try to take him with her.
A warlord intent on rebellion . . .
Luc may lead a rebel army, but now he’s at the mercy of his enemies, and they have no mercy to give. All except the woman imprisoned with him. She not only has mercy, she has a plan to escape. He just has to convince her to let him come along . . .
A partnership forged in adversity . . .
Unable to leave him behind, Ava includes Luc in her plans, but escaping the castle where her cousin has imprisoned her is only the first step. Hunted by their enemies, she and Luc will have to trust each other, no matter how many secrets they’re keeping.


The Rising Wave

Well this totally and utterly ensnared me, I shall be immediately jumping into The Turncoat King, book #1 of the series.
For such a quick read the author packed in world-building, character development and plot, plot and more plot. I totally fell in love with Ava and Luc and cannot wait to rejoin the adventure and find out what happens next!

The Turncoat King

Having loved the introductory novella The Rising Wave I had quite high expectations for The Turncoat King and on the whole I wasn’t too disappointed. The story held my attention from start to finish, the pace was excellent and the prose flowed smoothly. What did let it down was how very easily the conflict was resolved at the end, particularly the fact that three men held off a whole city full of people and guards. I also wondered why the author kept making a big thing of Ava’s secrets as no one seemed too bothered by the truth when it was revealed.

Almost too perfect for words, Ava and Luc both still managed to make me adore them and were a big part of what drew me into the story. They are decent people with strong morals and steely determination. I found them immensely likeable, particularly enjoying the scenes where they were together. Neither experience too much in the way of adversity during the timeline of the story, so whilst both were well-rounded there wasn’t much evidence of character growth or learning. The fade-to-black sex scenes didn’t bother me, though the very instant-love nature of their relationship did take rather a suspension of disbelief.


Sara’s review here (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) hit’s the nail on the head when she says “When the book was good, was in the midst of a scene. I was easily captivated by what was occurring in the story. The author excels at pulling me into the moment and holding my eyes wide open. It’s when I step back and think on the logic of things that this story doesn’t feel as well written.”


Despite all that I still really enjoyed this book. As I was reading I didn’t want to put it down, it fully held my attention. As such I do recommend it and also fully intend to continue with the series.

The Threadbare Queen

The Rising Wave pretty much picks up from where The Turncoat King ends. That, along with The Rising Wave, must be read before this book for the story to be fully understood.


Whilst this isn’t quite as gritty, tough or imperfect as my preferences run to, there is something rather captivating and engaging about the author’s voice. Within a few pages I found myself caught up in the story and, unlike other books I’ve read recently, it readily held my attention from start to finish. I very much like Ava and Luc, yes I would rather they not be quite so perfect, but they are still great characters who are easy to understand and get behind.


After the far too easy resolution last time, I did feel as though the author had attempted to make life a little tougher for our protagonists in this book. However, I get the impression that she is far too nice a person to go down that route of killing off a side character or two. This means the books are fairly low angst, but sometimes that is what this reader wants. And with such excellent prose, I find this a very enjoyable and engaging series. I for one can’t wait to read the next book and am happy to recommend this series to others. It’s particularly good for those who hate cliffhangers as each book has its own complete story arc.



A thirst for revenge . . . Ava is committed to vengeance against the man responsible for the death of her parents. The same man, the Queen’s Herald, kept her prisoner for two years, until she escaped with Luc, a warlord bent on vengeance just as fierce as her own. He’s forged a powerful army of people from all through the region, called the Rising Wave, to march on the Kassian royal family and smash its corrupt power under the weight of their anger. But for Luc, just as for Ava, his true motive is a lot more personal.
A hidden magic . . . Luc suspects Ava has magical abilities, suspects he’s benefited greatly from them, but he’s no stranger to the burdens of power, and he’s prepared to let her tell him in her own time-after all, she’s his heart’s choice and he will give her all the time she needs. Except time is running out for both of them. As they near the Kassian stronghold, forces from within their own camp and without will use every trick they have to stop both Luc and Ava and tear them apart.
A secret laid bare . . . Luc knows Ava has a secret she’s keeping from him-but what he doesn’t realize is she has many. And when those secrets are exposed, everyone will have to grapple with the consequences. Ava is prepared to sacrifice her happiness and even her life to save the Rising Wave and Luc-but she would prefer to use her heart and her head to outwit her enemies instead.


A conqueror’s victory is never assured . . .
The Rising Wave may have taken control of Kassia, but hot on the heels of their victory, Luc receives word from one of his spies that the Jatan, emboldened by the Kassian army’s withdrawal, have crossed the border. More worryingly, they haven’t just moved into northern Kassia, but also east to Luc’s home region of Cervantes, and with all the Cervantes warriors with Luc in Kassia’s capital, Fernwell, cementing their hold on power, his home is vulnerable and defenceless. Luc has no choice but to leave securing Fernwell to Ava, gather forces, and head north, to try to push the Jatan back to their side of the mountains.
A queen’s safety is never a given . . .
Finally, after months of trying, a minion of the Speaker of Grimwalt’s court manages to snatch Ava from under the noses of her friends and allies, off the streets of Fernwell and onto the back roads to Grimwalt. Ava has to struggle against an insidious assault on her vitality and magic, fighting a power that isn’t just strong, but malevolent.
And nothing is set in stone . . .
As Ava tries to escape her captors and Luc races to defend his homeland, they draw closer and closer to each other, until finally their paths cross, as they always seem to do. As they once again face their enemies together, they will have to use all their strength to salvage the victory they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.


Book Review · Fantasy · MM

#BookReview #Fantasy // The Final Masquerade by Ariana Nash

The Final Masquerade
by Ariana Nash


Oh my, what an emotionally turbulent, intensely evocative and utterly mesmerising story this is. I fell down a rabbit hole with Brice into a swirling, dizzying and ultimately soul-shattering melee of magic, mystery and mayhem. Lies are layered upon lies whilst deceptions, tricks and misdirection abound until you can no longer trust anyone or anything – not even the evidence seen with your own eyes.


Ariana Nash delivers up a dark, twisted tale of fae madness. An intriguing story of machination and manipulation, where every word is deceptive, every look meant to seduce. Whilst hidden desires may be fulfilled, it pays to remember that nothing is given freely and most things are not as they may seem. The story is by parts raw, vicious and heartrending, yet also delicate, gentle and loving.

He tasted of fae sweetness. Of sweet wine and bitter sadness. He didn’t believe anything would change; he didn’t believe Brice would succeed. He thought this was goodbye.

I adored Brice and his slippery fae paramour, couldn’t get enough of this wonderful pair truth be told. Their chemistry was explosively hot, though the path to a HEA was littered with pain, sadness and heartache. Each damaged in their own way, this pair of star-crossed lovers battled long and hard against the power of the Masquerade, but when truth and illusion are impossible to differentiate then suffering and angst are sure to follow.


Every moment in the masquerade held an air of peril and threat, blinding me with its devious illusions and leaving me unable to even begin guessing as to the twists that would unfold and the truths that would be revealed. It held me spellbound with its brilliance, tossed me on the stormy seas of its emotional intensity and left me wanting to never leave the world that had been created. If a golden-edged invitation should happen to fall on my doormat I’m not sure I could resist its siren call.



Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

MM Fantasy Romance

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59739580-the-final-masquerade

Synopsis
The winter solstice. The darkest day, the longest night. Every year the solstice heralds the return of the masquerade ball. Fae and human dance and drink and make merry, so long as they remain masked. But there’s a darker side to this night. Should a guest lose their mask, their life is forfeit, cursed to dance forever for the entertainment of the masquerade’s cold and cruel fae host.
Ever since he was a boy, Brice LeChoix’s mother had warned him of the terrible fae. But it wasn’t the fae who took his parents from him. Madness did that. Years later, now Lord of the crumbling LeChoix estate and buckled by debt, he has more important things to think about than fairytales. Until the masquerade comes to town. Every year on the solstice it appears, and every year the townsfolk frolic with the fae. Some never return.
Brice warned his brother not to go. And when the masquerade vanishes like mist at dawn, it takes Charon with it. Now Brice must return to the masquerade, the very place he vowed never to set foot in again. The fae know his desires, they know his weaknesses. Forbidden lust will lure Brice from his world, into theirs. To save his brother, he must survive the masquerade’s beautiful lies and avoid the host’s wicked ways.
But the fae have other ideas. One in particular has his eye on Brice… The trickster, Raoul, will stop at nothing to seduce Brice because he knows, more than anyone, that the masquerade is a trap from which no soul truly ever escapes.

The longest night is upon us. Can you hear their call? Take my hand, come with me, to the masquerade ball…



A stunning adult MM dark fairytale standalone novel of 115,000 words. Coming Autumn/Winter 2021. Warning: this book contains devious fae, dubious consent, coercive rape, sex with multiple partners, suicide, and violent punishment, and is advised for readers aged 18+




Book Review · Fantasy

#BookReview #Fantasy Romance #TBT // Deadly Dreams by K.J. Sutton

Deadly Dreams
Fortuna Sworn #3
by K.J. Sutton

A “blast from the past” review.
Blending my Throwback Thursday with Budget Tales Book Blog’s Time Travel Thursday this week and featuring a review of the book I was reading this time last year.


After having stalled two-thirds of the way through, because it felt as though we really weren’t making any headway on the story, I eventually picked this back up and finished reading it. Virtually from that very page, the plot picked up and I was recaptured by this great series. So much so that I read into the early hours to finish this! Had the entire book been at this level it would have surpassed 5 stars, rather than almost DNF’ing it. I do need to thank Julie of One Book More blog, as she encouraged me to finish this and was 100% correct about that ending!


This is a long book, a fair amount of which could (and maybe should) have been edited out with no real impact on the story. There was a whole subplot involving Gwen and the Wild Hunt that was far too long-winded, providing very little forward movement. Given the number of words devoted to this, it should have been more significant in driving the plot forward. It does leave me wondering if the series should have been planned for 4 or 5 books rather than 6.


On a positive, we saw Fortuna undergo a great deal of personal growth. There were still some rash decisions, but we saw a lot more forethought, more questioning rather than simply believing more self-awareness. Despite it being heartbreaking to read, I loved how the author handled the trauma that both Fortuna and Collith had endured. There were some beautiful moments between various characters, some incredibly tender scenes, some moving scenes, some terrifying scenes and some confuzzling ones that will no doubt become clear in future books.


I was awestruck by how a throwaway sentence in book #1, by a nameless character, suddenly held great significance. This is a complex story, one where you start unravelling a thread and suddenly have a whole layer seemingly revealed, only for another thread to add a different spin to the story. Relationships and allegiances, that in hindsight should have been obvious, were revealed like a slap to the face. Hints, clues, breadcrumbs and red herrings are scattered throughout and you could drive yourself insane trying to follow and unpick them all.


Sadly the book spent far too long drifting in aimless circles with little advancement of the plot. So whilst this was not quite as good as the previous two based on the last third I WILL continue the series. I’m fairly certain, at some point, that we will discover that “Laurie” at the end isn’t Laurie, but rather is his more evil and conniving brother. I could be wrong though.


At times, the book also suffered from that very annoying trope of “let’s avoid that simple conversation that would avoid lots of angst, suffering and misconceptions”. There were too many interrupted conversations that remained unfinished, despite the opportunity to complete them. And despite the information being important. In addition, I felt there was too much needless keeping of secrets, which smacks of lazy/lacklustre writing, this author is capable of better than that.



This review here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show… by Miriam perfectly sums up my exact thoughts and feelings around this book. Perhaps I’d been too eager for this book, had built up such great expectations that I was bound to be somewhat disappointed. However, this series here, The Messenger Chronicles by Pippa DaCosta, is an example of where each book has its own story arc, whilst also moving the overarching storyline forward too.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Fantasy Romance

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49419243-deadly-dreams

Synopsis
I pushed myself up and stumbled away. But the memory followed me like a bad feeling. It found its way through the shabby mental wall I’d erected. Within seconds, it filled my skull again.
Fortuna has made one too many sacrifices to protect the ones she loves. She no longer knows how to go about her day-to-day life like she’s normal. Like she’s not utterly destroyed. Just a glimpse of Ian O’Connell’s face causes panic attacks, and Collith isn’t much help, considering he’s fighting demons of his own.
Amongst so much inner turmoil, Fortuna’s abilities are still changing. However weak she feels, she knows she’s getting stronger. Fortuna does her best to hide it from other Fallen, because in the world of monsters, strength will get you killed. Well, that and unpredictable panic attacks.
Unfortunately for Fortuna, it’s when you’re most vulnerable that enemies—new and old—like to come out of the woodwork…


TRIGGER WARNING: This novel contains scenes or themes of PTSD, sexual assault, and rape.


Book Review · Fantasy · Omegaverse

#BookReview #PNR #Omegaverse // The Heiress and the Orc by Finley Fenn

The Heiress and the Orc
Orc Sworn #2
by Finley Fenn

The Heiress and the Orc is an unusual mix of well-written fantasy and erotic romance. One doesn’t normally see the level of world-building, character complexity, and multi-layered plot in a book that is so sexually raw and, well, filthy! There are chunks of this book that really are NOT safe to read in a public place, delightfully erotic and so hot my kindle was in danger of combusting.


Ella’s early decisions do have the possibility of alienating some readers. Despite what she witnessed at her engagement party, as a woman Ella has no real autonomy in her society, so I empathized with her thoughts. The only way to retain all that she has left, all that holds meaning and security for her, is to marry a man of standing. So I could fully understand her seemingly “selfish” choices – would you really allow everything your father had worked for to be given to a stranger? Would you happily give up your beloved home just based on a possibility? Especially when you have been practically brainwashed for the last few years of your life into believing it is the right thing to do. Sometimes we have to allow the head to overrule the heart!


Natt was harder to pin down, mainly because the book is entirely from Ella’s viewpoint. I did feel as though I knew his core character, but clearly, he had motivations and reasons to which we were not privy. That said he was solid and consistent, there were no abrupt about turns with Natt and his adoration of Ella was impossible to miss. This is quite a long book with, at times, a meandering pace. Some of this is to allow us to discover more about the characters and as a character-driven reader that suited me well. However, for someone who is more about the plot, this could feel slow.


The author does a wonderful job of foreshadowing throughout, whilst throwing enough smoke and shadows to leave the reader shattered by a totally unexpected curveball thrown at the end of the book. Whilst I didn’t quite ugly cry, I definitely shed tears for poor Ella. Despite how betrayed she had been, despite how hurt, she didn’t sully her love for Natt by acting the woman scorned, she remained the better person, she accepted her fate and she was bloody amazing. Did Nattfar need to grovel more? I don’t believe so because he was willing to sacrifice all that he had worked so hard to gain, finally (and possibly a touch late!!!) ready to give up everything to protect Ella. So despite him having been the most selfish, manipulative piece of work I’ve ever met as a hero, I found it as easy to forgive him as Ella did. Though he definitely owed her big time!


If I could wish for one thing, it would have been to better understand the origins of the conflict between Orcs and Humans. That may have been explored more fully in Book #1 (The Lady and the Orc), however in a book marketed as standalone this kind of detail needs to be creatively woven into each story. This was definitely good enough to make me interested in reading more of the series and is perfect for those who love their romance on the very steamy side.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fantasy Romance

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50935559-the-heiress-and-the-orc

Synopsis
Once, he was her dearest friend… but now he’s a brutal, terrifying monster.
In a world of recently warring orcs and men, Ella Riddell is determined to ignore it all. She’s the wealthiest heiress in the realm — and soon, she’s to wed a lord, and become a real lady.
Until the night her engagement-party ends in utter disaster, and Ella runs for the forest — and straight into the powerful arms of a hulking, deadly orc. And it’s not just any orc. It’s Natt. The orc Ella made a secret, foolish pledge to, many years past…
He’s huge and shameless and vicious, not at all the gangly, laughing daredevil Ella remembers. And he’s here with one shocking, scandalous aim: to wreak vengeance on Ella’s betrothed. With her. With her hunger. Her surrender. Her undoing…
Ella knows she should run, even if this deadly enemy was once a friend. Even if his scent drags up a dark, forbidden longing. Even if his kisses are the sweetest, filthiest thing she’s ever tasted in her life…
But will Ella truly risk her perfect future, for an orc? Will she face the bitter truths of the past, and brave the terrifying Orc Mountain, before more war rises to destroy them all?


A dark, angsty, full-length, friends to lovers fantasy romance. Comes after The Lady and the Orc, but also reads as a standalone. Happily ever after guaranteed.




Book Review · Fantasy

#BookReview #Fantasy // Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond
The Founding of Valdemar #1
by Mercedes Lackey


I was absolutely thrilled to be able to take a step back in time and revisit the world of Valdemar. After first discovering these books in the early 90’s I was immediately a fan, though I haven’t read any more for a good 20 or so years. It was wonderful to discover the writing was as pleasing as I remembered and I soon found myself falling back in love with this world.

The book wasn’t perfect, but then no book ever is and you definitely can’t please all of the people all of the time. The pace was a little too slow and meandering at times, but because I am a character driven reader it didn’t spoil the story for me. What I would have really liked to see were flawed characters – this had an almost “Disney” feel where the good guys were all perfect and the bad guys were somewhat caricaturish and oft portrayed as stupid. Stupid people do not rise to positions of power. I’ve clearly grown up in those intervening years and I just wanted and needed a little more depth to my protagonists.

That said I’m still a big fan of this series and will definitely continue reading it!


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sword and Sorcery

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56688207-beyond

Synopsis
The long-awaited founding of Valdemar comes to life in this new series from a New York Times bestselling author and beloved fantasist.
Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny, bucolic Duchy that focuses mostly on horse breeding. Anticipating the day when the Empire’s exploitative and militant leaders would not be content to leave them alone, Korda’s father set out to gather magicians in the hopes of one day finding a way to escape and protect the people of the Duchy from tyranny.
Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and “milking” of Elemental creatures.
But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave.
But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor’s Court.
Can his reputation as a country bumpkin and his acting skills buy him and his people the time they need to flee? Or will the Emperor lose patience, invade to strip Valdemar of everything of worth, and send its conscripted people into the front lines of the Imperial wars?