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Smoke and Mirrors by Marie Treanor

Smoke and Mirrors (The Gifted, #1)Smoke and Mirrors by Marie Treanor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marie Treanor has a knack for creating heros I am smitten with. Drago from Gothic Dragon was the cream of the crop, but Rodion Kosar comes a close second (I keep thinking of Keyser Soze – somehow name and character remind me of him). The story was a bit too much action for me, but I did even the action parts quite a bit.

There is great chemistry between Rodion and Nell, but I had a few misgivings about the fact that throughout the book he was always going on in his head about there could not be a commitment. In the end there was one without anything having changed. From the start it was clear that either the mission would either fail or be successful, so what kept him from thinking that, if successful, he and Nell could not stay together? He could have easily said “Listen, if we get out of here alive and kicking, it’s a deal. If we fail, we (or I) will be dead anyway.” That was unnecessary tension, because it made no sense to me.

Nevertheless, I loved the couple together, as well as the secondary characters. The second book in this series (and obviously, so far, the last), Hearts and minds, is about Nikolai, which does not surprise me. He plays only a very minor part in the first book, but I can see some great potential here. Nell describes him as a “lecherous Jesus”, which was a misconception on her part, but gave a good visual description. Looking forward to it.

I don’t know who did the cover art for the two books, but I didn’t think it was fitting. The guy on Smoke and Mirrors looks nothing like I picture Rodion, he is way too soft looking. Fiery eyes don’t make him a badass, but I suppose one must be grateful that at least he is blond. And what about the stupid cloak? This is not a 19th century vampire story. Sometimes those cover artists don’t even seem to have read the descriptions. But, of course, that’s only me. If the cover guy floats your boat, even better.

View all my reviews

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The Elf and Shoemaker by M. L. Rhodes

Synopsis: Logan Shoemaker runs an unsuccessful magick shoppe. No customers, no money for the energy bill, no food but instant ramen noodles. All in all, he’s pretty down. Along comes Hallan, an elf from a parallel world, who has been watching Logan through a mirror for nine months now (or rather longer in elf-time) and who finally had the chance to cross over into Logan’s world. Not only provides Hallan Logan with a powerful potion that sells like hot cakes in his shop, but also he turns Logan’s love life – so far non-existent- upside down. However, Hallan lives in a dangerous world he can’t just leave behind.

Review: M. L. Rhodes is starting to become one of my favourite erotica writers. Her characters are so endearing, you can’t help rooting for them constantly. That goes for this story as well. It is classified as a fairy tale and this fits perfectly. A good to the core human, struggling to make a living, elves, an evil usurper king, magical objects, wondrous potions, it’s all there, woven into a great tale (unfortunately way too short for my taste). The love scenes are sizzling hot and leave nothing to be desired; those two guys are just made for each other. One thing I particularly like about the story here is the fact that an issue, that always leaves me wondering, is being resolved in the end. The pairing of an immortal and a mortal person is somewhat dissatisfying in the long run (at least for the immortal one). Thank God, the HEA here leaves Hallan and Logan on equal terms in that respect.

After reading this novella M. L. Rhodes goes on my autobuy list. Do I need to say any more?

Available at Amber Allure

[rating:5]

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Phantom Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Synopsis: Erin doesn’t want to go to sleep anymore because she’s having nightmares all the time. A beastly dragon keeps trying to abduct her in her dreams and claim her. Eventually a knight comes along and rescues her and – as you would expect at that point – she’s immediately enthralled by him. V’Aidan is the perfect guy – in her dreams. Can they make their relationship work even when Erin is awake? And what or who exactly is V’Aidan?

Review: This is a novella included in the anthology "Midnight Pleasures". The story belongs to the Dream-Hunter series, which is sort of a spin-off of the Dark Hunters.

"The Dream-Hunters are fictional characters from the Dark-Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. They are children of the Greek gods of sleep. Some of the Dream-Hunters have human mothers, but most are born of the Greek goddess Mist. Dream-Hunters protect the humans, Apollites, and immortals while they sleep." (Source: Wikipedia)

I absolutely loved this story. In fact I was so thrilled with V’Aidan that he set off my preference for the name Aidan for a hero (see my post on Into the Dreaming). Not only is V’Aidan a good looking caring lover, he also constantly struggles against his own destiny and tries to be better than he’s supposed to be. He’s continuously harassed by his fellow dream hunters, but stays steadfast. The love scenes are as hot as you can expect from Kenyon, the plot is pretty good and makes sense to me.
When Erin found out that V’Aidan is a Skotos she does react a bit harshly in my opinion. So what if he’s a Skotos? She adored him, enjoyed his company, loved her dreams with him. That he is a Skotos in name doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to what he is to her. She felt deceived, but why? She had assumed he is an oneros, but he never explicitly confirmed this. I would accept deception like this anytime. Obviously I have got no principles. But after her initial feelings of betrayal she came around quite quickly and went out of her way to get V’Aidan out of his hell.

What I don’t like are the names Kenyon gives the secondary characters. Chrissy in Erin’s world is Krysti’Ana, Rick Sword is Rec’Sord. Does she think her readers can’t make a connection unless she comes up with names that are similar? And why does EVERY name have to have an apostrophe? To make them look more exotic? Can do without all that.

I keep re-reading this story. It is a fast and pleasurable read that always puts me in a good mood. I’ve never read another Dream hunter novel until now, and probably won’t either, though. According to the amazon boards "Phantom Lover" is the best story featuring them. The novels don’t seem to be half as good as this novella. Better to stop when it’s still good.

[rating:5]

Want to read more reviews? The anthology was also reviewed by Reading Adventures

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Into the dreaming by Karen Marie Moning

Synopsis: Aspiring romance novelist Jane Sillee was completely in love with her fantasy man–the hot and strapping dark-haired Highlander who’d been coming to her in her dreams for years and inspired her sensual flights of literary fantasy.

But it was more than her imagination that conjured up the brilliantly woven tapestry sporting the spitting image of her magnificently arrogant warrior. It was more than a dream that transported her to medieval Scotland to break an evil spell. And it was more than she could handle when she found herself wrapped in the muscular arms of Aedan MacKinnon, who had his own fantasies to fulfill…

Review:

The novella is part of an anthology called "Tapestry". What I love about novellas is that there is no room to drag out the plot ad infinitum. This one didn’t disappoint.

This story was an absolute delight to read. Even considering what I said earlier in my post about names in novels, I have some preferences when it comes to hero’s names. If his name is Aidan (or any derivation) he can’t fail with me. It all started with "Phantom Lover" by Sherrilyn Kenyon, a novella in the anthology "Midnight Pleasures" and ever since I’m a sucker for any Aidan out there. Disclaimer: "Dark Gold" doesn’t count, I read that book before "Phantom Lover", so Aidan Savage doesn’t fall into the "Great Aidans" category. In fact I found him rather bland.

Jane was a heroine after my own heart. Not shilly shallying back and forth, but once she’s set her mind on Aedan – and that was before she even met him in person – she stuck to that. No matter how cool he was towards her, she knew why that was and never gave up. No silly misunderstandings or stupid banter came in between her and her man.

Another circumstance that sold me the story was the fact that Jane and Aedan met in their dreams before they met in real life. I just like that. A lot.

Aedan wasn’t as alpha as you probably would expect from some highlander story, but that was more down to the fact that he had no clue who he was, having been brainwashed for 500 years. Not surprising that the poor guy was a bit confused and only slowly came to his senses.

Even the brogue, that I usually don’t like too much, didn’t bother me. It all fit perfectly.

This was my first story ever by Karen Marie Moning and now I’m debating whether to read her Highlander series.

[rating:5]

Want to read more reviews? This story was also reviewed by Reading Adventures.

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Gothic Dragon by Marie Treanor

Synopsis: Stuck in an uninteresting job and settled in a safe but vaguely unsatisfying relationship, the only bright spot in Esther’s life is her writing. She’s fascinated by colorful life of her ancestor Margaret Marsden, a nineteenth-century Gothic romance novelist. A woman who mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
A weekend away turns into a hunt for clues when Esther stumbles across Margaret’s lost novel, The Prince of Costanzo. Though desperate to read it, every time Esther opens the book, she falls asleep, and headlong into amazingly vivid dreams about Costanzo.
But in this dream world where war, magic and poisoning are commonplace, nothing is as it seems. Least of all the supposed villain of the novel, the enigmatic sorcerer Prince Drago. She finds herself kidnapped to his castle and subjected to a seductive interrogation that curls her toes. As their feelings for each other grow more powerful, she begins to wonder – is he the real villain, or a hero who only wants to save his kingdom? All she knows is that now that she’s had a taste of Costanzo – and Drago, her real life troubles seem insignificant.

Until they come crashing around her, threatening to cut her off from the man she loves. Forever.

Review: I like the idea of the reader to be sucked into a book. However, usually you’d expect her to experience the story described in that book. Here the story that Esther was transported into was quite different from the contents of the book. The explanation that was given as to why that was and how Esther could be drawn into the book in the first place was a bit far fetched and too complicated for my simple mind. But I’m a reader willing to overlook almost everything, from inconsistencies to illogical reasoning to incomprehensible explanations as to the why of the story, if only the story is good. And good it was.

The dreamlike, gothic atmosphere was quite compelling, you could picture Drago’s castle, the whole country Costanzo, its peasants, everything. It was like looking at one of those vivid paintings of some medieval scenery.
The fact that Drago, who was introduced as the super villain, turned out to be the hero was a nice touch here. He was as great a hero as you could wish for in a romance. Esther realistically didn’t fall for him the second she set eyes on him, but slowly came to care for him.
The real villains (there are some in either timeline) turned out to be quite villainous indeed and added the necessary suspense.

I’m a sucker for the “waited all my life for you” sort of story, so this was a really enjoyable read for me.

edit: There is a free short story available at The Samhellion called “Gothic Wolf”, which is a sort of sequel to “Gothic Dragon”, featuring Esther’s sister and Arturo.  Check it out!