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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.

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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!