Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser

I love short stories when they are well  .  A short story should be a punch to the solar plexus, leaving the reader breathless. Long after the punch, the reader can still feel the short story. My kids all hate me for making them read The Lottery. But Shirley Jackson knew how to throw a mean punch.

But the emotional punch doesn’t have to be about shock and horror. It can be about wonderment. A story can enchant. One of my favorite short stories read in recent years is Made of Stars by Anne Fraiser. This is a vampire romance, which is a departure from her usual writing. I was bedazzled by this mesmerizing story about a vampire in love with a stranger. It is a bargain for 99 cents on Amazon.

Made of Stars

My latest guilty pleasure author

Kylie Scott recommended Defy by L.J. Shen on Facebook. Being a huge fan of Scott (another guilty pleasure author), I immediately bought the book sight unseen. I did not read the blurb. If I had, I might hesitated in buying the book. It is a high school student and teacher romance. Ugh. I hate this trope.  High school student-teacher romances are just wrong.

So I loved Defy. This romance works for two reasons. The high school student doesn’t remotely act like a high school student. He acts like a 30 year old man. The heroine acts much younger than her age of 26 year. Also, the student is definitely pursuing the teacher. These two factors negated my usual ick response to this trope. This book was sexy and fun.

Since Defy, I have read three more books by L.J. Shen, Vicious, Ruckus, and Sparrow. The Sinners of Saint City is my favorite series and the books get better and better. Shen writes about sexy, tortured alpha heroes obsessed with the heroines. Which is one of my favorite tropes.

defy

Shane by Anna Beguine

Lilith Saintcrow treated her Patreon contributors (https://www.patreon.com) to her upcoming short story, Shane. This short story will be published July 15, 2017 under the pen name, Anna Beguine.  I am very particular about short stories. I find a lot of short stories and novellas lacking. But I loved this twisted werewolf romance. This story featured a female fantasy hero, the perfect man in every way……..except for one little flaw.

Not only should you check out this novella, check out patreon. It is opportunity to support your favorite artists. Saintcrow has been providing a weekly zombie serial, which I am loving.

Shane

Truly Dead by Anne Fraiser

Evocative, dark, and searing, this latest book in the Elise Sandburg series by Anne Fraiser may the best yet. Fraiser creates and brings to life powerful, memorable characters. Even her secondary characters are complex and multifaceted.

In Elise Sandburg, Fraiser has created one of her most amazing characters. If Fraiser has a niche, it is her ability to explore the psyche of a strong woman dealing with catastrophic trauma in her past.

In this novel, , Elise returns to Savannah with her partner, David Gould, in triumph. They had successfully solved a murder in Chicago. There is a demand for the services of their new company. But a friend on the police force contacts them for assistance when a boy’s body is found during the demolition of a building.

As they attempt to find the killer before any one else is harmed, both Elise and David must face their innermost demons as well as the monster killing children. The emotional journeys in this novel are just as engrossing as the murder mystery. When Elise finally reveals her grotesque and disfiguring scars to another person, there is a gut wrenching honesty to the scene. In the meanwhile, her partner, David must decide whether he should move on with his life rather than waiting for Elise to return his feelings.

This is a murder mystery. The mystery is engrossing, frightening, and well plotted. There are red herrings and distractions. Fraiser creates strong visual, action scenes. In fact, it is very easy to see this novel translate into a movie or television show.

This book can be read as a standalone. It isn’t necessary to have read the first three books in the series.   I highly recommend it.

Trulydead

The Chosen by JR Ward

This is the 17th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Since early in the series, I have been waiting for a happy ever after for Layla. Layla is not a kick ass heroine. She is kind, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. She was raised to serve the needs of others and have the children of the Primale.  When  Phury, the Primale, releases all of the Chosen from this duty, Layla lost the main purpose of her life. But she continue to serve and feed members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Then she is tricked into feeding and nourishing a rebel, who plans to overthrow the King. Xcor, deformed from birth with a harelip, is immediately enchanted by Layla. He feels unworthy of her. He even blackmails her into keeping company with him.

In the meanwhile, Layla goes into her time of need. Her friend, Qhuinn, has sex with her and she becomes pregnant with his children. Qhuinn is happy about the children.  Layla intends to raise the children with Qhuinn and his husband, Blay.

All of this action has occurred over a series of novels in the series and before this novel begins.

This novel begins with Xcor,   a prisoner of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Layla is distraught over his inevitable execution. When it is discovered that Layla had fed Xcor and then had spent time with him, she is threaten with banishment and the loss of her infant children.

Layla deserved a happy ending and she gets it in this novel. Xcor adores her. He will willingly sacrifice himself for her and her happiness. Layla fights for her children and her happiness.

The most concerning part of the novel is Qhuinn.  Qhuinn is a domestic abuser. This behavior first became apparent in Lover At Last.  In Lover At Last, Qhuinn engaged in emotional abuse toward Blay. In this novel, Qhuinn is emotionally abusive toward both Layla and Blay. Then the emotional abuse bleeds into violence. He points a gun at both Blay and Layla. He threatens to shoot Layla. Contrary to what I read in other reviews, none of this behavior is justified. It is abuse, pure and simple.

Which made the happy ever after and the all too easy reconciliation between Qhuinn, Blay and Layla at the end hard to swallow.  But JR Ward is an extremely smart writer. Qhuinn has engaged in this behavior in two novels. In this novel, Blay confronts him on his behavior and makes an ultimatum. I fully expect her to confront this issue in a future novel. When she does, I will happily buy it.

The Chosen

Lover At Last by JR Ward

** spoiler alert ** Acck, Acck, I am trying to get rid of the nasty artificial taste of saccharin left by the epilogue of this book.

I had some trepidation over this book and the “hot gay sex scenes” to quote one reader. But the gay sex scenes were a non-issue for me. On the other hand, I could have done without the skanky sex scenes between heterosexuals. The only sex scenes between heterosexuals were between vampire males and women for whom they had no respect. Which bothers me. Considering the vampire prostitute provided much needed sustenance to the outlaw vampires, you think that they would be more respectful.

The problem with this book was the lack of romances. While Blay and Qhuinn were having hot sex everywhere, the friendship and love were missing. The nice thing about Blay and Qhuinn has been their friendship and love for each other. While Blay may have been his usual kind caring persona with other characters, it was lacking in his interactions with Qhuinn. Yes, there were hot sex scenes. But I did not like Qhuinn abasing himself, by offering himself sexual as his only means to be with Blay. In fact, Qhuinn had to spend too much time demeaning himself in this book, including his confession that his out of control promiscuity was just his way of denying his homosexuality. Too much sex, not enough sexual tension and meaningful connection, left this romance wanting. Which made the surprise mating ceremony in the epilogue just too much.

One of the huge draws of this series is the anticipation of the growing romances of other characters. Unfortunately, Layla is the only character who I want to have a romance. The new character Assail is yet another drug dealing vampire. Trez and his love interest, the chosen, Selma,( or is she a princess in disguise) does not really interest me. All of the Brotherhood has found a mate. The new characters introduced are not as interesting. Honestly, I was disappointed that Qhuinn did not get a cool brotherhood name like Rhage in his induction. I think that J.R. Ward needs to find some more members of the Brotherhood to save this series. So I am happy to see that the next story involves Wrath and Beth. The Black Dagger Brotherhood is my favorite guilty pleasure. But it needs great characters like Rhage and Zsadist. Assail and Trez just are not as interesting. Also, I would like to see some more bad ass females.

(This review was first published on Goodreads. LoverAtLast

The Turn by Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison has my number. I have loved each and every book that I have read by her.  Her Hollows series featuring Rachel Morgan was an addicting must buy.  In this novel, she returns to the same world, but it is before the Turn. The heroine of The Turn could not be more different from Rachel Morgan. Trisk is a brilliant geneticist, but her ambitions are thwarted by two facts: she is a female and she is a dark elf. Passed over by the elite elf genetic labs, she works at a human lab.Instead of solving the elf’s declining birthrate, she is working  on commercial crop plants. While perfecting a drought proof tomato, she makes sure a new biological weapon will not threaten paranormal species.

But the young scion of teh Kalamack clan has been a life long thorn in her side. When he shows up at the lab, Trisk knows that he is spying on her. What she doesn’t know is how far Kal will go to destroy her reputation.

Trisk is a fascinating, complicated character. She must deal with the sexism of the 1960s and the bigotry of the elf clans. But her greatest obstacle may be her ambition.

It was delightful to read about the young Quen, who silently loves Trisk. As for Kal, who is the father of Trent Kalamack from the Rachel Morgan series, it is easy to see why he is so despised by Algaliarept.

Kim Harrison can write no wrong in my book. The Turn