Posts tagged “book reviews

From the Land of ARCs

Hi all,

This has been the busiest week of my life…and I still have three more to go! (I started working three jobs again – teaching Kindergarten, which is fun but you never really get a chance to rest, tutoring and working at a learning centre…again no rest in the last two jobs either.)

And I course I’m still in the middle of edits, but thankfully my critique partners are awesome and totally tolerate my erratic writing schedule. But I’ve promised to get more chapters done over the weekends!

But recently, I also received three Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) from Avon and I am very, very excited to read them! 🙂

And in the order of the release dates, here they are:

1. The Masterful Mr. Montague by Stephanie Laurens (releasing April 29th, 2014) and the second “Casebook of Barnaby Adair” novel. I’ve already read a bit of this and I love the characterization!

Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London’s elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally … and personally.

Violet, devoted lady-companion to the aging Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she’d expected – this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong – everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim.

But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer.who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?

2. The Kiss of Wrath by Sandra Hill (releasing May 27th, 2014), the fourth in the”Deadly Angels” series  and the title of this one is so badass!

No wicked wenches or wild rampages
it’s been centuries since Mordr the Berserker was turned into a Vangel-a Viking Vampire Angel-as punishment for his sin of wrath, and he’s been frustrated ever since. It’s not so bad being stuck in modern-day Las Vegas. What better place to slay Lucipires, or demon vampires, than the original Sin City. But then Mordr Sigurdsson’s mission is expanded to a new assignment: protect lust-worthy Miranda Hart.

Miranda’s well-ordered life turned into chaos when she unexpectedly inherited her late cousin’s five children. Now, her cousin’s dangerous husband is about to be paroled, and she needs a miracle to keep them all safe.That miracle arrives on her doorstep in the form of a very buff, handsome man with a very strange name. Mordr wants nothing to do with a red-haired wench or children. Miranda wants nothing to do with gorgeous hunk who claims to be a Viking.

As Miranda and Mordr give in to temptation, they must decide if they fit in each other’s worlds-before their enemies close in on them.

3. The Virgin of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney (releasing May 27th, 2014 as well) and this is the third in the “Sinclair” series and since it was the first ARC I received I’ve pretty much finished this one and will have a review soon. (Although, I don’t want to post it too much before the release date.)

Ellice Traylor has a secret. Beneath her innocent exterior beats an incredibly passionate and imaginative heart. She has been pouring all of her frustrated virginal fantasies into a scandalous manuscript. But when her plans for her future are about to be derailed by her mother’s matrimonial designs, she takes matters into her own hands.

Ross Forster, the Earl of Gladsden, has spent his life creating order out of chaos. He expects discipline and calm from those around him. What he does not expect is a beautiful, thoroughly maddening stowaway in his carriage.

But when Ross discovers Ellice’s secret book, he finds he can’t stop thinking about what other fantasies the disarming virgin can dream up. He has the chance to learn when a compromising position forces them to wed. But can the uptight Earl survive a life with his surprising new wife? And how will the hero of Ellice’s fantasies compare to the husband of her reality?

I’ll have reviews of all of these books posted closer to the release dates!

Rika Ashton

(aka The Official Book Reviewer)


Covers Done Right: Showalter’s “Otherworld Assassins” Series

When I first saw Gena Showalter’s Last Kiss Goodnight resting on the bookshelf at Chapters, it was coverlust at first sight! In a flash, I grabbed the book and ran with it to the clerks desk – this is hard to do when you take a shortcut through the children’s section, where toddlers cling to you like leeches. (Really, whatever happened to “stranger danger”? These kids have no trouble grabbing an arm or leg and plastering themselves like barnacles on a rock.)

Anyways, back to the point at hand. Saving myself from clinging kids made me forget that how much I wanted – nay, needed – to rave about the cover for Last Kiss Goodnight! The model’s flowing red dress that turns into tendrils of smoke is genius! And the man in the cage, plus the trees and moon in the background is gorgeous. It’s an interesting cover for a romance because it breaks tradition. We get a hint of male abs, but the cover artist isn’t relying on echanting male flesh to get the reader’s attention. Plus, the cover clearly puts the female in the position of power – she’s not the one in a cage.

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin, #1)

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Gena Showalter ignites a thrilling new paranormal series with this breathtaking tale of a warrior enslaved by desire, and the woman who frees his soul.

The sweetest temptation…

Black ops agent Solomon Judah awakens caged and bound in a twisted zoo where otherworlders are the main attraction. Vika Lukas, the owner’s daughter, is tasked with Solo’s care and feeding. The monster inside him yearns to kill her on sight, even though she holds the key to his escape. But the human side of him realizes the beautiful deaf girl is more than she seems—she’s his.

The ultimate price…

Vika endures the captives’ taunts and loathing, hoping to keep them alive even if she can’t free them. Only, Solo is different— he protects her. But as hostility turns to forbidden romance, his feelings for her will be used against him…and he’ll be put to a killer test.

The story inside the cover was also a great read. Fast-paced, with action and characters that hold your interest. The heroine, Vika, who loses her hearing after recieving a brutal beating from her father, takes care of the hero – who’s imprisoned in her father’s circus of otherworldly creature, or “freakshow.” Vika’s also the primary caretaker of the other creatures, but knowing what it’s like to be imprisoned she secretly empathizes with them. Vika can’t leave the circus, she tried once – was found and returned to her father, hence the beating.

Solo, the hero, is bitter about being locked up and doesn’t trust Vika – so expect a few misunderstandings between the two. But Solo’s a classic alpha male who can’t resist “his woman” for long and so also expect explosive sex. 😉

The villain is Vika’s father, though he wasn’t always an evil man – was actually a good father once – so there’s more to his story as well. (Is it what you’ll expect? Maybe. Does he get what he deserved? Depends on who you ask.)

The fact that I immensely enjoyed the first novel had me anticipated the next, so when I saw the cover for Black and Blue it was a case of intense coverlust combined with wanted to know everything that was going to happen in the book – in other words, BOOKLOVE!

The sizzling second book in New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter’s Otherworld Assassin paranormal romance series.

He is every woman’s fantasy…

Corbin Blue is a man of many talents. One of the most powerful otherworlders ever born, he is wealthy, a professional football star, and a legend in the bedroom. But only a select few know he is also a black ops agent…and there is no better killer. When he and his crew are attacked and separated, he’s forced to turn to his boss’s daughter for help?a woman with even more secrets than Blue.

She becomes his only obsession…

Evangaline Black has always been wary, guarded. No man has ever breeched her walls. Until Blue. He has never been denied something he wants, and now, he’s decided he wants her. As he sweeps her into his double life of seduction, intrigue, and danger, he helps her see beyond the darkness of her own past. But as an enemy closes in, Blue will have to let Evie go to keep her safe – even though he’d rather die than live without her.

And this was the original art:

The cover artist for this series deserves a reward! I love the water motif in this one and, once again, the dress is beautiful! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book. 🙂

Black and Blue hits bookstores in October 2013.

What do you think of these cover? Am I the only one suffering from coverlust or have you fallen as well?

Rika Ashton

(aka Book Lover)

P.S: To see more work by the cover artist, Nathalia Suellen, visit her on Deviantart.

What the Duke Desires: A Book Review

Warning: As much as I try to avoid these, spoilers may be present in this book review.

And today, for a review of Sabrina Jeffries’ highly anticipated (at least by me) novel, What the Duke Desires!

Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, accepted long ago that his kidnapped brother was dead. When a cryptic note from investigator Tristan Bonnaud claims otherwise, Max seeks out Tristan’s sister, Lisette—and is infuriated to learn that Tristan has also mysteriously vanished. Have the siblings perpetrated an elaborate hoax? Or is the fiercely protective beauty as innocent as she claims them to be?

Fearful that the powerful duke will destroy Tristan’s career in his zeal for the truth, the clever Lisette convinces Max to accompany her to Paris in a joint search for their loved ones. But their journey takes a seductive twist when they pose as an ordinary husband and wife—not an English duke with a tarnished family name and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount—and discover an exhilarating passion free from the damning secrets of the past. With the line between danger and desire enticingly blurred, they discover that some mysteries, like those of the heart, are answered tenfold in the bliss of a true and trusting love.

What the Duke Desires is as much a novel about the influence of parents on children as it is a romance. Both Lisette and Max had childhoods, which although not perfect, were not entirely horrible either.

Lisette’s mother, the French mistress of an English Viscount, was loving and supportive of her children and Lisette’s father was likewise as loving, if a little absentminded. However, despite the fact that Lisette’s mother and father loved one another, they were not married. According to Lisette, it seems as if her father kept putting of their marriage for one reason or another – and Lisette (as well as myself) assumed it was because he didn’t want to marry his mistress. But the real tragedy arrives, when Lisette’s father dies unexpectedly and his heir, George Manton (the story’s main villain and Lisette’s half brother) forces Lisette, her brother Tristan and her mother off his property. Dominick, George’s brother leaves with them, choosing to support his half-siblings out of a sense of loyalty and love.

The history between Lisette’s parents has turned her against marriage and men and towards  a way to be independent – and not fake independence either, the kind where the heroine talks about independence but doesn’t do anything. Lisette had worked for the French police and now works for Manton’s Investigations – it’s clear she has a career and doesn’t rely solely on her brother’s for support. Another characteristic I liked about Lisette was her ability not to take herself, or what anyone says about her too seriously. She’s able to fend off most of Max’s accusations – and he makes some wild ones – with logic and good humour.

Dominick’s wonderful and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will get a story, along with his ex-fiance, Jane – hopefully soon. He’s a supportive brother and the head of Manton’s Investigation, renamed The Duke’s Men later in the book. As far as brothers go, I think Dominick is definitely a more responsible one than Tristan – though Tristan has his moments.

Tristan’s another interesting character, with an interesting career as an agent for the Surete Nationale (the French Secret Police). While I’m sure Tristan will have his own novel soon (really how could he not with a career like his – so much potential), I think he has a little growing up to do before he’s ready for a happily ever after.

But, since I’m sure the character you really want to know about is the Duke of Lyons, Maximillian Cale – or Max, as Lisette dubs him – I’ll get to him now. Max meets Lisette when he storms into Manton’s Investigations demanding to know where Tristan is. Tristan, as one would have it has sent Max a cryptic letter claiming he’s found Max’s long-lost, thought to be dead, brother but then didn’t show up the the secret meeting. Max afraid this is some kind of hoax wants an explanation.

Readers might remember Max from the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series – he’s the duke that the ton considers “mad” – as in insane, not constantly angry, though if everyone kept calling me crazy, I’d think I had a right to be angry.

Max suffers from the fear that he had inherited a family madness, since both his father and great-uncle went mad. Because this is a romance, I knew that Max couldn’t really be “mad,” although I did second guess myself a lot, but I was really hoping for a good explanation – and, boy, did I get a good one. No, Max doesn’t have a magical immunity which means that he won’t go mad, but a much more scientific and believable explanation was given – and yes, I was very impressed because I had no idea something like this coud happen. (But, you’ll have to read the novel to find out what it is, because no way am I spoiling something this good.)

When Max and Lisette meet, we finally get to see Lisette’s dramatic side. She convinces Max – a duke – to pose as a commoner. As you can imagine, it’s fun reading about a spoiled duke learning to live like a commoner. One of my favourite scenes in the novel occurs when Max learns that commoner’s share bath water, between couples and sometimes between families:

“I merely thought you should know that you may have to wait a while for [your bath]. Madame insists that you have fresh water, and it will take a while to heat it. If fresh water is what you prefer.”

Now Max was bewildered. “Of course I prefer fresh water. What else is there?”

The butler rolled his eyes, as if frustrated at dealing with someone so oblivious as Maximillian. “Wives and husbands often share bathwater in France, Mr. Kale. I forgot that you English can be…fastidious.”

Several things hit Max at once. One, he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be married. Two, he’d forgotten that the servants didn’t know he was a duke. And three, people actually shared bathwater?

Along with the funny moments is the steamy romance, which is signature of Sabrina Jeffries. Max and Lisette are attracted to one another, but both are resistant to act on these emotions. Lisette because she doesn’t want to repeat her mother’s mistake by falling in love with someone above her station, and Max because he knows that he’ll fall in love with Lisette but fears he’ll go mad and she’ll suffer watching his digress. (But, of course, if you try to surress fire for too long, there’s going to be an explosion!)

One thing I loved most about this novel was that Max and Lisette were not only good at admitting their feelings, but had good legitimate reasons for why they wanted to avoid marriage – not flimsy I-don’t-want-to-marry-you-because-I’m-afraid-of-commitment kind of reasons.

But if you’re still not convinced that Max and Lisette are a couple worth reading about, watch this video for some more funny teasers:

And, finally, as always I’m impressed with the amount of historical detail that goes into a Sabrina Jeffries novel. In What the Duke Desires, we get to meet Eugene Vidocq – a real criminal turned secret French investigator who lived in the time period.

So what’s the verdict?

Go out and grab a copy of What the Duke Desires. Trust me, finding out what Max desires will be worth it.

Edited to add: Sabrina Jeffries has confirmed (in a group FB post) that the next novel will be about Max’s relative (who I assume is Victor), followed by Tristan and then, Dominick’s – she’s saving him for last.

And if you’ve had a chance to read What the Duke Desires already, what are your thoughts? Are you loving the novel as much as I did or do you think I’ve lost my mind recommending this book? (Leave a comment with your thoughts and/or ravings.)

Rika Ashton

(aka Book Reviewer Extraordinaire)

Disclaimer: All book quotes used in this review are the property of Sabrina Jeffries © 2013.

Dear Declan Chase

Dear Declan Chase,

What was wrong with you? Why were you so mean to Regin? I like Regin, she’s actually pretty nice and she’s a kick-ass Valkyrie who has luminous skin…great girlfriend/wife/mate-for-eternity material if you ask me. So again what was wrong with you that you couldn’t see that she was your soulmate…like literally?

When I first learned from Kresley Cole that you were the hero of her upcoming novel, I cringed. I mean, you were (and are) so DARK…almost evil. Then I saw the blurb and was speechless. The whole story just sounded so tragic:


Murdered before he could wed Regin the Radiant, warlord Aidan the Fierce seeks his beloved through eternity, reborn again and again into new identities, yet with no memory of his past lives.


When Regin encounters Declan Chase, a brutal Celtic soldier, she recognizes her proud warlord reincarnated. But Declan takes her captive, intending retribution against all immortals—unaware that he belongs to their world.


Yet every reincarnation comes with a price, for Aidan is doomed to die when he remembers his past. To save herself from Declan’s torments, will Regin rekindle memories of the passion they once shared—even if it means once again losing the only man she ever loved?

You drove me berserk – pun intended – in Dreams of a Dark Warrior and though I understand that Kresley Cole wanted us to hate you in the beginning but I really, really HATED you. I wanted Regin to kick your butt a few times, and at other times I wanted to do that for her…but she may have taken exception to that. For some unfathomable reason, Regin cared about you and despite how much you wanted to deny it, you cared about her too.

You frustrated me.

And yet I can’t help but feel satisfied that you got your happy ending. The more I read your novel, the more I understood where you were coming from. (Plus, it helped that Regin made you grovel before she took you back.) Your novel, Declan, was the longest I’ve read in a while. 515 pages of adventure, romance, betrayal, bite-your-nails terror and fun! It was a wild ride and I’m glad I read it, despite knowing how horrible you could be from reading Demon from the Dark. Plus, it was nice to catch up with Lucia, Carrow and Malkom, and hang out with the new guy Thad. He was great fun! I’m happy with the way things turned out and for that I’ll give your novel and 9 out of 10.

Have a great life, Declan Chase!

Sincerely yours,

Rika Ashton

P.S: I hope you don’t mind that Lothaire stole the show near the end. I know how much you hated him, but I just thought he was mega-hot!

P.P.S: I love you, Nucking Futs Nix!

Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld

I’d like to start this post off by thanking Priscilla Shay for introducing me to the love of my life. Your wedding invitation is in the mail. 😀


Bet you didn’t think I’d fall for the bad guy, did you? It was love at first sight and I honestly, didn’t stand a chance. I’m a sucker for the villain-but-possible-hero-in-the-future types.

Ah, Galen. We’ll be honeymooning in Hawaii, or possibly in Florida since I still have to visit Disneyworld.

But that’s enough about my fiance, I should really get to talking about the other characters in the “Lords of the Underworld” (LOTU) series, the wonderfully HOT immortal creations of Gena Showalter. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day in her brain!

I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to come across a Gena Showalter novel, considering that she and Kresley Cole – one of my favourite authors – are BFFs. All I can say is that until Priscilla showed me the light, I was lost…

I LOVED Showalter’s writing style, sense of humour and endearing characters. Since some moments in the series revolve around darker subjects, it was nice to have the tension broken with Showalter’s sense of humour. Moreover, as any reader knows, characters can make or break a story. Would you want to read a story where the hero/heroine had no redeeming qualities? I certainly would not.

Before I go any further, let me take a moment to shamelessly brag…I would like to say that this might be my most epic series review yet, reviewing 9 novels and short stories in one blog post will gain you that status. o.O I hope to avoid posting spoilers in this blog and hope, even more, that I succeed in that endeavor. (Part of the charm of this series is discovering the twists and turns on one’s own and I wouldn’t want to spoil that for you.)

The LOTU series tells the story of immortal demon-possessed warriors, formerly the bodyguards of Zeus, the Lords and those who would rather they died, their mortal enemies the Hunters. Here’s the overview from the authors website:

Long ago, twelve immortals warriors – each more dangerously seductive than the last — stole and opened Pandora’s box, unleashing the evil from within. Now they carry that evil within themselves. Violence, Pain, Death, Disease, Disaster, Misery, Doubt, Promiscuity, Defeat, Lies, Secrets, and Wrath. When a powerful enemy returns, they will travel the world in search of a sacred relic of the gods – one that threatens to destroy them all.

Reading the overview, the LOTU series has a lot in common with other popular paranormal/fantasy romance series like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dark-Hunter” series or J. R. Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” (BDB) series. I couldn’t help but notice the idea of a band of warriors joined together to fight a common enemy, plus all the Greek mythology. But the LOTU novels have a lot more differences than similarities with these two series. First of all, unlike Ward’s BDB the Lords don’t speak with gangster slang (thank god!) and unlike Kenyon’s “Dark-Hunter” books the Greek/Titan gods are a lot more involved in the series. Yes, the gods are still selfish, vain and cruel at times, but they can also act with some compassion.

The Darkest Fire by Gena ShowalterThe series, much like my review, has an epic start with the prequel, The Darkest Fire:

Geryon is the guardian of hell, more monster than man. Kadence is the goddess of Oppression, more angel than woman. Together they will enter the flames to battle a dangerous horde of demon lords — and discover a passion unlike any other.

And fire really is dark in this novel, with Hell as the setting and appearances by the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer, himself. The romance between Kadence and Geryon was short, sweet and to the point considering that the novella was less than 90 pages long. Nonetheless it was a quick, fun read and answered some questions about the Goddess of Oppression, whose bones were used to make the Pandora’s box  to imprison. This novella, with a not-so-conventional-happy-ending-for-a-romance-novel is available in the Into the Dark anthology/guide.

The anthology/guide also includes goodies such as two other novellas, alternative opening to LOTU book one, interviews with the Lords, the heroines and the case files of the Hunters… If your curious, here’s the cover for Into the Dark:

The first book in the series, after the prequel, is The Darkest Night and it tells us what happened after the Pandora’s box was opened:

His powers — Inhuman…
His passion — Beyond immortal . . .

All her life, Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past. To end the nightmare, she has come to Budapest seeking help from men rumored to have supernatural abilities, not knowing she’ll be swept into the arms of Maddox, their most dangerous member — a man trapped in a hell of his own.

Neither can resist the instant hunger than calms their torments . . . and ignites an irresistible passion. But every heated touch and burning kiss will edge them closer to destruction — and a soul-shattering test of love . . .

There were so many ways that this story could have gone wrong, Maddox could have been a complete alphole (a term I learned from Noelle Pierce, which refers to an alpha who is too controlling/violent/etc) and Ashlyn could have been a complete wimp who took that abuse, but luckily they were neither. Despite being possessed by the demon of Violence, Maddox is a sweetheart and even though he’s suspicious of Ashlyn himself, he does everything in his power to protect him from his friends – who are likewise possessed by demons – and himself.

On the other hand, Ashlyn is not a pushover by any means. She’s smart, brave and powerful in her own right. Ashlyn has the ability to hear past conversations is her mind, a power that can prove useful to both the Lords and their enemies, the Hunters. Cool power? Yeah, it could be but it can also be extremely annoying and limiting, which is how Ashlyn feels about it. Ashlyn looking for a fortress in Budapest where angels are thought to reside, unbeknowst to her these angels are actually demons.

I wasn’t so sure how Ms. Showalter was going to get these two characters together, after all Maddox is cursed to die each night (and driven to violence by his demon in the late hours leading up to midnight) and Ashlyn is mortal. Thankfully, we some help from the powers that be and the great cast of secondary characters that helped bring these two together.

Some of those powers that be made an appearance in the second novel, The Darkest Kiss:

She has tempted many men
 but never found her equal.

Until now.

Though she has lived for centuries, Anya, goddess of anarchy, has never known pleasure. Until Lucien, the incarnation of death—a warrior eternally doomed to take souls to the hereafter. He draws her like no other. And Anya will risk anything to have him.

But when the merciless Lord of the Underworld is ordered by the gods to claim Anya herself, their uncontrollable attraction becomes an anguished pursuit. Now they must defeat the unconquerable forces that control them, before their thirst for one another demands a sacrifice of love beyond imagining.

Anya is BAD, no other word for it. As the Goddess of Anarchy she lives to cause chaos wherever she goes. She lies and steals seemingly without regret. I would have found Anya extremely annoying, if Showalter hadn’t provided a reason for her to act this way. For Anya, causing trouble is akin to survival, and like water for humans, its necessary. But even this alone wouldn’t have made me like her if I didn’t know that deep down she was a good person. She could have caused trouble with the intention of harming everyone and anyone, but instead she oddly protective of Lucien and only seeks to make him smile.

And Lucien does deserve to smile. Cursed with the demon Death, Lucien is horribly scarred and can’t believe that someone as beautiful as Anya would even look at him. Moreover, as the leader of the Lords he is extremely somber and desperately needs some chaos in his life or he’d completely forget his humanity. Death thinks he’s invincible, and it takes Anya to show him that he has weaknesses like everyone else – and yes, even he can fall in love. (Too bad though, that Lucien’s been ordered to kill Anya, huh?)

But that’s enough about Lucien and Anya…let’s talk about Reyes and Danika. Both Reyes and Danika had undeniable chemistry in book one, and I honestly thought theirs would be the second book in the series but who knew Anya was so impatient to bag Lucien, so we had to wait until book three The Darkest Pleasure to read about Reyes and Danika:

Reyes is a man possessed. Bound by the demon of pain, he is forbidden to know pleasure. Yet he craves a mortal woman, Danika Ford, more than breath and will do anything to claim her—even defy the gods.

Danika is on the run. For months she’s eluded the Lords of the Underworld, immortal warriors who won’t rest until she and her fami ly have been destroyed. But her dreams are haunted by Reyes, the warrior whose searing touch she can’t forget. Yet a future together could mean death to all they both hold dear.

Reyes is possessed by Pain and can only find pleasure either by cutting himself – as he often does – or by unleashing his demon.Moreover, Reyes is afraid to have sex because he thinks his demon can affect the women he’s been with – making them crave pain both for themselves and those around them, which is why despite being attracted to Danika, he’s afraid to be with her.

Danika, on the other hand, is afraid of Reyes and his friends at first – can’t blame the girl considering they kidnapped her and her family in book one and threatened to kill them. Later, she’s more than ready to help the Hunters destroy the Lords if it means she can keep her family safe. This is where things get a little complicated, I wasn’t sure how much I believed Danika’s conviction to help the Hunters considering that she lets her attraction to Reyes lead her astray pretty early in the novel. There was no real conflict on that level within the novel, and it’s partly because of this that I felt the book was a little rushed.

After the promise in the first novel and the chemistry between Reyes and Danika, I was really looking forward to reading their story. Unfortunately, the promise fell half-way through. The book was an enjoyable read, but had more to do with Hunter/Lord animosity than romance. There was more action in this novel than the previous two, with the Hunters trying to invade the fortress and Aeron trying to kill Danika, but because of that the romance was lacking at times.

Next we get another breather moment in the series with another novella The Darkest Prison, which shows us what’s going on between the Greeks and the Titans:

Once, Atlas, the Titan god of Strength, was the Greek goddess Nike’s slave. Now, he is her master. And soon these sworn enemies destined to destroy one another will be forced to risk everything for a chance at love…

Okay, I have to admit I had a rapid mood swing about Atlas in this one. Hated him and then liked him, in less than 3 pages. Again the novella was fairly short, only 61 pages this time, took me less than 30 minutes to read and the romance was short and sweet.

The story is not a must read – since neither Atlas nor Nike have made appearances elsewhere in the series as of yet – but is entertaining nonetheless, and a nice way to catch a glimpse of the Titan/Greek conflict. This novella is also included in the Into the Dark anthology/guide.

Next we have book four, The Darkest Whisper:

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.

This is the first novel in LOTU that we actually get to see the true evil that is the Hunters. Yes, we know that the Hunters are evil, and commit crimes in the name of good, but this is the first time that we are shown this rather than told and it makes a bigger impact because of this. Gwen has been a prisoner of the Hunters for a year, and has borne witness to their crimes, imprisonment, torture and rape of other immortal women to create an immortal army of Hunters. Though Gwen hasn’t been physically harmed other than starved, she is nonetheless mentally traumatized by what she’s seen. The reason that Gwen hasn’t been harmed is because she’s a harpy, the immortal spawn of Lucifer, and the Hunters are too afraid to get close to her, preferring to keep her locked in her glass cage.

When Sabin arrives to free the women, Gwen immediately proceeds to kill Chris, the Hunter whose been torturing the women. I could only applaud her for that! Sabin is likewise impressed and hopes to use her as a weapon against the Hunters. Didn’t like Sabin so much for that! He tries to use her trauma against her and practically guilt trips her into helping by saying that any other women would want vengeance for the wrongs committed. So, yes, I was not a fan of Sabin’s. Nonetheless, Sabin does redeem himself when he genuinely begins to care for Gwen as a person, going to far as to lock her up with her sisters to prevent her from taking part in the battle against the Hunters, despite that she’s stronger than he is and he’s trained her for it.

Overall though, I still liked Gwen better than Sabin…

Time for another breather in the series, with Gwen’s sister Bianka story and her romance with the angel, Lysander in The Darkest Angel:

An iron-willed demon assassin, the angel Lysander has never known lust—until he meets Bianka. Spawned from the bloodline of Lucifer, the beautiful but deadly Harpy is determined to lead the pure-hearted Lysander into temptation

(This novella is found in the Heart of Darkness anthology.) Lysander is noble, honorable and good, Bianka is anything but. Being a harpy means she has to steal in order to eat, and cannot eat anything freely given or risk throwing up and getting sick. Lysander is both attracted to and repelled by Bianka. he knows she is his temptation and could lead to his downfall. First Lysander decides to kill her to prevent this from happening, but then changes his mind and decides to reform her instead. And so we get an interesting clash of will, with both characters desperate to be the winner.

The Darkest Angel is also a nice transition into the fifth LOTU book, The Darkest Passion:

For weeks, the immortal warrior Aeron has sensed an invisible female presence.  An angel–a 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…

Both Olivia and Aeron, keeper of Wrath, make brief appearances in The Darkest Angel, in anticipation of their own novel. You may remember Aeron from when he was trying to kill Danika – I’ll leave it to you to find out whether or not he succeeds – and in his own novel Aeron has been sentenced to death by the angels for the crime of freeing a demon, Legion, from Hell. Aeron is not ready to give up Legion or to die, and thinks he can take on any assassin Heaven sends. (Idiot!)

Olivia doesn’t want to kill Aeron and her defiance gets her thrown into Hell, her wings stripped and fully mortal. Olivia fights her way out of Hell and into Aeron’s arms, only to have him not trust her. (Double idiot!) Olivia warns him that more angels will be sent after him, and despite not being able to see, hear, smell, touch an angel, Aeron still thinks he can take them. (Triple idiot! Well, you can see where this is going. Aeron spends most of the novel being an idiot!) Though at first Olivia may seem weak and in need of protection, she is obviously not. Hello, she crawled out of Hell…literally! And she has every right to seek Aeron’s aid, not only did she risk her life for him, she;s still trying to protect him cause she knows he did nothing wrong. When Aeron finally does see the light, its too late in a lot of ways – dun, dun, duh! – so he has a lot to make up for before he can get his happily ever after…and boy, did I enjoy seeing him crawl out of the deep, deep whole he dug! Mwahahaha!

Finally, we have the latest novel in the series, The Darkest Lie:

Forced to his knees in agony whenever he speaks the truth, Gideon can recognize any lie—until he captures Scarlet, a demon-possessed immortal who claims to be his long-lost wife.  He doesn’t remember the beautiful female, much less wedding — or bedding — her.  But he wants to . . . almost as much as he wants her.

But Scarlet is keeper of Nightmares, too dangerous to roam free, and a future with her means risking everything.  Especially as Gideon’s enemies draw closer . . . and the truth threatens to destroy all he’s come to love . . .

You might remember Gideon and Scarlet from the previously novel (if you’ve read it) when Scarlet dropped her little – or not so little – bombshell about the both of them being married to each other. I spent a lot of this novel in admiration of how Showalter used Gideon Speak – in that every sentence he spoke was the opposite of what he said – I kept thinking she would slip up but she didn’t. On the other hand, Gideon Speak got annoying at times because I was constantly changing lies into truth in my head so I could understand what he was saying. (I liked it when Scarlet did the translations for me later in the novel.)

But that said, I like both characters in the novel. I admired Scarlet for being as strong as she was despite all the tragedies of her past – namely her b**** mom and aunt. I also liked Gideon for his believable suspicions but still being able to admit when he was wrong. Still, I have to admit, my favourite part of this novel was the Nightmares/Lies romance – this was oddly cute. 🙂

Some of my least favourite parts were all the new plot twists thrown into the novel. One or two would have been okay, but to have one every couple of chapters got jarring at times. I admit I would have liked to see more Galen (him being my favourite and all) but he barely made an appearance. It was mostly Cronus, Rhea, Mnemosyne, other Titans and less important Hunters that kept showing up. Argh!

And finally we have the demons, not just Nightmares and Lies, but all the demons that possess the Lords in all the novels till now. I might have been the only one (then again maybe not), but I love the demons. To me their voices, when we read them, are reminiscent of a demanding child. One who knows what it wants and will not let anyone tell them “no.” Plus, they are the ultimate matchmakers, never wrong and always know fairly quickly when their soulmate has arrived. Eat your heart out, Cupid!

Overall, I have to say I like the plot, characters and suspense of the LOTU novels. Yes, the twists and turns can get confusing at times, but I wouldn’t miss out on reading the series because of them. Showalter has a great writing style, and a good balance of dark and light within her novels, with characters that I like more often than not. But if I had to pick a character I hated other than the bad guys, I would say was Legion. I have a feeling that Showalter might be setting us up for a potential Galen/Legion romance, but I have to say I am not a fan. Aeron’s surrogate daughter annoyed me too much in his novel – she nearly got Olivia killed – for me to be sympathetic. Sorry. Yes, I do feel sorry for her and what she’s going through, but I’d rather she stay a secondary character than become a heroine, she’s too flat a character. On the other hand, I do like the complexities of Galen’s character, there are moments in the series when we see that he’s not all bad, and I would like to see him as a hero or even an anti-hero of a future novel.

Of course, since I tried to avoid spoilers as much as I could, I couldn’t talk about some of the other intriguing characters such as Torin, the keeper of Disease, whose touch can spread the plague or William, Anya’s humorously narcissistic best friend. But I assure you, both characters are a riot that you’ll have to discover for yourself by reading the LOTU series! 😀

-Rika Ashton (aka Galen’s Future Wife)

P.S: Gena Showalter had definitely made it onto my favourite authors list and I’m looking forward to reading about more demons in LOTU, in additional to completing her “Atlantis” series.

P.P.S: The upcoming LOTU novels include The Darkest Secret (Amun’s novel on April 1st, 2011), The Darkest Surrender (Strider’s novel in October 2011) and The Darkest Seduction (Paris’ novel in 2012).

Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall are in the House

I’m a long time Sabrina Jeffries fan, having devoured each and every one of her books, so I can say with some certainty that she has the just the right amount of humour, romance, suspense and drama in her books. The drama and suspense are usually interlinked and keep the novels flowing and the pages turning. Up till now, the mystery in each novel was usually solved at the end and characters (not just the hero and heroine) had a definitive ending. However, in her newest series Ms. Jeffries proves that she is a true master of suspense and can stretch out a single mystery throughout a series.

The big question is “What really happened to the parents of the Sharpe children?” – as in who killed them, etc.

While I usually read romance for the romance, I do like the occasional mystery thrown in and for me, the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series has just the right amount of both to keep the reader guessing.

book cover of   The Truth About Lord Stoneville    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 1)  by  Sabrina JeffriesThe first novel in the series is Oliver Sharpe, Marquess of Stoneville’s story, The Truth About Lord Stoneville:

The oldest of the scandalous Sharpes—five hell-raising siblings tainted still by the gossip surrounding the “accidental” deaths of their parents two decades ago-—Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, like his brothers and sisters, has lived life on his own terms. In his case, as an unrepentant rakehell. Or so life had played out until Grandmother Hetty got a bee in her bonnet. Now the five Sharpe siblings face a daunting ultimatum: Marry by year’s end—or kiss their inheritance good-bye.

Oliver vows to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style—by bringing home a fake fiancĂ© from a brothel! But his scheme backfires when he foils a robbery and rescues an American beauty instead. Maria Butterfield came to London to find her missing fiancĂ©, but her prior engagement won’t stop Oliver from getting what he wants: Maria in his bed. His rebellious charade may just call Hetty’s bluff, but not before it become all too real—stirring up a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.

What can I say about this book? Well, Grandmother Hetty is one crazy lady, and I love her for it. She issues an ultimatum to end all ultimatums and all I could think was “finally.” I’ve been waiting to see Oliver wedded and bedded since Ms. Jeffries novel Wed Him Before You Bed Him and the rest of the “School for Heiresses” series where he was a red herring thrown at the readers by Ms. Jeffries as a possible hero for Charlotte.

Though, in this novel, we see that there’s a lot more to Oliver that meets the eye. He’s not just a rogue, though he is that too, but someone who has gone through his own tragedy and lived with the guilt that he was the cause of it for most of his life. Every believes Oliver killed his father for his inheritance, but Oliver thinks it was his mother who killed him and he was the one who drove her to it. For a while I was convinced that Oliver had some validity to his guilt, mostly because he was so convinced but also confused about what really happened that night…

Cue for Maria. Maria enters Oliver’s life at a just the right time. Oliver, who’s lived his life drinking, gambling and wenching, is about to find a fake fiancee from a brothel. Maria, who happens to be in London looking for her own fiance, meets Oliver as he is about to leave a brothrel due to a mishap caused by her cousin, Freddy. (Freddy, another great character but more on him later.) Maria is good for Oliver. She’s smart and practical, which Oliver is not but that mostly because he’s letting his guilt blind him. Maria is also very sweet, but it’s her spitfire moments that I love the most. She can really put Oliver in his place which I admired.

That is not to say all is well in paradise. For one thing, the initial “arrangement” between these two is of a business nature. Oliver wants to use Maria bold American ways to convince his grandmother to rescind her ulimatum and Maria agrees as long as Oliver helps her find her MIA fiance since he knows London better than her. The business arrangement doesn’t last, of course, due to the lust phase but immediately after we have Oliver’s I-want-her-but-can’t-love her phase. He does have a better reason than most to shun love considering how it destryoed his mother’s life but still, since I already knew he was in love with her – and so did every other character in the novel – I just wished he would admit it.

I liked the interactions between the secondary characters, particularly their matchmaking ways. Oliver’s brother’s used every opportunity a their disposal to make Oliver jealous – which is always nice. 😉

book cover of   A Hellion in Her Bed    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 2)  by  Sabrina JeffriesSpeaking of Oliver’s brothers, one brother in particular gets his own story next. Jarret the second bro meets his match in A Hellion in Her Bed:

Mired in scandal after his parents’ mysterious deaths, notorious gambler Lord Jarret Sharpe agrees to tamely run the family’s brewery for a year if his Machiavellian grandmother rescinds her ultimatum that he marry. But the gambler in him can’t resist when beguiling Annabel Lake proposes a wager. If she wins their card game, he must help save her family’s foundering brewery. But if he wins, she must spend a night in his bed. The outcome sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy all his plans
and unveils the secret Annabel has held for so long. When Jarret discovers the darker reason behind her wager, he forces her into another one—and this time he intends to win not just her body, but her heart.

As a character Jarret is even more complex than Oliver. He’s feels jealousy, betrayal, anger and love towards his grandmother. As a child, Jarret wanted to run the family brewery and for a while it seemed like he would get his wish, but then his grandmother suddenly sends him away to school. He still a kid and has no idea why that is, so he feels betrayed by his grandmother who promised to keep him close and lashes out at school, gets into fights, etc. Jarret the man still holds on to this hurt and tries to feel no ambitions towards anything in life but when he’s given the chance to run the brewery he jumps on it.

Enter Annabel. Annabel’s got her own secrets to deal with and these make her very, very vulnerable. Annabel has a bastard son by her fiance who died in the war. Annabel has kept George a secret from everyone but her brother and sister-in-law who raise him as their own. Even George doesn’t know that Annabel is his mother. My heart broke for Annabel every time I saw her interact with George who called her “auntie” and I could see how much she cared for him. Annabel was a mother to George in every way she could be. She protected George from the stigma of a bastard child by letting her brother adopt him, despite how much she loved him and wanted to keep him.  

Another thing I liked about this novel was that the heroine and hero were shown in the phases of falling in love, and actually got to spend a good amount of time with the other. Revealing secrets to each other in turn. I admired Jarret for the way he handled Annabel’s revelation and how he didn’t blame her for her past. I also liked how he made an effort to get to know George. Jarret and Annabel truly deserved their happily ever after, despite things not turning out as expected between Annabel and George.

book cover of   How to Woo a Reluctant Lady    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 3)  by  Sabrina JeffriesThe third, most recently released, novel in the series is How to Woo a Reluctant Lady which tells the story of Miverva Sharpe, the gothic writer in the family:

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother’s demand that she marry by year’s end:  become engaged to a rogue!  Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel.

And who better to play the part of Minerva’s would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular gothic novels she writes?  The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered with Minerva, though she has no intention of falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him! Little does she know, Giles really is a covert government operative.  When the two team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents’ deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles’s secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back to her heart.

I love a hero with ulterior motives that involve trying to sweeping a heroine off her feet and marrying her without her knowledge…Yup, Giles thinks he’s one sly guy. And maybe he is, but not when it comes to the woman he loves – but doesn’t admit to loving. Seriously, what’s with heroes who try to deny that their falling in love, when everyone and their grandmother knows that they are? But, oh, how the mighty fall. Giles convinces Minerva to enter a “fake” betrothal with him, hoping to persuade her to make it a real one.

Minerva, on the other hand, enters in hopes of making her grandmother regret her decision to see her married by picking a man she thinks Hetty will despise. Her plans goes awry from nearly the start, since Giles and Hetty are working together to get her to marry Giles. (Good stuff, good stuff!) Minerva has some valid reasons for not wanting to marry Giles. One, she thinks she will have to give up her writing – which is what she lives for – because most consider it a scandalous occupation for a barrister’s wife. Two, she knows as a female she’ll be powerless in marriage and she saw that powerlessness destroy her mother.  

Giles and Minerva also have history, with Minerva having fallen in love with him at 9 and then Giles having broken her heart at 19 and then Minerva wanting revenge till she is 28. Giles doesn’t know he broke Minerva’s heart, onlying knowing that he was cruel to her because he panicked after he kissed her at a masquerade ball.

One, though not very romantic scene, that stood out to me was the court case. The way Giles went at the woman in the witness box was like watching the last court scene from Legally Blonde. EPIC!!!

Finally, there is Freddy. Maria’s sweet, dense, clumsy, romantic and ever-hungry cousin who appears in books one and three. One thing I could say about him was that despite being dense, at least he knows how to admit it when he’s in love and doesn’t enter “business marriages:”

“I always say that love is like the meat in a pie,” Freddy put in. “The crust is what people see—the practical things that hold a couple together. But love is the important part—without it you’ve got a meatless pie, and what’s the point of that?”

“Why, Freddy,” Minerva said, “that was almost profound.”

 Is it wrong of me to find him adorably romantic?

 All in all, I am loving this series and all the mysteries it entails. Like I said before, Ms. Jeffries is keeping the readers with all the red herrings she’s throwing our way. She far in each of the novels their have been dead-end leads, false leads and some more hopeful leads as to what really happened to the parents…and I, like the Sharpe children, will not rest till I’ve find out “who did it.” 

 Rika Ashton (aka The Curious)

P.S: And so the mystery continues in Gabe’s story (out December 2011) and Celia’s (hopefully) shortly after.

 P.P.S: For book trailers, interviews and background info on any of the book visit Sabrina Jeffries’ website.

Gail Carriger and the Mighty Parasol


You may now read on…

Gail Carriger is another one of my purely chance discoveries, though this one happened over a year ago. Carriger’s “The Parasol Protectorate” is full of romance, adventure, humour and oh so good, steampunk action. (But first of all I must define steampunk. No, not because I’ve decided to become an English dictionary but because the term steampunk is inately important to the readers understanding of the world Carriger has created.)

Steampunk: A sub-genre of science fiction or alternate reality. A steampunk novel is usually set in a world where harnessing the power of steam is required to power technology, a reson why nearly all steampunk novels are set in a world/era not unlike the Victorian era or late 1800s. A steampunk novel may also have other elements of the fantasical (such as the lycan and vampires in Carriger’s series).

So basically you can imagine Sherlock Holmes with cooler gadgets.

However, creating a steampunk world is not as easy as it sounds. For one there is a lot of research involved in the scientific aspect of things, since technology is extremely important to this genre, and nearly all gadgets make use of steam energy.

Not an easy thing to do, believe me I have tried.

But Carriger makes the use, technical and functional aspects of this technology blend seemlessly into the novel and I’m very proud of her for this.

(CHAOS: You say that like your opinion matters. It doesn’t, the woman’s a bestselling author.

RIKA: Don’t you have a mouse to chase or something?

CHAOS: I’m just saying.)

Erhm…yes…well back to the review at hand. As I was saying, Carriger creates a believable world that a reader can imagine as one that truly exists as one parallel to our own. One I wouldn’t mind living in, for that matter.

The second most important first impressiom, for me, is the tone of a novel. Carriger writes like I do! Her characters talk like I expect mine to, so it wasn’t hard to imagine them in my own mind. Plus, it was a nice personal assurance for me to a read a published author who had a similar tone to my own – it made my dreams seem less far fetched!

All three of Carriger’s novels follows the central character, Alexia Tarabotti, and a reaccuring cast if secondary characters.

The first of Carriger’s steampunk series novels is Soulless:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she is being rudely attacked by a vampire to whom she has not been properly introduced! Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

book cover of   Soulless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 1)  by  Gail CarrigerAlexia is a character that I liked right from the start, flaws and all. She fun, quirky, intelligent and preoccupied with the size of her nose, which is distinctly Italian according to her. She’s also a bit of a Victorian era techno geek and enjoys tinkering with the latest gadgetry. She’s immediately seperated from her sisters, both of whom are more occupied with finding a husband and her mother, who can be a bit daft. And her stepfather, who is in a word clueless. Alexia can also be a bit reckless, and though she does not seek to put herself in danger, danger seems to stalk her.

This is entirely to due with Alexia preternatural, or soulless state. A soulless is someone who is able to negate a supernatural beings powers by touching them, making them mortal and as such, Alexia presents a threat to many of the supernatural beings – vampires and werewolves – in England.

Luckily, however, Alexia is protected by the swoonworthy Lord Maccon, a werewolf Alpha and a member of the BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. The BUR is investigating vampire dissappearances in London and since Alexia is being stalked by vampires, Lord Maccon takes it upon himself to protect her. (It has nothing to do with the fact that he finds her attractive. No, indeed. *eye roll* Men can be so predictable.)

However, let me say that Alexia and Lord Maccon do NOT hit it off. In fact, despite being attracted to each other, both finds the other infuriating. (I can’t inagine that it has anything to due with Alexia’ s stubborness and Maccon’s tendency to boss everyone around.)

Another great thing about this novel, is the fact that we do not just get glimpses of Alexia and Maccon’s situations, but very fleshed out descriptions of the secondary cast as well, especially Maccon’s scientifically inclined werewolf beta, Professor Lyall and Alexia’s gay vampire friend, Lord Akeldama. These descriptions made the secondary characters that much more real and interesting to me, especially considering they will make extensive appearances in the sequel.

Best of all, this book (and the others in the series) has some seriously outrageous COMEDY. Those of you who know me, know how much I like a good laugh. Best of all it was my kind of comedy, the kind that made me smile inside and laugh out loud at the same time. The not so fleeting kind of humour, that is so tied to the characters that you can;t help but smile every time they make an appearance.

book cover of   Changeless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 2)  by  Gail CarrigerThe second book in the series, Changeless, has a similar feel and furthers our knowledge of the supernatural and preternatural worlds Carriger has created:

Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears – leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria. But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it. 

As the summary states, Alexia and Lord Maccon are now married but since most of us knew this would happen I don`t feel it’s too much of a spoiler. On the other hand, without giving away too much of the plot let me just say that this novel focuses more on the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon, giving up a glimpse of married life, than the previous. It also has more drama, especially towards the end.

Unlike the first book which forcused on the vampire situation in London, this book focuses nearly solely on the werewolf situation in Scotland. We also learn a lot more about Lord Maccon and his family, plus see romantic developments for Alexia’s hat-crazy BFF, Ivy. (And yes, it is very dramatic.)

Unfortunately, that’s all I can say about this novel, well other than the fact that it is very vital to the overall storyline of the series, and very much worth the read.

You’ll also want to have the third book, Blameless, nearby when you finish book two because it ends with a HUGE emotional cliffhanger. (Try not to read the summary if your afraid of spoilers.) :

Quitting her husband’s house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season. Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London’s vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead. While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires — and they’re armed with pesto.

book cover of   Blameless    (Parasol Protectorate, book 3)  by  Gail CarrigerI was so afraid to include this summary because of spoilers, but I couldn’t really avoid it considering any way of summarizing would include some spoilers. After the emotional rollercoster of an ending in book two, the opening of this book seems tame in comparison.

Let me say that we get to see – or read about – a lot of alchohol consumption in this book, along with uncovering more mysteries of Alexia past and circumstances as a preternatural.

By now, your all probably wondering what “the mighty parasol” is? Well, my fellow readers, the parasol is what Alexia uses to bash people over the head. Like a knight would never go into battle without his sword, Alexia is certainly not about to waltz into danger without her parasol. This little parasol also gets an upgrade in the second book of the series, so now it’s only slightly less dangerous than a weapon of mass destruction in Alexia’s hands. 😉

On the whole the three books were very, very good reads but I did have a few minor quibbles. For one, I found the name changes from first name to titles a little jarring. For instance, Alexia’s name switches between “Alexia” and “Lady Maccon” many, many times in the same page. This is not even because she is talking to another character who is addressing her as Lady Maccon, while the narrator calls her Alexia. No, this is the narrator jumping back and forth. (I did get used to this after a while, but I still think that I shouldn’t have had to.) Also, I felt a little baited with the mystery of Alexia’s late father’s life. It is clear that his life will play an important role in the series, but very little details about said life are forthcoming.

Also for those looking for a purely romantic read, this is more sci-fi that romance. You will often find yourself reading chapters and chapters of Alexia, with very little news of Lord Maccon. (Though there is more Lord Maccon time in the third novel, and very good Lord Maccon time at that.)

Nonetheless, regardless of the flaws, I still recommend the “Parasol Protectorate” series with extreme confidence and hope you will give it a chance. Trust me, you will enjoy it! 🙂

But if you still don’t believe me, then I guess you could wait for the graphic novels to come out. What? Did I forget to mention? Oh yes, according to this blog , the rights to the first three novels have been sold to Yen Press to be made into graphic novels. However, as I am still waiting on more information from the author herself, I’m going to hold of the celebration. But if it turns out to be true, then there is only more to love about Alexia and her world.

Rika Ashton (aka The Happy Series Reviewer)

P.S: Read the author’s bio. It’s hilarious!

P.P.S: The next book in the series are Heartless (June 2011) and Timeless (Nov 2011).

P.P.P.S: Wanna play a game? Click here to play the Soulless‘ dress up game. And for more fun and games, check out the author’s website. She answers a lot – and I mean a lot – of questions on her FAQs page, so if you feel I haven’t told you enough about the characters to give the series a try, this is the place to go!

Lydia Dare: The Dynamic Duo with a Terrific Trilogy, Plus One

If my title doesn’t intrigue you, then these novels will. Lydia Dare is an awesome writing team of two, that I happened to discover – purely by chance – at my public library. I was in one of my reading slumps, you know those episodes when you feel like you’ve read every good book that has been published and everything else you’ve picked up recently has been pure, uhm, garbage. This isn’t true of course, because of course I haven’t read every good book in existence, but it feels like it nonetheless.

So for me, finding a Lydia Dare novel – or I should say novels – was a breath of fresh air, plus chocolate cake!

Let me just say that these two ladies can write, I mean really write. Try as I might, I found no dry spells whatsoever in any of their books – since they have only four so far, and I’ve devoured all of them I can say this with some confidence. And they write their heroes as real ALPHAs, not those jerks who boss the heroine around half the book because they think its the manly thing to do, but real genuine ALPHAs. The cool kind that make you swoon and hope that one of them will catch you. 😀

book cover of   A Certain Wolfish Charm   by  Lydia DareLydia Dare’s debut trilogy about the Westfield brothers begins with the oldest bro, Simon. The first novel, A Certain Wolfish Charm (cute title, by the way) goes something like this:

The rules of Regency Society can be beastly – especially when you’re a werewolf. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn’t help his wolfish temper that since he’s rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, the town is willing to overlook his outrageous behavior. Lily Rutledge has a wild streak of her own. When she turns to Simon for help, he falls for her immediately. For Simon is drawn to the fearless Lily more powerfully than the moon…

This summary from Fantasic Fiction is missing some important details, like Lily’s and Simon’s ward, Oliver, being the catalyst for drawing them together and cause of much drama throughout the story. Again there is also some descrepency between whether the novel is a Regency or Victorian read. Amazon states Victorian, but I’m inclined to disagree with them because everything within the novel says Regency, albeit late in the Regency era.

A Certain Wofish Charm certainly has a lot going for it: an strong, intelligent and very likeable heroine with a manipulative (but in a very good way) best friend who has HOT brothers, an equally awesome hero with equally HOT brothers, and a totally cute and at times annoying preteen ward. I don’t know how many of you guys will agree, but as a female romance reader so much about whether of not I read the novel has to do with the character of the heroine. I have to like her nearly right off the bat in some way or I probably won’t enjoy the novel. Likewise, the hero has to be equally likable and NOT A JERK, or if he is somewhat a jerk then the heroine has to be strong enough to put him in his place as is the case in this book.

Simon has moments of jerkishness, but the good thing about Lily is that she doesn’t put up with him. Let me say I really, really hated Simon when he threatened to seperate Lily and Oliver. Even though both Simon and Lily are related to Oliver – Oliver’s father was Simon’s cousin and his mom was Lily’s sister – let me make it known that it has been Lily who has been taking care of her nephew Oliver ever since he was orphaned. Simon, who is the boy’s legal guardian, doesn’t really see him or contact him except to send them money for Oliver. Of course, Simon does have a very good reason for the threatened seperation, since he believes Oliver is dangerous to Lily now that he’s hit puberty and is becoming a full lycan (a werewolf, but the characters in the novel consider this a derogatory slang, I can’t imagine why after the Twilight fiasco *insert sarcasm*). However, Lily doesn’t know about Oliver’s – or Simon’s – lycan heritage and Simon doesn’t explain, despite agreeing that Lily is an intelligent woman who cares for Oliver. Yes, Simon, that is wonderful reasoning *insert more sarcasm*.

But Simon is a man in love, who doesn’t know he’s in love, and doesn’t always act rationally.  

So, of course, it’s up to the great cast of supporting characters to bring these two love birds together. Simon’s middle bro, William and Lily BFF, Prisca take it upon themselves to see these two wed, by any means necessary. William does everything to get Simon to realize his feelings for Lily, including staged jealousies, while Prisca goal in life is to get Simon to compromise her BFF and get them married. (Read to see who has the better plan…) Will and Prisca plans are spiced up by hints of their own shared history and hilarious bickering. This added to the mysterious disappearance of the youngest brother Benjamin and the appearance of Simon’s mother makes for an excellent read!

We learn all about Ben’s reason for disappearing in his book, the second in the trilogy, Tall, Dark and Wolfish:

The reckless, rakish younger brother of a powerful duke, Lord Benjamin Westfield transforms into a wolf under the light of the full moon – until one fateful evening when he doesn’t change and his life is shattered. Fearing he may never be able to change again, Benjamin sets out for Scotland in search of a witch who can heal his inner beast. The noble werewolf is drawn to the beautiful young woman, but what does he have to offer in this broken state?

Unlike Simon, who’s quick to anger in the best of circumstances, Ben seems more gentle. There’s a lot of confusion in the starting because Ben’s lost his ability to transform into a lycan during the full moon, but with some advice from a lycan senior he’s off to Scotland to find a witch to cure him. Of course, his vision of the witch is that she will be old, with wiry grey hair, a hooked nose and a crackling laugh. book cover of   Tall, Dark and Wolfish   by  Lydia Dare

Elspeth is anything but. For one, she younger than Ben’s imagines, doesn’t have a hooked nose or crackling laugh. She’s also a part of a coven of witches who foresaw Ben’s arrival long before he set foot in Scotland. Finally, Elspeth is also the bastard daughter of the witch that Ben was initially suppose to see. Of course, while Elspeth’s bastard status is held against her by some, she’s lucky to have her coven, some members who are also high-and-mighty in society.

Elspeth’s fellow convenors are not so happy to see Ben because they fear he will take Elspeth away from Scotland, thus breaking their coven. So their are some machinations on their part to keep Ben and Elspeth under constant survelliance and to prevent them from falling in love. These coven ladies are an awesome cast of characters with equally awesome powers. So finding himself nearly lit on fire is just another day of courtship in Ben’s life.

But, alas, love shall find a way…and it helps that the coven witches are not 100% against the idea as they may like to think.

Like the novel before it, Tall, Dark and Wolfish also has an intriguing subplot which reveals more about Elspeth and Ben’s individual pasts and keeps the main plot moving. I cried a little when I read and thought about Elspeth’s mom’s past. If was heartbreaking and completely unfair due to the actions of a singular person. But that is enough about that, as I shall leave that for you to discover.

Finally, the final book in the trilogy concludes with Will’s story in The Wolf Next Door:

Rogue, Rake.Werewolf. Years ago on a full moon, Lord William Westfield gave way to his inner beast and nearly ruined young Prisca Hawthorne. Knowing he can never trust himself in the arms of the woman he loves, he throws himself into a debauched lifestyle. When Westfield discovers he has a rival for Prisca’s love, he decides if she’s going to marry a Lycan it damn well better be him. But time is running out as Prisca’s other suitor takes an instant and potentially fatal dislike to Westfield.

book cover of   The Wolf Next Door   by  Lydia DareYou gotta love the way the minds of the Westfield brother’s work. Despite helping Simon discover love in the first book, Will is very dense when it comes to his own lovelife. Will and Prisca have been in love since forever, and being neighbours they’ve had a lot of opportunities to do something about it. Will, of course is too afraid of hurting Prisca as a lycan and isn’t sure how she feels about him, while Prisca doesn’t make a move because she’s not sure Will requits her love.

Their’s is a mutual love, but neither seems to comprehend this until Captain Dashiel enters the picture. The new lycan just drives Will crazy with jealousy by spending too much time, in Will’s opinion, with Prisca. Prisca, on the other hand now has time to examine her feelings for Will and realizes that since she cannot seem to feel anything for Dash, who is very, very, very handsome, she may never overcome her feelings for Will.

Like it’s predessecor’s, their is a lot of manipulation on the part of the secondary characters, namely Prisca’s brothers who know she loves Will and that Will loves her and thus, take it upon themselves to see her wed. Purely, unselfish of them of course, their motives have nothing to do with the fact that with Prisca gone, no one will boss them around anymore. Yes, purely unselfish. *eye roll*  

The third book focuses a lot more of the romance between the central characters than the first two. And although, the first two books are very romantic, the shared history between Will and Prisca make this book a lot more so.

This concludes the Lydia Dare trilogy.

But, wait! What’s this? There is one more book, you say, becuase you bothered to do the addition in my title and are now worried that if there are only three novels I need to retake elementary school math.

Fortunately, the addition in my title is correct. There are in fact four books to be reviewed today… 

The fourth lycan book, though not about a Westfield brother, is linked to the series nonetheless. Lydia Dare’s fourth novel, The Taming of the Wolf is Dashiel’s story, who you’ll know from the third book and Caitrin’s, who is one of Elspeth’s coven sisters:

Lord Dashiel Thorpe has fought his true nature his entire life, but whenever the moonlight proves too powerful, Dashiel is unable to control the werewolf within him. It is on one such moonlit night that Dashiel accidentally bites the beautiful Scottish witch, Caitrin McLeod. Though now bound to him irrevocably, Cait decides that she wants nothing to do with him. When she flees to her native Scotland, Dashiel has no choice but to follow her and convince her that it was nothing short of destiny that has bound them together body and soul.

Dash and Caitrin meet at the Westfield estate, when Dash accidentally bites Cait and bonds himself to her. Cait who knows only basic facts about lycans and not the significance of Dash’s bite and thinks it was both a rude and unwarranted attack, flees to Scotland and her home. Dash, of course, does know the significance of what’s he’s done – after a while – and flees after her. (Dash does have another reason for going to Scotland, but considers being able to follow Cait a nice bonus in his plans.)Cover of Taming Of the Wolf by Lydia Dare

And so the chase ensues. Dash does catch up with Cait along the journey, but she ditches him through sheer ingenuity and a sleeping potion. Added adventures and encounters during Cait and Dash’s journey to Scotland only intensify Dash’s need to begin courting Cait, especially when Cait old suitor’s shows up.

Cait, who is the coven seer, and thus, able to see the future of those around her (not her own though) is sure, 100%, that Alec her old suitor is not for her. On the other hand, she is not able to see anything about Dash – which for me set off wedding bells right from the start – and this confuses Cait to no end.

Unlike the three novels before it, their is less manipulation on the parts of the secondary characters in this novel. But we get the added bonus, and pain, of unrequited love for Alec. Poor Alec. 😩

I liked Alec, and so does Cait as surely as she knows he isn’t for her, but for someone else who he will soon come to realize he loves. So there is hope!

The interesting thing about these Lydia Dare novels is that they are most entirely without an actual villain. Most of the action/drama comes from the characters inner conflicts, which in the past I found to be singularly the most boring of conflicts. However, since I was not bored at all during the reading of these novels, I have to reevaluate that idea.

And so concludes the first part of the series. I say first part now, because where there are lycan, vampires will surely follow and so it is that the next two novels that star two more coven sisters also have vampire heroes. So stay tuned for It Happened One Bite and In the Heat of the Bite in March and July 2011, respectively!

Rika Ashton (aka Series Reviewer Extraordinaire)

P.S: For better summaries that those offered on Amazon and Fantastic Fiction, check out the authors’ official website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy and paste these here, as this fuction is not enabled from their website.

P.P.S: Looking for more reading materials? You can check out my writer buddy, Priscilla Shay’s blog, and her book review marathon for some great recommendations.

Johanna Lindsey: My First Historical Romance Author

The first historical romance book I ever was The Heir by Johanna Lindsey, almost 6 years ago. After that I quickly devoured all Johanna Lindsey romances. Not all her novels are historical romances, but most are. The exceptions: Warrior’s Woman, Keeper of the Heart and Heart of a Warrior, in the “Deep Space” trilogy and Until Forever, a time-travel romance (set in both contemporary and medieval England), are wonderful in and of themselves, but it is her historicals that stand out to me. Not just because they are so numberable compared to her other works, but because of the way they’ve changed over-time.

book cover of   The Heir    (Reid Family, book 1)  by  Johanna LindseyAfter I read The Heir, I immediately made a grab for the sequel The Devil Who Tamed Her. The Heir was a Cinderella-esque romance. It had great characters, awesome plotline, huge misunderstandings, a hero I loved and hated and a villainess I loved to hate. The heroine, Sabrina, wasn’t beautiful with the exception of her eyes – violet eyes. Yeah, I know what your thinking, violet eyes, HUGE eye-roll moment there. Some people would have put the book down then and there. I was too young to care about this then and continued reading the story for the romance factor alone.

Boy, am I glad that I did! 🙂

If I hadn’t read this novel, despite the use of violet eyes, I would have missed out on one of the best historical romance novels I have read to date. As a whole, it seems like a deceptively light read but there’s so much more to it than basic plot.

First of all, Sabrina’s eyes play a much larger role than just a unique characteristic to make her stand out – because frankly speaking, after the initial reaction to her eyes, Sabrina returns to the role of wallflower very quickly considering who she hangs out with. The way Lindsey describes her eyes, in a way that makes them both unique and unremarkable is interesting. Sabrina considers them her one redeeming feaure, and is quite realistic in thinking so because the rest of her is quite plain.

Ophelia began to look appeased until Mavis said in supposed innocence, “It looks to me like she’s garnered a few admirers, but then I’m not surprised. She does have remarkably beautiful eyes.”

“Those peculiar eyes of hers are hardly a saving grace, Mavis, when she’s utterly drab otherwise,” Ophelia replied tersely. But she immediately regretted her harsh tone, which might make her sound jealous, which she wasn’t, of course.

Her eyes are important, not because they make the hero notice her but because they make the villainess, Ophelia, notice her. Sabrina eyes are the one characteristic she has that match can level her beauty to Ophelia’s, and the only trait that she possesses that can inspire Ophelia’s jealousy. For most people, it’s not Sabrina’s eyes that are important or make them like her, but instead her personality and sense of humour. She can make them laugh, and this is what draws them to her, just as it draws the hero to her.

The hero, Duncan, is great and very interesting considering his initial reaction to both the Ophelia and Sabrina. You see, my dear readers, Ophelia is Duncan’s betrothed and extremely, classically beautiful. She’s vain and spoiled, but since Duncan knows none of this in the start, he falls for her pretty face. The attraction is short-lived, however, as she opens her mouth seconds after meeting him and insults him. Both Duncan and Ophelia in no way want to be married to each other…but things get complicated in the middle of the novel.

Duncan is a vert realistic character. Yes, he does fall for Ophelia’s pretty face – for all of 5 seconds – but it’s Sabrina’s personality that he falls in LOVE with. I found this the most romantic aspect of the novel. Added to the fact that both Duncan and Sabrina are friends before they realise their mutual love for each other also emphasises the “real” factor. No, no love at first sight here folks.

Cover of The Devil Who Tamed Her EXP by Johanna LindseyOphelia, is another very complicated character in this novel. Here we see her as a villainess, but in The Devil Who Tamed Her, the sequel, she is the heroine. From villain to heroine makes for an interesting dynamic. And though I was not entirely convinced of her good nature, even by the end of her novel, I was convinced she was changing. Ms Lindsey had to work hard to make Ophelia look even remotely good and keep her in character, but somehow she did. Ophelia may not be the greatest heroine ever contrived, but she is the most realistic. Because, to speak bluntly, how many of us are all good? Have never felt jealousy, rational or otherwise? Never manipulated anyone? I know I have, and I can relate to that part of Ophelia in The Devil Who Tamed Her.

That is not to say that all of Ms Lindsey’s novels are masterpieces. In fact, some of her older works can effectively be described as “bodice-rippers” and one of the worst being A Pirate’s Love. Those of you who have read it will know what I’m talking about, and those of who have not read it I have one thing to say: WARNING! EXTREMELY SEXIST HERO AND MOMENTS. This is a much older novel and extremely dated, so I would recommend reading it, if at all, with extreme caution.

On the other hand, I would recommend reading her newer novels, especially the “Mallory” series. This is a wonderful series, funny and charming, with great characters and much stronger heroines than her older novels. The most objectionable thing, at least to some, in this series would have to be the age difference between some of the heroes and heroines. (I didn’t find it too daunting, because the characters were so great that I was rooting for them despite this fact and at times, the age difference was forgettable.)

Another thing I like about Ms Lindsey’s novels is the writing style. Her books range from light-hearted to dark reads. Nice dynamic, because even though I prefer light reads, she makes the darkness in novels work in a way that keeps me turning the page instead of having to put down the book.

For first time Johanna Lindsey, I would recommend starting with The Heir if you’re looking for a light read, or Glorious Angel for a darker read. Warning about Glorious Angel, it was published in 1982, so some parts may seem dated but it’s not untowardly sexist like A Pirate’s Love.

I will leave you with that and the question, “Who was your first historical romance author?”

Rika Ashton (aka The Reminiscent)

Book Review: Keiran Kramer’s “When Harry Met Molly”

After much ado, here is my very first book review on the new blog…

I read When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer after Julia Quinn recommended it on her website. She acknowledged from the start that the book had a few historical inaccuracies, but it was the writing that drew her to the book.

When Harry Met Molly

Firstly, here’s the summary:

He’s always been a player.
Dashing Lord Harry Traemore is perfectly content to live out his days in the pursuit of pleasure. But when he’s named by the Prince Regent as one of society’s “Impossible Bachelors,” Harry is drafted into a ribald romantic wager. The rules of engagement are scandalously simple: The bachelor whose mistress wins the title of “Most Delectable Companion” gets to remain unmarried. Harry is utterly unconcerned about his status
until his latest lightskirt abandons him.

Who will win this game of love?
Enter Lady Molly Fairbanks. Harry’s childhood friend—actually, “foe” is more like it—is the most unlikely companion of all. She’s attractive but hot-headed, and in no mood for games. Besides, what could the self-indulgent Harry possibly know about what makes a woman delectable? It’s time for Molly to teach him a lesson once and for all
but will it lead to “happily ever after?”

At first I thought the book might read like a comtemporary due to the title, and the historical inaccuracies would draw my attention away from the characters and story. I imagined myself stopping halfway through to say, “People in the Regency era just didn’t do that! Argh!”

But this did not happen.

The main characters: Harry and Molly, kept my attention throughout the story. Not only did they have a love-hate relationship, or rather hate-love, but both characters had a sense of humour that I admired.

Molly and Harry are childhood enemies, the route of the prolem being that Molly (at the age of thirteen) read aloud a self-composed poem that depicted her love for Harry’s older brother Roderick, but also relayed her observation of a kiss between Harry and Roberick’s fiancee, Penelope (also Molly’s sister). While Roderick and Penelope made it through the incident with their engagement intact, the fiasco led to Harry enrollment with the army and Molly being sent to a strict girls school. Needless, to say both blamed the other for the incident.

Thus, the hate begins…

In my humble opinion, Kramer set the stage perfectly for Harry and Molly’s relationship. Not only was there the dynamic of hate turing into love, but also the fact that both characters – being dismissed second children – had to develop a sense of self-worth. 

More hilarity ensues when Molly’s fiance, with whom she was eloping, runs off with Harry’s mistress. Since Molly has just been abandoned with no way of getting home, Harry offers her a bargain: pretend to be his mistress for a week so he can enter the “Most Delectable Companion” contest and win a marriage-mart free year, and he will help Molly get home.

As Harry and Molly went from childhood enemies to fremenies to friends to lovers their was a lot of drama, and best of all comedy. There were wonderful laugh out loud moments in the book.


Robert, Robert, wherefore are thou, Robert?

While Persephone’s in the arbor,

Bestowing kisses on young Barry,

You clutch the golden ring

She’s to wear when you marry.

Persephone, Persephone, why does thou wound Robert so?

Barry is but the moon

While Robert is the sun.

Can’t you see Robert is all

And Barry is, um, none?

Barry, oh, Barry, why not find your own true love?

My sister isn’t yours

She belongs to another,

But if you steal her away,

Perhaps I’ll marry your brother!

Did I mention I love the poem that Molly recites in the beginning? She of course tweaked the names a bit, for confidentiality purposes. Can you guess who Harry is?

Of course, as many other historical novelists mentioned, Kramer did take liberties with historical figures and events. The regent himself made many appearances in the novel, and did not come across as very royal in any of them. Also the situation between mistress and their protectors seemed a little unrealistic at times. (Although, allowances could be made for Molly because she is not really a mistress.) Then, there was the fact that Harry seemed a little too nonchalant about making Molly his fake mistress and risking her reputation. I found his reason – that she would be wearing too much powder and rouge to be recognized – a little, okay a lot, flimsy.

However, that said I still found this a most delectable read. Great chemistry between the characters, lots of comedy and a great writing style come together to give this book an 8/10.

I look forward to reading the rest of the “Impossible Bachelors” series.

Rika Ashton (aka The Eagerly Awaiting)