Cover Shot! The Dark Lady by Maire Claremont

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Here’s another cover featuring a beautiful, frothy dress.  This time, the money shot is from the back, instead of the front.  Will this be the new trend? 

Lord Ian Blake failed to keep the oath he made to his childhood friend Eva that he would bring her husband Hamilton back from India. Though his heart longs for her forgiveness, he knows he doesn’t deserve it, as he is responsible for Hamilton’s death. And not only has Ian failed Eva, he has returned to England too late. Eva’s brother-in-law has locked her away in a madhouse. Nothing will stop Ian from saving the beautiful, independent girl he’s always loved and claiming her—at long last—as his wife.

Lady Eva Carin doesn’t think she deserves to return to society, not after the death of both her husband and young son. When her childhood friend appears in the dismal asylum for women to save her, she cannot ignore the hope that sparks in her heart. Against all odds, fate has reunited her with the one man she has ever loved, but he turned his back on her once before. How will she be able to trust him again?

In stores November 2012

Subscribe in a reader

Cover Shot! Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I haven’t started the Horngate Witches series by Diana Pharaoh Francis yet, but the premise looks very interesting.  I love the cover for Book 4, Blood Winter, which will be in bookstores in December 2012.  What do you think of this one?

Set in apocalyptic America and featuring a magically enslaved heroine who is “a riveting mixture of guts, compassion, and furious anger as she struggles with a world coming apart at the seams” (Romantic Times), the fourth in a dynamic dark urban fantasy series unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Winter is coming to Montana and Shadowblade warrior Max is expecting trouble. People are hoarding everything. They are banding together, many flocking to the congregation of Sterling Savage, a fire-and-brimstone preacher. A charismatic cult leader who claims to be the Hand of God, he’s determined to create a human utopia and destroy all magic, starting with witches.

Unbeknownst to him, the “divine” voice he’s been hearing isn’t God but a demon that feeds on hate, death, and destruction. Savage is the perfect puppet for the demon’s ambitions. Max and her people at Horngate are all that stand in its way, and they are woefully unprepared.

Conducting terrible, bloody ceremonies to boost his own power and that of the demon riding him, Savage starts a war between his congregants and two other powerful gangs in the city, fighting for food, fuel, clothing and territory. When he manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate, Max tries to free them but finds that Savage has twisted their minds. They worship him—even her brother, who is a witch and whom Savage intends to burn at the stake. Going undercover in the cult compound, Max swiftly realizes just how seductive Savage is. His charisma is reinforced with magic. His followers adore him and will do anything for him. Anything.

But courage, loyalty, and friendship are powerful forces—and Max doesn’t like to lose.

In stores December 2012

Review: A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang

 

Title: A Brush of Darkness

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Pocket Star

ISBN: 978-1439198322

Abby Sinclair #1

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The man of her dreams might be the cause of her nightmares.

Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn’t at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and sexy-as- sin incubus searching for his sister, convinced Abby has the key to the succubus’s whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invade her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish, as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance. As she is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, Abby realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there’s no one she can trust to save her.

Review:

When I read that protagonist Abby had a miniature unicorn that slept in her underwear drawer, I added A Brush of Darkness to my TBR.  I mean, who doesn’t want a teeny tiny unicorn living in their apartment?  Assuming it didn’t trot about, pooping all over the place.  I was hoping that Phineas would be like Sparky from Laura Bickle’s Embers; a magical creature that both kept Abby out of danger, but also caused trouble for her at the same time.  Phineas turned out to be a fun secondary character, who, despite his small size, manages to pack an incredible amount of attitude into his gleaming silvery hide.

I liked Abby, too, though I have serious concerns about her recklessness and lack of common sense.  She has managed to get herself caught up in a very dangerous situation, one that could easily cost her her life.  Not that she puts much value in that, though, as she is still reeling from the death of her mother, who died in the same gruesome car accident that robbed Abby of her dream of being a professional dancer.  Now she works in a rickety bookstore that stinks like cat piss and cabbages (or maybe dirty feet), and she’s signed a Contract with Moira, one of the OtherFolk.  Moira is not just any Fae, mind you, she’s the Protectorate, and she helps keep the peace between all of the different and dangerous OtherFolk.  When she goes missing, it starts to look like Abby has something to do with her disappearance, and that does not bode well for a mortal woman who is suffering from PTSD.

Sexy incubus Brystion shatters whatever small amount of peace Abby has managed to find for herself.  Barging into the bookstore, he’s hoping that Moira can help him find his missing sister.  When Abby accidently links herself to him, her life will never be the same.  OtherFolk want her dead, she’s under suspicion because Moira is missing, and the incubus causes her heart to race every time she thinks about him.  And she’s having some of the most satisfying sexual dreams of her life.  That is, when she’s not having nightmares about being torn apart by sharks. Talk about disturbing.

For the most part, A Brush of Darkness kept me engaged in the story, right up until near the end, which I found a bit slow and very abrupt.  I loved the mystery, though, and the run up to the last thirty or so pages.  Abby has her work cut out for her.  She needs to find Moira – STAT – as well as Brystion’s sister, before she becomes the next dead succubus to turn up on the CrossRoads.  Abby doesn’t get much co-operation from her friends, either, as they begin to cast suspicious eyes in her direction, especially after she hooks up with the incubus.  It seems that nobody trusts a creature that devours other’s dreams. 

I found the world building and the OtherFolk’s dependence on mortals interesting.  In order to travel back and forth between realms, they needed to a form a contract with a mortal.  Abby’s contract with Moira means that she won’t age for seven years, and she gets one wish at the end.  Since the OtherFolk can’t ever quite be trusted, I don’t think that Abby’s payoff is worth the risk she put herself in, but as she is struggling to forgive herself for her mother’s death, she doesn’t place much worth in herself to begin with.  She is messed up, both physically and mentally, because of that tragic moment, and she just can’t move beyond it, which gives her enemies ammunition to use against her.  It also manifested in a recklessness that often took me by surprise.  I sympathized with her, and wanted her to finally find the strength to forgive herself. 

I enjoyed A Brush of Darkness, and aside from the lag at the end, found it hard to put down.  I’m invested enough in the story and the characters to want to read A Sliver of Shadow, the next book in the series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Cover Shot! Wicked As They Come by Delilah S Dawson

Ah, take a look at this wicked hottie.  I like the cover for Delilah S Dawson’s debut, Wicked As They Come.  While I am getting tired of covers with half-naked men, and I think he would actually look more intimidating with a shirt on, I love the title font and the blood spatters.  It takes a certain roguishness to pull of the top hat, too, and I think this guy manages quite admirably.  What do you think of this cover?

Have you ever heard of a Bludman? They’re rather like you and me—only more fabulous, immortal, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.)

Delilah S. Dawson’s darkly tempting debut drops her unsuspecting heroine into a strange faraway land for a romantic adventure that’s part paranormal, part steampunk . . . and completely irresistible.

When Tish Everett forces open the ruby locket she finds at an estate sale, she has no idea that a deliciously rakish Bludman has cast a spell just for her. She wakes up in a surreal world, where Criminy Stain, the dashing proprietor of a magical traveling circus, curiously awaits. At Criminy’s electric touch, Tish glimpses a tantalizing future, but she also foresees her ultimate doom. Before she can decide whether to risk her fate with the charming daredevil, the locket disappears, and with it, her only chance to return home. Tish and Criminy battle roaring sea monsters and thundering bludmares, vengeful ghosts and crooked Coppers in a treacherous race to recover the necklace from the evil Blud-hating Magistrate. But if they succeed, will Tish forsake her fanged suitor and return to her normal life, or will she take a chance on an unpredictable but dangerous destiny with the Bludman she’s coming to love?

In stores March 2012

 Subscribe in a reader

Review: Embers by Laura Bickle

 

Title: Embers

Author: Laura Bickle

Publisher: Pocket

ISBN: 978-1439167656

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Truth burns.Unemployment, despair, anger—visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya—who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern—suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil’s Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya—with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team—can stop it.Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.

Review:

I haven’t heard much about this book, but when I was given the opportunity to read it, I jumped at the chance.  The story takes place in my backyard, and I have recently started reading urban fantasies.  Plus, the protagonist’s occupation as an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department seemed interesting to me.  Mainly, though, I wanted to see Detroit through someone else’s eyes.  What I ended up liked best about the story were the characters, especially Anya’s familiar, a fire elemental named Sparky. 

Anya is investigating a string of arsons, and the pressure is on to catch the firebug before someone gets hurt.  She is baffled by fires, because she can’t figure out how they have been started.  She’s at a total loss until a talkative ghost and a mysterious symbol give her a few leads.  As she delves deeper into the case, she finds herself in a race against the clock, because on Devil’s Night, someone very powerful has one goal in mind – to awaken Sirrush, a nightmare beast that will burn the city to the ground.

My description is kind of weak, and there is so much more going on here than indicated in the blurb above.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, though, so I’ll keep the plot details vague.  Instead, let me share the reasons why I couldn’t put this book down.

First and foremost, I felt an instant connection with Anya.  She has a creepy power, and she has had to keep it a secret from almost everyone.  She is a Lantern, and she can consume ghosts.  Only a few people are aware of her ability, and most of them are members of a group of paranormal researchers.  Anya helps them when they get in over their heads, even though she would prefer not to.  She’s not fond of the idea of them studying her, and she feels uncomfortable eating ghosts.  She has spent most of her life trying to ignore them, because,  face it – people give you funny looks when they see you talking to something they can’t see.  Go figure.

Anya is both tough and vulnerable, and I liked her immensely.  She makes mistakes, she’s human, and sometimes she doesn’t learn from errors in judgment.  She has flaws, and I liked that about her.  They get her into trouble.  They make it hard for her to trust people.  They make it impossible for her to accept love, and keep her at arm’s length from almost everyone.  The only emotional connection that she really has is with Sparky, the fire elemental that has always protected her.  And guess what? Nobody else can see him, and he totally takes advantage of that.

I loved Sparky.  He is like an unruly dog.  He leaves a trail of damaged electronics in his wake, because he can’t stop himself from tasting them.  He licks the life right out of them.  New microwave? So tasty!  Now it’s a blackened husk.  I don’t want to think about what he would do to my iPad or my laptop, or any of my other beloved gadgets.  As Anya’s circumstances became ever more grave, I actually started to fret about Sparky.  Like any good guardian, he would give his life in her defense.  So as I became more attached to both characters, I began to stress out.  Would something awful happen to Sparky?  This is the reason I avoid stories about dogs.  I just can’t handle the fear that something bad will happen to them!

If you enjoy urban fantasies, I highly recommend giving Embers a read.  It is suspenseful, the characters, even the villain, are engaging, and the pacing is fast and furious.  I wish there had been more details given about the world-building and the magic, instead of it just being there.  The final confrontation with the bad guy was also a bit of a let down and was just too tidy.  The run-up to the finale was a blast, though, and I am looking forward to reading more by Laura Bickle.

Grade: B+ leaning towards an A-

Review copy provided Bewitching Book Tours