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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-21 20:01
Broken Heart by Tammy Faith (2016 Review)
Broken Heart - Tammy Faith

Broken Heart by Tammy Faith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Phoebe Stephen's life drastically changes when she awakes from an attack - an attack she can't remember. Giving in to the fear, to the emotional insecurities, she strives to keep it hidden from all who care for her. But such brutal violence takes its toll and can't remain hidden for long, especially when love is at stake.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tammy Faith for giving me the opportunity!

Upon being given the opportunity to read this debut novel, I admittedly had to mull over whether it would ultimately capture my interest. Romance as a genre can be a very extreme hit or miss with me, but I almost always prefer it involving paranormal aspects or erotic content as a focus point. Despite these factors however, I finally decided to give it a go even though the blurb didn't particularly appeal; which had nothing to do with the implied delicate subject matter, I might add, it simply struck me as rather flat, as Contemporary New Adult often does. I was happy I finished it though, as I detest having to leave a book before it concludes.

The story of Phoebe and Crisanto could've been considered a relationship fantasied about by the young and naive - it was mind-numbingly perfect and a little ridiculous. Sure, they battled through some serious issues, broke up and got back together more than once, but their connection was formed in childhood and they essentially needed each other to properly function. Over and over I was reminded how they were meant to be, how their souls were joined; mostly tedious ramblings that repeatedly played on my nerves. Phoebe's life often revolved around Cris and his rise to fame (she moved twice, following him as he succeeded in his sports career), as it appeared "his dream" was the only one that mattered. I foresaw the happy ending, thus the numerous occasions they appeared to be in jeopardy failed to cause uncertainty or concern. A lot of romance material shares this very trait, but I've found it can still be done whilst successfully creating sense of edge-of-your-seat excitement. Unfortunately, this one fell quite short.

It wasn't all bad however, as I found myself impressed with some of the dialogue and narrative that related to life's habit of being unfair and difficult; it was truly quote-worthy at times and I appreciated the good writing (even though as a whole it was rife with spelling errors). The sexual abuse was also handled well, and added a touch of mystery amongst the awfulness of the situation - yet in the end the identity of the rapist made little sense. She was friends with Cris for most of his life and never, even once, met his father? I believe such a glaringly questionable plot-hole should've probably been addressed, but I assume Faith wanted to shock her readers, therefore who better than the parent of the beloved boyfriend?

I can't say I came to care for the characters, nor the story to a large degree. It was a quick read, with the timeline regularly racing ahead and skimming over a lot of time. I became confused at a point when one of the scenes from the past didn't quite add up in the scheme of things, but that could've been my own oversight or just another problem on the list.

In conclusion - Whilst I definitely believe this book held potential, it needs revision and editing. Also, the lovey-dovey definitely became a bit much, as it seemed to me to be rather unhealthy. Not my thing, I can say that for sure!

Notable Quote:

I'm glad we didn't give up when things got ugly, because maybe love isn't supposed to be easy. Maybe it's supposed to be tough, to make you prove to yourself that this person is worth fighting for, to hold on tight when everything seems to want to tear you apart.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/04/21/broken-heart-by-tammy-faith-2016-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-24 18:48
A Dance In Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington (2016 Review)
A Dance In Blood Velvet - Freda Warrington

A Dance In Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Black shadows appear within the Crystal Ring, bringing confusion and fear to those who inhabit it. Charlotte Neville and her lover Karl von Wultendorf find themselves, despite being separated by emotional conflict, deeply embedded in the scheme of three mysterious figures that wish to preform a questionable ceremony.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

The first instalment (A Taste of Blood Wine) of this darkly alluring series captured my heart, in that despite the overly dramatic tone relating to the Neville household, I found the writing itself a literary treasure; atmospherically gothic, intense and beautiful; it appealed to my utmost fondness for vampire romance. What I expected from this volume, was more of the same brilliance, yet instead of entertaining family turmoil, relationship jealously saturated every aspect of each character and unfortunately dulled my enjoyment because of such. I'm all for conflicting emotion, of mistakes being made due to overpowering feelings, yet nearly every event that transpired in this book, was more or less due to jealousy in some form - Ben and Lancelyn, Charlotte and Katerina, Karl and Violette. Perhaps I should've appreciated the fact they were realistic, and like normal people plagued by insecurities, but there's a point I began to roll my eyes at the abundance of selfish behaviour.

A happily-ever-after was not in store for Charlotte and Karl, on the contrary, in fact. They spent most of their time apart, as obstacles seemed to rise in every direction and threaten their attempt at eternal love. I didn't mind this, I actually considered it refreshing that they had to continually fight to make it work. I however believed them both mostly to blame for their unhappiness, and Charlotte became especially intolerable. From being jealous of Katerina whilst she, herself, had the audacity to lust after and stalk Violette, well, what happened to the character I actually liked and felt attached to? And when she planned to turn Violette without even asking for her permission, I was ready to throw the book across the room. The same occurred with the rest of the characters, as well; I didn't particularly feel for any of them.

This isn't to say I believed the entire book a disappointment. Some endearing elements were still present, such as the style of writing and the overall elegance of the story, but it definitely lacked some of its original charm. The plot consisted of two, seemingly separate subplots coming together, pretty much revolving around the (re)birth of Lilith. Religion was further contemplated, yet it remained a mystery if God actually existed. The exact origin of the Crystal Ring was also pondered upon yet again, raising the question of if it relates to scientific or spiritual means. I do wonder if answers will ever come to light, or if it'll remain unexplained. At least the discovery of humans accessing the Crystal Ring was revealed, and the presence of a physic human also added to the conundrum that is Warrington's world.

In conclusion: The self-centred actions of the characters brought bouts of annoyance. I'll certainly continue with this series, but I hope I enjoy further instalments more than this one.

Notable Scene:

"How can I be content to bury myself in dead mythology, after living mythology has revealed itself to me? How can I feel anything for Lamia, succubus, incubus, Lilith and her demon children or all the angels of heaven, when I have met a real being who is richer and stranger than anything on the dry page of a book?"

"Do you want to write me into a book, a thesis?"

"It's tempting, but no, no more than I'd put a bird of prey in a glass cage."


© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/24/a-dance-in-blood-velvet-by-freda-warrington-2016-review
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text 2018-03-01 17:22
Ripped Bodice Racial Diversity Report for 2017

Here's a link: http://www.therippedbodicela.com/state-racial-diversity-romance-publishing-report

 

Bottom line: a couple of romance publishers did improve, but overall the industry lost ground from 2016. Probably why more authors of color are turning to self-publishing; however, those tend toward digital only releases, restricting their sales potential.

Source: www.therippedbodicela.com/state-racial-diversity-romance-publishing-report
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-17 22:33
The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Torment (Lords of the Underworld) - Gena Showalter

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Baden, former Keeper of Distrust, has something new living inside him, something darker than any mere demon. Bound to the King of the Underworld, he struggles to fit into his new role of assassin, however his biggest challenge comes in the form of Katarina - a dog trainer that happens to be the wife of a very troublesome man.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

Let me start by saying that this instalment's number twelve in an ongoing series (Lords of the Underworld), and at the beginning - it's been seven years since I picked up the first book - I absolutely adored Showalter's steamy and mythological world. My very first reviews are of this series, where I found the characters, the stories, and the sexual heat all new and captivating. I even gave five star ratings to a couple, The Darkest Pleasure and The Darkest Passion. I had nothing but praise.

That time has unfortunately passed.

Whilst these books will always have a place in my heart, and I'll probably, against my better judgement, continue on until they come to a final conclusion, I'm truthful to myself in that I'm not enjoying them as I once did. At this point I'm just regurgitating my complaints, and it feels more like a chore to get down my thoughts. I'll however try and be coherent about my reasoning - why do I now largely dislike what was once beloved?

- The characters tend to fuse together, becoming indistinguishable. They're too similar, often having the same mental outlook, the same behaviour and even the same dialogue. Say a bunch of them were in the same scene and it wasn't directly stated who was speaking, well, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

- The sex has become stale and it fails to thrill me anymore. What was once downright dirty has turned tame. I don't need an excuse to prefer the eroticism that once dominated the romance.

- Plot inconsistencies are plentiful. I'm not even going to go into detail, but it's clear that Showalter made a decision to change already established storylines. Baden's past in particular completely confused me.

- The writing's declined on a monumental level. Full sentences are a thing of the past. Example:

Heart pounding, she jerked her hands away from him. “Sex...from me?”

“Yesss.” A hiss. “Only from you.”

Only. Amazing how one little word could send pleasure soaring through her, warming her. “You told me never to touch you.” Which she’d just done, she realized. My bad.


Which brings me to the dynamic of Baden and Katarina, and how she ultimately considered him an animal in need of training. When someone doesn't even think of their significant other as an actual person, then there's undoubtedly something wrong with the relationship. I liked the hellhounds, though, but that's the only thing, and it's not enough to justify a higher rating.

As for the whole William and Gillian debacle - I just didn't care.

In conclusion: I initially rated this two stars, however I believe one to be more appropriate in regards to how I feel. I'm not into this series anymore, but I feel an obligation to trudge onward. If only I could walk away.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/17/the-darkest-torment-by-gena-showalter
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-05 22:22
Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance - Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a novel that grows on you. When I first read it back in 2005, I reasonably liked it. Except for Cordelia's Honor it was the best part of the saga up till that point in the narrative, but I didn't love it. So I only reread parts of it, but never in its entirety - until now. And boy, this time I absolutely fell in love with it. It has a bit of a slow start (which costs it the half star-reduction), but once the shit hits the fan it's one tour de force of psychology and emotion that keeps you biting your finger nails.

 

After 2 years, Mark turns up and basically kidnaps the Dendarii posing as Miles for a raid of House Baraputhra's cloning facilities on Jackson's Whole (where he was created as well). Miles races after him and arrives just as the mission fails spectacularly. He ends up shot in the chest and put in a cryotube which then gets lost in the following chaotic retreat. Mark and Elena have the unenviable task of relaying the news to the Vorkosigan parents which means for Elena a return to a difficult past - and for Mark a step into an uncertain future. But the race to recover Miles (dead or alive) isn't over, and Mark won't stop until there's certainty of his clone-brother's fate.

 

This is Mark's story, who he was, who he is and who he ends up to be. The various roles he has to or chooses to play showcase this, from impersonation, to reluctant and unsure son, to brother and business man - dealing with doubt, guilt, and all the aftereffects that his upbringing with Galen (which is elaborated on here) left him with. Add to that the torture he's put through here, and you get a young man who's somehow toeing the line towards insanity, but nevertheless has never felt more sane and true to himself. It's a veritable tour de force to come to that point, and some chapters are incredibly difficult to read (the black gang's emergence) and make no mistake, Bujold doesn't pull any punches here. This might be the most explicit book in terms of violence and torture against one of her main characters in this saga so far (and overall), and even immoral acts perpetrated by a main character, but it's so rewarding nonethess. Honestly, up till now I've never liked Mark, but in a way Bujold managed to bring him to life in just one (albeit very long) book just as much as she did with Miles. And the Vorkosigan-universe is richer for it.

 

Miles himself takes the backseat here, but of course he gains a new perspective in life - having an brother, not just a clone, for once not being in the heart of things... and a glimpse of mortality. But his resurrection doesn't come without a price as we'll see. Among all the psychology and character-drama the plot surrounding the Duronas and the despicable machinations on Jackson's Whole get a bit sidelined. But I guess we'll revisit both. Overall, I love the image of reciprocity in this novel: every action has a reaction, just like in the Mirror Dance, a popular dance on Barrayar, and that's transferred to practically everything that's going on here.

 

Other than Mark himself, the parts that most fascinated me (and the ones that I kept coming back to) are set on Barrayar: the effects Miles' not-quite death has on the Vorkosigans, Mark's introduction into this family, Aral's health crisis which suddenly turns an academic question of succession into a very real one, Cordelia going toe to toe with Simon Illyan, even the small glimpses and huge nudges of Gregor and Kareen Koudelka who both accept Mark for who he is from the start - not just as Miles's clone, but as an individual.

 

Overall, a stunning novel.

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