The Road to Helltown (Preternatural Affairs #9) by SM Reine

My name’s Cèsar Hawke, and the people in my life are filled with good intentions.
We all know where that ends up.
A fissure to Hell has ripped from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and now half the City of Dis is in my hometown. Helltown’s hotter than ever. Demon dynasties are on the rise. Nightmares are out to get me.
Staying alive means forgiving people I’ve kicked out of my life, it means getting vicious with magic, and yeah, it means I’m dealing with dead bodies. Lots of them.
I’m Cèsar Hawke. I used to be an agent with the Office of Preternatural Affairs. And this is how the world ends.

I was not a happy camper going into The Road to Helltown. Why you may ask? The answer is kinda petty, but simple. Out of all the male characters in this crazy world created by SM Reine, Cèsar Hawke is my absolute favorite. (Rylie’s my favorite female character, in case you’re curious.) I may be in the minority and that’s okay, but I suffered a little bit of heart break when I found out that this would be the last of Cèsar’s books. *sigh*

Regardless of my trepidation, I grudgingly put on my big girl pants and dove into the last Preternatural Affairs book knowing that SM Reine would give my beloved Cèsar the send off he deserved. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I trust this author because Cèsar went through a lot in this book. The Road to Helltown was not a fun trip for anyone involved – least of all Cèsar.

The Road to Helltown was told by several different POVs, which included Fritz, Suzume (never call her that), Isobel and of course, Cèsar. Readers learned a lot about each of them in this book. Some good and some not so good. The thing I love about Cèsar is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows his faults and admits them freely and he’s blatantly honest – mostly about himself. Being in his head is so entertaining. Readers got that in The Road to Helltown, but they also got things that they didn’t expect – like real glimpses of Fritz, Suzy and Isobel.

I gotta admit, as much as I’ve loved Cèsar, I have not been a real fan of Fritz. He’s always seemed so stuffy and prickly and grumpy… you get the picture. That’s not just from this series either, because he’s made appearances in more than one series in this world. In true SM Reine fashion, my opinions about him changed in The Road to Helltown. I’m still not in love with him, but I can honestly say that I like him now. That’s major progress. 😉

Being in Suzy’s head was fun too. It was great to find out how much she cared about (and lusted over) Cèsar. It shouldn’t have surprised me too much because she was always passionate about her magic. It was just good to know that Cèsar’s love and respect wasn’t one-sided.

I’m not sure why, but I always found the relationship between Fritz and Isobel a little… strange? By the end of The Road to Helltown, I was more comfortable with it. Isobel’s POV helped with that I think. Truth is, I really think that this foursome is much better together than apart – their quirkiness just works better together.

SM Reine took these characters on a unique journey and I liked the twist. It was scary, gruesome, and at times even fun. The Preternatural Affairs series was most definitely brought to a satisfying end, but that doesn’t mean I’m still not going  to miss them… especially Cèsar. There are still a few things I’d like to know, so hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Cèsar and company. Maybe not all together anymore, but a glimpse or cameo here and there would be nice. ❤

 

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Stone Cold (SoulShares #8) by Rory Ni Coileain

Maelduin Guaire is a Fae with a mission. An obsession, really. He’s trained his entire life to become the greatest scian-damhsa, blade-dancer, the Fae have ever known, for the sole purpose of killing the blade-dancer who murdered his father and gave House Guaire its reputation as the Cursed House. Now he’s followed Tiernan Guaire through the Pattern to the human world, to fulfill his oath or die trying… but the passage has cost him all his skill with a blade.
Terry Miller, Josh LaFontaine’s business partner at the Raging Art-on Tattoo and Piercing Parlor, has the worst luck with men since… well, since ever, as far as he’s concerned. Years ago, he walked out on a great thing with Josh, when Bryce Newhouse offered to play sugar daddy for Terry’s ballet company; then Bryce kicked him to the curb, and Terry ended up relying on big-hearted Josh to help him get back on his feet. And now a too-good-to-be-true stranger has turned up in Terry’s half-built dance studio, with a beautiful sword and a bloody nose.
In order to regain the grace and skill he needs to keep his vow, a Fae cursed with the inability to love must SoulShare with a human convinced that love runs screaming when it sees him coming. All with the Marfach looking over their shoulders. No pressure.

Okay, so it took me a while to get into Stone Cold, but once it grabbed me, it didn’t let go. I didn’t have this issue with the first 5 books in the series, but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of the books in this series (I read Blowing Smoke in 2015.) Also, I inadvertently skipped Mantled In Mist (#6) and Undertow (#7) so I’m pretty sure both contributed to the slow start. Sometimes you can fall effortlessly back into a series after a break, but so much happens in the SoulShares series and what affects one pair seems to affect them all and not knowing all the characters made things just a little confusing. Lesson learned. 😉

Once I caught up, I couldn’t put Stone Cold down. Terry’s a character that’s been around for a while in the SoulShares series and finding his SoulShare was long overdue. Both Maelduin and Terry had their reasons for fighting the pull that they felt toward each other. Maelduin was cursed to never love and Terry was unlucky in love. He either picked the wrong person or pushed the right ones away. Things are never quite what they seem in this world of magic.

The Marfach was as gruesome as ever and magic was running rampant – and not always in a good way. As I said, a lot happened in Stone Cold and evidently a lot happened in the books I missed. I’m definitely going to have to go back and read those two books before the next one is released. Stay tuned!

Suicide Queen (Dana McIntyre Must Die #4) by S.M. Reine

There are only thirty-six hours until Las Vegas will be daylighted by the witches of the Office of Preternatural Affairs. Thirty-six hours until every last vampire in Clark County gets ashed.
A serial killing vampire is taking advantage of every last one of those hours. His perverse game means mutilated vampire fledglings running amok, and it means there’s only one vampire hunter who can catch him.
Dana McIntyre’s getting out of prison to do what she does best.
And Nissa Royal is waiting to receive her with open arms.
The suicide queen’s been dealt. The stakes are deadly. Now it’s time to show their hands and find out who has the high card – and who will be winning the soul of Las Vegas.

I’m not quite sure where to start… or what to say… or more importantly, what not to say. So much happened in this final book of the Dana McIntyre Must Die series. I don’t want to take a chance at giving anything away.

Things were definitely not looking up at the beginning of Suicide Queen. Dana had lost a lot, including her freedom. She finally put an end to the Fremont Slasher, but the cost was high. Getting out of prison didn’t gain her much freedom, but it was a start. She had little time to worry about her new status when the new threat to Vegas was wreaking havoc in a brutal, gruesome way.

Then there was Nissa, who wasn’t done with Dana. She was even scarier than her master in some ways because of her unique power and her need for revenge. I was not a Nissa fan and Dana’s tiny soft spot for her drove me nuts.

On a side note, someone else drove me nuts in Suicide Queen and it was totally unexpected. I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m a huge fan of Cèsar Hawke, but he wasn’t my favorite character in Dana’s book. I still liked his snarkiness and he finally redeemed himself by the end, but I had a hard time liking him as much as I usually do. I think I need another Preternatural Affairs book, stat! LOL!

So, the Dana McIntyre series has come to a satisfying end and the author managed to make me like a character that I never expected to, but I don’t think that S.M. Reine is quite done with Dana yet. There were a couple of strange turn of events at the end of Suicide Queen… actually more than one, but I’m not giving anything away, remember?

The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2) by E.J. Russell

Professor Bryce MacLeod has devoted his entire life to environmentalism. But how effective can he be in saving the planet when he can’t even get his surly neighbor to separate his recycling?
Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick doesn’t think his life could get any worse: he’s been exiled from Faerie with a cursed and useless right hand. When he’s not dodging random fae assassins in the Outer World, he’s going toe-to-toe with his tree-hugging neighbor. And when he discovers that the tree-hugger is really a druid, he’s certain the gods have it in for him—after all, there’s always a catch with druids. Then he’s magically shackled to the man and expected to instruct him in Supernatural 101.
All right, now things couldn’t possibly get worse.
Until a mysterious stranger offers a drunken Mal the chance to gain back all he’s lost—for a price. After Mal accepts, he discovers the real catch: an ancient secret that will change his and Bryce’s life forever.
Ah, what the hells. Odds are they won’t survive the week anyway.

The relationship between Mal and Bryce most definitely did not begin with love at first sight. Mal’s lack of trust, respect, etc., of druid’s didn’t improve when he became magically attached to Bryce. The feeling was pretty much mutual since Bryce had absolutely no knowledge of the supernatural world he was suddenly thrust in head first with an uncooperative tutor. Then the real fun began. 😉

I have to admit, I didn’t like The Druid Next Door near as much as I liked the first book in the Fae Out of Water series, Cutie and the Beast. However, I did end up liking Mal more in The Druid Next Door than when readers were first introduced to him as Alun’s playboy brother, eventually.

When the book opened, Mal was pretty much a shell of the characters that readers first met. When he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, he was trying desperately to figure out how to reverse the curse that had been placed on him. He thought he knew exactly what he had to do until a mysterious stranger gave him another option. It’s true that nothing is quite what it seems and I honestly didn’t see any of what that drunken alliance led to. In the mean time, Bryce and Mal started seeing things in each other that they didn’t expect either.

I ended up really liking The Druid Next Door. It wasn’t quite as light and ‘cute’ as Cutie and the Beast, but there was nothing light or cute about Mal or Bryce. There were a couple of fun moments though and David did make quite a few appearances, which was fun.

At the time I wrote this review, I’d already read the next book in the series, Bad Boy’s Bard. You’ll have to wait a little while to see if Gareth won me over. Honestly, after the first two books I thought that E.J. Russell probably had her work cut out for her. Stay tuned. 😉 

Cashing Out (Dana McIntyre Must Die #3) by S.M. Reine – Bout of Books 20 Review

With the previous master vampire out of the way, and Dana McIntyre presumed dead, there’s nothing standing between Nissa Royal and her vision for Las Vegas: a city of vampires where humans serve as no more than cattle.
Except that someone keeps killing the vampires who are sweeping the streets for victims. A mysterious killer that nobody can seem to find. Someone bent on stopping Nissa…
Police Chief Charmaine Villanueva is losing control of her city to the Office of Preternatural Affairs. She hopes to appease them with a preliminary cure for vampirism–her last shot at reassuring them that she can keep her citizens safe. Except someone has broken into Holy Nights Cathedral to steal the Garlic Shot, even though the church should be impossible to burgle. She can only think of one person with the ability to steal from the cathedral. But Dana McIntyre’s been dead for hours. Hasn’t she?
Torn between OPA control and vampire control, Las Vegas is a city on the brink of war missing its guardian angel. It’s a high stakes game with no limit. But the house isn’t letting any of its players cash out yet…not when the game is just getting hot.

I can’t even… I really should deduct at least half a star for the gut wrenching events near the end… Oh, and I thought the last book ended with a crazy twist? o.O Trust me when I say that S.M. Reine is most definitely holding onto her #EvilAuthor title.

Things took a strange and unexpected turn at the end of Kill Game. So strange and unexpected that everyone (except readers) in the beginning of Cashing Out knew that Dana was dead. There were a few that held out a little bit of hope, but it was a long shot. There were too many things that she would have had to overcome to actually survive, but this is Dana we’re talking about and she obviously wasn’t finished yet.

Needless to say, a lot happened in Cashing Out and not all of it was great. Dana was kinda awesome (I told you, she’s growing on me) and her friends/family were great, whether they actually liked her or not. A key mystery was solved (I can’t say that I was surprised). On the flip side, the OPA showed up (which wasn’t all bad…). Nissa became even stronger when she became a full fledged vamp and the absolute worst was that there were losses… on both sides. *tear*

So, this is turning out to be another vague review, and I’m sorry about that, but I just don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I have a sudden urge to go back and read Bitter Thirst, because seeing one of my favorite OPA agents appear in Vegas was one of my favorite parts of Cashing Out 😉 Well, maybe not my favorite, because this is Dana’s book after all, but Cèsar is just… well, he’s Cèsar, enough said.

So, I’m going to end this review (before I give anything away) with my usual disclaimer. If you haven’t read a S.M. Reine book yet, pick one sooner rather than later. Start wherever you want, but I suggest either with Six Moon Summer or Descent. The world building is phenomenal and so interwoven between the series it’s a wild ride. I’ve got my favorites, so now it’s time for you to choose yours… you’re welcome! 😉 

 

Cutie and the Beast (Fae Out of Water #1) by E.J. Russell

Temp worker David Evans has been dreaming of Dr. Alun Kendrick ever since that one transcription job for him, because holy cats, that voice. Swoon. So when his agency offers him a position as Dr. Kendrick’s temporary office manager, David neglects to mention that he’s been permanently banished from offices. Because, forgiveness? Way easier than permission.
Alun Kendrick, former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court, takes his job as a psychologist for Portland’s supernatural population extremely seriously. Secrecy is paramount: no non-supe can know of their existence. So when a gods-bedamned human shows up to replace his office manager, he intends to send the man packing. It shouldn’t be difficult—in the two hundred years since he was cursed, no human has ever failed to run screaming from his hideous face.
But cheeky David isn’t intimidated, and despite himself, Alun is drawn to David in a way that can only spell disaster: when fae consort with humans, it never ends well. And if the human has secrets of his own? The disaster might be greater than either of them could ever imagine.

This was a fun one. 🙂 David was a mess. He was also quirky, adorably and totally devoted to his unconventional family. He screwed up every job he had and trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went. When he lands a temp job in Alun’s office he is determined to make it work – even though it’s a job that he had no business taking.

Alun was cursed and he knew it was totally deserved. The fact that David was determined to stick around regardless of how hard Alun tried to push him away was just one of the reasons why he was inexplicably attracted to David. None of it made any sense at all to Alun. But then, nothing is ever what it seems. By the time both David and Alun figured out what was really going on, it was almost too late.

This was a great start to the Fae Out of Water series. The fact that readers were introduced to both of Alun’s brothers just made me want to get to know them better ASAP. Good thing I don’t have long to wait for Mal (The Druid Next Door) or Gareth’s (Bad Boy’s Bard) books. I’m not sure if they will be quite as entertaining as Cutie & the Beast. Mal pushed all of Alun’s buttons and was a shameless flirt, but Gareth has a fair amount of baggage and a pretty hefty chip on his shoulder. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that this series is going to be extremely interesting.

Spellbinder (Moonshadow #2) by Thea Harrison

Kidnapped while on tour, musician Sidonie Martel is transported to the mystical land of Avalon. A human without magical ability, she is completely vulnerable to the deadly forces surrounding her.
When she defies her captors and refuses to share her music, an act of violent cruelty leaves her broken, her ability to play silenced, maybe forever. Her only hope is a whisper in the dark, gentle hands that offer healing, and a man who refuses to show her his face yet who offers advice she dare not ignore.
One of the most feared and powerful sorcerers in history, Morgan le Fae serves a Queen he despises, Isabeau of the Light Court. Once a famous bard and an advisor to kings, Morgan has been enslaved to Isabeau for hundreds of years, acting as enforcer and the commander of her deadly Hounds.
Sidonie’s music touches Morgan in places he had abandoned centuries ago, and her fiery spirit resurrects feelings he had believed long dead. For Sidonie, trapped in captivity, passion offers a comfort she cannot resist.
But Isabeau holds Morgan bound in magical chains that only Death can break. And in the court of a cruel, jealous Queen, the only thing that burns hotter than love is revenge…

The Moonshadow series is getting more and more intriguing with each couple that’s introduced. I loved the first book, Moonshadow, and readers met Morgan as he was doing his best to inflict pain on Nikolas, his brotherhood and Sophie. I was kind of surprised when Spellbinder was Morgan’s book, but I should have trusted Thea Harrison to prove that nothing is quite as it seems.

Unlike Sophie, Sidonie was totally human with no power whatsoever. What she did have was her music, an unwillingness to give up and a strategic mind that saved her more than once. Even with all of that, she never would have had a chance if it weren’t for Morgan.

After reading Moonshadow, I never expected to like Morgan, much less sympathize with him. He didn’t win me over immediately, but it didn’t take long. Because of Sidonie’s intuitiveness, he finally had a little bit of hope and an ally he never expected.

There were a few twists and turns and things didn’t turn out exactly like either Sidonie and Morgan planned, but the path to a HEA isn’t always easy.

A few characters from previous books made some unexpected appearances and at least one of them made me want to go back and re-read one book in the Elder Races series (if not more.) Those appearances also proved that things are bound to get even more interesting as the Moonshadow series progresses. I can’t wait 😉

Moonshadow (Moonshadow #1) by Thea Harrison

Her past is a blank, her future uncertain….
Recovering from a shooting, LAPD witch consultant Sophie Ross leaves her job and travels to the U.K. to search for answers about her childhood. When she encounters a Daoine Sidhe knight of the Dark Court, she becomes entangled in an ancient hatred between two arcane forces.
He has given his body and soul to fight for his people….
Barred from his homeland along with his surviving brother knights, Nikolas Sevigny is embroiled in a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear. Only by uniting his people’s resources can they hope to prevail against Isabeau, the deadly Queen of the Light Court. He will do anything and use anyone to return home to Lyonesse.
When Nikolas encounters Sophie, he sees a tool to be used. The insouciant witch might be the key to unlocking every passageway that has been barred to the knights of the Dark Court, even as a fascination for her takes root in what’s left of his soul.
Sophie has no intention of becoming anyone’s pawn, yet the fierce Nikolas is so compelling, she can’t deny the temptation that endangers her guarded heart.
As magic threatens Lyonesse, Queen Isabeau unleashes her merciless Hounds, and Nikolas and Sophie become embroiled in a race for survival. Meanwhile, the passion that ignites between them burns too hot to be denied and quickly turns into obsession.
Thank goodness they both know better than to fall in love…

Strangely enough, I missed Moonshadow when it was first released, but once I noticed Spellbinder, the second book in the Moonshadow series, was available for review, it definitely got my attention. Why’s that so strange, you may be asking? Because it’s not only the first book in a brand new Thea Harrison series, it also introduces readers to some new members of the Elder Races. Enough said…

Sophie was amazing. I fell in love with her from the very beginning. She was slightly broken because of the shooting she barely survived, but she was brave, loyal and alone. When she was approached by someone offering her a way to acquire a mysterious property. She figured she has nothing to lose. She ended up getting a lot more than she bargained for – including maybe some insight into her past.

Nikolas was a little harder to read, but the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. He wasn’t used to someone as kind and genuinely caring as Sophie and her willingness to help kind of threw him. Just another reason to fall in love with her… that’s if he had the ability to fall in love. His one and only priority was to keep what’s left of his brotherhood safe and find a way home.

Action, magic, mystery and more… I’m thinking I’m going to like this Elder Races spin off series. Not surprising at all. As I mentioned, Spellbinder is next and it’s already way up on my TBR list. Stay tuned!

Spectacle (Menagerie #2) by Rachel Vincent

When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.
But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

The second book in Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie series was just as intense and thought provoking as the first. In some ways, even more so. The members of Metzger’s Menagerie had a small respite from their captivity and that taste of freedom made what came next even harder to take.

The description only touches on the horrors that Delilah and her friends and other cryptids had to endure when purchased by the Savage Spectacle. Willem Vandekamp was the perfect villain and his sweet, spoiled wife was even worse. Just like Menagerie, there was a loud and clear message just below the surface. The creatures in Spectacle were much more humane than the humans that not only kept them captive, but used them in horrific ways. The captors also played on their weaknesses and it didn’t take long for Willem to figure out how to play the connection between Delilah and Gallagher to his advantage.

As hard as parts of Spectacle were to read, the intensity, imagery and action kept the pages turning. Delilah never stopped trying to find ways to escape. She refused to give up, even when her punishments came close to breaking her. Watching what her fellow captives were forced to endure was the only motivation she needed. That and her vow to destroy Willem and everything he stood for.

The ending of Spectacle didn’t seem as abrupt as the end of Menagerie, but it still left me wanting the next installment sooner rather than later. The fate of many characters were left hanging in the balance and then there’s the interesting twist…  Needless to say, the last book in the Menagerie trilogy is already on my TBR list 😉

Surrender the Dark (Dark #1) by Tibby Armstrong

Benjamin Fuller is a hunter, born and bred. Blinded as a child by the vampire who slaughtered his family, he’s blessed with a second sight that allows him to catch and kill his quarry. What his gift can’t help him see coming is his fierce, almost carnal attraction to the mystery man who claims to be a fellow hunter and whose touch triggers both lust and revulsion. When he gains the upper hand, Benjamin vows to bring his enemy to his knees.
After many years spent in exile, the only one who can help restore Tzadkiel Dragoumanos to his rightful place as War King is a blind hunter with golden curls, a lithe dancer’s physique, and distinctive facial scars—scars Tzadkiel gave him two decades ago. The mere scent of Benjamin Fuller provokes an unwelcome rush of insatiable desire. Yet to win an all-out supernatural war, Tzadkiel must resist the ravenous hunger to possess his prey—for now.

I honestly can’t believe that Surrender the Dark is the first book by Tibby Armstrong that I’ve read. I’ve been following her for a while now and I really did think that I’d read at least one of her books, but I was wrong. There’s obviously nothing I can do about that now, but after finishing the first book in her newest series, I’m hooked and anxiously waiting the next book in the Dark series.

Not surprisingly, it was really easy to sympathize with Benjamin. I’ve got to admit that I was wondering exactly how the author was going to bring these two characters together after all the pain that they caused each other. Tzadkiel was the enemy. He was a monster that had tricked Benjamin, caused him to lose his sight and killed his family. Things aren’t always exactly as they seem though and there were a lot of interesting twists in Surrender the Dark.

Once I started to understand Tzadkiel’s history and how things really played out I wasn’t sure who to sympathize with because I found my heart breaking for both of them. So much so, that I wasn’t disappointed at all to find that the real enemy in Surrender the Dark wasn’t who I expected.

Beyond the story, the writing in Surrender the Dark drew me in. The descriptions were almost poetic, but not over the top. The characters were well developed and there was even humor laced within all the pain, anger and danger. Just a few of the reasons why I’ll most definitely not only be following the rest of this series but I’ll also be searching out more books by this author.

The conflict was over between Tzadkiel and Benjamin by the end of Surrender the Dark, but there’s still more to come. More than one character’s fate was undecided. Even though the next book, Taste the Dark, centers around at least one of those characters, I’m pretty sure readers haven’t seen the last of the King and his mate. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it. 😉