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Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur (#SelfPubFantasyMonth)

Cover for Blade and Rose by Miranda Honfleur with female battle mage using fire magic in a forest

Description

“A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save?

“Elementalist Rielle hasn’t heard from her best friend in far too long. Yet no one at the Tower of Magic seems to care about Olivia’s silence, or the curtain of secrecy surrounding the distant capital. Before Rielle can investigate, she’s assigned a strange new mission: escort a paladin named Jon across the kingdom.

“When whispers reveal mercenaries have killed the king, taken the capital, and that no one is coming to help, Rielle can’t leave Olivia in peril. But as infamous mages and deadly assassins hunt Jon, she can’t leave him unprotected either—especially as she finds herself falling for his strength, his passion, and his uncompromising goodness. Her past returns to haunt her, a werewolf stalks their steps, and an ancient evil is gathering, yet the restraints forbidding their love strain and snap one by one.

“Saving Olivia and the kingdom means defying orders and sacrificing her every ambition, and could mean losing the man who’s become so much more to her than a mission. Which will she choose: her best friend and the kingdom, or the love of her life?

“Dive into a medieval world sensual and dark, full of magic and greed, love and blades, where factions vie for influence and there are no easy choices.”

Review

Blade and Rose is an epic fantasy romance that can’t be read in one sitting, but I wanted to.

I confess, I got about a quarter of the way through it and had to stop from sheer exhaustion. Honfleur packs a lot into the first quarter of this book, lots of action, lots of romance. I’m used to shorter books and thought for sure I’d already reached the midpoint of the romance way before the actual midpoint.

I’m glad I took a break and came back to this book. It has to be this long to give the characters and plot the depth they need.

Rielle looks like the typical spunky heroine at first. The book opens with her sneaking off into the night to find out why her best friend isn’t responding to her letters. It was nice to see her reasons for her spontaneous actions and the complicated web that is her past. I found myself liking her more and more as the book progressed, with one scene in particular cementing my good opinion of her. Everything she does is with others in mind and she really does try to think through the consequences of her actions. I respected that, and wanted the best for her by the end of the book.

Jon is a rarity in the books I read: a truly good paladin who does his best to keep his oaths in a way that helps others. Sometimes an author will write a character like that with a snide undertone, or make him a bit pompous or arrogant, or constantly point out the silliness of the oath.

Not here. The oaths Jon has sworn are treated as sacred, the men who make them are human but good at heart, and that makes the conflict in his heart all the more real when he finds his oath in conflict with the world around him.

I loved watching him work out his feelings regarding his oaths and duty. And the respectful resolution of that arc caught me by surprise and made me very pleased.

I have to add here that I completely want Rielle and Jon to end up together. They work well together, respect each other, and are willing to sacrifice greatly for the other.

Brennan was a pleasant surprise. Cast as The Bad Guy in the romance part of this book, he had reasons for his horrible actions, and the reasons actually captured my sympathy. Raised to think himself better than others, he’s arrogant and a more typical sexy than Jon. But this book, though it explains his behavior, never excuses it. However, in spite of all the awful things he did, I still hope he’ll redeem himself by the end of the series. I like him.

The plot is epic, complex, magical, and wonderful. Can’t say anything more without risking spoiling it.

For those looking for sweet romance, there are sex scenes, but the focus is on the emotions and the relationship.

If you liked the politics and realism of Game of Thrones but wished there was more magic and a romance that would get your heart thumping, this is that book. Highly recommended!

Goodreads | Amazon

Puck’s Call draft almost finished; #SelfPubFantasyMonth

Two things. First, I’m almost done with Puck’s Call’s rough draft. If I focus, I think I can finish by the end of this week.

Focus, in this case, means getting out my timer and doing sprints whenever I can. And doing occasional Pomodoros if I think it’ll work within my crazy schedule.

Second, it’s #SelfPubFantasyMonth on Twitter and Instagram. I’m going to try the challenge on Twitter. It’s my first time doing something like this, especially while I’m also trying to write. Not sure how it’ll turn out, but I’m having fun and learning about a lot more indie authors who write fantasy! I recommend taking a look if you get a chance.

Kick-off Post with info about this year’s offerings: https://www.selfpublishedfantasymonth.com/self-published-fantasy-month-kick-off/

Official website: http://www.selfpublishedfantasymonth.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SelfPubFanMonth

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/SelfPubFanMonth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/1104550-self-published-fantasy-month

Any projects coming to a close? Any self-published fantasy books you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below?

Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Summary

Dina Demille agrees to host a peace conference between three warring factions, hoping it will help her find her parents. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s in way over her head. From trying to create rooms that make sure none of the guests murder each other to finding a highly-skilled chef who’s willing to cook fine cuisine with next to no money, she’s exhausted and the peace talks haven’t even started yet!

As the effects of the war that’s brought these factions here become clear, her reasons for helping turn from professional to personal. But is peace even possible after so much pain? And what is she willing to do to ensure it?

Review

I love Dina’s focus. Her determination in this sequel is wonderful to see. Not only does she do everything she knows to keep her guests happy and relaxed, her creativity in solving the more mindane details inspired me. And when she finds peace must jappen, we get to see a side of being an innkeeper that I had no idea existed.

Caldenia returns, and ups her game (didn’t think that was possible). Beast has less chance to shine but is still Dina’s faithful, adorable companion. The melodramatic chef Dina hires for the conference made me smile each time he showed up. I loved just about every line he uttered. And I loved how he was just as dedicated to his craft as Dina is to her guests.

Arland makes another appearance, as does a minor character from the previous book, Nuan Cee.

Arland shows more depth in this book, having spent time in the war that’s brought everyone here. And he has some great moments in this. The scene where he gives another vampire coffee was just great. And his explanation of why this particular war is hell moved me.

Nuan Cee was both adorable and ruthless. And the reason he had, both to fight and to look for peace, broke my heart. I love his family now and look forward to seeing them more in future books.

The otrokars were a surprise, in many ways. I cried. I can’t say much more than that.

I loved every twist and turn in this twisty plot. But if I say mich more, I’m going to write spoilers, so I’ll just say that if you liked Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace is not only worth your time but a must-read! Highly recommended! Gah!

Quick Update: The Lord’s Tale (working title?), Puck’s Call

fantasy butterflies forest
From Pixabay

It’s been a very busy time for our family. However, I have some time to post an update on my works-in-progress, so I will.

First, I switched projects. Pre-COVID I was working on Puck’s Call. After COVID, I decided to go back to the world of Trial of the Ornic and finish the third part of the second volume.

I finally finished the third part of what I’ve been calling The Lord’s Tale last month. I’m fairly pleased with the general shape of the story. There are issues that need to be fixed, and I need to make sure this third part flows well with the parts that came before it, but I think it’s good. And I’m glad the whole second volume of Trial of the Ornic is now written.

I’m thinking of changing the title, though. Thoughts?

While that cools off, I’m back to working on Puck’s Call. It’s flowing a lot better than it was before COVID showed up and I switched projects. Setting is clearer and I got down a really great scene the other day involving the land of Faerie itself. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Makes me happy just thinking about it. It’s one of those scenes that I’m pretty secure in saying will make the final cut.

It’s also a scene that’s helped me define the rest of the story, including the point of the series. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story ends now!

That’s about it. What about you? Any projects you changed this year? New plans? New direction? Let me know in the comments!

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

Please note, clicking on the image above will take you to the Amazon page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Summary

Set in 1779, Carlo Morelli, a renowned castrato, has been invited to the Eszterháza Palace, to entertain the nobility . He arrives with an alchemist, who also happens to be a respected member of society, and a Prussian spy. Already at the palace, Charlotte von Steinbeck, sister of Prince Nikolai’s mistress, is trying to find her feet while mourning the loss of her husband, all within the bounds set for a a proper lady, such as herself. When two servants are found murdered by what appear to be supernatural forces, both Carlo and Charlotte must see themselves and others for who they are in order to stop a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and Empress themselves.

Details

  • Publisher: Pyr
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2016
  • Language: English
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1633881326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1633881327
  • ASIN: B011G4E23E
  • File Size: 1026 KB

Review

I put this book on hold through my local library’s ebook platform almost as soon as I finished Congress of Secrets, which, by the way, is the next book in the series, if this can be called a series. Masks and Shadows came first.

It didn’t disappoint.

Charlotte is the most dutiful widow I think I’ve ever read, and unlike some other dutiful women, she isn’t a hidden firebrand with a snarky tongue. She’s naturally quiet, naturally demure and docile. But there’s strength in her, even and especially in those quiet moments. She also has an enormous passion for music, and its in that passion that we see how deep her love can run for things and people outside herself. Of course, music is only what gives us the glimpse. The rest of the book provides numerous opportunities for Charlotte to shine.

Carlo is intelligent and very tuned to the world around him. He’s also bored by the courts that enticed him when he was younger. Perceptive and with a passion for music that just barely surpasses Charlotte’s, I loved the conflict he feels between the role he feels he must play in order to support himself and the desperate need he has for someone who truly understands him. Watching him and Charlotte slowly fall in love was inspiring.

Though this is a fantasy novel, and magic plays a central role in the story, that’s not the main focus of this book. Music, love, and sweeping emotions play out against the backdrop of dark alchemy and hidden knowledge.

I also have to say that I really enjoyed the setting. I don’t often read fantasy novels set in the 1700s, and I wish there were more of them. Prince Nikolai and his mistress (in reality she was unnamed, but here she’s Charlotte’s sister) come through very clearly, along with many other historical figures of the time.

The subplot with Anna and Hadyn’s troupe caught my attention almost as much as the main plot. I loved the back and forth within the group, the advice Anna gets, the friends she makes. And the way it tied into the main plot was just fantastic.

Though the ending is thrilling and worth every moment spent building up to it, my favorite part was the masked ball. Carlo and Charlotte’s dance, not to mention the costumes they chose, had me squealing with joy.

Overall, a great read. Well worth the time.

Trick, by Natalia Jaster

Please note: clicking the image above will take you to the Amazon sales page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Also, Trick is currently on sale for $0.99 cents for the next 18 hours. If you love excellent romance in a low-magic fantasy setting, I strongly recommend buying now! Either click the picture above or the link at the end of the review.

 

 

First, a warning for those who love clean romance and read YA because it doesn’t usually have bedroom scenes. This is not a clean romance. However, it is an extremely good one and more than worth reading.

On to the story.

Summary

Briar is a princess of the kingdom of Autumn, a land of perpetual harvest and stability. Poet is the court jester of the kingdom of Spring, a land bursting with life in all its forms. Both hold a secret that drives them. Both wear masks that hide what they truly feel. But Poet’s secret will destroy him and all he loves if it comes out. Briar, driven by the ghosts of her past to be a dutiful princess, tries to find the reason Poet sneaks out of the castle with a dagger in his hand. What she discovers binds her to Poet and his secret, and creates a passsionate forbidden romance.

  • File Size: 4148 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publication Date: November 8, 2015
  • ASIN: B0175PMU8W

Review

Briar is very believable in her grief and her need to be something she’s really not (i.e. the perfect princess). She’s strong and intelligent, daring in just the right way, and with a wonderful heart that only becomes more wonderful as the story progresses.

Poet…*sigh*

Poet is amazing.

Court jester for the Spring court, to say he’s unconventional is a bit of an understatement. Reading his performances captivated me, which is a very big deal in my mind because a performance is a difficult thing to capture in words. Due to the difference in their stations, there’s a bit of a build up to their meeting, but the attraction is made clear from the start when they see each other, her from her window, him from the courtyard below.

Each interaction afterward is a gradual building of tension until their first dialogue, when he catches her walking the corridors after the welcoming feast and it becomes clear how close and far apart they are.

I fell in love with them as a couple in that moment and devoured the book from that point on.

Their romance is amazing. Full of real issues that aren’t easily solved, these two not only come to understand each other, they work well together. Poet’s description of their lives if they were to be together broke my heart because it was so very true and he saw what was going to destroy them so clearly. Briar’s determination in spite of those odds amazed me. This is one of those rare romances where I love the heroine as much as the hero.

For those who care, there is a love triangle in this story. It’s a believable one and, for me, the first where the rival isn’t another woman. Not only that, the rival was incredibly sweet and kind and I ached for the pain he went through. Very well done.

Poet’s secret was as real and raw as I’d hoped. Like many things in this novel, Jaster doesn’t hold back when it comes to reality. The mental illness referenced is based on real symptoms and she doesn’t keep Poet, as the hero, distant from any of it, in any way. Reading it, my heart swelled with even greater admiration for these two characters. It’s difficult to handle such sensitive topics well, but Jaster did.

The ending is very good and satisfying. Unlike some romances where everyone gets everything they want by the end this book does not make things so easy. This book does have a Happily Ever After, but it’s real, if that makes any sense. More pain than usual is involved. There were characters who deserved to get all they wanted who didn’t. But, for me, that made Poet and Briar’s ending all the more satisfying. For a story called Trick, this book was a heart-warming examination of truth in relationships and ourselves.

It rocked my world and showed me what fantasy romance could be. Highly recommended.

Amazon

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Please note: clicking the image above will take you to the Amazon sales page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Summary

Dina Demille runs a quiet bed and breakfast in a quiet Texas town. Anyone looking at her wouldn’t believe that the house is magic, her broom can turn into a weapon (among other things), or that she’s an Innkeeper, sworn to protect her guests and anyone who seeks shelter under her roof. When danger threatens her neighborhood, she must team up with her ex-military, alpha-werewolf, extremely handsome neighbor, Sean Evans, and a deceptively polite, honor-bound vampire, Arland, to fight an enemy even their combined strength might not be able to stop.

Book Info

Version Read: Ebook
Publication Date: December 1, 2013
Publisher: NYLA (December 1, 2013)
Language: English
ASIN: B00H2R11PM
ISBN (Print): 978-1494388584

Review

This book is a lot of fun.

It feels strange, saying that because the book starts off with the effects of a tragic murder and a quiet confrontation between Dina and Sean (who calls her crazy for saying he’s a werewolf). But after that, the dialogue, while never losing its grip on the severity of the stakes, becomes very entertaining, especially between Sean and Dina.

Dina is a strong female character without being particularly sassy or “tough.” I like that. A lot. She’s also very smart and highly accomplished with her magic. Plus, she cares deeply about the surrounding neighborhood and everyone under her care. That came through clear from the first chapter.

Sean was a bit of a puzzlement, at first. But as the story progresses and his backstory unfolds, his actions make a lot of sense.

Arland was the most unique vampire I’ve read in a while. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read the book yet. But him and his planet sealed it for me and this series. I love his sense of honor and his approach to telling the truth. Looking forward to seeing more of him in the near future.

This review wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Beast and Dina’s permanent guest, Caldenia. Beast, Dina’s adorable pet, temporarily took away my annoyance at adorable pets in books, while Caldenia not only made me smile but made me actually want to see her as she was in her younger years.

A series with a younger Caldenia would be worth the time for her alone. But I digress.

There is a romance in this series. In this first book, it’s slow-burn and very sweet. It’s clearly secondary to the main plot, but not by much. I very much look forward to seeing what happens with it in the next book.

The worldbuilding is top-notch with a truly worthy enemy. Good plot twists and an exciting ending made this a favorite read. Highly recommended for those who want action, romance, and an entertaining blend of urban fantasy with science fiction.

Congress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

Congress of SecretsCongress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a glittering post-Napoleon Vienna, this novel sparkles. Yes, it sparkles! Action-packed and with a wonderful romance at the heart of it, Congress of Secrets also has just enough of the politics of the era to add depth to an intriguing fantasy.

The main characters, Michael and Karolina, have their own goals, but fit so very well together. Michael aims for one last con, one big enough to gain him a secure retirement from a life he didn’t really want to live. Karolina wants to rescue her father, and is willing to descend to almost any depth to do it. Both share a past in Vienna that both want to remember and forget. Watching them was an exercise in patience and frustration that had a wonderful reward at the end that was worth every moment wanting to throttle both of them.

Burgis also includes some of the great figures of the day in this story, such as the cunning French ambassador, Tallyrand and the wonderful Prince de Ligne, my personal favorite. Charming, witty, and with a hidden steel within him, the Prince is also incredibly, surprisingly kind. And I love it when that happens in a story.

Another side character of note, mostly because of his transformation in the course of the story, is the non-historical Peter Riesenbeck, head of a theatrical troupe, and unwitting member of Michael’s con. I went through so many emotions watching him change in response in ways that were all too human and perfectly understandable, given what happens to him. His ending was almost as powerful as Karolina and Michael’s triumphs.

As for the romance, it’s passionate and sweet, very much in line with what can be expected of a Regency novel, but with less playful banter and more action. Michael and Karolina work well together, and I loved watching them become partners as well as something more.

Highly recommended!

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