I read/listen to a LOT of paranormal romances. So much so, that sometimes they all start to sound alike, blur together and lack... something. Romances in general seem to have gotten so "formula" lately, full of eye-rolling moments and predictable stupid/silly, contrived conflict... But when it's good, it's really good, so I keep reading mediocre to find the "gems."
For me, the Immortals After Dark series is a standout. And probably one of the reasons I keep reading the genre. I'm never disappointed with a Kresley Cole book!
Take this one... It's not only deliciously sexy, but it has an exciting and nail-biting story. And the characters... I not only didn't want to scream at the heroine for being an idiot (well may-be once, but not like most stories I read) but I found the characters interesting, and sympathetic.
The narrator -- Robert Petkoff, who reads all the books in the series so far -- was an acquired taste for me. I didn't know what to think of him initially. I loved his male voices, but hated his female ones... But he's VERY talented at accents and his dramatic reading grew on me. His male voices are incredibly masculine and sexy, which is a huge attraction. But a very male voice trying to sound feminine... *cringe* It's a testament to the story and to the otherwise excellent narration that my annoyance can be mostly forgotten. After an hour or two, when I'm into the story, I hardly notice that the female characters all sound like drag queens. I wonder how much better it would be with a woman narrator reading the female parts.
FYI - I gave this story 4 stars (4.5 to be more exact), which means above average to me. I like to reserve 5 stars for books I think are epic and extra special. (Like Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.) I give most of the books in my library 3 stars. Enjoyable, but forgettable. The 2 star books have moments, but very few of them, and the 1 star books are downright irritating.
I rarely give 5 star reviews, but Outlander is a stand out.
The only gripe I have is that it's raised the bar so high, I don't enjoy the shallow plots, insipid silliness and lack of research that make up most historical romances these days.
This story just meandered around so long I stopped caring what happened to anyone. I thought it was supposed to be a romance, but I would not call it that at all. The main character cares for no man in particular, outside of her father and brother for 90 percent of the story. So, I had expectations that were sorely disappointed. If you want a romance, be warned.
The only thing keeping me halfway engaged was Davina Porter's voice. (She's my favorite narrator and the main reason I gave this book a chance.)
I love Jane Austen, historical romances AND inspirational stories. And this book falls in that category -- I guess -- but I these characters started to bore me after awhile and their little lives were just not that interesting. To me anyway. Obviously some people did like them. But I was glad when it was OVER and I could move on.
BTW - If characters referring to God or praying occasionally offends you, it happens so little in this book, I can't imagine it would even be a distraction. But I've read some reviews where people complain it was too "religious." They obviously have some pretty serious issues, because it's NOT.
I've listened to worse and overall I liked it ok... It didn't irritate me and the story was not the same old thing. But there was something rather disappointing about it.
There was plenty of intrigue, but in the end, the plot twist was (without giving it away) that the hinted at extraordinary and romantic was not reality, but the very ordinary was. The end was all so very anti-climatic, even though technically the heroes get the expected HEA.
The narrator had a lovely voice and the story was very gently, s-l-o-w-l-y and carefully read... which added to the lack of excitement. I found my attention frequently wandering.
Like I said, it was not bad. I liked it. I just didn't love it.
I was so bored with this, I returned it. I wasn't even going to bother with a review, but I feel like there are too many people - obviously - who don't like to be negative and so all you get are fawning reviews from the easily impressed. I mean, that's my best guess.
I liked Fifty Shades, but this wanna-be, copy-cat really lacked the depth, character development and plot that Fifty had - and since the latter wasn't exactly great literature, that's saying a lot.
It was weak when the heroine's impression and inner dialogue told me that the "hero" was "dominate" before she had a real reason to think so. I guess we were just supposed to know from all the other similarities to Fifty...
There seem to be so many knockoffs of popular books... and I, like others, go looking for for another compelling read in the same vein, but all too often are disappointed.
At this point, there is momentum created with so many reviews, that people like me get sucked in, and so on... But I frankly did not see what the big deal is.
I like that the story was a bit different in some ways, but was surprised at what a blatant RIPOFF the main character was from Sookie and Buffy. Except I did not find "Mac's" obsession with pink, fashion and mani/pedicures to be cute in the slightest. She was DENSE and FRIVOLOUS. She is dangerously close to being in the "too stupid to live" category. I frankly don't care much about what happens to her at this point. Which is probably not a good recommendation for continuing with the series.
But then I look at all the reviews... And I love a good series... And the plot was just left hanging with no resolution what-so-ever. (Yes, this was all set up and no conclusion.) So I'm torn.
BTW - The narrator drags down an already ridiculous character. Her southern accent is over the top and matronly. It also sounds fake as it slips at times. Her rendition of the "Pict/Irish" male lead is also pretty bad. He sounds like a little old leprechaun with a head cold. I just cannot imagine tall, dark and mysterious with that croak!
It had it's cute moments but overall nothing much happens...
Stuffy, self-absorbed bachelor is charmed by orphaned family who impose on his distant connection to them. He is compelled to help launch the sisters into society and simply passes them off to one of his sisters. But his reluctant involvement grows as he is pulled into various hijinks. He eventually comes to care for the down to earth and responsible Frederica, who is in charge of her younger siblings. She is fairly oblivious to the thought of romance for herself and to caring for him...
But a "romance" between the two is not what the story is about. You want it to be, but in the end about 3 minutes of story is devoted to those two together. VERY unsatisfying.
The main characters are well developed, but there are SO MANY names thrown around, after a while I gave up trying to figure out who all the side characters were. It didn't matter to the plot anyway, because again, nothing much happens.
I had listened to These Old Shades and really liked it. So I was looking forward to another by Ms Heyer. It had a great start, but after awhile I realized the plot was just meandering around social events and banter with some hijinks by the young brothers. Like I said, it had moments, but overall I found it tedious. I was not irritated, just bored. I couldn't wait for it to be over in the end.
This book starts out promising. It begins as a DRAMA with gritty and exciting action. The heroine (Mairin) is abducted by a brutal clan leader, bent on forcing her to marry him for her dowery. His physical abuse of her is shocking, but she is realistically brave when a child needs her protection... But shortly after she comes to be in the hands of the hero's clan, the story morphs into a silly ROMANTIC COMEDY, and Mairin becomes a bit of a modern day brat. The transition was a bit jarring.
Far from being an independent woman, who makes good decisions, Mairin can't stand to be told what to do. She's like an adolescent, stomping her foot and screaming, you're not the boss of me. Given the time period the story is set in makes it all the more ridiculous. Her fits of temper of course stupidly endanger herself and others.
We're told Mairin was hidden in a convent (not sure why) and raised by nuns. Yet when she marries Ewan - the laird of the his clan - she of NO experience decides to take charge of the keep by judging disputes and firing men. I think we're supposed to find her bumbling "cute," but I just found it wholly unrealistic and eye-rolling.
I liked Ewan... He was no crush-worthy hero, but good.
The drama returns towards the end and the story gets briefly interesting again - hence the second star. But the resolution happens too quickly and simply, like the author was ready to be done with it.
Overall it was disappointing. There was a lot of potential and it started strong, but got sloppy fast. I don't think the author spent more than 10 minutes researching historical detail. The dialog and themes are modern and shallow. There are lessons in woman's lib given to medieval men with bows and arrows.
As for the "steaminess" factor... Meh. May-be because I didn't see Mairin as much more than a child, I just wasn't bowled over by the "loving."
Where to begin... I love romances. Historical and paranormal tend to be favorites. And while I've slogged through some shallow, silly, convoluted, and eye-rolling stories, I've never NOT finished one. But THIS... One hour in and I wanted to bang my head against the wall to make it stop!
Every tedious cliche of the genre is trotted out, but even so, that is not what made this intolerable. It's the narrator, Carrington MacDuffie who completely RUINS the story!
I read the negative reviews, so before deciding to take a chance, I listened to a sample and thought she sounded very pleasant. And she DOES have a lovely voice. That's not the problem. It actually took me awhile to pin-point what it was that was so GRATING about her narration...
She reads the story with such exaggerated expression, it sounds like she's mocking it. May-be she's trying to be sexy and funny with the way she PURRRRRS out the story, but it's also how you would read it if you were making fun of it. She could render Tolstoy ridiculous like that. And there is much about the story - at least the part I made it through - that IS ridiculous.
I didn't mind the "fantasy" part of the story... Hot guy trapped in a book? Sounded intriguing. But even fantasy needs some realism to work! May-be it was coming... along with the character development. But I couldn't listen to MacDuffie's over-the-top rendition of SEEEENSUAL and SULLLLLTRY for one more second.
Ward obviously realized she was running out of "brothers" to hook-up with their mates and decided to broaden her horizons. I resent that she did it here, with Phury's story, because he got VERY short changed. And so did the readers who thought they were going to get another romance. (Or listeners in this case.)
In every book she spends time setting up future stories, but in this book she spent WAY too much time trying to put flesh on a bunch of fringe characters that I still just don't care that much about. She sets up future conflict with them, making THIS story more about the STREETS and less about the sheets - so to speak. In previous books, the reverse was true. I wasn't thrilled with the change. I felt like I had been a victim of bait and switch.
Less than half this book deals with Phury & Cormia's story. Which frankly, SUCKED.
And Phury - who always seemed to be one of the more noble Brothers in previous books - takes a nose dive here, character wise. Of course, Ward had to come up with some conflict to keep the future lovers apart, and the result was lame and tame. She turned Phury into a dysfunctional drug-addict who loved throwing major pity-parties. But his self flagellation reached such ridiculous heights, and seemed so out of character, it was irritating. And Cormia was too meek to be much help.
The author even makes up a new "character" that berates Phury nonstop in his head. The "Wizard" - and where that name or the persona came from is still a mystery (outta left field) - is so extremely annoying, I started fast forwarding through his little tirades. It was bad enough that Phury was wallowing in so much false guilt, but to add a lecturing little voice, with a British accent of all things, took it to eye-rolling heights.
Also out of character seemed to be the Brothers over reaction to Phury's problems. In previous books, other brothers have had dangerous behaviors and they were tolerated and/or accommodations were made. But not with poor Phury. They suddenly got very judgy and it seemed less like tough love and more like turning their backs. I didn't buy it.
But then, the author wasn't interested in involving the Brothers with Phury that much, because this story was less about the Brothers, and more about ALL the other characters. Meh.
When Phury & Cormia finally did get together at the very end, I wasn't sure why. What changed? It was just the end of the book so Phury decided to pull his head out?
Talk about anti-climatic... He finally makes love to his female, and after centuries of guilty abstinence you'd think the author would spend a bit more time on it! I know she is capable of more, so the anemic encounter between Phury and Cormia at the last was the crowning let down in a book full of them.
It's hard to find a good romance that's not just formula, and this series has been good, to this point. Mostly. I had to work to get past the stupid, eye-rolling slang and the blatant commercial product placement. And book 4 was kinda boring... But, I've really loved some of them.
But, I won't be reading another in this series if Ward keeps on this track. I'll be reading the critical reviews carefully next time! Honestly, I'm starting to think half of the rave reviews must be from the author's friends and family.
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