Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Fallen Empire, #1
September 25, 2018
Once a year, the Empire requires the local villages to send a young woman to burned alive for the amusement of the Emperor and his queen. One village has sent the same young woman for five years; a young woman whose magic protects everyone in her village. Only this year, something has changed. Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator and the son of a chieftain is determined to escape his slavery and reclaim his birthright. But he needs Gilene and will use whatever possible to get her help. Now on the run, Azarion and Gilene will overcome extreme obstacles to get what has been taken from them. But in the end, in order to be free, Gilene will have to burn one more time.
Grave Draven’ lyrical voice soars in her latest fantasy endeavor filled with love, loss, retribution, and redemption. Emotionally plump and mastery written, Draven creates seemingly impossible odds for our protags to overcome and overcome they do, using their wits and skills. Told from dual POVS, the narrative expands the story, creating a rich sense of intimacy that gives readers insight into Azarion’s ingrained hero complex and the growing resentment Gilene feels as she is once again forced into a situation beyond her control. A slight power imbalance only sweetens the pot as Draven weaves in dark themes that are used to build this compelling world and character dynamics. A rich slow burn romance kept this reader on edge as Draven takes her time building the embers of friendship and trust into a burning inferno that inflames the mind, body, and soul. Though the main conflict is resolved to satisfaction, Draven leaves enough open to easily usher us into book two, title and release date to be announced. Once again Draven proves she is on her way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the arena of high fantasy romance.
Pointe Noire by Lacie Thorne
The Noire House, #1
September 25, 2018
When prima ballerina Emily Charles receives an invitation to the most exclusive BDSM club in New Orleans, Noire House, she is positive she will finally get to explore her kinks and find the release she has craved all her life. Meeting the elusive Sam Roche only sweetens the deal. As Emily and Sam grow closer and the spark that fuels their chemistry deepens the ties that bind them, Emily is convinced she has found the dominant meant to be her master. But there are factors in play that Emily is unaware of and when she learns who Sam really is, she will have to decide which is more important…Sam or her hard-won career.
Thorne’s debut erotic romance is a female-centric promises an enticing premise that explores a young woman’s sexual fantasies and the reasons behind them. And almost succeeds. The set up is solid with the attention firmly on the heroine and her issues but I felt that Thorne never seems to go beyond the exploratory stage of BDSM and it’s many facets. The insta-love rushes over the romance’s development and left little to the imagination. The initial meeting of the heroine and the hero creates a vacuum that Thorne is forced to fill with unnecessary conflict while Emily’s aura of innocence comes off childish at times. My main concern was that Sam and Emily never discussed any true limits and her refusal to use her safeword. She had no sense of preservation and Sam, as an experienced Dom should have been more proactive in her safety and mindset. The end is an emotional finale used to force the hero to accept the relationship but leaves us with a slight cliffhanger for a secondary character. All in all a good start, just needs some tightening up and a better balance in the subject matter and deeper character dynamics.
FROM THE TBR
This week I’ve been binge reading Sarah J. Maas’ Court series. What an adventurous magical journey! Drawing from various mythologies, legends, and religions, Maas creates an epic high fantasy that is crammed full of romance, intrigue, suspense, betrayal, and hope.
I’ve also finally started reading J. Bengtsson’s Cake series devoted to a group of siblings whose lives were forever altered when one of them was kidnapped by a serial killer. Bittersweet at times, each story is brimming with love, laughter, and hope. I’m on book three right now which is Emma’s story (the oldest sister).
WHAT’S UP NEXT
Next on the review pile is The Proposal by Jasmine Guillary and Fireworks by Sarina Bowen. w00T!!