Review: Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

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It’s interesting how so many books now touch on BDSM within a relationship.  If done right it can enhance the readers feel of connection and trust between a couple, if done wrong then it can feel awkward and unreal.  I’m going to give readers of this review a warning right from the start – this review contains SPOILERS.  I normally try to stay away from major spoilers but because of how my opinion of this book changed because of a single scene at the end it hasn’t been possible this time.  So read ahead at your peril.

Why Read:

Seeing another side of the archangels world, hot scene in a car, great heroine.

Quote that best sums up the lead (male) character:

“Ever had a woman say no to you, Dmitri?”

“Once.” He turned the corner with a smile that made her want to cup his face, trace those beautiful lips with her own. “I married her.”

Review:

I started Archangel’s Blade with an intense feeling of excitement, almost like a kid unwrapping presents on their birthday.  I love the world Nalini Singh has created with this series.  Even the pretty boys have ruthless edges and there is a different (but believable) take on vampirism.  The first three books in the series have focused on Raphael and Ellie, his consort.  And if you’re thinking that you can pick up here without reading the first three – don’t.  This book makes the assumption that you know how the world operates.  Go back and read the first three – they are amazing and will set you up to enjoy this book.

This book is about Honour, a guild hunter who is recovering from being held prisoner by rouge vampires for two months who brutally raped and tortured her, and Raphael’s second in command Dmitri, an ancient vampire with a streak of cruelty running through him.  We’ve gotten to know him over the last three books and this book expands on how he has been shaped by events in his past.  I absolutely fell in love with Honour.  She is brave and tough and so heart-brakingly traumatised from her ordeal.  I thought she was the perfect balance to Dmitri’s ruthlessness and the chemistry between them was off the charts.  Seeing Dmitri help Honour get justice by those who abused her showed a softer side to the ruthless warrior.  However….  WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

Intwined throughout their story is the story of Dmitri’s wife and children from before he was made into a vampire.  Flashing back through the book you get their love story from the beginning to the horrific end including sex scenes.  For me this disrupted the growing connection between Dmitri and Honour.  Perhaps if I was reading it in paper format the effect wouldn’t have been as pronounced but in audiobook format you couldn’t get away from it and it felt like half the book was devoted to Dmitri and another woman.  Dmitri and Honour had amazing chemistry when it was just the two of them with no interference from the past.  There’s a scene in Dmitri’s car that is beyond hot.  Not so much because of the details given but because of the chemistry between the two.  Unfortunately that was then followed closely by a sex scene with Dmitri and his first wife during which I didn’t feel the chemistry (mainly because it felt like he was cheating on Honour).  Now keep in mind that I’m reading this through audiobook format so there is two distinctly different voices for the two women.  I could have forgiven the time taken except for…. WARNING REALLY MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

There a point in the story where as a reader I HATED Dmitri.  The kind of hate where you know that if this was a real life situation and Honour was your friend you know you would be getting her away from this guy fast.  He deliberately and physically invokes memories from her capture to make her tell him something.  And it breaks her.  All the work she had done to come out from the protected environment she had put herself in after the attacks was gone.  All the feeling of trust and connection between her and Dmitri – gone and rightly so.  Following that scene she forgives him pretty much straight-away because he gets down on his knees.  It was the equivalent of a “sorry baby I didn’t mean to hit you but you just made me so mad” scene.  It had taken her so much courage to get to the point where she was ready to welcome him to her bed that I just didn’t see how she could forgive him straight away.  I felt like there needed to be chapters in the story between them where he works to earn her forgiveness and trust again, chapters where she has to build herself back up after he tore her down.

It was so rushed that it ended up with them together in bed that same night.  It’s not just for Honour that I felt the rushed nature of the plot line diminished the emotional story being told, because Dmitri needed time to work through his guilt and come to terms the fact that he would do that to a woman that he had genuine feelings for.  During the sex scene that follows, he thinks about the fact that he would show no compassion against those who scarred her yet that same night he was the one who had traumatised her.  Sure the abuse is mental instead of physical but it’s still abuse all the same.  There are other issues that I have with the scene (like her asking him to kiss her throat so soon after the incident – an action similar to the one that caused her to break down) and most of them come from the story’s pacing.  Given that the substance of Honour as a believable character comes from the fact that she is working through these issues the rushed timing doesn’t work.  Afterwards Dmitri goes straight back to the cocky-arrogant s.o.b. we all love even thinking about how easily he could destroy their relationship in a way that makes it sound like the other scene hadn’t happened.

When the truth comes to light about why Honour is having flashbacks of Dmitri and his wife it feels like a cop-out.  As a reader I was left confused as to who Honour actually was and why she didn’t have the knowledge beforehand.  Surely if the premise is that she has been through torture and rape in a past life then her going through it in this life would have triggered flashbacks before she had met Dmitri.  Instead she goes from being Honour in one scene and in the next is talking to Dmitri as his wife but referring to herself as a hunter… as I said confusing.  I’ve read other books that have used a similar plot device and it has worked but I’m afraid it didn’t work for me in this case.  I felt confused and ultimately robbed of the time that Dmitri and Honour could have had in the book because their story alone was worthwhile and full of beautiful possibilities.  Oh, and I’m sorry but you are not going to convince me that a woman who has been through what Honour has been through would be comfortable with BDSM games in the bedroom straight away.   Not gonna happen.

This is the first time that I have not LOVED a Nalini Singh book, and in all honesty a bad book of hers is still, in my opinion, miles ahead of most other authors.  I’m not sure if she was pressured to have a certain number of sex scenes and a BDSM theme to meet the current trends in romance but the story didn’t need it.  And in fairness, it might also be a case of the different sense of timing you get from listening to the story in audiobook format as opposed to in written format.  But this particular story I had issues with… fortunately I can always go back and do re-reads of her other books until the next one comes out.

Audiobook Review:

I really enjoyed Justine Eyre’s narration of this book.  She kept the characters consistent with the same voices from the other three audiobooks so it “reads” really well if you listen to them in sequence.  Unfortunately I had to jump through hoops whilst leading a pony wearing a sequinned vest to get my hands on the audiobook.  If there’s one thing I would love to see it’s the publishers of audio and e-books sorting out the international publishing restrictions that mean Australians (and other countries I’m sure) aren’t able to easily purchase content that is available on the same site to American readers.

Check Out:

http://www.nalinisingh.com/

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Quick Read Review: Gold Ring of Betrayal by Michelle Reid

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For me Mills & Boon (or Harlequins) hold a distinct purpose in my reading time.  They’re normally really quick reads that are the equivalent of a half-an-hour soap opera.  Great for when you need distraction but don’t have long to read (and, in my case, don’t trust yourself to put down a longer book when you need to get back to work).  Michelle Reid’s Gold Ring of Betrayal is a fairly typical M&B read. The hero is an a**hat who takes his father’s side and believes his wife has betrayed him. Wife never betrayed him was, in fact, being forced. Wife has baby (the hero’s) which of course the hero doesn’t believe to be his. Baby gets kidnapped – hero comes to help recover her and of course this leads to the couple reconciling.

There were things in this book that were well done – you could see the growth in the heroine during the time she has been on her own. The hero’s plot to make her jealous comes back to bite him on the a** and the child was a well written character that actually interacted with the other characters in the book. I would have liked the author to explore the theme of the heroine’s not letting anyone touch her without her permission a bit more and the end felt rushed with not enough grovelling. But considering that it took me under 20mins to read it was a nice bit of escapism.  The fact that it was in a box of books that I purchased for $5 at the end of a charity book fair makes it not only escapism but a very cheap way to spend 20 minutes.

Getting back into reading

Hi everyone,

I’ve been absent for a while now due to some health issues.  Turns out that when I’m sick I don’t read – who knew 🙂  let alone doing what I find most enjoyable about being a reader which is the networking and discussion that happens on blog sites and goodreads.

I’m slowing getting back into it and fully intend to continue developing the Wandering Hues blog as planned, however it’ll be a slow recovery before I’m up to full speed again.   At this stage I’ve been enjoying old friends like Eve and Roarke, all the Brown siblings, Kate and Curran and of course my favourite Archangel Raphael and Elena.  I’ve both missed them and still live in awe of the writers who can create characters that make me feel like it’s a reunion every time I pick up their stories (the fun kind of reunion – not the school kind).

-Tania

Reading nooks

Comfy couches, huge windows, fireplace, bookshelves that are high enough to require a library ladder… sigh… nope sorry, can’t find a single thing wrong with this setup.  Except for the fact it’s not mine.  I even like the dog.

The full house was originally published in an issue of Traditional Home, but I found it on Autumn Clemons design blog.

Check Out:

http://mydesigndump.blogspot.com/

Guest Review – Birthright by Nora Roberts

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When I first started this blog I can honestly say I thought it would be a fairly solitary past-time.  Instead I found a bunch of people who love to talk about my favourite subject … books!  And then I met Brie who’s not only a fellow book-blogger but fellow archaeologist as well.   Let’s be honest, the actual job of being an archaeologist is NOTHING like what most books and movies portray.  The closest I’ve ever seen is in Nora Roberts book Birthright, so that’s the book I’ve asked Brie to review today.  And as always, she’s done an amazing job.  Make sure you head over to check her out at:

Romance Around The Corner

Brie’s Review:

It turns out that Tania and I have more things in common than just books and blogs. We are both archaeologist as well. We found out about it thanks to a review she wrote and that’s why she invited me to do this guest review of a book set in an archeological dig. It also turns out that I have more than one thing in common with this book because the heroine is an archaeologist, and I’ve been working on that field for a long time, but the hero is an anthropologist and that’s what I majored in.

If you are a fan of romance novels then you probably know who Nora Roberts is. It was one of her books that turned me into a huge contemporary romance fan and she is one of those authors who actually lives up to her reputation.

In Birthright there’s a lot going on. First, our heroine gets a couple of bad news, for starters she is about to supervise a very important archaeological project in Antietam Creek when she’s told that the anthropologist that will advise the dig is her ex-husband Jacob Greystone. And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, this random woman shows up claiming that she is her birth-mother and that Callie is the baby someone stole from her years ago. So now she has to juggle all this stressful situations while supervising the site and fighting the smoldering attraction that remains between her and Jake.  But wait, there’s more. Bad things start to happen because apparently the townsfolk don’t want the archaeologist there, or so it may seem.

As you can see Callie has her hands full, which is why she hires a local lawyer named Lana Campbell, to help her sort things out, but they have to battle against Doug Cullen, who happens to be Callie’s brother and who is dealing with a serious case of survivor’s guilt whilst trying to protect his mother because he can’t believe that Callie is his sister. Thankfully Lana and Doug hit it off immediately and thus begins a lovely secondary romance between those two.

This book has a lot of characters and they were all appealing in different ways. Callie was your typical tough Roberts’ heroine (I must admit that Roberts is a bit formulaic and her characters usually reflect this) and she was well-balanced by a more laid-back hero. This is an author with a great eye for chemistry and fantastic couples and this book is no exception. I enjoyed the love story a lot and I was happy to see them overcome their issues and move on as a more stable and mature couple. The secondary romance was just as good and it didn’t hurt the main couple or took away the spotlight, but it was just as sweet and fulfilling as Callie and Jake’s was albeit in a whole different way because Doug and Lana couldn’t be more different couple.

This book is quite long but is an effortless read. There are many things going on, including murder attempts, actual murders, arson, secondary love stories that are just as engaging as the main one, lots of relationship drama, and a very charming main love story.

The archaeological aspect of the plot was fairly well done, obviously in a real dig -and you don’t need to have a degree to realize this- no one has time for that many intrigues, the work isn’t as romantic as popular culture often portrays it, there’s a lot of hard and detailed work involved, and by the end of the day everyone is so tired that there’s no time for machinations, murder plots and rekindling a flame between lovers (well, unless you have a bunch of students then there’s always time for that).

This is a story about second chances. Callie and Jacob love each other very much but they rushed into things and their relationship suffered from it, now they need to overcome those issues and figure out how to make it work. Then there’s Lana’s second chance at love, she never thought that she would be able to find love again after losing her husband but fate brings her Doug. And finally we have Suzanne’s second chance at having a relationship with her long lost daughter. So as you can see the theme of second chances and missed opportunities is present throughout the story and in each one of the main characters.

In my humble opinion this is one of Roberts’ best books, it isn’t my favorite, but I think that every fan of romance would love it and if you are new to the genre or unfamiliar with this author, Birthright is a good place to start.

Birthright by Nora Roberts

Jove. March 30, 2004.