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Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Genre: Light/Comedic Romance
Series: N/A
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 432 Pages, 8242 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Bet Me
Light and Fun

When her boyfriend David dumps her three weeks before her sister's wedding, Minerva Dobbs mostly feels annoyed. She knew there was a reason she never had sex with the man. In a quirky show of support, her two best friends convince her (goad, really) to take the gorgeous hunk that she sees talking to her ex by the...horns...to show the weasel up. The only problem is when she gets close, slipping in from behind them, she overhears David betting the handsome beast Calvin Morrisey that Cal can't get her into bed within a month!

Min's not a thin, hot redhead like her best friend Liza and she's not a petite blonde cutie like her other best friend Bonnie. No, Min's under no illusions. She's chubby, she hates her body, and the only risk she takes with her statistics-minded self is on shoes that express far more personality than her boxy, conservative clothes. She's just been dumped and she's feeling a bit vindictive after hearing about that bet, so when Cal approaches her not five minutes later, she's intent on making him pay a little for being the shallow, callous jerk he is.

Cal thinks Minerva Dobbs is the worst date he's ever had, but he doesn't lose bets he makes. He bet that idiot client of his back at the bar that he could take Min to dinner and by God, that's what he's going to do. Sure, he knows David was drunk, and there was no way he'd ever agree to any bet to get a woman into bed, not even for $10,000, but he didn't hold it against him. He'd maneuvered the man and the bet to take the caustic and snippy Min to dinner (woah, when she smiles at his friend Emilio she's like a whole other person...but she's still snippy) and then he'd walk her home (seriously, how come she's so nice to Emilio? Cal knows he's more charming than Emilio but she's not being nice to him), wish her a good life (oh, wow, she's got the sexiest shoes - and toes) and never see her again (despite the fact that the way she eats food is the most erotic thing he's ever seen).

Cal and Min couldn't be more wrong for each other. Cal's a superficial hit-and-run player and Min is a practical actuary who spouts statistics about...everything...all the time, hates her body, and thinks happily ever after is a fantasy for suckers. But they keep running into each other. And despite the pummeling his ego takes from Min's caustic wit...and despite the headache from all the eye rolling that Min does to combat charm boy's superficial smarm, a spark is born...and then flames...and then an inferno. The romp is long and riddled with potential disasters, but it's the most fun either Cal and Min will ever have. Bet me.

What a light, fun read this was! I'm not saying that just because chicken marsala is my favorite meal of all times, either, though that certainly didn't hurt. After a particularly dark reading experience just prior to this, I went looking for something that would make me smile and warm the chill from the last book. I found Bet Me and couldn't be happier that I did.

Full of quirky, funny characters and zany, endearing situations, I quickly fell for Cal and Min, despite their peccadilloes - or maybe because of them. Cal, the darling, starts out like a superficial (but charming) guy who's tired of the dating scene and just wants some peace and quiet in his life after his last girlfriend tried to race him to the alter. Min is sharp as a tack and intelligent, but her body image sucks and she dresses to hide the curves her mother's been nagging about since her childhood. To say I know someone just like Min - and her mother - would be a gross understatement.

Together they're an incendiary mix of humor, heat, and frustration and their evolving relationship is adorable, with deeper undertones that start to show themselves as the reasons for their initial character traits start to become apparent. Crusie does a fantastic job of keeping the message light, but there are a few good messages there for women who put too much emphasis on body image for their self esteem.

The message stays light, and the book is firmly entrenched on the more humorous side of romance, and I, for one, am very grateful. For a long book, it read very quickly, as the narrative is butter smooth and the dialogue fast, intelligent, and wickedly sharp. There's not a lot to complain about here if you're looking for a nice bit of brain candy.

There are one or two aspects that kept my appreciation for Bet Me in the four star range, like the blow up at the wedding that seemed a bit out of character for Cal and Min so it sort of felt like conflict for conflict's sake instead of organic story development. So, too, a big confrontation scene at the end including both sets of parents, which went way beyond ridiculous. Who acts like that? There were a few other issues similar to those, issues that didn't bother me too much as long as I kept my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but they did prevent me from rating the book higher.

That's okay, though. It didn't keep me from downloading a few other titles by Crusie and it won't prevent me from going back and rereading this one. I enjoyed Bet Me. Very much. And it was just the fun, light romance that I desperately needed when I needed it.

Die for Me by Karen Rose

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: N/A
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 584 Pages, 10236 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle




Dark and Utterly Chilling, But Excellent


It's winter in Philadelphia and a body has been found in a shallow grave in a frozen, fallow field. The body has been posed, the victim heinously tortured, and homicide detectives Vito Ciccotelli and Nick Lawrence soon realize they have a monster on their hands. The ME knows an archaeologist who may be able to help search the rest of the field after evidence points to more bodies. Dr. Sophie Johannsen doesn't look like Vito expected when he went to pick her and her ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment up from the college. The attraction between them is instantaneous but horribly ill timed on both ends, and the case Vito's just landed is getting grislier by the minute.

As the death toll grows and more and more bodies are discovered, it's Sophie's expertise in medieval weaponry that puts her in the cross hairs of a cold, conscienceless killer. Vito is determined to keep her safe, but someone out there is even more determined to hear her scream...and scream...and scream before the light of life is extinguished from her eyes forever.

Karen Rose is the very best sort of author. Not only does she write exceptionally well, but she tells a hell of a story while doing so. I haven't been reading her books for long, but I'm quickly working through them now that I'm aware of them. Her unique blend of police procedural, suspense, and romance sets her apart in the genre and catapults her to the top of my list of "must read" authors. Each book is a study in intricate plotting and remarkable balance, led by strong and well developed characters leading ordinary but easy to relate to lives until one horror or another trips them up and pushes them into the realm of the extraordinary.

Die for Me is the best one I've read by Rose to date. In fact it's currently at the top of my list of all the romantic suspense I've read, regardless of author. The plot is a twisting, horrifying thing that draws readers along, keeping them enthralled almost despite themselves. The intricacy of the timing, pacing, and plot is quite astounding given the length of the book, and the characters' journey to catch this monster is riddled with dead ends, double blinds, and shocking evidentiary information that lends Die for Me the creepy and frustrating tension that makes the police procedural aspects of the book so bleakly realistic.

And hands down, I can't think of a single killer in any book I've read recently that is more disturbing and traumatically horrifying than the one here. The depth of malevolence is doubly powerful for its utter sociopathic disregard for life. This is not a killer motivated by sexual perversions or a yen for power over his victims. He doesn't taunt the police with the intricacies of his crime or do things with the intent of getting caught. He is sadistically ruthless in his own pursuits and the rest of the world and their social and emotional mores mean absolutely nothing to him.

It makes him unique. It makes him monstrous. And it makes him one scary dude to read about. I would not in good conscience recommend this book for readers who are easily disturbed by atrocities perpetrated on human beings. The victims' injuries are discussed openly and graphically, even though it's in a more clinical sense, but there is more than one scene that disturbed me, and I've got a pretty high tolerance level for that sort of stuff. Sensitive readers should try one of Rose's other books and skip this one. And if you're the sort of reader who gets stuck imagining the physical and emotional torment of the victims as you read no matter how you try not to...you won't be sleeping well...or at all...for awhile.

The romance between Sophie and Vito evolves with all of Rose's typical adept-level skill, and she makes excellent use of a full-bodied stable of realistic secondary and ancillary characters to assist in that endeavor. I haven't read many authors who can so deftly and completely populate a book with characters that are flawed and wounded to varying degrees but trend towards intelligence and goodness, who are also believable in their actions, words, and motivations. Fewer still manage that with quite the same level of aplomb as Karen Rose does. She's fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

I haven't read her books in order as yet, but I'm going to start, as Rose excels in character crossover and connected backstory and I think it may serve to enhance the reading experience. The mind sort of boggles at whether that's even possible, but we'll see. I loved Die for Me as much as anyone can love something so grim on one side of the coin, and my admiration for Karen Rose only grows with each title I read.

Still...after this one, I may read some light romantic comedy, just to smooth out the rough edges left over from such a sadistic monster as the killer here. Then I'll be back.

Wedding Bell Blues by Meg Benjamin

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Konigsburg, Texas, Book 2
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 272 Pages, 6482 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Wedding Bell Blues: Konigsburg, Texas Book 2

I Can't Get Enough of Konigsburg...Or The Toleffson Brothers


Pete Toleffson is in Konigsburg, Texas because his brother Cal has finally convinced his fiance Docia to have a wedding ceremony. He's Cal's best man, but he has no idea what a best man is supposed to do, exactly. He's pretty sure he's not supposed to punch his brother, but the impulse is there every time he catches sight of Calthorpe's ever-present and perpetually satisfied grin. It's not that Pete begrudges his brother's happiness, but Pete's in a strange town full of stranger people and ragged from his job as a county attorney - a job that he tends to obsess over...to the point that he can't remember the last time he took a vacation. Staying away from his email and voicemail while he's in Konigsburg takes conscious intensive effort, and he could buy stock in the antacid company that keeps his acid reflux in check. Supporting his brother through The Wedding from hell might just be his undoing.

If sheer force of will and hard work can make The Wedding go as planned, Janie Dupree's life would be a lot less complicated. Unfortunately, everything about The Wedding seems destined to a calamitous end despite all her efforts and the best man is absolutely no help. Not to mention, he's rude. Cute though. But Janie's seeing someone...sort of...even if he is boring and self-involved. And then there's The Wedding, which is taking every single ounce of self control and mental fortitude to deal with.

Just when Pete is starting to relax, and starting to more than notice Janie and even step up a little in his best man role, Toleffsons start to pour into Konigsburg and it becomes painfully clear that the town is definitely not big enough for all of them. Neither Pete nor Janie would put money on surviving The Wedding intact.

Since stumbling across Venus in Blue Jeans when it was offered as a free Kindle download on Amazon.com, I've become totally addicted to the town and inhabitants of Konigsburg, Texas, and thoroughly pleased with Meg Benjamin as an author. With a smooth, crisp writing style that highlights the strength of the series - the quirky characters that populate Konigsburg - and makes the narrative flow surprisingly well with whatever crazy situations those characters find themselves, Benjamin has a gem of a series on her hands. As I was with Venus in Blue Jeans, I was surprised and impressed with just how quick and fun a read Wedding Bell Blues is, and credit the author for both the fluidity of the narrative and the charm of the characters and setting.

I liked Pete and Janie - perhaps not quite as much as Cal and Docia, but still they were a pleasure to read about. I don't think Pete's character was quite as well developed in the beginning of this book as Cal's had been in his, so the evolution of Pete's character from sourpuss jerk to nice guy was a bit subtle, but I enjoyed the results all the same. The Wedding is a good foil for the book, though the insular nature of wedding preparations did slightly diminish the role of the town and townspeople as the forces of nature they were in the first book. What it provided, however, was a surprisingly realistic and occasionally tragic conflict with the Toleffson and Dupree families' dynamic.

There was little smooth about that dynamic. With one brother whose wife is a vapid trollop with the maternal instinct most cobras would envy, a mother who disapproves of everything and anything, and an eldest brother with far too much bad history to forgive, Pete's family was pretty much nightmarish. I didn't much care for the mother or the sister-in-law, but thought it was great storytelling. Janie's got some conflict with her mother over the guy she's seeing and she allows herself to be a bit of a doormat in a couple of places when being nice didn't serve her very well, but I actually know people just like her so there was definitely a sense of realism to her character.

As much as I wish a couple of the less than pleasant people in the book got more of a comeuppance, I appreciated the story as a whole and was thrilled to see the direction it's taking. I had a bit of an issue in the previous book with the speed with which Cal and Docia got together, and for my personal preferences, the relationship between Pete and Janie developed in a far more pleasing time frame, right up until the end. There was a massive leap in development towards the end that seemed abrupt and precipitous, but overall I enjoyed the entirety of their relationship.

I think Venus in Blue Jeans was a bit more quirky in both character and story, and just a touch more charming because of it, but Wedding Bell Blues was a more complex tale that provided more depth with the familial issues and in my personal opinion, was more realistic with an overall better plot. I've become a huge fan of Benjamin and this series and am looking forward to continuing with Be My Baby. I've enjoyed the Toleffsons and love the town and people of Konigsburg. I can't wait to return.

Konigsburg, Texas Series:
Venus in Blue Jeans: Konigsburg, Texas Book 1 Wedding Bell Blues: Konigsburg, Texas Book 2 Be My Baby: Konigsburg, Texas, Book 3

Taken by the Night by Kathryn Smith

Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Series: The Brotherhood of The Blood, Book 3
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 384 Pages, 4200 Locations
Formats: Mass Market PaperbackKindle

Taken by the Night (Brotherhood of Blood, Book 3)
Sin Sweetly With Saint

Ivy Dearing is a modern woman of twenty-seven and there isn't much in life that surprises her, certainly nothing regarding relations between a man and a woman. As the daughter of the madam of Maison Rouge, an eminent house of prostitution in London, she's grown up knowing more than the average young lady about what goes on between the genders. As the daughter of a woman cast aside by a married lover and forced to rely on the good nature of the vampire Saint, she's familiar with the vampires that the Maison Rouge protects and provides for - in every way - and disbelieving in the concept of love. Lust she understands. Love is a farce perpetrated on the feeble minded.

The year is 1899 and Ivy has lost two dear friends to the blade of a butcher who did unspeakable things to them...took unspeakable things from them. She's desperate for help to catch a killer, as the coppers of London don't put themselves out much for a couple of dead prostitutes. When Saint shows up at the Maison Rouge for the first time in a decade, Ivy takes it upon herself to remind him of all the house has done for him and his brethren over the years and demand his help to stop a madman before more fall under his blade.

For over six hundred years Saint has been thief, reprobate, killer, and lover of women, but his actions have toned down considerably since the death of his beloved Marta twenty-five years ago. He goes to Maison Rouge to visit old friends and to rest for a bit. He's poleaxed by the vision that is Ivy Dearing, the challenging and impertinent chit. Feeling all of his immortal years bearing heavily on him as he realizes the child of seventeen he'd last seen a decade ago is a child no more, he can't stop thinking about her...wanting her. She challenges his honor and he vows to catch a killer for her. She challenges the notion of love...and he vows to love her forever. And forever for his kind is a very long time indeed.

Despite not being the biggest fan of historical fiction of any sort, I have to admit, Kathryn Smith's Brotherhood of The Blood series has really grown on me. I wasn't overly fond of the first, but I enjoyed the second very much, and with Saint and Ivy's story, I'm firmly a fan...even though I preferred the characters in the previous book just a bit more.

I can't speak intelligently on the historical accuracy of the dialogue or the settings, but I can say that Smith can blend a gruesome murder mystery with a sensual romance and grace her readers with a well-paced plot that's ripe with style and full of emotion. I enjoyed the sense of history, regardless of whether it was historically accurate, and I really loved how Smith not only addressed the parallels between the murderer in the book and the infamous killer Jack the Ripper, but incorporated those parallels into the backstory and plot. I thought that was particularly well done. So too Smith's vampire mythos, which I've enjoyed from the beginning of the series. There's a plethora of vampire-themed series out there, and I've read lots of them, and I think the history of the Brotherhood of The Blood combined with the historical setting and the evolution of the individual characters in each book has provided just enough of a twist to the mythos to give it a unique, imaginative, and fresh feel.

I can't say I was totally thrilled with Ivy as a character. I appreciated her independence and intelligence, and I loved her profession/art, but found her personality grating when things didn't go her way and frustratingly obtuse when it came to her feelings. Saint, on the other hand, was very appealing. I liked the turnabout of having Saint as the romantic and believer in love and Ivy the doubter who is willing to embrace her lust but keeps her heart disengaged, but I found Ivy's belligerent refusal to even entertain the notion of love wore on my patience after a while, and the resolution of that seemed oddly placed and a bit peculiar.

There was an odd time jump towards the conclusion of the book that I wish had developed differently, but I was very pleased with the tie-in to the events of and conclusion in Night of the Huntress and very much look forward to seeing where the series goes from here. I'm a fan of this series, a fan of Kathryn Smith's unique and stylistic writing, and a huge fan of the brothers themselves. I hope to see a book that puts all the brothers and their women together to deal with the Order of the Silver Palm. That's just a personal dream, though. I'm sure I'll enjoy however this series develops.

Brotherhood of The Blood Series: 
Be Mine Tonight (The Brotherhood of Blood, Book 1)Night of the Huntress (Brotherhood of Blood, Book 2)Taken by the Night (The Brotherhood of Blood, Book 3)
Let the Night Begin (The Brotherhood of Blood, Book 4)Night After Night (Brotherhood of the Blood, Book 5)

       

Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Deadly, Book 1
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 416 Pages, 6221 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle



Another Road to Eden


Two FBI Special Agents have been partnered to take down a serial killer just starting to rack up the body count in the small southern town of Jasper. One, Luke Dante, has a special touch with victims, the other, Monica Davenport, has a unique ability to get into the minds of killers. Both have tragedies in their past that define them, both have histories...and six years ago, they had each other...until Monica walked away and left Luke aching for the only woman he'd ever love. Now they have to work together, and as intent as Luke is at doing his job, he's equally intent on Monica. She walked away once and he let her go. He has no intention of being that stupid again.

A killer stalks his prey and uses their own fears against them. Secrets from the past threaten to destroy the only two people able to stop him. A woman of ice and a man of fire have to come together and free their own fears to find justice for the slain and hope for the future. It's a deadly race.

Cynthia Eden writes excellent and edgy paranormal romance with a twist of suspense and in Deadly Fear, she's left off the paranormal and stuck with the full-on romantic suspense. The plot may not be the most original I've ever read, but it's well developed and told with Eden's flair for intense emotional impact. The danger is visceral and the small victories and failures of the agents as they race towards catching the killer are many and varied and add nice depth and complexity. I did have some issues, though. There just wasn't a whole lot of surprise to the suspense and the 'big picture,' once revealed, seemed a little cliched, but it was well told, quickly paced, and thorough.

I can't say I was as pleased with the romance between Luke and Monica, though. I had a very hard time warming up to Monica, and though I completely understand her motivations and the reasons she is the way she is, understanding doesn't make her any more likable in the beginning. I liked Luke, but then I haven't met an Eden alpha male that I haven't liked, so that wasn't surprising. His character wasn't as well developed as I would have liked, though. There just wasn't a whole lot to his character that went deeper than or beyond his feelings for Monica, and that made their relationship seem sort of two dimensional and it was too quick to develop (or re-develop) for my personal tastes.

Eden wrote the pair with the same searing sensuality that she has made a staple in her paranormal romances, but without that paranormal aspect to add layers, the intensity and impetus behind the whole relationship seemed more to be solely based on lust and sexual chemistry and less on trust and compatibility. That lent the relationship a lot of sexual power, but not a lot of the subtler, more slowly enticing aspects of romantic relationship development.

I do think there was a bit of a ball drop with another aspect of Dante's character definition, too. He is touted as being fantastic with victims, but he isn't really given an opportunity for that personality trait to be shown or explored, and I wish it had because it would have balanced nicely with Monica's ability to profile monsters. That was one of the points that drew me to the story from reading the description, and it was sadly underdeveloped.

I wasn't as pleased with Deadly Fear as I was hoping I was going to be, but I'm a huge Eden fan and will give the second book in this series, Deadly Heat, a chance when it comes out in February 2011. Romantic suspense is a genre I'm fond of and I'm interested in seeing where some of the characters we met here are going in their development.

Have You Seen Her? by Karen Rose

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: N/A
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 512 Pages, 8000 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle



Have You...Read Karen Rose?


Steven Thatcher has known tragedy and fear. His wife was killed in a car accident years ago, leaving him to raise three sons. Six months ago his youngest son Nicky was kidnapped from his bed by a madman intent on punishing Steven. His eldest son Brad has been acting out for the past month, and Steven, special agent for the state Bureau of Investigations, is in a wild race to find a serial killer hunting high school cheerleaders.

Jenna Marshall, Ph.D., is Brad's teacher, and upon his latest failing grade on a test for a class in which he'd previously done very well, Jenna can't keep from contacting his father any longer. After a horrible experience with another parent of a failing child, she wasn't enthusiastic about the possibility of another conflict. Steven Thatcher isn't like that other father, however. In fact, he's like no one she's ever met before. He's...Hagen Daz Rocky Road in a room full of store brand vanilla. And she really, really likes Rocky Road.

A sadistic killer stalks teenage girls and malicious mischief and threats of harm start to pile up against Jenna. Steven is captivated by her but wounded by a past that shook him to the core. He's no closer to identifying and stopping a monster and he keeps messing up the relationship he desperately wants to pursue with the first woman to make it past his shields since his wife's death. Tension and stress reach explosive levels and keeping Jenna safe starts taking priority, but his family is falling apart and his job is becoming  more and more frantic. There's just so much one man can take before everything goes boom.

Karen Rose is a master storyteller and has a gift for wending endearing romance and taut suspense into a single solid read that provides ultimate entertainment. The strength in Have You Seen Her? lies in the complex, likable characters that Rose imbues with depth and personality. There are no cardboard cutouts here, but flawed, real people with their own perks and peccadilloes.

Strong willed and independent Jenna has a good heart and a lot of compassion for friends and students alike, but has a tendency to assume too much responsibility and fails to let those who love her take care of her...even when she needs it. Steven is utterly at a loss with one son who suddenly seems to hate him and another who hasn't recovered from his trauma. His aunt won't stop setting him up with blind dates and the very thing that makes him so good at his job - his dedication - is causing so many problems with his family he feels almost like he's hiding from them.

These two are surrounded by secondary and ancillary characters that could be neighbors and friends, they're so realistic, and Steven's boys are particularly endearing - especially Matt. They all round out and embellish a twisted, intricate plot of death and deception that is told with Rose's impeccable style and timing. The mystery was dual pronged and nicely layered, and while the perpetrator of the slaughter of innocent girls maybe isn't the hardest thing to figure out early on, the big picture is much less so and the story provided enough twists and turns and surprises to keep me invested throughout.

The romance was well done, and evolved with a natural tempo organic to the character development and plot. I was particularly fond of the scenes between Jenna and Nicky as Jenna starts to become familiar with Steven's sons. I was less convinced with Jenna's response to an issue that came up between her and Steven late in the book - it felt a bit too harsh given the nature of the issue and knowing Jenna's personality. The whole of it smacked a little like orchestrated melodrama, but even with that, my overall opinion of the romance is very positive.

I had a couple of technical issues with the narrative at the beginning of the book, which felt a little repetitive as the plot and characters were starting to be identified and introduced, and Jenna's friend Casey refers to her students' book analysis of Dostoevsky as themes and I've never heard that before in that context, so I wasn't totally sure what exactly Casey meant. It becomes a plot point, so I wish I'd had a clearer picture. Other than those few small points, which didn't detract much from the reading experience, I was thrilled with this book and think Rose has established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the romantic suspense genre. She blends both aspects together flawlessly and provides top notch entertainment while doing so. I can't wait to read more. I can only hope it's a lot more.

No Prince Charming by Shiloh Walker

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Grimm's Circle, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: (Long) Novella, 3282 Locations
Formats: Kindle

No Prince Charming: Grimm's Circle, Book 2
Not The Fairy Tale of Our Youth

Over three hundred years ago, a young noble woman named Giselle was swept up in a wild romance with a man she knew only as Michael. She was the daughter of a baron, and unlike the fairy tale, she wasn't abused by her step mother, she wasn't hated by two step sisters - she only had the one, and that one was a friend and a sister to her. Also unlike the fairy tale, there was no happily ever after with Prince Charming for Cinderella. In fact, when she realized her Michael was the Prince Louis Michael III that had been betrothed to her step sister since they were both children, Ella realized the scope of her heartbreak. She'd given herself to a man who claimed to love her, but not enough to buck society and give up a well made match for such naive dreams as love. She ran from Michael and from their love.

And died doing so.

That night she rose again as a Grimm, a guardian angel that was tasked to go out in the world and save humanity from whatever evils threaten it. She never saw Michael again. And Michael never stopped loving her. He gave up his life for her, disappeared from history and from his family, and joined Elle on the side of the Grimm, and though he'd been told that one day he would get a chance to win Elle's forgiveness, and one day he'd be needed to risk his existence to save hers, he hadn't expected the wait to be quite so long.

Over three hundred years have passed. The call has finally come. Elle is on a mission to rid Sandusky, Ohio of a nest of succubi and incubi using a sex club as an all-you-can-eat buffet. She's called in her best friend and occasional lover, Ren, to assist her. She wasn't expecting the powerful Will, her boss and the Grimm's handler, to call an audible at the line of scrimmage...and she definitely wasn't prepared to see Michael for the first time in over three centuries. No Cinderella could prepare to see her Prince Charming after their chance at happily ever after had ended in agony, fear, and death.

I love this series and am so pleased with the originality of the concept behind it. Fairy tales we've loved as children have been brought into the present, their characters brought to life and their lives explained in new and fascinating ways. The Grimm brothers have nothing on Shiloh Walker, that's for sure. This dark, edgy series is ripe with sensuality and the depth of emotion that Walker portrays so well. I love the mythos she's created with her Grimm angels and think the twist on the HEA stories of old are unique and brilliantly imaginative. And Walker writes some smokin' sex scenes, too.

I got quickly hooked on this series when I stumbled across Candy Houses (Grimm's Circle, book 1) (my review here) and quickly downloaded No Prince Charming when I finished it. I was blown away by Walker's creativity and couldn't wait to get my hand on more of it. I wish they were longer, though. They're not quite what I would consider full length novels, but they're longer than most novellas, and they are bursting with so much potential that I can only wish they were longer to see more of it realized in each story.

In No Prince Charming, I wish more time had been spent on the development of the plot conflict and explaining more of the world of Grimm's Circle. I felt Candy Houses did that a bit more comprehensively than this one did, but there's still room for more. There was plenty of relationship development between Elle and Michael, along with those glimpses of their past which I enjoyed, but that and the sexual relations overshadowed the issue with the succubi and inccubi and I felt that aspect of the plot lacked a little definition and depth. I wish there'd been more offered to broaden the Grimm mythos, as well.

The complex emotional angst between Michael and Elle and Ren was handled very well, and I couldn't help but feel deeply for Ren with his love of Elle. I wish his character had been fleshed out a little more, but I'm thrilled to know his story is coming up next. I'm still not sure exactly who he is, fairy tale-wise, but we'll see. I wasn't totally sold on the sexual relationship between the three of them at the club. Despite it being set up as necessary to capture the succubus queen's attention, I felt the scene compromised the development of Michael as a character. He'd been vehemently opposed to sharing Elle in any way, shape, or form and it had been well documented that his rage was mindless when Ren touched her before, so his active participation and his permission for Ren and Elle to enjoy each other for the time being seemed really out of character.

There were a couple of other contradictions and plot holes, as well. Elle had indicated her gift as a reflector worked well on demons and humans but not on other Grimm. She could sense their emotion a little, but not reflect it back. Then she did several times with Michael. And Michael's gift of mind control somehow morphed into mental communication back and forth with Elle when needed. I found that a little convenient when he'd claimed he'd never even tried to use the mind control on a fellow Grimm before. There were a few other similar scenes that brushed against my ability to suspend disbelief, as well.

Despite those issues, I think Walker has a gold mine of opportunity with this series. The creativity and originality is unparalleled and I'm thrilled to see where the next road leads. Walker has never disappointed me when it comes to dark, gritty, emotional tales with complex characters and layered motivations, and this series is really showing off how impressive she is as an author both stylistically and creatively. I hope it continues for a good long time.

I would caution sensitive readers that while I don't consider this novella an erotica romance (there's more plot issues and relationship issues than sex), nor a menage a trois story, the sex is graphically described and the novella contains scenes of unconventional sexual acts as well as scenes of multiple partner sex and sexuality.

Grimm's Circle Series:
Candy Houses (Grimm's Circle, book 1) No Prince Charming: Grimm's Circle, Book 2

Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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