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TBR Challenge 2015 – Catch-Up Time!

moonglow I’m not normally one for vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters or paranormal romances in general, but I loved the first book in this series (Firelight) and this month’s prompt of “series catch-up” gave me the ideal excuse to read book two, Moonglow.

The things I’d enjoyed so much about the first story are very much in evidence in this one – the Victorian setting, a terrific storyline, strong characterisation and the amazing chemistry the author creates between her two protagonists. Once again, I was sucked in pretty much from the word go.

Daisy Ellis is the middle of the three Ellis sisters, the youngest of whom, Miranda, was the heroine of Firelight. Daisy was married off to a much older, abusive man six years earlier, and has recently been widowed. Determined to enjoy her new freedom, she is out for a night on the tiles with a friend when a gruesome double-murder abruptly puts an end to her plans for the evening.

Ian MacKinnon, the Marquis of Northrup, was one of the secondary characters in Firelight, a menacing presence whose infatuation with Miranda set him up as the villain of the piece. Ian is a Lycan – and here, I admit I was grateful for the explanation as to what that actually is, as I’d never have known the difference between a Lycan and a Werewolf otherwise! – an immortal being who is almost two hundred years old. He was cast out from his home and people when he refused to take his rightful place as The Ranulf (the chief of all the Lycans) and allowed his younger brother to assume the role. He’s alone, tired of his empty life and all but dead inside – his mortal wife and son are dead and while he doesn’t want to go through life alone, he can’t bear the thought of experiencing such pain again. But when he steps in to rescue Daisy from meeting the same gory fate as her friend, he finds himself immediately attracted to her beautiful face and body, impressed by her intelligence and courage – and begins to feel that perhaps there is something worth living for in his life after all.

Moonglow is an exciting story with plenty of action and a couple of plot twists I absolutely did NOT see coming. The set pieces – the scene at Highgate Cemetery where Daisy, having believed herself to be merely human discovers that she, like Miranda, possesses supernatural powers; or the Lycan’s merciless treatment of Ian – are so vividly written as to put the reader right in the centre of the action. In the case of the latter scene, that might not be such a good thing, because what happens to Ian is devastatingly brutal and difficult to read.

Ian and Daisy have endured their own personal versions of hell – Daisy from a violent husband and Ian as the result of his wife’s suicide – so they both bring a fair bit of emotional baggage to their relationship. Ian knows that falling for Daisy is stupid and that he’s only opening himself up to more devastating hurt – but he can’t help it. He’s a man who feels things very deeply, hiding that truth behind the world-weary, supercillous persona he adopts in public. Ms Callihan redeems him splendidly, turning him from an almost-villain in the last book into a loyal, honourable hero in this one. Watching these two emotionally bruised, proud people come together is a real delight, and even though their relationship in the early stages seems more based on lust than anything else, Ms Callihan develops it very skilfully so that we see that lust turn to love as the couple forges a strong bond based on mutual loyalty and trust.

There are some truly visceral emotional gut-punches in the story, not least of which is the one near the end which threatens to separate Ian and Daisy forever. The revelation is shocking – but I have to confess that I wasn’t completely happy with the resolution. It’s the only way the story could have gone, I suppose, but it’s probably my least favourite part of the book.

There are a couple of small inconsistencies that niggled a bit, such as when Daisy so easily leaves her sister Poppy when the latter’s husband is fighting for his life and Poppy needs emotional support – but I could let that go, as Daisy isn’t in a particularly good place, mentally, at that point, either. My biggest problem with the story (apart from the way in which the HEA is achieved) is the way in which Ian reverses his decades-old position about assuming his rightful place as Alpha of the clan in the blink of an eye. He does have reasons for it, but he seems to accept it too easily.

In all honesty though, those really are minor niggles rather than major reservations, because Moonglow is a terrific book. The mystery is very well executed, Ian and Daisy are strong, attractive characters and their romance is well-developed. The author creates the most incredible sexual tension between her principals; the air fairly crackles whenever they’re “on stage” together, and when they do eventually come together, the love scenes are hot, sexy and earthy. B+

– Caz Owens
goodgirl In all the years I’ve done the TBR challenge, I’ve always followed the prompts. Climbing into the world of a series is a big commitment for me, though, and this month, I just couldn’t think of one I wanted to delve back into. However, I did have a copy of Mary Kubica’s 2014 debut, The Good Girl and I’ve been itching to read it. What a colossal mistake that turned out to be.

I like suspense, both romantic and otherwise, and I’ve enjoyed a number of the suspense-with-a-twist novels that have come out recently. I just couldn’t get into this one, though. The prose had a wooden quality to it and the characters never felt fully developed to me. In addition, with the twists and turns this plot takes, it’s hard not to compare it to Gone Girl, and it generally comes up lacking.

Like Gone Girl, The Good Girl has a kidnapping plot at its heart. Mia Dennett goes to a bar to meet her sometimes boyfriend. When he stands her up, she ends up going home with a mysterious stranger. The stranger, Colin, kidnaps Mia and spirits her away.

The book is set up so that we piece the story together through the eyes of various narrators at varied times. We start the book knowing Mia has returned home and we see things sometimes through her eyes and sometimes we get her mother’s observations. In addition, there are also chapters from Mia at the time of the events as well as from Colin. Some of the revelations are startling, but frankly, many readers who have read a fair amount of suspense will likely guess most of them long before The Big Reveal.

The author does set up an interesting dynamic between Mia and Colin. There’s a whole “Is there genuine closeness between these two or is it Stockholm Syndrome?” aspect to the plotting. While I did find that interesting, the overall “blah” quality of the writing kept me from really getting into the story. This one didn’t live up to the hype for me, and I’d give it a C-.

– Lynn Spencer


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03/18/2015 8:53 pm

I tried reading The Good Girl last year and ended up just skimming it and then reading the end.

AAR Lynn
AAR Lynn
Reply to  LeeB.
03/19/2015 7:10 am

Sounds like you hit all the high points then, Lee! I kinda wish I’d done the same thing.