Darkness Rising - Keri Arthur

Darkness Rising opens with Risa's father forcefully ordering her to find the keys that he created to open the gates to hell. Nice guy, yeah? Then Risa is essentially blackmailed by the head of the Directorate, Madeline Hunter, into doing Hunter's dirty work in exchange for help solving Dia's murder. Considering that's all crammed into the first chapter, you'd think that the action would be nonstop . . . and yet, not so much. At least it felt slow to me.

It may have been because I listened to this one in audio, but I found myself oddly unable to focus on the story and probably missed a good quarter of it from zoning out on the narration. The big things that I was worried about while reading the first book came to pass: (1) Risa continued to trust the wrong guy, Lucian. He reminds me of a certain snakelike character from the Riley Jensen, Guardian series, and I don't much like him. (2) Risa failed to see what her reaper, Azrael, was thinking. He clearly has a thing for her, but she is only seeing her own perception of his actions and beliefs and not understanding why he is perpetually frustrated with her. Come on, girl, get it together!

It's a little frustrating to see Risa repeating so many of Riley's mistakes, especially while she notes that Riley had spoken to her about these things. Risa trusts the wrong people, is ill-prepared because she lets people rush her and boss her around, and doesn't ask the right people for help because she is too worried about them getting hurt, even if their expertise means that they are more likely to not be hurt than she is. I wanted to shake her a few times.

You know what else is frustrating? The lack of sex. Heh. There are a couple of scenes, but I was really hoping that this series would be a bit hotter than it's turning out to be.

Here's what did work: Risa is clearly starting to come into her own. In Darkness Unbound, Risa is constantly turning to others for help because she doesn't have the skills or knowledge to do it on her own. That's not necessarily a bad idea, true, but it was nice to see her take a more prominent role in her investigation. The sword she acquires doesn't hurt her new badass image, either.

Given my love of the prequel series, it's fairly obvious that I'm not going to give up after one lackluster installment. Really, it's not bad, it's just not quite up to par with expectations. Here's hoping that the rest of the series takes us on a sexy, fast-paced ride!

Private Party - Jami Alden

I've owned this book for ages, but somehow it got packed away in my old apartment, never saw the light of day at our old house, and was only just unearthed a few months ago while unpacking books at the new house. This was a happy turn of events, as I have been looking for light reads to help me ease back into reading physical books. (I've been reading mostly audiobooks or e-books lately, and not nearly as many as in years past.)

 

Private Party is a quick, light read with some very hot sex. Nothing kinky, just straight-up vanilla hot. There was a review on Goodreads that mentions size, which cracked me up but is also definitely worth mentioning. Hey, it's erotica, right? Chris is big without being laughably big. Every time I read about a 12-incher, I roll my eyes. 9 is nothing to scoff at, to be sure, but not unrealistic either.

 

Unlike some of the erotica that I have read recently - I'm lookin' at you, Fifty Shades! - this one actually has a decent story. Poor Julie discovers her brand-new husband banging his secretary at their wedding reception, and she decides to throw off the shackles of her old life and go after what she truly wants for once. This lands her in the hotel room of Chris, her husband's brother and an old crush. Needless to say, this get steamy fast. Chris leaves in the morning to get back to his regularly scheduled life, but Julie hasn't quite had enough. She follows him back to his resort on St. Thomas - not as stalkerish as it sounds, I promise - in hopes of enticing him back into her bed. Sexy hijinks ensue. Chris is a little macho but not IN YOUR FACE ALPHA DOUCHEBAG so it totally works.

 

I know a few people will have problems with how much Julie allows her family's expectations to rule her life, but let me just say this: When you come from a family that has traditionally made these decisions for everyone, high society or not, it's tough to realize that you are actually allowed to make your own decisions. So long as you can live with the consequences, of course. I was proud of her for finally taking her own path.

When You Dare  - Lori Foster

In When You Dare, we meet the titular male MC, Dare, just after all the action has happened. He rescues Molly at the tail end of a rescue mission for his buddy's sister, and then LITERALLY NOTHING HAPPENS until the end of the book. And it's a loooooooong book.

Oh, goodness. I nabbed this title because it was only $4.95 on Audible and was 14+ hours long. Given how I've been blowing through audiobooks at a ridiculous pace of late, it seemed like a good deal. However, it turned into a total hate read, as in I only kept listening to find out just how much worse it could get.

(Also to find out how many more times Dare would mention his boner. Seriously, are we twelve??)

I normally love romantic suspense, having been a dedicated reader since the seventh grade. That's why it's so disappointing to see the SUPER SECRET BIG PLOT TWIST coming a mile away! The red herrings were fairly lame in this story. For such a chunkster of a book, those plotlines were left oddly unrealized. I also felt that the sub-plot regarding Molly's creepy hater/fan and all of the rather pointed comments Molly makes about readers were a bit of a statement on Foster's part. It makes me wonder if Foster gets horrible fan mail in real life.

There really isn't much to review here. Dare and Molly are one-dimensional stereotypes who fall in rather inappropriate insta-love and solve a mystery in something like three days while surrounded with even flatter one-dimensional, stereotypical supporting characters. End of story.