An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

An Eternity of Roses by Natalie G. OwensBook Review
Title: An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1)
Author:  Natalie G. Owens
Publisher: Rose of Atlantis Press/Natalie G. Owens
Released: January 5, 2013
Pages: 468
ISBN-10: 0988577216
ISBN-13: 978-0-9885772-1-3
Stars:  4.0

”She crashed headlong into an incandescent whirlpool of emotion from which she never wanted to escape.” Emma Deramore, in the throes of ecstasy after being separated from her true love for over 200 years…yes, I’ll have what she’s having!

It’s always such a joy when I read a book by a Facebook friend that I enjoyed enough to review. An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens is an intelligently written, passionate, historical paranormal romance that will leave you wanting to read Book 2 of The Valthreans series, A Lifetime for Revenge, right away.

An Eternity of Roses is the story of the dashing blonde & blue-eyed Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouth and his raven-haired, doe-eyed, adventurous betrothed, Lady Emmaline Deramore who in December 1807 are about to be married, thus creating a union that their British society are excited about. What they don’t know is that fate has its cruel twists mapped out for them as the jealous, red-haired, green-eyed, inherently evil immortal witch, Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is going to use a powerful curse to separate them for over 200 years.

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Well, I do love all those things so I read the book and am not sorry that I did. I was only sorry when the story came to an end.

In the Prologue we discern the history of the Valthreans, an immortal race originating in Kashmir, India.  Their namesake Valther was murdered within sight of his brothers Nila & Candaka by the Naga King Aravala for not immediately revealing that he had found a magic Chalice that was part of a group of mystical objects that would allow him to enter a state of immortality. Valther, who had a keen interest in the science of healing and a thirst for knowledge, had found one of the legendary Cups of Life from the lost seven Chalices of the River Demon. King Aravala possessed supernatural powers that allowed him to control the seasons and the weather, and he decided who lived and died. He also used the venom of cobras to kill immortals.

Valther was deemed a traitor to his people and sentenced to death by the sting of the cobra. The Naga people’s (The Cult of the Snake) sworn enemy, King Asoka, conspired to destroy the Naga beliefs.  Knowledge of magic was coveted by both peoples and Asoka could not allow Aravala to possess more knowledge of the Black Arts than he. Aravala, the Snake King, cared only for power and wealth and his people were either terrified of him or believed in the same things while the Valthreans sought to live peacefully. But what Asoka and Aravala didn’t know was that Nila & Candaka possessed the remaining Cups of Life and they were prepared to spend eternity protecting their own by keeping them from falling into the wrong hands.

An Eternity of Roses is a highly imaginative tale of the lengths one woman will go to, to be reunited with her true love and what another will do to keep that from happening. Emma’s adventures take her from England to Scotland to Italy to Holland and back to England over the course of 200 years. Her love scenes with Adrian are steamily and sensuously written but they’re far and few between as this is a story about separation, stolen identity, revenge and redemption. Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is a deliciously vile antagonist. She kidnaps Adrian, casts a spell on him that makes him forget his past, gives him a new name (Adam Alvar), makes him an immortal and cohabitates with him in a loveless marriage, because no matter how hard she tries, Adrian does not feel any love for her. Madeleine fortuitously gets her hands on the Demon’s Chalice and positions herself as an ally of a very influential member of the Cult of the Snake’s hierarchy. She has to remain in his good graces or suffer the ultimate consequence of betrayal. However, when members of the Valthrean Council catch up with her she has to flee her home in Scotland which provides Adam with the opportunity to leave her and embark on a new life of travel and adventure.

Emma in the meantime befriends another immortal, the mysterious Massimiliano “Max” Damiani (the main character in Book 2 of this series) in 1944 in London, who is instrumental in helping her find her lost love. Max is a friend of Nila and Candaka, now known as Neil and Cam, the oldest Valthreans in existence, and head of the Council, an organization that can find just about anything and who will go to any lengths to ensure that Valthreans remain able to live in peace among humans. What will happen when they do find Adrian, who doesn’t remember a thing about his past? Although the war is coming to an end, the battle for true love has yet to begin.

This is an epic adventure that readers of both historical and paranormal romance will undoubtedly enjoy. Owens’ (a former lawyer who lives on the island of Malta) poetic prose is far better than the average self-published work and even though she indulges in a few moments of extreme cheesiness and (“Mayhap one day is all I can say. But never forget, brother, home is in here.”) the book’s cover could be more enticing, it deserves a large audience. I will definitely read more of Natalie G. Owens’ work.

Move Over, Vamps and Shapeshifters! Get Ready for Elementals! by Elaine Calloway

Water's Blood by Elaine Calloway

BOOK PREVIEW

Move Over, Vamps and Shapeshifters! Get Ready for Elementals!

By Elaine Calloway

The supernatural has long been a fascination of humankind. Spooky things, creatures that go bump in the night, spells that turn evil people into toads, etc. These tales have been the delicious material of campfires and slumber parties.

Even as a child, my favorite cartoon was Scooby-Doo, which always had some form of ghost story at its center. It seemed only fitting that I would grow up, longing to tell similar anecdotes. And while I do have a few ghost stories in the works, I decided to take the plunge into Indie Publishing with my 4-book Elemental Clan Series. (The jury is still out on whether this decision was blind ambition or temporary insanity, though the experience has been incredible!)

Water’s Blood, available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, is the first book in the series and features Brooke, a Water Elemental stationed in New Orleans. The Crescent City was an ideal setting for a book featuring a Water-related character, since New Orleans is surrounded by water on all sides! I grew up there and enjoyed using my favorite areas as backdrops to the plot. The city has many tourist places, and I liked adding in a few secret spots that don’t make the top of the tourism circuit. To read more about this particular book, including the music soundtrack which I created to help inspire the characters, go to the Water’s Blood page on Elaine’s Web site.

Book Blurb:

After breaking the rules to mate with a human, Water Elemental Brooke is forbidden to share a life with Alex and their half-breed daughter, Ella. Yet local Fallen Angel clans are determined to snare Ella for themselves. Brooke broke the rules once by allowing love to interfere with her Elemental duties. Now she and Alex must put consequences aside again—if they wish to save their daughter’s soul.

Leaping into Indie Publishing has been quite a learning experience, but I’ve loved having control over my cover art, my publishing schedule, and more. Very worthwhile decision! Another writer once said, “It’s a learning process.” She couldn’t have said it better. That is exactly what it is, but very worthwhile.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog today! Any questions or comments are welcome!

Questions from Christine Bode of Scully Love Promo:

Hi Elaine! I just ordered this book from Amazon.com and can’t wait to read it! My first question is when you wrote your main characters Brooke & Alex, did you write them with famous actors in mind and if so, who were those actors?

Elaine: As far as actors/people in mind for Brooke and Alex, yes, absolutely. If I don’t have some kind of visual in my head when I write (be it Hollywood star, old acquaintance, etc.) then the writing doesn’t go as well.

Alex was Kevin McKidd, who has been in a few films but was probably most well known for Grey’s Anatomy in the later seasons. Brooke was Rosario Dawson. Ella was Melonie Diaz.

Bad guys – Soren = Sam Elliott; Cristos = Paul Bettany

There is a Pinterest board I have for WATER’S BLOOD if you want to see pics of all my visual inspiration  And I have one for Book Two as well.

http://pinterest.com/elainecalloway/water-s-blood-book-one-elemental-clan-series-by-el/

Christine: Have you written the second installment of The Elemental Clan series yet?

Elaine: Yes, Book Two of the Elemental Series, RAGING FIRE, is scheduled to be released on 8/1. Am just going through and inputting final beta reader comments now. You can see the cover on its page on my site here:

http://www.thewriterscanvas.com/raging-fire-book-two

My goal is to do the EARTH one by Christmas, the WIND one by spring.

Elaine Calloway grew up in New Orleans with a love of gothic architecture and Author Elaine Callowayall things paranormal. Despite no longer living there, she can still do a decent Cajun accent upon request! She is currently writing The Elemental Clan Series and plotting some ghost stories. To connect with Elaine online, visit her website at http://www.elainecalloway.com.

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)  by Natalie G. OwensBOOK PREVIEW

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)

Two lovers separated by an evil curse.
A desperate quest through time.
A love that wants to beat all odds.
And all the while, deadly danger brews around a two-thousand-year-old secret society and the enemy that lives to decimate it.

“…’Til the end of my life, I shall belong to you as your husband.”

That was the promise Adrian made to Emmaline. And then, he was gone forever…It is 1807. Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouthe, and Lady Emmaline Deramore are about to wed and British Society teems with excitement at this imminent love match. But Madeleine de Brandeville, a mysterious Frenchwoman, has her lustful and ambitious sights on the groom. When she sets her cruel plan in motion, she leaves devastation in her path.

Heartbroken, Emmaline embarks on an adventure she’d never imagined having. As the world changes and chaos brews, her fate becomes linked with the Valthreans, a group of immortals who must learn to face a deadly enemy that threatens their place in the human world. But all the while, there is one thing she wants more than any other–to get back her man.

When she finally finds her prize and the intense blue flame of desire burns once more, her worst nightmares are far from over and the toughest battle is yet to begin. Will love win the war in the end?

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Author Bio:

Natalie G. Owens got her first taste of serious writing by penning award-Author Natalie G. Owenswinning poetry, short stories, and articles for college and local publications. She sold her first book to a small publisher in 2007 and is currently indie published. Her favorite stories to write are romances with a dark edge featuring brooding heroes, strong heroines, and a good dash of fantasy.

Social Media links:

Website: www.nataliegowens.com
Facebook profile page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563297082
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-G-Owens-Author/24911987111
Twitter: https://twitter.com/natalie_g_owens
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4527498-natalie-g-owens

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115212743960662992349/posts

A Word from the Author:

I happen to be a big fan of the Highlander series since it first came out. I simply loved Adrian Paul in his role of tortured hero fighting for justice and survival. Who can resist a character like that? 🙂

So one day, I started thinking that there are some amazing series out there in the paranormal/fantasy romance genre, but I couldn’t think of a specific one featuring immortals that live under a legal and political system they formed over time. Immortals with their own style of government and their own code of ethics. Basically, a secret society of these special individuals that aims at furthering the interests of its people and the humans they live with. Of course, as with each government, there is opposition—some justified, and some not so much.

Another thought I had was: what if Man had someone—or something—powerful and magical to come to the rescue at certain crucial points in history? Some things could have happened differently—or turned out much worse. And what if Man’s fate and future is determined by warring factions of these immortal beings? The germ of this idea started in my mind, and together with my interest in myth and adventure, the Valthreans were born.

The story and practices of the Valthreans constitute the backdrop of each book in the series, the glue that holds them together. Some pretty amazing characters make up the higher ranks of this unusual organization—sexy heroes and kickass, determined heroines—and my goal is to tell you their stories and happy endings :).

***

Praise for AN ETERNITY OF ROSES:

“A fast-paced, loving, lovable romp through time and character and romance … with characters who are so fully fleshed that I felt they were standing beside me.”

“WOW! Talk about everlasting love!”

“Wahoo! Yummy and seductive read.”

“Refreshingly different.”

“More than just your everyday romance!”

“The story is tautly engrossing, the plot beautifully constructed, and the characters humanly complex. This paranormal romance is a must read!”

“I truly fell in love with An Eternity of Roses.”

“This story is definitely going into my “To be Read Again” pile.”

Download from:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/13cT8Qy

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/TFFH8E

Amazon (print): http://amzn.to/11hmLma

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/146WxmN

Barnes and Noble (print): http://bit.ly/11hmFem

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/V0gWVJ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/TVLOEY

iTunes: http://bit.ly/SYUSMv

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/13vbYmX

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

Book Review
Title: The Reckoning
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Release: June 2012
Pages: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-4516-5180-5
Stars: 4.0

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu picks up where the first book in her supernatural, gothic trilogy, The Taker, ends.  Katsu describes The Taker as “a story about desire, obsession and the dark things we sometimes do for love.”  It’s also about the curse of immortality and the price paid by its victims.

I didn’t realize that The Taker was part of a trilogy when I read and reviewed it for Simon & Schuster Canada, but now that I’ve read the second book, I can’t wait for the final piece of this extraordinarily compelling puzzle which is currently known as The Descent.  This trilogy is a Twilight for adults (R-rated) although its main characters are not vampires.  While I found The Taker to be quite melancholy because of its focus on an unrequited love story, The Reckoning, is more visceral and suspenseful in the way it expresses Lanny’s terror in being reunited with her maker, Adair, which is her worst nightmare made manifest.

The Reckoning opens with main character, Lanore “Lanny” McIlvrae, a 200 year old immortal, living with her latest human lover, Dr. Luke Findley in London, England.  Lanny has just donated a collection of lost 19th century artifacts to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the featured treasure being a fan autographed to her by the poet, Lord Byron that had been given to her by the love her life: the astonishingly beautiful Jonathan St. Andrew.  We learn more about why Jonathan begged Lanny to release him from the chains of immortality, why she agreed, and the ultimate price she has to pay for her actions.

Near the end of The Taker, we discover that Lanny and Jonathan have sealed their maker, Adair (the Count cel Rau from Romania), in the walls of his Boston home, but two centuries later, the house is demolished and Adair is free to seek revenge on his imprisoners.  Only Lanny knows the horrors that Adair is capable of inflicting and she realizes that she can’t allow Luke to stay with her and continue to live as a fugitive when it’s only a matter of time before Adair catches up with them and unleashes his vengeance.  The narrative unfolds primarily between London and Boston with pit stops in ancient Venice, Casablanca, Marquette, Michigan, Maine, Barcelona, Pisa, Aspen, Colorado and Lake Garda, Italy as Lanny tries to keep as much distance as possible between herself and Adair.

Adair’s minions, the greedy Jude, the fiendish Tilde (who is exquisitely demonic!) and the deceptive Alejandro are back in this volume, and we meet two other immortals bound to Adair: the long-suffering Savva and his newest convert, Pendleton.  These secondary characters are integral to the story and are tremendously entertaining, but it is Adair who you will never forget.  He’s a 21st century Lestat, only far less charming and much more vicious.

The Reckoning is Adair’s story and it’s the tale of an immortal man who has existed for almost 1,000 years in a body that doesn’t belong to him. He’s a man who is so morally bankrupt and inherently evil that everyone who knows him fears him for the monster that he is.  What makes him truly captivating is that although Adair essentially still possesses a human soul, his is a soul who might just be the only soul in all creation who has never been loved.  This is the story of a soul whose battle is against his desire to change and his inability to overcome his intrinsic nature.

Could a person like that change?  I didn’t want to be uncharitable; I wanted to believe everyone is capable of change, of acting selflessly, of becoming a better person.  The longer we live, the more we understand and develop empathy for our fellow man, and are moved to change our selfish ways.  I would hate to meet the person who was forever inured to the misery of others.

Adair, who is well-practiced in the art of alchemy, is so powerful that not only is he capable of astral travel and lighting fires with his mind, but he can raise the dead.  And he just might have to spend all of eternity engaged in penitence for his sins.  Even though he’s a rapist and a murderer, Katsu writes him with such complexity and compassion that we can find empathy for him as he endures his own torture.

By the end of The Reckoning, we realize that Lanny, who on the outside appears as a kidnapping victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, is bound to Adair for eternity, no matter where she goes, what she does, or who she loves, and therein lies her fate.

I love a good paranormal mystery/romance and this trilogy by Alma Katsu will fit perfectly between my collection of Anne Rice, Clive Barker and Stephenie Meyer novels.  I see movies of these books being made and envision Rufus Sewell as Adair and Mia Wasilkowska as Lanny, but I can’t yet imagine what actor could be considered beautiful enough to play Jonathan.  Johnny Depp is unfortunately now too old for the part.

I feel privileged to have been able to read an advanced reader’s edition of The Reckoning and will be a die-hard fan of Katsu’s for as long as she continues to write.

The Taker by Alma Katsu

Book Review
Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Release: September 6, 2011
Pages: 440 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-9705-9
Stars: 3.5

I have to start by apologizing to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster Canada who sent me an advanced reader’s copy of the supernatural, heartbreaking romance, The Taker by Alma Katsu, back in April of this year.  I thought for sure I would have it read and reviewed before now and I’ve actually read two books before this one that I still haven’t written reviews for because I’ve been so busy.  So while the story is still fresh in my mind, I will share my thoughts with you.

This story begins in the fictional small town of modern day St. Andrew, Maine.  A divorced and lonely surgeon named Dr. Luke Findley finds himself captivated by an extraordinary young woman who has been suspected of murdering an otherworldly beautiful young man, leaving his body to freeze in the woods.  She pleads with him to help her escape the authorities and after grabbing a scalpel in the hospital and slicing herself open – only to have the wound immediately knit together before Luke’s eyes – he knows he’s seeing something that must remain a secret and feels compelled to protect her at all costs.  Later we realize that Luke has nothing to lose.

The Taker is Alma Katsu’s debut novel and while it is certainly a page turner, it is so filled with melancholy that it leaves you feeling that way when you’re finished reading it.  The main character has been living for over 200 years and while she is tragically flawed she cannot find any joy in her immortality whatsoever. Throughout the story, Lanore “Lanny” McIlvrae, who is not a vampire, is subjected to almost every kind of pain, suffering and human degradation you can think of and we empathize with her but she is never able to find any pleasure in any of her actions or her sins.  I could imagine her voice as being soft, low and monotonous; her visage pretty, but hard and grim.

Lanore’s life is one of eternal unrequited love and betrayal that begins when she is a child in Maine Territory in 1809.  While she is on the run with Luke she tells him everything about her life up to the moment when they met so the novel morphs back and forth between history and present day.  This format works seamlessly and Katsu’s descriptions of 19th century Maine and Boston are excellent and well-researched.

The love of Lanore’s life is the unforgettably tall, dark and dazzling Jonathan St. Andrew, her best friend, who left almost every female who set eyes on him lovesick with lust and the desire to possess him.  As he grew from a boy of twelve to a young man in his 20s, Jonathan became the most gorgeous man anyone in the northeastern US had ever seen.  Unfortunately, he was also unable to remain faithful to any woman, not even his wife.

When Lanny, as Jonathan called her, becomes pregnant at 20 with his illegitimate child, her strict, puritanical father sends her away to Boston to have the baby in a convent but she decides before she gets there that she won’t let anyone take the baby away from her and escapes her charge to wander aimlessly through the streets of Boston alone.

It is then that the naïve girl meets part of the evil entourage of Adair, the Count cel Rau from Romania, who take her back to his mansion under the guise of inviting her along to a fancy party where she will have plenty to eat and drink.  She’s never seen anything so luxurious before and is overwhelmed by the temptations set before her.

Adair and his immortal minions, Donatello, Tilde, Alejandro and Uzra, live a life of complete debauchery and bacchanalia and that night he drugs and rapes Lanore without realizing that she’s pregnant.  This is the beginning of the end of her mortal life and her journey towards redemption.

As I don’t want to give away the specifics of Lanore’s catastrophic adventures with the malevolent Adair, which are as hideously mesmerizing as a train wreck, I’ll simply say that this is a story for adults.  This is no TwilightThe Taker borders on historical S&M erotica and horrific scenes are described in graphic detail.  Katsu’s writing is exceptionally good and Lanore, Jonathan and Adair are gripping characters who will leave most lovers of paranormal tales enthralled.  The secondary characters in Adair’s subplot are also interesting.  However, in comparison, Luke seems lackluster even though he serves an important purpose.

After such a tumultuous ride, I was disappointed in the sedate ending of The Taker.  However, for a debut novel, this is an above average read, and I would not hesitate to read more from Alma Katsu.

The Rest Of Our Lives by Dan Stone

Book Review
Title: The Rest Of Our Lives
Author: Dan Stone
Publisher: Lethe Press
Released: May 25, 2009
Pages: 228
ISBN-10: 1590211472
ISBN-13: 978-1590211472
Stars: 4.0

I’m pretty sure I must have been a gay man in a past life. I love gay men. No one else understands a woman or what she’s looking for in romance quite like a gay man. My first boyfriend in public school turned out to be gay, a major high school crush was gay; my first lover was bisexual and I spent the entire year from the summers of 1994 to 1995 in Vancouver hanging out with gay men. Man, do they know how to party! Up until October 2003, I always had a gay man for a close friend, but my dear friend Don died of HIV-complicated issues that month and there really hasn’t been anyone like him since. There’s definitely a pattern there and of course there’s the fact that I’m still single at 47. Yes, I’m quite sure I was a gay man in a past life.

I have never read a gay romantic fantasy before but The Rest Of Our Lives by Dan Stone is exactly that. It’s utterly delightful in a Bewitched kind of way and I would love to see John Waters direct the movie version. If you love The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Priscilla Queen of The Desert, or To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (as I do), you’re going to enjoy The Rest Of Our Lives like Divine loved her Marilyn Monroe-blonde wigs. However, The Rest Of Our Lives isn’t raunchy like a John Waters film, it’s incredibly sweet, enchanting, sexy, thoughtful and romantic, as well as unabashedly gay. There are even a few chapters set in Provincetown!

Colm and Aidan are two passionate, beautiful souls who have been linked together lifetime after lifetime: one fire and the other ice – unable to exist without the other.

Colm McKenna has spent his whole life feeling like an outsider and a freak. A natural blonde elemental witch who has the ability to control water & ice, freeze everything around him and literally stop time, he was raised by his Aunt Belle in St. Clair, North Carolina and never felt as if she or anyone else in his family truly understood him. When we join him in the present chapter of his life, Colm is a quiet, shy, isolated assistant manager (clueless about his own beauty) of a rare bookstore/photographer in Washington, DC whose ice-blue eyes spot the dark and dangerously handsome Aidan Gallagher for the first time at the annual Pridefest parade. Aidan just happens to be an elemental witch as well, only his element is fire and where Colm “creates stillness, he creates motion and the warming of the South Wind.”

Colm’s boss and good friend Kermit later introduces them at a house party but Colm doesn’t trust that his dreams might come true and that a man who is perfect for him not only actually exists, but truly wants to love him forever. (I suffer from the same stultifying fear.) It takes a cast of colourful characters including Aidan’s psychic Aunt Lu and Colm’s dying Aunt Belle to ultimately convince Colm that in this lifetime, his and Aidan’s destiny will be different from that of their past lives, and they will get to live happily ever after.

Even against a fairy tale backdrop, Dan Stone knows how to write compelling characters and great chapter titles too. Some of my favourites in this book are “Cool, Colm and Collaborated”, “Humping Through The Ages”, “Hex Upon The Beach” and “For Whom The Belle Told.” He obviously has a wonderful sense of humour. For every moment of humour there is also one of poignancy, so by the time I read the final chapter and Colm’s mother’s letter to him, I had tears in my eyes. This is a charming paranormal love story that will burn bright in your imagination long after you read the last page!

I want to live in the world that Dan Stone created in this novel and I want to spend the rest of my life with the Aidan that I hope is out there for me. Sigh…