Tag Archives: SMI Book Club

Review: Bound by Lorelei James

Bound (Mastered, #1)Bound by Lorelei James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at SMI Book Club.

BOUND is the first of a two book series by Lorelei James about the martial arts master Ronin and the sheltered but feisty Amery, and how they become lovers after a chance meeting in his Denver dojo. Amery has only recently escaped both the restrictive influence of her fundamentalist family and the dysfunctional relationship with the man she thought would love her enough to never stray. Ronin, on the other hand, is a complete mystery to both Amery and the reader, sharing only the barest details about where he came from and what makes him tick. Naturally, once he meets Amery, his dominant nature compels him to make her his own, even as she wonders what she’s gotten herself into while melting into his powerful embrace.

Here’s the part of the review where I would normally politely share what went on in BOUND and how it did or didn’t work for me. But honestly, this book has me in an emotional headlock about whether I actually liked it or not. A big part of the problem I had with this book was how it was so obviously designed to hook the reader into the budding romance between Ronin and Amery when there was almost nothing based in reality to make you think they should even be together. She knows absolutely nothing about him, other than that he says he’s crazy about her, while everyone else keeps warning her that he’s no good and will only put her in danger. Yet even that is all just supposition based on no real evidence, and we’re left wondering what the heck is going on with this guy anyway. And because this is only the first of the two books, it’s damn certain that whatever we do ultimately find out about him is what will send Amery off into the night, overwhelmed by righteous indignation at not being trusted with the secrets that Ronin is so obviously keeping to himself.

When that big reveal finally arrived near the end of BOUND, it was all I could do not to throw the book against the wall. (It was a print ARC, so I didn’t have to worry about damaging a valuable ereader, but I resisted all the same.) Of all the possible secrets swirling around Ronin, the one that made Amery insist their relationship (such as it was) was over for good was so ridiculous, so innocuous, compared to what we’d been led to believe, that I wanted to smack both of them for being Too Stupid To Live. How this book could be from the same author who wrote the Blacktop Cowboy books, one of my most favorite romance series?

When BOUND was focused on its more intimate moments, however, it was as good as anything I’ve read by Lorelei James, especially when Ronin had Amery fully immersed in his world of rope bondage. Those scenes kept the book from being a DNF for me, and helped me slide past all its other more troubling parts enough to want to read the second book.
So if you’re willing to look past weak characterizations, an apparent fetish with all things Japanese, and a ridiculous cliffhanger which exists solely for the sake of continuing the story in a second book, then you might enjoy BOUND. I can only hope that Lorelei James is back to her usual overall form in the follow-up book UNWOUND and that the sex scenes aren’t the only reason to recommend it.

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Review: Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Daughters of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, # 3)Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at SMI Book Club.

Daughters of the Nile is the third and final book in Stephanie Dray’s trilogy about Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra (yes, *that* one), that continues to fill in the missing pieces of her life that could only be imagined based on the few major details available in historical texts. In this book, we see Selene sent back to the husband she didn’t ask for, to be queen of a country that isn’t her beloved Egypt, and trying to establish her own dynasty away from the man who continues to threaten her happiness with his own twisted desires.

I haven’t read the previous two books in the series, but I’m a big fan of the author’s romance books under her Stephanie Draven pen name, so I jumped at the opportunity to bury myself in a lovely long book of historical fiction by an author I already loved. Dray provided just enough recaps where needed so that I wasn’t lost as a new reader to the series, and I felt like I’d actually learned something about the actual history without forgetting that Daughters of the Nile, is still fiction, however laboriously researched for historical fact where possible.

Cleopatra Selene is a remarkable woman who managed to survive in a time where any day could bring exile or death from multiple directions, most notably from Caesar Augustus, who never stopped obsessing over her the way he had over her late mother. She has to temper her desire to make her mark in history with the knowledge of the incredible danger she faces whenever she fails to do whatever Caesar and her husband expect from her. And yet she does survive and even thrives in a climate that would crush a less determined man, let alone a mere woman with such infamous parents as Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

But what really made Daughters of the Nile such a wonderful read for me was the improbable romance between Selene and her husband. Juba had aided Caesar Augustus in hastening the death of Selene’s parents, so her distrust of him was certainly understandable. The marriage had been forced upon them both as a convenience for Augustus in his quest to make Selene his mistress, but they were never intended to be a couple in truth. Seeing Selene and her husband Juba slowly learn to trust and love each other over the years in spite of all the terrible past between them was what made me cry when Selene’s life and the book both came to their inevitable end. Daughters of the Nile isn’t a fast or easy read, but it’s a great one, and definitely worth your while if you love historical fiction with a touch of genuine romance.

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Review: How to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

How to Run with a Naked Werewolf (Naked Werewolf, #3)How to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at SMI Book Club.

Molly Harper and her Naked Werewolf series were new to me as a reader, but I was able to dive right in and enjoy the mostly light-hearted tale of how Dr. Anna Moder saved a stranger who was bleeding and prone in the middle of the road and in the process, reclaimed her identity and found true love.

Thanks to her previous association with the Crescent Valley werewolves, Anna recognized what Caleb was almost immediately, but as the oddball loner who’d stayed away from the pack for years, he wasn’t exactly what Anna would consider a good bet for a safe future. Her previous taste in men was what had gotten her in this mess in the first place, so she couldn’t let her growing desire for him cloud her judgment on his character, could she?

As for Caleb, we only see him through Anna’s eyes, but what we see is nothing but good. He makes no apologies for his line of work, but sticks to what others might call a skewed version of honor in his business arrangements. And Anna could never quibble with how well he protects her, even when she makes it extra difficult by refusing to stay put when she should. Together they make an interesting pair and it was fun to see them get closer as they spent weeks together on the road.

Although I hadn’t read the previous books, there was just enough exposition included in How To Run With A Naked Werewolf that I was able to follow along without feeling too overwhelmed by back-story. Both Anna and Caleb, the person she saved in a moment of reckless altruism, believe they are keeping major secrets from each other, not realizing that what they believe to be hidden is actually already known by the other. Caleb had very good reasons for staying aloof from his pack and I loved how he was able to break out of his emotional isolation as his feelings for Anna grew stronger. Although humor is a major component of this story, the threat that keeps Anna on the run is scary and real, and I appreciated how that kept things from getting too deliberately wacky. Ultimately, it was watching Caleb and Anna fall in love and find a more settled life together that made How To Run With A Naked Werewolf a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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