Review: Christmas Wish (a Romanorum world story) by Shayne Carmichael & Mychael Black

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

All I Want Christmas WishIt has been ten years since Elian was forced to leave his soulmate, mortal Ryan Nixon.  Elian was a angel, a grigori who is a watcher angel who teaches human certain life lessons.  They are not supposed to get involved with humans and Elian broke all their rules when he fell in love with Ryan and became his lover.  Forced to separate from Ryan, Elian has now completed his punishment and returned to Earth to find Ryan.

But the man has greatly changed.  The man Elian left was brash, intelligent and ambitious.  The Ryan Elian found was homeless, gaunt, and on the verge of dying.  Both men have now paid for their mistakes.  Ryan has lost everything his ambition and greed initially won him.  Elian lost ten years in isolation, banished from Earth to pay for breaking the rules.  Now the angel has found his lover once more.  Is it too late for their love to succeed?  Or will their christmas wish make a miracle happen so they can find a way back to each other?

Shayne Carmichael and Mychael Black’s Romanorum stories are among my favorites so I was delighted to see this Torquere Holiday Sip that ventured back into that universe and brought back a major character, Cian, albeit in a minor role.  The authors gifts of characterization and description bring the plight of Ryan Nixon powerfully to life.  This is Elian’s first sighting of Ryan after ten years apart and it is a heartbreaking one:

Elian spotted a lone figure on a wooden bench, partially hidden by a tattered coat. Elian’s heart broke all over again. Ryan had indeed learned about the dangers of greed and avarice, and the lesson had taken everything — everything — away from him, leaving him a broken, destitute man.

Threadbare gloves barely covered the hands that held the coat closed against the bite of the winter wind. Though he was only thirty-two, time had etched lines in the once- youthful face, and a sprinkling of gray dusted the black hair.

Huddled on the bench, he appeared to pay no attention to the few who braved the cold on their own business. A half-eaten sandwich lay forgotten in its plastic wrapping as Ryan stared off in the distance at a grove of trees.

Elian crouched in front of him, meeting Ryan’s empty gaze. He reached out and smoothed a lock of dark hair back from green eyes that once held a spark of life. Now they just seemed… lost.

The man Elian is confronted with is someone who has lost all hope and seems ready to die, one of many found on any winter street in any city or town.  An added layer to Ryan’s despair is the fact that he is to blame for his downfall, that his avarice and overwhelming ambition that made him rich also ruined him and Ryan has had ten years to realize that.

Carmichael and Black make Ryan believable in his self-loathing and despair.  He has gone beyond bitterness into an emotional place of isolation and emptiness that gives this portrait of homelessness a feel of authenticity.  Elian’s character, an angel who defied Heaven’s laws to be with his lover, is harder to grasp, probably because he is more of a two note persona, goodness and light, to feel entirely credible.  And their love story and reconnection, while emotionally engaging, felt too rushed to be believable, especially after all that has occurred during their ten-year separation.

These authors have made their angel characters multidimensional in the past so I think the issue with Elian is that the story length doesn’t give the authors enough space to imbue Elian with the depth of character he needs to feel real.  In fact, I think that shortness hurts this story in almost every way.  For those readers unfamiliar with the Romanorum universe, the lack of backstory will leave many of them confused about the plot.  Especially when Cian appears to offer his apologies to Elian.  Most people will wonder exactly what and who Cian is referring to (or exactly who Cian is and why he is important) when offering his explanation for his actions.  Unless you have read all the previous books or at least The Prince’s Angel, you will be lost during this section of the story.

I did really like this story but I had the background to do so.  I absolutely recommend this series and would want any new reader to start at the beginning with The Prince’s Angel to get a better understanding of the universe and the huge cast of characters to be found there, including angels and vampires.  Used as a part of the whole, then I can absolutely recommend Christmas Wish to all.

Cover artist is not listed as I suspect this is a blanket cover used for many of Torquere Holiday Sip stories.

Books in the Romanorum series:

The Prince’s Angel (Legends of the Romanorum, #1)
And the Two Shall Become One (Legends of the Romanorum, #2)
Forever May Not Be Long Enough (Legends of the Romanorum, #3)
Christmas Wish (Legends of the Romanorum, #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 26 pages
Published December 4th 2013 by Torquere Press

Review of Back To Hell (Hellbourne #4) by Amber Kell

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Rating: 3 stars

Luc Hellbourne, son of Lucifer, is trying to settle down with his wolf shifter mate Bran after the problems with his dad and Bran’s old pack.  But a calm life is something Luc has never had experience with and it looks like it’s not going to happen now either.  Luc’s crazy brother Galthine has imprisoned their father Lucifer in one of Hell’s lower levels and is taking over Hell. Their uncle, the Archangel Michael wants Luc to go rescue his father.  And Luc’s vampire soul mate is starving to death. And why is everyone blaming Luc for all the problems and upsetting the balance of goodness and evil? Well perhaps Luc did upset the hellish apple cart but Luc continues to refuse to get involved until his brother goes too far and kidnaps his lover Bran.  Then all bets are off as Luc Hellbourne lives up to his name.

This is the fourth book in the Hellbourne series and if the reader is unfamiliar with the previous stories, this one will  not make any sense.  Amber Kell always manages to pack a lot of characters and plot lines in a small amount of space.Iin this case  Back to Hell is only 80 pages long so once you start reading the action starts to fly and events happen rapidly.  There are so many characters  to keep track of (Stiln a one-eyed demon? Sal a werewolf, Blinok a demonic messenger, a werewolf slut named Betsy and many more) and sometimes it is not always clear what are the relationships between the characters or even who they are.  The dialog tends towards the campy and humorous with the voices all sounding much the same. Typical of  this story is the scene where one of Luc’s demon and his vampires are chasing each other around the kitchen tossing soap bubbles, they stop, Luc asks if they are having fun.  They nod. He goes off to look at his computer and they go back to playing.

That’s pretty much how the story goes.  It’s light, fluffy and pretty simple minded.  If you are looking for complex characters and an intricate plot to book, then this is not the book for you.  If you love Amber Kell, then you are familiar with her style of writing and the lack of depth in every element, then you will like this one too.  At 80 pages, it is a quick read and the m/m/m ending should satisfy the readers of the first three stories. As for me I found this to be more of a story outline than a story itself and think I will leave it at that.

Beautiful cover by Posh Gosh.