Review: Captive Magic (Sentinels #3) by Angela Benedetti

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Captive MagicBreckenridge “Breck” Bayes is both a telepath and teleporter.  And it his last gift that brought him to the attention of a demon in search of an object.  Normally Breck would have said no but nothing in Breck’s world was normal at the moment.  His kid sister is dying of cancer and there is nothing the doctors can do for her.  But if Breck agrees to work for the demon, then his sister will be cured.  But the demon’s demands keep growing and each time Breck fails, the demon makes his sister sick again.  Breck is desperate to finish their deal but he can’t find the object the demon wants and he is getting desperate.

Manny Oliveira, owner and operator of the bookstore the Grove, is a seer and Sentinel.  So it makes perfect sense that when someone sees a man teleport in and out of a local shop, the first one they report it to is Manny.  When Manny chases Breck down mid robbery, Breck’s explanations for his thefts tug at Manny’s heart.  Manny understands totally about family and love for the youngest members.  So  he decides to help Breck get free of his obligation while leaving his sister healthy, a huge undertaking and one he is not prepared for.  Because the demon Breck is working for wants Manny’s talents as well.

With both men in trouble and a demon holding them in peril, what happens when you add love to an already unstable mixture?

Captive Magic is the first book I have read by author Angela Benedetti so I was unaware that it was the third book in a series that is five stories deep including this one (see list below). I found out about the series after the fact and that explained some of the lack of back history associated with Captive Magic and the Sentinel group. Clearly the author has provided the Sentinel backgrounds in previous books (or so I assume).  So I am going to exclude that issue from my review except to say I wish that a minor recap had been given and continue on as though it is a stand alone.

I did find much to admire about Captive Magic on its own terms.  Angela Benedetti has a marvelous imagination and ability to craft an ingenious story plot.  Captive Magic combines those elements with terrific and appealing characters and you have the makings of a great story and certainly a series.  I found all the characters here, with the exception of the “demon” likable, realistic, and certainly capable of holding their own against the weight of the wild elements found within this story.

Benedetti supplies both men with heartwarming and recognizable families, from the heartbreaking Amanda, Breck’s sister, who is dealing with her cancer and the strain upon her family, to the bright, and incorrigible Anita, Manny’s niece, and Amanda’s healthy opposite. “Manda” especially tugs on our heart strings with her brave but realistically tough outlook on her illness and her future.  Breck’s mother, weary, strained, and doing what is necessary to keep her family together is a portrait of a mother under incredible pressure and the fractures are beginning to show.  By placing both men within a strong, and loving family structure, Benedetti makes us understand Breck’s agreement and subsequent stealing.  When forced to choose between a child’s life and a theft of an object,, who wouldn’t choose the child, especially when the medical world has failed her?

Less successful is her choice to have Manny assist Breck on his own, without any help from the other Sentinels. Sentinels, who (by the events that occur later in the story), are clearly better equipped to have handled this situation as a group.  Manny has this whole cadre of magic users at his disposal.  One even asks him at the beginning what is going on “with the teleporter” but Manny lies about his knowledge and involvement.  For no discernible reason other than the author needed him to do so for her plot to work.

At one point in the story Breck tells Manny “this is pointless” and so it is.  With so many other incredible elements here, why would you not have a better, more reasonable, more logical explanation for Manny’s actions then the nonexistent one Benedetti supplies the reader and Manny with.  This is a huge missed step, one of several that pulls the story (and the story’s ratings) downward.

Another aspect of this story, that of another dimension brings out the best and the worst with Benedetti.  The best includes a wildly imaginative world that combines elements of math, physics, Harry Potter and the unknown into a simply stunning new dimension.  Here is an excerpt:

 The passages wandered all over, around corners, up and down slopes, through doorways and in and out of huge rooms or caverns or whatever. Breck never spotted an obvious light source; it was like the photons were just sort of bouncing around at random, keeping everything generally lit, with no shadows and no bright spots. It was like a maze full of water; water didn’t pile up in one place or leave a hole someplace else, and the light was behaving the same way. It was weird.

They climbed over a raised lintel, sort of like the hatchways on ships, and into a medium-sized cavern. There was a cluster of… sculptures? growing out of the wall to the left, or maybe they’d been stuck there for some reason? Breck hauled Manny over so they could get a look.

“Is this what you saw?” Manny was squinting at one of the little thingies, then another. “They’re weird, man. It’s like a Klein bottle or something — or two or three of them stuck together.”

Breck decided not to ask what a Klein bottle was; he just checked out all the weird sculpture-things and shook his head, trying not to follow their loops and spouts too far ‘cause they made his eyes water. “No, none of these. It was bigger, I think. Hard to tell size, but there was more to it, and there was a bigger smooth part on one side — these all have handles and knobs and stuff all over them.”

The more she describes it the weirder it gets.  And that’s great because if we are confused it helps us understand what the characters are feeling as they stumble through the passages in this dimension.  But then it becomes too much of a good thing, as they start popping in and out of the action, most of which is occurring back in their original world.  Soon all the little details the author used to embellish this dimension and her story start to bog down the narrative and disconnect the reader from the characters and their mission.  You know the story is in trouble when one character is left to sit on the floor while the other “pops” out to confront the demon and the pov stays with the person on the floor, whiling away the time until the other man reappears to explain things.

At this point several things have occurred to undercut the momentum of the story and the anticipation that the author has built up.  The readers never really get their “aha” moment with the so called “demon”, that just kind of melts away, undeserving of the huge buildup of “dark, nauseating” descriptions of what it feels like when they interact with the demon and its demands. It’s almost like getting Pooh Bear under the sheet instead of Freddy Kreuger.  Instead of giving the first part of her story its due with a satisfactory conclusion, the author manufactures a secondary trauma and expends all her energies and exposition on it, another miscalculation in my opinion.

Mixed in with everything else that is going on is a “instant love” story that lacking a believable romantic time frame gets it own jump start that once again asks that the reader suspend their disbelief and accept the author’s explanations for a deep and abiding love between Manny and Breck.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the author has called on the reader’s goodwill and ability to believe in her story and then treated that gift somewhat shabbily.  Towards the end of the story, Manny (and Breck) easily accepts the aid of the other Sentinels, the same aid he rejected at the beginning, with no reasonable shift in attitude.  For the reader to have accepted Manny’s lying and avoidance of any assistance from his other Sentinels, the author would have had to supply a better justification than the shallow ones given.

In the end, all the great characterizations, wonderfully inventive world building, and catchy dialog have a hard time surmounting the detail overkill, as well as a story that bogs down under its own cleverness and abundance of plots. In fact Benedetti’s inability to bring the major plot to a satisfactory close, sacrificing it to put into motion another more angst driven secondary story line is such a huge error, in my opinion, that it almost negates the goodwill and expectations that came before.

Even with all my frustrations and issues with Captive Magic, I will still recommend it with reervations.  If you are a fan of the series and Angela Benedetti,, I know you will want to pick this one up. If you are a fan of fantasy and the paranormal, then this has enough terrific elements to make it worth reading.  But if you are in it just for the romance alone, then this is probably not the book for you.

Cover illustration by BSClay is a marvel, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 307 pages
Published September 4th 2013 by Torquere Press
edition language English
series Sentinels #3
Books in the series include:
A Hidden Magic (Sentinels #1)

 Unfinished Business (Sentinels #1.5)
Reach Out and Touch (Sentinels #1.6)
Chasing Fear (Sentinels #1.7)
Emerging Magic (Sentinels #2)
Captive Magic (Sentinels #3)

Review: The Hanged Man’s Ghost (Night Wars #1) by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Hanged Man's GhostFynn Adder’s life is on a downward spiral and he is doing his best to speed it up.  Since the murder of his longtime lover, Flynn has spent his free time in a drunken haze,  the alcohol contributing to his frequent sexual hookups and increasingly disastrous personal decisions. Only his professional life is currently stable, but that is due more to the efforts of his partner, Jack Winchester,  than to his own discretion.  Flynn Adder is a detective with the Chicago Police Department, and a son of a famous Chicago irish police family.  And because of his family name and reputation, Fynn’s actions and career are under greater scrutiny, a fact not lost on Fynn.

When a girl is murdered, the case is muddied immediately when the trail of clues point in the direction of Fynn’s family and the death of his lover.  That case went unsolved and now it appears the two are connected. With his Captain,partner and family expressing their concerns about his erratic behavior and drinking, Fynn tries concentrating on the strange clues he is unearthing, they just aren’t making sense.

As more murders occur, all the clues point to a supernatural rather than rational explanation. Then Internal Affairs agent Daniel Voight enters the picture.  Voight is determined to prove Adder a dirty cop and will let nothing, even the truth, stand in his way.  The only aspect of Adder’s life that brings him happiness is his relationship with his police partner, Jack.  Fynn has had a crush on his married partner for years and been happy to just be included as a friend in Jack’s life.  But even that aspect of Fynn’s life is undergoing a major change.

With all the clues pointing back to Fynn’s past and the murderer taunting him with mysterious messages he can’t decipher, the stress and unnatural events push Fynn past the breaking point.  If the murderer  is to be caught and the killings stopped, Fynn will need to reach out for help and support in places he never expected and soon before he and those he loves are caught in the Hanged Man’s noose.

I loved this book and fell under its spell immediately, as I should have.  But I didn’t come to this series in a straightforward manner.  I started with The Night Shift (Night Wars #2), than the 3rd installment, The Hellfire Legacy, and by doing so, did this series a real injustice.  Trust me when I say this is an addicting, enthralling series with something for everyone to love.  And I would have known that sooner had I read them in the order they were written and should have been read.  Mea culpa indeed.  But let’s get back to the beginning and The Hanged Man’s Ghost.

Missouri Dalton’s characters are a wonder.  Fynn is especially surprising.  He comes from a large irish family in Chicago whose members have always been part of the Chicago PD rank and file.  But unlike his father and brother, Fynn is not your burly Irishman but rather a slender blond with a penchant for knitting and booze.  He is also gay, out with a large supportive family behind him.  Not that it seems to matter when we first meet him.  The author has created a back history for Fynn that is incredibly complex and is only slowly revealed over the length of the book, both to the reader and to Fynn.  He has been existing in an alcoholic fog since the murder of his longterm lover.  Dalton’s treatment of Fynn’s alcolholism is realistic and grim without giving up any of the character’s wry, and sometimes caustic personality.  It’s a personality you will come to love as much as for it’s power of survival as it is for its wry, self effacing facade.  Here is a taste of Fynn for you:

“You need a lift to the station?” Jack raised an eyebrow.

I shook my head. “Nah, I see my bike.” It was parked three feet from a hydrant. Jack eyed the bike. It was sort of a death trap.

“You were at the club last night.”

“Yeah.” I backed out of striking range.

He stepped closer and grabbed my arm. “Were you drinking?” I looked away. “Damn it, Fynn, were you?”

“Yeah.” He usually managed to make me feel guilty about these things.      He shook his head and let go of my arm. “He could suspend you, take you off this case.”

“I know.” At least he didn’t hit me, but from the ache in my arm, I’d bet it was bruising. Sometimes it sucked to have pale Irish skin.

“At least tell me you’re still seeing the shrink.” My silence was answer enough. “If you want to kill yourself, Fynn, that’s your business. But don’t you dare think it doesn’t affect the rest of us.” He stormed off. Good old Jack, still trying to save me from myself.

The weariness of that  voice gets inside of you, and the force of the personality behind that voice makes the reader want to help him out of the gutter he has tossed himself into.  And this is just the beginning.

Dalton starts bringing in Fynn’s large family, each a well drawn character, and the mystery that surrounds them.  We also get to know Jack, his wife and his precocious daughter too, and come to care for at least two of them just as the author intends. And as Dalton grounds Fynn with his family and Jack, she connects the reader intimately with them and we become invested in their survival.  A survival that becomes increasingly precarious as the murderer starts targeting people around Fynn. Piece by supernatural piece starts to position itself in the story, as the plot lines start to crisscross, and some surprising and chilling twists arrive around each plot corner.  Make no mistake, there are some truly haunting and suspenseful aspects to this story, beautifully conceived and written.

The tough thing about this story is that it is so complex and every little nuance will take on greater import as the story and the series progress.  Things I would have overlooked as inconsequential here had I read this book first, now took on a larger role because I knew what lay behind the slight descriptions so casually thrown away inside this book.  The narrative reminds me of that magazine Hidden Pictures.  There are clues and small stories to be found everywhere as the author is constructing a much larger story outside of The Hanged Man’s Ghost.  This just absolutely delighted me with its complexity while never forgetting that the story and the series has a  very human heart, that of Fynn Adder and those he loves.

Another thread that weaves itself through Fynn’s life and the story is his knitting, a subject near to my heart as a knitter as well.  Here is a little taste of Fynn the knitter:

Cassie’s knitting was in a basket on the left side of the chair I had claimed and I needed a distraction from the tension.

A half-finished pink scarf. Probably for Tara. Cassie would likely not finish it in time for Tara’s birthday.

I picked it up and started a new row. It looked like a simple purl knit purl. Jack raised an eyebrow, I kept knitting. He couldn’t knock my knitting; I’d fixed his sweater the day it got caught in the drawer. With pencils no less.

I intend to track down the author and ask about a certain pattern for a scarf that Fynn knits for himself.  It’s perfection but not one that  can be included in this review.  It is just one more insightful and delightful element that is incorporated into a story that just keeps surprising the deeper into it you go.  The Hanged Man’s Ghost is a cop thriller, a supernatural mystery and a love story.   It chilling, and humorous, and filled with angst. And for the many angles and subject matters that are being juggled here, Missouri Dalton does them all justice and then some, pulling them together for a terrific ending that will leave the reader looking for more.

The editing could be a little tighter and the narrative gets away from itself a  tad towards the middle, otherwise this would be a 5 star rating, My love for the characters and plot far outweigh those  issues, so it really comes close to being perfect. Now the series has become a new favorite of mine.  It will become yours too.  Just don’t make my mistake and start in the middle.  Go right to the beginning, and succumb to the many charms and chills of the Night Wars series and Missouri Dalton’s characters.  You won’t be sorry.

Here are the books as they were written and should be read:

The Hanged Man’s Ghost (Night Wars #01)

The Night Shift (Night Wars #02) – please note revised rating and additional comments at the beginning.

The Hellfire Legacy (Night Wars #03)

Alessia Brio is the cover artist for this book and the series.  I think the artist did a great job in branding the series while keeping each cover true to the story within.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 276 pages
Published February 1st 2012 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610407091 (ISBN13: 9781610407090)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=97&products_id=3507
seriesThe Night Wars #01

Review: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Damned If You Do collectionWhat does a male succubus (yes, you read that right, a male succubus) do when he is set free on Earth by an accidental summoning? Why, go looking for his next delightful meal and loads of hot, sexy fun of course.  That is exactly what Rael does after being set free.  But there is another succubus in town, one that is killing the people it is feeding upon, not just enjoying them and leaving them happy.  On the trail of the succubus killer is Detective Lars Thornsson of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency. Lars is half human half Valkyrie and all around gorgeous gay male.  When Det. Thornsson and his hard as nails partner, Chelle Rochelle,  show up at the nightclub looking for the killer show up at the nightclub looking for the killer, Lars has all the club boys drooling. This fact not lost on Rael who decides the detective is just the man for him. Then Lars and Chelle  find Rael instead of the true killer and take him in to headquarters for questioning.  Almost immediately lust and mutual attraction sets in and when the killer sets her sights on Lars, there is nothing Rael will do to keep his man  safe and at his side forever.

The Damned If You Do collection includes all four of the Rael and Lars stories that chart their relationship from beginning to HEA, which is saying a lot when you consider one is a sexy male succubus and the other a half Valkyrie half human. .Listed below is each story and a mini review of each wild zany romp:

Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection is composed of the following four stories which were all initially released separately:

A Calling for Pleasure cover1.  A Calling For Pleasure: The first in the Rael and Lars series.  We see how Rael makes it into our universe, his immediatel impact on Lars and his investigation as well as the start of their relationship.  Wild, wacky, and great fun.  Rael is a charming, sexy and endearing character as his beloved Lars.  Lars is huge and hugely vulnerable, with a sarcastic hard as nails partner  Chelle Rochelle and a wise and wry Police Captain, perfect for keeping within the stated genre and having fun with it.

At 25 pages, it is the shortest story and it shows in the lack of depth in the characterizations and plot.  Its cute, funny and fast.  Really, it just sets the stage for the longer and more involved stories to come and that’s fine when it is in a collection.  You can move on and still be satisfied that you read the first in the series.  It also has my least favorite cover as Rael is described as lithe, gliding and sex on two legs.  That model is just too muscular to be Rael.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Blast From the Past Rael and Lars22. A Blast From The Past: Lars and Rael are living together much to the chagrin of his cop partner, Chelle Rochelle.  Lars continued involvement with Rael is also kept hidden from his captain and coworkers.  Both Lars and Rael are afraid that Rael will be banished back into Hell, something Lars and his squad do with regularity to supernatural offenders.  But this is Rael and trouble is his middle name.  So of course, Rael’s ex boyfriend, Lev, enters the picture, determined to get him back, no matter the cost.  At the same time, someone demonic is setting fires all over the city and its up to Lars and Chelle to find the perpetrator and send him home.

This is such a cute story.  Its short at 68 pages but is still longer than the first story. The plot is more involved, the action swift, and the resolution perfect for the story setting and characters.  Everybody here is over the top in characterization, almost into the parady column but somehow is all works together.  I especially appreciate that with each new investigation, the characters increase in complexity along with the case the book revolves around.  Merrow gives us more back history for each person as the story progresses.  And as we learn additional facts about them, the more fully realized each character becomes.  Also each story also sets the framework for the next in the series.  Great job, and great little story.

Rating: 4 stars

3. A  Wish Too Far Lars and Rael 3A Wish Too Far:  Someone is peddling little pink pills out on the streets.  Those pills, called Wishes, are exactly what the Chinese philosopher has in mind when he said “Be careful what you wish for” because the wish always comes with a painful twist.  Det. Lars Thornsson and his partner Chelle Rochelle of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency  need to find the pill pusher and fast before someone is seriously injured. Rael thinks he knows the drug dealer but why would his cross dressing childhood friend do something like this?  Lars and Chelle’s case goes off the tracks quickly when Rael gets involved but the outcome will shock everyone in the case.

This 73 page story has a little more depth and pathos to it.  The cross dressing being, Shax, is a more vulnerable character with a darker past then we have seen in the previous stories.  The author manages to bring a more fully realized character into the fold while still keeping the humor intact.  Again the story is fast paced, the action and plot threads twisting around  faster than you can shake a canister of salt at it, and the ending is one I didn’t see coming.  My  second favorite story of the group.

Rating 4.25 stars.

Damned If you Do Glutton for Punishment4. A Glutton For Punishment: Once again Rael is the center of attention and it gets him nothing but trouble.  Rael and Lars relationship remains in the closet.  Unhappy with hiding, Rael takes to cooking for his man and is soon discovered as Rael’s talent for gourmet cooking lands him a job on the popular show Devon’s Plate as a guest chef.  But when the show’s host, Devon LaGrande goes missing, all suspicions land on Rael as the cause. With Rael being the center (again) of one of Lars’ investigation, Rael has to move out of their apartment and pretend to be his coworker’s partner, much to his and Lars chagrin.  Then Rael starts to receive threatening letters and the search is on to find the person responsible before Rael disappears too.

At 136 pages, this is the longest and most complicated story of the group.  There are several plot threads being juggled here, and the author does a great job of keeping us involved and in the loop, no matter how crazy a direction the story takes, and it takes quite a few.  Rael has become more than a sexy caricature of a succubus by this time and the reader is more invested in his and Lars future.  Lars and Chelle also have more dimension to them and as the story brings all the threads together in a happy ending, the reader leaves more than satisfied that Rael and Lars have a wonderful future ahead of them.  My  favorite story of the group.

Rating: 5 stars

I think this group of stories works best as a  collection than as separate books.  Had I purchased them separately and read them that way the individual story ratings might have been lower.  But because I was able to read them one after the other, the plots and increasing character depth flowed smoothly together and made for a very satisfactory read.  This is not a collection to be taken seriously.  It is to be enjoyed as the lighthearted fun romp that it is and who doesn’t need one or four of those?

I love J.L. Merrow as an author.  She has the ability to write this lighthearted romp and then pull us into the darker stories like her wonderful Pricks and Pragmatism without so much as a blink of an eye or should that be flick of a key?  If you are a first time Merrow reader, enjoy this paranormal series for the fun it represents and then start in with her other stories, perhaps Trick of Time, another favorite of mine.  I am sure you will be adding this author to your must read list shortly thereafter.  She is definitely one of mine.

Book details:

Ebook, Paperback, 280 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626490236 (ISBN13: 9781626490239)
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/collections/damned-if-you-do-complete-collection
series

Review: Silver/Steel (Arcada #2) by Belinda McBride

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Rating: 4 stars

Silver:Steel coverDream Hunter Dylan Ryve has one last mission to fulfill, one last hunt to finalize so his geas is honored and he will be free of the one who has entraped him.  The problem is that the one he hunts is inside the town of Arcada and the town won’t let him inside.  Frustrated Dylan waits outside of town in a bar hoping for a way in when a young shifter looking for trouble enters the bar and promptly finds it.  Travis Feris is young, impulsive, and insecure and he hides his pain behind outrageous behavior and stupid acts of hostility.  These actions often find him deep in trouble and this night is no different.  But the men he chose to offend have a far more ruthless, horrific plan for Travis and only the actions of fae named Dylan saves unconscious Travis.

When the town lets Dylan bring Travis home to heal, the assassin has his way clear to find his target and complete his bounty.  But things are never that easy in Arcada.  First of all there is Travis.  Dylan sees the true nature of the shifter and Travis’ innocence and inner beauty calls to him as nothing has in a thousand years.  And worse, Travis seems to return his interest,and  affection.  Plus Arcada is talking to him, making him question his path and his future. The town makes Dylan remember what it feels like to have a home and people around him to care for him.  But always there is Travis, luring him in, making him question everything. During one night as Dylan walks Travis’ dreams to help the shifter find his path, he inadvertently shares much of his own history with Travis too.  And in his vulnerability, Dylan opens himself up to love and the possibility that he will fail in his mission, forfeiting his freedom and possibly his life.

But the evil that owns Dylan is waiting impatiently for Dylan to complete the last mission and when it stalls, he takes things into his own hands, putting Arcada and its inhabitants in peril.  Will Dylan betray Travis and all of Arcada to finish his bounty or will he make the ultimate sacrifice to save those he loves?

This is a very different book from Blacque/Bleu which started the series I have fallen in love with.  And it is that difference that most readers will have a problem with when approaching Silver/Steel.  I too found I had some basic issues with this story and even, now find myself wavering in my feelings over some of its elements and scenes.  But let’s start with some of the basics first.

I love the whole idea of Arcada, the sentient town that gives the series its name.  In Silver/Steel, the town makes an actual physical appearance, in that it gives itself a temporary shape and we learn a little more about it, but never enough to satisfy the questions that the story brings up.  I love  everything about this town.  Its protective nature, the fact that it nurtures a diverse group of citizenry from gremlins to a pack of wolf shifters and everything in between.  Such a great idea and I look forward to how the author develops this concept further.  This is one of the best elements of the series.

Then we come to McBride’s characters.  I fell in love with Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu immediately and never lost my connection to them throughout the novel.  That did not happen here.  Travis Feris initially comes across as a sullen, somewhat infantile brat.  He is constantly picking fights, he’s impulsive to the point of obnoxiousness and although everyone tells us how talented he is, we are given almost no examples of his artistry.  He is just not that likable at the start.  Then McBride pairs him up with a main character his equal in spirit and inability to connect with the reader.  Dylan Reyvn is an ancient fae who gave up his freedom to save others but that is not the person we meet,  Instead we are given a single minded killer on  a mission.  The complexities of this character reveal themselves more slowly and with each revelation, I found my liking for Dylan growing as well.  For me  that never really happened with Travis.  Travis remained a five note character.  Loves Mom, loves Pack, loves Arcada, loves Dylan and some bdsm.  Where as for Dylan, he has a past to equal his many layered persona and I appreciated that.   True, the Travis at the end of the book is far more palatable than the first one we meet, but I never felt that the growth he achieved was realistic within the context of the story.  Dylan on the other hand is on the cusp of a major transformation and I wished that we would have seen more than just hints of what the future has in store for him and Arcada.

Finally, there are two more elements that have me divided about the story.  One is a major scene towards the end of the book where our main characters and the evil fae come together in a traumatic scene that for me was just on this side of nauseating.   It was very well done in terms of the emotions it will bring forth from the characters and the readers. However, that said, it was just not my thing and only my need to get to the end took me through it.  For others, it won’t be a problem at all.  But I found it a little too graphic in nature for my comfort zone.  There are elements of bdsm and dominant/submission here between Dylan and Travis that do fit in with their personalities.  I didn’t mind that so much, but others might.  No, my largest quibble I save for the plot at the end.  We have a major battle going on, we see and hear some of the aftereffects.  This section is very well done.  But where is the conclusion to this part of the story?  I don’t want to give anything away by going into details but what  happened to the instigators here?  I went back and forth, electronically flipping pages and found nothing to satisfy my biggest question. That frustration alone almost knocked this story down into a 3 rating.  But maybe it really is there and I just could excavate it out.  If you know otherwise, write me and tell me where it happens.  Perhaps McBride is saving this for the next novel in the series.  If so, then she could have done better than just vanishing an important thread to the woods and leave it dangling there.

So, yes, this book has some remarkable components and  characters that will grow on you if you take the time to get to know them. Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu are back as well.  It is not a stand alone book by any means, you need to have read the first in the series to have a basis for this one.  Not a problem as that is a 5 star rating story.  There are some editing issues here, some vanishing plot threads as well but the town of Arcada is mesmerizing and will keep you coming back for more.  So will the promising stories of the various inhabitants you meet here.  I want to know what happens to them too.  Belinda McBrides offers you so many tantalizing glimpses of future Arcada stories that she has me truly hooked.  You will be too.  So pick this one up, just lower your expectations a little as you find yourself in Arcada once more for another terrific paranormal tale.

Cover is the least favorite thing about this book.  From the models to the poor photoshop work, just awful.

Books in the Arcada series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the plots:

Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1)