I am long time fan of Lauren Dane's contemporaries. I particularly love her Brown Family books. I also have a soft spot for her vampire-themed UF, The Goddess with a Blade series. However before this year I hadn't read any of her paranormals. I've been sampling some of her werewolf books as they have been re-released by Carina and while many of them have lots of elements I liked along, none of them have really clicked with me, mostly for nitpicky world-building issues. The ones I have really liked however have been her witch-led ones. I am loving her small-town witch falls for wolf series, Diablo Lake.
Last month I read the first in her Bound by Magick novel, Heart of Darkness. The heroine was fantastic. I loved Meriel Owen from the start. She is second in line in the leadership of the powerful Owen Witch Clan. She hasn't yet grown into the fullness of her power but wields what she has with meticulous control. She knows herself and what she can do. She doesn't let anyone push her around, including her bossy mother.
Dominic is unaffiliated witch, skimming power from a clan-owned font to protect his nightclub. He recognizes her strength and power when she walks through the door and wants a taste of it.
I loved how Dane handled consent and power issues in this book. Meriel has all the advantages due to her knowledge and training and she works to make sure that any relationship she and Dominic form will be one he felt he entered willingly and enthusiastically. The action plot was dark and suspenseful and the supporting cast fun and interesting. I am hoping the other books in this series eventually go on sale too (the first is currently $2.99), I have my sale alerts set.
The most recent book I finished was Kristen Ashley's Heaven and Hell. Kini mentioned loving this book during our Kristen Ashley Addicts book chat, Too Cracktastic to quit? Before her rec I had been under the mistaken impression that it was one KA's paranormals, with which I've had little success. I had no idea it was a stand-alone contemporary, set in the same universe as her Rock Chick and 'Burg novels (Lee Nightingale, Joe Callahan & Tanner Layne all make brief appearances).
It is the story of Kia Clementine. Kia is an abused wife, whose husband is gunned down by his lover's irate husband. After his death she learns, she has inherited 5 million dollars from an insurance policy she didn't know her husband had taken out. This unexpected windfall leads to her uncovering a larger conspiracy at the same time as it liberates her to live a whole new life.
She splurges on dream vacation where she meets fantastic people, wears fantastic clothes and meets her long-time celebrity crush, Samson Cooper, former football player, former army ranger and secret commando. The storyline is super-wacky and every bit of a roller coaster I need.
Like most KA novels it has many super problematic elements, like the undeniably overbearing machismo each of her heroes is doused in, and problematic racial rep, for example Sam is biracial and of Hispanic heritage, however both he and his mother are completely estranged from their heritage. He has no contact with his abusive father's black family and his mother was abandoned in poverty with her white mother by her Mexican american father. The dual absences and estrangements are eye-brow raising but unexpected.
I was here for the over-the-top melodrama, and I got it. There are dramatic breakups, and even more dramatic reunions. Jealousy, possessiveness and domineering behavior are glorified but it was also fun. I am glad that Kia gain the confidence and power to walk away from Sam, till Sam was able to come back give himself fully to her. That was a worthy HEA for them, and hard fought, as she had to relearn that she was worth it.
Not a perfect book by any means but the engrossing roller-coaster I needed, and I recommend it to any other fan of KA's contemporaries who somehow missed reading it.
I've tentatively started reading some of my many backlogged ARCs, so I look forward to reviewing more books soon!