Ten years after Charis marries Cowan at the end of Éire’s Captive Moon, Agnarr Halvardson returns to the Green Island—this time, to stay. He wants what any man wants: To make a life for himself, wed, and have sons.
Before he can express these goals, he is injured and taken to Bangor Monastery. There, Aislinn—adopted daughter of Cowan and Charis—treats him as a patient while she ignores the immediate attraction he holds for her.
Agnarr decides Aislinn would be a good wife for him as she teaches him her language and customs. She commands his respect and wins his affection. The past is just one barrier of many between them, however.
There are new invaders to Éire. Pledging his loyalty to the new king of Dál Fiatach, Agnarr prepares to defend his new home while persuading Aislinn to be his wife.
Success or failure will affect the lives of many.
Our Rating – 4 Stars
In this, the second in the Eire’s Viking Trilogy, Agnarr has returned to the Emerald Isle with his heart set on finding himself a wife and making a life amongst the people he had pillaged long ago. Cared for by Charis’ adoptive daughter, the relationship quickly spirals into more than that of just a patient and his healer.
This story has a great continuation from the first book, flowing smoothly and sucking you straight back in to the trilogy. That said, I would advise against reading this if you have not already read the first in the series. I was sucked instantly into the series, my attention thoroughly grabbed and it kept me wanting to read more and more. It felt like I was actually there in Ireland, the history was so splendid and totally immersed me in the tale being told. It’s just enough history, but it never detracts from the story, rather it enhances it as it makes it so much more real and believable.
The romance in this story is well written, as you’d expect having already seen how Layne developed the relationship between Cowan and Charis. Agnarr and Aislinn seem well suited to each other and their initial resistance is balanced, rather than overplayed. The development of their feelings for each other, and their realisation of that fact, is written with skill.
Charis and Cowan remain wonderful characters to read, and their development, both of their relationship and their characterisation in general, is well continued from the first book. The revisiting of other characters like Tuirgeis was a great addition as, not only is it great to see them again, but it helps build a greater degree of reality to the story.
All in all, this was a very pleasant read, a story I enjoyed and one that developed the trilogy well. If I had to, i’d have a little niggle over the pace, as it did slow slightly, but, nevertheless, it was still a very good read. I am, as with the last book, very excited to see how this trilogy will end.
Again, I feel Ms. Layne did an incredible job of conveying life in the early 800’s. She is a gifted storyteller and I appreciate her research and the historical accuracy of her story. Éire’s Viking was every bit as captivating as the first installment and I’m eager to see how this story will end. – Brandee Price, Goodreads
…The other thing I felt was improved since the first book was the fact that we get to see some of the greater politics at work. We bring in the Danish as well as the Vikings and the Irish and I liked the subtle political maneuverings that accompanied the changing worldviews within all three countries. I can’t explain this really but I also felt much more immersed in Aislinn’s world than I did in the first book. Maybe it was the added detail, maybe it was just the change of setting but I really felt like I was there alongside the characters. – Carrie Slager, Goodreads.
Our Rating – 5 Stars
A tale of invaders, escape and survival, Eire’s Captive Moon is a lesson in history encased within a superb novel. As a history aficionado, this was right up my street and left me squealing with delight that not only was so much history included, but also that Layne had so obviously researched and made sure the history was write before writing.
The story has a great hook which catches your attentions and carries you away with the skill of the story telling. It felt well paced throughout and never felt like there were any repeats or waffle, everything in this book built on the story and moved it forward, which is something I very rarely see. Throughout this, the foundations are laid for a superb series, interspersed with key history, and an almost time warp effect in pulling you back to the era our tale takes place in.
Characterisastion was superb throughout. Charis is a very passionate and enigmatic character, I spent many hours trying to figure her out and get into her head, only to be left severely wanting! Cowan is equally wonderful to read, he truly does come alive form the pages and endear himself to the reader. Magda and Bran however are just so annoying, I wanted to pull them through the pages and give them a smack!
The emotional scenes were superb, the dramatic action was very engaging and hooked you in and this book was a super start to the beginning of a series. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction, and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of this series.
With Éire’s Captive Moon, Sandi Layne has created an unforgettable tale of love, loss, intrigue, bravery, and suspense. From the first pages, you’ll be held captive by Ms. Layne’s incredible storytelling and her ability to paint a picture with words that pulls you so deeply into her world you forget your surroundings. – Sarah Aisling, Goodreads
I was pulled deeply into the past from the first page of this story set in Old Ireland and north into Nordweg. This is a historical, not a romance, although there is love and devotion. I loved feeling like I was in Eire and then right there in the Norse village. There was enough detail, but not so much that it pulled me from the characters. A truly wonderful balancing act by Ms. Layne. – Kathie Spitz, Goodreads.
PRESENTS. . .
by Vanessa Skye
Release Date: June 11 , 2015
Genre: FICTION / Romance / Paranormal
ISBN e-book: 978-1-61213-385-0
When Celeste was kidnapped a century ago and turned against her will by a cruel vampire fighter, she expected to spend her doomed eternity as his slave, chained in the darkness, and she questioned her ability to survive. But things don’t always go as expected.
Just ask her kidnapper.
He never expected Celeste to learn how to fight.
He never expected Celeste to become the best warrior he had ever seen.
He never expected the secret hidden away in her blood,
And he certainly never expected to become a victim of his own sword.
Tormented by her past and the dreams she can’t explain, Celeste now roams the earth slaying the creatures she loathes—other vampires like herself—and seeking revenge against those who would harm innocents in the name of bloodlust.
Until she crosses paths with Striker, the handsome vampire leader weighed down by his own tortured story.
In his quest for answers about the stunning Celeste, Striker finds out more than he ever thought possible—about himself, his true origins, and his destiny. But the secret Celeste is keeping from him might be the one thing that keeps them apart for good—a secret even more dangerous than a new, powerful enemy they never saw coming.
As ancient mysteries, forgotten prophecies, and cruel eras collide, Celeste must confront her past as well as her future. Fighting her inner demons and letting Striker beyond the wall she built around her heart haunts her, even more than her captive past.
Enter a supernatural world of passion, lust, sexual obsession, and power that the unsuspecting humans never knew existed, until now . . .
Our Rating – 5 Stars
Celeste, a vampire with a very painful past, is determined to locate a mysterious organisation responsible for her pain. Striker is the leader of a protective band of vampires, Koven, charged with her capture and execution. It all sounds so simple, but when intrigue and powerful forces come into play, it changes the game they’re both playing.
Before I go any further – I bloody loved this book! Anyone who’s read my reviews knows just how much just love vampires, they’re my Achilles heel, but so often they’re overdone and full of cliches, but Koven blows most other vampire novels I’ve read completely out of the ball park. The creation of the Kouncil, Koven and then the added mystery of the Queens and konsorts all weaved together in a totally believable, yet very refreshing view on typical vampire lore.
The plot was full of twists and turns, I never knew exactly where Skye was going to take this novel. This, combined with a fast paced plot, had me hooked from the start and totally absorbed in Celeste and Striker’s story. I found myself ignoring things that needed doing so I could spend the extra time reading.
Celeste and Striker, as leading characters were superb. They were developed, a pleasure to read, and their conflict over their feelings for each other was well written and very easy to get lost in. The support characters of Bradford, Rodham and the other Koven guys were just as entertaining to read, but Celeste really stole the show. Her back story, the pain, her recovery, it was just shine to read and she is such a powerful, strong lead character.
And so, before I keep you any longer, I can only say – buy this, find a quiet room and read it, preferably in one sitting. It’s awesome, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Gripping, exciting and just fabulous from start to finish, this is a must read for anyone interested in the vampire genre. I mean this when I say I honestly cannot wait for another installment in what promises to be an excellent saga.
The vampire silently watched from a balcony near the top of a shiny glass-covered skyscraper, enthralled, as the assassin neatly dispatched three Lore with brutal efficiency.
Two of the three had been beheaded before they’d even known what was happening.
Impressive, really—hard as it is to sneak up on a vampire, let alone deprive one of its head.
Granted, the three Lore rogues had looked young and inebriated—no doubt fresh from snacking on some of the drug-addled humans wandering around the club district in the very early hours of the morning. The chemical-or alcohol-laced blood of high humans was a favorite pastime of the younger generations of vampires, many of whom were reticent to leave human vices behind after their turning.
The third vampire looked shocked and tried to run as his friends met their absolute death, but the assassin was faster—considerably so. The Lore was killed quickly, neatly, and efficiently, without undue blood or relish.
He narrowed his dark brown eyes as he surveyed the assassin’s graceful movements.
The vampire didn’t kill for the thrill, which often happened because psychopaths were common within their species. No, given the calm efficiency, the assassin killed for some other reason that he couldn’t yet fathom.
He had hidden far enough away that the low clicking of his compact digital camera couldn’t be heard.
He zoomed in and refocused, the shutter softly snapping open and closed as the assassin wiped a bloody sword on one of the unfortunate vampire’s clothing before sheathing it.
He stuck around long enough to ensure all Lore—vampires turned by another vampire—had disintegrated into dust. The cold, late-winter wind whistling through the city would eventually scatter their remains across several gray city blocks. He was grateful they hadn’t been hybrids. They left a mess when killed, and a cleaning crew would have been necessary to dispose of the remains before any humans stumbled across them.
Pressing a few buttons, he examined the camera’s small screen critically. The leathers covering the assassin from head to toe made any facial features unidentifiable in each of the shots, but they were tight enough to leave no doubt.
A female assassin?
He was surprised and a little excited. Female vampires were increasingly rare, let alone one who fought as well as she did.
The wind moaning between the high-rise and its tall neighbor wasn’t enough to muffle the soft thud of footfalls from his sharp ears. He didn’t turn, however, because the intruder’s scent was familiar.
“Striker, are you following her again?” Bradford, Striker’s second-in-command, asked.
Striker reluctantly pulled his gaze away from the camera’s screen and turned slowly. “Yes. What of it?”
Bradford raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’ve got enough evidence against her to report to Kouncil by now. Why the extra surveillance?”
Striker folded his arms and remained silent.
Bradford ran his hands through his wavy red hair before shrugging his heavily muscled shoulders. “I’m aware it’s not my job to question—”
“You got that right.”
“Just wondering if you can afford the extra time. Kovens don’t run themselves, you know.”
Striker shrugged, slipping the camera into the pocket of his leather jacket. “I find her . . . fascinating.”
Bradford snorted. “Don’t let your never-ending drive for pussy cloud your judgment. The executioner’s noose is over her head, and you know it. Kouncil wants blood. She risks exposing us all with her activities.”
“You should see how she fights. She’s quick, effective . . . deadly,” Striker said, waving toward the female, who was scooping up empty clothes and placing them in a nearby dumpster. “And she’s cleaning up after herself, as you can plainly see. She poses no threat to us. On the contrary, she could be useful.”
Bradford stared at the woman, wrinkling his fair, white brow. “How old do you think she is?”
“She is too fast to be a hybrid. She doesn’t appear to be able to fly yet, so Lore less than a century old is my guess.”
“Less than a century?” Bradford narrowed his ruddy-colored eyes. “Good. She should be easy to capture and destroy, then.”
Striker clenched his fists. “Do not be so quick to destroy that which you don’t understand, brother. She could be a valuable asset.”
Bradford scoffed. “There is no way Kouncil will ever allow a female to join Koven. Nor will they forgive her for such . . . unseemly pursuits.”
“As much as they might like to think otherwise, it’s not up to Kouncil. It’s up to me who joins my Koven. Besides, fifty years ago they said the same thing about the hybrids, and now they are becoming members of our ranks as fast as they mature.”
Bradford let out a single bark of laughter. “Yes, you went against their wishes and allowed hybrids into Koven, and Kouncil is still pissed off about it! Because of you, they were forced to relax the ban on human and vampire relations, as well as the half-breeds sometimes resulting from them. All to boost our ranks. Vampire numbers are dwindling lower than ever before, and you know from personal experience that the turnings don’t always take, particularly for wome—” Bradford glanced at Striker and winced but pushed past the awkward moment quickly. “Don’t mistake their tolerance of hybrids after centuries of culling them with acceptance. They cannot stand the mongrels. They still call them Tiks, for fuck’s sake! They move about the sunlight without any discernable loss of strength, unlike Kouncil themselves.” Bradford shook his head. “It would be unwise to anger them so soon after a significant loss of face. They’ll never join the rest of us in the twenty-first century. They’re marred too deep in the old ways and prejudices. I often wonder why we sacrifice our strongest vampires to protect them. Would we be so much worse off if we let nature take its course?”
Striker shrugged. “My maker used to ask me the same thing, and I honestly have no good answer. Tradition, maybe? Koven has been the right hand of Kouncil for millennia. But they’ll join us in modern society if I have to drag them kicking and screaming myself. You’ll see.”
Bradford huffed and cut his gaze sideways at Striker, clearly irritated. “Sadly, brother, I think you will see, and when you do, you won’t like it.” Running for the edge of the high-rise, he jumped, disappearing into the dark sky.
Striker turned back to his contemplation of the female.
He noticed she had returned everything to it pre-slaughter state, and resolving to follow her, he launched himself into the sky and flew above as she darted on foot through city alleys and quiet streets. He tracked her easily and hoped she would lead him to her keeper. It would allow his men to find her much easier later, should he wish to arrest her.
His mind raced.
Kouncil had sent him specifically to identify and gather evidence against the lone assassin killing rogue vampires—Lore and hybrid alike—indiscriminately and without permission. His instructions had not included rescue or engagement.
But something about her . . .
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
Vanessa Skye has always had a love of words and spent her school years writing poetry, speeches, and fictional essays.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism and studying psychology at Charles Sturt University, Vanessa got a job at Rural Press—Australia’s largest publisher of regional and agricultural news and information—where she worked as a journalist in the Central West of New South Wales for four years.
Thousands of stories later, Vanessa decided to move back to Sydney and try her hand at public relations while studying for her master’s in communication.
Skip forward a few years, and Vanessa once again found herself joyfully studying various psychology subjects while managing a Sydney public relations firm. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people’s actions, Vanessa realized what she really wanted to do in life was combine her love of words with her fascination for human behavior. So Ms. Skye quit public relations to begin the significantly more impoverished life of a professional writer.
Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime fiction debut, The Enemy Inside, which challenges the concept of justice, asks if the need for vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from childhood abuse. The second book in this series, Broken, was released in February 2014, and the third, Bloodlines, was released in January of 2015. The first book in a paranormal series, Koven, will be released in June 2015. In her spare time, Vanessa wrote a short story, The Piece, which was published in February 2012 by Dark Prints Press as a part of the One That Got Away dark fiction anthology.Vanessa now works as a freelance writer, lives on Sydney’s northern beaches, and tries to immerse herself in salt water at least once a day.
PRESENTS. . .
Book 4 of The Gates Legacy Series
by Lorenz Font
Release Date: June 4 , 2015
Genre: FICTION / Romance / Paranormal
ISBN e-book: 978-1-61213-383-6
The vampires of New York City are breathing easier after the demise of the tyrannical former head of the Vampire Council, Goran. Under Rohnert, the revered and newly ascended leader, their future looks promising. However, an unknown enemy is manipulating events, killing humans and vampires alike, and exposing their secrets to the human world.
This is bad news for new vampire Cyrus and his band of fighters at Tack Enterprises. Events derail his plans to find Zane, the sadistic vampire who tortured Cyrus and forced immortality on him. Armed with hatred deep in his bones, all Cyrus cares about is getting even, and Zane has it coming. Cyrus soon finds himself torn between the crippling desire for revenge and his responsibility to his friends. When he begins to spend time in the company of the beautiful and pureblooded vampire, Isidora, her presence in his life makes him rethink his priorities.
Isidora is able to read minds. The thoughts she hears from the respected and irresistible vampire, Cyrus, are filled with both anger towards Zane and a deep admiration for her. Being closeted all her life, Issy has no idea what to do in the face of the outside world’s war, death, and challenges. One thing is clear. She craves Cyrus, but his need for vengeance is clouding his mind. After discovering a previously hidden family member and being called to serve the Council, Issy is at a crossroads in her life and struggles to find the right path.
Both vampires face tough choices. Should Issy pursue her feelings for Cyrus or wait until he can return her affection? Will Cyrus deny his attraction to Isidora so he can kill the man who made his life a living hell on earth? Every decision leads to a reckoning.
Vampire fiction is on the rise and very much back in vogue. How do you ensure that your series stays fresh and is devoid of the usual clichés we see so often?
Vampire stories will always have a following even if it isn’t the current craze in the reading world. They have a cult following, and by saying this, most loyal genre followers know vampire 101. It is imperative for us writers to respect the basic make-up of vampires while introducing new concepts about their existence and exciting plot twists.
I gathered a few concepts that were done to death, or shall we say, un-death, and will discuss the areas that were used in my series, if any.
- Central European Count – Stoker and Lugosi introduced us to the mysterious Count from the haunted regions of Central and Eastern Europe.
- Christian Symbols – The cross has long been an effective weapon against vampires.
- Vampire as cop – A night shift cop, usually a detective, uses his supernatural powers to get the bad guys.
- Drunk vampire, vampire infected by AIDS, etc. – A vampire feeds on a wino and gets drunk, or feeds on an HIV-positive person and gets AIDS.
- Potential victim is a vampire – The basic story is: serial killer/stalker tracks victim. Victim turns out to be a vampire and turns the tables on the attacker.
There are two examples here that I have used in The Gates Legacy series, and the changes I made to keep the series moving in a different direction. In Hunted, the first book of the series, Harrow is a human turned vampire. The vampire that handed his immortality ticket wasn’t responsible for the disease. It originated from Harrow’s dormant DNA, and his transition jumpstarted the disease. He unknowingly spread the disease when he started feeding.
Upon realizing that he was the originator of the contagion, Harrow refrained from feeding by the biting method, instead, he drugged his victims and then used a needle to extract whatever blood he needed. Harrow became the victim when the vampire council caught on with this dilemma and started hunting him down.
To keep the series fresh, I banked on Harrow’s humanity—his conscience—to avoid using humans as his only means of sustenance. I added a remarkable cast of vampires and humans who are also intent in seeking the cure while evading the blanket order of the vampire council to annihilate all infected vampires. These additional characters are all worthy of their own book based on their back stories, which further enhances the overall concept of the series.
Then I created a unique weapon, instead of using garlic, crosses or wooden stakes, to disable or kill my vampires. This added to the layer of the miserable predicament of each character as the game of cat and mouse ensue.
In Reckoning, the 4th book of the series, I added an ancient breed of vampires. I called them Nerocs and these creatures further complicate the predicament of the good guys.
All the new characters and additional details, hopefully, will set my series apart from the rest.
Our Rating – 5 Stars
Oh my gosh! The Gates Legacy is back with an almighty bang, and boy was it good to catch up with the gang! Picking straight back up where we left off, Rohnert is nursing some severe issues regarding his mate’s passing, Cyrus is intent on revenge for his torture, Issy just wants to be loved and the rest of the gang are trying to hold it all together like some magical glue. Throw some ancient, and very freaky, enemies into the mix for power and you have your full set to play with, and play is what Lorenz Font does so well.
The pace in this book is much more reminiscent of the earlier parts of the series. It’s got a pull that as soon as it’s got you hooked, you can’t put it down. I’ve spent many nights reading way past my bedtime because I just needed to know what the characters were going to do next. As I’ve already mentioned, this book picks back up where we left off and it was like slipping back into your favourite pair of jeans. It’ was familiar, yet there was another threat to follow – how Font finds so many enemies for the little rag tag band of heroes is beyond me, but it makes for very compelling reading!
Told mainly from the perspective of Cyrus and Issy, it was, as always with Font’s writing, a delight to see so many POV’s being used in the writing. It’s like a lesson for aspiring writers on how to change POV’s in a way that gives the reader so much information yet doesn’t confuse them in the process. I adore her writing style, and this latest offering is no different in that. In fact, I probably like this one best of all, if only because, despite there being some hairy moments, Font managed to keep all of my favourites alive for a whole book!
The character development over the course of this story was also superb. Every character feels like they continue to grow, but none more so that Isidora. She is really coming into her own and holds the role of the lead heroine with the poise you’d expect of such a bloodline. She was an absolute joy to read and has secured her place within my favourite characters. Her relationship with Cyrus is probably one of the best developed and well told romances I’ve read in a while. It’s believable, understandable thanks to their own troubled pasts and a fabulous pairing to read. I just hope Font leaves these two to enjoy a little happily ever after time, but I won’t hold my breath knowing her penchant for throwing things in the air when they get settled!
The many twists and turns of the story also need a mention. When writing a series of this length and complexity it is very hard to keep it fresh, but Font never fails to deliver another twist or turn that leaves the reader reeling and wondering when that 18 wheeler truck or 2 ton bus hit them. It really is edge of the seat reading that leaves you needing more from the gang of vampires. I’m already on tenterhooks wondering how some of the loose ends will be tied up in the next book and I love that Font has left me thinking of her characters, even hours after finishing the book, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like it when a book gets under your skin like that?
And so, I suppose I should wrap up and end my waffle. If you are new to the series, go back and read the others first. If you’re an old hand returning for your next fix, you’re going to love it. It’s awesome, amazing, phenomenal and Font is right back on form with another 5 star thriller from the Gates crew. Buy it, I can promise you that you will not be disappointed.
With Isidora in his arms, Cyrus found comfort from the torture of his nightmares and his past. The warmth of her touch and the sweetness of her kisses made him think of nothing but the present and the desire he had long denied.
Cyrus had no idea how to take things between them. He had given her rough sex because he had been a jealous ass. If he’d been thinking clearly, he wouldn’t have done it. Yet he had given in to the intense need to possess her. Maybe, if he took things slow and started from the beginning, he could make do with the little kisses and touching. However, the tenting inside his pants was a cause for concern. It didn’t take long for her to notice.
Issy broke their kiss and smiled up at him. She had that gleam in her eyes, the kind that told him she knew what he was thinking. He rotated his hips, trying to create room between their bodies, but she refused to let him go.
“This is a good time to see if we can work things out.”
“Damn it,” Cyrus muttered. Was he ready? The answer was out of his hands. With the massive wood he was sporting, even a long dip in an icebox wouldn’t chill him out. His body needed Issy, and there was no doubt she wanted him, too.
“Cy, you can take charge of everything. We’ll go at your pace and on your terms. I’m here to enjoy the ride.”
This made him smile. “Even if the ride is bumpy?”
“As long as I’m with you.” She tightened her arms around his waist. “I don’t care how rough, how easy—just take me with you.”
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
Lorenz Font discovered her love of writing after reading a celebrated novel that inspired one idea after another. She is currently enjoying the buzz from her vampire novels Hunted, Tormented and Ascension, Books 1-3 of The Gates Legacy Series, Feather Light, an erotic romance, Indivisble Line, a romance thriller and Pieces of Broken Time, a military romance.
Lorenz’s perfect day consists of writing and lounging on her garage couch, aka the office, with a glass of her favorite cabernet while listening to her ever-growing music collection. She enjoys dabbling in different genres, with an intense focus on angst and the redemption of flawed characters. Her fascination with romantic twists is a mainstay in all her stories.
Lorenz lives in California with her husband, children, and two demanding dogs. She divides her time between her full-time job and her busy writing schedule.
~~CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR~~
PRESENTS. . .
by Melissa Kendall
Release Date: May 21 , 2015
Genre: FICTION / Romance / General / Science Fiction
ISBN e-book: 978-1-61213-369-0
Hundreds of years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and sent it into a new ice age, what remains of the human race lives on in underground sanctuaries. Now, as the bicentennial anniversary of the impact approaches, a new leader prepares to take her place at the head of the government. At least, that’s what she thinks.
Bethanie Greene’s life has been planned out for her since the age of thirteen. Beautiful and intelligent, she’s spent the last twelve years training to become the next Matron of the underground nation of Oceania. But when Bethanie is kidnapped by rogue extremists just six weeks shy of taking office, her world is turned upside down by the handsome stranger who rescues her.
Howard James’ life has been the polar opposite of Bethanie’s. Struggling to survive in a world where those in power wished he didn’t exist, he harbors a deep-seated resentment of the government and all its representatives. Together with his unconventional family, he shows Bethanie a life she never knew was possible, while at the same time, opening her eyes to the injustices of the government she is meant to lead.
But can she trust a stranger? And can a few days change everything she believes and desires? Against all odds, Bethanie must decide if her heart and her duties can coexist.
In a new ice age, the inhabitants of the world have gone underground, hiding from the freezing temperatures on the surface and as always happens in this type of situation, those in control become power crazy at the expense of their nation.
The premise of the story is well developed and is a very believable kind of future. This being said, it gives it a familiar kind of feeling when you’re reading. The idea of humanity being restricted and having to survive in a relatively small space is something familiar in futuristic stories, but that’s not saying this book is cliche, Kendall includes just enough unique twists to keep you on your toes.
As for characters, Beth is a good lead. She’s level headed, naive but a very engaging kind of character. The reader is as naive in this world as Beth, and so it is excellent to learn vicariously through her as Howard opens her eyes to the injustices of the world in which she lives. Howard is very attractive to read, not just in looks, but in his personality which seems to ooze from the pages and infect the reader with their own desire to do something to make their own world better. All the intrigue and mystery is an excellent hook into the story, with the letters to one another being a useful tool to move the story on and develop their relationship.
The plot has a good pace, all be it a little slow to begin with, but it does develop smoothly as the story develops. It has a traditional kind of ‘snowball down a hill’ approach, with the revelations coming thick and fast as the characters are hurled into the next issue to deal with. Personally, I’d have liked to have seen a little more detail in the ending as it felt a little rushed. The epilogue did help to tidy some loose ends, but I do feel like there was more to discover there.
In conclusion, this books was a very good read, it captured my attention and held it, and is a book I found very enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a romance with a difference. I am looking forward to reading more from this author, and I do hope this group of characters are explored again in the future as there are definitely legs left in this universe.
My body shakes at the thought of what could have happened to me yet again. I’ve heard stories about the slums, and I have to take a few deep breaths to calm myself.
“I was silly running away, I get it. I just couldn’t stay in your home any longer.”
Howard sighs. “Just because my parents raised us with traditionalist values doesn’t mean we are anything like the Trads. You accused us of being a drain on society, but you don’t even know us.”
“You’re right, I don’t. But you don’t know me either. If you did, you would understand why it’s hard for me to understand your way of life. It goes against every law, moral, and convention I’ve been taught. So I can’t be sorry for what I said, even if I’m sorry I ran out of the house.”
Howard takes a deep breath, then exhales long and slow. The expression on his face looks a bit like pity but with a dash of guilt mixed in. “Look, maybe I’ve judged you unfairly based on preconceived notions, but—”
A loud bang echoes outside. Howard glances at me with a panicked look on his face, and then pulls me off the crate onto the floor behind. I sit up, and turn to yell at him, but male voices outside keep my mouth closed. I instead huddle closer to Howard as he puts his hand around my shoulders. He pulls me in until I’m tucked against him.
“Did you see where she went?” a man’s voice asks.
“Nah, she just vanished.” The voice of this one sounds young.
“Damn, the boss isn’t going to be pleased about this.”
The crunch of shoes against pavement indicates they are on the move again. The sounds trail off until they’re no longer audible. I sigh in relief, all the tension fleeing my body.
I glance up, only then noticing how little space is between us. His blue eyes have flecks of grey in them, and there’s a smattering of freckles covering his nose and cheeks. His warm breath tickles my cheek almost like a caress, and his jaw has the barest hint of a five o’clock shadow. He really is captivating.
“I’m fine,” I eventually say, the words a mere whisper.
The butterflies in my stomach return with a vengeance. Howard licks his lips as they turn up ever so slightly in a smile.
I can’t stop the sigh that slips past my own lips. Howard leans forward a little, then moves closer still until his mouth is pressed against mine. I don’t dare move. A zing of something, I’m not sure whether it’s pleasure or fear, shoots through me. His lips are soft and wet, and the sensation is unlike anything I’ve felt before. I can’t even decide if I want him to continue or stop. When he pulls away though, a feeling of disappointment bubbles up inside me.
My first kiss.
Goosebumps cover me from head to toe, and unbidden, my fingers move to my lips. Glancing at Howard, he stares at me for a minute, then moves to sit further away.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
I shrug. “It’s okay.”
Howard frowns and then looks across the room.
Part of Matron training is learning not to form close relationships. It doesn’t mean it never happens. I’ve heard the odd story here and there from the other women, and I realise that’s probably what Gail was trying to tell me at breakfast the other day. But in all honesty, I can’t remember the last time I had real physical contact with anyone, above all with a man.
We sit in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. Tension rolls off Howard in waves.
“Nothing. Come on,” Howard whispers. “We need to get to the house before those guys come back.”
Melissa Kendall is an almost forty-year-old mother of two from Perth, Western Australia, the second-most isolated capital city in the world. Predominantly a stay-at-home mum, she works a few hours a week as a software support consultant. She has always loved to read and write, and spent most of her teens writing poetry and short stories. Over the years, daily life got in the way and she lost the passion for it, but after the birth of her first child, Melissa discovered e-books and her interest in writing rekindled. She is now the author of two published short stories. Matronly Duties is her first full-length novel.
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