Review: Midnight by Ellen Connor

Midnight is the second book in the Dark Age Dawning trilogy from Ellen Connor. Ellen Connor is the pen name of dynamic writing duo Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty. Dark Age Dawning is an apocalyptic paranormal romance. This book was published September 6th, 2011 from Berkley Sensation.

The Blurb

Their desire destroys her defenses.
Their love gives him a reason to live.
 

Three years of wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland has stripped Dr. Chris Welsh of humanity and hope. He’s a dangerous man now, full of dark energy and yen for violence. A harrowing loss drove him from his home, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. Grim and sardonic, he never found anything worth sticking around for – until now. 

Rosa Cortez runs Valle de Bravo, a haven of civilization amid the chaos of the Change. Soldiers take their orders directly from her–the iron hand within a velvet glove. The last thing she needs is a feral loner upsetting the town’s tentative balance. However, for the good of her people, she lets the sexy doctor stay. He evokes a delicious new longing, but she won’t submit to any man. 

Tension rises as bloodthirsty raiders strike again and again, bent on possessing Valle and its resources. Together Chris and Rosa battle hellhounds and dust pirates while also fighting desperate attraction. To save them, love must overcome the pain of the past–and build a future in this brutal Dark Age…

My Review

Let me as blunt as I can about this: I only volunteered to review this book because I saw Ann Aguirre’s name attached to it and hadn’t had the privilege of reading her work yet. I had no idea, at the time, what this book was about. I didn’t even know what genre it was in.

If I had known it was a paranormal romance novel – even a post-apocalyptic one – I probably would have passed on it. And that would have been a crying shame, because this is one damn fine novel. I plan to look up the books that came before and after this one so that I can find out  more about the world. It’s fascinating.  (Note: It is not at all necessary to have read book 1 prior to reading this one.)

Chris and Rosa are brave people doing their best to live in a brutal new world. Make no mistake that this is a romance novel. You will need the customary relationship suspension-of-disbelief and there is indeed a “happily ever after” of sorts. However, the setting is also fully realized (in vivid, blood-spattered technicolor) and the romance doesn’t overwhelm the other elements of the story.

Overall, I was surprised and pleased with how wonderful this novel is. In fact, I might just be re-evaluating my ban on romance novels, based solely on how well I genuinely enjoyed this book. Shocking, I know. Midnight has totally reset – and raised the bar for – my opinion of romance as a genre, something I never expected to be saying at all.

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Guest Post + Giveaway: What’s In A Name? by L.J. McDonald

L.J. McDonald is an author for Dorchester Publishing, home to our already esteemed Leanna Renee Hieber. She is the author of the Sylph series, consisting of The Battle Sylph, The Shattered Sylph, and the upcoming Queen of the Sylphs. If you haven’t heard of L.J. McDonald before, don’t worry – I hadn’t either. What I can tell you now, after reading the first book in the series, is that if you’re a fantastical or paranormal romance fan, then I think you want to give this series a try. I am admittedly hesitant to pick up any sort of romance novel, and yet I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it. It was original and engrossing – and reading it digitally means there are no embarrassing “man-candy” covers to display in public! As my regular readers know – from me, this is a huge endorsement! Stay tuned after the guest post for an e-book giveaway!

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

L.J. McDonald

Sòlas is a Gaelic word meaning solace, comfort, consolation, contentment, pleasure. I can’t pronounce it. My ability to speak French, the second language of my country, makes people laugh. My ability to say anything in Gaelic, which I don’t speak at all, is likely an abomination.  However, I can look in a dictionary with the best of them.

If anyone does any serious study of the history of English – I haven’t, which means I just know enough to get myself into trouble – they learn that a lot of English words find their origins in ones from other languages, such as Latin. J.K. Rowling took all the spell names she used in her book from Latin words.  I think this is brilliant, not that I knew enough Latin to realize it until I read the fact on a blog somewhere. It’s also something I’ve been doing for years, likely the same as a lot of authors, but I’ve been using Gaelic instead of Latin.

I brought up the word Sòlas because that’s the word I used to come up with the name for Solie, one of the heroines in my Sylph series. Obviously, I immediately bastardized it, since I don’t particularly want anyone to look at the name and go “hey, she named her heroine Comfort.” Plus I only know the definition of the word and nothing about how it’s used in context.

I don’t always do this. Sometimes the name just comes to me. I have a mental list of names I’d always planned to use and sometimes they fit that way. Leon got his name that way. Sometimes, however, it backfires on me. I love the name Blue. Took me a while to realize I’ve used it in three separate books now. All minor characters. After I finished laughing, I decided to leave it that way, just to see down the road if anyone notices. Only one of those books is on the shelves right now. Autumn’s shown up twice too. That one I’m more peeved about. It’s going to change in the other book once I get around to getting it fully typed and published.

Heyou’s name was a joke from Solie’s first words to him of “hey you”. So was Wat’s.  It’s basically a misspelling of ‘What’? I’m sure there’s some sylph out there somewhere whose name is “Ohcrap” or even something ruder.
Back to the use of Gaelic. Sala definitely came from Gaelic, though there’s no exact use of the word Sala in Gaelic. It’s a corruption of a word that gives a very large hint as to her character.  That’s why I like it.  By taking a name from an existing word, I can give it a meaning, even if it’s one only I know.

A character’s name is very important. In a novel, it can give a fast first impression of that person and affect the way that people see them. In a fantasy it can throw the reader right out of their immersion in the world. I have a minor character in QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS called Fhranke. In the first draft, I called him Frank. I was asked to change that because it was too jarring for the beta readers. I’m sure no one would take a battler seriously if I named him Bubbles, but if I felt so inclined, I could name him Suilean and only true Gaelic speakers would want to throw the book at my head (which means I’d likely called him ‘Suilen’ instead. Close enough to Bubbles the battle sylph to make me laugh).

I’m not entirely sure how other authors come up with their names for people and places, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  Using Gaelic as a source helps in finding a word when I’m stuck that has a flow to it that doesn’t sound like English and feels like it could be from a fantasy world. Besides, that way I can name some villain Asalpur someday and only I would ever know that it loosely translates as ‘donkey butt’.

Asalpur….hrm….I like it.

This is Kiara back again and now it’s time for our giveaway! One lucky winner who comments here by October 7th (11:59:00 PM Eastern) will win a download code from Dorchester Publishing to get their own copy of Queen of the Sylphs!

Here’s the blurb:

It was a dream come true. Solie had her own battler, a creature of almost infinite magic who could vaporize legions in the blink of an eye and would willingly suffer a thousand bloody deaths to protect her. She was his love. More simply, she was his queen.

Many others feel the same. The new-built settlement is a haven for all. Erected by sylphs of earth and fire, air and water, the Valley is Solie’s dominion. But, lovers without peer or killers without mercy, the very nature of their battler protectors means peril. It is not in any sylph’s nature to disobey, and while some are hers to command, others are the slaves of Solie’s enemies—the jealous, the cruel. Those who guard her must not fail. Their peasant-born ruler is not yet safe as…QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless is the first book in the new Parasol Protectorate series, and is Gail Carriger’s debut novel. I’ve had this release on my ‘to-buy’ list for months. The Victorian Era is very big right now, and I’m extremely interested to see what authors are doing with it. I wasn’t at all disappointed with the unique twists in this one. Soulless by Gail Carriger

I found my copy of Soulless at my local Borders store nearly two weeks before the official release date. I, of course, took a picture to share on Twitter. Authors are, understandably, thrilled to see their work “out in the wild”. Ms. Carriger said that it was her first report of Soulless on the shelf. That was a pretty awesome thing to be a part of.

To be completely honest, though, I should have disliked this book. The main character is a prim and proper lady with a taste for tea, a keen Victorian fashion sense, and an insistence on correct etiquette.  I hate tea, could care less about fashion, and the niceties of polite society have always been beyond me. Worse, there is a strong romantic element to the story – something I avoid wherever possible. (Note: No, I don’t hate romance. I just prefer if the focus of the story is on the action rather than on the relationship. I also don’t buy into sappy ‘Happily Ever After’ endings.)

So I should have hated this book. Instead, I grew rather fond of it. Our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, is a spunky woman who has managed to become educated, out-spoken, and self-sufficient in an era when women were expected to be anything but. She’s intelligent, having read through her dead father’s library, and prepared to do whatever it takes to overcome her “shortcomings”. These shortcomings being that she’s a spinster (having been put on the shelf by her mother years before at the age of 15) who is half-Italian and who was born without a soul.

In Alexia’s world, supernaturals such as vampires, werewolves, and ghosts are created from a person with an excess of soul. Since most things have an equal opposite, there are also very rare individuals who have no soul at all. Alexia is one of these preternaturals, rarer for being a woman – and the only one in England.

Our hero, and love interest, is the Lord Conall Maccon, the fourth Earl of Woolsey and Alpha of the local werewolf pack. Lord Maccon is a transplant from Scotland and nearly as exotic as our half-Italian heroine. The pair seem to have sort of a love-hate relationship, as she lives to infuriate him and he can’t seem to not rise to her bait. This plot line alone would be tedious. The two of them are obviously attracted to each other and simply, stubbornly, refuse to admit it.

Luckily for us that we also have unregistered vampires mysteriously appearing in London, while the typical registered vamps start to turn up missing. Alexia, not one to keep her long nose out of any mystery for long, begins her own investigation, is nearly killed several times, then kidnapped, and finally manages to discover the bad guys.

Some people who don’t know any better might take issue with the fact that Alexia mentions both her spinsterhood and her half-Italian (and thus too dark for Victorian London) complexion repeatedly throughout the novel. I, however, think that the attitude was spot on. My own countenance is ghostly, but I married a man of a darker persuasion and I know this for a fact: if your color is such that you may be persecuted for it by society, it remains something very much in the forefront of the mind. Spinsterhood, being a very similar condition in that day and age, logically follows as a reality that one isn’t likely to forget.

Soulless is a head-whirling blend of paranormal romance, steampunk, urban fantasy, mystery and adventure. It’s not a vampire story. Or a werewolf story. Or a love story. It’s not a scientific adventure or a murder mystery. It is all these things – while gently poking fun at all of them – and I firmly believe that without all of these elements the story would not work.

What Soulless is, is a fun little bit of fluff – the cotton candy of new releases. It has no nutritional value and if you think too hard about it you’ll just realize it’s probably bad for you. But it’s so sweet and so entertaining that you won’t want to give it up. I received a rather indecent amount of pleasure out of reading about Miss Alexia Tarabotti’s adventures, not despite everything that should have annoyed me about the story but instead because of it. All of the details of the world are what make the story so enchanting.

I’m not sure how Ms. Carriger managed it all, really. I’m impressed, and envious, of her skill. I eagerly look forward to the release of Changeless in April of 2010.

For more information on Soulless and its world, check out the very elegant and extensive website of the author at http://gailcarriger.com/.You can also try out the fun Soulless Victorian fashion paper doll!

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