Book Review: Witch Hunter

review-cover-witch hunterTitle: Witch Hunter [Witches of the Woods 1]

Author: Steffanie Holmes

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Europe – 1351. Centuries ago a curse was placed on Ada’s family; every seven days a woman from her line must sleep with a man – any man – or the entire coven will lose their powers forever. As a fledgling witch, it is Ada’s turn to continue the seven-day cycle, but with the plague wiping out more men every day, who will she find to take into her bed? BBW Ada goes to a sacred grove to perform a ritual to bring a man to her, and a man appears. But he is as dangerous as he is handsome …

Ulrich of Donau-Ries is a battle-scarred witch hunter, tired of the stranglehold the church has over his destiny. His heart hardened by violence and the woman who betrayed him, Ulrich is determined to never again fall in love. But that all changes when he finds Ada, naked and waiting for him. She is the first woman to loosen the chains around his black heart.

When Ada is accused of witchcraft, Ulrich seizes his chance to be close to her once more. In Ulrich’s dungeon, they find solace in each other, and innocent Ada learns to embrace her lover’s dark fantasies. But will Ulrich’s heart thaw in time to save Ada from being burned alive at the stake?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m actually a little surprised to say that I really enjoyed this book. I’m not huge on BDSM or dungeon play in my romance. I don’t particularly have a problem with it, but I don’t actively seek it out, and it’s always left me feeling a little uncomfortable when it pops up in my romance reading, so when I went into Witch Hunter by Steffanie Holmes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that aspect of the plot. Surprisingly, I was completely fine with it—though I know there will be some people out there that won’t. So before I get much further into this review and waste your time, let me say that there are quite a few scenes held within this book where the main female lead is strapped into or onto torture devices. She was in pain… BUT she was also consenting and enjoyed herself. If that isn’t your thing, then feel free to move on.

That being said, even though there was a fair bit of somewhat torturous BDSM involved, I never felt like Ulrich was being intentionally cruel or harmful to Ada, even when she was in genuine pain. I never questioned that she was happy to be put in the situation she was in and she enjoyed it. The situation was tricky, though. She was, after all, in a real dungeon dealing with a man who “tortured and burned witches at the stake” for a living, and I can understand how some more sensitive readers may find this book a little much to handle. To each his own, right?

Personally, I thought the story was fabulous. I loved Ulrich as the dark and brooding anti-hero and Ada as the sadly naïve newbie witch. The characters were colorful and distinct, and though I didn’t like all of them (I’m looking at you Bernadine), I felt they were necessary to the plot and well written.

Now, I was holding onto an ARC copy, so there were a few typos here and there (all of which I turned into the author/publisher), but none of them were distracting or particularly detrimental to the story. For the most part, the writing was clean, easy to follow, and well paced.

My only nitpick was one particular scene where Ada had been held in a dungeon for days on end before she was ravished by Ulrich, and I just kept thinking “omg… I bet she smells so bad right now.” She’d had rotten food thrown at her, she’d been locked in a damp cell with little food or water, and she certainly hadn’t had a bath… and I’m sure the guy loved her dearly…but… ew.

Overall? I really enjoyed the book. It was a great romp into medieval paranormal fantasy. If you’re a fan of Dark Romance, give it a try. You may really enjoy this book! If BDSM/Dark Romances are your thing,  you may want to look for something a little fluffier…but you’ll be missing out. Personally, I can’t wait to read further into this series, and I look forward to the next book!

Book Review: All American Wolf

 

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Title: All American Wolf

Author: Adriana Hunter

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense\Thriller, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When a dead, naked body is found frozen in the snow, recently promoted Detective Serena Daniels is assigned to the case. Determined to be taken seriously, she sets to work unraveling the mystery, one suspect at a time.

Brody Sullivan is a man with many secrets and he also just happens to be Madison County’s newest citizen. So when he ends up on the list of potential suspects, it is Serena’s job to clear his name. There’s just one problem: Serena’s felt an undeniable attraction to Brody that ignited from the moment they first met, and if she’s not careful she may lose more than her job, she may lose her heart to the man who is willing to break every one of her rules.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I read this book as part of the Fated Mates Box Set, so I am planning to give a review to each individual book in the set, and then the set as a whole at a later date. There are twelve books in the set, and it is currently for sale on Amazon for $0.99 at the time this review was written. This is Book 1 of 12.

I really enjoyed this book. From a technical standpoint, with the exception of maybe one error I found, the book was well written. The narrative felt both natural and personal to the main character, Serena, and moved along at a pace that never seemed to slow. I was immediately drawn in to the engaging voice the narrative is written in, and I didn’t surface again until near the end of the story.

As far as the characters go, Serena was both likeable and easy to understand. Throughout the book there were moments when she let poor judgment override her better sensibilities, generally when the two main males were involved. In most stories, this would have irritated me. If you take a long hard look at the situation Serena found herself in with the two male love interests, in hindsight it’s easy to shake my head and say “What on Earth was she thinking?” Not only did she put herself into a compromising situation romantically, but she also put her safety, and her career in jeopardy. I can only say that it is a testament to the author’s writing abilities that at the time these events occurred, it seemed like the logical choice. I didn’t feel put off by her personal choices—in fact, I probably would have made the same decisions she did! The ability of the author to pull the reader so deep into the character’s mindset that they, like Serena, fail to see the warning signs of what’s going on, exemplifies how well written this was.

As for the male leads of this story, Brody was kind, stable, hard-working… everything we girls love in a main male lead. He was sexy and warm-hearted without being broody or over-bearing, and it was a nice change in this genre. He was, as the title states, an all-American wolf (well, shifter that is). When it came to Wes, that’s where my loyalties split. He initially came across as dark, charismatic, and sexy-as-hell. Of course, he also set off a few warning bells for both Serena, and me, the reader, but that didn’t deter either of us from drooling over him. I don’t want to post any spoilers, but I wasn’t surprised to see how this story went in this love triangle, but I think the author did an excellent job making both choices appealing almost up until the climax of the story.

Now here’s where it fell apart for me: There came a point near the end of the book (I think two chapters from the end?) when the story began to wrap up. The major fight was over, the choice of the main couple was solidified, and all the drama/murder mystery aspect of the story was over. The book felt complete at this point. I expected to turn the page on my Kindle and be faced with the title page of the next book in this set… but that isn’t what happened. The story continued on for another two chapters that, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with the main plot. They were the quintessential “neatly tied bow” on the story that is so typical of romances these days, basically showing how happy the couple is and the plans for their future. Had the story ended where I thought it was going to, I would have rated this story much higher.

Unfortunately, with the extended ending, things seemed to be wrapped up a little too neatly. It also had the unfortunate side effect of bringing me out of the story and highlighting the questionable choices the main character made throughout the book. She started off the book as a strong female detective, trying to fight against the male-dominated workplace and solve a murder mystery. She wasn’t actively looking for a relationship. By the end, she’d given up her career and her home, put her own life in danger, and compromised her work on the murder case by sleeping with two suspects. Honestly, it made me a bit disgusted with her. Up until that point, I was fine with all of her choices, but once it crossed that line of “engaging story” and into “neatly tied up romance”, it had lost it’s appeal. I really wish the last two chapters had been scrapped. In the end, I gave it four stars, because the ending ruined it for me.

So did I like the book? Yes, I really did. It was short, but well written. Would I read it again? Definitely, but I’d avoid the last two chapters if I could. Would I recommend it to others? Certainly. If you’re a paranormal/romance reader and you like murder mysteries, give this one a try.