Book Review: Blessedly Bound

review-cover-blessedly boundTitle: Blessedly Bound [An Elemental Witch Trials Novel 1]

Author: Lucretia Stanhope

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Gwen Hensley finds herself pulled into something life altering when she inherits a sprawling manor from a grandmother she never knew. As a witch, she uses her gift of sight to experience her grandmother die in a brutal execution by flames. The vision is only the catalyst that tosses her into a mystery involving a killer with psychopathic tendencies and a vitriol for witches.

Seeking aid in unraveling the mystery, she discovers her familiar, Lewis, is wrapped up in her family curse that involves voodoo and a sacrifice of the first-born witch in each generation. The neighbor, Sebastian, her grandmother’s best friend and a familiar with his own haunted past, tugs her in intimate and magical ways, which both puts her in danger and a position to be more powerful than she ever dreamed possible.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like this book, unfortunately, the story started painfully slow. The author spent a lot of time “telling” the reader what was happening rather than showing it. The characters spent a lot of time simply doing inane tasks and participating in small talk. By the time the book hit 10%, I was bored.

I pushed on, and at 16% in I gave up. The narrative was slow, wordy, and methodical in its descriptions. The characters spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation and simple tasks and yet the story didn’t seem to progress. Although the premise was interesting and the characters unique, I didn’t feel drawn in by the narrative.

Overall, I would say that it could be an interesting book for the right reader, and those out there with a higher tolerance for slow starts might end up really enjoying it, but it just didn’t hold my attention. I prefer more tension and quicker paced fiction.

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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!

Excerpt: The Madigan Witch

What follows is an excerpt from “The Madigan Witch” a story that’s been playing around in my brain for the last couple of days. I wrote it in the last hour. First draft – no editing. So forgive me if it’s lacking a little polish. I’m always talking about my writing and figured I’d take some time to share a little. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the character name and genre closely resemble a book I recently reviewed, but both were decided on BEFORE I’d read the book, and you know what they say about originality: it doesn’t exist anymore. So rather than fret over the name, I’m just going to let the story speak for itself and not worry about the similarity.

The Madigan Witch – Excerpt

My name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. I repeated the words like a mantra in my head. A warm August breeze swept through the two-inch gap in my car window, lifting a russet strand of hair, and sent it sliding across the bridge of my nose. Almost absently I tucked it back behind my ear, but stubborn, it immediately slipped out and fell across my cheek again.

I could do this. I’d done it dozens of times. I glanced out the passenger side of my car towards the small suburban home that lay across a neatly-mowed lawn. It was a small one-story house. Two six-paned windows stared out across the lawn in my direction, trimmed in white and set against a deep gray background. Three short concrete steps lead the way to the brand-new screen door.

Sitting on those steps was a small boy. I grimaced. I hated working with children. With a resigned sigh, I turned away from the picture of the cozy gray house and slipped out the driver’s side door.

“Hey, Olly.” A familiar voice called from just down the sidewalk, and I turned to see Oliver Crewe as he slammed shut the door on his blue SUV. He’d called me that since grade school. He was a grown man and still thought it was funny that people called us ‘Olly and Oliver’. I didn’t have the heart to ruin his fun. Oliver was a great guy; smart, dependable, and fun to be around. He was also firmly in the ‘friend’ box.

A grin spread slowly across my face. I turned away from him as I popped open the trunk of my car and pulled out the silver hard-sided case that housed my equipment, but glanced back over my shoulder. “Who’s with us tonight?” I asked as I slammed the trunk of my car closed again and hefted the equipment a little higher.

“What, no hello? No ‘Hey Oliver, you’re looking particularly handsome today’.”

“I saw you four hours ago. You really need to talk to someone about that separation anxiety.”

Oliver reached out and plopped a black baseball cap over my hair and tapped on the brim. “What can I say? I’m trying to keep in touch with my feminine side. Not my fault she happens to be a redhead.” He grinned, jogged back to his SUV, and began to rummage around in the backseat, no doubt gathering more equipment.

I shook my head and spared a glance towards the house. The kid was still sitting on the front steps. Damnit. “So, who’s the crew?” I called to Oliver as I turned back towards the blue SUV and rounded the open door to watch him gather the equipment. He poked his head out the door and squinted against the sun over my shoulder. We had maybe two hours before sunset.

“Eric and Claire. Small house, small crew.” He shrugged in lieu of an explanation.

Shit. I didn’t mind Eric, he was a bit of a geek and got a little over-zealous at times, but he was good people. Claire, I couldn’t stand. She was one of those women who liked to be friends with everyone even if she had nothing in common with them.  Most nights I’d spent with Claire consisted of listening to her talk about her dysfunctional relationship with her mother, or sitting on the floor of the bathroom trying to get her to stop bawling her eyes out after she’d quite literally scared herself snotless. It was going to be a long night.

“Who’s got lead?” I asked as I reached around Oliver’s athletic form and grabbed a few coils of cable from the backseat.

“Want to flip for it?”

“Not really.”

“Aw, come on Olly. They get so excited when you open your mouth and words come out.” Oliver laughed and shot me a cheeky grin.

“I am not my great grandmother, and I’m getting tired of explaining that to every call we get. Nan was as much a witch as I am a brunette.” I snapped out the words in irritation, and Oliver shrugged, arms heavy with equipment, and then kicked the car door closed with a backwards tap of his boot.

“I know,” he said solemnly and shot me an apologetic smile, “but your Nan is the reason we get half the calls we do. She had a reputation around here. It doesn’t hurt to pander a bit to the customers.”

“I’m taking HQ.” I said definitively. There was no way in hell he was going to get me to run lead with a kid in the house.

“Fine, but you have to take the evidence too.”

“Deal.”

We trudged up the curb and onto the front lawn, abandoning our equipment into a well-organized pile in the vivid grass just as the team van pulled around the corner of the block. Before Eric and Claire had even pulled up to the house, Oliver was signaling them to take care of the equipment.

“You’re with me for meet and greet.” He said, reaching out to tap on the brim of my baseball cap again.

I adjusted the cap that had ‘Grace Cape Paranormal Society’ emblazoned across the front in creepy white font, and jogged to fall into step behind him. As we came to the front door, I hung back a few paces, just out of reach of the front steps. The kid hadn’t moved an inch and stared down at his feet without a word.

Oliver punched a finger at the doorbell, and stepped down off the steps as well, waiting for the owners to answer the door.

“Cute place.” Oliver commented over his shoulder. A voice called out inside the house but I couldn’t make out the words. “You think it’s haunted?” He wiggled his eyebrows.

I glanced away from the kid on the steps just as he lifted his gaze to Oliver. “Not a chance. Building’s too new.”

“Damn. You’re usually right about these things. Guess we’ll be chasing dust specks all night.”

I snorted in reply. That was Oliver’s way of reminding me of Nan again. He was still hoping I’d step up and take lead. Fat chance. I think in a way Oliver believed the stories about the great Molly Madigan. She’d been born at the turn of the century, back when séances were first coming into popularity, and my Nan, the origin of my namesake, had frequented all sorts of ‘ghost talks’ in her twenties.

They’d called her a medium back in those days, then as the decades wore on, a sensitive, and eventually when she was long passed, a witch. People loved to romanticize those old crazy stories where people sat in rooms, ten to a table, and called upon the spirits of people long dead.

In reality, my Nan was an outgoing, independent woman fascinated with the occult. She wasn’t a psychic, medium or sensitive, and she certainly wasn’t a witch.

I was pulled out of my thoughts as the front door to the small gray suburban home opened, and a thin, nervous woman greeted us. She was young, probably around my age, and wore a pastel cardigan. Great. She was one of those. New couples were a pain in the ass. Especially if-

A little girl’s wail sounded in the background, and the young woman smiled apologetically at us. “Sorry. Hi, come on in, I’ll be right back.” Not waiting for an answer, she turned from the door and disappeared down a narrow hallway towards the back of the house.

Just what I needed. Another kid.

Oliver turned to shrug at me over his shoulder and stepped up the stairs and into the house.

“This sucks.” I muttered under my breath, and steeled myself as I walked forward, stomping up the front steps and straight through the kid sitting on the middle step.

Like I said before, my name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. Saying you believe in ghosts is idiotic. It’s like saying you believe in gravity. It doesn’t matter what you think – they’re there every god-damned second of the day, belief or not.