The Professional: Part 1 (The Game Maker #1) by Kresley Cole

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The Professional is a contemporary novel divided in three parts which will be published out between several weeks between one another. In this first quarter of a book, it told the story of a young woman named Natalie who found out who her long lost parent was and a bodyguard, Sevastyan, who was sent to protect her.  They shared an intense attraction between one another but Sevastyan tried to keep her at arm’s length although failing. 

Surprisingly, it was archetypal. The story was cliched at its best. A girl finding out that she’s a modern princess and a knight who was forbidden to touch her. The innocent romanticized version of Bratva and more romantic atmosphere and decadence. Steamy atmospheres and more stereotypical romance with a twist. If you have read a lot of Kresley Cole books as I did, you’d be surprised that the book does stretch itself thinly especially with the worldbuilding. Although Cole did wonderful in bringing Russian culture in this book that I enjoyed the bits that was equally foreign to me, at times I rather want her to expand it more than simplified version to give way to the characters’ drama. It was all too convenient that Natalie was beautiful, smart, bilingual and now rich and virginal. I let myself being suspended by the disbelief as it clearly written on the intention of the post-50 Shades audience. But for the first quarter of the book, there’s that delicious sexual tension between the characters that made waiting for the next installment can be frustrating. Which was clearly intentional, I suppose.

For all its worth, it was an enjoyable start of the story. The dialogues was witty and exciting as well as the character interactions. Natalie wasn’t any bit of a pliant blank character commonly written as a poor substitute for the readers. She had fire in her and an individual of her own right. She enjoyed the power play between her and the ever dominant Sevastyan. There was that relationship dynamics between them but attraction was the theme in this book and also they also get to know each other before. Although she found herself submitting to the alluring bodyguard, she didn’t much enjoy being subservient to others and was clearly defiant. Although it appeared to be a substandard run of the mill erotica, there were more depth in the story telling than those thick brick novels obsessing on inner goddesses and abusive relationship. Even though Sevatsyan at the beginning  was essentially a stalker, it was his job and he’s actually hired by her father to do so and so which made everything different. It made him more of an alluring dark guardian of the night than an emotionally problematic possessive narcissist. An erotica novel that doesn’t have a destructive coupling, that was refreshing. 

Then again, The Professional part 1 is a quarter of a book. Basically what it does was to lay out the basic bricks of the story. It does what it intent to be as a hook and a sinker. I am definitely hooked and will look forward to the next installment. 

The ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Savage King (Lords of the Var #1) by Michelle M. Pillow

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Michelle M Pillow is actually one of my first author with scifi romance and I’ve read most of her books (Dragon Lords, Lord of Var, Galaxy Playmates and Zhang Dynasty)in my early days during university and surprisingly I really enjoy it with my current rereading. Mostly since I’ve been reading depressing crap lately that made this pulpy indie romance an enjoyable experience. That and the fact I’ve recently found out about the continuation of the Dragon Lord series that I’m plowing through some of my old Pillow reads to fill in my reading challenge.

“The Savage King” is a direct continuation from the fourth Dragon Lords series. Unlike that series, Lord of Var is set in a linear timeline as the series goes on. Its quite a standalone book but you’ll miss some key point of the story that tie up the four dragon lords books together. The book started with Agent Ulyssa Payne who went undercover and hitch a ride with the Galaxy Bride agency to track down a crime boss but due to the events in the Dragon Lords series, she was left stranded on the barbaric planet. But the Var King Attor accidentally found her and kidnap her to add her into his collection. Lyssa was unwillingly held captive inside Attor’s harem for days until she found a chance to escape but she fell upon the arms of Attor’s eldest son, Prince Kirill.

I always did like Lyssa and Kirill’s interactions in this book. Lyssa was a spunky independent secret agent and Kirill was an alpha barbaric sexy warrior shifter prince slash king who doesn’t know how to handle a girl and Lyssa isn’t any kind of girl. As usual, this leads to a lot of interesting scenes between them.

Unlike a lot of novels, Lyssa isn’t one of those fake strong action girl character. She’s not the ones majority PNR writers love to write and gave up with the strong girl halfway and turn her into witless girl drowning in a puddle who can’t handle a very masculine character. It is a sexy romance novel so naturally there will be some bed action but Lyssa is still the spunky independent girl she is until the end of the novel. She fought hard against her captive (no Stockholm syndrome here, she really did get herself into the mess on her own), she try to reason with Kirill on most thing he couldn’t grasp on woman psyche and at times frustrated by him and also found herself self-conscious about falling in love. She can fight on her own against any opponent but if you’re in a planet where every guy was either a dragon or a cat shifter, thats hard. Personally, I don’t really care much about too much character depth with a romance novel but there’s some part about Lyssa that hook me on. (So was most of the female characters written by Ms Pillow)

As a bodice ripper character King Kirill is quite a lovable guy on its own. He had some issues with his father’s upbringing but luckily he’s quite a normal guy with normal issue. Besides, the first time Kirill and Lyssa met where she basically paw all over him, he noted that she’s been drugged by an aphrodisiac. Instead of taking advantage of her, he let her go to sleep it all out. Of course there’s a lot of sexy moments between them and a lot of misunderstand, but here’s the thing, Kirill respect her as a woman. She’s a strange unconventional girl but nobody is romanticising abuse here. This isn’t a captive romance fantasy with paperthin characterization. All of the characters in the book was in some way a character of their own, you get all the four couples from the Dragon Lords series and then you get some introduction with Kirill’s brothers and I do have some favourites like Falke and Jarek. Although I didn’t really care about the overwhelming amount of pregnancies in the book but you got to be cheesy at some point right?

Its been years but I’m glad that I found myself liking the series again. Var series have always been a favourite of mine more than Draig series. I think because I got sick of all the bodice ripper werewolf/vampire PNR indie books I’ve been reading that I went back to my old favourites. The world need more scifi romance and also, tiger shifters. I need more tiger shifters.

Fury (Otherkin, #1) by Anya Bast

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Apparently there’s this feline shapeshifter running away from two alpha werewolf and one of them end up leaving while another went to claim her and they had a slight rendezvous and then she ran away and weeks later she’s having some sexy moment with herself and the werewolf came knocking and they have sexy time and she says no and then she says yes and then they romancing together and then they have to rescue to other werewolf because he’s the brother and then they have sexy time again then before the girl become Alpha Queen, she had to fight some lady werewolf and then she had to win. Yes. That’s what the whole ebook consist of. But at least its free. It could be a decent paranormal romance had the characters actually interact with each other and I wished the author tell me more about the characters or even the world instead of dishing everything out so suddenly. But hey, its erotica. Everything else other than sexy time is optional. But I can’t quite say about the quality of the sexy time itself. Its more a ‘wham-bang’ kinda attraction and then suddenly they said they’ve been crushing for so long that everything ‘made sense’.

Free stuff. Logic is optional.