Counterfeit Magic by Kelley Armstrong

counter magicThis novella is narrated by Paige, who was the narrator of Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic, books 3 and 4 of the Women of the Otherworld series. Paige doesn’t seem to be the most popular narrator of the series but I have always liked her so it was good to get back inside her head (so to speak).

Of course, Lucas, Savannah and Adam also feature prominently in this novella. It starts out quite simply enough, with a client approaching Cortez-Winterbourne Investigations, a young women who is trying to find out who murdered her brother. This client, however, seems to have a particular fascination with Lucas. Paige must confront the fact that her marriage may be in some trouble, though not necessarily from the angle it initially appears.

This was an enjoyable read, I particularly liked scenes involving the ‘fight club’. I also liked seeing the dynamic shifting between Savannah and Adam (as having already read Waking the Witch, Spell Bound and 13, I know where their relationship is heading).

It was also interesting to see Paige have some doubts about Lucas as they have always appeared to be a rock-steady couple that nothing could come in between.

This was a solid entry, not as involving as the main series but definitely worth reading.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

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As They Slip Away by Beth Revis

as they slip awayA novella set in the same world as Across the Universe, this gave a very different perspective to the inhabitants of Godspeed. This was narrated by Selene, a minor previously unnamed character in the series. As They Slip Away helped to explain some of the underlying plot threads in Across the Universe and gave greater depth to some of the events.

Selene (the rabbit girl) is a tragic character who meets sad end in the main series. As They Slip Away is her story and gives new insight into her eventual demise at the hands of Luthor. It also includes some of the other characters from the novels including Harley (who is my all-time favourite!), Orion, Victria, Bartie, Doc and we also get to meet Kayleigh for the first time.

This is a story about obsession and abuse, about how one person manages to steal the heart and soul away from another. Luthor initially seems to be very taken with Selene, but his jealousy and vicious nature soon becomes apparent. As Luthor is deemed more ‘useful’ to the ship than Selene, whose main talent is that she is a gifted singer, his treatment of her goes relatively unpunished. As a result, Selene makes the choice to ‘fade away’ and she stops taking her pills to forget the fear, anguish and hurt.

This is a very sad, albeit short, novella. Throughout its pages there is a permeating sense of menace. Having read the first two novels in the series I knew what Luthor was (a creepy rapist) so I was expecting something bad to happen even when he was acting love-struck. Although I had an inkling of what the result would be, Selene’s decision still broke my heart a little especially considering what ends up happening to her.

Overall, a good background-filler to the main series.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong

forbiddenForbidden is a novella set in the same world as her Women of the Otherworld series. It is mainly told from the point of view of Elena Michaels, the original narrator of the series, and one of my personal favourites (along with Eve).

Elena, who is preparing to step into the position of alpha, and her mate Clayton Danvers, have to travel to a nearby town to come to the aid of Morgan Walsh, a young werewolf first introduced in Frostbitten. He has been thrown in jail after being found, post-shift, naked in the nearby woods.

Elena and Clay come to the town to check out this ‘mutt’ who has some aspirations of joining their pack. However, after being stranded in the town, they discover a trail of grisly goings-on. They come across a body, that looks to have been partially eaten, and they must stay to find out if it is something that could threaten their pack. Do they have yet another rogue mutt on their hands?

I really enjoyed this one. Morgan is certainly an interesting character. He is not a fighter, like some of the members of the pack, but he could well have something to offer them. The only thing is, can they trust him not to bring down trouble on their heads?

I always enjoy the werewolf stories as it is with their story that the novels began. Although at first I was ambivalent about Clay, who truly did a terrible thing in forcing Elena to become a werewolf by biting her all those years ago, he has really grown on me as a character. I have always loved Elena so enjoy reading from her perspective.

I hope Kelley Armstrong continues to write short stories such as this even though I am aware that the main series, at least for now, is at an end. I really do love this world and have become very attached to the vast majority of the characters.

Overall score: 5/5 stars

Breathless by Brigid Kemmerer

breathlessNick has always been the most mysterious of the Merrick brothers. He was the level-headed, calm twin – the ying to Gabriel’s yang as it were. The peace-maker – the one who could be relied upon to do the right thing and keep his brothers out of trouble. He always seemed so self-assured and confident. I was looking forward to reading this novella to get more of an insight into Nick Merrick and what makes him tick as he has never really been given much focus previously and he came across a little too perfect at times. I am so glad that I read this. Oh Nick. I think I love him even more now.

Nick always tries so hard to be the stable influence that his brothers need him to be. He maintains excellent grades, dates the right girls and dreams of going to a college where he can finally be free of his family’s expectations. Nick knows that his brothers rely on him and although he does not want to let them down, he feels stifled under the pressures that his family put upon him. Nick has been dating Quinn for awhile and although he genuinely likes and respects her, there is something missing. That vital connection that he feels he should be feeling just doesn’t seem to be there and Nick has no idea how to jump-start that feeling.

“Quinn. His girlfriend. Sort of. Really his relationship with Quinn was just one more thing that belonged on a list of that made him feel insecure, uncertain, and guilty.”

Quinn has been having a tough time at home. She is neglected by her family and is looking for comfort – a connection to help get her through the loneliness and despair that she feels every day. She clings to Nick, hoping that he can give her the support she needs. Although Nick treats Quinn well, their relationship isn’t progressing how Quinn would like it to go but she does appreciate that Nick is willing to listen to her, unlike other guys that she has dated.

“…Nick had surprised her by being a gentleman. They’d kissed, a few times…but they hadn’t done much more than that. And even at his house, in his room, where there wasn’t anyone to stop him from doing anything, Nick proved to be a pretty good sounding board for her problems instead of trying to shut her up and get in her pants.”

Although there is not much chemistry between them, Nick and Quinn have still been dating and spending time together. Nick hopes that his feelings for Quinn will progress to something more but when he meets Adam, Quinn’s dance partner, it forces him to acknowledge a truth that he has been keeping hidden, even from himself.

“Adam was wearing something musky and warm, like oranges and cloves. Somehow it was stronger out here than it had been in the truck, and once his brain identified it, Nick wanted to get closer, to bank in the scent and bury his face in it. No girl had ever affected him this strongly.”

Nick encourages Quinn to help Adam audition for a local dance school but is thrown when Adam suggests Nick be the one to help him out:

“You volunteering?” The breath rushed out of Nick’s chest. Shit. Now he was blushing…He wasn’t offended. He wasn’t shocked. He was – Nick shut down that thought before it could finish. His life was already complicated enough…For the tiniest fraction of a second, when Adam had looked down at him, asking about volunteering, Nick had wondered what would have happened if he’d said yes.”

Nick’s head is left spinning by his reaction to Adam and finds it difficult to shake loose the image of Quinn’s new dance partner. When Quinn seeks out Nick’s help after an incident at home, she tries to get closer to Nick but when he rebuff’s her advances, Quinn is left feeling hurt and rejected and decides to take solace in the comfort of a bottle and two college boys. Nick receives a call from Adam who advises him that one of the boys had called him asking to come and pick up Quinn. Nick and Adam are thrown together to come to Quinn’s rescue and, after getting into a fight with the drunk college boys, Nick can no longer deny the attraction he feels for Adam:

“Adam touched his face, and Nick froze. His fingers were warm, gentle, and Nick wanted to freeze time. Then Adam said, “I’m an idiot. I should have gotten you some ice.” And his fingers were gone, and Nick was sitting there practically breathless with wanting him back. One touch, and he was going to pieces. He wanted to slam his forehead on this table.”

Nick realizes that he has been hiding a part of himself for so long, but can no longer shut that side of himself down anymore:

“Everything he knew was with a girl. Like reciting a learned lesson, something he could do because he had to. This – this was new. And exciting. And primal and raw and right.”

I have to admit, I did not see this coming at all. And yet, when I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Nick has always felt a little bit removed from the rest of the Merrick clan, as if he was sort of holding himself separate. Now it is clear to see that it is because he has been hiding something from the rest of his family, for fear they will reject him (though I have a hard time believing that Michael and Chris would, Gabriel might be mad that his twin has been hiding something from him but I bet he would eventually come around). Poor Nick – so young to be so burdened. He has been carrying heavy weight on his shoulders for a long time, the pressure that he has felt under to be the ‘good’ twin, the reliable and dependable one. You can see how he struggles under this mantle of responsibility. I liked getting to see his more vulnerable side, instead of the cool and collected facade he shows to the rest of the world. This novella also really illustrated his innate kindness. He is a genuinely good friend to Quinn, even though his emotions are all jumbled up and he really does not want to let his brothers down.

I was also really intrigued by Adam. There was just enough of him in this novella that he still remains a bit of a mystery yet one that I am looking forward to getting to know better. He seems like a good match for Nick and I cannot wait to read their next interactions. Breathless has really left me wanting to see more of their burgeoning relationship.

As for Quinn, well I have struggled to like her in the past but you can see here just how hard life has been for her. She has a really crappy home-life and the neglect that she suffers goes a long way to explain why she was so clingy with Becca in the first book. She seems to have a lot of self-esteem issues and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her situation. Her relatively easy acceptance when she discovers what Nick has been hiding from her also made me like her a heck of a lot more:

“It means my luck sucks,” she said. “It was nice dating a guy who treated me like a friend instead of a blow-up doll.” “You were the one trying to unzip my pants in the truck!” “Yeah, well, I thought you weren’t interested. I didn’t realize that your divining rod just pointed into a different direction.” “You’re killing me,” he said. But it sounded like he was smiling.”

Although she is hurt initially, the way she accepted Nick’s sexuality made me respect her a lot. She showed a lot of growth and maturity in this instalment, no mean feat considering the novella is only about 50 pages long (still a lot was crammed into those 50 pages!).

Not enough Michael, Gabriel and Chris but I didn’t expect to see very much of them here. I can only surmise that they will be playing a much bigger role in the next book, especially when Nick’s secret is revealed – I cannot wait!! This novella made me very excited to read Secret. I am looking forward to more Nick and Adam and (surprisingly) more Quinn. January 2014 seems a long time away!!

Overall score: 5/5 stars