Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 48 - 13 Reasons to Read Heart of the Nile by Gabriella Hewitt

I was thrilled to get a copy of Heart of the Nile, a recent release by Gabriella Hewitt, and for today's Thursday Thirteen I thought I'd review it. Stay tuned to the next four Thursday Thirteens as I review previous releases by Renee Field, Christine d'Abo, Red Garnier and Lillian Feisty.

1 - Heart of the Nile is an e-book from Cobblestone Press, released on February 29th. I'd read an excerpt from it on Gabriella's blog and was instantaneously hooked. I believe this was the part that snared me:

"Her eyes surveyed the prisoner, his body strong just like his will. He dripped blood and power."

2 - Once I had the whole story to read, I was delighted that the promise of ancient Egyptian gods played out with every character I came across. The hero and heroine bridge two worlds, quite like the Others from the Russian urban paranormal I'm currently reading, The Night Watch. In Hewitt's story, the world of ancient Egypt coexists below the layer of reality with which we humans are most familiar.

3 - Heart of the Nile is part of Cobblestone's Shifters category, which offers shapeshifter romances. In this story, the heroine shifts between a human form and a lioness. The hero shifts between human form and an ancient Molossian hound.

4 - We meet Kat, Stealer of Memories, a priestess of her shapeshifter pride. What she doesn't know until she meets up with the hero is that she herself carries locked doors within her mind, hiding painful memories that resurface when Nikos returns to her life.

5 - Nikos is Keeper of Secrets for his master Anubis and their pack. The dogs have been at war with the cats as long as both sides can remember, yet Nikos has used himself as bait to capture Kat for his mission.

6 - Nikos has been sent to retrieve the lioness with whom he once shared a passionate past. A greater mission revolves around their ability to find the urn containing the Heart of Bast, Ra's daughter and originator of the cat clan. But Nikos is personally focused on Kat and the pain of her returning memories.

7 - I really, really love the mythological aspects of this story. For some reason, if these two characters were contemporary ex-lovers who needed to stay one step ahead of power-hungry rivals, I couldn't really get myself into their nail-biting efforts. But once I find out she's a shapeshifting priestess from an ancient cat clan, I'm there, baby.

8 - There's a lot of sexual tension between Kat and Nikos, and wonderful verbal banter. But this is more of a paranormal thriller than a super-hot tale of passion.

9 - Kat and Nikos are about as different as one could hope to encounter in a mismatched couple. But what Hewitt does so well is make their co-operation crucial - and I mean crucial - to the success or failure of their joint mission.

10 - Hewitt really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"He looked back. Kat stood just outside the door, her hands gracefully fluttering in a pattern, hieroglyphics sparkling in the air before melting away.

'What are you doing?' he barked.


...'Hurry it up,' he whispered harshly. He advanced a few more feet toward the street when his gut wrenched and his vision swam. His legs strained against an invisible cord wrapped tightly around his being.

He whipped his head around again. Kat hadn’t moved an inch. Her cat‐like eyes focused on him, and a small curved smile touched her lips.

Nikos knew he was totally screwed."

11 - The writing style is spare and constantly accelerates the story. It works perfectly for Nikos' POV, giving a very natural masculine feel to his scenes. It also works well for Kat, since she's a powerful priestess and doesn't pull punches.

12 - There are aspects of the story that don't get completely resolved by the end, which only makes their world seem more real to me. And also leaves the prospect of more stories possible. I love encountering fictional worlds that seem to have a life larger than that of the novel.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"She eyed a stall that sold lamb kebobs. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

Fascinated, his gaze remained on her lovely pink mouth. Like a man parched from lack of water, he found himself wanting to sip and savor. To taste her.

His body hardened. His blood thickened. Heat flooded his system, making it difficult to breathe or think.

He even found himself leaning toward her.

Nikos closed his eyes and willed himself under control. Damn, he still had it bad for this woman. Centuries passed; even empires rose and fell. He’d lived through famine and feast, wars and prosperity. His lovers came and went, yet none had left her mark like Kat.

A mark he was banking on that she carried inside, too. Except, she'd shown little sign so far of remembering what they'd once shared.

Nikos shuttled them down another alley. The narrow passageway blocked out the sun; the heat beat at them in waves. He sniffed the air. He caught the scent.

'This way.' He rounded the corner. His gut tightened. The strings of the binding spell coiled around him. He slowed down. Kat lazily paired up next to him.

'Keep up,' he barked.

'It’s hot. I’m tired, and I’m hungry. I need a nap.'

'You can rest when we get to the potter.'

Kat stopped dead in her tracks. 'Oh no.' She shook her head. 'You said you would take me to the Heart of Bast; you never mentioned anyone else.'

'I will take you. First, though, I need to find out where it is.'

The look on her face was priceless.

'W…What?' She stammered. 'I assumed since you were the one entrusted with secrets…'

'That I knew where the heart was buried?' Nikos picked up. 'Sorry, I must have forgotten to mention that bit.'

- Gabriella Hewitt, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

In My Wildest Fantasies by Julianne MacLean

I just finished reading my cousin's latest historical romance yesterday morning on the bus ride into work. It only took me a week to gobble it up - which for me is really speedy.

This is the first of her new Pembroke Palace series, following the mad attempts of the Duke of Pembroke to break his family's curse and have all of his sons married off before Christmas. Devon Sinclair is the eldest son and the pressure is on to find himself a bride before his father uproots every last plant and shrub on the palace grounds to ward off the flood he fears is coming.

Devon is disturbed by his father's mental state when he returns from several years abroad in America. He needed to put some distance between himself and his brother Vincent after a tragic accident severed their familial bonds. But on his return, Devon finds that his father believes an ancient family curse is destined to carry them all away in the rising waters that have England drenched in an unrelentingly wet spring. This in itself would be distressing, but the duke has legally changed his will in order to force his sons' hands.

So Devon sets himself to the task at hand, delighted that a young neighbor, Rebecca Newland has arrived for the ball thrown by his father. He once came to her aid when she and her father, the Earl of Creighton, were stranded in a driver-less coach in a fog-shrouded wood. Devon has no idea the young lady has done nothing but dream of him every day since then.

Rebecca has grown up tucked away in her father's house, trying to help him cope with chronic pain and an aversion to leaving his home. She's compensated for her lack of society by feasting upon a diary she found secreted away, which tells the romantic and erotic tale of Lydie and her lover, Jess. Devon finds himself attracted to a woman who is technically an innocent - but not in her dreams.

This book is a true delight for all you fantasizers out there. I know I'm a card-carrying member. Imagine if you will the object of your girlish fantasies. Now just imagine if that very man appeared in person, was attracted to you (yes, YOU!), and Fate joined you to this man as an inheritance-preserving wife.

Don't stop there. Imagine if you read a scintillating diary to him, one you'd read to yourself over and over until you knew it by heart. Imagine if your dream man was no longer a dream - but flesh and blood, listening to you read those very words even as he makes them come to life with his own hands and lips. It's so mind-blowing and so hot it makes me melt.

Of course, nothing could work out so perfectly, and Julianne throws several nasty flies into this intoxicating ointment. But for now I'll leave you with an excerpt that shows you what could happen if your dream man walked into your bedroom - for real...


Oxfordshire, England, April 1874

" 'Why don't you turn to your favorite entry,' he said.

Seated on the edge of the bed, she looked up at him. I should not let this go further, she thought. I should ask him to leave.

She opened the book and flipped through the pages near the start, and began to read aloud.

'Dear Diary,
Today was my birthday, and Jess gave me a beautiful white stone he had found on a beach when he was a boy. He told me he'd been keeping it all these years just for me, even though we met only six months ago. I will never, ever part with it, Diary. Not as long as I live.

But that is not all that happened today, for I was very, very wicked, and if Mother and Father knew what I had done, they would surely send me away.'

Rebecca stopped reading and glanced up at Devon, who was listening attentively. She cleared her throat to continue.

'I never felt such wild desire and passionate yearnings in my body.'

Rebecca stopped reading again when Devon slowly sat down beside her.

'Continue,' he said.

Feeling the heat of his muscular thigh touching hers on the bed, she fought her own dizzying desires and swallowed nervously.

'He kissed the side of my neck while he eased me onto my back.'

Devon leaned closer and pressed his open mouth to her neck, just below the line of her jaw. His warm, wet tongue sent gooseflesh tingling down her body, as he suckled downward to the juncture at her shoulder.

She went weak all over, and was powerless to resist the lure of erotic sensation as he laid her down on the soft mattress.

'Keep reading,' he whispered between kisses as he tasted the base of her throat. Rebecca barely managed to hold the book open in front of her.

'He unbuttoned the top of my nightdress and kissed my breasts, until I was filled with such hunger, it was all I could do to keep from crying out.'

Devon had already begun to unbutton her gown, and quivering as she was with desire, she could not continue to hold the book. She let it fall to the bed and reached up to touch his face. She had wanted this for so long. He had been living in her heart for four lonely years.

With dark, mischievous seduction in his eyes he crawled over her on all fours. He began nuzzling her breasts with his lips and cheeks, tickling her with his hair, dropping wet kisses down the center of her trembling belly until she gasped with delight.

'What happens next?' he asked."

- Julianne MacLean, 2007