Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Dark Soul by Aleksandr Voinov

Title: Dark Soul: The Complete Collection
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Series: Dark Soul (1-5)
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: 1 June 2012

Love lights even the darkest soul.

A killer's moral compass rarely points true, and among made men, being gay is a capital crime. But Silvio Spadaro, deadly prodigy and heir to a Family fortune, is determined to find his own way--at the feet of the man he loves or by the barrel of a gun--no matter the dangers or costs.

Stefano Marino lives a comfortable--some might even say enviable--life. As a mob boss at the top of the food chain, he has it all: money, respect, a beautiful wife he loves as much now as the day they wed. But he also has a turf war on his hands, and far too soft a heart for this dark business.

When Silvio is sent to help Stefano with his turf war, sparks fly. Stefano loves his wife, but he wants Silvio. It's a desire he hardly knows how to process, but Silvio, ever the patient predator, maneuvers Stefano closer and closer to his bed each day. Stefano resists; giving in to these dark desires means giving up on his marriage, and exposure would surely mean death. Yet there's no denying Silvio's magnetic pull, or the long-repressed urges inside himself. Yielding is inevitable, but he may yet find a way to hold on to everything--and everyone--he loves.

I admit, I was trepidatious when I started this collection. I knew it was going to push some of my limits – and probably blow right by others. And I wasn't wrong. Dark Soul isn't an easy or gentle love story, but it's oh-so worth it.

I'm going to try not to spoil much of the story, because I think that there's a lot to be said for experiencing each moment as it comes. Additionally it's hard to pick out moments that happen in the book without being able to explain every step that brought the characters to that moment. The above story blurb does a pretty good job of giving you a set-up on who the characters are, but what it doesn’t do is tell you how absolutely attached you'll become to these two.

I never expected to like, much less love two characters in the mafia – one a boss, and the other a hitman – but it didn't take long for me to start rooting for these two. Stefano has a deeply honorable side, something that will always draw me. And Silvio is so utterly honest. With himself, about himself, and about others. Not that he advertises he's gay, he does keep it quiet, but he makes no apologies, no excuses, and doesn't ever even worry. He's comfortable in who he is, Silvio's just looking for someone to be comfortable with.

Stefano is definitely that man. He's instantly attracted to Silvio, and doesn’t quite know what to do with that attraction. But as his trust, and care, grow for Silvio it makes it that much harder to keep from acting on it. Stefano's struggle with his feelings for his wife and Silvio – at the same time – was one of the most poignant things in this book. Considering I'd come to care about Donata, Stefano's wife, as well I had a vested interest in how it was all going to turn out. I will say that I was absolutely breathless at the resolution, not to mention incredibly happy and relieved.

I said it earlier, but I'll say it again: Dark Soul has some tough moments. If you absolutely can't stand dubious consent (in any form), or cheating at all, it does occur here. However, while both of those things are normally huge issues for me, turning me off of a book instantly, Aleksandr Voinov managed to handle two incredibly difficult subjects beautifully, with grace and care. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone willing to read something that might take them just a bit outside their comfort zone – I know they'll be glad they did. I was.

Mr. Voinov has definitely gained a fan in me, and I can't wait to pick up more of his works.

I do admit that I like the covers for the individual series better than the collection.

Grade: B+

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Review: Soul Weaver by Hailey Edwards

Title: Soul Weaver
Author: Hailey Edwards
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 7 August 2012

Since the accident that nearly took her life, Chloe suffers from acute agoraphobia. Living alone above her family's bookstore, she spends restless nights terrified by strange visions . . . until a mysterious stranger appears and offers her salvation. Chloe is drawn to the ethereal, gorgeous Nathaniel-but her haunted soul warns her there is more to him than meets the eye.

An archangel who roams Earth collecting souls of the newly departed, Nathaniel is the sole witness to the accident that should have taken Chloe's life. Seduced by the purity of her soul, he defies Providence by saving her life. But his attempt at kindness marks Chloe for damnation, and makes her an unwitting pawn in a game of unholy ambition. Now together they must fight the demons of Hell itself-for a love that defies the boundaries of Heaven and Earth.

Angels seem to be the new it thing in paranormal romance, they're everywhere I turn. Luckily, there's nearly as many different takes on them – and their demon counterparts – as there are stars in the sky. Hailey Edwards once again enchants with her original world where "demons" are just angels doing what needs to be done to take the non-righteous where they need to be. Yes, they are fallen, but they're not evil and what they do is very necessary.

Nathianiel was incredibly interesting, not just a soul hunter but he then took those souls – from dark-hearted people – and wove them into wings for his brethren to replace the wings they'd lost since coming to earth. He's loyal, nearly to a fault, kind, and absolutely just. When Chloe's bright spirit is nearly lost he does the unforgiveable and binds her with a piece of his own sooty soul.

What he couldn't have known is the consequences this would bring. They say no good deed goes unpunished, and it's certainly true in this case. When he finds out the tainted soul he's supposed to collect is none other than Chloe's, and it's all his fault, Nathaniel is horrified and decides to do everything he can to help her. Maybe it's time a good deed is rewarded for him…

Chloe has nightmares every night, of someone taking her life, stealing her soul, the darkness surrounding her. Previously uneasy around strange places and people, Chloe retreated deeper into comfortable surroundings, becoming agoraphobic and alone. When the sexy carpenter shows up on her doorstep to fix her porch, he tempts her in ways she couldn't have possibly imagined.

It's not often that one reads about an agoraphobic heroine. After reading this book I could see why. Though I really enjoyed Chloe as a character, it just got to be a bit…well, boring. She's nice, and cares about other people, and loves her job as a bookseller, but reading about her, admittedly well-deserved, panic attacks and being frightened all the time got to be just a bit too much for me. Once Nathaniel started to pull her out of her shell, and she gained some security with the lack of nightmares, I started to like her a great deal more.

Seeing these two fall in love, and realize they both needed, and were needed by, the other was really heart-warming.

There are some secondary characters that round out the story and make for an interesting suspenseful plot, and I'm looking forward to reading more about what happens there. Overall, Hailey Edwards once again writes an engaging, unique world and characters that leaves me eager to come back and visit again, and again.

Grade: C+

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