3 Stars, Elizabeth Coldwell, Paranormal Romance, Pride Publishing, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Into the Arena by Elizabeth Coldwell

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TitleInto the Arena (Lionhearts: Book Four)

Author:  Elizabeth Coldwell

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 146 Pages

At a Glance: The book starts off strong, but some parts were too much of a stretch.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: He will fight for the one he loves, no matter what it takes.
Cesare Bianco is a shifter without a pride. Exiled from his home town of Padua after losing a leadership fight to his corrupt, self-serving uncle, he travels to Rome in search of a new beginning. A chance meeting sees him taking a job on the catering crew of a Hollywood blockbuster. When he meets the movie’s handsome lead actor, Hayden, he knows he’s in the presence of his mate. But Hayden is human. Even though he offers the possibility of lasting love, Cesare must fight all his instincts to make it happen.
Hayden Skarz is on the verge of the big time. Landing the lead in sci-fi adventure Thrown to the Lions has put him on the road to stardom. Filming in Rome is a difficult new challenge for him, though being around Cesare, the hunk who works in the catering truck, makes his job much sweeter. Sex between them is passionate and wildly inventive. But Hayden has a stalker, who’s tired of being ignored in favor of other men. When what started as a crush turns into murderous obsession, can Cesare help Hayden make it off the film set alive?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and bondage.

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Review: So far I have really enjoyed the Lionhearts series by Elizabeth Coldwell, and I was looking forward to this next installment. And while it is a good book, it did not live up to the other books in the series. It started off strong, but by the time the big reveal came for Cesare, I was pretty incredulous.

You do not need to read the other books in the series to enjoy this book. They all work as standalones, even if other characters are briefly mentioned. The main character from Vintage Pride is mentioned in about two sentences in this book, and then never is brought up again. Cesare and Hayden are new, as is the location. When Cesare is forced to leave his pride after a failed attempt at taking over, he travels to Rome where he helps Gail feed actors on a movie set. When he meets Hayden, he knows he’s met his mate.

I enjoyed the characters and their interactions, for the most part, but there didn’t seem to be much at stake for them. Yes, if they got caught together they’d be the talk of the set, but Hayden is already out as an actor, so it’s really not that big a deal. And while he has a stalker, it doesn’t turn really dangerous until the end. I never felt the tension I did during the other books. What bothered me the most was Cesare’s reveal to Hayden that he’s a shifter. Hayden mentions in passing that he felt a connection to the lion that was on set (Cesare after a forced shift), and when Cesare reveals it was him, there’s a page, maybe two, of Hayden not believing him, and then he’s suddenly accepting and, “Hey, I guess it makes sense.” Reading that threw me off. It just didn’t feel right, and I even backtracked a bit to see if I had missed pages. Likewise, the danger at the end was over so quickly, and easily resolved. I never felt that Hayden and Cesare were really in danger.

As a final note, the publisher warns of violence and bondage. Is there violence? Yes, but I’ve read worse in books without a warning. Is there bondage? Yes, to a small extent, but with a warning on it, I was expecting much more. Do I honestly think it was necessary to put either there? No.

If you’re a fan of the series, I’d be interested in seeing what you think of the book after reading it. If you’re new to the series, I recommend reading one of the first three books prior to reading this one.

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4 Stars, Elizabeth Coldwell, Paranormal Romance, Pride Publishing, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Vintage Pride by Elizabeth Coldwell

Title: Vintage Pride

Author: Elizabeth Coldwell

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 162 Pages

At a Glance: For those who like the Lionheart series, this book offers a detailed look at the elusive Jean-Luc.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: He doesn’t believe in the paranormal. Can a gorgeous shifter prove him wrong?

Ethan Wayne is a paranormal investigator for the hottest reality show on TV, Spirit Seekers, but his love life is decidedly lukewarm. Reeling from a sudden break-up, he finds himself heading for France, where his team will be exploring the Château LeBlanc, searching for the ghost of a murdered kitchen maid. When he meets the château’s reclusive owner, Jean-Luc LeBlanc, the attraction is fierce and instant—but Jean-Luc is keeping secrets the skeptical Ethan could never have imagined.

Jean-Luc’s world collapsed with the death of his beloved Benoît. He no longer cares about producing his award-winning Champagne and even his closest family members can’t rouse him from his self-imposed solitude. The last thing he wants is a team of ghost hunters intruding on his privacy and discovering the truth of his nature. The realization that one of these brash Americans is destined to be his new mate seems like a sick joke. But soon Jean-Luc has bigger things to worry about than his distrust of humans. His home and family are under threat—can he do what it takes to save all he holds dear, and let Ethan into his heart in the process?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, mild BDSM and references to multiple partners.

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Review: Having read the second book in this series, Taming the Lion, which I reviewed previously, I enjoyed seeing Jean-Luc. After the last book I had a feeling he would be the star of this story, and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed seeing him and Ethan get together. What was even better was the paranormal aspect. I love ghost hunting shows, so with that as an element of the novel, it just really worked for me.

Jean-Luc is still mourning the loss of his mate Benoît, and Ethan has no idea what he’s walking into when the ghost-hunting skeptic shows up at the chateau. But the two men are drawn to each other by destiny, and they can’t fight it.

It’s true things do happen pretty quickly, but given the circumstances (Ethan will be leaving soon, they’re destined mates, etc.), I was able to look past that. The one disappointment I had was at the end of the book. Like the previous novel, Vintage Pride could have gone on longer. I wanted to see more of what happened. For this one, I wanted to know how the rest of the crew would react when Ethan told them he would be staying behind with Jean-Luc to work on his book. How would they reveal their relationship to the crew? How would the crew react? It would have been great to see this, but it’s sadly left out.

Despite that, I continue to enjoy this series and would read more books if they were to come out. I recommend it to fans of shifters and novels with ghost-hunting.

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4 Stars, Elizabeth Coldwell, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Totally Bound

Review: Taming the Lion by Elizabeth Coldwell

Title: Taming the Lion (Lionhearts: Book Two)

Author: Elizabeth Coldwell

Publisher: Totally Bound

Pages/Word Count: 148 Pages

At a Glance: A young, pouting lion shifter and a sexy archaeology professor. What more could you want?

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Will he sacrifice everything for the sake of his human mate?

Thwarted in his efforts to become head of the Amsterdam pride of lion shifters, Kaspar de Wit flees to England. He finds himself in Bath, home of the biggest English pride, and begins to make a new life among friends. What he doesn’t know is that he’s moved to a city steeped in bloody ritual. Destiny seems to have drawn Kaspar to the place where he’ll meet his mate–but does something more horrifying lie in wait for him, too?

Jon Fellowes, professor of archaeology at Bath University, is obsessed with the standing stones that dominate the Somerset landscape and the people who raised them. He’s heard tales of strange creatures, half-man, half-lion, that once roamed the land, but dismisses them till he meets the beautiful Kaspar and learns the bizarre truth of his nature. As an ancient rite is revived and terror stalks the countryside, can Jon and Kaspar overcome the natural distrust between humans and shifters to find true love? Or will one of them be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of voyeurism, MM orgies and bloody violence.

Dividers

Review: Disclaimer — I did not read the first book in this series. I didn’t know it was a series until I started reading, and have a sneaking suspicion some of the mentioned characters had appeared elsewhere before. (By now you should know my MO, haha.) That said, you don’t need to read the first book in this series to understand the second. The characters are different, and while events are hinted at from the first book, they only play a passing role in the first few pages, because after that, Kaspar runs away to lick his wounds.

I loved Kaspar and Jon. They’re just really sweet and I feel for Kaspar. He expects to be made head of the pride until Arjan (from the first book) is welcomed back by his father. Kaspar is young and rash, and so he runs away from Amsterdam to try and make it in the pride in Bath, England. He’s not there long when things just go right for him, including meeting his destined mate, Jon, who happens to be human.

Jon is a sweet, nerdy professor who likes archaeology and local legends. He’s interested in standing stones, and has done research on pagan beliefs of half-lion beings. Little did he know he’d get so intimately involved with one.

I had to laugh at Kaspar. He’s young and he knows he can be foolish. He doesn’t think much about human mates, having just met Arjan’s human mate, Kees, and being confused by the whole thing. But when Jon walks into his life, he realizes fate has thrown him for a loop. His reaction to meeting Jon was hilarious to me, and I found myself laughing as he accepted everything. He was just so easy going about it all.

Of course, the book isn’t all fun and games. There’s a local…group(?) of men trying to resurrect an old god, and they think sacrificing men at the height of orgasm on the standing stones will do this. So, there is a bit of violence and dubious consent. I say dubious because the men are mostly willing for the sex part, not so much with the murder part. Also, giving later reactions, they’re probably drugged, so how much is actual consent at that point?

I’m definitely going to go back and read the first book in this series, and I sincerely hope there will be more in the future. I think I know who the next character will be, too, just based on the brief description, but we’ll see. I do want to read more about Jon and Kaspar, though. I just love their devotion to each other, and I want to see what the pride’s reaction will be when they actually meet Jon.

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