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Bentos for A Gaggle of Girls
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Warm up your winter with some romance

In the winter, there’s a sure-fire way to warm up: grab a couple of quilts and a romance novel. Trust me – you’ll be warm in no time! But which novel to choose? I just finished two great ones – the historical romance Laird of the Mist, by Paula Quinn and the vampire romance Lord of the Night by Robin T. Popp. The main characters have each written letters to readers of the other books, tying these two books together. I started reading romances after cutting my teeth with vampire and supernatural novels, which referred me to vampire romances, which then led me to historical romances. If you’ve enjoyed chick lit books, don’t dismiss these novels because they are romances – you’ll enjoy a well-written romance, with or without fangs.

There are formulas used in all romances – but even given that romances follow a formula, there are books where a touch of the unexpected takes the book from formulaic to engrossing. With the number of romantic novels I’ve read, you would think that I would have seen all the possible story lines, but no – both of these novels have that unexpected twist. In Lord of the Night, Erik Winslow is a vampire who trains the decedents of his brother how to become vampire slayers. In Laird of the Mist, Callum MacGregor is a Scottish Laird whose clan has been proscribed – they can’t own land nor speak or use their given surname. Each of these Lords is really a lord with naught but a castle. Callum and Erik are both dark heroes who really need someone to lighten them up a bit – but what will help them change?

Lord of the Night is book four of Robin T. Popp’s Night Slayer series. I am sure that reading the rest of the series would help you understand the background from the beginning, but I read and enjoyed Lord of the Night without having read the first three books. Popp gives the reader the background you would have gained from reading the first three novels, and yet she does it in a way that feels natural, rather than by rote. The Night Slayer series also introduced me to a new world of vampires – Robin Popp has a mix of good and bad vampires as well as vampire slayers all coexisting in a way I haven’t seen before.

Erik Wilson is a Prime, a vampire created when a chupacabra bit and killed him four hundred years ago. As a prime, he was able to retain his personality, and when his brother Angus was bitten by a chupacabra but not killed, they worked to protect their family and town from progeny (vampires created by other vampires – mindless killing machines) and bad Primes. Erik has continued to train his brother’s descendants, but twenty years ago, a small army of progeny attacked his home, killing most of his remaining family, leaving only his nephew Gerard, Gerard’s young daughter, and the young daughter of a good friend.

Kacie Renault was one of those young girls, and she grew up learning to fight vampires, taught by Gerard and Erik. She has become estranged from Gerard, who had adopted her after her parents were killed, and her hatred of vampires includes Erik. When one of Erik’s friends since childhood, a Prime named Sedrik, is killed, Kacie is thought to have been the vampire slayer who killed him. Erik’s other two friends (Ty and Michael) were Sedrik’s brothers, and now he is caught between a woman he has vowed to protect and his friends of four hundred years.

Lord of the Night continues with secrets, warring loyalties, and a budding romance fighting for center stage. Is Kacie’s attraction to Erik strong enough to protect him, or will her hatred of vampires harm him? How will Erik choose between his friends and Kacie, or will they relent? Unexpected twists happen everywhere – who is betraying Erik’s confidences? What is Erik hiding in his lower level of the castle? What secrets will be revealed from Kacie’s short life and Erik’s long one?

Popp keeps us on our toes throughout Lord of the Night, as we plumb the depths of the small town of Hocksley, England. There’s a psychic link between vampires created by the same chupacabra, which helps us connect quickly with Erik’s friends. Michael and Ty manage to be mysterious, yet well fleshed-out characters. They want to avenge the death of their brother, so there isn’t much interaction between the friends once Erik starts protecting Kacie. We look into the past and get a peek at the world from their point of view – there aren’t any wooden secondary characters.

And oh-my-gosh how hot can the romance get? Popp can definitely write scenes that will have you fanning yourself, and you won’t be able to to put the book down. She takes things slow, especially because Kacie is involved with someone when she arrives. The waiting creates a simmering tension between the characters that is fun to watch, and very enjoyable when it bursts into flame! I’m not sure I’d recommend reading this in a doctor’s waiting room – I ended up blushing furiously a few times when I did that. However, the storyline and romance kept my mind off any pain or nerves because of the doctor!

Laird of the Mist is Paula Quinn’s fourth historical romance. While I’ve only read a few other historical romances, her writing captured my attention and I look forward to reading Paula Quinn’s other books. Quinn has set her story in the Scottish Highlands in the seventeenth century, and it’s clear that she has researched the beautiful scenery, the regional dialects, as well as the history. The Clan MacGregor really was proscribed during that time period, though it’s unlikely that the events in Laird of the Mist actually happened.

The two main characters are pitted against each other from the start. Kate Campbell is a lady who has been taught by her brother and guardians how to fight after her parents were killed by the MacGregors. Her much-disliked uncle took her brother to is castle for training, and has now come back to take her home with him. While he is there, a raiding party from the hills arrives, her uncle’s guard engages them in battle, and the fighting becomes fierce. Kate begins to fear for her life when a handsome man in MacGregor plaid rescues her. The MacGregors and the Campbells have been feuding for generations, and the MacGregors are looking for Kate’s uncle, who disappeared either before or during the fighting.

Callum MacGregor is instantly attracted to Kate, but he knows that he can’t get involved with her because of the feud between their families. Instead he “captures” her to hold for ransom – he will release Kate to her family once he has been given the opportunity to fight her uncle. Because the clan is proscribed, Callum and his men must return to their safe haven (the Mist of Laird of the Mist) as quickly as possible, so they ride despite their injuries. Kate’s satus as a captive and her injuries require her to ride with Callum, his arm holding her to him. Neither one seems particularly upset by this turn of events, though they are both quick to deny it!

As Laird of the Mist continues, we learn more about why Callum is called “The Devil”, what transpired between the MacGregors and the Campbells, and about the lives of the MacGregors on their misty island. There’s a dance between Kate and Callum, how can they remain true to their family while falling in love with their enemy? Quinn changes perspectives, as well – showing us what is happening with Kate’s brother and uncle as they ride to rescue her – this leads the reader to question who is good and who is evil, and when is killing necessary?

I shouldn’t neglect the romance part of a review of a romance, should I? After I tried to write romance scenes, I developed a strong admiration for anyone who can write them, especially those who can write them well. Quinn writes romance scenes that are steamy without crossing the line into p0rn0graphic. She uses vivid descriptions that may make your toes curl, but you won’t be feeling the wind-chill! As with Lord of the Night, I don’t recommend reading Laird of the Mist in waiting rooms, though it is very distracting!

I loved meeting all the MacGregors – Quinn does a wonderful job creating fleshed-out secondary characters, all of whom create vivid mental pictures, and speak in a unique voice. Once you, too, have fallen for the MacGregor clan, you’ll be happy to know that Paula Quinn has a second book about the clan coming out in August, 2008 – A Highlander Never Surrenders. It’s not even available for Amazon pre-order right now, but keep your eyes on her news page for updates.

When we open a romance novel, we are expecting a happy ending. We know from the beginning that Erik and Kacie’s story will end happily in Lord of the Night and Callum and Kate will find happiness in Laird of the Mist, the paths they travel are filled with ups, downs, and surprises. Go pick up these two romances and find out what happens in the middle of the books!

These novels were received from the publisher for review.

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