Reviewed: October 20, 2013
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Maggie's Grove, Book 2
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Length: 224 Pages (estimated)
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Carina Press via NetGalley.
This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
The mayor of Maggie's Grove, Dragomir "Dragos" Ibanescu, has a problem. Actually, a host of them. Four weeks after his town barely survived an attack by a psychopathic witch with a vamp obsession, the residents of the town are still trying to pick up the pieces and heal from the damage. Some of his people have gone missing. His father, a male Dragos has more than just an acrimonious relationship with, has contacted him for the first time in centuries. His ex-bed partner is stirring up trouble and teetering close to the line of black magic, if she hasn't crossed it already. And his sotiei, the dyrad queen Mina, who suffered the most under last month's vicious attack, not only isn't healing, but she refuses to even speak to him.
And that alone is enough to make his inner bad boy want to roar with frustration.
Being stretched thin isn't a new feeling for the vampire, but if Dragos can't convince Mina to at least give their relationship a try, the rest of his problems are going to disappear under the avalanche of destruction his inner beast will leave in its wake, and there is absolutely nothing Dragos will be able to do to prevent it.
It didn't take me long into this book to guess my feelings about it were going to be in the minority, because my biggest issue with the story is related to my personal preferences for my romance heroines. I have a very low tolerance for exactly the sort of wallows-in-her-misery damsel that Mina was for far too long in the book, and she just never redeemed herself enough for me to find her tolerable. And if I don't like one of the romantic leads, I can't like the romance.
Mina, who by all accounts should be one of the strongest females in the series as the queen of her people and the ruler of the Throne of Oak, just didn't cut it for me in this book at all. I would have had no problem being sympathetic to the grievous wounds she suffered if she'd been more proactive about dealing with them, but she wasn't, and every attempt by friends and potential loved ones to assist her was rebuffed out of a mix of fear and pride. I found that very unappealing.
As much as I love Dragos and enjoy the world that Bell has created for the series, with its imaginative mythos and fun, often funny, always quirky cast of characters, Mina alone was enough to temper the majority of the enjoyment I could have felt with the story.
But she wasn't the only problem. Like Dragos, I had a host of them.
Over two years have passed between the release of the first and second book in this series. That's a long time for a reader to remember details from a series debut. Maybe that's why Bell spent so much of the first part of this book outlining the events in that one...if outlining is the right word. To me it felt more like I was being force-fed a condensed version of the debut with all the info dumping that was in the first several chapters here. Much of it was completely tangential to this story's plot and characters, so it became a quagmire of unnecessary minutia that slowed the pace of the narrative to a crawl and distracted from the story threads that were being introduced here.
And tangential is the word of the day, too, because the narrative had a bad habit of trotting off on useless tangents rife with superfluous information throughout the whole book, a habit I found particularly annoying during several pivotal scenes. Something serious would be going down and everything for the characters would be tense or emotionally charged, then the narrative would veer off into a long-winded dissertation about something else completely unrelated to what was happening. Yes, details like those provided can add to the tapestry of world-building for the series, but in the wrong place it just yanks me out of the story and hinders the emotional impact of a scene. It was far too often in the wrong place in this book.
I also had issues with the plot's jerky timeline, abrupt transitions, and lack of relationship evolution in Dragos and Mina's romance. There was also a dearth of character definition, most notably but not exclusively when it came to secondary and ancillary characters.
Thing is, though, there were also several things I truly enjoyed about this book. I love Maggie's Grove and the imaginative, creative history of the town. I thought Dragos was a great romantic hero, and even though I never warmed up to Mina, I'm glad he got his HEA. The secondary characters, though two-dimensional, were another source of entertainment. That's where most of the humor was found, and I'm very fond of the sort of humor that Bell excels in weaving into her stories. There were a lot of lighter, chuckle-worthy moments that I enjoyed.
And of course the sex is always smoking hot. Bell gives great smutty good times, and she doesn't skimp on the number of them.
As a whole, though, the good bits didn't provide enough balance to the less favorable elements for me to be okay with this one, and I was pretty far removed from liking it. I still have hope for the series. There's a lot of great story potential and a cornucopia of characters I would love to see mix it up in their own books. I just think there has to be a tighter, more controlled execution of the plot and a bit more depth given to the characters and their romantic evolution before any of that awesome potential is reached.
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