Witches, spooks, angry elves, and giant matchmaking country parties.
Alex Craft Series: 1,2,3
Author: Kalayna Price
Books: Grave Witch, Grave Dance, Grave Memory
Tags: I see dead people, private eye, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, witches, elves, reapers, love triangle, ghost sidekick, small dog sidekick!
Oh man, there are some really cool aspects of this series.
Alex Craft is a grave witch, which means she can tap into the land of the dead and talk to ghosts, raise shades, etc. Every time she does that, though, she become temporarily blind for hours or even days at a time. Each time she does it, her sight gets weaker and weaker, so she may end up completely blind eventually. However, when she has Grave Sight, she can see the world in its land-of-dead dimension, kind of like Stranger Things. Everything’s the same, but dead or broken down. In addition she has another sight called, Ether? I think? Where she can see energies.
Not only is it a great idea, but FASCINATING in practice. Alex is always switching between the real world, grave sight, ether sight, and completely blind, so that is makes for really interesting storytelling. And also, how frightening! Imagine that your livelihood is killing your sight, that every time you use it (usually on-location at a graveyard), you will go suddenly blind. How do you get home??? Uber doesn’t exist in this world, but man, that would be super useful.
The world building is Ilona Andrews level. We have a full backstory of how magic came to be in the current modern world, complete with multiple dimensions, politics, specific levels of magical ability, and social nuances. All that, and you are not even hit over the head with the typical magic-as-metaphor-for-racism trope.
All three books trip along nicely at a fast pace with her crappy ass life constantly inundated with danger, mischief, action, and shocking revelations.
Pretty much great. So, why am I not excited about this series?
Two words: Love Triangle.
BLURGHGHGHGH Why are love triangles always only between two asshole dudes? Hmmm, should I choose this asshole? Or this slightly different asshole over here? Oh no! One asshole disappeared in an assholeish way! I guess I love this asshole the most. No, now he’s gone! Now they are both back! What is a girl to do? How can I possibly choose/wait until fate intervenes/wait until the assholest of them all claims me in daring feat of assholeness???
The two assholes in question are almost equally bad, though in opposite ways.
Death, a benign hottie grim reaper who has been popping into her life at random intervals for all of Alex’s life, can’t actually live in the same dimension as Alex. His story is eerily similar to First Grave on the Right‘s (podcast book!) reaper. Just as possessive, less angry.
And then there’s Falin, a sarcastic, abrasive detective who is so regularly hot and cold to her that she has no idea what the hell’s going on. He turns out to be fae, and owned by the Fae Queen besides. So, uh, that’s a dead end.
I have no patience for love triangles. I just think it’s all very selfish to gravitate towards whoever is paying the most attention to you at the time. So you have amazing chemistry, and you like the guy. Good for you. But the logistics will never work, so stop torturing yourself and get over it already. There are other fish/reapers/fae detectives in the sea.
I’m begrudgingly #TeamFalin. Yeah, sure he’s made a blood oath to obey one of Alex’s super powerful enemies, but at least he lives in the same dimension as her. Plus Death has a nice-guy stalker vibe.
I was swimming along nicely, but by the third book I was kind of over it. I really wanted to focus on the side characters hooking up around her, who happen to be actually nice human/creatures. But the book is in first person so we are not allowed. Curse you, limited point of view!!
I’ll check out the next ones when they are available to me, but I won’t seek them out. I’m not super in love with Alex as a character, so that’s another reason I don’t feel particularly driven by this series. Urban Fantasy Protagonists usually skew towards either extra whiney (Jeaneine Frost) or tough-as-nails ass kicker (Ilona Andrews). I love the second and despise the first. Alex was just kind of neither. I think she leaned more towards ass kicker, but she wasn’t very quippy, and she does have horrible taste in men.
One thing won me over. She owns a Chinese Crested named PC (Prince Charming)! OMG I’m overwhelmed with adorbs!
She’s always running home in the middle of life threatening crises because she needs to go feed him. I feel ya, girl! Many of the scenes with PC had me nodding and thinking, “yes, I understand that as a fellow small dog owner.”
So, Pros: connect with small dog owner experiences, world building admittedly cool
Cons: creepy stalker vibe from love triangle, not quippy enough.
Just to remind you how ridiculous Chinese Crested dogs are:
The Lady Most Willing… & The Lady Most Likely…
Authors: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockway
Tags: Regency, country estate party, abducting brides, contest for marriage, snowed in, dukes!, bluestocking, stick-in-the-mud, ladies’ man, fake rake, stormy Captain, childhood sweethearts
These two books aren’t technically anthologies. They are more or less cohesive novels with vignettes of different couples written by different authors.
I don’t like anthologies much. My brand of romance usually revolves around a lot of introspection and self torture, and there’s just no room for that in anthologies. Still, it was entertaining enough, and I did appreciate there was an overarching story line.
I think I liked Lady Most Likely… best, mostly because one romance bookended the novel so I had more time to get to know the characters.
Our hero has decided to take a wife, so his sister corrals together eligible ladies to visit him in his country estate and see if there is a match. I call that trope “contest for marriage.” He is slightly obtuse and brash, and seems to care much more for his horses than getting to know any of the women. The women, all heroines in their own vignettes, end up paired off with surprise suitors before he can get to know them all that well.
The worst hero was Stormy Captain, who swooped in to claim one of the ladies who had had an understanding with him in the past. He’s all gruff and angsty and throws her around like fish at a fish market.
The best hero was the original horse breeder dude, and he is the one that I like the most. He ends up having a good reason for his horse obsession and disinterest in the ladies, and is far less obtuse than originally thought.
The rest of the stories flow generally well together. It’s a fun read.
Lady Most Willing… was less fun. The whole Seven Brides for Seven Brothers-esque abduction was a little too much. The abductors were ridiculous old Scottish men that I didn’t really want to spend time on. There were also some character irregularities between one vignette and the next that bothered me.
On the other hand, who doesn’t love a good ol’ snowed in story?
I read them both because of Julia Quinn, and I think, but I’m not positive, that I liked her stories best.
While reading these, I realized I may not hate Eloisa James as much as I thought. The part that always kills me in James novels is at the end when things could obviously be wrapped up and resolved, but she just keeps beating the main conflict over and over and over… Yes, I know that she has a word count quota to protect, but rehashing a simple misunderstanding to fulfill the last seventy pages starts feeling tired and contrived by the end of it.
So maybe, the anthology word restriction works in her favor.