Release Date: July 25th 2011
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Once again, brevity falls victim to me having way too much time on the weekend. This week, it's Craved, by first-time author Stephanie Nelson. A book in the spirit of Sookie Stackhouse, or Some Girls Bite, but sadly, not quite as magic.
Gwen Sparks just wants to live a peaceful life in the supernatural town of Flora, but from the moment she read about the first murdered witch, all hope of peace was abandoned. Possessing the rare ability to read the memories of dead, she volunteers to help catch the culprit behind the string of drained witches. Gwen has to team up with the one man who broke her heart, deal with a ghost who pulls her into the deathly realm at will, and a fight off the advances of sexy but frustrating vampire who not only craves what runs through her veins--he wants her heart.
This is a full length novel and contains adult content, not recommended for readers under 18 years old
Gwen Sparks is a witch, and a powerful one at that. She lives in a world where, while vampires, werewolves and witches exist in the mainstream, humans have demanded segregation; so paranormals live in specialised towns and communities, separate to the human world. It's in one of these towns, Flora, that Gwen lives and runs a magic shop. She also moonlights as a consultant for the local police, and when witches start turning up dead, blood drained, Gwen volunteers her rather unique services to solve the case. She's quickly embroiled in mystery, danger, all while she's forced to work with the gorgeous werewolf who broke her heart. It might just have her falling into the arms of the sexy vampire, Aiden, who's been pursuing her relentlessly for the last two years. Girl's gotta have fun, right?
Man oh man, did I want to like this book, so please allow me to disclaim that I worry I'm being overly critical, BUT Craved started out really shaky for me. I kept tripping over missed opportunities to create tension or mystery, awkward sentence structure, continuity errors, or scenes that could have been fantastic if they were re-worked. Character motivations aren't explained, and, for me, an otherwise compelling story felt like it was let down for lack of detail, and poor editing (both grammatically--yes, I know, I'm guilty of innumerable grammatical crimes. In fact, I'm sure you'll find a dozen in this post alone, but they irritate me in a book--and on a grander scale). This really disappointed me, because Stephanie Nelson proves to be a thoroughly entertaining author, with a compelling story to tell.
The issues I had with the start of this book left me struggling to get into it. However, when I did, I encountered a very interesting and engaging mystery and, finally, it pulled me in.
Ladies! Gentlemen! Our Heroine: Gwen Sparks:Gwen's your typical UF heroine: ballsy, brave, stubborn, independent and strong of mind and character. She's a very talented witch, and she's a likeable character. Her voice and dialogue are fun and pithy, she's what you want in this kind of book. She--blissfully--doesn't suffer from Too Dumb To Live Syndrome, which runs rampant in this genre, she's smart, she's sassy. What's not to like?
Despite this, I found myself frustrated by Gwen's angst over a break up a year prior to the events of this book, but I can understand that a broken heart is a broken heart; we all heal differently.
Also, I don't know why, but love the cover: the model is a perfect Gwen (I'm kind of seeing Buffy-era Eliza Dushku?).
LURVE:Gwen gets two love interests in Craved, lucky thing. Gorgeous, sexy 600+ year old (or 315, depending on which half of the book you're in. He ages A LOT in the space of a few chapters...) vampire, Aiden, who's been pursuing her for years, and the man who broke her heart, Micah.
Unfortunately, to me, Aiden and Micah seemed like archetypes, rather than real, fleshed-out characters. Possessive, super sexy, controlling vampire? Check. Overprotective, quick to ire, ruggedly handsome werewolf? Check. PNR requisite love triangle? Sorted. Eventually, both develop. They have weaknesses, strengths, flaws and interesting backgrounds.
At first I didn't get why Micah was treated as a love interest at all, why he was behaving jealously, or why he gave a flying hot-pink-howler-monkey who Gwen was dating, after he so unceremoniously dumped her years before, because daddy said so. He didn't feel necessary. He seemed like an asshat who just didn't want to see his ex actually happy with someone else. NOT cool, NOT sexy, NO THANK YOU. This bugged me, because it felt like more of the book was spent on Gwen getting over a breakup that happened a year prior to the book's timeline, than was spending with her falling for Aiden. Her relationship with Aiden also felt like it happened too fast, and backwards, until halfway through the book, when we get a really touching (NOT sarcasm--I really liked it) run through of the history Gwen shares with Aiden. Basically, the connection Gwen and Aiden (Gwaiden? So celtic--I love it) share is established before the book starts; but we're not caught up on it till halfway through the book. It was only at this point that started seeing Aiden as an actual character, and not a stereotype.
Having said that, the scenes between Gwen and Aiden are sizzling. I like the two of them as a couple. There's great chemistry between the two, and watching the process of Gwen come to terms with, and begin to understand, her feelings for Aiden is touching.
Soooo:My issues with this book largely stem from (what I perceived as) a lack of good editing, and spice (you know, that little bit of extra flavour and attention to detail that makes a pudding unforgettable). But you know what? It's not a bad book. It has an intriguing mystery, a cool heroine, and a sexy hero. Ultimately, Craved left me feeling a little unsatisfied and dissapointed.
What Craved has in spades is potential, and, despite my disappointment with the various issues that made this a less than perfect book, I finished myself wanting more. I want a sequel; in fact, I find myself eagerly anticipating one. It will be very interesting to see where Stephanie Nelson takes it next.