“Your life is forfeit if you open that door.”
WARNING!!! SPOILERS MAY OCCUR, AND IF NOT OBVIOUS SPOILERS, PERHAPS INFO YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO KNOW…
I rarely buy anything on impulse, especially books. I either have to be familiar with the author or know what I’m getting into by buying a familiar genre. This book was promoted on my friend Ciar Cullen’s blog and I loved the cover and the title. The logline (posted above) also got my attention. The blurb – even moreso, and with a warning like this:
This gothic contains heady kisses that lead to ruin, passionate sex on a desk chair, a mysterious husband who may be a murderer, a cursed family of raven shifters, and an unspeakable evil hidden in the closet.
Who could resist, right?
So, let’s start out by setting the stage. For anyone who’s wished for a historical to add in paranormal flavor, this book is for you. Magic, curses, & shifters abound in this book. And not only is it a historical paranormal, it’s shifters are the likes of those we’re not “used” to seeing–raven shifters.
The book takes place in 1823 England, and it begins like you might expect, at a ball/party/soiree of a prestigeous wealthy lord. Of course, this lord has been whispered as murdering his past two wives, but that doesn’t seem to phase Isabel, our heroine. You see, Lord Hayle is sinfully sexy, and of course, he’s set his eyes on her, eighteen, though not yet debuted into Society. Her mother has favorited her older sisters, since she looks too much like her father, who has since passed away. This aspect reminded me of Cinderella.
Not too long after the hero and heroine first meet, however, you know this isn’t your typical Regency. No, it’s a book with full on raven shifters, an entire family flock of them, and Lord Hayle, of course, is the Alpha. I enjoyed reading the heirarchy of the group, as the author has obviously done her homework in both historical England as well as ravens and their behavior.
As the book progresses, secrets are revealed, and the fragile love between Hayle, who’s first name is Rukh (pronounced Rook) and Isabel is tested to the breaking point.
I enjoyed the author’s prose. It was very rich, almost decadent at times. A joy to read, however, like a velvety chocolate cake, if you eat too much, you might regret it. At times it seemed as if the author was deliberately drawing out descriptions in an effort to be overly flowery with the prose, and it became tedious at times. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did immensely, and would have contracted this book had I been an editor. I suppose my complaint doesn’t lie so much in the prose as it does with the pacing.
I felt there were a few scenes which cut away from the action too fast or rambled on and could be cut. One such example is when Hayle fought with his family over his now-current wife (Isabel). Like ravens do, they surrounded him, collapsed on him, and intended to teach him a lesson. Here, the scene cuts. I fully intended the next scene to be in Hayle’s point of view, a fight scene of sorts, telling his family where to go as Alpha.
Did I get this? No…the next scene is three months later. I’m left scratching my head over what really happened during that family “meeting” and began questioning the hero and his power as Alpha. I understand an Alpha is the leader of the pack, or flock as the case may be, and as such, his word isn’t to be questioned. Perhaps it is different in ravens, however, this distinction isn’t made clear in the book.
More and more his family pulls away and goes against his wishes in an effort for the author to show they obviously don’t want Hayle to break their curse. To the point of holding Hayle and Isabel “captive” in his own home.
This to me seemed to go against every Alpha undertone in the hero’s nature. He’s so overly protective of his heroine, that he shifts and tries to “kill” any man who dare touch her. He’s loyal to his family and to a point, loyal to the curse, but the constant power plays between him and the other patriarchs in the flock, without a challenge to rise another Alpha, seemed out of place for Hayle’s character. He was a pawn, an Alpha in name only, nothing more, as no one else in the family wanted to be Alpha. Then, the full extent of the curse would fall on their shoulders. And yet, Hayle did nothing to quell the disloyalty, nothing to root it out, nothing to demand his dominance.
Perhaps this was to protect his flock by keeping the curse on his shoulders, but it seemed so out of character with a man who was an Alpha male ONLY to his mate. Perhaps it was out of respect for his elders. But at some point, you must have loyalty to the Alpha or the flock will only degenerate and choose a new leader, especially when the other family members seem to walk all over him. In fact, the only one of his family loyal to him was his previous competition for Isabel’s attentions! While I enjoyed the competitors turned friends angle (or at least they’re friendly to a point) I wanted Hayle to do something to whip his family in line.
Which is why he was nothing more than a scapegoat for the elders as they didn’t lift a finger to help him, not even in the ending scene. Because there was no real resolution to this “walking all over the Alpha” dilemma, the book fell flat for me in that regard.
Another pacing problem I had was the end scene with the Big Bad Villain. I’m very happy to see the author doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t hand her hero and heroine a happily ever after on a silver platter. However, I felt it did go on and on a little too long. We obviously knew what had to be done long before it was actually done, to the point I wanted to yell at my computer screen for them to do it all ready.
At times, I felt the heroine seemed wise beyond her eighteen years. I remember when I was eighteen, and I’m not so sure I would have been as on-the-ball as this woman was. Yet the author mentions her mother ignored her and thus she was able to study more with her tudor. I can let that slide. At the beginning of the book, she was a wide-eyed innocent, in more ways than one, however, near the middle and end, she seemed more mature. Perhaps that’s merely a nit-pick.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I read the book in one sitting and prayed I wouldn’t get interrupted. Like I mentioned before, the prose is decadent, and as a fellow author, I lapped it up. Looking back, perhaps reading it in one sitting isn’t what one should do with prose such as this. Perhaps that is why I found it tedious at times. It needed to be savored rather than gobbled.
This book is filled with so much uniqueness, that I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a good gothic romance, a historical romance, or anyone who’s longed for the blending of the two with a paranormal shifter twist. While I admit, there were times when imagining a giant raven pecking at someone had me giggling at the mental image, the shifter angle was one I’d never seen before and kept my interest, since ravens are indeed such a handsome, sleek bird, after all.
All in all, even with my dings for over-indulgent prose, pacing, and disrespect for the Alpha in Hayle, I give this book a solid four stars from Becka. I enjoyed every minute of it and will be looking for more of the author’s work in the future. This storyline was indeed one of a kind, and I’m sure I won’t come across another like it for a long time to come. Good work, Ms. Drake. May you have many successes with this book.
And you, dear reader, go and buy this one. You won’t regret it.
You can buy THE FORBIDDEN CHAMBER from Samhain Publishing here: