An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

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Book Review
Title: An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1)
Author:  Natalie G. Owens
Publisher: Rose of Atlantis Press/Natalie G. Owens
Released: January 5, 2013
Pages: 468
ISBN-10: 0988577216
ISBN-13: 978-0-9885772-1-3
Stars:  4.0

”She crashed headlong into an incandescent whirlpool of emotion from which she never wanted to escape.” Emma Deramore, in the throes of ecstasy after being separated from her true love for over 200 years…yes, I’ll have what she’s having!

It’s always such a joy when I read a book by a Facebook friend that I enjoyed enough to review. An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens is an intelligently written, passionate, historical paranormal romance that will leave you wanting to read Book 2 of The Valthreans series, A Lifetime for Revenge, right away.

An Eternity of Roses is the story of the dashing blonde & blue-eyed Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouth and his raven-haired, doe-eyed, adventurous betrothed, Lady Emmaline Deramore who in December 1807 are about to be married, thus creating a union that their British society are excited about. What they don’t know is that fate has its cruel twists mapped out for them as the jealous, red-haired, green-eyed, inherently evil immortal witch, Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is going to use a powerful curse to separate them for over 200 years.

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Well, I do love all those things so I read the book and am not sorry that I did. I was only sorry when the story came to an end.

In the Prologue we discern the history of the Valthreans, an immortal race originating in Kashmir, India.  Their namesake Valther was murdered within sight of his brothers Nila & Candaka by the Naga King Aravala for not immediately revealing that he had found a magic Chalice that was part of a group of mystical objects that would allow him to enter a state of immortality. Valther, who had a keen interest in the science of healing and a thirst for knowledge, had found one of the legendary Cups of Life from the lost seven Chalices of the River Demon. King Aravala possessed supernatural powers that allowed him to control the seasons and the weather, and he decided who lived and died. He also used the venom of cobras to kill immortals.

Valther was deemed a traitor to his people and sentenced to death by the sting of the cobra. The Naga people’s (The Cult of the Snake) sworn enemy, King Asoka, conspired to destroy the Naga beliefs.  Knowledge of magic was coveted by both peoples and Asoka could not allow Aravala to possess more knowledge of the Black Arts than he. Aravala, the Snake King, cared only for power and wealth and his people were either terrified of him or believed in the same things while the Valthreans sought to live peacefully. But what Asoka and Aravala didn’t know was that Nila & Candaka possessed the remaining Cups of Life and they were prepared to spend eternity protecting their own by keeping them from falling into the wrong hands.

An Eternity of Roses is a highly imaginative tale of the lengths one woman will go to, to be reunited with her true love and what another will do to keep that from happening. Emma’s adventures take her from England to Scotland to Italy to Holland and back to England over the course of 200 years. Her love scenes with Adrian are steamily and sensuously written but they’re far and few between as this is a story about separation, stolen identity, revenge and redemption. Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is a deliciously vile antagonist. She kidnaps Adrian, casts a spell on him that makes him forget his past, gives him a new name (Adam Alvar), makes him an immortal and cohabitates with him in a loveless marriage, because no matter how hard she tries, Adrian does not feel any love for her. Madeleine fortuitously gets her hands on the Demon’s Chalice and positions herself as an ally of a very influential member of the Cult of the Snake’s hierarchy. She has to remain in his good graces or suffer the ultimate consequence of betrayal. However, when members of the Valthrean Council catch up with her she has to flee her home in Scotland which provides Adam with the opportunity to leave her and embark on a new life of travel and adventure.

Emma in the meantime befriends another immortal, the mysterious Massimiliano “Max” Damiani (the main character in Book 2 of this series) in 1944 in London, who is instrumental in helping her find her lost love. Max is a friend of Nila and Candaka, now known as Neil and Cam, the oldest Valthreans in existence, and head of the Council, an organization that can find just about anything and who will go to any lengths to ensure that Valthreans remain able to live in peace among humans. What will happen when they do find Adrian, who doesn’t remember a thing about his past? Although the war is coming to an end, the battle for true love has yet to begin.

This is an epic adventure that readers of both historical and paranormal romance will undoubtedly enjoy. Owens’ (a former lawyer who lives on the island of Malta) poetic prose is far better than the average self-published work and even though she indulges in a few moments of extreme cheesiness and (“Mayhap one day is all I can say. But never forget, brother, home is in here.”) the book’s cover could be more enticing, it deserves a large audience. I will definitely read more of Natalie G. Owens’ work.

The Taker by Alma Katsu

Book Review
Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Release: September 6, 2011
Pages: 440 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-9705-9
Stars: 3.5

I have to start by apologizing to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster Canada who sent me an advanced reader’s copy of the supernatural, heartbreaking romance, The Taker by Alma Katsu, back in April of this year.  I thought for sure I would have it read and reviewed before now and I’ve actually read two books before this one that I still haven’t written reviews for because I’ve been so busy.  So while the story is still fresh in my mind, I will share my thoughts with you.

This story begins in the fictional small town of modern day St. Andrew, Maine.  A divorced and lonely surgeon named Dr. Luke Findley finds himself captivated by an extraordinary young woman who has been suspected of murdering an otherworldly beautiful young man, leaving his body to freeze in the woods.  She pleads with him to help her escape the authorities and after grabbing a scalpel in the hospital and slicing herself open – only to have the wound immediately knit together before Luke’s eyes – he knows he’s seeing something that must remain a secret and feels compelled to protect her at all costs.  Later we realize that Luke has nothing to lose.

The Taker is Alma Katsu’s debut novel and while it is certainly a page turner, it is so filled with melancholy that it leaves you feeling that way when you’re finished reading it.  The main character has been living for over 200 years and while she is tragically flawed she cannot find any joy in her immortality whatsoever. Throughout the story, Lanore “Lanny” McIlvrae, who is not a vampire, is subjected to almost every kind of pain, suffering and human degradation you can think of and we empathize with her but she is never able to find any pleasure in any of her actions or her sins.  I could imagine her voice as being soft, low and monotonous; her visage pretty, but hard and grim.

Lanore’s life is one of eternal unrequited love and betrayal that begins when she is a child in Maine Territory in 1809.  While she is on the run with Luke she tells him everything about her life up to the moment when they met so the novel morphs back and forth between history and present day.  This format works seamlessly and Katsu’s descriptions of 19th century Maine and Boston are excellent and well-researched.

The love of Lanore’s life is the unforgettably tall, dark and dazzling Jonathan St. Andrew, her best friend, who left almost every female who set eyes on him lovesick with lust and the desire to possess him.  As he grew from a boy of twelve to a young man in his 20s, Jonathan became the most gorgeous man anyone in the northeastern US had ever seen.  Unfortunately, he was also unable to remain faithful to any woman, not even his wife.

When Lanny, as Jonathan called her, becomes pregnant at 20 with his illegitimate child, her strict, puritanical father sends her away to Boston to have the baby in a convent but she decides before she gets there that she won’t let anyone take the baby away from her and escapes her charge to wander aimlessly through the streets of Boston alone.

It is then that the naïve girl meets part of the evil entourage of Adair, the Count cel Rau from Romania, who take her back to his mansion under the guise of inviting her along to a fancy party where she will have plenty to eat and drink.  She’s never seen anything so luxurious before and is overwhelmed by the temptations set before her.

Adair and his immortal minions, Donatello, Tilde, Alejandro and Uzra, live a life of complete debauchery and bacchanalia and that night he drugs and rapes Lanore without realizing that she’s pregnant.  This is the beginning of the end of her mortal life and her journey towards redemption.

As I don’t want to give away the specifics of Lanore’s catastrophic adventures with the malevolent Adair, which are as hideously mesmerizing as a train wreck, I’ll simply say that this is a story for adults.  This is no TwilightThe Taker borders on historical S&M erotica and horrific scenes are described in graphic detail.  Katsu’s writing is exceptionally good and Lanore, Jonathan and Adair are gripping characters who will leave most lovers of paranormal tales enthralled.  The secondary characters in Adair’s subplot are also interesting.  However, in comparison, Luke seems lackluster even though he serves an important purpose.

After such a tumultuous ride, I was disappointed in the sedate ending of The Taker.  However, for a debut novel, this is an above average read, and I would not hesitate to read more from Alma Katsu.