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So I have converted my significant other to romance novels. Of course, he was open minded enough to give them a chance, but hey, I started the process. Just recently we read the In the Garden trilogy out loud to each other *pause for incredulous stares* Yes, we do this. We read alternate chapters to each other. Deal.

Anyway. I had read the books when they came out first, and had re-read the first two a few times since, but this was the first time I read the three of them one after another. And of course, I had a terrific idea: a joint review of the trilogy.

Please brace yourselves, as it’s a tad longer than usual–after all, it’s three books. Have some coffee, and enjoy.

In the Garden trilogy (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose and Red Lily), by Nora Roberts

The In the Garden trilogy by Nora Roberts centers around Harper House – a stately mansion in Memphis that has been in the Harper family for more than a century – and those who live in it. The novels mix contemporary love stories with the Southern belief in the supernatural as well as the charm, connections, traditions of more genteel times. Each novel follows the development of the love story between two main characters, while advancing their quest to discover the full story of the entity known as The Harper Bride, who has shared the house and grounds with the Harpers for at least a century.

Three women meet at a crossroads in their lives, each searching for new ways to grow—and find in each other the courage to take chances and embrace the future.

Part of the hallmark of Ms Roberts’ writing is her ability to create a sense of community by introducing characters and allowing the reader to participate in the evolution of their relationships—be these friendship, romantic, working relationships, what have you. These three books show the reader how a disparate cast of characters develop into a family in the best sense of the word.

In order to write a cohesive, comprehensive and coherent review of the trilogy as a whole, we will first offer a brief overview of the three novels, followed by a more detailed discussion of each character, overall plotting, pacing, and writing style. At the end we will both give our grades for each book and for the trilogy. (more…)

Through the Veil, by Shiloh Walker

Where to start? Hmmm… Well, for starters, this book is an amazing mix of urban fantasy and paranormal elements with romance. The world building is really top notch—complex yet flexible, the way life actually is.

Here’s the blurb:

Found wandering in a field as a child, Lee Ross was given a name by the state and placed in a foster home–without anyone realizing she wasn’t entirely human. All her life, she’s tried to dismiss the odd dreams that have plagued her, dreams of monsters creeping through the night and a man, fighting demons by her side. But the bruises she wakes up with are all too real to ignore.

Then the man from her dreams appears in the flesh. His name is Kalen and he insists that her destiny lies in his world, the world of her dreams. To save their people, he must convince Lee to give up everything she knows, follow her heart and cross into the Under Realm, even though once she does, she’ll never be able to return.

For once the blurb hits its mark—yay! Chalk one up for authors!

In this universe, some individuals have the power and the talent to see between dimensions through the Veil, and there are ways to cross from one to another by opening the Gates between worlds—but doing so has consequences, often unforeseen, other times callously ignored. Two of these worlds have been at war for generations.

As wars often do, this conflict has changed over time. From a first strike prompted by the need of a world to survive, the incursions have become almost a sport for the aggressors. The world that is the target of these ever more frequent raids is now on the brink of implosion, torn by invasion, violence, pollution and despair. Eventually something must give.

Ms Walker gives insight into the politics of each world; the evolution of a society where power is the only thing of value, contrasted with the disintegration of the social, political, and economic infrastructures in a world under siege.

Did I say the world building is good? Well, then, the characterization? Oh man, so good, particularly the two main characters, but also several of the secondary characters who play important roles in the story—Morne, Dais, Eira, Arnon, Char.

I love the internal conflicts that Kalen and Lee go through, and I truly can’t say which of them I like more, or with whom I sympathize more. (more…)