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And The Award Goes To… Challenge
The Shape of Water (2017) — Read a romance that’s set either on the water, like on a ship, or near the water, like in a beach town; a romance set in the 1950’s; or a romance featuring a relationship between main characters of different species
Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland — heroine is human, hero is a dragon shifter:
We were immediately introduced to a large group of characters and it took me a few chapters to keep everyone straight. The heroine unintentionally met a group of dragon shifters and ended up saving the hero’s life. Since the dragons were at war, they took her with them into hiding to save her life. The hero believed human women were untrustworthy due to spoilerish reasons. Neither the h/h were happy to discover they were fated mates. There was some effort to explore this, but the characters tended to talk in circles. I appreciated that not all of the good guy characters started off as likeable. The author had several of the characters act foolishly simply to further the plot which was irksome. The death of one of the secondary characters was telegraphed very early on. Nonetheless it felt emotionally manipulative and, as evidenced by a conversation between characters late in the story, proved unnecessary for the plot so I was left more angry than sad. On the plus side, I did like the main h/h overall, the secondary h/h, and most of the other characters plus there was a lot of humor. This book basically served as set up for the overarching story and little was resolved. So an uneven read, but still an intriguing start to the trilogy.

The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
I for interconnected — Read a romance that is part of a series.
Shadow of Flame by Caitlyn McFarland– book two in Dragonsworn trilogy:
The characters never dealt with the repercussions of the manipulative death of the character from book one. Divided loyalties took center stage as the main h/h attempted to navigate the political machinations of many secondary characters and his enemies came out of the proverbial woodwork. It was extremely frustrating neither the main hero nor heroine made an effort to talk to the other simply because their lack of communication provided conflict. The main heroine continued to be too passive which added to the frustration. Thankfully she eventually decided to be proactive. A lot of page time was spent setting up a tertiary romance which I didn’t care about. There was also a lot of page time from various villains’ POVs. The secondary romance took an unsurprising twist that was hinted at in book one, but I had hoped to be wrong about. The spy was obvious and it was disconcerting that the main characters never suspected the correct individual. A subplot involving the hero’s sisters did have a few surprises. So despite the frustrating first half and issues with some of the subplots, overall I enjoyed this book for the stronger second half. Also, I was happy that I had book 3 to start right away since this book ended on a cliffhanger.

The Alphabet Challenge Variation
M = Truth of Embers by Caitlyn McFarland:
I appreciated that the main h/h were finally on the same page and worked as a team. The secondary couple was my favorite of the trilogy, so I was happy that events from the second book didn’t derail their romance. I wish they’d had more page time together in this book. There was another major character murder, but at least this time it could be considered integral to the plot. I liked the heroine in the angsty tertiary romance but remained meh on the hero. His ‘lying for your own good’ attitude and casual hurtfulness were annoying. Thankfully he eventually cleaned up his act. The issue of the heroine’s human family was finally addressed somewhat. One of the secondary characters from the first book remained too much in the background, but at least had a few good scenes to give some closure to her story arc. The author’s attempts to redeem one of the villains simply did not work for me in the slightest and it was wearisome to again spend so much time in his POV. Other villains weren’t redeemed at all but also didn’t face any actual consequences for their evil deeds (including the aforementioned murder) which was unsatisfactory. There were some interesting plot twists throughout. The overarching war plot was resolved, but several subplots were left open-ended. Despite these issues, this was my favorite of the trilogy.

  • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
  • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 4 down, 15 to go…
  • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 11 to go…
  • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 1 down, 18 to go…
  • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 5 down, 14 to go…