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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V3; S4; H3
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
      Never Again (2011)
      Now or Never (3/2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 4/3/12 to include a review of the second book in the series: Now or Never. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of book 1:

          BOOK 2: Now or Never          
     Book 2 begins with a Prologue that tells the sad story of a magical little girl who outwits the cruel woman who is about to murder her. The real story begins 25 years later when unknown bad guys attempt to sacrifice the now-grown-up girl for equally unknown reasons in a clearing in the middle of a dark woods just outside Nevermore, Texas. Sheriff Taylor Mooreland, guided by a magical white raven, finds the girl still alive near a bloody stone altar and realizes that she is literally the woman of his dreams. He also realizes that the clearing is a nemetona sacred spacethat has some connection with the fact that Nevermore is a Goddess fountain. Taylor calls in his magical friends to heal the girl, and they try to figure out what's going on. For much of the story, the girlLenore (Norie) Whytecannot speak or remember what happened because she has been bespelled

     In the meantime, Taylor is busy trying to solve the mysterious shooting deaths of two townsfolk, both apparently suicides. But in both deaths, the murder weapon was an antique revolver that had been locked up securely, first in the sheriff's office and then in Gray Calhoun's magically warded home. So...are these really suicides? Or is the situation more complex? The story moves back and forth among several plot threads: the investigation of the suicides; the unraveling of Norie's story; a visit by Gray's powerful mother, accompanied by Cullen, the son of a former Nevermore resident; and the development of the romance between Taylor and Norie, which doesn't get much print space. The story arc for the series involves the villainous Raven clan, which is using demon magic to try to withdraw from the Grand Court and take over the magical world. This book introduces many secondary story lines, most of which are left unresolved. Who is responsible for the "suicides"? What will the nefarious Ravens do next? Will Ant and Happy's romance ever lead to an HEA? What happens to Gray's mother, Letitia, after a cliff-hanger of an ending scene? Where will Cullen find a girlfriend in tiny Nevermore? (After all, you can't drop a sexy guy into a paranormal romance series and not pair him up with someone.)  

     This story doesn't reach the humor level of book 1 (a 2 instead of a 3) and it's more violent (a 4 instead of a 3). There's plenty of magical action, but this book definitely feels like the filler between book 1 and the TBA book 3.

     In the first book in this new series, Bardsley introduces us to the magical town of Nevermore, Texas. The first two pages set up the framework for the World in which this series is set. Long ago, the Goddess created seven magical bloodlines: dragons (fire), hawk (air), shark (water), wolf (earth), sun (life), and raven (death). Only the progeny of these lines  (aka magicals) could access the sacred energies that make magic, and they were meant to use their abilities to protect life and keep the balance. Eventually, those bloodlines were further defined as Houses, along with a Grand Court made up of representatives from each House, to govern all magicals. Over time, the bloodlines intermixed, and  some of the magicals deviated from their positive purpose in life. In this world, most magicals and ordinary mortals (aka mundanes) live side by sideas is the case in the small town of Nevermore

          BOOK 1: Never Again          
     Here's the back story for book 1: The Guardian of Nevermore is Gray Calhoun, a Dragon who has spent the past ten years as a recluse after having been bargained away to a demon by his faithless and greedy wife, Kerron Rackmore, a power-mad Raven. The Rackmore ancestors had made a demonic deal 500 years ago for wealth, and now that deal is coming to a close. The demon wants a dragon's heart, so Kerron seduces, marries, and sacrifices Gray so that she can keep her money. Unfortunately for the rest of the Rackmore family, the Grand Court punishes them by taking all their money away and cutting off most of their privileges, turning them into outcasts.

     As book 1 opens, Kerron's younger sister, Lucinda (Lucy) shows up at Gray's door begging him to marry her because she needs protection from her former lover, Bernard Franco, a sadistic, corrupt wizard. Bernard has placed a curse on Lucy so that she can no longer use her thaumaturgical talentsthe ability to control life itself. Since escaping from Bernard, Lucy has been drifting from one place to another with no friends, no money, and no hope for the future. Everyone in the magical world hates the Rackmores for their demonic connections, so no one will help her. Gray is her last resort. After Gray turns Lucy away, he has second thoughts and goes after her, which sets the plot in motion. From the beginning, it's pretty easy to figure out that the two will fall in love sooner or later. In the next few days, there are several mysterious deathspossibly murders—in Nevermore that Gray investigates along with the sheriff, Taylor Mooreland. As Gray takes care of Lucy, he also begins to take care of his town, which he has neglected for years. By the end of the book, a trusted friend has become an enemy, an old enemy has come to town, and Lucy's curse has become intertwined with a young girl's lifeor death.

    The humor in Never Again comes from the quirky townsfolk and from Gray's two soul bookssentient (and grouchy) books imbued by the spirits of Gray's wizard grandfather (Grit) and his surfer-dude friend (Dutch).  This is a cute series set in an interesting World. I've enjoyed Bardsley's other series (the vampire/shifter series BROKEN HEART), and I'm sure I'll continue to enjoy this one.

     Click HERE to read the first three chapters of Never Again.

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