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Friday, October 14, 2011

Dark Sins and Desert Sands Stephanie Draven

Dark Sins and Desert Sands Stephanie Draven
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (189 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Escaping a hellish Syrian prison, U.S. serviceman Ray Stavrakis emerged with uncanny mind-control powers and an eerie ability to morph into a mythical Minotaur. As a half man, half bull, Ray had legendary power, but only one woman could prove his innocence. The woman who'd driven him to the brink of insanity with her cool-eyed interrogation and her hot-blooded sensuality.

But Vegas psychologist Layla Bahset had no memory of Ray or her past. Only a feeling of being stalked by a nonhuman predator. Was it Ray…whose eyes condemned her soul even as his hands ignited her body? Or was another evil force at work? But nothing could stop Layla from remembering what she was…and what her evil creator had planned for her and her soldier lover….

Who would ever have believed that the path of vengeance would lead to the discovery of love? A man born and recreated and a woman created yet reborn join together to find that which others denied them. Dark Sins and Desert Sands ends up being a powerful and completely entertaining tale that kept this reader on the edge of her seat.

I was fascinated with the heroine that Ms. Draven created. It seems she explored the possible question of, “what kind of person would I be if I didn’t have all the baggage from my past?” Layla, the heroine, didn’t purposely pursue the answers to that question. How and why she did is intimately mixed up with the villain of the book.

Layla is a nice person. Too nice. By that I mean she is bland - not forceful or colorful. She’s numb to life and yet she knows there’s something out of reach, something missing and it’s driving her nuts that she can’t figure it out. She does the best that she can because she has a good heart. And after reading the book, it totally makes sense. Inside, the heroine really is a decent and giving person who longs for the dream of love, home and kids. A reader is in for a surprise when they find out what Layla is actually capable of. She ends up being a very sympathetic character and I cheered her on as she tried to thwart the destiny mapped out for her. When the heroine starts putting the pieces together, mixed with the person she was at the beginning of the book, get ready for a treat. She’s a tough cookie and will fight for what is important, no matter what. The person who inspired that keen sense of loyalty is the yummy hero, Ray.

Ray is an awesome character. He’s a military guy with a great record – to a point. His sense of duty, honor and integrity would normally be great qualities and they are. But they can and were used against him. He experienced horrible terrible things. Ms. Draven described a scene that would make anyone puke, not just the hero. Despite the things done to him and his need for revenge, it didn’t block him from the basic good nature inside himself. He wasn’t blinded by rage all the time and when he wasn’t, clarity exposed some intriguing possibilities that blew his mind. And, it set him on a path totally different from his original goal, much to my delight.

The culprit and villain that created the chaos and horror that dogged the steps of Layla and Ray throughout the book is, Seth. The author was creative and amazing in what she did with him. I felt I should hate his character: certainly I was given enough ammunition to do so. But I couldn’t. In reality, he was as dysfunctional with relationships as a guy could be. He was so set in his ways; he had become arrogant, lofty and totally clueless when it came to a real woman. The bad guy also had some weird phobias and twisted views of women in general. He’s so complicated! Because of the author’s brilliant writing, I ended up giggling with diabolical glee when Isabel matched wits with Seth. That’s all I’m going to say about that - wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for readers.

Secondary characters contribute mightily to the plot movement in the book. I enjoyed how the author led me to a false sense of ambiguity about their presence in the story. They were more than they appeared and readers are going to be pleasantly surprised at the roles they play.

The happy ever after brought tears to my eyes. Truly. It was emotionally powerful, poignant and sweet.

Ms. Draven created a wonderful heartfelt final chapter that wowed me and made everything that came before more meaningful and special. It highlighted the fact that all the tragedies in the past paid the dues for the hope and optimism that now embrace Layla and Ray. Totally romantic.

Dark Sins and Desert Sands is a light in the darkness. Ms. Draven delivers a suspenseful emotionally packed romance layered with passion, heat and the power of true love. The story reaches into the depths of its characters and brings them to life, taking readers along for the ride. There’s drama, more twists than a pretzel and plenty of thrills and chills to satisfy readers of romantic suspense. The loving between Ray and Layla is potent and sensual, and their journey of love, though bumpy, is beautiful.

Dark Sins and Desert Sands is great romance. Pick up your own copy and see.