Monday, August 15, 2016

ARC Review: Midnight Soul by Kristen Ashley

Series:     Fantasyland #5
Pub. Date:Aug. 15, 2016
Publisher:Self-Pub
Length:645 pages
Source:InkSlinger PR

Kristen Ashley never disappoints. I was worried about this book, fearing that I just would not like the heroine given her past behavior. But I should not have doubted Queen KA's ability to create character depth and connection with even the most misunderstood individual. Midnight Soul picks up right where Broken Dove left off - everyone is back in Lunwyn dealing with the aftereffects of defeating the witches and getting back to their normal lives (where all our prior heroines are expecting children).

We first met Franka Drakkar in Wildest Dreams. She likes to point out that she is cousin to Frey, who commands elves and dragons. In pretty much every encounter we had with Franka in the earlier books, she was a viper with a sharp and deadly tongue, and an unknown agenda. In Broken Dove, we saw a hint of Franka's vulnerable side when her lover was kidnapped, tortured and killed by the baddies. Now we learn of Franka's tortured past and how soft her heart really is under that prickly exterior. KA didn't waste any time drawing us into Franka's character, I think the tears started around the first chapter... but I have come to expect ugly crying from almost every KA book. I couldn't believe that I connected with Franka so quickly - to the extent that I was mad at my previously favorite characters for how they were treating her!
I have a midnight soul, it's true, but light shines upon it every once in a while. I feel its warmth when it does and it means everything to me. Everything.
Our hero is also not new to the series. We met Noctorno "Noc" Hawthorne in Fantastical, where we learned he was the real-world twin of Fantasyland's Prince Noctorno "Tor" Hawthorne, heir to the Kingdom of Hawkvale. Noc was a law enforcement officer who got mixed up with Cora the Exquisite when he was investigating illegal gambling rings. This led to a relationship between Noc and Cora the Gracious... it was a minor relationship, but one substantial enough that he was willing to go to Fantasyland to help her when trouble arose. Noc was a typical alpha male hero - strong and sweet and steamy. He built Franka up and believed in her when no one else did... and despite her prickly attitude, he didn't hesitate to tease her. I particularly loved the sugarlips endearment.
"You beg real pretty, sweetheart."
Blast, but he had a penchant for titillation mingled with vexation.   [Franka on Noc]
This relationship was not instalove given that Franka had just lost her lover. We saw Franka go through a period of personal growth and open up to her family, friends and maid, Josette. Once Franka was free from the dangers of her past, it was awesome to watch her blossom. It's no secret that she ends up in real-world New Orleans, which was another treat for me. I loved seeing Franka and Josette's introduction to my city.
I was unsure how I felt about the overall look, sound and smell of the place. But the food was wonderful.  [Franka on New Orleans]
My office is down on Canal Street, so I have to agree with Franka's assessment of being unsure of the sound and smell of the place sometimes. But seeing Franka and Josette introduced to pizza, beignets and etouffee was such fun. The relationship heats up fast once the girls are in the real world, and I enjoyed watching Noc and Frannie grow closer together. 

I am really sad to see this series end. I would have preferred to see a separate book for some of the secondary characters and relationships that appeared in this book, particularly after the teasers of imaging Dax Lahn in a suit! I would have loved to see more of Frannie and Valentine's machinations between the worlds. Although there was mention of several new areas of Fantasyland across the Green Sea in this book, so maybe we can hope for a spinoff one day?

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. That being said, I also pre-ordered the book and will be picking up the audio version as well. 


About the Author


Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA and nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn’t taken her first breath!). Her mother said they took Kristen away, put her Mom back in her room, her mother looked out the window, and Gary was on fire (Dr. King had been assassinated four days before). Kristen’s Mom remembered thinking it was the end of the world. Quite the dramatic beginning. Nothing’s changed. Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana and has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus, she’s blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her family was (is) loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. They all lived together on a very small farm in a small farm town in the heartland. She grew up with Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched). Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing, it keeps getting better. 



Excerpt

~Franka~
“You need to leave,” I declared.
His brows drew together a moment before his expression showed clearly that comprehension had dawned.
Sadly, comprehension might have dawned but he didn’t leave.
He crouched by the bed and offered in a soft voice, “You need me to carry you to the other room so you can have a bit of privacy?”
Dear goddess.
He thought I needed a chamber pot.
But…
What was happening to my face?
Dear goddess!
The heat I felt in my cheeks could be nothing other than me blushing.
I didn’t blush. I’d never blushed. Not even when I’d set about seducing my first lover at age sixteen.
I needed to be quit of this man as soon as possible.
“No…I…do…not,” I bit out.
“Sure?” he asked kindly.
“I need you to leave, Noctorno,” I used his full name in an effort to irritate, something that worked if the flare in his eyes was any indication, “so Josette can prepare me. We’re away to Kristian’s this morning.”
Another drawing of his brows before he asked, “What?”
“After my toilette, Josette and I are to my sleigh so we can begin our journey to my brother’s home.”
His eyes got bigger as his mouth inquired peculiarly, “Are you high?”
“No,” I answered his ridiculous question unnecessarily, “Indeed, I’m low. As you can see since I’m lying abed.”
For a second he just stared at me.
Then he threw his head back and burst into loud, deep, beautiful laughter.
I wanted to throw something at him.
Unfortunately, in my current position, this was not an option open to me.
“I fail to see what’s amusing,” I noted.
He controlled his mirth only to mutter, “I’ll explain it later.” He went on more distinctly, “Frannie, you’re not goin’ to your brother’s today. Or tomorrow. Or until you’re fit. Then, maybe Valentine will spirit you there, or whatever the fuck that’s called. But for the foreseeable future, your ass is in that bed and you’re resting so you can heal.”
Well!
Who did he think he was, telling me what I would or would not do?
“As you’ve determined,” I began, “this is not the first time I’ve been in this condition so I do believe that I know best what I’m capable of and…”
I stopped speaking because he came slightly out of his crouch so he could put his face into my face and he was no longer looking mirthful.
He was looking angry.
Very angry.
“That was when you had no one lookin’ out for you but that’s not the case anymore. So this is how it’s gonna be,” he announced.
He then, to my shock, irritation and outrage, announced how it was going to be.
Like he had the right to tell me how it was going to be!



Fantasyland