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Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: A Touch of Darkness (Key #1) By Yelena Casale and Tina Moss

cover, image, paranormal, romance
A Touch of Darkness (Key #1)
By Yelena Casale and Tina Moss
234 Pages
Published Mar. 2, 2015
by City Owl Press
Cassie Durrett dreams of the darkness. And lives the nightmare. She's working for a tightwad boss at a pretentious NYC diner, dealing with paralyzing pain that doctors can’t diagnose, and trying to hide her hands that glow purple whenever she ...well, whenever.

So, when mystery man, Gabe, walks out of her dreams and into her life to spout some nonsense about her being a mythical creature, she chalks it up to one more crazy thing to add to her it’s-a-crappy-life list. Yet, when his predictions start to come true, she'll need his help to beat back the darkness-spawned creatures invading her reality.

Pretty soon Gabe has her running half way across the country in search of answers. As a bond grows between them, Cassie worries not about losing her mind to the paranormal madness, nor her life to hellish monsters. Rather her deepest fear is surrendering her heart to a powerful man fallen from grace.

FIRST PLACE in 2014 Readers' Crown Award for urban fantasy.
FIRST PLACE in Central Florida RWA's Touch of Magic contest for paranormal romance.

The premiere installment of the new Key series opens with Cassie Durrett desperate to discover the origins and meaning behind the mysterious purple glow radiating from her hands. Debilitating headaches and enigmatic dreams also plague Cassie and she’s eager for answers. When a formidable stranger crosses her path, the answers he provides are fantastic and overwhelming. With newfound self-awareness, Cassie is forced to endure a crash course of supernatural proportions; a course that’s careening towards a dire decision.

I love the promise in starting a new series. Sometimes, however, promise quickly turns to half-hearted hope when you realize the start-up falls short. The first half of this book is remarkably lackluster. All of the tired clich├ęs of paranormal are present; an awkward heroine who feels inadequate in contrast to her vivacious blonde friend, a mysterious male stranger with a ‘spicy’ scent who immediately feels protective of our heroine, and a bar scene that places our heroine in grave danger. I contemplated submitting a ‘did not finish’ review, but felt that would be unfair, so I endured. While I can’t exactly say I’m delighted I continued, I don’t consider completing the book to have been a waste and maybe even an investment.

One of my major criticisms of the book is that I didn’t like Cassie. She alternates between awkward and overly confident and seems forever contradictory. She makes poor decisions at times, and while this is often a hallmark of an overly-inquisitive main character, in the case of her Las Vegas adventure, it just seems immature and petulant for a woman approaching 28-years-old. Plus, a personal annoyance of mine is when an author cannot describe an appealing outfit, and Cassie is a bad dresser. The romance between Gabe and Cassie doesn’t receive enough build up. Their first kiss comes almost out of nowhere and there is little romantic tension between the two. And, really, I’m not sure exactly what Gabe finds endearing about Cassie other than the fact that he is her guardian and innately protective.

Halfway through, the novel hits its stride. The plot gains steam and interesting characters emerge. For instance, though he’s definitely the typical rebellious, arrogant playboy, Rafe’s character is promising. There was far more sizzle between he and Cassie than Cassie and Gabe. I would be interested in future developments with this character. There are some highly imaginative sequences, especially of the violent variety, that elevate this novel. Redeeming the book further are the many unanswered questions presented but not answered in this first installment. I’m sure future books will be full of interesting discovery.

Not every series has a fantastic first book. Occasionally it takes time to warm to characters and their circumstances. While I’m undecided whether I will read forthcoming books in the Key series, I’m considering it. Currently the publisher is offering a free download of the sequel novella, and I’ve downloaded it, so if that’s any indication …

Two and a half sheep






Bianca Greenwood

About the Authors:
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Yelena Casale is an award-winning author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, she moved to New York at thirteen. Being very curious, she has been a devoted reader and writer since childhood. As a 2nd degree black belt and instructor in Shotokan karate, an avid traveler, and history and art enthusiast, she weaves universal themes with martial arts philosophies into her stories. She lives with her amazing, supportive husband and the best Siamese cats. In her spare time, she reads, paints, watches cool shows on TV and tries to get more sleep.


About the Author:
Tina Moss is an award-winning author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and New Adult novels. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5'1" Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.

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