Tag Archive | Rachel Leigh Smith

Hidden in Ashes by Rachel Leigh Smith

Hidden in AshesSource: ARC from author
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.

Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane man trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.

When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.

Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.

An up-front warning – this book is not for the faint of heart, or those unable to deal with abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual. There are some graphic descriptions of abuse: while most action is off-page, it is discussed on-page.

This is, I think one of Smith’s gentler novels, but at the same time, she still takes her time taking your heart apart piece by piece – and at one point, she certainly ripped mine to shreds – and then patches it all back together again ready for the end.

My goodness. Nothing in the universe Smith has created ever comes easy – especially for the Lokmane. In this novel we get to know Lorin – a Lokmane daro we met briefly in Freedom’s Embrace – and Sunny, who some of us may have met as a babe in a short story Smith shared a while back. And as usual, Smith’s characters are broken people – usually through abuse of one form or another – who are trying to learn how to stand on their own two feet again.

Smith made me cry. Now, I am NOT a person who cries easily when reading books. The fact that this was the second book within a month that got to me says more of my fragile health at the time than anything else, but even then I think I would have had tears in my eyes at a particular revelation in the book. In all, I have huge respect for an author who can engage my emotions in a story that far.

I loved learning more about the Marcasian society, and it was special getting to know Lorin and Sunny. I look forward to meeting them again one day, as surely their story is incomplete.

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Freedom’s Embrace by Rachel Leigh Smith

Freedom's EmbraceSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They made the wrong choice. Putting it right requires going into a war.

A’yen’s Reign: Year Two

Taran has served Nicco, prince of Marcase, for twenty-three years. While on a fact-finding mission to Corsica–a planet annexed by the empire thirteen years ago–Taran and Nicco are kidnapped by the Freedom Alliance and taken deep into the Corsican hardwood forests.

Da’Renna, sister to King A’yen’s linked bodyguard, has loved Taran since the moment he saw her. Leaving him behind wasn’t easy, but her brother needed her more. Hearing about Taran’s kidnapping makes her wonder if she made the right choice.

With the help of a friend from Corsica, Da’Renna and her brother sneak in to find Taran. When mercenaries take her hostage, Taran must make the choice he dreads most: his master, or his soul-mate.

If Taran loses his girl, he’ll never find his way to freedom.

Note: This novel stands alone and is a great entry point into the A’yen’s Legacy futuristic romance series.

This is book 4 of the A’yen’s Legacy series, and introduces Ren and Taran, who we met briefly in book 3, as the main characters. The book is split between two stories, really, with some sections filling out the history between Ren and Taran while others follow present day events, which take place shortly after the events of To Save a Life.

It was interesting to finally get a deeper glimpse inside the Marcasian Empire and some of the problems it faces. And, of course, to get to know Taran better – ok, and some of the other characters. Ro and Varune make a significant reappearance in the story, and we see some of the more familiar faces too.

I had no difficulty following the separate story lines, and especially the historical information was useful to finding out what drives Ren and Taran in the present. And I’ll be frank; at times I just wanted to knock their heads together and get them to wake up and see the light… well, to be honest, that applies more to Ren than to Taran: Taran has a far better grip on what’s really going on.

The book is an excellent exploration of what “freedom” really is and means to different people. That, and sacrificial love. And boy, the answers don’t come easily in the slightest.

Another star turn from Rachel, and I can’t wait for the next one!

To Save a Life by Rachel Leigh Smith

To Save a LifeSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewer: Laurel

A’yen’s loved ones are under attack. To save them, he’ll risk everything.

Half the Lokmane are free and the resettling of Lok’ma is in progress. A’yen is crowned king, but it isn’t stopping his enemies. Someone is after Ro, and the woman he’s falling in love with is caught in the middle.

When Fae is trapped in a cave-in at a dig site and wakes up with fake memories, A’yen knows who’s to blame. Proving it is the hard part. Things get worse as his past relationship with a human male, a man once again part of his life, is used to trap him and try to turn the people against him. And destroy his marriage.

Ro is then framed for murder, another move to discredit A’yen. Saving his marriage and reputation is easy compared to saving Ro’s life. Ro’s demons come for him, taking him back to a life not worth living.

A’yen races to save Ro before he can act on his deepest desire: killing his tormentor. Happily ever after can’t happen if Ro is dead.

Can this series get any more addictive? It’s taken me three days to read through this book (with extensive breaks inbetween enforced by life – breaks which were infused with a longing to read more), and I could easily read the next one.

I can’t say that this book is better or worse than the previous two, but the events that unfold are compelling. At times one laughs out loud, at others one cries, and yet others one wants a certain person to burn in hell… yet through it all, one just wants to read, devour, inhale more of this book.

Smith introduces us to several new characters in these pages, expanding our knowledge of the Marcasian Empire in particular. I for one cannot wait to learn more of them, as I know we will in upcoming books.

In short, a compelling read that doesn’t disappoint. And among the best I’ve read so far this year

The King’s Mistress by Rachel Leigh Smith

TKMSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Freedom has a cost. Can A’yen pay it without losing his soul?

Liberation of the enslaved Lokmane begins with the king. A’yen and Fae agree to visit the Hidden, a group of escaped Lokmane, to protect his identity while the Shadows make their move with emancipation acts. But he’s not prepared for the prejudice rampant in the Hidden, or their lack of patience for him. And his new linked bodyguard is unstable to the point A’yen fears for the young man’s sanity.

Upon returning to Titan, A’yen is kidnapped and taken to the largest breeding farm in the galaxy. This time he’ll be himself even if it kills him. His resolve to unite his people grows as he wonders if he’ll live long enough to do it.

With A’yen kidnapped, Fae returns to the Lokmane homeworld seeking the final pieces of what happened two thousand years ago when they were conquered and enslaved. Getting as far away from her father as possible is the only way to keep her from disappearing too.

Separated by light years, A’yen and Fae have to stand alone and fight for their right to live in freedom. No matter the cost.

This book is an excellent read. The universe Smith has created is one I can easily immerse myself in, and remain stuck in there for days after I’ve finished reading one of these books.

The second book in the A’yen’s Legacy series, The King’s Mistress is a continuation of the storyline begun in My Name Is A’yen. We follow A’yen and Fae as they figure out what’s required of them as the next king and queen of the Lokmane, but some new characters are introduced, particularly Da’Ro, mentioned in My Name is A’yen as someone Na’var knows. While the story focuses predominantly on how A’yen can relate to his people, both the enslaved and the free, it also deals very elegantly with the topics of trust and identity.

There are many surprises along the way in this story, and nobody gets away easily. As always, Smith is unafraid to demonstrate the inhumanity of man – at times graphically – but juxtaposes this with an exploration of what it means to be a person, an individual, free. And a very important lesson underpins it all; don’t judge, because you don’t know what a person has been through and who they really are.

Suitable for both YA and adult readers, but deals with issues such as rape, slavery and physical and sexual abuse.

My Name is A’yen by Rachel Leigh Smith

My Name is A'yenSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They’ve taken everything from him. Except his name.

The Loks Mé have been slaves for so long, freedom is a distant myth A’yen Mesu no longer believes. A year in holding, because of his master’s murder, has sucked the life from him. Archaeologist Farran Hart buys him to protect her on an expedition to the Rim, the last unexplored quadrant.

Farran believes the Loks Mé once lived on the Rim and is determined to prove it. And win A’yen’s trust. But she’s a breeder’s daughter and can’t be trusted.

Hidden rooms, information caches and messages from a long-dead king change A’yen’s mind about her importance. When she’s threatened he offers himself in exchange, and lands on the Association’s radar. The truth must be told. Even if it costs him his heart.

This has to be one of the best début novels I have read. The concept is impressive in its complexity, and Smith’s writing is very clear, minimising confusion as one learns new concepts and is introduced to a society and people group that is entirely alien.

A’yen, the main character of the book, is introduced to us as a slave-with-no-owner who has been kept in ‘holding’ for just over a year. We soon learn that his previous owner, and lover, was murdered and died in his arms. His outlook on life as we meet him is bleak, to say the least. Most importantly, he no longer believes that his people have a homeworld.

He is soon purchased by Farran Hart, an archaeologist in search of A’yen’s homeworld. Together they embark on an expedition to a planet on the Rim that sees to fulfil the promises told in the legends of A’yen’s people. A planet A’yen previously visited with his former Master.

What I really like about this book is that it is, while clearly being a romance, not your conventional romance-format story. While the romance itself faces challenges, the tension in the book comes from an unrelated source.

It didn’t take long for A’yen to worm his way into my heart, which made this book a very tough read at times. There were numerous occasions when I was threatening Smith with all sorts of dire consequences if I had to read any more of the book (which, yes, I DID have to read!). What that means in simple terms is that she is a first-rate author; she gets you to love who you’re meant to love and resent/hate/loathe/despise (pick your emotion) those who you’re meant to… take your pick. And I love a book with a well-drawn villain – much as I frequently wish to punch them in the snoot. While it isn’t your conventional relaxing, easy read, it is a very rewarding one. All the characters have depth, and there are even a few surprises along the way for good measure.

I appreciated the lengths to which Smith went in building the cultures, society and worlds the book depicts. Here are no info-dumps, but instead tidbits that are easily digestible and tangible, building up images in the mind.

Overall, this is – despite the tough subject matter (slavery, physical and emotional abuse) – an accessible read with a lot of heart and a huge amount of depth. There is clearly much more to this than one book, and I will look forward to each of Smith’s future works.