Genres: Paranormal Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on December 2, 2014
I had a fantastic time with the first book in the series and was awed just a bit from the creative Baba Yaga world. It was a no-contest decision to take up the sequel telling the story of the next Baba Yaga, Beka Yancy. This book moves things to a new territory, the beautiful central California coast, and focuses on an adventure by and in the sea since this Baba claims water as her strongest magical element. It’s only fitting that her Chudo Yudo is disguised as a huge loveable Newfoundland, her hut is an eclectically decorated school bus and her preferred wheels are a surf board and a Karmann Ghia. Since this one got the reader up to speed and dove into the story, the character development and the romance with just brief reminders as to the backdrop and a lot of the magical world surrounding the Baba Yagas, I was much better pleased with this installment than the first one.
This one could be read out of order or as a standalone as there is enough description to get the reader in the loop, but my advice is to get them in order. As I said, the worldbuilding is better teased out in the first one.
The story opens just as Beka has been released to be on her own as a full-fledged Baba Yaga when her mentor, the previous Baba Yaga, is retired to the Otherworld. Beka feels shaky about her abilities and even harbors serious doubts that being a Baba Yaga is what she wants to do. And that’s before she lands on the bad side of a cantankerous fisherman while out on a rescue and then a huge problem is dropped into her lap. Beka is approached by the Mer Queen and the Selkie King because something is poisoning their home in the deep hidden trench and their people are sick and dying. She strikes the deal to aid them even though she is convinced that this is way above her pay grade.
Marcus returned from a 12-year career as a marine when he is contacted by a concerned friend that his dad is being treated for cancer. He left the crusty old Irish fisherman and that world behind with only bad memories attached to his dad’s harshness and his younger brother’s death, but now he’s back in the middle of it all determined to help someone who makes it clear he doesn’t want Marcus or his help. Marcus believes he is almost as inhuman as his old da after years spent at war and it doesn’t help that he is bristly and suspicious of the gorgeous blond surfer who he suspects is up to something. He can’t help, but be affected by her sunny nature and bright smiles even as he fights to resist the attraction. He has no use for flaky, hippy types or any type of woman for that matter. She got around him and hired out his dad’s boat to carry her out to dive for treasure or so she claims.
[quote]He shrugged massive shoulders moving up and down like a mountain during an earthquake. “So I’m sorry and thank you. I still think you’re a crazy woman, but I shouldn’t have lost my temper.”
Beka blinked. “That was one of the worst apologies I have ever heard, but I’ll accept it.”
- 67 Marcus and Beka from Wickedly Wonderful[/quote]
[quote]“I’m more like the fairy godmother than I am Cinderella, but that’s okay- I’m not in the mood for Prince Charming tonight anyway.”
…”That’s good,” he said. “Since I am neither a prince nor charming. But I’ll do my best to be a little less crabby than usual.”
“That’s what I was hoping for,” she said with a laugh. “Prince Hardly Crabby At All. Dude this is going to be a great night.”
- 143 Beka and Marcus from Wickedly Wonderful[/quote]
While Beka hunts unsuccessfully for the source of what is poisoning the sea kingdom and killing its peoples along with tentatively coming to a sort of understanding with Marcus, she meets the suave, charismatic Selkie Prince who wishes to court her for his own purposes. She is no closer to finishing her difficult tasks when the Fairy Queen adds another immediate problem to her pile that is endangering humans and magical kind alike and her former mentor has grave doubts about Beka’s ability to handle it all. Beka must decide what she really wants and she must reach down inside herself to find if she has what it takes to be a Baba Yaga. When its all over, she suspects that she will lose either way because surely her cranky, magic-hating fisherman will leave her behind even though her dragon cautions her to give a chance to the unexpected.
As I said, the plot on this one got going and kept going at a good pace. It was full of changing scenes and situations, character development, intrigue and yes, a nice slow developing romance. Beka is very different from the Baba in the previous story. Where Barbara was confident and edgier and in the prime of her knowledge and power, Beka is a rookie and she is as lacking in confidence as they come. Fortunately, her dragon gives her some verbal boots up the butt to get over it and get busy. There are several things going on to capture the attention from Beka’s two missions, to her personal dilemma, her choice of men interested in her, Marcus’ thing with his sick dad and his issues and attraction to Beka. Marcus and Beka were a good match. Marcus’ stalwart strength and drive supported Beka when she needed to lean on his help and it was good for him to have someone who needed him. Beka was also good for Marcus because her light and generous kind-hearted nature was able to heal a lot of Marcus’ internal wounds. They make a good romantic pair, but also worked well together when faced with trouble.
[quote]“I guess part of me hoped that you had come to me because you trusted me to help. And because maybe you missed me, just a little.”
Beka took a deep breath. “Just a little. Hell, Marcus, it felt like I was missing half my soul.”
- 256 Marcus and Beka, Wickedly Wonderful[/quote]
And like the first book, there is blessedly no untoward drama. The book lets the organic conflicts that are already there to challenge the hero and heroine. I loved that familiar characters like the Riders and the Fairy Queen made brief appearances even while new characters were introduced.
My only real niggle, and it’s just a little one, was that I wished that Kesh’s point of view hadn’t been available- as interesting as it was- because knowing what he was doing early on took away some of the excitement and suspense. Oh, the book still had some thrilling moments, but I think there could have been more if the reader is as in the dark as Beka and Marcus with just the evidence of their eyes and impressions.
In the end, it was a superb story and a fantastic sequel showing the series of books just getting stronger. From the little bits gleaned from that Epilogue, I anticipate things to build even more since there looks to be some serious trouble coming- maybe for all the Baba Yagas, their guys, and their friends. I think paranormal romance fans who like slow to build story and romance development, slightly spicy romance, engaging characters and a creative world should give these a go.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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