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Posted June 4, 2013
The Secret Door is an historical paranormal fantasy book set in Hungary during July 1927. The story kicks off with an immediate BANG, taking the reader on a high speed (for the times) car chase upon perilous roads and ending with a brutal fight between two werewolves. Stephanie Burkhart mixes action adventure with Gothic romance and sprinkles in a touch of mystery to create an entertaining tale. This is book four in the Budapest Moon series, but back story is skillfully integrated, and the story may be read as a standalone.
Zoltan Kristos is a dark hero with a checkered past. He is a nobleman and a werewolf, and has committed acts earlier in life, which he has come to regret. His fight with rival werewolf Meklau is over a personal witch, Inna, who possesses the knowledge to administer specific herbs to werewolves to aid in their transformation and healing. During the fight, Meklau is killed, although not directly at Zolton's hands, which brings the wrath of the story's primary antagonist, Marcus, down upon Zolton.
Sophia Varga is the daughter of a werewolf man and a human woman, and the mistress of Volturn Manor. She possesses some wolf traits but remains unable to shift her form to that of a wolf. She is a courageous and resourceful heroine, but untested as the story begins. However, the fast moving plot provides her with plenty of opportunities to prove her worth.
Zolton and Sophia share an immediate attraction. The characters have good chemistry, but I have to confess, the initial romantic scene as shown in the excerpt left me giggling.
She nipped at her lower lip, uncertainty in her eyes. "You're hard," she whispered.
"See what you've done to me."
She raised an eyebrow, her question unspoken.
"I assure you this has not happened before," he said.
What—never?! For a grown man, I'd have expected him to have experienced erections eight to ten times as a day from the onset of puberty and onward. That's one heck of a stoic hero...
All kidding aside, the romance between the hero and heroine is thoroughly enjoyable. The love scenes are sensual, imparting a pleasant sizzle, and nicely interwoven with the fast paced action sequences. The take on werewolves is original but also harkens to traditional horror, and the author does an excellent job of transporting the reader to the post-World War I setting. There were moments when the language choice threw me. The Secret Door is a solid choice for the reader looking for an exciting paranormal story containing both romance and adventure.
Posted February 15, 2013
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Secret Door by Stephanie Burkhart takes place in Hungary in the late 1920s. While it is Part 4 of the Budapest Moon Series, this work stands alone and can be read by itself. It's a historical novel that is also a paranormal romance, with plenty of action and adventure thrown into the mix. The main characters are Zoltan Kristos, a werewolf nobleman, and Sophie Varga, the human child of werewolves. We first meet Zoltan as he's fending off an attack by a rival werewolf who is intent on abducting Inna, Zoltan's witch. Zoltan's party is on its way to Zolturn Manor, the ancestral home of the Vargas, Sophie's family when the attack occurs.
Burkhart creates an interesting and plausible mythology for her werewolves, who are able to control their animal natures and recover from the transformation with the aid of herbs and other natural treatments administered by their personal witches--people trained in herbal arts and healing. Zoltan is an intriguing character whose strength and character is well-matched with Sophie--a strong-willed woman who is not afraid to stand up to their foes. Their battles in defense of Zolturn Manor and attempts to overthrow the tyrannical werewolf, Marcus, make this very much an action and adventure work that moves quickly and made the book hard to put down.
The Secret Door is well-researched and brings post-World War I Hungary alive in the reader's imagination. As someone who enjoys werewolf and paranormal literature, I was quite pleased to find an original take on the werewolf mythology and was impressed by the author's choice of location and historical accuracy. The Secret Door is a fun read and is highly recommended.
Posted February 3, 2013
The Secret Door is the fourth book in the Budapest Moon series. Although the story explores elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, it does probe into the romantic relationships with remarkable insight.
Unlike most Gothic novels, the story takes place in the beginning of the second quarter of the twentieth century. The story opens with an incredible fight when The main character Zoltan Kristos, a Hungarian Minister, is attacked by Meklau, the son of Marcus who is the prince of Ternitz. Meklau falls on broken glass and a shard cuts into his neck, killing him. The reason for the attack was Inna, the witch Zoltan took away from Marcus, with Inna's consent.
Meklau's death heightens Marcus's animosity because, now, his only heir is dead and he is an aged werewolf. His only hope is to sire another son by a young witch, specifically Inna. But then Zoltan is also a werewolf and needs Inna to attend to him, as each werewolf needs a witch to tame his feral nature and take care of his medical needs, and Inna is afraid of Marcus's clan because they treat their witches with violence.
The site of the attack is in front of Volturn Manor, home to Sophia Varga, Zoltan's love interest.
Zoltan, however, is a troubled hero. His background is tainted and he feels bad about his past behavior. He also has difficulty with the trust issues, but what Sophia demands is Zoltan's trust.
Yet, the real story begins here after the attack and Meklau's death. Will Volturn Manor help the two lovers to settle their differences, as it harbors secrets hidden in old books behind a locked door, and will Zoltan be able to defeat Marcus at the end?
The Secret Door's plot is tightly woven, with referrals to earlier volumes, showing the expertise of this author with interlacing a new story with the older ones. The characters, too, are well drawn, especially the main characters. Even the secondary characters have traits that are believable, should they be placed in a more realistic story.
The romantic scenes are written along the rules of the romance genre, but in no way are they tasteless or overdone.
The story moves along with fast pace, which is somewhat due to its direct, clear language. Secret Door can be read as a stand-alone or part of the Budapest Moon series. Its exciting action, paranormal elements, and romance will not disappoint a reader.