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Spotlight Review with Giveaway: Aphrodite’s War by Donna Milward

Seriously. Look at this cover. Would you want to annoy that woman?

Aphrodites War Spotlight Banner Synopsis

Aphrodite despises Aries and when Zeus proposes a contest, the prize being expulsion of her enemy from Olympus, Aphrodite cannot resist. The catch: should Aries prevail it is Aphrodite who must leave her home. Risks aside, she cannot refuse the possibility of a future without her former lover. The challenge: two mortals must fall in love. It is simple. However, the players could not be more ill-suited. Poetry, a free spirited artist and Adrian, a defense attorney would not normally choose one another. But when gods interfere anything is possible.

Review:

Greek mythology has always held a fascination for me, and I love to read modern takes on the myths. I’ve read both Percy Jackson series and discovered Marie Phillips’s more adult-themed Gods Behaving Badly several years ago and have re-read it many time since. So when the opportunity to read Aphrodite’s War came my way, I jumped on it. Though it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I’m definitely glad I read it.

Anyone who’s read much mythology knows that the Greek gods were not kind, benevolent deities acting selflessly for the good of mankind. I’ve long suspected that the individuals who came up with all of those myths were clearly living out their own deep, dark fantasies–many of them not particularly nice fantasies, either–and fulfilling some kind of vicarious pleasure through them. The gods portrayed in this novel are the Greek gods at their grittiest–they’re not particularly nice to anyone, they’re only looking out for number one, and they suffer from some major B.O. (For some reason, this is the aspect my brain decided to latch onto. Maybe it’s all the time I spend in the company of pre-teen and teenage boys all day? I just didn’t expect the gods to be quite this…earthy.)

The Greek gods of this novel are all oozing with resentment and outright hatred for each other. Aphrodite has thrown over Hephaestus for Areas eons ago, and the bloom is so far off that rose that it’s not even funny. She hates him, he hates her, and Hephaestus can’t stand either one of them. Aphrodite and Ares’s constant sniping at one another has prompted Zeus to issue a challenge–the two have to fight it out once and for all to decide who gets to stay on Olympus and who has to leave. Each contender has to pick a human, and if Aphrodite can make them fall in love in two weeks, she’s guaranteed her throne will stay exactly where she wants it.

“Rule number one: aside from your champions you must not interfere with humankind.” Zeus employed a meaningful stare as he pointed to both of them in kind. “I want no repeats of the ‘Troy’ incident.”

(The “Troy” incident. Totally made me giggle. What can I say, I’m a total Greek mythology nerd.)

Aphrodite picks Poetry, a jewelry and metalworking artist of Greek descent. She has tattoos, piercings, and a black Persian cat named Amir. Ares chooses Adrian, a blonde martial-arts practicing criminal lawyer. He’s a nice guy, for a “suit”. On the surface, the two make absolutely no sense. But Aphrodite’s the goddess of love, so this should be right up her alley–right?

Using outside assistance is supposed to be forbidden, but that rule of Zeus’s lasts about all of six seconds. Ares has no intention of playing fair, and enlists the aid of his minion Strife (Eris–whose claim to fame is starting the Trojan War) to begin wreaking havoc across Alberta, working their way to Edmonton, where Poetry and Adrian live and work. Aphrodite tries to get help from her ex-husband, who only reluctantly agrees to it because Poetry works for him, and Freya, the cat-loving Norse goddess of love and lust (among other things). Freya wants nothing to do with the situation until Hephaestus manages to–ahem–convince her otherwise with his manliness.

It is seriously hard to like the gods in this book most of the time. Fortunately, the humans totally make up for it.

Poetry and Adrian really couldn’t seem more ill-suited at the beginning. He’s so straight-laced and she’s so…not. A peek into both of their minds shows great reluctance to spend any time together at all, let alone date. As they’re thrown together, though (Poetry’s roommate picks up Adrian’s coworker and friend in a bar), they both begin to grudgingly see something to admire in the other. Adrian steps in to help Poetry in a time of need, and Adrian is drawn to Poetry’s artistic abilities. With the help of some enchanted amber stones, soon the two are definitely feeling an attraction.

And then all Hades beaks loose.

Poetry’s got an evil ex, whom Strife and Ares manage to bend to their will quite nicely. Adrian’s defending a bigoted, truly reprehensible client whom the god of war and his evil sidekick also decide to manipulate to suit their needs. Hephaestus decides he wants to be more than a mentor to Poetry. And there’s something in the water in Edmonton that’s making everyone more than a little–testy.

There’s an Olympic-sized smackdown coming, and not everyone is going to make it through to the other side alive.

But, you know, love really just might conquer all in the end….

…with a little divine intervention.

Her brow twitched. Since when do mythological beasts wear ties? With gold sandals, helmet and a mask? Wielding a battleaxe.

Worst. Super-villian costume. Ever.

(Again with the giggling. Can’t you just picture that?)

My favorite Norse deity even gets a mention–he’s going to supply our hero and heroine with an alibi, if needed.

“You spent the evening at a bar called McNasty’s,” Freya said. An unlikely grin warped her pale lips. “A red-haired biker who calls himself ‘Thor’ is willing to testify to your bickering and groping each other for hours. He remembers you well. Your constant racket disturbed his game of pool. He wished you would find accommodations.”

Thor. A biker. In a Canadian bar. I think I may have drooled a little.

(Plus, I’ve been inside a Filthy McNasty’s–once, to watch an NHL playoff game. See? We have so much in common! He should totally dump that Natalie Portman character.)

All in all, though it had a slow start, I ended up really enjoying this one.

One aspect of the story did bother me, though. In the novel, Hermes was supposed to be the son of Aphrodite and Ares–in fact, a whole lot of major plot events hinged on that point. Though he is younger than the other two, he’s definitely not their son. I was willing to go with it, however, for the sake of story, but it did take some major effort on my part. Also, a non-traditional reason was given for Hephaestus’s limp. That one was easier to overlook, but still…

If you’ve ever wondered what’s happened to the Greek gods since you studied them in school, pick this novel up. You might be surprised at what they’ve been up to…or maybe you won’t… 😉

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Excerpt

She pounced on his back before he could escape.

“I’ll kill you,” Strings of spittle flew from Strife’s mouth. “I’m going to snap your neck.”

Hermes struggled beneath her weight. She gripped his hair with one hand and groped his jaw with the other, but he wriggled free and tossed her before springing to his feet.

“Nice try. But you’ll have to do better.” He hurled a computer monitor from the desk.

She scuttled to one side and the equipment slammed into the wall. Glass and plastic showered Strife. She ducked and shielded her face.

The rumblings of wood rolling against tile alerted Strife and she stood in time to avoid decapitation. Hermes pinned her with the oak desk, grinding it into her hips with bone-crushing intent. Hot agony raced up Strife’s spine and Hermes increased the pressure, grunting with the effort like a wild beast.

She struggled, both hands prying at the solid edge in vain. Her thumb brushed her purse, and Strife wriggled her fingers inside, searching for anything that might assist her. They closed over a vial. She popped the top and dashed the contents in Hermes’s eyes.

Talcum clouded the air, instantly filling the small space with delicate sweetness, blinding them both. The painful tension ceased. Hermes bellowed in anguish. Strife collapsed to the floor, retching with the soapy taste of perfume in her mouth. From the corner of her watering vision, Strife saw Hermes lurch toward the entrance. You will not get away this time. She gave chase, determined to finish him.

But he’d almost made it to the door. She had to do something. Hermes made a critical error in judgment, shuffling left of the exit. Strife once again leapt on the service counter.

A cooler filled with lilies and orchids sat to her right. With all her inhuman strength, she peeled it from the wall. A metallic groan filled the room as the gargantuan refrigerator sailed through the air.

Hermes’s failed attempt to catch it bore him to the ground with a sloppy crash peppered with a chorus of breaking glass and singing shelves.

Yellow, orange, and purple petals fluttered throughout the store like confetti. Floral scents combined with baby powder made the room reek like women’s deodorant.

The abrupt quiet brought serenity to chaos. The only sound: the panting of a dying man.

She must hurry. The noise would bring curious humans, and she couldn’t be caught. Not with her objective so close at hand. She eased to the floor, her sandals transforming glass to powder. “That was too easy,” She strutted over to stare at Hermes’s ruined face. Shards embedded various pockets of flesh, including his left eye. “I expected better from a demi-god.”

Hermes glared contemptuously through milky tears, trying in vain to spit blood at Strife. His thoughts dimmed.

“Yes, it’s too bad,” she said, “but if it is any consolation…” She extended her hands to the multicolored carnage. “This is the prettiest death I’ve ever seen.”

MeetTheAuthor

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Donna Milward lives in Edmonton, Alberta in a tiny house with a huge yard. She’s been writing all her life, but decided to put writing on hold to get ‘a real job’ as a meatcutter and build a future with her beloved troll, Dan and her cat Freya. Twelve years later, an invitation to a Romance Writer’s Conference in Washington D.C. led not only to new friends and new knowledge, but to the inspiration to write again. Thoeba was completed the following year. Donna likes to mix her fascination with reincarnation and all things paranormal with her love of mythology in her work, and has even written her own myth ‘The Sacred Truth” (on earthtothoeba.blogspot.com) as the lore behind Thoeba and future novels to come. Donna enjoys fishing, gardening and canning. Despite these hobbies, she much prefers city life.

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2 Comments

  1. Donna Milward Donna Milward

    Best. Review. Ever! Thanks so much! You know your mythology well and you described the novel just as well as I could have. You’ve been to a Filthy McNasty’s watching the NHL? Excellent. Who’s your favorite team?

    i’m going to go on record here…You’re absolutely correct. Hermes is NOT the son of Aphrodite and Ares. I don’t know why I believed that for so long. I didn’t discover my mistake until 2 days before publication. Lesson learned. ALWAYS double check your references. I apologize.

    • I’m afraid to tell you my favorite team, seeing as how they’re at the rock bottom of the NHL this year…

      (The Sabres, There, I said it. Not my fault, I grew up here and have this darned sense of loyalty, even after they traded my favorite goalie. Darn. Them.)

      I was willing to go with it, since everything hinged on it so nicely–I figured it’s all fiction anyway, right? Though perhaps you need another editor, you know, just as a backup to check your mythology for you. I do happen to know a junior high ELA and social studies teacher whose school is closing in June and would be available for freelance work…just saying… 😉

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