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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V5, S1-3, H2 
Publisher and Titles: Midnight Ink
      Murder in Vein (2010)  
      Baited Blood (2011)  

     This blog entry was updated and revised on 9/25/11 to include a review of the second book in the series: Baited Blood. That review follows this overview of the series so far:

     The heroine of the series is Madison Rose, a young woman with a tragic past filled with abusive foster homes. Madison lives in the Los Angeles area, where she is going to school and trying to make a successful life for herself. When the first book begins, Madison has no idea that vampires exist. On a recent blog, Jaffarian describes Madison's moral code as follows:

     "After growing up in a series of awful foster homes since she was eight, the star of the Madison Rose vampire mysteries has developed her own moral code and sense of survival: Trust no one and do whatever it takes to save your skin and get the job done, as long as you don’t intentionally hurt people or get caught. She does her best to live as honestly as possible, but understands a little lock picking and subterfuge can harvest results faster than the direct approach. She’s the perfect companion to a bunch of vampires trying to live under the radar. They demand her complete loyalty and honesty and breaking that can mean death, but they also expect her to weave a web of lies to protect their clandestine way of life. If she has any second thoughts about her actions, they are quickly reasoned away and forgotten." (, 7/31/11)

     In this world, vampires work hard to keep their existence a secret from the mortal world. Most of their characteristics conform to the usual vampire mythology. They subsist on blood (both animal and human), sleep during the day, have extra strength and speed, are extremely wealthy, and are preoccupied with sex. In California, the vampire leader is Samuel La Croix, a centuries-old vampire who came into the area about forty-five years ago and either killed or banished the vamps who were living in the "traditional" manner (i.e., murdering humans right and left). Under Samuel's leadership, vampire life goes rather smoothly, with with human blood being taken only from willing donors. Humans are called "beaters" in this seriesfor the beating of their hearts. Supporting characters are mostly members of Samuel's vampire community, including Doug and Dodie Dedham, a married vampire couple who adopt Madison (in book 1) and give her a place in their home.

        BOOK 1: Murder in Vein        
     At the beginning of book 1, Madison is kidnapped and beaten by an unknown assailant, just like several other young women in the Los Angeles areabut Madison is the only one who escapes alive. After being rescued by vampires, Madison gets involved in their search for the serial killer who is leaving blood-drained bodies around the city. The vamps have a vested interest in finding the killer because the public is beginning to call these killings "vampire" crimes. Madison is soon introduced to the dark goth underworld of human wanna-be vamps, a very creepy group (lots of blood-sucking scenesyuk!). She also must go through the process of admitting that vamps exist, that they are not as violent as portrayed in the movies, and that some of them can be quite sexy. By the end of the book, Samuel hires Madison to work as his assistant for his Vampire Council. So far, Madison has three romantic possibilities: Samuel, Colin Reddy (a handsome vamp), and Mike Notchey (a human cop whose life was also saved by the vamps), but there is not much actual romance in this first book, just a few flirtatious moments. 

        BOOK 2: Baited Blood             
As the story begins, Madison has settled into her new lifestyle, living with the Dedhams and working for Samuel and the Council. She and Notchey have shared a few kisses, and she and Colin have flirted with one another, but Madison is not in a hurry to get into a romantic relationship. Her natural instinct is to withhold herself from close relationships of any kind. The plot in this book revolves around the vampires' search for a serial killer who is dumping dead or nearly dead vamps on the properties of the local vamps, including the Dedhams. As the investigation proceeds, Madison learns more and more about Samuel, Colin, and the Dedhams. She also learns some horrific facts about Notchey's past. When Doug and Colin's maker (Annabelle, aka Ann Hayes) breezes into town, she is the main suspect in the killings, but then Madison discovers some new and astonishing information that blows the case wide open. 

     Although Jaffarian's overall premise is inventive (attractive, fragile human woman working intimately with powerful vampire bigwig), her character development leaves much to be desired. Madison's words and actions are all over the place. One minute she's a blushing, embarrassed, naive girl, and the next minute she's bitch slapping an ancient vampire and threatening to stake her. Madison's character is completely unpredictableand in a head-shaking way, not in an interesting way. The same holds true for the supporting characters. In her interior monologues, Madison frequently points out that vampires are violent and unpredictable creatures, but when they are part of a series, the reader needs to begin to understand their emotions and motivations so that their actions have some meaningsome context. The characterization is so bumpy that it definitely interferes with my enjoyment of the series. The plots are O.K.fairly well developed with not too many loop holes. But the ending of book 2 was pretty lame. I can't go into details without spoiling the story, but I can say that when the otherwise intelligent vamps foolishly allow Madison to go off on her own for the climactic scene, this reader was muttering, "Oh no, no way!" That entire scene was entirely unbelievable for me.

     Jaffarian also writes the ODELIA GREY MYSTERY SERIES and a new paranormal series: THE GHOST OF GRANNY APPLE MYSTERY SERIES. Click HERE to go to her blog.


Author: Annette Blair
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V3; S4; H4
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
      Naked Dragon (2010)
      Bedeviled Angel (2010)
      Vampire Dragon (2011)

     Vampire Dragon, the newest book in this usually funny series is out and it doesn’t quite meet the humor standard set in the previous two books. A review of that book comes at the end of this synopsis of the series so far:

     Vivica Quinlan is a witch in Salem, Massachusetts, who owns an employment agency called Works Like Magick. Vivica’s prospective employees are supernaturals, drawn by Salem’s magical lure. Each time a new supernatural (e.g., dragon, angel) appears, Vivica is warned by an onset of hiccups and she rushes off to gather him up and get him in training for his earthly life.

     In Naked Dragon, the newcomer is Bastian Dragonelli, a shape-shifting dragon who comes to earth to clear the way for his brother dragons to travel to safety from their embattled homeland. An evil goddess (Killian) is out to get all of the dragons, and she shows up to cause trouble in all of the dragon-related books in this series. Bastian's soul mate is McKenna Greylock, who is trying to avoid foreclosure on her bed and breakfast inn. Because Bastian doesn’t know the language, he takes everything quite literally, which is the source of much of the humor. There are also lots of “man lance” one-liners. Here's an example, as Bastian has a homonym-challenged encounter with McKenna:

     "Your eyes are violet," she said.
     "They're dragon-elli eyes....All my brothers have eyes this color."
     "It's in the genes, then?"
     "No, that is my man lance in my jeans. I am sorry if it distracts you."

     The villains are a sleazy land developer, who wants to tear down McKenna's home and build condos, and a supernatural enemy who has followed Bastian from his homeland. 
     Bedeviled Angel tells the story of a guardian angel (Chance), who comes to earth to rescue his agoraphobic soul mate (Queisha) when she is faced with a series of life-changing circumstances. Their relationship includes lots of bedroom humor (submarines rather than man lances) with minor interruptions by a few mild villains.

     In Vampire Dragon, the heroine is Bronte McBride, who portrays herself as the Vampiress of Salem. Bronte owns the building that houses three businesses: the Phoenix, a restaurant for tourists; Fangs for the Memories, a vampire fun-house for tourists; and Drak's Place, a club for true vampires. Bronte is very mysterious about her past and always wears a face mask to hide her true identity. She lives with a 12-year-old boy named Zachary who seems to be way more mature than he looks. The hero is Darkwyn Dragonelli, brother of Bastian and Jaydun, who drops to earth (naked of course) behind the bar of the Phoenix during the mid-day rush. As it turns out, Bronte and Zach are on the run from some Canadian mobsters—yes, that’s right, Canadian mobsters. They had to be foreign mobsters so that Blair could find a reason—in this case, an immigration issue—for Darkwyn to be forced into marrying Bronte early in the story. Once again, we get pages and pages of man-lance jokes that were funny in book 1 but are getting pretty old by now. There’s only so much penis humor that a series can take before it implodes, and I believe that we’ve reached that point. The villains are as sleazy as ever. In the scene when the villain is vanquished, there are so many illogical actions that I was shaking my head in disbelief. I won’t explain the problems, because that would be too much of a spoiler. You’ll know it when you see it. The face mask that Bronte wears is a meaningless piece of business. Bronte wears that mask ALL THE TIME—refuses to take it off…ever! When she finally does remove her mask (on the last page), you’re in for a hugely disappointing moment—definitely not worth all her mysterious carryings on throughout the book.

This blog entry was last updated on 5/7/2011.


Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V4, S2-3, H3 
Publisher and Titles: Ace
       Skin Deep (2009)
       Face Off (2010)

     Laura Blackstone is an undercover agent with multiple identities (e.g., varying names, jobs, facial features, hair and eye color, mannerisms). She is a Druid who can “glamour” herself to take on any appearance.

     Two of her personas take up most of her time. In her Laura Blackstone persona, she is a public-relations director for the Fey Guild, which combats magic-based criminal activity and acts as a buffer between humans and fey (supernaturals). In her Mariel Tate persona, she is a secret agent for the International Global Security Agency (InterSec).

     In Skin Deep, Laura and two of her personae must track down a rogue fairy who has killed a policeman and plans to assassinate government officials. Her love interest is Jonathan (Jono) Sinclair, a half-fey Washington, D.C., swat team member. In Face Off, she gets involved in a struggle involving both anti-fey humans and internal fey power struggles that cause conflicts within InterSec.


Author: Nancy Gideon 
Plot Type: Urban SMR
Ratings: V4, S4, H1
Publisher and Titles: Pocket
      Masked by Moonlight (2010)
      Chased by Moonlight (2010)
      Captured by Moonlight (2010)  
      Bound by Moonlight (2011) 
      Hunter of Shadows (2011) 
      Seeker of Shadows (5/2012)        

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 6/25/12 to include a review of the sixth book in the series: Seeker of Shadows. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the earlier books:

        BOOK 6: Seeker of Shadows       
     This book tells the love story of Jacques LaRoche, owner of the New Orleans Shifter club, Cheveux du Chien (translation: “Hair of the Dog”) and Dr. Susanna Duchamps, a Chosen research scientist specializing in genetics. Several years ago, Jacques was a Chosen slave in Chicago—a bodyguard for Susanna. Eventually, they fell in love and she became pregnant, but there was no HEA ending to their affair. When the affair and pregnancy were discovered, Susanna was forced to allow the Chosen scientists to wipe Jacques’s memories and banish him from Chosen territory. At the time, she believed that this was the only way to save his life. Ever since then, Jacques has been living with no memory of his life before he was dumped in New Orleans. He can remember only that he once had a mate, but he doesn’t know who she is and what happened to her.

     As this book opens, Susanna has come to New Orleans as a favor to Nica (heroine of book 5), not realizing that Jacques lives there. When Nica asks Susanna to meet her at the Cheveux du Chien, she sees Jacques for the first time since he was taken away from her. As soon as she sees him, Susanna’s mating urge kicks into high gear, but Jacques does not recognize her (although he does feel some lustful stirrings). Nica wants Susanna to use her knowledge of supernatural genetics to help Cee Cee ensure the safety of her unborn child. Cee Cee is worried that the baby's genetic mix will create problems, either before or after birth. Susanna, who is already dealing with the genetic problems of her own daughter, Pearl, agrees to help. Susanna owes Nica a favor because Nica retrieved Pearl from kidnappers as part of Nica's previous job as a mercenary assassin.

     The rekindling of the romance between Jacques and Susanna forms the primary plot, but there are several secondary story lines, all of which are pulled together in the climactic ending. One thread deals with the unrest that is simmering among the Shifters. Max has been paying too much attention to his business interests and not enough to the Shifter community, and many Shifters are afraid that Max will bring down the wrath of the Chosen on them and their families. Another story line focuses on Susanna’s troubled relationship with her Chosen “partner,” Damien, who rescued her after the debacle with Jacques and has allowed Pearl to live with him and Susanna as a Chosen child, even though she is half Shifter. Finally, we have another chapter in the Max-Cee Cee story as Max finds himself in terrible danger, and Cee Cee tries one last time to save the life of her best friend, Mary Kate. (That story line reaches all the way back to the earliest of the “By Moonlight” books.) The romance plot is settled happily by the end of the story, but some of the other story lines are left unresolved, particularly Max’s tenuous situation and the growing discontent within the Shifter community.

     This, for me, is the weakest book of the series so far. In the central romantic relationship, Susanna holds back so many secrets from Jacques, and yet--illogically and unbelievably--he just keeps forgiving her, time after time. Where is the rage and resentment that he must feel? After all, she has kept his daughter from him all these years--not to mention all of his memories. Although it wasn't entirely her fault, one would expect him to show more anger than he does. Jacques has never been shy about showing his emotions, but in this book he evens hides them from Max. He's a different character here than he has been in past books, and that's not a good thing.

     The series has now fully become focused on the genetic relationship among the Shifters, Chosen, Ancients, and humans. Apparently, all of the New Orleans political and mob-related story lines are dead and gone. At this point, with a new couple getting together in each book, we have a series that is fully committed to the paranormal romance genre in its narrowest form, and this seems a shame.

     In this world, supernatural creatures are unknown to mortals, and Shifters exist in secretive clans. As the series opens, Charlotte ("Cee Cee") Caissie is a New Orleans homicide detective who is still trying to get her life in balance after several tragedies in her past. Charlotte's soul mate, Max Savoie, is a mob enforcer, seemingly indentured to the big boss, Jimmy Legere. Besides being tall, dark, and handsome, Max is a Shifter who can become an enormous, powerful wolf.

     Because the hero and heroine come from such different worlds (and species), the angst levels are at all-time high levels throughout each book. As the series progresses, Max is seen by his fellow Shifters as the savior of the Shifter world, which has been subjugated for centuries by the Chosen.

     Here, Max's fellow Shifter, Jacques LaRoche, explains the legend of the Chosen to Cee Cee:

    "The gods mixed with beasts to create the Ancientsprotectors for their people....but in time they also grew arrogant....They began to destroy those whom they'd been created to protect....In their fury, the gods cleaved them all in two. But instead of that killing them, their spirits were divided and lived on as separate beings. One half remained beasts, able to change form, but without the courage to rise out of their role of servitude. The other half retained the mental gifts of instinct and manipulation, but were frail, without the physical ability to challenge man for control. The beasts fled to the wilderness of the Celtic shores, becoming the Shifters. The others hid among men in France, calling themselves the Chosen Ones....The Chosen Ones...found their other savage halves [the Shifters], and used them like weapons to crush their enemies and force kings to bow before them." (Bound by Moonlight, p. 194)

        BOOKS 1, 2, and 3       
     The first book, Masked by Moonlight, explores the developing romance between the Cee Cee and Max as a series of brutal murders sets New Orleans on edge. The next books follow the development of the couple’s romance as they try to maintain their relationship in the face of their widely different lifestyles and moral codes, particularly when Max moves up to a top position with the mob.

     In book 2, Chased by Moonlight, Max is a murder suspect, and Cee Cee must prove his innocence.

     In book 3, Captured by Moonlight, Max’s mysterious past catches up with him and threatens his life with Cee Cee. Romantic miscommunication and high levels of angst run rampant as the couple struggles with their wildly diverse life styles and moral codes.

        BOOK 4: Bound by Moonlight              
     As book 4, Bound by Moonlight, begins, Cee Cee and Max attend a high-society charity event, appearing in public for the very first time socially and causing quite a stir among friends and enemies alike. Cee Cee's partner (Alain Babineau) and some of Cee Cee's other police colleagues saw Max in his beast form in the climax to the previous book, and neither Cee Cee nor Max is sure that they will keep his supernatural secret. In the meantime, a series of grisly murders of young prostitutes has the city on high alert. Cee Cee heads up the investigation and eventually goes undercover as a strip club dancer, much to Max's dismay (although he is definitely turned on by her costume and her dancing). As in the previous books, both Max and Cee Cee have many angst-filled interior monologues lamenting their tragic pasts, their differences (especially the species thing), and the uncertainties of their future together. In the midst of the main plot (the serial murders), an assassin slips into town, but all we get from him is a brief interior monologue as he discreetly spies on the happy couple from the balcony of Max's bedroom and lets us know that he will be back, presumably in the next book. We do get the full story on the murder of Max's mother and more information about Max's connection to the Chosen. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Bound by Moonlight. 

     Although Cee Cee and Max spend way too much time pondering the quandary that their lives have become, I like this series a lot. The world-building is inventive and thoroughly developed, and the charactersboth leading and supportingare multi-dimensional, with good sides and dark sides. Not even the worst villain is totally bad, which makes all of the characters very interesting to watch. Every time I get to the end of one of the books, I think to myself that Cee Cee and Max are finally on the road to their HEA, but I'm always wrong, and I don't even mind because the pot holes that Gideon places in their road to romance are so darkly entertaining.         

Here is a quotation from one of Cee Cee's musings about her life before Max:
     "How many nights had she spent like this? Only instead of the turkey wrap and diet soda, she'd have been working through a six-pack and a bag of chips, lighting one cigarette off the butt of another. With no hope of a sexy lover showing up to seduce her, she'd have been deep in work until fatigue or the alcohol caught up with her close to dawn. Night after night. For years, it had been enough. No worries about saying the wrong thing. No fear of stepping on sensitive toes. No relationship rules to remember. Just the freedom to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. No one wondering why she hadn't called. No one crowding into her space, into her thoughts. Into her heart." (Bound by Moonlight, p. 115)

        BOOK 5: Hunter of Shadows       
Max and Cee Cee have (finally!) bonded and their soul-mate status is now solid, so the fifth book in the series introduces a new romantic couple: Silas MacCreedy, a Shifter cop with lots of secrets, and Monica (Nica) Fraser, a mercenary assassin who is a rare shape-shifting female—who also has secrets. We met Nica very briefly in Bound by Moonlight when she saved Cee Cee from a street attack by some thuggish shifters.

     As Hunter of Shadows opens, Silas and Nica meet violently as he attempts to save her from a street attack, not realizing that Nica has set up the situation so that she can take down her attackers. Nica is a lethal assassin, and she has been ordered to come to New Orleans so that she can find a way to fit in with the local Shifter crowd and wait for further instructions. We don't learn much more about her mysterious mission (or her master) until late in the book. Silas has his own reasons for being in New Orleans, and, once again, we don't learn his story until well into the book. What we do know, right up front, are the following facts: Silas and Alain Babineau are both undercover at Carmen (Manny) Blutafino's sleazy club, trying to gather enough evidence to bust him. Babineau may or may not be a dirty cop. (Remember, he's furious with Max for providing his estranged wife and step-son with a place to live away from him, and he still hates/fears Shifters.) Max's old nemesis, Francis Petitjohn (T-John), is still up to no good as he keeps trying to finagle his way to the top of Max's empire. The Chosen (and some Shifters) are still determined to wipe out Max and take over his territory for themselves. The police department and the local government are both filled with traitors, many of whom are on Manny's payroll. 

     All of these story threads are woven through the romance between Silas and Nica, which is just as angst-filled as Cee Cee and Max's ever was. Silas has committed himself to certain violent goals in order to provide safety and security for his family, and even though he's falling in love with Nica, he must put duty and honor ahead of love. What a guy! Nica is also in a difficult situationforced to kill both friends and enemies (and sometimes loversgasp!) whenever she is ordered to do so. She definitely has resigned herself to the fact that she can't commit to a long-term relationship with a guy when she might have to kill him. Near the end of the book, several characters learn new facts about their genetic heritage, including Cee Cee, and this genetic theme grows stronger in the next few books.

     With this book, the series takes a sharp turn toward the same type of world that Nalini Singh has created in her PSY-CHANGELINGS seriesa world in which the good-guy Shifters are in constant battle with a psychically powerful race that wants to either use or destroy them. For Singh, that villainous race is the Psy; for Gideon, it is the Chosen. Hunter of Shadows gets very mystical at some points, with mind-walking, psychic mind control, mental energy surges, and lots of twisted head games. I'm not sure that this is a good thing. I really enjoyed those earlier, not-so-mystic books, and this one didn't quite work for me. Maybe it's because I got so involved in Cee Cee and Max's story that I am not ready to give them up.  


Author:  J. K. Beck (pen name for Julie Kenner)
Plot Type:  SMR
Ratings:  V-4; S-4; H-1 
Publisher and Titles:  Bantam
       When Blood Calls (7/2010)
       When Pleasure Rules (9/2010)
       When Wicked Craves (10/2010) 
       "Midnight" (e-novella, 11/2011)
       When Passion Lies (5/2012)
       When Darkness Hungers (6/2012)
       When Temptation Burns (7/2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 9/19/12 to include reviews of the fifth and sixth books in the series, When Darkness Hungers and When Temptation Burns. Appearing first in this post is an overview of the world-building, followed by summaries of books 1-3 and reviews of books 4-6. The two newest reviews appear last, so you will have to scroll down to the bottom of the post to read them.

     In this world, humans are aware that supernatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, jinns, daemons) called the Shadow creatures exist alongside them. Ruling the Shadow creatures is the Alliance, with a council made up of members of the various races. The Alliance is currently dominated by the vampires. Their rivals, the weren (aka werewolves), are always trying to take over, while the humans just try to keep safe. The usual political maneuvering, racial biases, and internecine conflicts keep the Alliance always on the edge of falling into chaos.

     The mythology of the weren and the vampires traces back to three brothers. Two of the brothersone a vampire and one a werenconspired against and finally murdered the third brother, who cursed them as he died.

     Vampires have many of the traditional characteristics (e.g., sun sensitivity, shape-changing and misting abilities), but they also have one not-so-traditional weakness: hematite, which their enemies use offensively in their weapons and defensively in the structure of their homes. These vampires have another problem that they struggle with throughout their existence. When humans are changed into vampires, their souls are not destroyed, but are overpowered by a daemon that rises from within them. "The daemon lived in all vampiresa bone-deep malevolence that emerged from the human soul when the change was brought on. but some vampires were able to successfully fight it, to regularly battle it back down until their human will took precedence." (When Darkness Hungers, p. 2) Here, one vampire describes his daemon: "It takes control. It pushes you to do things you wouldn't do, and yet it's still you. It thrives on pain. On degradation....When the daemon's out that's when humans get killed" (When Darkness Hungers, p. 265, 266) For the rest of his or her existence, then, the vampire must constantly fight to keep the daemon under control

     In this world, the Shadowers have a multi-level governmental structure. There's the Alliance, which is kind of like a United Nations for the Shadow world. Then, there's the Preternatural Enforcement Coalition (PEC), the organization that investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates crimes committed by Shadowers. In the U.S., the PEC operates as a secret branch of Homeland Security called Division Six. In addition to these two organizations, each geographic area has a governor.

     This is a typical paranormal romance series with each book telling one couple's love story with all of its anguished moments and lustful interludes. The action plots frequently involve Alliance and PEC politics and the Shadowers who oppose them, which generally makes for some vicious and bloody action.

These are the happy couples in each book:
   When Blood Calls: Sara Constantine (human) & Luke Dragos (vampire)
   When Pleasure Rules: Lissa Monroe (succubus) & Vincent Rand (werewolf)
   When Wicked Craves: Petra Lang (witch) & Nicholas Montegue (vampire)
   "Midnight" & When Passion Lies: Caris (vampire/were hybrid) & Tiberius (vampire)
   When Darkness Hungers: Alexis Martin (human) & Sergius (altered vampire)
   When Temptation Burns: Andy Terrant & Ryan Doyle (percipient paradaemon)

        SUMMARIES OF BOOKS 1, 2, & 3        
     If book 1 of this series had a melodrama rating, it would be over the top; the characters spend a lot of their time over-emoting about their lives, their relationships, etc. In When Blood Calls, Sara Constantine is a human prosecutor who gets promoted to Division 6 (aka the Preternatural Enforcement Coalition)the secret supernatural justice system in Los Angeles. She soon discovers that the Shadow creaturesthe spooky monsters of nightmaresare real and that she will now be prosecuting them. Sara's love interest is Lucius (Luke) Dragos, a powerful (and sexy, of course) vampire accused of murdering a crooked judge. The plot involves Lucius's ward (Tasha), a serial child killer, and various supernatural rivals within the Alliance.

     When Pleasure Rules tells the SMR story of Lissa (succubus) and Rand (werewolf assassin) as they track down a mysterious serial killer. 

     When Wicked Craves takes us through the romance of Petra (cursed witch) and Nicholas (vampire lawyer) as Petra tries to escape the death penalty, and Nicholas helps Petra escape and attempts save a friend's sanity as well as his life. Books 2 and 3 begin just days after the previous books end, and they definitely need to be read in sequence since characters and events from previous books play important roles in new adventures, without much explanation of their histories.

        REVIEW OF BOOK 4:  When Passion Lies        
     It's been two years since the last book in this series was published, and I must admit I had a hard time remembering the details of what happened in the first three books. Included at the end of When Passion Lies is the novella, "Midnight," which tells the story of how Tiberius and Caris first met, so I recommend reading that before you read the novel.

     As the story begins, Caris and Tiberius have been apart for 20 years. He banished her after she was captured by a werewolf scientist who experimented on her and turned her into a hybrida vampire/werewolf mix. Hybrids have a long, horrific history in the shadow world dating back to ancient times: "It was said to have started with a feud between two warring brothers who murdered a third brother to steal his power. Having done so, the two became the founders of the shadow worldthe first vampire and the first werewolf. But the blood of the third seeped into the ground, and from within the earth, he cursed them never to find peace. As a physical manifestation of that curse, any creature that was a weren-vampire mix had blood that burned through flesh." (p. 5) An even greater problem is that hybrids generate an air-borne virus that kills humans, vampires, and most other shadow creatures almost immediately. The only ones immune from the virus are the werewolves. According to this mythology, it wasn't infected rats and fleas that caused the Black Death, it was an out-of-control hybrid.

     At the time of Caris' capture, Tiberius was a leading member of the Alliance, and when she escaped from the werewolf's captivity and returned to him, he believed that he had no choice but to banish her. For Tiberius, the safety and security of his people have always come before his personal feelings. At the time she returned to him, Caris had no control over her inner wolf, and if she lost control even once, she could have spread the plague all over Londonand then the world. Although Tiberius sent Caris away, he kept her hybrid status a secret known only to the two of them. Bitter and alone after her banishment, Caris sought refuge with Gunnolf, the werewolf leader who was ejected from his Alliance position in the previous book. Gunnolf sympathized with Caris' plight and agreed to help her learn to control her wolf. They have kept her hybrid status a secret all this time, pretending that she is still a vampire and that she has turned against Tiberius. Caris and Gunnolf have even led everyone (including Tiberius) to believe that they are lovers.

     During these past twenty years, Caris has been trying to track down Cyrus Reinholt, the villainous werewolf who ruined her life. Early in this book, she finds him and kills him, only to have Tiberius show up moments later claiming that Reinholt was about to give him important information concerning the nefarious activities of Lihter, a werewolf who is trying to gain greater power in the Alliance and in the world in general. The plot follows Caris and Tiberius as they reunite, iron out their problems (way too easily), and work together to uncover Lihter's dark plan to destroy everyone on the earth except the werewolves. Click HERE to read the first three chapters. 

     This is a typical paranormal romance, with its angst-filled internal monologues and tortured hero and heroine. The weakest point in the story, for me, comes at the end when Tiberius makes a momentous and unbelievable decision about his life. What he does seems to make a lie of everything that he has professed to believe in for his entire thousand-year existence. Other than that huge glitch, the rest of the book follows the usual formula.

        REVIEW OF BOOK 5:  When Darkness Hungers        
     This book brings us back to Los Angeles and the original group of Shadowers that we met in the first three books of the series. The unlikely hero is 2,000-year-old Sergius ("Serge"), who was a mindless, daemon-cursed killer when we met him in earlier books. Now he is attempting to cope with his new life. After the death of the mad, monstrous master who controlled him, Serge discovered that, in addition to blood, he needed a constant supply of life-energy to keep his daemon under control. Whatever Shadow creature he kills and draws energy from, that is the creature he becomes. But underneath it all, a real monster hides. If Serge completely loses control, he becomes a clawed, scaly, mindless killer beast, so he's been sneaking around killing rogue vampires in order to suck their life-energy and stay as normal as possible.

     Alexis Martin is a former FBI agent who left her job and came to Los Angeles to find the vampire who killed her sister. She is accompanied by her friend, Leena, a powerful witch with a big secret. Together, they have been searching out vampires. Leena tracks them with her witchcraft, and Alexis stakes them. One night, Serge and Alexis track the same rogue vampire, and the romance begins. For the first half of the book, they eye each other from a distance, but they eventually meet (well into the story) and fall for each other.

     The action part of the plot involves the increasing number of humans being slain by rogue vampires and the increasing number of vampires who are either disappearing or turning up as desiccated shells. As it turns out, Derrick, one of Serge's old buddies, is in town and he's determined to change the rules laid out by the PEC. Derrick is an old-school vampire, viewing humans as nothing more than prey, and he's not about to follow the PEC's laws as they relate to humans or anything else. Although the romance between Serge and Alexis becomes important in the final quarter of the book, the bulk of the story follows Serge and Alexisseparatelyas they roam around the city at night killing rogue vampires, and Derrick as he acts on his own nefarious plans.

     The romance in this book is unusual in that it takes so long for the couple to finally meet, much less really get together. That's not a problem, though, because the plot is compelling and full of mostly unpredictable twists and turns. Pay particular attention to the Prologue because the scene depicted there has far-reaching consequences.

        REVIEW OF BOOK 6:  When Temptation Burns        
     In a story that is completely unrelated to the one in book 5, one of the familiar supporting characters from the PEC takes the starring role. That would be Ryan Doyle, whose technical PEC description is percipient paradaemonmeaning that he has the ability to perceive the last memories of the newly dead by touching them and that he is a half, not a full, daemon. Doyle also has powers over fire, wind, and water, but he is weakened by electricity. Doyle was conceived when his human mother was raped by a daemon back in 1730, and she brutally raised him to believe that he is, and always will be, totally evil. He fights hard against his demonic nature and hates the fact that he must devour human souls in order to continue living. Doyle is an agent for the PEC and frequently works murder scenes, touching the corpses in an attempt to determine the identities of their killers.

     Andrea (Andy) Tarrent is an investigative reporter who is always on the lookout for her next big story. Her father is a devil-hating preacher, and her mother was killed by a mugger (or so she has been told) when Andy was 12. Andy and Doyle meet for the first time when she is at a prison interviewing a vicious serial killer and Doyle pulls the prisoner away to interview him about a rogue vampire case. Andrea doesn't believe in the Shadow world. She's a jaded realist who only believes what she can see and touch. Unsurprisingly, in this book, she runs into many situations that are entirely new to her. 

     The romance plot follows Doyle and Andy as they quickly form a mutual attraction that leads to lust and love. In a false note, Andy accepts Doyle's daemon heritage much too quickly, especially when she learns about the violent acts he has committed in the past, one of which closely relates to her own family. (You'll be able to figure this one out long before it is officially revealed in the story line.) The action plot involves Andy's father and young cousin, both of whom have joined Paul Vassalo and his Dark Warriors (DW)human hunters of vampires and werewolves. When Doyle goes undercover to infiltrate the DW and learn their current plans, the situation gets dangerous and violent for everyone, both good and bad. By the end of the story, the DW learns way too much about the Shadow world, leaving the PEC to deal with human hate squads in the months (and books) ahead.

     Once again, this is a conventional soul-mate romance, with insta-love and a rough romantic road. The plot has some twists and turns, but most are predictable long before they are revealed. You could read this book as a stand-alone because it doesn't rely on much series history for its plot.