REVIEW OF NOVEL 7: Crossroads
The villainous vampire turns out to have connections with Chael, the Middle Eastern vampire leader who is trying to depose Anna from her Chosen position so that he can take over. Chael tries to sweet talk Anna by telling her about a Navajo shaman in Arizona who has the power to give Anna the one thing she desires above all else: to become mortal once again. Anna convinces Daniel Frey to accompany her to Arizona to find the shaman. Frey's young son lives there, so he's willing to go along and try to smooth Anna's way with the Navajo Council. The Navajo hate and fear vampires because they believe that when a person dies, the good part of him or her is gone and only the bad part remains on earth. After a person's death, the Navajo never speak that person's name again. (Click HERE for more information about Navajo burial customs.) To many of the Navajo, Anna is a monstrosity that should be destroyed. Soon after Anna and Frey arrive in Arizona, terrible things begin happening, including a fatal car crash and a skinwalker attack.
As is usual in this series, the villainy in the plot has both human and supernatural roots. The identity of the villain seems obvious to Anna (and to the reader), but things (and people) are not always as they seem. As the plot resolves itself, Anna is forced to choose—once and for all—between vampirism and mortality. This is another great episode in the series, with an action-filled plot, well-developed characters, and a very cute little boy. I really love this series, but hate that the books are coming a year apart. Click HERE to go to this book's Amazon.com page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.
REVIEW OF NOVEL 8: Haunted
In the penultimate book in the series, Anna's relationships with the men in her life are front and center. There's also an action plot—this one involving yet another Mexican drug lord and his minions. As the story begins, Anna's shape-shifting friend, Culebra, spills the sordid story of his past life as a drug cartel assassin. Anna reacts with anger and disappointment, berating him for being greedy and weak—nothing like the man she always thought him to be. Days later, as she's on her way back to Culebra's place to apologize, she picks up an injured man in the desert who turns out to be Ramon, a friend from Culebra's past who begs their help in rescuing his wife and daughter. Ramon tells a sad story about murdering a bully who abused his son, which caused his drug-lord boss to send his thugs to kill Ramon and/or his family. Soon, the foursome heads out for a flight across the Mexican desert: Culebra, Ramon, Anna, and Max, who is Anna's ex-boyfriend as well as being a DEA agent and a good friend of Culebra's.
In the meantime, Anna is dealing with all sorts of changes in her interpersonal relationships. Her family flies in from France to announce that they are selling the family home in San Diego and moving to France permanently. In the romantic part of her life, Anna believes that she has finally found true love in Stephen, a human reporter whose life she saved in a previous book. He knows that she is a vampire, but that doesn't seem to bother him a bit. Why then, Anna asks herself, does she take off on this mission without telling Stephen where she is going or that she is traveling with Max, the ex-boyfriend who turned against her when she became a vampire? Just to mix things up a bit more, Frey and his son, John-John, stop in for a visit just before Anna gets involved with Culebra and Ramon. Before Frey returns to his home on the Navajo reservation, he tells Anna his reason for coming to San Diego: "You...I came back for you." (p. 40) So...Anna is dealing with one old friend who isn't what he seems to be, another old friend who seems to love her, an ex-boyfriend who seems to hate her (but does he really?), and a new boyfriend she's lying to. Could her life get more complicated? Oh, yes, it could and it does.
The plot unwinds as Anna and her crew arrive at Ramon's hideaway, meet his family, and soon depart for the drug lord's remote lair. By this time, Anna has discovered some holes in Ramon's pitiful story. When they reach the drug lord's supposed hideaway, nothing works out the way it was supposed to, and they become involved in the rescue of young girls who are being kidnapped and sexually abused. Eventually, the requisite climactic shoot-out resolves events in a manner that brings salvation for the girls, but heartbreak for Anna. The ending ties up some story lines, but leaves others open to be resolved in the final book. Although the action plot, with its cruel drug thugs and pathetic abused girls, is a too-familiar retread, Anna's personal relationships and romantic crises take us into new and fragile territory. Click HERE to go to this book's Amazon.com page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.
REVIEW OF NOVEL 9: Blood Bond
First and foremost, Anna's mother, Anita, is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, meaning that Anna, Frey, and Frey's young son, John-John, immediately hop on Anna's private plane to travel to the South of France, where Anna's parents and their (not-quite) granddaughter, Trish, live in a villa that Anna provided for them. Anna and Frey are deeply in love at this point, but the sadness of Anita's cancer is breaking Anna's heart. Will Anna offer her mother immortality? If so, will Anita accept?
As the happy/sad couple prepares for their quickie wedding, who should turn up but Chael, Anna's old nemesis, who informs her that the European vampires don't view her as their Chosen One and have sworn fealty to another vampire, one who calls himself King Steffan. The stripped-down action plot follows Anna as she and Frey get involved in a European vampire insurrection and meet up with the most famous vampire in fictional history.
Some reviewers have suggested that because of the absence of dramatic tension, the lack of sustained action, and the profusion of sex scenes (more than any other novel in the series), that this slender story could (and should) have been told in a chapter or two tacked on to Haunted, and I have to agree. The unnecessary and gratuitous cancer story thread could have been omitted. It adds nothing to the plot except for emphasizing Anna's final acceptance of her immortal status, but that struggle was already delineated in dramatic, angst-filled detail in Haunted. With its kissy-kissy focus on Anna and Frey's HEA, Blood Bond is actually more of an extended romance novella than an urban fantasy novel. Even so, fans of the series will want to read the book just to experience the wedding preparations and culminating ceremony. In the final analysis, Blood Bond exists primarily as an exclamation mark at the end of an otherwise terrific series. Click HERE to go to this book's Amazon.com page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.