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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Author:  J. R. Ward
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4, Sensuality4-5, Humor2-3
Publisher and Titles: 
         Covet (2009)
           Crave (2010)
           Envy (2011)
           Rapture (2012)
           Possession (2013) 
           Immortal (2014) (FINAL)  

     This post was revised and updated on 11/10/14 to include a review of  Immortal, the sixth and FINAL novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first five novels.   

               NOVEL 6:  Immortal               

    Ward ties up all the loose ends in this big series finale. As the various story lines play out, we get the mostly satisfying resolutions of the following relationships: Sissy and Jim; Devina and Jim; Adrian and Eddie; and Nigel and Colin. Unlike the previous books, two souls are on the line in this one, and you may be surprised at their identities. I'm not going to attempt to summarize the plot because the interconnections among the story lines make that it an impossibility.

     The Sissy and Jim relationship has always felt a bit pedophilic to me. Sissy is, after all, a teenage virgin and Jim is a 40-year-old mercenary soldier. In this book, their relationship jitters through every emotion you can imagine: rage, distrust, adoration, lust, fear, etc., etc. They have several passionate and graphic lust scenes as well as some tender moments. Both Jim and Sissy have spent most of their time seething in inner rage, and in this book Ward delves more deeply into that problem. in this book, Jim works hard to keep his focus on his soul-saving task and tries his best (but ultimately fails) to keep from being distracted by Sissy.

Devina's gold Louboutins
     Devina is her usual cruel and devious self, losing control of her OCD impulses, adding another pair of Louboutins to her collection, and spending more time with her therapist. And about that therapist: we get some hints that shed new light on the identity of the therapist and the real purpose of the sessions. I enjoyed Ward's method of resolving Devina's fate, although there were a few too many rainbows and unicorn moments for such an evil character.

     I really can't tell you much about the Adrian-Eddie situation and the Nigel-Colin relationship without providing spoilers, so I'll just say that the resolution of the conflict for each pair is quite satisfying. 

     Although I can't say that this is my favorite paranormal series, I have enjoyed Ward's fresh and inventive world-building and her intricate plotting. Ward has even managed to give depth to the long list of primary characters, and that's quite a task in and of itself. This is a series that must be read from the beginning in order to understand what is going on and to appreciate the suspense that builds from book to book.  

     Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Immortal on the book's page at top left.

    This series follows the battle between heaven and hell for the fate of the worldthe ultimate battle between sin and redemption. In Covet, we learn that the great Creator has become impatient with the unending conflict between good and evil in the world and has set up a contest to settle the issue once and for all. Seven mortals will be selected, each of whom is guilty of one of the seven deadly sins (one per book). The first team to win the souls of four of the mortals will be awarded dominion over the physical world as well as Heaven and Hell.  

     On the side of evil are the devil's minions, led by the sly and crafty Devina. On the side of good are the heavenly forces, headed by Nigel, an up-tight gay archangel.  The man in the middle is Jim Heron (aka the savior), whose soul is made up of equal parts of good and evil. Heron is a former black ops warrior who dies, becomes a fallen angel, and must now steer the course of events that determine the fates of the souls of the seven chosen ones.  

Here is Nigel's summary of his instincts about Jim:
    "When the Creator had appeared unto Nigel and Devina, and explained that there would be a final contest, both sides had had to agree to Heron's being the one on the field with the seven chosen souls. Naturally, each opposite wanted its values represented, and the end result was that this massive, war-minded angel standing afore him had equal amounts of the good and evil in him. Nigel believed, however, that the fact that Jim's slain mother was within the walls of [heaven] would be the tipping factor, and he still thought that was true." (Envy, pp. 19-20)

     Each chosen mortal reaches a crossroads of sorts in their lives where they must make a crucial decision between good and evil. Complicating matters is the fact that though Devina and Nigel have selected the mortals, they are not allowed to reveal the identities of the chosen ones to Jim. Jim must figure that out on his own before Devina gets to them and leads them toward the wrong decision, thus condemning their souls to hell. The contest has rules, but both sides bend those rules whenever they get a chance, especially Devina. Jim's two sidekicks, Adrian and Eddie, are both fallen angels who have their own tragic histories.  Each book takes place within a very short time frame (a day or two), and each succeeding book begins just days after the previous one, so the good-vs.-evil duel is presented with a real sense of urgency, and all of the angry emotions and frustrations are fresh in the minds of the lead characters at all times.

     Although the plot of each book centers around the fight for the soul of a chosen one, in general, each book contains four different but related plot threads:
> 1. Jim tries to identify the chosen mortal and then attempts to guide him/her towards a correct decision when he/she reaches the critical crossroads, assisted by Adrian and Eddie.
> 2. A soul-mate romance plays out throughout each story. Sometimes one member of the couple is a chosen mortal, but sometimes not.
> 3. Devina interacts with Jim and his sidekicks as she tries to pollute their souls and drag them to the dark side.
> 4. Nigel interacts with Jim and his sidekicks to give them hints and sometimes to interact with his three fellow archangels: Byron, Bertie, and Colin, Nigel's lover.
     Once you get past the exposition-heavy Covet and begin to see how the mythology works, I believe that you will enjoy this series. For me, each book is stronger than the last. The ongoing characters, particularly Jim and Adrian, continue to develop and grow more complex, and the notions of "good" and "evil" become more and more complicated. Devina is a great villainess: shrewd, strong, and sexy. 

     If you've read Ward's BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD Series, you'll find some crossovers among the locations and the characters. Also, this series, like BLACK DAGGER, emphasizes strong friendships that develop among the mostly male characters.

               NOVEL 1:  Covet               

     In the series opener, Ward sets up the good-versus-bad mythology of this world and then goes on to introduce the cast of characters. The first chosen mortal is Vin DiPietro, a wealthy, workaholic businessman who is ruled by his own avarice.

     The lovely Marie-Therese is attracted to Vin, but she's made some heavy mistakes in her life and doesn't want to make another one. Jim is haunted by a tragic demon-caused death that occurs in Covet, and that has a major effect on many of his future choices. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Covet.

               NOVEL 2:  Crave               

     In the second book, the soul-mate lovers are Isaac Rothe, a black ops soldier who finds himself behind bars, and Grier Childe, the beautiful public defender who is assigned to defend him.

     Jim must suppress his dark side and accept the power of true love. This book has a major twist at the end, so PLEASE don't read the ending first.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from Crave.

               NOVEL 3:  Envy               
     In book 3, the story opens with the capture of a serial killer named Kroner who has been ritualistically murdering young women in Caldwell, a small town in upstate New York. Two police detectives are intricately involved in the case. Thomas (Veck) Delvechhio is a homicide detective whose father is also a serial killer, currently awaiting execution for his crimes. All his life, Veck has felt that his father's psychotic side has somehow manifested itself in him. In the opening scene of Envy, Veck goes to the motel where Kroner murdered his latest victim hoping that Kroner will return for trophies of his crime. Veck intends to kill Kroner in cold blood, allowing his dark side to take over his actions. Instead, Veck blacks out, and when he returns to consciousness he finds Kroner severely injured, apparently by an animal, but Veck still thinks that he might have done the dirty deed. Investigating Veck's involvement in the case is Internal Affairs Detective Sophia Reilly. Veck and Reilly are instantly attracted to one another and fall in love during the course of the story, but not without a whole heap of mountainous bumps in their road to an HEA.   

     In the meantime, Jim makes a deal with Devina that he will have sex with her if she'll just tell him the identity of the chosen mortal. This devilish deal turns out to have a satisfying twist. Adrian and Eddie are up to their usual antics: sarcastic gibes and hot sex with bar pick-ups. Their threesomes push some scenes up to a 5 in sensuality. Up in heaven, Nigel and Colin have a spat when Colin heads down to earth to provide some assistance to Jim and the boys. The plot threads interweave themselves throughout the story as Veck deals with his inner darkness and with his uneasiness about who Jim really is. (Jim is pretending to be an FBI agent, but Veck soon figures out that is a lie.) Ward does a great job knitting the plot threads together and coming up with a complex but coherent story. The angst levels are high for all of the characters as Jim's team suffers a tragic loss, Veck's demonic side gets stronger and stronger, and Nigel fears that he has lost Colin forever.

     The "envy" in the title belongs to Devina, who envies the love between Veck and Reilly. Here, she shows her feelings to Jim:
     "I f---ing hate them." Devina said, crossing her arms over her breasts.
     Bet you do, he thought. Because those were two people in love right there. And the envy was killing her, her face screwing down tight, eyes lighting up with hatred. She wanted that with him. Ha. Ha. (p. 293) 

     Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Envy on the book's page at top left.

               NOVEL 4:  Rapture               

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Envy.

    This book could be titled "Redemption" because it brings back Matthias, who made a terribly wrong decision in a previous book, but is now being given a chance to redeem himself. In the opening scene, Matthias wakes up naked on Jim Heron's grave with only fragmented memories of his past. As he leaves the cemetery, he stumbles into the path of a car driven by Melissa ("Mels") Carmichael, a newspaper reporter. The plot follows the development of their romance as Matthias gradually remembers the awful things that he has done throughout his life, and Mels struggles with her suspicions that Matthias may not be the good man she wants him to be.

     In the meantime, Jim and, especially, Adrian are grappling with their emotions after the loss of Eddie Blackhawk. They have to learn how to control their animosity toward each other without Eddie's help, and they struggle with that every day. We learn a great deal more about the secretive and vicious XOps organization for which Jim and Matthias worked as assassins. We also get some insights into the childhood experiences that shaped Matthias into the cold, cruel warrior that he has become. One very interesting scene gives us some astonishing new information about Jim's faithful pet, Dog, and his love for turkey subs.

     Devina has a great scene in which she visits a therapist in an attempt to control her rampant OCD. We feel some sympathy for her as she works hard to curb her compulsions, but then she commits some disgustingly despicable acts and we see her as she really is. One of the most diabolical and horrific strategies Devina uses in this book is to mess with Jim's mind by playing on his yearning for Sissy, the young girl Devina has imprisoned in her well of souls.

     This is another great addition to a top-notch series, with a compelling plot and well-developed lead characters. All through the book, we get more and more insight into the primary characters, particularly Matthias and Devina. Mels is a good-enough heroine—tough but vulnerable. (She's a black belt and always carries a gun. How handy is that?) Mels goes through an inner transformation as the plot moves along, working through her long-suppressed emotions about her father's tragic death and her difficult relationship with her mother. 

     This may be nit-picking, but there is one small authorial tic that becomes a bit annoying, and that is Ward's constant use of acronyms for various expressions (e.g., an old Toyota is a "POS car"; Jim checks the DOB on his driver's license; a waitress is a POA; Matthias checks out of the hospital AMA; Mels "wanted to I-L-Y the man"). Within four consecutive pages (425-428), all of the following acronyms are used: ITCPUIPUSBASAPHR, and VP. Granted, most of these are familiar acronyms, but such heavy usage comes across as trying too hard to be trendy and sometimes interferes with the flow of the story.

     All in all though, this was a book that I couldn't put down—always an indication of good story telling, which is what I have come to expect from J. R. Ward. Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Rapture on the book's page at top left.  

                 NOVEL 5:  Possession                  
Warning: This is not a stand-alone novel. You need to have read the first four novels in order to understand the mythology, the context, and the character histories. Check out my "World-Building" section (below) for a brief overview. Also, this review has spoilers for previous novels.

     When Jim Heron (aka the savior) makes a deal with the devious, demonic Devina to give up one of his victory banners in exchange for the freedom of Sissy Barton, he has no concept of the far-reaching and tragic consequences of his action. With Jim's attention on poor Sissy, who is trying to figure out exactly what has happened to her, the battle for the next soul becomes a secondary event in Jim's life, and many people suffer as a result. Here are the main story threads for this novel:

     1. Jim tries to help Sissy adjust to her new non-dead condition by having her revisit her pre-death locations. Naturally enough, Devina tries to throw a wrench into the developing relationship between Jim and Sissy. As Jim and Sissy grow closer, they discuss their previous lives and we learn some tragic details about Jim's childhood.

     2. Cait Douglass, an uptight art professor with an unhappy romantic past, hooks up with two men: Duke Phillips is a city road worker by day and a nightclub bouncer at night. G.B. is an up-and-coming singer/actor. Both are sinfully attractive; both have tragic pasts; and both want Cait. This is the soul-mate romance part of the plot, and one of these three is the at-risk soul.

     3. Up in heaven, Nigel takes an unthinkable action, one that will certainly have a devastating effect on the outcome of the soul war.

     4. Jim's sidekick, Adrian, is still grieving over Eddie's death, but he tries to make up for Jim's negligence by trying to identify the current soul who is approaching the good/evil crossroads of his or her life. In one satisfying scene, Adrian finally beats Devina at her own game.

     5. Devina still has the hots for Jim and is determined to get him into bed once again, and she's extremely jealous of his feelings for Sissy. Devina is still seeing a therapist for her OCD, and her therapy sessions are always good for a few chuckles. She is also taking yoga classes to keep herself calm: "The yoga instructor popped into her visual field, that clueless, perma-happy, I'm-regular-'cuz-I-eat-organic expression making Devina want to force-feed her Hershey bars until she died from hyperglycemia." (p. 248)  

     Once again, Ward has some surprises in store as she lays out a seemingly straightforward plot, but then inserts some unexpected twists and turns near the end. The plot of this book really changes the series story arc, primarily due to the severe consequences of Jim's actions in saving Sissy at the expense of his savior duties. The relationship between Cait and Duke is startling in its immediately fierce and graphic sexual consummation (on a cold concrete floor before he even knows her name). Their relationship remains at a high sexual level, but when they try to converse in between sex sessions, they feel awkward and uncomfortable. Eventually, some of the reasons behind theirüber-lustful behavior (especially Duke's) is made clear, but throughout most of the book, the relationship seemed improbable to me. Even though Cait had made up her mind to liven up her life, I can't imagine that a neatnik, buttoned-down woman like Cait would jump into a torrid sexual relationship with a man to whom she has barely spoken ten words. 

     Otherwise, though, Ward has done a great job with the plotting, the characterization, and the action. Most of her plot twists are unpredictable—but they are all plausible and grounded in the earlier events in the story (if the reader just knew what to look for ahead of time). All in all, it's another solid addition to the series, and I can't wait to see what happens to Jim and Sissy in the next book. Also—great cover art! Click HERE for print and audio excerpts from Possession on the book's page at top left.

Susan Sizemore: PRIMES

Author: Susan Sizemore
Series: PRIMES 
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V4, S4, H2
Publisher and Titles: Pocket Star:
     I Burn for You (2003)
     I Thirst for You (2004)
     “A Touch of Harry” in The Shadows of Christmas Past anthology (2004)
     I Hunger for You (2005)
     Crave the Night (Pocket, 2005), a collection of the first three books
     Master of Darkness (2006)
     Primal Heat (2006)
     Primal Desires (2007)
     Primal Needs (2008)
     Primal Instincts (2010)

     In the newest PRIMES installment (Primal Instincts), Tobias, an arrogant, macho Prime (Is there any other kind?), meets and mates with Francesca ("Flare"), an equally arrogant, but quite feminine, Reynard clan princessand the sparks really do "flare" up. The battles with the Purists continue, and some mysterious relationships are revealed, but the focus is, of course, on the couple's developing relationship.

     If you haven't been reading this series, here is a brief synopsis: The vampires in PRIMES are not undead; they have simply evolved separately from mortals. Their matriarchal world is divided into three social strata: Clans, Families, and Tribes, with the Clans at the top as the primary protectors of mortals. Clan members take special medications that allow them sun and garlic immunity and the ability to eat regular food so that they can blend into the mortal world. The Families are the “middle class,” and the lawless Tribes are at the bottom of the heap.

     In each group, adult males are called Primes, meaning that they are the “alphas,” with designated cultural responsibilities, special strengths, and seemingly insatiable sexual appetites and unbelievable arrogance and machismo. The vampires—particularly the women—live within a net of strict rules that regulate all aspects of their lives.

     Each book follows the soul-mate relationship of one couple—usually a vampire Prime and a human woman with some type of psychic ability. Most of the supernaturals are vampires, but by book 4, shape-shifters (called werefolk) join the cast of characters. The same set of vamps and weres make up the core group of characters for the series, playing starring roles as they find their soul mates and taking supporting roles in other books.

     Several story lines wind together throughout the series, including Tribe vampires selling drugs, neo-Nazi werewolves trying to start a revolution against both vampires and mortals, mortals doing scientific experiments on kidnapped vampires, and fanatical vampire hunters (Purists) trying to destroy immortals. Each book ends with one or two battles won, but the really bad guys always escape, so the final resolution is still ahead.

V. C. Andrews: "Daughter of Darkness"

Author: V. C. Andrews
Daughter of Darkness (so far, a stand-alone novel)
 Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V3, S3, H1
Publisher: Gallery Books (Division of Simon & Schuster)

     In her initial foray into the world of vampires, Andrews takes a fresh approach in this stand-alone novel about a vampire and his beautiful daughters, all of whom have been told that they are adopted.  Sergio Patio, the two-hundred-year-old head of the family, rules the roost with his charm and his undercurrents of danger.

     His three daughters and his "housekeeper" are devoted to him and cater to his every wish and desire. The family moves frequently from city to city, and the girls are ordered to make no friendsparticularly no boyfriends. The middle daughter, Lorelei, begins to question her real parentage and wonders about frequent and mysterious goings on that involve young men brought home by the oldest (Ava) for brief and violent "visits" with Daddy.  In answer to her questions, Lorelei is continually told to be patient, that it will soon be "her turn." 

     Needless to say, Lorelei is not patient, and she eventually uncovers horrible family secrets that she finds impossible to accept, particularly when she meets and falls for Buddy, who may be her father's next "visitor."  Although there are a few scenes that include violence and sensuality, no graphic details are included.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jennifer Rardin: JAZ PARKS

Author:  Jennifer Rardin
Plot Type: UF
Ratings:  V5, S2-3, H3-4
Publisher and Titles: Orbit

      Once Bitten, Twice Shy (2008)
      Another One Bites the Dust (2009)
      Biting the Bullet (2008)
      Bitten to Death (2008)
      One More Bite (2009)  
      Bite Marks (2009)
      Bitten in Two (2010)
      The Deadliest Bite (2011) (FINAL)

     This blog entry was revised on 9/19/11 to include a review of the final book in the series: The Deadliest Bite. That review appears at the bottom of the page, following this overview of the series so far:

     If you haven't been reading the series, here is a summary of the action so far: Jasmine “Jaz” Parks (aka “Lucille Robinson”) is a CIA assassin with a few magical skills, lots of fighting skills, and plenty of sarcastic attitude. Her partner, and love interest, is Vayl (aka Vasil Nicu Brâncoveanu), a sexy, three-hundred-year-old vampire with the ability to control ice (i.e., freezing a person, or creature, into a solid chunk of ice that can then be shattered). Together, they travel the globe with their team, hunting down and killing supernatural enemies of the U.S. government—with many up-close and violent battles.

     Other members of their team are Cassandra, a seer; Miles Bergman, an inventive genius; Cole Bemont, former private investigator and skilled sniper; and special ops commander David Parks, Jaz’s twin brother. Also part of the action is Raoul, Jaz’s spirit guide, who allowed her to come back to life after she was killed in a battle that took place just prior to book 1.

     Bergman’s inventions are of the James Bond type (e.g., contact lenses that blink into either telescopic or night vision, impenetrable armor that bonds with the wearer’s DNA). Sexual tension between Jaz and Vayle builds up to a fever pitch, book by book, with a release (finally!) in an extremely brief scene at the very end of One More Bite.

     The humor, much of it dark, comes from the sarcastic quips traded back and forth by the team members, often in the thick of the action. The books cover about one year of Jaz's life, and in that time, the team battles vampires, werewolves, dark magic wielders, gnomes, and demons all over the world—all of this in just a single year. 

     If you've been following this series, you've probably been wondering if Jaz and Vayl's romance will ever run smoothly.  I can tell you for sure that it doesn't happen in the second to the last book in the series: Bitten in Two. This  book is set in Morocco, where Jaz and her friends hope to find an artifact that will help her rid herself of the demonic Brude, whose possession of Jaz is slowing causing her death. Unfortunately, things really go wrong when Vayl wakes up believing that he is back in the 1770s and that Jaz is his valet's wife. Jaz and the rest of the crew must pretend to go along with Vayl's false memories while they work behind the scenes to remove the curse and locate the artifact. What a bummer—and after Jaz and Vayl have just spent an idyllic vacation on a tropical island celebrating their engagement. Ah, the life of a UF heroine! In a subplot, a beautiful demon (Kyphas) falls for Cole, but really wants his soul, with horrifying after effects for the poor guy. In this book, a new character with a past connection to Jaz joins the crew: Sterling, a powerful warlock. Also, Bergman finds a girlfriend in Morocco, which is earthshaking news!

     As The Deadliest Bite begins, Jaz and Vayl are living in Vayl's palatial home just outside Cleveland, Ohio. Who would have thought that Vayl was a Midwesterner (and one of my neighbors)! No sooner do they begin to relax with a bit of love play when an assassin shows up at their door determined to stake Vayl. After Jaz's spirit guide (Raoul) saves them from the killer, they learn that the young assassin is, in fact, Vayl's long-lost reincarnated son, Hanzi, who now goes by the name of Aaron. Vayl has been searching all of his long life for his two reincarnated sons, who were murdered centuries ago after Badu stole a horse and wagon and Hanzi forced him to return it. Unfortunately, the farmer who owned the rig didn't stop to ask questions; he just shot the two boys. As it turns out, Aaron is the unknowing and innocent participant in a devious plot by the evil werewolf, Roldan (Vayl's long-time enemy), to kill Vayl once and for all. As Jaz, Vayle, and Raoul investigate the situation, they must deal with many of their enemies from past adventures, including Roldan's gorgon mistress (Sthenno) and Cole's demon, Kyphas. Vayl's long-dead, adopted daughter, Helena, also turns upin hell, of all places. By the end of the book (and the series), all of the couples get their HEA endings, even Cole (in an unexpected twist). Vayl also finds his second son, Badu (now named Lotus), who has undergone a highly unusual physical change since his first death. This is definitely not a stand-alone novel. The reader must have knowledge of past events to make sense of the plot.

     I have enjoyed reading this series. It has generous amounts of action, unending dark and sarcastic humor, and masses of angst spread among all of the characters. Both the main and supporting characters are well developed. All of the characters begin with interesting back stories and go on to experience various life-changing events. Although the series teems with villains, most are not all bad to the core; they have their own, sometimes twisted, reasons for what they do and we can sometimes sympathize to a certain extent with the reasons for their wicked ways. Jaz and Vayl make a great soul-mate couple, each with a tragic past and each firmly on the side of justice. 

     The only compliant I have with the series is the amount of time Jaz spends listening to her many inner voices. This is difficult to explain, but several different mental voices speak to Jaz in sarcastic and humorous ways (and always in italics): Teen Me (Jaz's teen-brat self), Inner Bimbo (Jaz's slutty self), and Granny May (Jaz's dead grandmother). These voices pop up at various times in the stories, commenting on the action and frequently providing clues to solving various parts of the conflictbut they can be annoying.

     Rardin passed away unexpectedly on September 20, 2010, so The Deadliest Bite  is the final book of the series.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Author: Michele Bardsley

Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V3, S4, H4
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
    I'm the Vampire, That's Why (2006)
    Don't Talk Back to Your Vampire (2007)
    Wait Till Your Vampire Gets Home (2008)
    Because Your Vampire Said So (2008)
    Over My Dead Body (2009)
    Come Hell or High Water (2010)
    Cross Your Heart (2010)
    "The Early Girl Gets the Blood Wolf" (e-story, 5/2011)
    Must Love Lycans (2011)
    Broken-Heart Tales (collection of e-stories, 3/2013)
    Only Lycans Need Apply (4/2013)    

     This post was revised and updated on 5/18/13 to include a review of the ninth book in the series: Only Lycans Need Apply. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of books 7 and 8:    

          BOOK 9:  Only Lycans Need Apply              

     This book begins with three prologue-type chapters (although just the third one is actually entitled "Prologue"). That's a lot of expositional information to plow through before you get to the actual story. Reading the book as a stand-alone would be a challenge. I recommend that you at least read Must Love Lycans in order to get a handle on the huge cast of characters. 

     Moira Jameson is a rich and grouchy archaeologist who has searched for many years for a special Egyptian pyramid. When she and her goth-girl intern, Dove, discover that the pyramid houses two powerful, long-dormant vampires, their lives—and Moria's heart—are put in jeopardy. When the soulless vampire, Karn, sends his minions to invade Moira's camp, she is rescued by Drake, one of the three royal lycan brothers we met in earlier books. From the beginning, Drake and Moira are attracted to one another, so we know that they will eventually get their HEA—and they do (no big surprise there). 

     The action part of the plot centers around Karn's efforts to capture Moira. He knows something about her genetic history that has been kept secret from her all her life, and that secret is very valuable to him. Moira has been treated for mental illness even since she witnessed her mother's murder (when Moira was just 5 years old). She has frequent nightmares and attacks of unexplained aggression and must be under constant medication. The primary story line follows Moira and Drake as they enter the mysterious pyramid (which appears suddenly in the middle of Broken Heart) to awaken the vampire pair who have been secluded there for centuries. Drake doesn't do much more than hover lovingly around Moira, offering sex and support—whichever she happens to need at the time. This is really Moira's story, as she learns the facts about her parents and comes into her heritage (which, as you probably suspect) isn't entirely human.

    This isn't my favorite BROKEN HEART book, although once the story gets going, the action is compelling. This book makes its appearance so long after the previous one that it's hard to reach back in memory to make sense of many of the scenes, which include flashbacks to scenes from much earlier books. The love story is O.K., but the strongest element in the story is Moira, with her irascible personality that she uses to hide her fears for her own sanity. 

     Set in the tiny town of Broken Heart (the town with the highest rate of divorce and the highest percentage of single parents in Oklahoma), the action begins in I'm the Vampire, That's Why when a diseased vampire-lycan hybrid escapes from custody and bites and kills eleven of the human townspeople. To save their lives, members of the Consortium (a vampiric organization that facilitates relations between humans and supernaturals) bring the eleven back as vampires, each with his or her own special talent. Eventually, Broken Heart becomes a kind of paranormal sanctuary, promising safety for all types of supernaturals

     Each book tells one newbie's story, focusing on the soul-mate experience, but including the townspeoples' battles with a variety of human and supernatural villains: evil vamps, fierce lycans, scary dragons, dangerous demons, and military para-terrorists who are members of the Ethics and Technology Assessment Commission (ETAC). ETAC tries to capture supernaturals for purposes of experimentation. If they can't capture, though, they go for the killa really evil group

     Bardsley knows how to tell a romantic story. Her BROKEN HEART world is well thought out, with multiple glossaries and a brief genealogy section included in many of the later books. The dialogue is very humorous, with lots of sarcastic sniping among the characters. I recommend that you begin reading at the beginning of the series in order to keep up with the characters and events

Here is a list of the happy couples who star in each book:    
   > I'm the Vampire, That's Why: single soccer mom-turned-vampire Jessica Matthews & vampire Patrick O'Halloran
   > Don't Talk Back to Your Vampire: librarian-turned-vampire Evangeline LeRoy & vampire Lorcan O'Halloran
   > Because Your Vampire Said Sohair-stylist-turned-vampire Patricia (Patsy) Donahue & rogue werewolf Gabriel
   > Wait Till Your Vampire Gets Home: paranormal investigator and half-dragon Libby Monroe & newbie vampire Ralph Genessa
   > Over My Dead Body: ex-abused wife, mechanic, and newbie vampire Simone Sweet & Braddock (Brady) Hayes, agent for the Paranormal Research & Investigation Services (PRIS)
   > Come Hell or High Water: single mom-turned-vampire Phoebe Allen & Scottish half-demon Connor Ballard
   > Cross Your Heartheiress-turned-vampire Elizabeth Bretten & were-jaguar Tezozomoc (Tez) Jones
   > Must Love Lycans: empathic psychotherapist Kelsey Morningstar & German lycan prince Damian 

     Because Your Vampire Said So won the 2008 RT Book Reviews Award for Vampire Romance. Over My Dead Body won Honorable Mention in the 2009 P.E.A.R.L. Awards for Vampire Romance (Paranormal Excellence Award for Romantic Literature). 

     Bardsley also writes the paranormal romance series, WIZARDS OF NEVERMORE, which is set in the dragon-protected town of Nevermore, Texas. Click HERE to read my review of that series

          BOOK 7:  Cross Your Heart          
    In most of the BROKEN HEART books, villains are usually outsiders who attack the town for various reasons (i.e., power, vengeance, greed), but in Cross Your Heart, danger comes from evil forces that have developed within the town itself, dating back to horrible murders involving the the town's founding fathers. In this book, which takes place about five years after book 1, the protagonists are Elizabeth Bretton (wealthy vampire heiress) and Tezozomoc ("Tez") Jones (sexy were-jaguar), who meet when he rescues her from an attack in the woods. We learn more about the history of the town of Broken Heart in this book, and not much of it is good. Just to complicate things, the plot includes a jealous were female who wants Tez for herself and a ghost that wants Elizabeth dead

          BOOK 8:  Must Love Lycans          
     Book 8 takes place about eight years after book 1. The heroine is Kelsey Morningstone, an empathic psychotherapist with a tragic past that involves her evil mommy-dearest and a psychotic killer. Kelsey's hero is Damian, the self-banished royal prince of the lycans. As the story opens, Damian has just been rescued from an ETAC laboratory by Jarred Dante, the head of the Dante Clinic, where Kelsey works as a therapist. Even though he has temporary amnesia, Damian immediately recognizes Kelsey as his one true mate, and he marks her in that inevitable werewolf way early on in the story. 

     The plot involves the unanticipated side effects of Damian's marking on Kelsey, the revision and fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, and Kelsey's hallucinatory dreams about a goddess and her lycan god. Along the way, we get a large dose of lycan mythology. Kelsey uses her smart and sassy approach to life as a means of pulling Damian out of his dark, guilt-ridden, hermitic life. The couple has lots of chemistry, both in and out of the bedroom, and their romance is fun to follow. Each one is dealing with two separate issues with roots in the past. Kelsey is still recovering emotionally from her horrific kidnapping by one of her patients, a serial killer. 

     In the meantime, Kelsey's mother has written a best-selling book full of lies about Kelsey. Damian is overcome with guilt because he believes that he failed to protect his wife and other family members, who were attacked and killed decades ago. In addition, his deep hatred for his goddess mother (who apparently abandoned him and his brothers 100 years ago) is eating him alive. So...we have lots of angst, plenty of sex, and a mystical prophecy plot. What more can you ask for in a paranormal romance? Click HERE to read an excerpt.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Author: Kate Pearce
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V4, S4, H3
Publisher and Titles: Signet Eclipse
        Kiss of the Rose (2010)
        Blood of the Rose (2011)
        Mark of the Rose (2011)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 1/25/12 to include a review of the third book in the series: Mark of the Rose. That review is located at the very end of this entry, following this summary of the series so far.

     The titular rose symbolizes both the Tudor rose (heraldic emblem of that royal dynasty) and the heroine of the series: Rosalind Llewellyn, druid and vampire hunter. In the prologue (1485), King Henry VII aligns himself with the ancient druid gods and promises to help them kill vampires with the assistance of members of the Llewellyn family. In exchange, Henry wins the English throne from Richard III.

     The series begins 44 years later with Henry VIII on the throne in the waning years of his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon (here spelled Katherine). Rosalind's grandfather has sent her to Court to protect the king and queen from a vampire threat, accompanied by Rhys Williams, fellow druid vampire hunter and wannabe lover. To Rosalind's horror, the Cult of Mithras (the Llewellyn family's hated rivals) has sent its own representative, the young and handsome Sir Christopher Ellis, to Court to investigate a series of mysterious murders.

     From the time of the Roman Empire, members of Mithras have been vampire protectors and druid killers. Eventually (did you see this coming?) Rosalind and Christopher fall into a love/hate relationship that seesaws back and forth throughout the book (and probably the series). 

     A supporting character in books 1 and 2 is Elias Warner, a powerful vampire who wheels and deals at Court as he looks out for the interests of the Vampire Council. Initially, Elias and Rosalind are bitter enemies, but gradually their relationship mellows, with respect creeping in on both sides. Elias is a key figure in the plots of the first two books.

     In Kiss of the Rose, Rosalind and Christopher track down and defeat a rogue vampire, (with assistance from Elias and Rhys), and participate in a sacred druid ceremony that leaves them blood bound. At the end of this book, Henry pronounces that the couple is betrothed, but because of their families' objections to their relationship, they separate almost immediately, with Rosalind going home to Wales and Christopher staying at Court.  

      Blood of the Rose takes up the couple's story a year later when they are reunited by yet another vampire problem at Henry's Court, this one involving Anne Boleyn and her brother, George. As you might suspect, both of the Boleyns are vampires. Anne wants to be the Queen of England, with all of the wealth and power that comes with the throne, and nothing will get in her way, especially not Henry.  A new character is briefly introduced: Olivia, a previously unknown relative of Christopher's who helps him out of a dangerous situation. Hints are thrown out  that some feelings are developing between the newcomer and Rhys, but no details are provided and her genetic history seems to preclude a serious relationship...or does it. The primary SMR coupleRosalind and Christophercontinue their very bumpy relationship in this book, but they do eventually get their HEA ending, as we knew they would.

     Mark of the Rose begins seven years later and tells Rhys Williams's story. Rhys goes to Court to assist young Verity Llewellyn, sister of Rosalind's cousin and fellow Hunter, Jasper. Verity is worried about Queen Jane, who is soon to give birth to King Henry's child. The queen seems to be getting weaker, and Verity smells the odor of vampires in her bedchamber. Rhys asks Elias for assistance, and Olivia (the attractive female vampire we met in the previous book) insists on being a part of their plans as well. Olivia still has a crush on Rhys, so her participation brings plenty of conflict into the romantic story line. The plot is complicated by the fact that a new vampire has arrived on the scenean extremely powerful male who has finagled his way into the queen's family and is trying to unseat Elias from his position of power with the Vampire Council. As the plot progresses, so does the romance between Rhys and Verity. If you thought that Rosalind and Christopher's romantic road was bumpy, wait until you take a look at this onefull of constant miscommunications, nonsensical misunderstandings, and just plain unbelievable mistakes on both their parts. As their thought processes and behaviors became more and more idiotically contorted, I kept hoping that someone would grab them up and force them into couples' therapy or psychiatric counselinganything to bring some common sense to their relationship. But alas, no luck with that. I have to say that the relationship issues in this book make it the weakest of the three for me. Just as it took two entire books for Rosalind and Christopher to reach their HEA, it seems that Verity and Rhys will need at least that long as well. This book ends with some plot threads still loose, waiting for the next book to tie them up. And I'm sure that, unfortunately, we're not quite finished with this couple's romance problems.

     I'm not a big fan of historical romance fiction, but this series kept me interested through the first two booksnot so much in book 3. The characters are classic romance figures, and the paranormal twisting of Tudor history is clever. Didn't you always suspect that there was something strange going on with Anne Boleyn? And wait until you see what's in store for her daughter, Elizabeth!