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Monday, November 8, 2010

Bianca D'Arc: GUARDIANS OF THE DARK

Author: Bianca D'Arc
Series: GUARDIANS OF THE DARK 
Plot Type: SMR Military Suspense with Zombies
Ratings: V5, S4, H1
Publisher and Titles: Kensington Brava
     "Simon Says" (novella in Half Past Dead, 2009)
     Once Bitten, Twice Dead (2010)
     "Smoke on the Water" (novella in The Beast Within, 2010)
     A Darker Shade of Dead (2010)
     Dead Alert (2011)

     This blog entry was updated and revised on 10/22/11 to include a review of the third and possibly final book in the series: Dead Alert. That review follows this brief overview of the series so far:

     The villains in this series are zombies and the sociopathic scientists who create them. If you are watching AMC's series, The Walking Dead (which just started its second season), you'll love this series. As in The Walking Dead, the zombies in D'Arc's series are initially created by inept scientists whose experiments go terribly wrong.

     In the novella ("Simon Says") in Half Past Dead, we find a zombie outbreak on a military base where scientists have created an experimental drug designed to heal battlefield wounds quickly.  Unfortunately, instead of healing the soldiers, the drug kills them and then allows them to rise as incredibly strong and very hungry zombies. This novella is important to the series because it provides the world building that sets up the zombie-plague story arc.

     In the ensuing books, some of the scientists who created the drug just can't stop experimenting, and the zombie population keeps growing as the first generation zombies bite humans, who then become zombies themselves—and the cycle keeps on going.  A few humans are immune to the zombie antibodies, and they form the core of the series as they band together in an attempt to capture the rogue scientists and stop the growth of the zombie population. Of course, they meet their soul mates along the way, and each book or story takes one couple through their SMR relationship.

     The violence level is high because, after all, these are rotting, flesh-eating zombies who can be killed only by specially treated darts that cause them to dissolve into a dark and slimy mess—gross, but effective!

     Dead Alert tells the love story of Emily Parkington and Lieutenant Sam Archer as they track down Dr. Jennings, the last corrupt scientist from the original team that invented the zombie toxin. Emily is part owner of Praxis Air, which is suspected of involvement with shipments of zombie-related technological equipment. Sam is a Green Beret, a skilled pilot, and a member of the anti-zombie covert team who goes undercover as a pilot at Praxis to investigate the situation. Emily already suspects that something illegal is going on at Praxis, and she believes that the person responsible is Scott Southerland, the new CEO. After Emily confronted Scott at a recent Board meeting, her car was tampered with and she nearly died when it went out of control. When Sam arrives as a new pilot, Emily is suspicious at first that he is somehow involved with Scott. Sam, in turn, must initially include Emily as one of his suspects. Soon, however, Emily and Sam are so attracted to one another that their suspicions pretty much evaporate. Unlike the previous books, this one is very light on zombie action. We don't even see a zombie until we are more than halfway through the story, and then it's just a quick scene with a single zombie and his fresh kill, with few details. The only other zombie scene comes at the end, and again...few details. The majority of the plot is focused on the romance, as both lovers worry that their romantic feelings won't be reciprocated, that they have no chance at a future together, and that the other will walk away at the end of their big adventure. We aren't worried, though, because we all realize from the get-go that Emily and Sam are on a fast track to their HEA. The thin plot line that interrupts the romance involves the couple's discovery of Dr. Jennings's hideout and the details of his takedown. Dead Alert earns a rating of 5 in sensuality (a notch higher than the other books) because of a few erotic spanking and dom/sub scenes, although they don't include many graphic details.

     This is a fair-to-middling series with no real paranormal activity: no vampires, shifters, angels, or demonsjust some laboratory-created zombies. The stories are told in the third person, switching back and forth between the point of view of the hero and the heroine. D'Arc writes great, detailed bedroom scenes, but the rest of her writing is fairly pedestrian, and she uses a few too many clich√©s. In Dead Alert, she actually has the hero tell his lover, "You make my life complete" (p. 264), which sounds like a sappy line from every TV romcom you've every seen.

Here is a book-by-book list of the happy couples:

  > "Simon Says": Mariana Daniels & Special Forces soldier Simon Blackwell

  > Once Bitten, Twice Dead: Police officer Sarah Petit & Special Forces soldier Xavier Beauvoir

  > "Smoke on the Water": Donna Sullivan & CIA operative John Petit

  > A Darker Shade of Dead: Dr. Sandra McCormick & Commander Matt Sykes

  > Dead Alert: charter pilot Emily Parkington & Green Beret Lieutenant Sam Archer

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