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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christine Feehan: SEA HAVEN: SISTERS OF THE HEART

Series:  SEA HAVEN: SISTERS OF THE HEART
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher and Titles:  Jove 
          Water Bound (2010) 
          Spirit Bound (2011) 
          Air Bound (5/2014) 
          Earth Bound (7/2015) 
          Fire Bound (4/2016)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 5/25/16 to include a review of Fire Bound, the fifth novel in this series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first four novels. 

                         NOVEL 5:  Fire Bound                         
PUBLISHER'S BLURB: 
     Flame-haired Lissa Piner is a skilled glass blower whose delicate gift conceals a burning inner strength that can destroy as exquisitely as it can create. Commissioned to design chandeliers for a string of luxury hotels, her remarkable skills have taken her to Italy. But Lissa’s real mission there is a secret. For her entire life has been a lie, leading to a chance to avenge a terrible wrong. 

     Enlisted as her bodyguard is Casmir Prakenskii, a trained assassin living off the grid. In Lissa, he sees a kindred spirit—something unexpected and wicked, mysterious and sensual. But more than desire is about to bring them together: because both of their pasts cry out for revenge. And for two people with this many secrets, this much passion, and this many enemies, someone is bound to get burned. 

MY REVIEW: 
     Like Earth Bound, Fire Bound is an angst-filled erotic love story with just a few sprinklings of violence as the hero and heroine clash with a variety of bad guys, first in Italy and then in Russia. The latter battle resolves the long-standing conflict involving the Prakenskii brothers and their arch enemies Kostya and Uri Sorbacov.

     About three quarters of the book is dedicated to Lissa's adventures in Italy. Feehan has teased us all through the series with hints that Lissa is keeping dark secrets from her Seahaven sisters, and in this book, all is revealed. That means that I won't be doing much of a plot summary because I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that Lissa isn't really "Lissa" and that her childhood is filled with just as much tragedy as all of the other Seahaven residents.


     Ostensibly, Lissa will be making three stops in Europein Italy, Germany, and Russato sign contracts with hotels who want her to purchase her specially designed blown-glass chandeliers. (Lissa is Seahaven's version of Dale Chihuly). In reality, Lissa is off on two different undercover capers, and Gavrill Prakenskii knows that she will be in danger. Before Lissa leaves for Europe, Gavriil gets in touch with his brother, Casimir, and asks him to protect Lissa during her travels. Casimir is a master at disguise, so he follows Lissa closely, changing his appearance to keep her from recognizing him as a Prakenskii brother. Naturally, she sees right through his disguises, guesses his true identity, and confronts him. By that time, though, Casimira hard-hearted, lone-wolf assassinhas fallen in love for the first time in his hard-knock lifewith fiery Lissa, of course. 


     From that point on, their romance gets steamier and steamier and their foreplay gets quite creative. Their first bedroom scene, which begins on page 61, goes on for nearly 30 pagesa magnificently erotic scene that is one of the best that Feehan has produced in many a year. After that, the couple manages to fit a lot of sexy time into their assassination schedule. Their sexual activities begin with hot kisses and eventually lead to an over-the-top pain-pleasure coupling while on horsebacka scene such as I've never seen from Feehan (or any other writer for that matter). Very kinky!


     By the time the novel comes to an end, most of the conflict in the series is resolved. By now, five of the Seahaven women have mated with five of the Prakenskii brothers. That means that the next novel must deal with the mating of Blythe Daniels and Viktor Prakenskii, the eldest of the sisters and brothers. This is hinted at in Fire Bound when Viktor shows up briefly and explains that he'll be living at the Seahaven farm with "my woman" after he finishes one last job, which involves taking down Evan Shackler-Gratsos, the villainous human trafficker who appeared in Air Bound. Viktor met and wooed Blythe five years ago, but then just disappeared from Seahaven, breaking Blythe's heart. I'm sure that their novel will be brimming with raging angst and chest-beating alpha bravado. Here's an excerpt from the scene in which Victor tells Lissa and Casimir about his romantic future:

     "When this is over, I'm going to stake my claim. She won't like it, me being gone so long, but…" He shrugged. His features were hard. Implacable.
     Casimir didn't think that boded very well for his woman. "Does this woman know she's been claimed?"
     "She'd better know it," Viktor said.
     Although Feehan does some fine writing in her excellent erotic scenes, the overall plotting leaves much to be desired. Much of the dialogue is repetitious, and the dangerous villains are dispatched so quickly and easily that there is a total lack of suspense. The villains are all one-dimensional (even though one of them sheds a few crocodile tears about someone he has condemned to death), which makes them completely predictable and uninteresting. 

     Even with its weaknesses, fans of the series won't want to miss this book because it ties up the Sorbacov story line and reveals Lissa's secrets. If you are new to the series, I suggest that you start reading back at the beginning with Water Bound so that you can get the entire Prakenskii story that forms the central core of the series.


     To read or listen to an excerpt from Fire Bound, click HERE to go to the book's Amazon.com page, where you can click on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

                         WORLD-BUILDING                         
     This is the second part of Feehan's SEA HAVEN series. The first part is subtitled THE DRAKE SISTERS, and it focuses on the Drakes, who live in Sea Haven, a small coastal town in northern California. SISTERS OF THE HEART also takes place in Sea Haven, and the Drake sisters, and their families sometimes show up as minor characters.

     In SISTERS OF THE HEART, six women who call themselves "sisters" met in a special grief counseling group for victims of violent crimes. Each of the women has a supernatural power, usually related to one of the elements (i.e., earth, fire, water, air). The women combined their resources to purchase a huge farm in Sea Haven, where they work together to farm the acreage. At first, they all lived together in one large house, but now each one has her own home on the property. 

     As the series progresses, each of the women will find her soul mate, one of seven Russian brothers who have had their own tragic pasts. 

     Click HERE to read Feehan's "Sisters of the Heart Character Guide." Although the Guide is not quite up to date, it is still helpful. Here is a list of the Prakenskii brothers (in order from youngest to eldest) and their mates (to date): 

  
>> Ilya  Prakenskii and Joely Drake (from SEA HAVEN: DRAKE SISTERS) Ilya is the youngest brother.
                                       
>> Lev Prakenskii (aka Levi Hammond, aka Sid Kozlov; telepath with power over animals and birds) and Rikki Sitmore (water elemental)

>> Maxim Prakenskii (aka Max Walberg) and Airiana Ridell (air elemental)

>> Casimir Prakenskii, the middle brother (fire elemental and master of disguise) and Lissa Piner (aka Giacinta Abbracciabene; fire elemental and master of disguise)

>> Stefan Prakenskii (aka Thomas Vincent, aka John Bastille; telepathic, telekinetic empath) and Judith Henderson (powerful psychic empath; spirit elemental)

>> Gavriil Prakenskii and Lexi Thompson (earth elemental; youngest sister)

>> Viktor Prakenskii, the eldest brother (mostly off the grid and unreachable) and Blythe Daniels (eldest of the sisters; has multiple psychic talents)

     The Prakenskii brothers are the seven sons of a seventh son, born to a family with powerful magical abilities. When the brothers were children, they were forced to witness the brutal murders of their parents by corrupt Russian officials. Immediately afterward, they were separated and placed in special schools to be trained as assassins for the Russian government. Each brother has some type of psychic skill, and this has made them immensely valuable to their handlers. Now they are being hunted down by Uri Sorbacov, son of the villainous Russian official who kidnapped them so many years ago. Uri yearns for political power and believes that if he eliminates all traces of his father's dirty deeds (i.e., the brothers), he can achieve that power. The brothers have spent their lives brutally interrogating prisoners, killing on command, and recovering from bullet wounds, knife slashes, and beatings. Now, their own government wants them dead. One by one, each brother finds himself in Sea Haven and falls head over heels in love with one of the "sisters."

     Click HERE to read summaries of the books in both SEA HAVEN series: DRAKE SISTERS and SISTERS OF THE HEART.

                         NOVEL 1:  Water Bound                          

     Rikki Sitmore, arguably the most vulnerable of the six women, is a sea-urchin diver. She is also a water elemental, although she doesn't realize this at first. Rikki is autistic and has a tough time relating to people other than her "sisters" and even with them, things don't always go smoothly. Rikki grew up in foster homes after her parents died in a home fire when she was a child. When more fires broke out in her foster homes, the police suspected that Rikki had set them. She really isn't sure whether she did it or not, and she has frequent nightmares about being trapped by fire. 

     When Rikki has these fiery nightmares, all of the faucets in her house turn oneven the outside hose faucetsso early on, the reader has a major clue as to the type of magical powers that Rikki has, even if she is slow to recognize them herself. One day while Rikki is out gathering sea urchins, a giant wave washes a battered (but handsome and sexy) man (Lev Prakenskii) into her life. She saves him and takes him home, but he won't let her call a doctor. 


     Lev can't remember who he is or how he get into the ocean, but he's pretty sure that he's not a good guy and that someone is trying to kill him. The couple's relationship builds from there, with a plot that includes answers to both of their problem situations. The scenes showing the effects of Rikki's autism on her relationships with people have an authentic feel that adds depth to her character. The primary plot follows the development of the couple's relationship. Two secondary plot threads deal with the villain responsible for a horrible fire for which Rikki was blamed and with a Russian assassin, Ivanov, sent to locate and eliminate Lev. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Water Bound. 


                         NOVEL 2:  Spirit Bound                          

    This novel takes place several weeks after Water Bound. The soul mates for this book are Stefan Prakenskii (aka Thomas Vincent) and Judith Henderson, an artist who has the psychic power to blend the elemental forces of her "sisters." Once again, the primary plot focuses on the romantic relationship. A secondary plot thread features the same assassin from the previous book, who is once more trying to kill Lev (now called Levi Hammond) as well as Stefan. Stefan and Judith fall in love/lust at first sight. Then the second thoughts begin. 

     As part of his espionage work, Stefan has spent his life seducing women and then either betraying or killing them. Now, he's not sure that he knows how to establish a truly honest romantic relationship. Plus...he has come to Sea Haven for two work-related reasons, neither of which he can tell Judith. In fact, he can't even tell her his real name. 


     Judith has her own secretsat least she believes that they are secrets. But Judith is wrong about that because Stefan has a complete file on her, and he knows that she is hiding from an international crime boss with whom she had a brief affair some years ago. Jean-Claude La Roux is now in a French prison, but he has never forgotten Judith. She hasn't forgotten him either, because he sent his thugs to torture and then kill her brother, Paul, when Paul tried to help her hide from Jean-Claude. Judith believes that she can't have a romantic relationship because it would put her lover in too much danger. 


     You can imagine the number of angst-filled pages that result from this entanglement. Way too many, actually. I generally enjoy reading Feehan's emotionally charged interior monologues, but in this book, they become extremely repetitive, especially for Stefan. He keeps thinking the same thing, page after page after page. Here are a few examples: "Falling in love was a fairy tale. He hadn't believed in such things...This peculiar behavior was just one more sign that he'd been in the business too long." (p. 103) "His armor was tarnished a long time ago and he acknowledged to himself that he had no idea what he was going to do about their situation." (p. 109) "He was risking everything for her. His life. His peace of mind. That tiny piece of humanity he'd hidden from his trainers." (p. 119) "Any sin she had would never compare to his blackened soul." (p. 179) And on and on.


     All in all, this is one of Feehan's typical paranormal romance series, with supernaturally talented protagonists, evil-to-the-core villains, and lots of romance. I just wish that there was more action and less angstClick HERE to read an excerpt from Spirit Bound. 


               NOVEL 3:  Air Bound                         

     After a lapse of three years, Feehan takes us on a return visit to the "sisters" of Sea Haven. This time, Airiana Ridell finds true love with yet another Prakenskii brother: Maxim (aka Maxim Kamenev, aka Max Walberg). As you can tell by her first name, Airiana is an air elemental who can manipulate the air in all manner of ways, including speed, temperature, water content, and directionality. She can create tornadoes and other windstorms, call up banks of fog, and raise or lower the ambient temperature. 

     Like all of the Sea Haven women, Airiana's childhood was extremely tragic. She was placed in a covert government school as a child, forced to live in a dormitory during the week, and allowed to see her single mother only on weekends. Ariana has never met her father; she doesn't even know who he is. At the school, she used her mathematical, genius-level mental skills to work on a weather-related project she thought would save the world. Unfortunately, our government and other governments interpreted her project as the ultimate weapon for world control. When Ariana was 16, she came home one weekend to find her mother deadbrutally tortured and then murdered. Emotionally devastated, she refused to continue working on her secret project and left the school, only to end up in therapy sessions in Northern California along with the women who eventually became the Sea Haven sisters of the heart.


     As the story opens, Airiana has been seeing patterns in the clouds and air currents that signal danger. She knows that something bad is coming to the farm, but she doesn't know what. Then, a helicopter drops off three men who abduct Airiana and fly her to a ship that turns out to be a floating sex-slave operation. There, one of her kidnappersalso an air elementalwhispers to her that he has been sent by her father to bring her to him for protection. This man, who calls himself Maxim Kamenev, claims that he will rescue her from the other men on the ship, all of whom were hired by Evan Shackler-Gratsos, the brother of Stavros, a villain who died in an earlier book. Airiana doesn't know what to believe. She immediately realizes that Maxim is one of the Prakenskii brothers just from his physical appearance, so she hesitantly decides to trust him. 


     At this point, the plot segues into a horror-filled slasher story. In just a few hours (in 61 pages), Max personally (in hand-to-hand combat) kills 26 bad guys and 1 bad galevery guard, assassin, client, and crew member on the shipexcept for the one that Airiana takes care of. (Max's signature shot is a bullet in the middle of the forehead, but he's also fond of a well-placed slash across the throat.) Max and Airiana also rescue four captive children who had been destined to be sex slaves to Evan's wealthy clients. 


     After escaping from the ship and swimming underwater to a submarine, Airiana is transported to yet another ship where she meets her father for the first time and discovers that he is not a very nice man at all. Soon, Airiana and Max find themselves in danger once again as two separate teams of ruffians come after them. This time, Max kills or incapacitates another score of so of villains, while Airiana air-blasts an attacker overboard to his death. 


     The story ends with another major battle, this time back at Sea Haven, where Max and Airiana, along with two of his brothers and all of her sisters, combine their talents and manage to kill another 17 of Evan's goons. Feehan scrolls through the many deaths in a non-graphic, matter-of-fact manner. As Maxim says, "That's my job, it's what I do." (p. 151) So…all in a day's work for Maxim. Unfortunately, the death battlesparticularly the ones on the two shipsare all so similar that they slow the story down a glacial pace with their grim repetitiousness.


     Unlike many of Feehan's novels, this one is heavy on the disturbing slasher scenes and light on the romance, although there are the usual anguished interior monologues scattered throughout the storymostly from Maxim. And there are a few bedroom scenes late in the book. Maxim views himself as a dark monster who can never have a normal life with a wife and family. Ariana, on the other hand, sees past the darkness to his basic goodness. Because Airiana is so level-headed, the romance progresses rather smoothly, even though Maxim keeps trying to turn Airiana away from himfor her own good, of course. At one point, Maxim rages at Airiana: "I don't have a choice. I'm not like other people, who can choose what they want to do. I was taken from my home as a child and trained to be a covert operative. I assassinate drug lords, heads of state, anyone my government wants out of their way. I kill people for a living. I seduce women and torture men…I turn a blind eye to victims, and…I don't stop until the job is done….it's who I am." In response, Airiana calmly looks Maxim in the eye and says, "Actually, it's not." (p. 150) Oddly, Airiana is able to understand Maxim's innermost thoughts and motivations after having known him for just two days. Later in the same scene, she tells him, "I can see inside you…You're not a killer, Maxim. Not at all. You kill, but that isn't who you are." (p. 153) This type of dialogue continues throughout the story: "I'm a horrible monster." "No, you're not." "Yes, I am." etc., etc. 


     Because there are multiple villainspast and presentthe plot can be confusing at times, especially since the villains all have either Russian or Greek names, and the two primary villains employ a legion of thugsalso with foreign names. Here is a list of the main characters: 


Uri Sorbacov, cold-hearted son of Kostya, the corrupt, power-mad Russian mob boss who initially enslaved the Prakenskii brothers after murdering their parentsUri wants all of the brothers dead in order to cover up his father's dirty deeds.

> Evan Shackler-Gratsos, a Greek billionaire crime boss who runs a massive human-trafficking ring; he has Airiana kidnapped and continues to send his thugs after her when she and Maxim escape.

> Stavros Shackler-Gratsos, Evan's dead brother, from whom Evan inherited the sex-slave business (a number of references are made to him and his past criminal activities).


> Theodotus Solovyov, Airiana's treacherous Russian father, who betrays Airiana and Max.

> Elena Solovyov, Theodotus' unfaithful, duplicitous wife, who betrays many people over the course of her life. 

> Marina Ridell (aka Marinochka Venediktov), Airiana's mother, who was murdered six years ago. 

     This is a typical book for the series, with a dominant alpha hero and a feisty, virginal heroine who get into major trouble but successfully fight their way out. The plot carries the series story arc a bit further along, but as the story ends, Evan is still out there, and he desperately wants to get his hands on Airiana. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Air Bound.


                         NOVEL 4:  Earth Bound                         
     This addition to the SEA HAVEN series has a much more straightforward plot than the previous novel. Basically, this is one long, anguished love story with one minor clash and one major battle with two different sets of bad guys. The book begins a week or two after the ending of the previous novel, and its action extends over a period of a few days.

     As the story opens, Gavriil Prakenskii arrives at Sea Haven to warn his brothers of imminent danger and to drop off his beloved dogs. Then, he plans to head for Russia to take down Uri Sorbacov, son of the brutal mob boss who killed his parents and kidnapped him and his six brothers when they were just boys. Uri is trying to become the president of Russia, so he has to wipe out all traces of his father's illegal deeds so that they can't be used against him in his new political position. To achieve this goal, Uri has sent out assassins to murder all seven of the Prakenskii brothers. Even though Gavriil knows that this it will be a suicide mission, he has vowed to take down Uri at any cost. Well, that is his planright up until the moment he sees beautiful, red-haired Lexi Thompson walking out of a cornfield in the summer sun. Like those old-school classic song lyrics say, "Zing, went the strings of my heart"and Gavriil is a goner, falling head over heels in love for the very first time in his life.

     Lexi is an earth elemental, so she runs Sea Haven's farm, growing bountiful crops that she sells at the local farm market and puts on the plates of her Sea Haven sisters and brothers. After Lexi leaves the corn field, she walks a few steps off the warded Sea Haven grounds and is confronted by a nightmarish religious cultist from her pasta brutal pedophile who tries to kidnap her. Luckily, Gavriil has been following Lexi ever since he first laid eyes on her, and (being the skilled assassin that he is), he kills the man and his thuggish bodyguards. After this traumatic experience, Lexi allows Gavriil to move in with her so that she can help heal his injuries and so that he can protect her from further attacks from the religious cultists. Lexi's tragic childhood has left her with extreme psychological damage, and she has never had a close, romantic relationship with a man before. Soon enough, though, she begins to fall for Gavriil.

     Both have led difficult lives that have left them with deep physical and emotional scars, and neither has the ability or inclination to trust anyone with their innermost thoughts and feelings. So…much of the book consists of long, angst-filled conversations and interior monologues as each worries about not being good enough for the other. Lexi's experiences with the child-molesting religious cultist have made her fear all sexual contact, so Gavriil does his best to woo her gently (and thoroughly) in an attempt to overcome her sexual anxiety. Meanwhile, Gavriil sees himself as a monstera cold-blooded assassin who is too dangerous and too damaged for sweet Lexi, so Lexi does her best to heal both his physical and emotional pain and make him realize that, in his heart, he is a good man.

     The first action scene begins and ends in the blink of an eye, while the other one comes at the end of the book and resolves Lexi's situation with the religious cult enforcers, who are still on her trail.

     This book provides new information about Lissa Pinar, one of the Sea Haven sisters who has not yet found her Prakenskii mate. In fact, Lissa has vowed that she will never mate with a Prakenskii, so we'll see how that goes. As it turns out, Lissa has some deep, dark secrets that she hasn't shared with her sisters. Also, she is about to leave on a trip to Europe that will include a stop-off in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Casimir Prakenskii is supposedly in residence. Gee, I wonder what will happen next.

     This is a typical Feehan romance, with instant love, mountains of passion-filed anguish, several evil-to-the-core villains, and a unicorns and rainbows ending that ushers in the couple's inevitable HEA. If you have been following the series, you'll want to read this one. If you haven't read the previous books, I recommend that you start at the beginning to get an understanding of the series story arc. 

     To read or listen to an excerpt from Earth Bound, click HERE to go to the book's Amazon.com page, where you can click on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

4 comments:

  1. Another brillant book, can't wait for the book 3 in this sisters of the heart series.
    Read all the Drake sisters collection, and the Game series, I am quite addicted to Christine Feehan's collections. Still to read all the Dark series yet. Best present I have ever been given is my Kindle.

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  2. An other great book. But on last page of Spirit Bound it appears Blyth has already meet her spirit mate. When is her book coming out? Hope it is soon.

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  3. Hope that Christine writes a book about Javier and Rihanna!!!!

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  4. When does the story of Blythe & Viktor come out?

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