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Monday, February 28, 2011

Vicki Lewis Thompson: WILD ABOUT YOU SERIES

Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence2; Sensuality4; Humor4
Publisher and Titles:  Signet Eclipse
       Werewolf in Manhattan (1/2011)
       Werewolf in Greenwich Village (e-novella, 9/11)
       Werewolf in the North Woods (10/2011)
       Werewolf in Seattle (4/2012)
       Werewolf in Denver (10/2012)
       Werewolf in Alaska (7/2013)
       Werewolf in Las Vegas (3/2014) (FINAL-probably)

     This post was revised and updated on 4/7/14 to include a review of  Werewolf in Las Vegas, the sixth novel in this series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first five novels:.  

            NOVEL 6:  Werewolf in Las Vegas            
     Most of the books in this series are 90% romance and 10% external conflict (the action part of the plot), but this one is 100% romance. Giselle Landry is the chief financial officer (CFO) for the San Francisco pack, and her brother, Bryce, is supposed to be taking over the alpha position (aka chief executive officerCEO). Bryce, however, has run away from his duties, breaking off his engagement and heading for Las Vegas to disappear into the neon lights and crowds of tourists. When Giselle arrives in Vegas, she learns that Bryce is in the company of another runaway: Cynthia Dalton, a human who is the sister of Luke Dalton, owner of the Silver Crescent Casino. Although Luke and Giselle believe at first that Cynthia and Bryce are lovers, they soon learn that is not the case. They are just friends who have decided to work together to make Luke understand that he has to stop trying to run Cynthia's life.

     The Silver Crescent was originally built by Harrison Cartwright as a haven for werewolves, but he lost the Casino to Luke's father, Angus, in a high-stakes poker game. Both Harrison and Angus have recently died, and as the story opens, Harrison's son, Benedict, is trying to win back the Silver Crescent. Unfortunately, Benedict is not a very good poker player, and when he bets his bar, Howlin' at the Moon, against Luke's Silver Crescent, Benedict loses. Unfortunately for all the Vegas werewolves, the bar sits on top of a huge underground forested area that Harrison built as a fantastical werewolf playground. 

     So…we have three very minor conflicts in the story: the search for the runaway couple, Luke's gradual change from overprotective father figure to supportive brother, and the werewolves' loss of Howlin' at the Moon. Mostly, though, we have the romance that flares up instantly between Giselle and Luke as they team up to find their missing siblings. That search turns out to be a kind of scavenger hunt filled with various adolescent-level pranks, most of which involve water being used in some type of humiliating manner against Luke (e.g., water balloon to the head, bucket of water over doorway).

     This is by far the lightest and fluffiest novel in the series so far. The story basically consists of one bedroom scene after another interspersed with various water pranks. In fact, one sexy scenefeaturing creative uses for chocolate mousse cake on white sheetscovers three entire chapters (13-15). The fact that Giselle is a werewolf and Luke is a human is a problem that is faced and resolved in several paragraphs near the end of the book. Needless to say, Luke and Giselle get their HEA and Cynthia and Bryce go off to their separate lives, secure in the knowledge that they are in charge of their own destinies.

     If you enjoy this series, I'm sure that you'll like this book, which can definitely be read as a stand-alone.  Click HERE to read an excerpt (chapter 1) from Werewolf in Las Vegas

     At the end of this novel, Thompson includes a "Dear Reader" letter in which she states, "I've loved cavorting with my sexy werewolves, but every once in a while a girl likes to try something new. In my case, it turned out to be three novellas gathered under the banner of The Perfect Man." According to, these novellas were published as e-novellas in mid-2013, but in September 2014 they will be coming out as a single paperback and e-book. Thompson does not explicitly state that she has finished the WILD ABOUT YOU series, but I'm guessing from her statement that she is ready to turn away to new characters and plots.    

     In this world, paranormal beings have not come out to the human population, although they secretly live among the humans. The wealthy and powerful werewolves are divided into packs across the U.S. in most of the major cities. In New York City, the Wallace family heads the pack, with Howard, the pack leader; Aidan, his heir apparent; and Roarke, his youngest son. Werewolves in this world tend to marry other werewolves, and the idea of a male werewolf taking a human bride is frowned upon with disdain and outright hostility. Needless to say, the Wallace sons soon shake up the traditional werewolf outlook on intermarriage with humans.

     Each book follows the long and rocky romantic road of an alpha werewolf and his newly discovered true mate, who is usually human or half-human. Books 1 and 2 follow the romances of the Roarke brothers, and books 3 and 4 tell the stories of the MacDowell brothers, from Scotland.

     This series has the same levels of violence, sensuality, and humor as Thompson's very funny HEX series, which follows the adventures of a witch and a wizard in Big Knob, Indiana (and they don't call it Big Knob for nothing!).  Thompson's stories are always sexy, face-paced and humorous, with quirky characters, humorous dialogue, and plenty of sensuality.  

            NOVEL 1:  A Werewolf in Manhattan            
     In book 1, Emma Gavin is the author of a popular series of werewolf novels. She's human, and as normal as apple pie. Emma does not believe that werewolves exist in the real world. All of the details of her werewolf stories come directly from her extremely creative imagination. Unfortunately, Emma gets everything right about werewolf culture, and the werewolves suspect that one of their own must be supplying Emma with inside information—risky behavior that must be stopped immediately. Howard orders Aidan, who his chief security officer, to put Emma under heavy surveillance in order to identify her werewolf source. Aidan has been pledged since birth to marry Nadia Henderson, daughter of the Chicago pack leader, but they don't really love each other. (Note the mirrored spelling of their names.) As Aidan watches Emma and learns more about her, lustful feelings begin to creep into the picture. Eventually, the two meet at one of Emma's book signings and become friendly...and friendlier...and even more friendly.

     The mostly non-violent villain (actually, more of a brat than a villain) is Theo, the teen-age son of the pack leader of Chicago, who sends Emma a series of romantic e-mails in which he tells her that she needs a real werewolf in her life and that he wants to show her just why he's the one for the job. As Emma sets off for Chicago on the first leg of her book tour, Aidan goes along as her bodyguard in order to keep Theo from revealing any werewolf secrets to Emma. You can guess what happens to Emma and Aidan's relationship as they are thrown together 24/7. By the end of the trip, both of their lives have changed forever. The Theo-related plot is just a small jolt on their slightly bumpy romantic road. Click HERE to read the full text of this novel. Click HERE to read the first two chapters. 

            E-NOVELLA 1.5:  A Werewolf in Greenwich Village              
     If you read the first novel and felt a bit sorry for fashion designer Nadia Henderson (Aidan's former fiancée), you'll enjoy seeing her get her HEA with Quentin Wallace (Aidan's cousin) in this novella. This is a rare story for this series: a romance between two werewolves. The personal conflict between them centers on the fact that Nadia is several steps above Quentin in the werewolf hierarchyheiress to the Chicago alpha position. She lives in a world of expensive clothes, private jets, and luxurious limousines, while Quentin is a blue-collar building contractor who is more comfortable in jeans. As he explains to her, "You're royalty and I'm a peon. But I want you anyway." (chapter 2) 

     Their blossoming relationship  is one of those lightning-strike romances that is common to novellas. Just so that there is a bit of external conflict, the author makes Theo (Nadia's loose-cannon brother) the villain once again as he challenges Nadia for the position of alpha. 

     The conflict between the soul-mates centers on the fact that he is a wolf from a different pack who is well below her in the pecking order. In the end, Giselle must make a choice. She can either mate with Quentin or she can take her place at the head of the Chicago pack…or can she do both? Click HERE to read the full text of this novella.

            NOVEL 2:  A Werewolf in the North Woods            
     In the second book in the series, Abby Winchell's Grandpa Earl lives alone in his long-time home in the woods outside Portland, Oregon, where he has become an inveterate bigfoot hunter. When he finally sights a pair of sasquatch, he manages to take one grainy picture, and that's enough to set off a rush of amateur bigfoot sleuths to the dismay of the werewolf alpha whose property abuts the woods in which Grandpa Earl made his discovery. The alpha, Cameron Gentry, requests assistance, so Roarke Wallace, an anthropology professor, is dispatched to Portland to defuse the situation by denouncing Grandpa's claims. Abby decides to try to talk Roarke into easing off on his ridicule of her grandfather, but instead, she accidentally sees him shifting into werewolf form and gets some incriminating photographs. She uses these to blackmail Roarke into accompanying her into the woods to track down the sasquatch so that she can get pictures for her grandfather. The two, of course, fall head-over-heels in love in no time at all.

     The villain of the story is Gentry, who wants to force Grandpa off his land so that the werewolves can buy it. There isn't much action, but there are plenty of steamy sex-in-the-forest scenes and lots of humorous sniping between Abby and Roarke. Donald, the earnest young Sasquatch hunter the couple meets in the woods, also provides humor, as he attempts to impress Roarke with his knowledge of supernatural creatures. Click HERE to read the first two chapters.  

            NOVEL 3:  Werewolf in Seattle            
     As book 3 begins, Scottish werewolf alpha Colin MacDowell, Laird of Glenbarra, arrives at his late aunt's private island off the cost of Washington State near Seattle. Aunt Geraldine died recently and left him her entire estate, which includes a huge castle and surrounding woodlands. Colin plans to sell the estate even though he has fond memories of spending his summers there during his teen years. What Colin doesn't expect is the beautiful female werewolf who welcomes him to the castle. Twenty-seven-year-old Luna Reynaud was his aunt's assistant, and she definitely doesn't want Colin to sell the island. She has a plan to turn the estate into an exclusive retreat for werewolves and hopes to convince Colin to keep the current staff and hire her as the manager.

     Colin and Luna are immediately attracted to one another, and that attraction just keeps getting hotter and hotter. When Colin discovers that Luna is a virgin, he can hardly believe it since most werewolves begin their sexual activity when they are in their teens. Then he learns that Luna has been on her own since she was very young and had no one to teach her about her werewolf heritage. Her parents both died long ago—her father before she was born and her mother when she was eight—so Luna didn't even know that she was a were until she shifted the first time. Their love-making sessions mostly involve Colin teaching Luna the A-B-Cs of sex—and she is definitely a fast and enthusiastic learner. By the end of the story, Luna learns new facts about her parents and makes connections with some long-lost relatives.

     The plot follows the romance, which starts out smoothly but then gets rocky when Colin learns that Luna's mother was human. Collin is one of those traditional werewolves who believe that werewolves should mate only with their own kind. That doesn't stop him from enjoying as many bedroom (or beach, or hot-tub) pleasures as he can with Luna before he heads back to Scotland.

     As in past books, the villain here is relatively harmless—just a misguided, jealous man who made a wrong decision a long time ago that has emotionally crippled him ever since. He doesn't even show up in the story until the closing chapters. It's not a spoiler if I tell you that Colin and Luna achieve their HEA. After all, this is a soul-mate romance, so how else could it end?  The story is constructed in much the same manner as the first two books, with lots of sex, a light-weight villain, and a few quirky supporting characters to add to the humor. Although Luna believes that she and Colin can never be together, she really has no long, anguished interior monologues. In fact, she made me think of Dolly Parton with her wide-eyed innocence backed by a naughty sense of humor and a pragmatic outlook on life. If you enjoy light and fluffy werewolf romances, you'll like this one. Click HERE to read the first two chapters.  

            NOVEL 4:  Werewolf in Denver                
    As book 4 opens, Kate Stillman is picking up her nemesis Duncan MacDowell at the Denver airport. Kate is the leader of HOWL (Honoring "Our Werewolf Legacy), the group who champions pure were-were relationships and advocates the continuance of werewolf secrecy from the human world. Duncan, the brother of book three's Colin, is the leader of the mostly male WOOF (Werewolves Optimizing Our Future), who want to let the general public in on their furry secret and who are in favor of mating with humans. When the two are stranded overnight in an isolated cabin in a plot-convenient blizzard, they hit the sheets and begin a romantic relationship they both fear is doomed before it even starts.

    The plot follows Kate and Duncan as they eventually make their way through the snowdrifts to the first-ever worldwide were-con, which is being held by the Stillman pack. The reader knows from page one that the two will reach their inevitable HEA. It's just a matter of how bumpy their road to romance will be.

     As in previous books, a villain shows up late in the story and doesn't pose too much of a threatbut more than in the previous book. A few characters from previous books show up on the fringes of the action, but most of the scenes are between Kate and Duncanso not much action, except the bedroom kind.  

     This book is typical of the serieslight, humorous, and talky, with elements of darker emotions and a pinch of violence. Click HERE to read the first two chapters. Click HERE to read the full text of this novel.

             NOVEL 5:  Werewolf in Alaska                
    The scene shifts north to Alaska in the fifth book as we follow the love story of Jake Hunter, a cousin of New York's Wallace family. Jake's mother was a Wallace who married into the Hunter clan of Idaho, where Jake was raised. We met Jake in Denver in book 4 when he resigned his position with the Worldwide Organization of Werewolves (WOW) because he believed it was becoming too liberal on the were-human mating issue. Jake is a staunch werewolf conservative who has since formed his own organization, Werewolves Against Random Mating (WARM), and he spends much of his time working to expand its membership. Jake has lived for several years in a tiny, isolated Alaskan town called Polecat, where he has a rustic cottage on Polecat Lake. 

     Jake's soon-to-be soul mate is Rachel Miller, a renowned wood carver who lives in an equally rustic cabin directly across the lake from Jake. Ever since Jake and Rachel met three years ago (in the Prologue), each has secretly lusted after the other. Jake, however, will not give in to his hormones because Rachel is human, and he is determined to mate with a werewolf who will give him pure-blood children. Rachel admires Jake through binoculars every night as he skinny-dips in the lake, but she thinks that he is a bit stand-offish. When he returns a sculpture of a wolf that he bought from her the first time they met, she takes it as an insult to her art. Currently she is trying to find a boyfriend through Internet dating sites, but so far that's not working out.  

     Early in the book, Jake rescues Rachel from a bear attack in his wolf form, but is badly injured, so Rachel takes him into her house to heal him, thinking that he is someone's pet wolf or hybrid wolf-dog. During those chapters (about 60 pages), all of Jake's scenes are interior monologues, while Rachel speaks to him as if he were a big, shaggy dog. After a day or so, when Rachel finally lets Jake the wolf run free, he heads straight home (still in wolf form), and she sees him enter Jake's house. Now she's suspicious, and she does some snooping, uncovering Jake's big furry secret. The rest of the story focuses solely on their rocky road to romance. As in the previous books, the villains don't show up until the closing chapters, and the hero is able to defeat them within a few pages. They do, however, bring a new, nefarious organization into the story, and I'm sure that group will be turning up in future books.

     Of course we know from the book's first page that Rachel and Jake are soul mates, but it takes the entire length of the book for them to realize it for themselves. This book has much less action, humor, and conversation than the previous books, and the brief snippets of dialogue don't have the snarky verve that is the mainstay of the other books in the series. Mostly, what we have are pages and pages of interior monologues by the two lovers as they think and over think and rethink all of the ups and downs of their impossible situation.   

      I have to admit that this is my least favorite book in the series because of all the repetitive, angst-filled chapters. Jake and Rachel are O.K. as lead characters, but it would have been nice to have a bit more substance to the plot and a lot more humor in the dialogue. Click HERE to read the Prologue and Chapter 1 to see how Rachel and Jake meet for the first time. 
Click HERE to read the full text of this novel.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cheyenne McCray: NIGHT TRACKER

Author: Cheyenne McCray
Plot Type: CH trying to be UF
Ratings: V-5; S-4; H-2
Publisher and Titles: St. Martin's:
     Demons Not Included (2009);
     No Werewolves Allowed (2010);
     Vampires Not Invited (2010);
     Zombies Sold Separately (5-2011);
     Vampires Dead Ahead (11-2011)

    In the latest book in this series (Vampires Not Invited), Nyx, her human partner, and two Night Trackers go off to spy on the most powerful Vampire lord in the country, without a plan and without back-up. Can you predict what happens? They flail around, and Nyx eventually gets captured and injected with an extremely contagious fatal virus. So what do the Night Tracker big wigs do next?  Well, of course they appoint her as the head of the team that will be going after the evil vampires.  Wait...Did I miss something?  Fatal virus, remember?  Trust me, this is not a good read.

Here is a series synopsis:     
     Nyx is a half-human, half-Drow (Dark Elf) princess who is also a private investigator of paranormal crimes. During the day, Nyx appears to be human, but at night she becomes Drow, with tiny fangs, pointed ears, blue hair and amethyst skinnot purple, as she CONSTANTLY reminds everyone. 

     Nyx is also a member of the Night Trackers, a supernatural group that hunts down evil paranorms (not paranormals, but paranorms) on the streets of Manhattan. Nyx’s supernatural powers derive from the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire.

     Nyx's two love interests are New York City Police Department detective and Paranorm Liaison Adam Boyd (who serves as a buffer between the police department and the supernatural community), and her former lover and mentor, Rodán, a Light Elf and a major player in paranorm politics.

     Nyx's human partner is Olivia, whose main contribution is her tee-shirt closetfull of those cutesy slogan shirts worn by  teenagers trying to be ironic. Unfortunately, Olivia is not a teenager.

     Although the author calls this series urban fantasy (and Nyx certainly does have some angst-ridden moments), the series contains so many fashion references and girlfriend moments that it is closer to chick lit.

     I'm giving you notice here that I won't be reviewing any more books from this seriesway too painful to read these books from beginning to end. Vampires Not Invited was the worst so far: extremely repetitive, terribly awkward dialogue, inept use of the first person point of view, improbable plot, cardboard characters, and constant product name-dropping (maybe St. Martin's owns some Victoria's Secret stock).

Katie MacAlister: DARK ONES

Author: Katie MacAlister
Plot Type: SMR 
Ratings: V2, S4-5, H5
Publisher and Titles:  
      A Girl’s Guide to Vampires (reissue, 12/2010)
      Sex and the Single Vampire (reissue, 3/2011)
      Sex, Lies and Vampires (reissue, 8/2011)
      Even Vampires Get the Blues (5/2006)
      "Bring Out Your Dead" in Just One Sip (10/2006)
      The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires (Signet, 4/2007)
      "Cat Got Your Tongue" in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (12/2007)
      Zen and the Art of Vampires (12/2008)
      Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang (5/2009)
      "Unleashed" (in Cupid Cats, 7/2010, and e-book)
      In the Company of Vampires (11/2010)
      Much Ado About Vampires (10/2011)
      A Tale of Two Vampires (9/2012)
      "Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead" (e-novella, 9/2012)
      "Shades of Gray" in The Undead in My Bed (9/2012)

     This blog post was revised and updated on 10/22/12 to include a review of the tenth book in the series: A Tale of Two Vampires. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and a review of books 8 and 9:

          BOOK 10:  A Tale of Two Vampires            
    In this book, MacAlister once again sets her story at the GothFaire in small-town St. Andras, Austria. This time, the heroine is Iolanthe (Io) Tennyson, an American woman who is visiting her Austrian cousin, Gretl, as she attempts to redirect her life after losing her job as a consequence of filing a sexual harrassment suit against her former boss. Gretl is a friend of Imogen, the sister of Benedikt, who was the hero of book 8. When Io goes off alone on a photographic expedition in the near-by haunted woods, she stumbles into a portal and  travels back in time to 1703, where she literally bumps into the horse pulling the carriage of the local baronNikola Czerny, who is Benedikt's father. Got all that? O.K., let's continue.

     The first 3/4 of the book follows the speedy, if bumpy, development of the romance between Io and Nikola. Naturally enough, there are lots of humorous verbal exchanges as Io overloads her speech with (sometimes outdated) 21st century slang and tries to deal with clothing, food, and social customs in an eighteenth century Austrian castle. All of this is no doubt meant to be hilarious, but it soon becomes a one-joke situation that goes on way too long. The worst of Io's street talk is her continual habit of calling people, "Dawg" (due perhaps to spending too much time watching Randy Jackson on American Idol back in the 21st century).

     Just before Io and Nikola jump in the portal and wind up back at the present-day GothFaire, the action plot finally kicks in. This one begins with a dastardly plot by Nikola's wicked half brothers to take away Nikola's fortune and eventually grows to include the unresolved plot line from book 8 that involves Fran and Benedikt's search for their therion (aka shape-shifter) friend, David.

     This is definitely one of the weaker books in the series, with its brief and very thin action plot and its too-long build-up of the romance. You'll probably want to read it if you've been following the series because it does tie up some loose ends, but don't expect the story to be as entertaining as earlier books.

     The Dark Ones are soulless male vampires. In order to redeem their souls, they must find and bond with their Beloveds. If a female is born to a Dark One, she is called a Moravian and is not exactly a vampire. Moravians have souls, are immortal, and sometimes drink blood, but they can exist without consuming blood. The Dark Ones are ruled by the Moravian Council, which has the power to dole out punishments to Dark Ones who breaks their laws.

     Each book follows one of the Dark Ones as he finds and wins his Beloved. Heroines are frequently human or half-human, sassy, independent, zaftig women. They often have a physical defect (e.g., aftereffects of a stroke, scarred leg), and they sometimes have preternatural abilities. They are, however, not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Heroes are, of course, handsome, sexy, mysterious, and angst ridden—and always über-alpha. Minor characters provide comic relief. MacAlister's books are always funny, sometimes silly, and consistently entertaining. 

     This venerable series is the archetype for the process by which vampire male-human female relationships go from lust-at-first-sight lovers to life-bonded soul mates. MacAlister actually provides a step-by-step list (seven steps in all) in the very first book in the series. (Check out the Introduction to my book, Fang-tastic Fiction, for a summary of all seven steps.) If you are a fan of paranormal romance, you may have noticed that many SMR authors use some form of MacAlister's soul-mate process, which begins with mutual protection and climaxes (in more ways than one) with the exchange of their lifeblood.

     Click HERE to go to MacAlister's Dark Ones Connections page on her web site, which lists the DARK ONES books, and how the characters are connected.

Here are the happy couples for each book:
   > A Girl's Guide to Vampires: Joy Randall & Raphael St. John
   > Sex and the Single Vampire: Allegra (Allie) Telford & Christian Dante
   > Sex, Lies, and Vampires: Nell Harris & Adrian Tomas
   > Even Vampires Get the Blues: Samantha Cosse & Paen Scott
   > "Bring Out Your Dead": Ysabelle Raleigh & Sebastian Mercier 
   > The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires: Portia Harding & Theondre (Theo) North (nephilim)
   > "Cat Got Your Tongue": Joy Randall & Raphael St. John (follow-up story)
   > Zen and the Art of Vampires: Pia Thomason & Kristoff von Hannelore
   > Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang: Pia Thomason & Kristoff (continuation of previous book)
   > "Unleashed": Jacintha (Jas) Ferreira & Avery Scott
   > In the Company of Vampires: Francesca (Fran) Ghetti & Benedikt (Ben) Czerny
   > Much Ado About Vampires: Corazon (Cora) Ferreira & Alec Darwin
   > A Tale of Two Vampires: Iolanthe Tennyson & Nikola Czerny
   > "Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead": Grayson Soucek (part 1)
   > "Shades of Gray": Noelle & Grayson (part 2)

          BOOK 8:  In the Company of Vampires           
     This book tells the SMR story of Francesca (Fran) Ghetti (a witch with psychic powers) and Benedikt (Ben) Czerny (a Dark One) as they reunite after a five-year separation, during which she turned her back on her Beloved status, moved to New York City, and started a career in computer technology while Ben remained behind in Austria, working at the GothFaire at which the couple met. Francesca was just a teen-ager when she first met Ben, and she felt pressured by him and by her friends to mate with him and fulfill the Beloved bond. Now, Fran's mother, a wiccan who has a booth at the Faire, has disappeared, so Fran heads off to find her, accompanied by three Viking ghosts who have been brought back to solid form by the goddess Freya to serve as Fran's protectors. Their mission is to locate Fran's mother and then to banish Loki (the Norse trickster god), who Fran defeated in Circus of the Darned (see below). The Vikings provide most of the slapstick humor in the book. Picture the Capital One Visigoths from the TV advertisement and you'll get the picture. The plot involves a villainous necromancer, a magical relic, some shape-shifters, and Fran's pet horse, Tesla. 

     Fran and Ben's early story is told in two out-of-print young adult (YA) books that MacAlister wrote under the pseudonym Katie Maxwell: Got Fangs? (2005) and Circus of the Darned (2006), which are now available in an omnibus edition entitled Confessions of a Vampire's Girlfriend (NAL, 2010), published under MacAlister's name. In the Company of Vampires can be read as a stand-alone, but you'll probably enjoy it more if you read the prequel stories first.

          BOOK 9:  Much Ado About Vampires            
     The ninth book tells the love story of Corazon (Cora) Ferreira, a human woman, and Alex Darwin, a Dark One who was banished to the Akasha (a realm between Hell and mortal earth) by the Moravian Council for his reprehensible actions in the two-part story told in Zen and the Art of Vampires and Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang. The prequel to this novel is a short story entitled, "My Heart Will Go On and On," which is included at the back of Much Ado and should probably be read first, even though much of it is reprised at the beginning of Much Ado. As the story opens, Alec is fading fast in the Akasha and hoping for death to end his misery, while Cora is doing a real estate run-through at an ancient mansion during which she is accidentally transported to the Akasha by Bael. Also accidentally, she absorbs the power of the Occio di Lucifer (eye of Lucifer) and becomes a Tool of Bael. This is dangerous for Cora because many supernatural beings want to capture her and use that power. Cora and Alec fall instantly in lust, of course, when they meet up in the Akasha. They soon escape, and the plot follows their efforts to rid Cora of her Tool-ish powers. The conflict is built on a fragile frame of constant misunderstandings, miscommunications, withholding of information and not-too-smart behavior on Cora's part. The dialogue is typically humorous and full of wisecracks, just like the rest of the series. Pia and Kristoff play important parts in the story, and they renew their friendship with Alec despite his bad past behavior. Also playing a part is Sally, the mischievous demon lord from MacAlister's DRAGON series. If you love the series, you'll certainly love this newest addition.

     Here is an example of the humorous dialogue that is rampant in Much Ado About Vampires. In this scene, Alex has been severely injured by an energy blast, and Cora offends his alpha dignity by telling him to lie down and take it easy:
     "I am not a child that you must order me around," he answered, trying to wrap his dignity around him, but it was difficult to do so while listing heavily to one side.
     Cora must have noticed the list. "Sit down before you hurt your owie."
     "I am a Dark One!" he said, managing to stand upright at last, ignoring the pain and tearing feeling on his left side. "We do not have owies!  We have grievous, nearly fatal injuries!" (p. 265)