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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lori Handeland: NIGHTCREATURE

Author: Lori Handeland 
Series: NIGHTCREATURE 
Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher and Titles: St. Martin’s:
    NOVELS:
           Blue Moon (2004)
           Hunter’s Moon (2006)
           Dark Moon (2005)
           Crescent Moon (2006)
           Midnight Moon (2006)
           Rising Moon (2006)
           Hidden Moon (2007)
           Thunder Moon (2008)
           Marked by the Moon (2010)
           Moon Cursed (2011)
           Crave the Moon (2011)

    SHORT STORIES AND NOVELLAS:
   "Voodoo Moon" in No Rest for Witches (2007) 
   "Red Moon Rising" (e-book, 2015) (also in Stroke of Midnight2004)  
   "Charmed by the Moon" in My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding (2006)  
   "Voodoo Moon" in No Rest for Witches (2007) 
   "Shadow of the Moon" (e-book, 2013)  
   "Blame It on the Moon" in Fifty Ways to Kill Your Larry (e-book, 4/2015)  

This post contains summaries of all of the novels in this series: publisher's back-cover blurbs for novels 1-8 and my summaries and reviews of novels 9-11.

                    WORLD-BUILDING                    
     Werewolves and other shape shifters (most of them, anyway) are definitely the bad guys in this series. Plot lines for early books combine mystical Ojibwe mythology and Nazi legends as the Jäger-Sucher (hunter-searchers employed in secret by the U.S. government) spend their time in the forests of Wisconsin, killing and disposing of dangerous and powerful werewolves. Think X-Files set in Red Riding Hood’s woods.

     Later books expand the villainy list to other types of shifters and move the action to places like New Orleans and Haiti, where voodoo reigns. Each book tells one couple’s story as they meet, battle supernatural enemies, and become soul mates.

     The Jäger-Sucher began hunting werewolves during World War II, when Hitler’s monstrous doctor, Josef Mengele created a Nazi werewolf army. The Jäger-Sucher leader is Edward Mandenauer, a mysterious, devious man who lives only to kill shifters, and especially werewolves. His team is made up of hunters who search for and kill shifters all over the world, and scientists who concoct various vaccines that can alter the genetics of werewolves in various ways. So far, these vaccines have been used to help Edward’s hunters when they have been injured, or even bitten, by the werewolves they hunt. Edward constantly manipulates the personal and professional lives of his team, and eventually they learn never to trust him completely.

     Here's an interesting literary connection: In German, Jäger-Sucher means Hunter-Seeker, which is also the name of one of the weapons in the Dune cycles of Frank Herbert. Following is an explanatory quotation from the Wikipedia article entitled "Terms of Dune Cycles": "The hunter-seeker is a small arrow-like drone, to movement and sound responding. It is remotely controlled from the surrounding area and is often used to kill aristocrats and their children. The hunter-seeker bores into the body and destroys vital organs."                

     The books are classic soul-mate romance stories, with the lead couple falling into lust at first sight and then going through a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings that put them on an emotional roller coaster  right up until the very end. 


     UPDATE: Handeland has resurrected the Jäger-Sucher and some of the main characters from the NIGHTCREATURE series in her 2015 series entitled SISTERS OF THE CRAFT, which features three witchy sisters who have time-traveled from the 1600s to the 21st century and are being pursued by deadly hunters. Click HERE to read my review of that series.

          NOVEL 1: Blue Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     By the light of a blue moon, danger prowls...Miniwa, Wisconsin is under siege, but not by the usual summer tourists. The area's normally shy wolf population has begun stalking human prey, and their victims have been disappearing... or worse. Something is happening in the woods. Something brutal and primitive... 

and desire is unleashed… 

     

Officer Jessie McQuade has seen plenty in her years on the force—but nothing as intriguing as the gorgeous, naked man she encounters while tracking a rogue wolf. Professor Will Cadotte is a Native American activist. He's also the only man capable of distracting Jessie from her work. And for a cop, distraction—no matter how pleasurable—can be deadly. It's against Jessie's better judgment to accept Will's help in her investigation, yet she soon finds herself doing exactly that—and more. Will's dark, penetrating eyes see into a part of Jessie's soul she never knew existed. It's exhilarating...and terrifying.

     Now, as a town's deepest secrets come to light, no one is safe: not friends, lovers, or strangers. And as Jessie follows a bloody trail to the shocking truth, she'll have to decide who she can trust when the moon is full

     Blue Moon won the 2005 RITA Award for best paranormal romance. 

          NOVEL 2: Hunter’s Moon  (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Under a hunter's moon, blood turns from crimson to black... 

Leigh Tyler was once a kindergarten teacher with starry-eyed dreamsdreams that turned into nightmares when the biggest mistake she ever made came back to tear her world apart. Now, Leigh lives only for the hunt. Werewolves are her prey, and love is no longer an option. 

and passion turns deadly...

     Leigh has been called to Wisconsin for something big. As long as it means killing fanged and furry demons, she's up for it. But the worst is yet to come, because something stronger and smarter than the average beast is on the prowl...and it's doing Leigh's work for her. 

     Intoxicating and intriguing, Damien Fitzgerald is making Leigh question her vow never to let another man into her bed, or her heart. Every moment with him brings forth familiarand dangerousurges. Urges that may prove too strong to resist. Leigh's job is a dance with death, and she has no intention of letting Damien become involved and get hurt. Especially not that she knows her enemy is watching from the forest. Waiting for her first wrong step

          NOVEL 3: Dark Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Dr. Elise Hanover quite literally lives for her job-since quitting would mean meeting a silver bullet with her name on it. She works alone, struggling to unlock the mysteries of an affliction that should only exist in nightmares. But Elise knows from personal experience just how real it is. Because the first time its deadly power pulsed through her veins was the last time she saw the love of her life. Until now... 



     The surprise visit from FBI agent Nic Franklin is merely the first in a series of shocks. After her lab is firebombed and her most bloodthirsty test subject escapes, Elise and Nic have no choice but to join forces. Unfortunately, the situation in remote Fairhaven, Wisconsin is far from safe: Nic has too many questions about Elise's work and why she deserted him years ago; townsfolk are disappearing, and Elise feels her own condition intensifying in ways as terrifying and exhilarating as her rekindled attraction to Nic. Now, as a shadowy evil closes in, it's becoming all too clear that Elise is the only one who can stop it—if it doesn't stop her first

          NOVEL 4: Crescent Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
      For over a century there have been whispers of a werewolf in the Crescent City. The recent discovery of bodies in the Honey Island Swamp draws cryptozoologist, Diana Malone, to Louisiana. 



     Thrilled to have a chance to prove the impossible to the world, she is soon immersed in a world of danger, intrigue and murder. Something is killing the locals and though no one wants to tell what, Diana is determined to discover the secret. 



     When her first swamp guide turns up dead, sexy, reclusive former Special Forces officer, Adam Ruelle, offers his services. Diana accepts, though local legends label his Cajun family as cursed, deranged, even mad. 

By night, Adam is everything she ever dreamed of in a lover. By day, Diana has her doubts. Is he helping her or distracting her? What is he hiding? Who is he protecting?

          NOVEL 5: Midnight Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Cassandra's life was destroyed when she lost her daughter. Her true identity concealed by the witness protection program, she becomes a voodoo priestess and opens a shop in New Orleans. When Cassandra changes lives, she does it right. 



     Hired by the elite monster hunting force, the Jager-Suchers, Cassandra is sent to Haiti to discover the secret of raising zombies. She has her own reason for agreeing. Cassandra plans to raise her daughter from the dead. 

     In Haiti, she hires the enigmatic Devon Murphy, a thief, a fortune hunter, with secrets of his own. Devon doesn't believe in magic, but he does know how to reach the lair of the evil voodoo sorcerer, which is deep in the mountains. 

On their journey, which takes them in and out of magical realms, from New Orleans to Haiti and back again, they discover much about themselves and each other. No one said life was easy, but together they can concur anythingeven love.

          NOVEL 6: Rising Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Anne Lockhart is a private investigator on a mission to find her sister Katie. A photo in the mail spurs a trip to New Orleans where Anne heads straight for Rising Moon, a jazz club where her sister was last seen. There she encounters an astounding man. 



     John Rodolfo, a blind saxophone player, is the club's chief attraction. He is more moved by Anne than he'd like to be. He has secretsmore than most. 



     Katie is not the first person to disappear from Rising Moon, and she won't be the last. As Anne unravels the mystery of the missing Katie, John's involvement becomes frighteningly clear. Voodoo altars, strange wolves and magic combine to create more questions than answers. With Mardi Gras approaching, the city is wild, on edge and dangerous. But then so is John Rodolfo.

          NOVEL 7: Hidden Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Claire Kennedy left Lake Bluff, Georgia, for the bright lights of Atlanta and a promising career in journalism. Now, recovering from a cruel betrayal, she's back in the one place she always felt safe, starting over as Lake Bluff's new mayor. But then trouble comes to town in the form of Malachi Cartwright, a man whose past is as mysterious as his present-a man who awakens something dangerous in sensible, realistic Claire. 

...that leaves her hungry for more... 



     When a local claims to have been mauled by a vicious wolf, and when the attacks turn deadly, Malachi's strange behavior rouses Claire's suspicions. Could he have a secret agenda and a sinister reason for coming to Lake Bluff? Malachi is the only man who could tempt Claire to succumb to her desires-but he's the last person she can trust. And as an eclipse approaches, the secrets of the hidden moon will come to light, and a deadly enemy will be revealed at last.

          NOVEL 8: Thunder Moon (Publisher's Back-Cover Blurb)          
     Practical, skeptical Grace McDaniel was not looking for romance. The Sheriff of Lake Bluff, Georgia, and the granddaughter of a Cherokee doctor, Grace's hands are full with the daily trouble of small-town life. Arriving in the wake of a freak storm is Ian Walker, a mysterious stranger who blends modern medicine and traditional Native American cures. Even though she is wary of his ideas, Grace cannot resist what his touch awakens in her. 

     But Ian is hiding a terrifying secret. And only he knows the truth about a creature stalking the citizens of Lake Bluff. A creature who preys on the dying…and then on the young, the living, the vibrant…Now, to save her people, Grace must put her faith in Ian's haunting power and succumb to her wildest passions-before the rumble of thunder fills the air, and a relentless evil strikes again. 

          NOVEL 9: Marked by the Moon (My Review)          
     This novel tells the story of Alexandra Trevalyn, a Jäger-Sucher hunter who believes that all werewolves are monstrous killers with no trace of any human emotional traits. Alexandra has strong reasons to hate werewolves, because the monsters murdered both her parents. 

     Julian Barlow, an extremely  powerful werewolf with some extra magical talents, leads a civilized pack that kills no humans and lives peacefully next to an isolated Inuit village in the Alaska north woods. Some years ago, Alexandra killed Julian’s wife, so he hunts down Alexandra and punishes her by changing her into a werewolf, the thing she hates most in the world. Julian wants to make Alexandra understand that werewolves maintain their human qualities after they are changed over. 


     Most of the book follows the ups and downs of Alexandra and Julian’s relationship, but there is a thin plot involving a possible rogue werewolf who kills some of the Inuit villagers. This book could definitely be read as a standalone.


                    NOVEL 10: Moon Cursed (My Review)                 

      In the tenth novel, Kristin Daniels goes to Scotland to prove that the Loch Ness monster is a fake. Kristin produced a public television show (Hoax Hunters) that debunked ghost and monster stories until it was canceled due to low ratings. She sees this trip as a way to attract international attention and get her show back on the air. On her first evening in the quaint, but touristy, village of Drumnadrochit, Kristin (unbelievably) follows a mysterious man into a ruined castle and gets kissed—thereby setting off the love story. 

     Liam Grant (the kisser) is a handsome sexy man who seems to hang around the Loch a lot, but the townspeople claim not to know him when Kristin asks about him. On Kristin's second night in Scotland, she stumbles over the body of a dead girl who has drowned in the Loch and learns that a serial killer is on the rampage.  Soon, Kristin is attacked by the unknown villain, but is saved (twice) by Liam. 


     How—you might ask—do Edward and his Jäger-Sucher fit into this plot? Well...Edward serves as a semi-deus ex machina. He shows up in the village, talks Kristin into working for him as a spy (an improbability), and then pops up on her computer screen for several chats in which he feeds her clues and magically provides her with weapons. But why is Edward even interested in these crimes? Think about it: big lake monster + serial killings—for Edward this equals a shape shifter gone bad. Yes, Edward suspects that Nessie is a murderous shifter. Someone had to write a Nessie shifter story, and this is it. The plot plays out like romantic suspense. We don't even have a shifter scene until just before the climax and resolution. The identity of the bad guy is predictable, as is the identity of the shifter, but Handeland always tells a good story.


                    NOVEL 11: Crave the Moon (My Review)                  
     This novel reads like a regular romance until the final third of the book. The setting is a failing Arizona dude ranch owned by Gina O'Neill. Gina and her partner and childhood friend, Jace McCord, are trying their best to make a go of it, but they are swamped with bills and are in danger of losing the ranch. A history professor in Tucson has been asking Gina for permission to do an archaeological dig on ranch property, but Gina wants no part of an activity that would bring back painful memories of her parents' mysterious death in a cave-in in a remote part of their land. 

     Mateo (aka Matt, aka Teo) Mecate is trying to salvage his late mother's reputation by proving that her theory about a hidden tomb of an Aztec super warrior is really true, and he is certain that he can find the answer on Gina's land. Matt visits Gina's ranch under an assumed identity, and the two fall in lust with each other, but the situation blows up in Matt's face when Jace jealously outs him and Gina kicks him out. Matt soon devises a way to get back to the ranch, where he and Gina make up (and make out). 


     This is where the supernatural aspect kicks in big time. Gina had a weird experience during the horrendous cave-in that killed her parents, and ever since then she has heard her named howled in the winds that sweep unceasingly across the desert. Needless to say, everything goes wrong when Gina and Matt begin investigating the cave-in area. The Jäger-Sucher leader, Edward, leaps into the story near the end to save the day so that Gina and Matt can have their HEA.

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