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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rebecca Zanetti: DARK PROTECTORS

Author: Rebecca Zanetti
Plot Type: Erotic Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher and Titles: Brava
      Fated (novel 12011)
      Claimed (novel 22011)
      "Tempted" (novella 2.52012) 
      Hunted (novel 34/2012)
     Consumed (novel 42012)
      Provoked (novel 52012)
      "Twisted" (novella 5.52013)
      Shadowed (novel 62013)
      "Tamed" (novella 6.52014)
      Marked (novel 72014)
      "Teased" (novella 7.1—12/2015)
      "Talen" (novella 7.2—6/2016)(a bonus novella in Wicked Burn)
      "Tricked" (novella 7.3—10/2016)
      "Tantalized" (novella 7.4TBA)

This ongoing post contains an overview of the series world-building and my reviews of the first three novels: Fated, Claimed, and Hunted. For the remaining novels and novellas, I have included the publisher's blurbs. My review of the novella,"Talen"—appears near the end of this post. (This post was last updated on 6/7/2016).

     If you are a fan of erotic vampire romance (and who isn't?), this is the series for you. The vamps are hot and sexy, and they're über-aggressive in both love and war. In this World, the vampires are the good guys, protecting humans from the evil Kurjans. The difference between humans, vampires, and Kurjans is in the DNA. The vamps and the Kurjans have 30 pairs of chromosomes (humans have 23), but each supernatural race's chromosomes are different from the other's set. For example, one pair of the extra Kurjan chromosomes makes all of them sun sensitive, while one set of the vamps' chromosomes makes them sun tolerant.

Here is a list of the characteristics of the Kurjans and the vampires:
  > Kurjans: sun sensitive; ugly in appearance; long yellow fangs; can mate multiple times with any human who has psychic powers; drink blood whenever they can
  > Vampires: not sensitive to sun; handsome; fangs recede when not in use; mate for life to human women with psychic powers; have a few extra magical talents (e.g., some can teleport); drink blood only during sex or during battle kills
  > Both races: are males who can produce only sons; must mate with human women; have super strength and speed; die only when beheaded
     Mates are extremely important to the vamps. They mate only once and when they do, a brand appears on the body of both the vamp and his mate. The Kurjans aren't as particular as the vamps; they just want a baby makerany human female will do. Historically, the two races spent centuries in war against one another.

     If you like overwrought, erotic paranormal romances, you'll probably enjoy this series. The heroes are all über-alphas and the women are all feisty humans whoin their heart of heartslove to be dominated.

Here is a partial list of the happy couples who find their HEAs in this series:

      >> Fated: Talen Kayrs and Cara Paulson 
      >> Claimed: Dage Kayrs and Emma Paulson
      >> "Tempted": Max Petrovsky (Janie's bodyguard) and Sarah Pringle (an escapee from an insane asylum)
      >> Hunted: Conn Kayrs and Moira Dunne
      >> Consumed: Jordan Pride and Katie Smith 
      >> Provoked: Kane and Amber, a belly dancer 
     >> "Twisted": Terrence Vilks (wolf shifter) and Maggie
     >> Shadowed: Jace Kayrs and Brenna Dunne
     >> "Tamed": Caleb Donovan and Lily
     >> Marked: Zane and Janie Kayrs (Cara's daughter)
     >> "Teased": Chalton Reese and Olivia Roberts
     >> "Talen": an update on Talen and Cara 25 years later
     >> "Tricked": Jared Reese and Ronni Alexander

     Zanetti has written a sequel to this series called REALM ENFORCERS, which tells the story of the supernatural world after the final destruction of the Kurjans. Those novels are set in Seattle and Ireland and are centered around the three Dunne brothers: Adam, Kellach, and Daire. Their sisters—Moira and Brenna—married two of the Kayrs brothers. Click HERE to go to my REALM ENFORCERS page to read reviews of those novels.

                      MY REVIEW OF NOVEL 1:  Fated                      
     After a truce of 200 years, the Kurjans are on the attack again, and this time they are after psychically talented Cara Paulsen, a plant physiologist, and her four-year-old daughter, Janie. Cara has always refused to recognize or use her powers, but Janie has regular visions of future events, and she knows that trouble is coming. Just as the Kurjans are about to kidnap Cara and Janie, the mighty vampire warrior Talen Kayrs bursts in and carries them off. Within 24 hours, Cara finds herself both married and mated to Talen, with both of them sporting a mating brand (which appears only on the bodies of mated couples). Talen calls it fate; Cara calls it coercion. The plot follows the ups and downs of the couple's romantic relationship, as they either dodge or take part in a series of battles with the Kurjans. Some of the supporting characters are certain to show up as couples in future books: Taren's brother, Dage and Cara's sister, Emma; and the shape-shifting cougars, Jordan and Katie. Fated clearly telegraphs that these will be the next two love affairs.

     This is first and foremost an erotic novel, with Talen dominating Cara sexually in scene after graphic scene. The male domination in general is a bit disturbing. These guys are in charge—all the way, all the time, both in and out of the bedroom—and don't you forget it! So...If you're in the mood for an erotic paranormal adventure with lots of blood and even more graphic sex, you'll love this series

     Here is an excerpt from one of the milder dom/sub scenesjust one of many in Fated (pp. 143-144).
    "So"her voice aimed for sarcastic but the breathiness probably ruined it—"Am I tamed yet?"
     His short bark of laughter was unexpected, and she widened her eyes at the sound. Dominance chased the arrogance off his the hand in her hair tightened and pulled, exposing her jugular to him. She tried to toss her head to dislodge his hand and succeeded in drawing tears to her eyes as her hair was pulled by her own action. Her head remained where he wanted it. 
     "No. But you will be." It was a vow. He leaned down with quiet purpose and enveloped her throbbing jugular with his lips, his tongue rough against the pounding vein, his fangs a mere hint of his power....He held her life in his hands. Or rather, his mouth. She tested the strength of his shoulders with a shove. He was rock hard and immovable.
     "Put your hands above your head." It was a command. She searched his eyes for softness or quarter. She found none. With a soft sigh, she stretched her arms above her head. He flashed his teeth at her obedience... 
     The series has a science-based thematic arc. The Kurjans are using scientists to experiment with genetic engineering and gene therapy to solve the problems of their allergic reactions both to the sun and to vampire-mated women. They also plan to capture humans and shifters and genetically change them into fierce werewolf warriors who will be under the control of the Kurjans. As you can see, the Kurjans are all bad: cruel, heartless, power mad, greedy (feel free to add any negative adjective here), and not one of them has even a single redeeming quality.

                       MY REVIEW OF NOVEL 2:  Claimed                      
     This book tells the story of the romance between Emma, a psychic Geneticist who is Cara's sister, and Dage Kayrs, who is King of the Realm. Dage is the eldest of the Kayrs brothers and has been the leader of the vampires since the Kurjans killed their parents several centuries ago. (Oddly, he has a strong affinity for grape-flavored energy drinks, which he is constantly guzzling down.) As the story opens, Dage daringly rescues Emma from a helicopter that is piloted and guarded by Kurjan soldiers. After the Kayrs brothers reunite in their Colorado mountain fortress, they continue their war with the Kurjans and their scientific research to manufacture a cure for a virus that the Kurjans have used to infect both Cara and a young shifter woman named Maggie. As the story proceeds, other women become infected and Dage realizes that a there is a traitor in their midst. The plot follows the ups and downs of Dage and Emma's "courtship"which means that we read lots and lots of scenes in which Emma does something to defy Dage, and he follows up by dragging her off to the bedroom for extremely forceful sex with little or no foreplay. We get lots of scenes like this one:
     "I don't take orders from you." She spoke slowly, clearly as if wanting to get each word exactly right. Her gaze focused hard on his jaw.
     "I'm the king, love. Everyone takes orders from me." Only pure strength of will kept him from grinning.
     ..."The king can kiss my ass."
     The king had every intention of kissing her ass, maybe biting it as well. (p. 291)
     Here's how Emma summarizes her adventures about 3/4 of the way through the book: 
     "In the last week I've been kidnapped by a monstrous vampire race, my sister has been knocked up by a vampire prince and I've been branded by a king, who also bites. I've discovered shifters and demons exist, and the niece I've protected since birth is somehow prophesized [sic] to do something important by these supernatural beings. I'm also seeking help from a century old witch who looks twenty." She exhaled loudly., "Hell...has broken loose and shattered reality." (p. 201)
     The story follows the continuing plot line that involves Cara's psychic, future-foreseeing daughter, Janie, as she predicts a few events and has some dream-adventures with her friend, Zane. Both the vamps and the Kurjans believe that Janie is, somehow, the key to their futures, and both are determined to have her on their side.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVELLA 2.5: "Tempted"                       
     On the run from a mental institution and her vindictive half-brother, it's safe to say that Sarah Pringle's happy life as a schoolteacher is on hold. Too bad that as far as self-defense goes, "run and hide" is the best she's got. And with the monsters that started her escape hot on her heels, that's not going to cut it for long. 

     That is, unless Sarah has a bigger, badder, hotter monster on her side. Max Petrovsky is right at the top of the list of alpha male ass-kickers. And he knows exactly what Sarah's up against. Good thing, because the minute he sees her something primal kicks in, turning everyday attraction into red-hot desire. As long as they're cooperating, why not mix some pleasure with business? Of course, Max should probably tell Sarah he's a vampire himself. 

                       MY REVIEW OF NOVEL 3: Hunted                       
     The love-struck supernaturals in this book are the witch Moira Dunne and Connlan (Conn) Kayrs, another one of the Kayrs vampire brothers. The two have been "engaged" for a century, from the time Conn mate-marked the twenty-year-old Moira 100 years ago during their one and only night of passion. At that time, Conn signed a treaty with Moira's father in which he agreed to allow her 100 years to mature, which was particularly important to the witches since Moira is the Seventh—the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. As the Seventh, Moira has extra-strong powers and is expected to take a seat on the witches' Council of Nine. Their romance is just as rocky as you would expect it to be, with the over-the-top alpha and the feisty, independent witch arguing their way through each and every conversation, stopping only for their frequent and graphic bedroom sessions. The angst level isn't as high as in the previous books, mostly because Moira and Conn don't have to go through that shocking "Oh, my god, you're a vampire" initial dialogue that the heroines in the first two books suffered through. This couple has known each other for a long, long time, so there aren't quite many secrets between them—although Moira does hold back on some crucial witch-related information.

     The action part of the book ties in with the general story arc of the series—the on-going war between the Realm (the Kayrs vampire empire) and the villainous Kurjans, with demons and shape shifters complicating an already complex situation. The witches, who have been allied with the Realm for centuries, are now thinking about breaking away from the vampires and joining up with the demons, which would be disastrous to the Realm. The story switches back and forth from the romance to the vampires, the witches, and the Kurjans as treason and betrayal put both Conn and Moira in danger. In the background, the romance between Jordan Pride, leader of the feline shifters, and Katie Smith, a lion shifter damaged by the Kurjan virus, is still bumping painfully along. That couple's story will be told in the next book.

     The mystical dream-story of Janie (Cara's daughter), Zane (a mysterious young vampire), and Kalin (heir to the Kurjan throne) continues sporadically throughout this book. Since they are all still teen-agers, we have a long way to go before their destiny plays out. If you'll recall from earlier books, they are to be the ones who will eventually settle the war, one way or another.

     This is a typical addition to the series, but it's definitely the weakest so far. The chemistry between Conn and Moira isn't nearly as strong as it was for the couples in the earlier books. In addition, the bits and pieces of the war-related story arc are put together awkwardly, resulting in a choppy feeling to the story telling. If you're a regular reader of the series, though, you'll need to read this one to keep up with the war situation.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVEL 4: Consumed                       
     Sometimes You Mate For Life: Katie Smith is the best of her class, part of an elite hunting force trained to eliminate werewolves from the hills of Western Virginia. She's good at it because she has the kind of focus and drive that won't back down no matter how steep the odds. Call it southern sass. Whatever it is, there's no denying her willingness to risk everything for the only man she's ever cared abouta man on the verge of losing his very humanity. 

     Sometimes You Mate To Stay Alive: For the past ten years Jordan Pride has dedicated his life to protecting his people from a deadly shifter virus. But in a rare moment of distraction, Jordan's guard drops just long enough for his fate to take an irreversible twist. Unless the woman he loves surrenders everything to him, again and again, under a full moon rising.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVEL 5: Provoked                       
     A TIME FOR WAR: A casualty of the war between the demons and the vampires, Jase Kayrs has been missing for six long years. His older brothers want answers—but they’re going to have to get them from an unlikely source. For when Kane Kayrs tracks down Amber Freebird, what he finds is a blonde, vegan pacifist who has no intention of using her skills in his war. 

     A TIME FOR LOVE: Amber enjoys her life of chaotic freedom and has no intention of falling in line just because a sexy-as-sin vampire insists on order. Unfortunately, he discovers she may be the only hope they have of finding his brother, and there’s no way he’s going to let her go—even if it means mating her to gain her cooperation. The two are as different as can be, yet when the dominant Kane and the untamed Amber finally unite to rescue Jase, they just may find that opposites really do attract.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVELLA 5.5: "Twisted"                       

     In human form, Terrent Vilks is all male animal—dark, ripped, predatory. As wolf, he's unforgettably dangerous, unforgettably hot. Yet Maggie can't remember him.

     Not even when she learns she once agreed to mate him. Yeah, that was years ago, before she was kidnapped and tortured, before she lost her memory. Now she knows just one thing about herself—she'll do whatever it takes to bring down the monsters who took her, even trust her ex. He's got her right where he wants her. 

          PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVEL 6: Shadowed          
     Danger signs rise off Jase Kayrs like steamthe scars, the secrets, the strength. He's got a mission, and he's not interested in much outside of it. Except Brenna Dunne. 

     Brenna was an ass-kicking, name-taking witch—before the poison that's killing her sapped her powers too. She knows there's more to Jase than a handsome face and an ugly history. But there's no time to find out what. Taking him as her mate might save her life. But once she unleashes the force of his desire, there will be no turning back. Ready or not, here they come.

       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVELLA 6.5: "Tamed"       
     Caleb Donovan was never meant to be a prophet. At heart he's a conqueror, his appetites far more carnal than spiritual. He's not inclined to repress his passions and surrender to fate. After all, that's what cost him Lily—three centuries ago. She married another, because it was ordained. Now that he's in the same benighted calling—and forced into proximity with her—all the old desires are roaring back to life. 

     After widowhood and centuries of celibacy, Lily is eager to explore the wild side of life, except now she's vulnerable to another forced relationship, with an enemy. But this time she's determined to choose her own path. And if hot, furious Caleb comes charging to the rescue, it might just change both their destinies. Love is about to start conquering.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVEL 7: Marked                       
     Janie Kayrs has known Zane almost her whole life. He was her friend in the dream world. She trusted him. But that was before he kidnapped her, spiriting her away to an isolated cabin to learn what her dreams never told her. Like how dangerous he looks. How he got on the wrong side of the negotiating table. And how much sexier he is in real life. 

     Zane is a battle-hardened warrior, used to command and solitude. But Janie has drawn him from the minute they met. His need for her could destroy everything he's worked for, but the risk is too sweet not to take it. They call her the Chosen One. But when it comes down to the questions of peace or war, life or death, safety or passion, it will be Janie who makes the choice. Love is about to start conquering.

                      PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVELLA 7.1: "Teased"                       
     The Hunter: For almost a century, the Realm’s most deadly assassin, Chalton Reese, has left war and death in the past, turning instead to strategy, reason, and technology. His fingers, still stained with blood, now protect with a keyboard instead of a weapon. Until the vampire king sends him on one more mission; to hunt down a human female with the knowledge to destroy the Realm. A woman with eyes like emeralds, a brain to match his own, and a passion that might destroy them both—if the enemy on their heels doesn’t do so first. 

     The Hunted: Olivia Roberts has foregone relationships with wimpy metro-sexuals in favor of pursuing a good story, bound and determined to uncover the truth, any truth. When her instincts start humming about missing proprietary information, she has no idea her search for a story will lead her to a ripped, sexy, and dangerous male beyond any human man. Setting aside the unbelievable fact that he’s a vampire and she’s his prey, she discovers that trusting him is the only chance they have to survive the danger stalking them both.

                       MY REVIEW OF NOVELLA 7.2: "Talen"                       
     This novella is included as a bonus selection in Wicked Burn, the third novel in Zanetti's REALM ENFORCERS series, which is a sequel to the DARK PROTECTORS series. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the REALM ENFORCERS series.

     Zanetti polled her Facebook Street Team to determine which characters they wanted to see in a novella, and the majority chose Talen and Cara, the couple whose love story was told in Fated, the first novel of DARK PROTECTORS.

     This story takes place twenty-five years after Fated. The war is now over, and the supernatural community is trying to adjust to living in peace. Cara has recovered from the debilitating disease that has plagued her for years and is now on the way to becoming fully healthy and strong. She is ready for new challenges, but Talen still sees her as a fragile human who must be protected from the outside world—and from herself, if necessary. The underlying theme of the story is the need for people (i.e., Cara) to make their own decisions and for their loved ones (i.e., Talen) to let them do it.

     The action part of the plot begins almost immediately when Talen and Cara are attacked as they drive through a forested area on their way to Seattle to deliver tissue samples that are part of the medical research that is exploring the breaking of mate bonds. The attackers are demon mercenaries hired by a Purist demon family in Alaska.

     The rest of the story follows Talen and Cara—soon joined by their son, Garrett, and his friend, Logan Kyllwood (the Demon Prince)—as the attacks continue. Then, suddenly, the issue is resolved so quickly and easily that it all seems hardly worth writing a novella about it.

     As of this date (6/7/2016), "Talen" has not been published as a stand-alone product, but if it ever is, I'd advise against purchasing it because it adds nothing to the series and is obviously just an after-the-fact addition to a series that doesn't need it. Both Talen and Cara behave just as we would expect them to, so no surprises there. Talen is as über-alpha as ever, and Cara is still trying to achieve some independence, mostly without success although they do come to a compromise by the end of this story.

               PUBLISHER'S BLURB FOR NOVELLA 7.3: "Tricked"               
     He Might Save Her: Former police psychologist Ronni Alexander had it all before a poison attacked her heart and gave her a death sentence. Now, on her last leg, she has an opportunity to live if she mates a vampire. A real vampire. One night of sex and a good bite, and she’d live forever with no more weaknesses. Well, except for the vampire whose dominance is over the top, and who has no clue how to deal with a modern woman who can take care of herself.

     She Might Kill Him: Jared Reese, who has no intention of ever mating for anything other than convenience, agrees to help out his new sister in law by saving her friend’s life with a quick tussle in bed. The plan seems so simple. They’d mate, and he move on with his life and take risks as a modern pirate should. Except after one night with Ronni, one moment of her sighing his name, and he wants more than a mating of convenience. Now all he has to do is convince Ronni she wants the same thing. Good thing he’s up for a good battle.

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