Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Lord's Fall (11/2012)
Three-story arc featuring Dragos, Pia, and Liam (aka Peanut)
"Peanut Goes to School" (novella 8, 7/2014)
Showing amazing presence of mind, Pia makes a number of practical arrangements and then sends everyone but Dragos' best friend, Graydon, away—back to the city. She then heads into the forested mountains to confront her mate and try to convince him to allow her to heal him. Poor Dragos has retreated entirely into his distrustful, fierce, Wyr shape and mentality. When Pia tells him her name is Pia Cuelebre ("winged serpent"), he loses his temper and actually pins her to the ground with his talons because she is obviously not a winged serpent. Every time he tries to access his memories, fiery shocks of pain jolt through his head, making him even angrier.
The story follows the gradual redevelopment of their relationship. At the beginning we see Dragos as he was back in Dragonbound—wild, angry, and possessive of his treasures, but Pia definitely does save the day by cleverly using her deep knowledge of Dragos to help him remember who he really is. Dragos' recovery, though, is difficult because he feels as if he is two very different men/dragons—one a civilized businessman and the other a wild creature—and he's not sure which one is real.
The novella has some particularly touching moments, particularly when Dragos learns that he and Pia have a child—a son whom he can't remember. Liam, by the way, has a major surprise for Pia at the end of the story when she learns that he has taken her request to "be a big soldier now" quite literally. This is a charming story, and, as always, Harrison does a great job with plot construction and characterization. This is the second in a series of three novellas focused on the Cuelebre family. The third story will feature Liam as he goes off to school for the first time.
In the modern world, the Elder Races have lived openly among mortals since the 1500s. The Races are extremely territorial and maintain seven distinct demesnes in the U.S.:
> Elven in Charleston, South Carolina
> Dark Fae in Chicago: black haired, gray eyes, metallurgists
> Light Fae in Los Angeles: blond, green eyes, aversion to iron
The heroine of book 1 is Pia Giovanni, a half-breed (Wyr/human) who has manifested a small amount of magic (she can open any lock without a key), but has never been able to shift. Pia grew up moving from place to place with her mother in the hope that no one would ever discover her true Wyr form (and the reader isn't let in on the secret until near the end of the book). As the story opens, Pia has been blackmailed into stealing an artifact from the hoard of New York's billionaire leader of the Wyrkind, the dragon Dragos Cuelebre. Dragos is tens of thousands of years old and his security system has, in all those centuries, never been breached. Even though the stolen object is of little value, and even though Pia replaced it with an object of equal value, Dragos is determined to catch and punish the thief—it's a male pride issue. Many reviewers have compared Dragos to Raphael, the hero of Nalini Singh's GUILD HUNTER series, and that's an apt comparison. Both are rich, powerful, alpha males who are accustomed to getting their own way, and both are brought down (in the romantic sense) by modern American women.
Pia leaves an apologetic note behind, and when Dragos reads it and gets a whiff of her scent (wild sunshine—whatever that smells like), he is immediately attracted to her. (If you hadn't already guessed the identities of the loving couple, this is the first clue that Dragos and Pia are soul mates.) Of course, we need a conflicted plot to provide a few interruptions in the bumpy romantic journey, and that is provided by the Dark Fae king, Urien, who is Dragos' bitter enemy. Supporting characters include mostly members of Dragos' security team (aka sentinels) and Thistle "Tricks" Periwinkle, niece of Urien and heir to the Dark Fae throne. In this book, Tricks works as the public relations director for the widespread Cuelebre Enterprises and is one of the first to befriend Pia.
You may struggle a bit to get through the exposition-heavy first section of Dragon Bound, in which the author strings together paragraphs full of short subject-verb sentences and seems never to have met a clichéd simile or tortured metaphor she doesn't like. She even uses that old favorite "like a knife slicing through butter" (p. 11). And what does this one mean: "The Cauldron [the magic district] flaunted caveat emptor like a prizefighter’s satin cloak" (p. 2). How does a prizefighter's satin cloak flaunt "let the buyer beware"? Keep reading, though. If you can get past the first chapter or two, you'll get pulled into the story. Dragon Bound is strongest in its action and adventure scenes, especially when Pia is fighting back against her captors. The lighter scenes, like those between Pia and the sentinels, are also well written. Dragos and Pia's relationship scenes get a bit melodramatic at times, but that's fairly typical in paranormal romance, so I'll give that a pass. Click HERE to go to links on Harrison's web page to free excerpts from Dragon Bound.
Here is a quotation from Storm's Heart in which Niniane takes a good look at Tiago: "Her gaze bounced around his dark saturnine features. The force of his presence was such that the tiny hairs on her arms rose....He had the extreme physicality of an apex predator, his body tempered by years of fighting, the thick muscles corded with sinew and veins. His Power was a heavy, sulfurous force that pressed her into the mattress." (p. 25) (And, believe me, there is a LOT of "mattress pressing" going on in this book!)
During a climactic moment, Rune Ainissesthi, one of Dragos's sentinels, promises Vampyre Queen Carling that he will owe her a favor if she will save the life of his friend, Tiago. Carling delivers, so now Rune must reciprocate. The couple has a lustful moment near the end of the book Storm's Heart when Rune watches Carling bathing in a brook, so we already know that there's an attraction between them. Click HERE to go to links on Harrison's web page to free excerpts from Storm's Heart.
Up until the last 50 pages, this book is entirely about the romance, but with the exception of a few sexy scenes relatively late in the story, the romance is all talk and no action, which results in a big bog-down that's sometimes hard to plow through. Eventually, the action does kick in, typically fueled by betrayal and greed, but the secondary plot thread is so thin that it doesn't quite save the book from being a bit tedious.
In terms of characterization, Carling's character is well drawn, and her situation certainly arouses our sympathy, but we don't really learn much about Rune's history. He seems nice enough, with his god-like good looks and his typical alpha ways, but we don't see much deeper than that. For me, this is the weakest book of the series so far. The next book heads off to St. Louis for a romance between the Oracle of Delphi (Yes, that's right, she lives in St. Louis now) and a Djinn. We meet them near the end of Serpent's Kiss, and already they are snarling at one another—a sure sign of true love. Click HERE to go to links on Harrison's web page to free excerpts from Serpent's Kiss.
|Yul Brynner in|
The King and I
NOVEL 5: Lord's Fall
If you remember what happened in book 1, you'll know that when Dragos was tracking Pia down, he invaded the demesne of the Elves, almost instigating a war, and the relationship between the two bordering demesnes has been rocky ever since. The Elves accept Pia, but hate Dragos. Pia is determined to negotiate a treaty with the Elven ruler, Calondir, so she takes a road trip down to South Carolina accompanied by a crew of Wyr bodyguards. In the meantime, Dragos has his hands full back in Manhattan where he is hosting the Sentinel Games in Madison Square Garden. Dragos lost two of his best Sentinels (Tiago and Rune) when they met their soul mates and quit their jobs. He has set up a huge competition that will provide him with seven finalists—all of whom will be his new sentinels.
When Pia gets to the Elven demesne, she learns that Calondir is deep in the Lirithriel Wood (a huge magical Elven forest) with some unexpected Elven visitors from another realm. When she and her escorts go into the Wood to meet with Calondir, they run into the book's villain, a deranged Elf whose voice Dragos heard at the end of Serpent's Kiss—a voice that prophesied the end of days—the apocalypse. "It had spoken of stars dying in agony, and the nature of evil, of Light and Dark as creatures, and Lord Death himself having forgotten he was a fraction of the whole." (p. 99)
The story follows Pia and Dragos as they find themselves in danger and strive to keep the prophecy from coming true. Oh, and don't forget about the baby, who has his own surprise planned for his parents.
Don't try to read this book if you haven't been following the series. The cast of supporting characters is large, and the references to events from previous books are frequent. If you're familiar with the series, though, you'll probably enjoy this book. Pia and Dragos were a great couple in book 1, and they're still fascinating to watch, as Pia tries to tame the beast within her mate, and Dragos finally realizes exactly how much Pia means to him. As usual, Harrison gives us a peek at what will probably be the romantic couple in the next book: the Harpy Aryal and Pia's best friend (and former boss) Quentin, who despise each other so much that you just know that they are destined for a soul-mate HEA.
This is, for the most part, a well-plotted story, but I have to mention one improbable scene between Pia and Dragos that takes place in a pup tent in the middle of a frigid, snow-covered war zone. Right in the middle of things—with the villain's magical fire roaring just a few tents away and battle-weary Wyrs and Elves resting all around them before the big battle to come—the couple has a major make-out session and plans their wedding and honeymoon. I realize why Harrison did it this way (It's one of the few scenes in which the two are physically together in one place), but really, it's a bit far-fetched. Otherwise, though, this is a nice addition to the series and brings some resolution to Pia and Dragos' love story.
NOVELLA 5: "The Wicked"
The heroine is Olivia Sutton, a witch/librarian who is a close friend of Grace Andreas (from Oracle's Moon), and her hero is Sebastian Hale, a Wyr (eagle owl) who owns a renowned security firm that Carling has hired to guard the retrieval team. Since this is a novella, the action and the romance are compressed into just 115 pages with each of the four primary story threads getting about equal coverage: 1. Phaedra (Khalil's daughter) is on her own for the first time as she is hired to guard the passageway to the island and must do her best to control her violent Djinn instincts. 2. Sebastian is forced to deal civilly with Julian and his men as they attempt to slow down the team's progress. 3. A traitorous team member causes death and injury to the team. 4. Sebastian and Olivia fall for one another and begin their mating process while Sebastian copes with a powerful curse that is threatening his health and perhaps his life.
This is a well-constructed story that adds to the Carling-Rune story and introduces several more characters. We'll probably see more of Phaedra in later books or novellas because she is quite a fascinating character.
After the family arrives in Bermuda, some local thugs try to stop Dragos from searching for an ancient, treasure-filled shipwreck by threatening his family, and Dragos takes exactly the actions you'd expect from the most powerful dragon in the world.
Meanwhile, Liam is developing new abilities at an astoundingly young age, but he's also a very cute baby who steals all of his scenes from the adults. This is a nice little story (90 pages) that adds depth to the Pia-Dragos story and gives us some clues as to Liam's future otherworldly talents. By the end of the story, Dragos and Pia are planning to move to Dragos' estate in northern New York, which will change the setting of future books in which they play a part.
NOVEL 6: Kinked
The two set off for the Czech Republic, where they enter the realm of Numenlaur, the mystical Elven land whose population was decimated in Lord's Fall. Dragos wants them to make sure that no one is looting the now-unpopulated land. At first, they think that this assignment will be a piece of cake—other than the fact that they will have to work and live closely together—but they soon discover that someone has invaded Numenlaur in search of something—someone who is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.
Of course, the real action (and entertainment) in the book revolves around the couple's mutual antagonism and the development of their romance, which begins in hate and lust and then simmers erotically for quite awhile before boiling over into passionate, X-rated heat. Both Aryal and Quentin are dominants, and both are definitely into the whole kinky (per the title), pain-pleasure scene, so most of their lust scenes are based on modifications of BDSM (light on details, but still graphically portrayed). Some reviewers have objected to the physical-sexual violence in the story, but I have to disagree. These are characters with dark and violent emotions, and each is attracted and aroused by the other's willingness to use physical violence to make a point, be it vengeful, humorous, or sexual. Late in the book, Quentin muses about their relationship: "This thing with Aryal wasn't aberrant. Those things in his nature that she showed him weren't aberrant. They were a part of him that he didn't know existed until Aryal brought a light to shine on them….He barely heard over his internal realization what she said next. 'You know other people—any other people—would think we are crazy.' He understood exactly what she meant. Hell, they didn't even do BDSM in any straightforward fashion, and they certainly didn't follow the norm or any of the suggested guidelines….She quieted that internal whip that drove him because she become the whip, her soul as sharp as a knife….They were so unapologetic, so kinked. He said, 'We're perfect.'" (p. 206)
Harrison's character development for her lead lovers is top notch. They are both dark-natured outsiders who believe that they can never live like "normal" people and that they can never find true love. Quentin has a particularly grim secret that dates back to the events in Dragon Bound, and Aryal is a thousands-year-old Harpy who has no real life outside the Sentinels. Her only happiness comes when she flies, all alone and soaring as high as she can go. Part of the drama of this story deals with some flight problems she suffers at the hands of the villain.
If you're not comfortable reading love scenes that include violence and pain, this might not be the book for you. But if you're a fan of the series, you'll enjoy watching this love story play out—a very different romance than we've seen between other couples in the series. We've watched both of these cryptic characters in previous books, so it's great to see them find one another. Aryal, in particular, has been an abrasive presence in earlier books, so it's nice to finally see into her soul and understand her ongoing emotional state. The conflict that revolves around the villain in Numenlaur plays second fiddle to the romance, but the romance is so well written that you won't mind at all when that conflict gets resolved very quickly.