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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gena Showalter: ALIEN HUNTRESS Series

Author:  Gena Showalter
Plot Type:  SMR
Ratings:  V4-5; S4-5; H2
        Awaken Me Darkly (2006)
        Enslave Me Sweetly (2006)
        Savor Me Slowly (2007)
        Seduce the Darkness (2009)
        Ecstasy in Darkness (2010)
        “Tempt Me Eternally” in Deep Kiss of Winter (2009)
        Dark Taste of Rapture (2011)

     This blog entry focuses primarily on the sixth book in the series:  Dark Taste of Rapture. My review of that book follows this very brief overview of the world building for the series.

     The series is set in New Chicago (an alternate-future Chicago) about a century after the ending of a huge human-alien war that resulted in some modifications to the way humans now live. The Earth is now populated by both mortals and “Otherlanders”—aliens from other planets and realms who travel through portals between their lands and ours. Naturally enough, there has been some mating between species, so there are also a lot of hybrids of various combinations. This world is mildly futuristic. For example, water is a precious resource, so people take enzyme showers instead of using real water. Buildings are built more securely, with metals that will prevent Otherworlders from teleporting in unexpectedly. Automobiles are equipped with sensors that allow the driver to program in the destination and then sit back and let the car propel itself with no human assistance. Much of the food is made from synthetic starches and proteins. Real, fresh food and water are available only to the wealthy—that annoying 1% is still hanging in there.

     Many of the Otherlanders have various magical abilities (e.g., teleporting), and some of them (particularly the Arcadians) are out to harm mortals in various ways. The protagonists are mostly human, or at least half-human, Hunters and Huntresses who police the alien population.

     Each book tells the love story of a couple that includes at least one Hunter or Huntress. Sometimes one member of the loving couple is an Otherlander or a hybrid. Book 1 sets up the series story line as it tells the story of Mia Snow, who heads up her expert team of Alien Investigation and Removal (AIR) agents, who use some futuristic weaponry and a lot of attitude to catch and punish the bad guys.

Here are the happy couples for each book: 
> Awaken Me Darkly: Mia Snow & Kyrin en Arr (Arcadian)
> Enslave Me Sweetly: Eden Black (Raka) & Lucius Adaire (Hunter)
> Savor Me Slowly: Mishka Le'Ace (mechanically enhanced human) & Jaxon Tremain (Hunter)
> Seduce the Darkness: Bride McKell (vampire) & Devyn, King of the Targons
> Ecstasy in Darkness: Ava Sans (Hunter) & McKell (vampire)
> “Tempt Me Eternally” in Deep Kiss of Winter: Aleaha Love (aka Macy; shape shifter) & Breean (Rakan)
> Dark Taste of Rapture: Noelle Tremain (Huntress) & Hector Dean (Hunter)
          BOOK 6:  Dark Taste of Rapture         
     This book stars Noelle Tremain, whom we met in the previous book with her AIR partner, Ava Sans. The story takes us back to the time that Ava and Noelle were in training to become Huntresses. Noelle is a spoiled rich girl with a tragic childhood. When she was twelve years old, she was kidnapped and tortured as she was held for ransom. When she was returned to her family, her father decided to protect her from a repeat of this experience by having all of her pain receptors deadened. Unfortunately, Noelle had to remain conscious for these operations, so the trauma and pain were excruciating. Noelle reacted to her up-tight, snobbish family by becoming a wild child, embarrassing them whenever she could. Now, she has decided to become a Huntress, and she’s determined to achieve her goal. Noelle has perfected a smart-mouthed, careless façade that hides her deep sensitivity and covers the fact that she wears her heart on her sleeve, always getting hurt by people who react to her hard-hearted demeanor. She has created a vicious circle that only her friend, Ava, has been able to crack.

     Noelle’s soul mate is Hector Dean, an experienced Hunter with deep secrets. He was raised in the slums of New Chicago by an abusive father who forced Hector and his brother into a child-fighting ring when they were quite young. The children were caged and unfed for days before each fight to make them as feral as possible. Hector’s brother was killed in one of the fights, and Hector killed the child responsible—something that he still has trouble living with. Hector’s other secret is his ability to atomize. When Hector is extremely upset, his tattooed arms begin to glow and heat up to the point that if he touches anything or anyone, they will burn up in an instant. When he was a teen-ager, Hector fell in love, but when he and his girlfriend became intimate, his emotions ran so high that his arms heated up to the burning point, and—heartbreakingly—she was burned to death. Now, Hector tries not to touch anyone because he is afraid that he will accidentally scorch—or even kill—them.

     So…we have two emotionally damaged Hunters who are extremely attracted to one another, and the story follows the development of their romance as they fight the attraction, constantly misunderstand one another’s words and intentions, and strike back with bitter sarcasm. The other story thread involves a series of kidnapped young women who have been found only after AIR receives anonymous telephone tips as to their locations. As AIR Hunters rescue the women, someone has been teleporting them away form their guarded locations and killing them—leaving no traceable clues. Hector is assigned to the case, and he’s frustrated because he hasn’t been able to solve it. As the story progresses, Noelle and Hector work together to track down the villains and find their HEA.

     This is a typical ALIEN HUNTRESS story, with pages and pages of angst-filled monologues from both lovers. The relationship between Ava and Noelle—both in this book and the previous one—is one that we don’t often find in urban fantasy . Until they meet their soul mates, the two women trust and love only each other, and their adjustment to adding their male lovers to their lives is interesting to watch. The secondary plot (the women’s murders) is not nearly as well developed as the romance, and for me, that is a weakness in this book. A new character turns up—one with a link to Mia Snow’s past—so he may be part of the plot for the next book.

     Showalter has also written two books in a TEEN ALIEN HUNTRESS series: Red Handed (2007) and Blacklisted (2007).

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