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This series is a spin-off of Byrd's PRIMAL INSTINCT series. It focuses on the Granger brothers, Ashe and Gideon, who appeared in supporting roles in PRIMAL INSTINCT. To read an in-depth description of that world, just click on the pink-link series title above.
Here is a summary of the salient points of this mythology: Ashe and Gideon are Deschanel vampires. Each one is at his sexual prime and is due for his burning—his sexual union with his soul mate, who is selected by fate. The burning is similar to the sexual awakening suffered through by Lora Leigh's couples in her BREEDS series. Both members of the couple feel unrelenting waves of arousal when they are near the other, and both have erotic dreams about the other when they are apart. Their feelings of sexual arousal are exclusively limited to one another; sex with anyone else is unsatisfying. Here's how Ashe describes it: "Burning. Baking. Being in heat. They all meant the same, each referring to the primal change that a normally cold-skinned Deschanel male experienced once he found his intended mate; that one woman meant to bring balance to his life. A violent, visceral wave of heat that twists and turns through his veins, growing more intense the longer he waits to claim her."(Deadly is the Kiss, p. 10) In order to make the mate bond complete, the male bites the female, injecting a sexual venom. After that, the lives of the two are irrevocably joined, and when one dies, the other soon follows.
BOOK 1: Deadly Is the Kiss
The burning between Ashe and Juliana Sabin began building back in the PRIMAL INSTINCT series, but neither has acted on it. Ashe has tried to break the burning with mindless assignations with countless women, but it hasn't worked. Juliana and her family have been banished by the Deschanel Council to the Wastelands, but no one—not even Juliana—will tell Ashe why they were banished. Ashe now views Juliana as a criminal, but he is determined to discover just what crime she committed, so he has been asking questions and poking into dark corners trying to find some clues. Unfortunately for Juliana and her family, Ashe's investigation triggers attacks on her family. Apparently someone doesn't want the truth to surface and has decided that the best thing to do is wipe out the Sabin family once and for all. As the story opens, an anonymous person has contacted Juliana in the Wastelands and has left notes guiding her through an escape. The notes tell her to contact Ashe for help in protecting her family. When Juliana and Ashe find one another, she convinces him to help her.
Beyond the romance plot, the action involves repeated attempts by various Assassin League mercenaries to capture/kill Juliana. The couple travels from one safe house to another only to find that nowhere is safe. The assassins keep tracking them down, and Ashe keeps fighting them off. Juliana is not the smartest heroine in the world, and she keeps having TSTL moments in which she refuses to hide from the assassins and then is completely unable to defend herself. She also withholds critical information from Ashe that would probably have kept him from being seriously injured. The action sequences come mostly in the second half of the book, which races along to a conclusion with a major twist that, I must admit, I didn't see coming.
The problems in the romance between Ashe and Juliana come down to a lack of trust on both sides. Juliana won't tell Ashe the truth about her family's banishment because she believes that he will really hate her if he knows what she did. Ashe won't tell Juliana that they are fated to mate—that the burning has begun. (The effects of the burning on women are much more subtle than on men, so sometimes they don't realize that it has begun.) Ashe is an über-alpha hero, and being under the effects of the burning makes his lust levels so high that his approach to sex is mostly an unrelenting search for physical fulfillment rather than romantic love-making, and that can be a bit off-putting at times.
This is a solid start to a new series. Byrd is a great story teller and knows how to propel the plot forward with a nice mix of sex, angst, and action. The next book will probably feature Ashe's brother, Gideon, who shows up in this book in a few scenes to help the lovers on their quest for proof of the truth about Juliana and her family.