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Saturday, September 29, 2012


Author:  Nina Bangs   
Plot Type:  SMR   
Ratings:  V3, S3, H3
          Eternal Pleasure (Leisure, 2008)
          Eternal Craving (Leisure, 2009)
          Eternal Prey (Avon, 2010) 
          Eternal Shadows (TBA)

     For all of you fans of Nina Bangs' GODS OF THE NIGHT series, here are two Facebook messages that Bangs posted on 9/28/12 to bring readers up to date on that series. Click HERE to read my review of this series. 

        Post #1:        
     This post is only for those who have read my GODS OF THE NIGHT series. I explained the situation with this series earlier in the year, but I want to go over things again for those who missed it. I have no contract for any more of the Gods of the Night series. Publishing is about making money, and if a series doesn't sell enough books, the publisher just doesn't buy more of them. This isn't a slam against publishers, because they have a right to make a profit. I do have contracts for other books (CASTLE OF DARK DREAMS and a novella that might lead to a new series). Since my first concern has to be my contracted books (my income), I have to write any future GODS OF THE NIGHT books in between deadlines. Not easy for someone who is an incredibly slow writer. So, yes, I am working on Rap's story, but no, I can't tell you when it will be finished. I hope this clears up the confusion.

       Post #2:        
     Just to prove that I really am writing Eternal Shadows (Rap's story), here is the beginning of it:

     Talk about wasted talent. He was the most dangerous thing in Times Square right now... Rap glanced at a few passing humans. Okay, so there were a few other scary dudes here too. But he was still at the top of this particular food chain. 

     And what did the boss have him doing? Fin had ordered him to follow the two women just in front of him and convince them to visit his penthouse condo overlooking Central Park.

     No problem. He’d just tap them on the shoulder and introduce himself. “Hey, I’m Rap, ladies. Just follow me and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.” Right. They’d kick him in the balls and run away shouting pervert.

     Fin would say he had to be a little more subtle. What the boss didn’t understand was that there was no way to finesse what he had to say.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


Author:  Angie Fox   
Series:  MONSTER M*A*S*H   
Plot Type:  Romantic Fantasy  
Ratings:  Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-3-4
Publisher and Titles:  St. Martin's  
          Immortally Yours (8/2012)
          Immortally Embraced (2/2013)
          Immortally Ever After (8/2013)(FINAL)

     This post was revised and updated on 11/18/13 to include a review of Immortally Ever After, the third and FINAL book in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of books 1 and 2:  

            BOOK 3:  Immortally Ever After             
     As the story opens, the immortal war is in the midst of a cease firebut not for long. All of a sudden, the old gods begin using kamikaze dragons to bomb the troops of the new gods, and Petra and her colleagues are swamped with new casualties. Just before that happens, though, Petra gets two major shocks: First, her old boyfriend Marc proposes marriage. Then, moments later, her true love Galen of Delphi shows up with Leta, a gorgeous female dragonboth with serious injuries. Marc is a dragon shifter with whom she has been living since he turned up once again in her life after an absence of many years (in book 2). Galen is the warrior whose life Petra saved (in book 1) and with whom she had a steamy affair until he left her at the beginning of book 2, telling her that she should forget him and go on with her life.

     The romance part of the plot concerns Petra's relationships with Marc and Galen, and it provides answers to many questions: Which man will Petra choose? Will she accept Marc's proposal? Will she forgive Galen for walking out on her? What is Galen's relationship with the beautiful Leta?

     The action part of the story involves more mysterious prophecies, each one centering on Petra and each one more dangerous than the previous one. Major events include a baby shower for Medusa, various attempts to keep Galen and Leta hidden from some dangerous military inspectors who are tracking them, a battle between two dragons, and the birth of Medusa's baby.

     This book ties up all the loose ends and provides HEAs for all of the good guys and gals in an unexpected progression of events. Each prophecy plays out, but not in the way Petra (or the reader) expects. The finale brings everyone togethergods, supernaturals, and humans alikeand resolves all of the conflict in a satisfying manner. Click HERE to go to the page for Immortally Ever After. Click on the book cover at the top left of the page to read an excerpt.

     In this world, the earth is completely under the control of the gods of various pantheons, and those gods are involved in a winner-take-all war. As the new gods fight the old gods for control of the world, they conscript humans, shape shifters, vampires, and demi-gods who have skills needed to support the war effort. People who are drafted will probably never see their earthly home and family ever again, because their draft period extends through to the end of the conflict, and the prospects for the war ever ending are slim to none. Time off is almost non-existent: "The army granted each soldier twenty minutes topside for every year served....Regulations prevented anyone from cashing in leave until they had a week. It would take more than five hundred years to get that kind of break." (p. 44)

     The action in this series takes place in and around a paranormal mobile army surgical hospital unit (aka M*A*S*H) that is located in Limbo and is on the side of the new gods. The series heroine is Dr. Petra Robichaud, a half-fairy thoracic surgeon who had just set up a new practice in New Orleans when she was drafted by the new gods. The day-to-day activity in the M*A*S*H 3063rd unit is reminiscent of the prank-filled, humorous episodes of both the M*A*S*H TV series and the movie. The 3063rd is home to a motley crew of oddball characters, and the tight quarters and long, grueling hours combine to amplify their quirkiness. 

     The characters spend a great deal of their downtime watching the Paranormal News Network (PNN) on their battered old television. With its patented newspeak and familiarly named reporters, PNN is a very funny parody of CNN and other real news channels. Click HERE to go to the author's Paranormal News Network web site for the latest gossip about soothsaying scandals, "wise men" who secretly use google to find their answers, and the banning of wolfsbane at the Olympics—plus much more.

     This series is not nearly as frenetically side-splitting as Fox's ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER series, but it does have an interweaving of humorous story threads that involve constant pranks among the staff of the M*A*S*H, werewolf-vampire roommate feuds, and gossipy colleagues always eager to dish the dirt. This humorous streak is balanced by the darkness of the war, with horrifically injured soldiers cycling through the operating room, and imps and other nasty creatures hovering just outside the 3063rd's wards, ready to attack the staff whenever they get the chance.

     Click HERE to read the author's short essay on the series on

          BOOK 1:  Immortally Yours          
     Although Petra is the best M*A*S*H surgeon in the new gods' army, she's also the most cynical and hopeless. Petra works extra-long days and nights patching up wounded humans and demi-gods as they are helicoptered to the 3063rd. In her off time, she heads back to her bunk in a tiny tent that she shares with two males—a meticulously neat vampire and a vegetarian werewolf who misses his wife and kids so much that he thinks and talks about them constantly.

     One day, Commander Galen of Delphi (a sexy war hero) arrives on Petra's operating table, fresh from battle, with a poisoned bronze knife still stuck in his chest. When Galen dies while Petra is removing the knife, she grabs his spirit—his soul—and forces it back into his body, thus bringing him back to life and revealing her big secret to Galen. Petra is terrified that when Galen figures out what happened, he will turn her in for being able to see and touch the dead. As it happens, an ancient prophecy states that a healer whose hands can touch the dead is supposed to be the key to ending the war. Neither side wants that to happen until their feuds are settled, so whenever the gods discover someone who can see or touch the dead, that person is dragged off, never to be seen again. Petra is terrified that she will be next.

     Galen, though, is not interested in reporting Petra's abilities to the gods. He believes that the two of them have been brought together by the fates to complete all three of the prophecies and end the conflict (while enjoying each other's physical charms in the process). The plot follows the couple as they argue about what to do and grow ever closer to falling in love. Galen is an optimist, filled with hope and faith in his belief that he and Petra can save lives by ending the war. Petra is a pessimist who refuses to accept any responsibility for the prophecies. She just wants to maintain the status quo, which includes keeping her secret from the gods.

     This is definitely an inventive mythology—not completely fresh but full of possibilities. Petra and Galen are moderately well-defined characters, with the unusual choice of Galen as the optimist, which usually is the woman's role. Neither character has much depth, though, and their hook-up seems mostly based on physical attraction in the usual paranormal romance way. The humor is chuckle-worthy most of the time, and the quirky characters add complexity and humor to the plot. Click HERE to read the first chapter. 

          BOOK 2:  Immortally Embraced                 
     As this book opens, Petra is shocked and dismayed to learn that her lover, Galen, has been ordered back to active duty. Her grief doesn't last long, though, because she soon gets a surprise visitor—Marc, her dragon-shifter fiancé, whom she believed to be dead. Years ago, when Petra and Marc were still in medical school back in New Orleans, the Old God Army drafted Marc to their side of the war. Then, ten years ago, Petra and Marc's family were notified that he had been killed in action. Now that Petra knows that Marc has been alive all this time and that he has allowed her and his family to believe that he was dead, she has mixed feelings about him. On the one hand, she is ecstatic to see him again, but on the other hand, she is furious that he allowed his loved ones—particularly herself—to think he was dead.  

     So...why in the world would Marc contact Petra now, after all this time has passed? Well, that is the crux of the story. As it turns out, one of Petra and Marc's former professors, who was recruited by the Old Gods to develop weapons, has killed himself. Now, his ghost is hanging around his lab trying to destroy all of his research. Marc wants Petra to communicate with the ghost to find out what is going on, which means that she will have to go behind enemy lines, which would result in immediate execution if she is caught. In the meantime, the oracles make another set of prophecies that mention a powerful weapon. Could  there be a connection between the professor and the weapon in the prophecy?  

     Of course, the development of the romance is just as important as the action part of the plot, and that romance proceeds down a very bumpy road. Marc continues to defend his actions, explaining that he knew that he would never be able to be with Petra ever again, so it was best that he pretended to be dead so that she could live a normal life and find love with someone else. Petra thinks that Marc's arrogance is inexcusable and that he had no right to make a decision that affected her life and emotions, not to mention the effects of his so-called death on his mother. Marc is one of those stereotypical paranormal romance heroes who is so alpha that you want to slap him upside the head. He is always absolutely sure that he knows what's best for everyone in his life, even though his decisions make everyone miserable.   

     In addition to the main action story, several other threads are woven through the plot. Petra has been working on the development of an anesthetic that will work on demigods, and that research takes some giant, but perilous, steps forward in th latter chapters of the book. In related story lines, a pair of rival goddesses face off in a major power struggle that has some lustful overtones, and Medusa goes through a rough, but amusing, pregnancy.  

      This book has the same strengths and weaknesses as the first one. The world-building and plot are inventive, but the characterization is mostly one dimensional. We don't see as many of the quirky supporting characters in this one, so that means the comedic level is much lower. All in all, I'd say that if  you are looking for a light romantic paranormal read that's a bit different from the usual, you'll probably enjoy this book. Immortally Embraced could be read as a stand-alone, but you will miss the expositional background on the god vs. god war that has created the need for these M*A*S*H units in the first place. 

     After his dramatic exit scene at the very beginning, we didn't see any more of Petra's sexy lover, Galen, but he'll be back in book 3, so get ready for some romantic fireworks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jeff Crook: "The Sleeping and the Dead"

Author:  Jeff Crook
Title:  The Sleeping and the Dead
Plot Type:  Ghostly Horror Mystery
Ratings:  V4; S2; H2
Publisher:  Minotaur Books (7/2012)

     Mary Jacqueline ("Jackie") Pastor Lyons is an on-and-off recovering heroin addict, a former vice detective for the Memphis Police Department (MPD), and a talented photographer. When she's sober, she does free-lance crime-scene documentation for the MPD, a job she got through the recommendation of her Narcotics Anonymous mentor and former MPD colleague, Sergeant Adam McPeake. 

     Jackie is a self-destructive mess of a heroine who seems to destroy every moment of happiness and success she has ever achieved. She describes her childhood self as "the female incarnation of Huck Finn" (p. 150) and provides clues to her character in unexamined asides like this one: "She reminded me of a girl I had once tried to drown." (p. 98) She thinks to herself, "I had a tendency to destroy everything I touched, nothing lasted once I got my claws into it, whether it was a career or a relationship or even something as innocent as a car or an apartment." (p. 45)

     Jackie's marriage has been over for four years, ever since her rich husband found out that Jackie had been cheating on him. In addition to her kamikaze habits, Jackie has been able to see ghosts since she was a child. In her early years, Jackie's brother, Sean, could also see ghosts, so she had at least one person who believed her, but after Sean was murdered by gay-bashers when the siblings were in their teens, she can't mention the ghosts to anyone because they immediately think that she is having a drug-inflicted hallucination. When she isn't sure whether a person is ghostly or real, she looks at her camera's viewscreen, where only corporeal humans show upup 'til now, that is. 

     The story follows Jackie through a week of her life and as it begins, she has just bought a used cameraa Leica M8from James St. Michael, a hot guy who seems shy and much too young for streetwise Jackie. Nevertheless, there's an attraction there. When she learns that James is a long-time suspect in the murder of his wife, Ashley, Jackie isn't sure how to react. Her gut reaction tells her that James is a good guy, but she's never been right about a man in her whole life, so she definitely can't trust her instincts. To purchase the camera, Jackie has borrowed money from the eccentric, slimy, and very wealthy Michi Mori, a Japanese man who spends his time partying with groups of young gay men in his huge mansion. Michi-san pays Jackie a lot of money for her most grisly crime photos, so Jackie keeps selling them to him, even though she knows that if the MPD finds out, she's in big trouble.  The constant exposure to horrific crime scenes eats away at Jackie: "Every drowned baby and every bloody smeer [sic] on the road chipped away at me until almost nothing remained but a cold lizard brain, flicking its tongue and tasting an opportunity to make a buck. The money took the pain away for an hour or two. I couldn't stand to see a dead dog on the side of the road but it was nothing to shoot photographs of some bum cut in half on a train track, because I knew Michi would write me a fat check. But no matter how I tried to kill the horrorwith drugs, sex, oblivionit never went away." (p. 48)

     The central plot revolves around the MPD's search for the Playhouse Killer, a serial murderer of gay men who poses his victims in graphically described, gory scenes from various plays, from Tennessee Williams' Suddenly, Last Summer to William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Throughout most of the book, we never see the actual murdersjust the stomach-churning aftermath. Ever since the murder spree began two years ago, Jackie has photographed all of the Playhouse Killer's crime scenes, and she is just as determined as the MPD to track him down. As Jackie uses her new camera to photograph the Playhouse Killer's handiwork, the camera seems to have a mind of its own as it snaps some shots seemingly on its own, without Jackie's assistance or knowledge. Then, a female ghost begins appearing in Jackie's apartment at night, leaving physical evidence of her presence in the form of an opened door and knotted shoestrings. As the deaths mount, the clues accumulate, and the story moves toward its climactic showdown between Jackie and the Killer.

     I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot is compelling, with its layers of details all coalescing into a breath-holding climax and resolution, but I can't quite believe Jackie as a female character. She reminds me a great deal of Elmore Leonard's Jackie Brown character in Rum Punch, particularly as Pam Grier played her in Tarantino's film. Both characters were created by men and are really more male than female in their actions and emotions (or lack of). Both are drawn as street-tough, hard-hearted womenwhich is all well and goodbut they don't live their lives or react to situations (or people) as the vast majority of women would. In this book, most of Jackie's interior monologues are not introspective in any sense; instead, they are used to provide the reader with a straightforward presentation of background information and personal history without the self-examination and soul-searching that would be natural for a damaged female heroine like Jackie. Jackie's budding relationship with James is, for me, unbelievable because she never shows any real feelings for him. She rarely considers her appearance, always showing up with uncombed hair, disheveled clothing and unwashed body. Most women are just too body conscious to behave that way. When Jackie does change clothes, she just tosses the dirty ones onto the ever-growing mound on the floor of her shower stall. This sounds like something that Lee Child's Jim Reacher would do, or Columbo, but not a woman raised in a middle class home in the southern heartland, no matter how far she's fallen. Now, go ahead and accuse me of female stereotyping if you will, but the fact remains that Jackie as written here just doesn't work for me. In fact, I would have enjoyed the story much more if Jackie had been Jack.

     On the positive side, Crook tells a good story here, with twists and turns that are mostly unpredictable. Quirky characters like Michi and his buddy, Cole, add to the entertainment. Red herrings are few and far between, so pay attention to all of the details as you read the storyprobably in one page-turning, marathon session.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Anthology: "An Apple for the Creature"

Title:  An Apple for the Creature
Editors:  Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner
Authors:  Charlaine HarrisIlona AndrewsMike CareyThomas E. Sniegoski, & Others
Publisher: Ace, 9/2012

     All of the stories in this anthology have a connection with going to school. As Harris says in her Introduction, "There's always something happening under the surface in any given classroom. Some kids come from homes the rest of us couldn't even imagine, some teachers have their own secrets, and there are always dramas, ranging from does-he-like-me? to I-forgot-to-do-my-homework. Toni and I figured there are some dramas that might be a little more out of the ordinary."  This is a nice collection of new storiesall written in 2012. The six best stories are marked with stars: 

"Playing Possum," by Charlaine Harris (24 pages)  
     ELEMENTARY SCHOOL:  In this never-before-published Sookie Stackhouse story, Sookie heads for her "nephew's" kindergarten class with treats for his birthday celebration. (Hunter is actually the son of Sookie's late first cousin, Hadley, but he calls her "Aunt Sookie" because it's easier that way.) When the crazed boyfriend of the school secretary shows up at the school with a gun, Sookie and Hunter's teacher must use every power they have to bring down the villain. This is a typical Sookie story. Not bad, but not outstanding. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in Harris' Harper Connelly  series.

 "Spellcaster 2.0," by Jonathan Maberry (34 pages) 
     COLLEGE: A team of cynical university students work on a research project that seeks to discover "the perfect spell. The spell that may well be the core magical ritual from which all of our world's religions have sprung." When dissension rises within the group, the students learn the importance of faith and the power of magic. This one gets a bit preachy in parts, but all in all, it's a good story. It might have been stronger if less time had been spent on didactics and more on the characterization.

"Academy Field Trip," by Donald Harstad (32 pages)
     LAW ENFORCEMENT ACADEMY: In one of the best stories in the book, two special agents and a deputy sheriff teach a class about solving unusual crimes to a group of experienced officers. When the instructors select one student to work on a special case involving vampires, their reasons for choosing her soon become clear. I have to say I never saw the ending coming. It's a well-told story that keeps the reader wondering right to the final page.

"Sympathy for the Bones," by Marjorie M. Liu (18 pages)
     ONE-ON-ONE TRAINING: As the story begins, the lead character witnesses a death and then tells us, "Later that night, I burned the doll that killed him." In this tale of deadly poppets and magical bones, an apprentice practitioner rebels against the cruel and powerful witch who trained her. The protagonist, who is the first-person narrator, is nicely drawn, as is her mentor,  the evil witch, and the tension builds throughout the story as we wait to see just how far the narrator can be pushed before she pushes back. Although this story is not part of Liu's Hunter Kiss series, you may wish to click HERE to read my review of that series. 

"Low School," by Rhys Bowen (24 pages)
     HIGH SCHOOL: People say that high school is a hellish experience, and in this story Amy Weinstein finds that saying to be literally true. She finds herself in a school filled with bullying students and mean-to-the-bone teachers and is forced to remember a moment in her life when she made a bargain that had consequences she didn't really understand at the time. This is an O.K. story, but  it doesn't quite sustain its suspense through to the end.

"Callie Meet Happy," by Amber Benson (28 pages)
     REMEDIAL WORMHOLE CALLING CLASS: Calliope (Callie) Reaper-Jones has to take a class in remedial wormhole calling because as the president of Death, Inc., she has to be able to transport herself around the planet without the help of her assistant. When the instructor forces Callie to call up a wormhole, she transports herself to a cold and snowy venue where she helps save a young woman from the clutches of a villainous magic user. This is one of the weakest of the stories, with attempts at humor that are based entirely on the use of silly extraneous details (lots of Jimmy Choo shoe jokes) and lame sarcasm (Callie is needlessly and ungraciously sarcastic with everyoneno exceptions). Click HERE to read my reviews of books in Benson's Calliope Reaper-Jones series.

"Iphigenia in Aulis," by Mike Carey (36 pages)
     PRISON SCHOOL:  This terrific story uses the myth of Agamemnon and his daughter to tell a story set in a horrific world in which the Hungries (zombies) have taken over the world, and the non-infected have fled to California. As one teacher exclaims when a student asks a question about New York history, "'s irrelevant. It's ancient history! The Hungries tore up the map. There's nothing east of Kansas anymore. Not a damn thing." In a prison on an army base, Melanie is one of a small group of children who, for unknown (at first) reasons, are kept in solitary cells and strapped down to wheelchairs when they are taken to their classroom. By the end, Melanie (and the reader) learn all of the heart-breaking facts. The story is open-ended, and I'm hoping that Carey turns this mythology into a series. For me, this is the best story in the book, with an intricately devised mythology, sympathetic characters, and a nicely twisted ending. Who knew that all of that could be accomplished in just 36 pages?

"Golden Delicious," by Faith Hunter (28 pages)
     SPOOK SCHOOL: This story is part of Hunter's Skinwalker world, taking place after Raven Cursed and between the short story in Cat Tales and the novel, Death's Rival. The protagonist is Rick LeFleur, a former New Orleans detective who was bitten by a were-jaguar two months ago and is now going through training at the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security (aka, PsyLED Spook School). Rick and his "partners," a permanently changed werewolf and a cuddly but deadly grindylow, must go through a tough final test before they are accepted into the PsyLED ranks. When someone attempts to sabotage Rick's chances, he and his team must work together to discover the truth. This story contains the quotation from which the book's title is taken: "Inside [the box] was a golden apple on a gold chain. 'A Golden Delicious apple,' he said, 'for the...creature.'" This is a nicely structured police procedural story with a well-developed lead character and effectively drawn supporting characters, particularly the werewolf partner, who never says a word but conveys his feelings eloquently.

"Magic Tests," by Ilona Andrews (32 pages)
     MAGIC ACADEMY: This story stars Julie, Kate and Cullen's adopted daughter in the Kate Daniels series. When Kate assigns Julie to find a missing student at the Seventh Star Academy, Julie finds herself involved in a case of magical jealousy and discovers that the Academy might not be a bad place for her to finish her education, particularly when she meets the handsome guy who helps her out on her case. If you're familiar with the KD series, you'll appreciate Julie's description of Kate: "Kate usually dealt with things by talking, and when that didn't work, chopping obstacles into tiny pieces and frying them with magic so they didn't get back up." You will enjoy the story more if you are familiar with the KD series, but it's definitely strong enough to stand alone. The story line is skillfully developed, with a nice build-up to the climactic show-down scene. Click HERE to read my reviews of books in the Kate Daniels series. Click HERE to read my reviews of books in Andrews' The Edge series. 

"An Introduction to Jewish Myth and Mysticism," by Steve Hockensmith (14 pages)
     COLLEGE: Professor Andy Abrams is notorious for his preoccupation with his chosen field of study, Jewish myths and mysticism. When Robert, the abusive ex-husband of his colleague, Karen, comes back to town determined to get her back one way or another, Andy puts his magical talents to good use as he convinces Robert to turn right back around and leaveas quickly as possible. This is an inventive use of the supernatural (can't tell you more than that without spoilers) that uses a semi-Hitchcockian style, with the crucial action taking place in an enclosed space where tension builds and the climax takes a magical turn.

"VSI," by Nancy Holder (24 pages)
     FORENSICS SCHOOL: Claire and Jackson are partner-agents in the Boston FBI field office. Claire is in the waning days of an unhappy marriage to Peter, and Jackson has the unspoken hots for his partner. When they are tapped for a special vampire task force, Claire gets some shocking family news, and the partners get jobs in a brand new FBI unit: Vampire Scene Investigations (VSI). A few illogical plot points make this one of the weaker stories.

"The Bad Hour," by Thomas E. Sniegoski (24 pages)
     CANINE OBEDIENCE SCHOOL: This is a story from the Remy Chandler series. When Remy is hired by a dog trainer to identify the source of a threat, he takes his sentient, mind-talking dog, Marlowe, along as cover and back-up. During their first visit to one of the client's obedience classes, the client's life is put in jeopardy, and Remy and Marlowe must partner up to take out the villain.  You don't need to have read the series to understand and appreciate the story. The mental conversations between Remy and Marlowe are quite humorous in a low-key kind of way. Click HERE to read my reviews of Sniegoski's Remy Chandler series.

"Pirate Dave and the Captain's Ghost," by Toni L. P. Kelner (17 pages)
     WOLFEN WISDOM SEMINAR: This story is part 2 of the Joyce and Dave adventures that began with "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park" in the anthology entitled Death's Excellent Vacation. This time around, Joyce is attending a werewolf seminar to learn the pros and cons of her relatively new shifter life style. Joyce gets way more than she signed up for when her relationship with her boyfriend, Vampire Dave, comes to the attention of a ghostly ferry captain and a human who specializes in supernatural research. This is a light and fluffy story that combines humor and suspense.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Author:  Sandra Hill 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) 
Ratings:  Violence—4-5; Sensuality4; Humor4
Publisher and Titles:  Avon
   1     Kiss of Pride (4/2012)
   2     Kiss of Surrender (11/2012)
   3     Kiss of Temptation (3/2013)
   4     Kiss of Wrath (5/2014) 
   4.5  "Christmas in Transylvania" (novella, 10/2014)
   5     Vampire in Paradise (11/2014)
   6     Even Vampires Get the Blues (8/2015)
   7     The Angel Wore Fangs (6/2016)
   8     Good Vampires Go to Heaven (12/2016)(FINAL NOVEL)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 12/17/2016 to include a review of Good Vampires Go to Heaven, the eighthand FINALnovel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the previous seven novels and the novella. 

                     NOVEL 8:  Good Vampires Go to Heaven                   
New York Times bestselling author Sandra Hill continues her sexy DEADLY ANGELS series with a good demon who might finally get his vangel wings.

Two-thousand-year-old vampire demon Zeb is supposed to spend eternity turning mortal sinners into bad guy Lucipires like himself. That way, they can grow their numbers and fight the vampire angels known as vangels. But Zeb is a bad boy in a good way—secretly working as a double agent for none other than St. Michael the Archangel in hopes of one day earning his wings. Problem is, Zeb’s betrayal is discovered. Hello, demon dungeon.

Until Regina, a foxy, flame-haired vangel witch on a rescue mission, busts out Zeb, along with three oddball Lucipire witches. Hello, temptation!

Their escape unleashes a war to defeat all vangels forevermore. In an epic madcap battle between good and evil, a Demon just might earn his wings and spend eternity with the vangel of his wildest dreams. 

     As the novel opens, vangel witch Regina Dorasdottir is furious that the misogynistic Sigurdsson brothersespecially Vikarhave refused to allow her to join her male colleagues in battle. She complains to Vikar that "For years I have been given the menial tasks. Guard the security gate. Act as backup for the front line team of vangels, which, incidentally, in case you haven't noticed, are all men." In a rage, Regina demands that Vikar send her to rescue Zebulon from his year-long imprisonment in the frigid dungeon that the Lucipire leader, Jasper, calls Horror. When Vikar reminds Regina that the Archangel Michael has commanded that "You men all of you, are forbidden from rescuing Zebulan," Regina points out to Vikar that she is not a man, so she has every right to go on her very own rescue mission. And so she does just that, with Vikar's roars of rage ringing in her ears. When both Zeb and Regina begin exuding a mating scent as soon as they meet (cinnamon for her; rain for him), we know immediately that they are life mates, although they deny it throughout most of the book.

     At this point, the story goes into silly mode when Regina stumbles into Jasper's snowbound castle and immediately runs into three Lucipire witches (nicknamed the Crazy Coven) who claim that they will help her rescue Zeb if she will take them with her to the vangel stronghold. These three demon witches are absolutely ridiculous in their behavior and their dialogue. Hill certainly must have meant them to be humorous, but "cringeworthy" would be a better word to describe their effect on this reader. In any case, after an absurd series of events, the escapees finally make it to the vangel castle in Transylvania, Pennsylvania.

     When Jasper discovers that Zeb and the witches have escaped, he and Satan declare all-out war on the world at large, with special concentration on the vangels. The rest of the plot plays out in a series of scenes featuring Zeb and Regina falling for one another as they teleport from one battle scene to another. Since this is the final novel, you can guess who wins the ultimate battle. Of course, that poses a number of questions: Will Michael send Zeb to Hell for being a Lucipire, or will he become a vangel due to his recent good deeds? (Hint: Read the book's title.) If there are no more Lucipires, there will be no need for vangels, so what will happen to them? Will Zeb ever be able to let go of his guilt over his role in his human family's deaths, or will he and Regina achieve their HEA?

     To my great disappointment, Hill has presented us with a half-hearted ending to her series. She had to end it with Zeb’s story, but she could have put a bit more thought into it. In order to get the book to novel length, Hill stuffs in pages of historical information about the battle of Masada (which played an important role in Zeb’s human life) and about the catacombs (aka City of the Dead) under the Vatican. Also part of the padding are a number of detailed, repetitive descriptions of Cnut's hair style, which (as we have been told MANY, MANY times) is copied from Ragnar Lothbrok's hair style on the TV show, The Vikings. (See the photograph in my review of "Christmas of Transylvania." Hill has described this hair style so many times in so many of the books, that I truly thought she would omit it from this one. I was wrong.

     Hill includes a number of lengthy scenes with the three demon witches, which provide little or no humor and have hardly any purpose. The only slender connection between the witches and the Zeb/Regina romance lies with the Cajun demon-witch Beauregard ("Beau") Doucet, who is an old friend of Tante Lulu down in Louisiana. Beau’s dialogue overflows with folksy, heavily Cajun-accented remarks (for example, “Ah bet that hurt worse’n a cat tail in a possum trap.” “Ah smelled bad enough ta knock a dawg off a gut wagon.” "I think mah tonsils jist shook hands with mah family jewels."And on and on.

     Much of the early humor in the Zeb/Regina relationship centers on poor Zeb's penis, which Jasper's minions encased in a close-fitting, barbed wire cage. Naturally, this dire situation requires a major postponement of any actual love-making activity until Regina manages to cut off the cage and stitch up Zeb's man parts. After he finally heals, the two get right down to business. And of course, when the Sigurdsson brothers hear about Zeb's cage, their dialogue immediately centers solely on penis jokes.

     For a change, Hill immerses the reader into a few of the battle scenes, mostly to demonstrate how well Zeb and Regina work as a team. Near the end, Zeb takes an action that seems quite reasonable to me, but which gets him thrown into Vikar’s dungeon and earns him Regina’s anger as she accuses him of betrayal. At this point, I was saying “Huh?” to myself because Regina’s actions in going off against Vikar's orders to rescue Zeb seemed much more serious than what Zeb did. Either I missed something, or Hill just needed a dramatic, emotional ending to the book (and series).

     In any case, if you love this series, you will love this book. Obviously, I do not love the series, so the book doesn’t work for me. When I took a look at the handful of Amazon reviews, they rated the book with 4 or 5 stars, so my conclusion is that Hill has a small hardcore group of fans who enjoy her writing style and her tendency to go for silliness whenever possible.

     Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art.

     Welcome to the world of Viking vampire angels. I guess it was just a matter of time! The Prologue delineates the mythology of the series as it explains just why the Viking civilization faded away to nothing. At first, God liked the strong and handsome Viking warriors, but they offended Him by worshipping false gods (like Thor and Odin) and becoming arrogant and bloodthirsty. One Viking family in particular was singled out for God's wrath because each of the seven Sigurdsson brothers committed one of the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. As punishment for their arrogance, God decided to force the Vikings to blend in with other cultures, thus losing their own cultural identity. In addition, the brothers were sentenced to serve 500 years of roaming the earth doing good works. The big surprise is that they are going to be Viking vampire angels—or "angels-in-training." The brothers are called the VIK, and they and the rest of the Viking vampires are called vangels.

     The vangels are mentored by the Archangel Michael (aka "Mike"), a strict disciplinarian who demands that they follow his rules. His main rule is: No sex before marriage. Because the brothers are arrogant and lusty Vikings, they keep breaking this particular rule (and others) and thus have had centuries added to their original 500-year sentence. 

     The main task for the vangels is to defeat Jasper, Lucifer's chief minion on earth, who has his own vampire warriors—called Lucipires (nicknamed Lucies). Lucies feed on human souls, sweeping in when a human is at his or her most degraded point to suck away the soul before that person has a chance to seek redemption. "Lucipires generally only attacked those who had already committed some grave sin or were contemplating such. Everything from bad to truly evil; the Lucipires weren't particular. They just helped the victims along the path to Lucipiredom by fanging them with a sin taint. If the humans were already advanced on the road to Hell, that's all it would take to kill them, making their bodies disappear and be transported to whichever headquarters was to handle the torture and change to Lucipires." (Kiss of Wrath, p. 62)

     If a victim still has a chance for redemption after being fanged with a sin taint, that person will smell like lemons, a scent that attracts both Lucies and vangels. At that point each sin-tainted individual can use his or her free will to choose either redemption or Lucipiredom. The vangels spend their time offering redemption to save these human souls and then killing as many Lucies as possible. Unfortunately for the vangels, they have only a few hundred warriors, while Jasper's Lucies number in the thousands.

     The vangels have pale skin until they rescue someone's soul and drink the dark taint from that sinner's blood. Then they look like they have a tan. Sunlight causes their color to fade. The Lucies can take on a human appearance when they are on earth, but in their demon form they are scaly, red-skinned creatures with burning red eyes and reptilian tails. When they are on earth their "human" skin turns bright red in the sunlight. The only way to kill a Lucipire is to puncture its heart with a sword or bullet made from a special metal or to cleave its head apart from the top to the chin—straight down the middle of the face.

     Each book tells the love story of one of the brothers: Vikar, Trond, Ivak, Harek, Sigurd, Cnut, and Mordr. The humor is broad and kind of hokey, the plots are preposterous, and the premise is a bit silly, but if you like hot love scenes and inane dialogue and don't mind a rather casual attitude towards religion, you might enjoy this series. 

                            NOVEL 1:   Kiss of Pride                            

     The series opens with the story of Vikar, the eldest of the seven Sigurdsson brothers, whose sin is pride. Vikar is a tall, blond, blue-eyed man-hunk, and he knows it. We get his sad back-story in the Prologue, but I won't go into it here. Vikar is currently rehabbing a tumble-down castle in Transylvania, Pennsylvania, a small town that has changed its name and its culture to jump on the vampire bandwagon. The town businesses all have vampire names and themes, and everyone walks around wearing fake fangs and black capes. Vikar plans to use the castle as the new headquarters for the vangels. Just as he's in the middle of figuring out how to get the place in shape before a visit from the Archangel Michael (their boss), an investigative journalist comes knocking on his door. That would be Alexandra (Alex) Kelly, whose boss sends her out of Washington, D.C., to get her mind off the upcoming murder trials for the two Mexican drug cartel thugs who murdered her husband and daughter several years ago. Alex has already purchased a gun, and she plans to kill the two men herself if the justice system doesn't do the right thing. Alex's murderous plans make her prime prey for the Lucipires, who are attracted to sinners.

     As soon as Vikar meets Alex, he realizes that she has already been bitten by a Lucipire. He basically kidnaps Alex so that he can cleanse her blood of sin, which means that the two of them must drink each other's blood several times over a period of days. Naturally enough, they are soon lusting for one another, but they can't have fully consummated sex because the Archangel Michael would add centuries to Vikar's sentence if he has sex before marriage. Vikar learns from one of his brothers that "near-sex" isn't as great a sin as total sex, so Vikar and Alex are soon having all sorts of graphically depicted sexual adventures, stopping just short of home base.

     The thin action plot involves Jasper's scheme to harvest a whole boatload of sinners by offering a sinner's cruise. The vangels must stop the cruise, save as many potential sinners as possible, kill lots of Lucies, and attempt to take down Jasper. All of this takes just a few pages about 3/4 way through the story, and then it's back to the romance plot. Except for the climactic (and heart-rending) showdown with Jasper, which involves love and self-sacrifice, the rest of the story is pretty much devoted to the love story. The high violence rating is due to Jasper's horrific torture scenes, which are described in bloody, graphic detail. 

     The story is divided into chapters, and the chapters are further divided by boldface, indented, sarcastic quips, which interrupt the action but don't necessarily signal a change of scene. It took me awhile to realize that these "interrupters" are there apparently as a humorous device and not as a signal of any kind to the reader. They appear in the middle of continuing conversations so they break the flow and can be quite annoying, particularly since they aren't very funny.

     This is definitely a light and fluffy story, but it would have been better if there hadn't been so many slip-ups in the story telling. For example, in one scene, Vikar and Alex are meeting in his office. At the top of the page, they get up and leave the room. Then, they continue their conversation, and at the bottom of that same page (p. 59), they get up and leave the room again as if for the first time. That's very sloppy editing. This isn't the only inconsistency (it's just the only one that occurs on a single page), and that's a problem. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Kiss of Pride.
                            NOVEL 2:  Kiss of Surrender                            
     Trond Sigurdsson's sin is sloth; he's just plain lazy. Over the centuries, Tron has been a gladiator, a cowboy, a ditch digger, and a sheik. Now he has joined the U.S. Navy SEALs so that he can stop the Lucipires from sucking away the souls of two of his SEAL comrades. Unfortunately, Trond finds himself distracted by a sexy female WEALS (acronym for a fictional female equivalent of the SEALs: Women on Earth, Air, Land, and Sea). Nicole Tasso, who joined the WEALS after a bitter divorce and a short career as a police officer, is suspicious of Trond. She is sure that he has secrets, and a background check has confirmed that he is a "ghost"—with no records to substantiate his past. 

     The two flirt with one another, but Trond tries to keep his lust in check because he doesn't want his mentor, Michael (the archangel) to add any more years to his vangel sentence. Early in the story, Trond tells Nicole that he is gay, hoping that she will think that the secrets he is keeping have to do with his gayness and that she will stop investigating his background. Trond's gayness becomes a running, not-very-funny joke in the story. It makes no sense from the very beginning, and it gets to be more ridiculous as the story moves along, with Nicole constantly trying to prove to herself and to Trond that he isn't gay at all. First, she drags him into a utility closet for some up-close and personal seduction. Later she tells him "If I were your woman, you couldn't be gay." (p. 211) 

     In the meantime, Jasper (the head of the Lucipires) is working an evil plan that involves sending out his Lucies to steal a handful of members of the world's most elite fighting forces, including the SEALS. That way, he can strengthen his troops with men and women who come with a fine-tuned set of battle skills. When Trond's SEALS are sent to the Middle East to rescue some kidnapped women from a terrorist's harem, Jasper sends his Lucies to intervene. This Middle Eastern caper is patterned after the Osama bin Laden mission in Pakistan, but in this case the villainous terrorist is Najid bin Osama, who is supposedly Osama bin Laden's mysterious illegitimate son.

     One of the subplots follows the story of Zebulan, one of Jasper's top demon minions, who is tired of his murderous life and wants out. His plan intersects with the SEALs' rescue mission and dramatically affects the outcome of that climactic battle for Trond and Nicole.

     Just as in book 1, the plot of this book is as light as a balloon in a windstorm. And also like book 1, there are plenty of hot "near-sex" scenes. The primary difference between the two books is that this one is much less violent. If you're looking for a lightweight, humorous, sexy paranormal romance, you might enjoy this series. But don't be fooled by the cover art—this is definitely not urban fantasy. The story overflows with all sorts of SEAL slang expressions, all of which are defined in the glossary that ends the book. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Kiss of Surrender

                            NOVEL 3:  Kiss of Temptation                            

     Ivak Sigurdsson's sin is lust. As part of his penance, the Archangel Michael has assigned him to be the chaplain at the all-male Angola Prison in Southern Louisiana. There he meets and tries to help Leroy Sonnier, whose sentence was extended to life after a prisoner died while attacking him. Another prisoner lied about the death, blaming it on Leroy, and Leroy's sister, Gabrielle, is a lawyer who is working to set her brother free.

     In the meantime, Jasper's minion, Dominique, is working hard to increase the number of Lucipires (aka Lucies) in the New Orleans area and has begun to infiltrate the prison in search of likely prospects. Dominique's nightclub/headquarters is directly across the street from Gabrielle's apartment, and that becomes a key part of the plot later in the book.

     The humor/romance part of the plot involves the lust/love affair that develops between Ivak and Gabrielle. All of the vangels are forbidden to have sex outside of marriage, but in this book, the author gets around that restriction by having the couple share a series of bizarre sex dreams. The romance is aided by the LeDeux family, a fun-loving Cajun clan that the author brings over from her CAJUN CONTEMPORARY SERIES. The LeDeux family matriarch, Tante Lulu, provides lots of humorous dialogue (all in a thick and quirky Cajun dialect).

     The catalyst for getting Ivak together with the LeDeux family is Ivak's assignment to put together a prison talent show to accompany the annual Angola Prison Rodeo. Tante Lulu and her clan are famous for their talent shows, so they agree to help. In the process, Ivak meets Gabrielle, and lust flairs up immediately.

     This story is, first and foremost, all about the romance, with the action plot taking a back seat to the humor and the sex. In fact, the inevitable showdown between the vangels and the Lucies requires only a page or two of narrative, with absolutely no details at alljust like the previous books. For me, each book has been a let-down as the author appears to be building up to a big, climactic battle between the good guys and the bad guys and then just glosses over the scene in a paragraph or two. Although the vangels are always worrying about jasper and his minions, they never have any trouble wiping out each group of Lucies they meet. Unfortunately, Jasper is a one-dimensional, cardboard villaincruel and heartless with absolutely no redeeming qualities. He would be much more interesting if his character had some depth.

     If you enjoy preposterous plots filled with broad humor and populated by stereotypically sassy (but ultimately submissive) heroines and arrogant (but kind-hearted) heroes, You'll probably enjoy this book. Beware, though, that there is no drama or suspense. From beginning to end, there is never a doubt that the good guys will win every battle and that the lead couple will achieve their HEA without much of a fuss. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Kiss of Temptation.

                           NOVEL 4:  Kiss of Wrath                           

     In his early years, Mordr Sigurdsson was called Mordr the Brave, but after his family was butchered and tortured he went on such a horrific killing spree that his name became Mordr the Berserker. Ever since the horrible moment eons ago when he found his dead children, he can't bear to be near any children, and he has a terrible time controlling his violent temper. If you've been reading the series, you know that the Sigurdsson brothers are the first vangelsViking vampire angelsand that their boss is Michael the Archangel. Michael gives the vangels assignments that play directly into their sinful weaknesses, so when he learns of a blended family (a single mother with five adopted children) in Las Vegas that is in danger, he decides that this is a perfect punishment for Mordr.

     Miranda Hart is a successful psychologist in "Sin City," where she counsels clients with various problems that are frequently related to money and gambling. When Miranda's cousin back in Ohio dies from cancer, she leaves a letter for Miranda begging her to raise her five young children. The cousin's husband, Roger, is about to be released from the penitentiary where he has served a sentence for beating his wife and abusing his children. At first, Miranda is horrified that her life will be disrupted so quickly and so completely, but she agrees to take the children, and soon legally adopts them. (A weakness in the story is that the quick adoption seems implausible, given the fact that the father is just about to be freed and would have had to sign the adoption agreement, which he would not have done, based on the portrayal of his character.)

     Knowing that she needs more security for the children, Miranda advertises for a household manager. When Mordr arrives, the children mistake him for the job candidate and invite him in. When Miranda arrives home and finds a huge, handsome Viking in her house, she is uneasy at first, but Mordr soon takes charge of the children, learns to cook fantastic meals, and generally sets their lives in order. He is also a great security system all on his own. Within a day, Miranda and Mordr are sharing passionate kisses, and they take things all the way to complete consummation within a day or so of his arrival. In the earlier books, the heroes indulged in extended scenes of graphic foreplay (no penetration) because of their fear of Michael's punishment, but Mordr appears to have no fear of Michael at all because he skips the extensive third-base sessions and goes immediately for the home run(s).

     As usual, Jasper and the Lucies provide the action plot as Jasper decides that Las Vegas will be a great place to find sinners. Personally, I can't imagine why Jasper hasn't hit "Sin City" long before this. The Jasper/Lucies plot line is murky at best. Supposedly, the Las Vegas caper was set up by Zebulan, one of Jasper's top demons who is a double agent. Zeb wants redemption, so he is spying on Jasper for the vangels. Even though the vangels know ahead of time that the Lucies will be invading Las Vegas, they don't send enough vangel troops to stop Jasper, which allows him to take hundreds of souls. Although the vangels eventually get their act together, we really don't see very much of their battle action against Jasper's demonic forces.

     The real action plot in this book is closely intertwined with the romance plot. When Roger comes to Las Vegas to kill Miranda and somehow get all of her money (again, a very implausible motive since Roger has absolutely no legal way to claim Miranda's estate), he is accompanied by another ex-con who is a pedophile. Roger lets the pedophile talk him into a frontal attack on Miranda and a grab of Roger's five-year-old daughter, Linda. All through the book, Mordr has kept Miranda and the children guarded by at least one vangel (himself or one of his brothers), but when Roger attacks, none of the vangels are aroundan implausibility that the author has manufactured to put Miranda and her daughter in danger so that the vangels can rescue them. Of course, by the time the dust clears, all of the good guys and gals are safe and the happy couple gets their HEA with heavenly intervention.

     Once again, the author has delivered another lightweight romance, although it has elements of horror in the scenes with Jasper and his minionsincluding some touches of sadomasochism. As in the other books, the climactic scenes of resolution are relatively brief and lack detail. Most of the scenes focus directly on the love story and on Mordr's gradual ability to let go of his deep grief and allow himself to love Miranda's children. The children are delightfully portrayed, each with his or own individual personality. Miranda is the usual heroine for this series: attractive, intelligent, and feisty, but prone to impulsive behavior and sexual submission. Mordr's tragic family history drives his personality, with simmering anger always ready to erupt into uncontrollable rage. His scenes with the children are the best part of the story. Hill summarizes the vangel mythology in great detail early in the book so it can be read as a stand alone

     Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from Kiss of Wrath that introduces both of the lead characters. The Prologue tells the sad story of Mordr's murdered family and his fall into rage-filled madness; chapter 1 summarizes the history of Michael and the vangels and introduces Miranda just as she learns that she has inherited her cousin's five children.

                    NOVELLA 4.5:  "Christmas in Transylvania"                    

   If this were a stage play, the set would be a holiday extravaganza with many heavily decorated Christmas trees, yards and yards of evergreen garlands with red bows, stockings hung over multiple fireplaces, dozens of Christmas cookies, and the continuous sound of Christmas music (especially the carols sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks). Enjoy the holiday shenanigans because they are far more interesting and entertaining than the quick-as-a-flash love story.

     Against the backdrop of the holiday celebration, Hill gives us the love story of Karl Mortensen, one of the younger vangels, and Faith Larson, a waitress at the local diner. Faith is being abused by her live-in boyfriend, a loser who is improbably, but accurately, named Leroy Brown (because he's meaner than a junk-yard dog). The story line follows the couple from the scene in which Karl rescues Faith from her abuser all the way through their whirlwind romance to their marriage just weeks later on New Year's Eve. The early part of the story is told with more detail than the later part. It is as if Hill didn't want the novella to get too long so she cut the ending down to the barest essentials. We don't even get the usual scene in which the archangel Michael frowningly confronts the wannabe bride and groom. Instead, Michael just gives in to the goodwill of the season and marries them.

     For me, this was an O.K. story that disintegrated into a too-quick finale that lacked pertinent details. I will say that it was a relief that Hill chose to feature one of the younger vangels because that thousand-year-old Viking nonsense is beginning to feel stale and repetitive. But why did all of the action and drama take place off stage, so to speak? Why did the boyfriend disappear from the story completely after the first scene? What was Karl's sina sin so shameful that he is afraid to tell Faith about it? ("He never spoke of his time in Vietnam, the time of his great sin.") What happened in New York when the vangel team confronted Jasper and the Lucies in the battle outside the church? All of these details are missing from the story. Yes, I know that novellas are, by definition, shorter than novels, but they should be complete, not rushed and unfinished. I'm glad that I got this one free from the library.

Travis Fimmel as Ragnar
Lothbrok in The Vikings

    Pop culture note: In this novella, Cnut Sigurdsson gets his hair and beard cut and styled to look like Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel) in the History Channel's series, The Vikings. If you love swaggering, adventurous Vikings, you'll love Ragnor and his friends.

  Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from "Christmas in Transylvania." Chapter one is all about Vikar and the Christmas preparations at the castle; chapter two features Karl as he goes to Faith's rescue. 

                   NOVEL 5:  Vampire in Paradise                  
     The vangel Sigurd (Sig) Sigurdsson is a physician whose sin is envy. When the demonic Jasper, leader of the Lucipires (aka Lucies) decides to raid a pornography convention on an island in the Florida Keys, the archangel Michael assigns Sig to be the on-site doctor so that he can coordinate the vangels' attack against the demons. Naturally, there is a love interest for SigMarisa Lopez, a single mother with a 5-year-old daughter who is dying from an inoperable brain tumor. Marisa takes a job as a waitress and massage therapist at the porn conference in the hope that she can earn enough money to pay for an experimental medical procedure that is her daughter's last hope. Marisa also knows that there will be some rich men at the conference, and if all else fails, she plans to sleep with one of them in return for the $70,000 she needs to pay the medical bill. This part of her plan makes her vulnerable to the Lucies, because it means that she is planning to commit the sin of prostitution.

     The fact that Marisa has a sick child is closely related to Sig's biggest sin. When Sig was ten, he was so envious of his younger brother's beauty and personality that he intentionally failed to heal Aslak from a fatal illness, even though Sig had powerful healing powers. Shortly after that sad event, Sig and his brothers all died at the hands of Michael and were reborn as vangels (i.e., Viking vampire angels). Sig has suffered from envy all his long, long life. "Never truly happy, never satisfied, he always wanted what he didn't have, whether it be a chest of gold; the latest, fastest, long-ship; a prosperous estate; the finest sword. A woman. And he did whatever necessary to attain that new best thing. Whatever." (Prologue

     The story follows Marisa as she tries to decide whether she will complete an assignation with a repulsive, but very rich, man who has made his fortune in the porn industry. Sig is attracted to Marisa, but he also realizes that she has already been bitten once by a Lucie, putting her in dire danger of being dragged away by Jasper's demons if she goes through with her "sleep-over" plan. That would mean that she would lose her soul and become a Lucie herself. Sig is desperate to save Marisa, but she doesn't believe his story about Viking vampire angels and demons until he seduces her in a long, graphic consummation scenea seduction that is strictly against several of Michael's rules.

     We see a lot of Michael in this book because Sig keeps breaking the rules and even summons Michael several times (a major no-no in the vangel world). Marisa goes back and forth on whether she will give in to the porn magnate, but as the mother of a very sick child, she ultimately feels that she has no choice but to get the necessary money however she can. Will Marisa go through with her sinful plan? Will Sig stop her in time? How will Michael punish Sig? Will Sig and Marisa ever get together? You probably know the answers to most of these questions even before you read the book, but Hill does tell the story in an entertaining and dramatic manner.

     Although there is a major battle between the vangels and the Lucies, we get only quick glimpses of the violence, so the blood-and-guts level is relatively low. On the other hand, the level of disgusting porn obscenities is quite high, particularly during the final big bash at the end of the conference. Hill lards the story with an overload of factual information about the porn industrylots of statistics and historical details that (I'm assuming) are relatively accurate, but not very interesting. 

     For regular readers of this series, one of the high points is that Zebulan (Zeb, the good demon) reveals the horrible sin that caused him to be dragged into Jasper's clutches. I'm hoping that in a future book, Hill will tell Zeb's story and give him a lady love and a position in the vangel ranks.

     All in all, this is a typical book for the series, with the usual rough road to romantic fulfillment, but with slightly less gore. Personal note: I would be very happy if I never again had to read the word "lackwit" in this series

     Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from Vampire in Paradise. The Prologue tells Sig's backstory, and chapter one introduces Marisa and her family. The sixth novel will tell Harek Sigurdsson's story; his sin is greed.

                      NOVEL 6:  Even Vampires Get the Blues                     
     Author Sandra Hill delivers a sizzling new entry in her DEADLY ANGELS series, as a Viking vangel's otherworldly mission teams him with a Navy SEAL who's more than his match—she's his predestined mate. 

     The fact that vampire angel Harek Sigurdsson was a Norseman in his mortal life doesn't make thawing out after exile in Siberia any easier. But things heat up when his search for evil Lucipires connects him with Camille Dumaine, a human who thrums with sensual energy that can mean only one thing: she's the mate Harek's been seeking for centuries

     The SEALs call her "Camo" for her ability to blend into a crowd—yet Harek's intense blue gaze singles Camille out like a white-hot spotlight. The security wiz was hired to help bring down a ruthless band of international kidnappers, but Camille senses an unspoken agenda—besides Harek's bold declaration that she's his "destiny." Just Camille's luck that the sexiest man she's ever met may also be—a vampire!

     Each Sigurdsson brother is guilty of committing one of the seven deadly sins, and for Harek, that sin is greed. A thousand years ago when he was a Viking warrior, Harek did anything he could to make himself wealthier, including human traffickingthe slave trade. That sin is the one that brings down the wrath of Michael the Archangel, who ends Harek's life and makes him pay for his sins by hunting down and killing the demonic Lucipires. 

     In this book, slavery is an important plot element in a number of ways. The action part of the plot focuses on a mission to rescue victims of the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria and to take down as many of the enemy as possible in the process. Boko Haram has been burning down villages and kidnapping children, selling them into slavery to the highest bidder. The vangels are involved because they believe that Jasper and his Lucipires have infiltrated the group. The mission includes not only vangel warriors, but also members of various U.S. military special ops teams along with several FBI and CIA agents. The vangels are posing as operatives for Wings International Security, a private security firm that contracts its services to the government. 

     The slavery element in the romance part of the plot is a threefold connection. 1. Harek's life mate, Camille "Camo" Dumaine deeply despises slavery because prior to the Civil War, her namesake ancestor, Camille Fontenot, was sold at age fifteen to a man who made her his mistress. 2. Coincidentally, the old sugar plantation that Ivak Sigurdsson (Kiss of Temptation) is renovating was originally owned by the man who enslaved Camo's ancestor. 3. When Camo falls for Harek, she has no idea that he was once a slave trader himself, so we wait with bated breath all the way to the end of the book to see what her reaction will be when she finally learns of his terrible deeds.

     Neither Harek nor Camo is looking for a life partner. Harek had three unhappy marriages (and some mistresses) when he was a true Viking, and Camo has been through three disastrous engagements (or as she calls them, "near-marriages"). Her last one happened recently when her cheating fiancé had an affair with her best friend that resulted in a pregnancy and a forced marriage. Harek is sick of following Michael's celibacy rules, so he's more than ready for an affair with Camo, but he's not ready for a life mate. Regardless of their wishes, though, their first meeting results in some major mutual reaction. Right away, each one gets a huge whiff of the other's mating scenthe smells like chocolate, and she smells like roses. Then, when they shake hands, "They both froze, extended hands still clasped. A sensation, like an electrical shock, except softer and coming in waves, rippled from his fingers into hers, then rushed to all her extremities. It was like having world class sex without all the bother." Unfortunately for Harek, his brother Trond witnesses their meeting and immediately cries, "The mating scent! Finally! You've been bitten! Oh man! Oh man! Mike swore a moratorium on any more human mating. I can't wait to tell Vikar and the others." Of course, Harek tries at first to deny what happened, but he pretty much gives in after a few more chapters. Meanwhile, Trond spreads the news throughout the Sigurdsson clan, which, predictably, results in a deluge of snarky teasing.

     The romance plot plays out as it usually does in this series, with an up-and-down romance, denial of the life-mate bonding on the part of the hero, shock at learning about the vangel mythology on the part of the heroine, and an eventual HEA for the lovers. The action plot is heavy on preparation and light on actual fighting.

     Hill includes quite a bit of historical and political information in this book, about both Boko Haram and about the mid-nineteenth century Quadroon Balls in New Orleans, where wealthy white men purchased women of color through a system called plaçage and then made them their mistresses, or concubines. Camo describes the Quadroon Balls as a "marketplace for buying a slave…a sex sale. Call it plaçage, call them placées, but the end result was the same."

      When I read books for review, I use a system of color-coded post-it flags to mark character traits, mythology details, plot elements, and problems so that I don't forget anything when I sit down to write my review. Red is the color of the "problem" flag, and I had several red flags for this novel:

> > In almost identical language Hill twice describes Cnut's new hair style (p. 28 and p. 251). In the previous novel, she also went on at length about it. (See the photograph in my review of Vampire in Paradise.) Cnut is the hero of the next novel, so I am sure that we'll get yet another almost identical description of his hair. Since Cnut does not play a major role in this novel, why does Hill spend (waste) so much time describing his hair?

> > An absurd sub-plot deals with a far-fetched domestic problem between Camo's parents. Other than plot padding, I can't see why Hill shoved that story line into the plot because it is completely improbable; it begins and is resolved in just a few pages; and it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. I will admit that it does help Camo understand that Harek is telling the truth about his vangel mythology, but she was already coming around to believing him anyway. 

> > Late in the story, a character is kidnapped along with a larger group of people (no details because I want to avoid a spoiler). First, we are told that everyone but that character "had been untied." Later, we are told that that character was "the only one who was tied hand and footthe others had their limbs free." Yet, one of the "untied" people is unable to use her hands to help out the "tied-up" character. Why would that be? Then, when the group is rescued, ALL members of the group have to be untied. But they weren't tied up, so why did they have to be untied? Does Hill not know the definition of "limb"? (Merriam-Webster defines "limb" as the leg or arm of a human being) Perhaps she mistakenly believes that only legs are limbsnot arms. Whatever the reason, this entire section is filled with contradictory details that are needlessly confusing. (I HATE to be reading along and then skid to a halt exclaiming, "Wait! What?" because of conflicting details in the story.)

     This is a typical novel for this series, so if you have been reading the earlier books you know what to expect. Click HERE to read an excerpt on this book's page. Just click on the cover art.

NOVEL 7:  The Angel Wore Fangs                            

     New York Times bestselling author Sandra Hill continues her sexy DEADLY ANGELS series, as a Viking vangel’s otherworldly mission pairs him with a beautiful chef who whets his thousand-year-old appetite. 

     Once guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony, thousand-year-old Viking vampire angel Cnut Sigurdsson is now a lean, mean, vampire-devil fighting machine. His new side-job? No biggie: just ridding the world of a threat called ISIS while keeping the evil Lucipires (demon vampires) at bay. So when chef Andrea Stewart hires him to rescue her sister from a cult recruiting terrorists at a Montana dude ranch, vangel turns cowboy. Yeehaw! 

     The too-tempting mortal insists on accompanying him, surprising Cnut with her bravery at every turn. But with terrorists stalking the ranch in demonoid form, Cnut teletransports Andrea and himself out of danger—accidentally into the tenth-century Norselands. Suddenly, they have to find their way back to the future to save her family and the world...and to satisfy their insatiable attraction. 

     This romantic match-up is predictably ironic. With whom does a recovering glutton fall in love? A pastry chef, of course. The Archangel Michael sets up the situation by assigning Cnut to begin a take-down of ISIS by infiltrating one of their American cults. Days after Michael hands down this assignment, Andrea hires Cnut's security firm to rescue her younger sister, Cecilia, from a cult on a Montana  dude ranch that isyou guessed ita recruitment front for ISIS.

     Thousands of years ago when Cnut was Jarl of Hoggstead (back in the Norselands) he spent his gold on fine food and drink for his immediate household (mostly for himself), allowing the villagers to subsist on whatever they could scrounge up. At that time, Cnut was a 400-pound behemoth who ate and drank his way through life. Now, he is fit and lean, but he still views himself as fat, feeling his fatness like an amputee feels an absent limb. And he still LOVES food, although his palate has developed considerably since his days of gorging on roasted pig and blood sausage back at Hoggstead. We learn late in the book that Cnut's gluttony can be traced back to his unhappy childhooda trait that is borne by all heroes and heroines in paranormal fiction. As has been true in the past few books, we get many, many snarky comments about Cnut's distinctive hairstyle, which he has copied from Travis Fimmel in his role of Ragnar 
Lothbrok in The Vikings. (See the image in my review of "Christmas in Transylvania," novella 4.5.)

     Andrea (who also had an unhappy childhood), lost her mother when she was a child and grew up taking care of Cecelia while her father briefly grieved his wife's death and then (less than a year later) married a woman half his age. Cecelia has always been a free spiritjoining cults, going off on adventures with shady people, and having love affairs with conniving men. Andrea has a job that she lovespastry chef at an upscale Philadelphia restaurantbut she drops everything to accompany Cnut on their mission to rescue Cecelia from the cultists. The rescue-Cecelia story line retreats quickly to the background as Hill focuses directly on Cnut and Andrea's adventures.

     The cowboy cultists never really enter the story because by the time Cnut and Andrea arrive at the ranch, Jasper's Lucipires (aka Lucies) have carried off most of the evil ISIS recruiters. (In fact, the ISIS plot line remains so deep in the background that we never catch sight of even a single ISIS recruiter.) A horde of Lucies attacks Cnut and Andrea just as they arrive at the ranch, so he grabs her and teleports them away. At this point, Hill takes a page from one of Diana Gabaldon's books and sends the couple back in timeback to Hoggstead in the Middle Ages, Christmas of 850 A.D. to be exact. As Andrea puts it, "That is just great. Stuck in this Outlander time warp." 

     Cnut is pretty sure that Michael's manipulations have sent them back to Hoggstead in the middle of a famine just as winter is setting in. He figures that Michael is either punishing him or giving him a chance to prove that he has changed his selfish ways by rescuing his people from starvation. The bulk of the story centers on Cnut and Andrea as they settle in at Cnut's castle and quickly fall in lust/love with one another. Because each one begins exuding a mating scent as soon as they meet (coconut for her; peppermint for him), we know from the beginning that they are life mates.

     As usual, the love story is more important than the action story, although there are a few brief scenes in which Cnut takes on a handful of Lucies, sending them to Hell almost immediately and losing only one of his own men. What is different about this book is that it eventually focuses on Zebulan the Hebrew, one of Jasper's top minions, who has been working as a double agent in the hope that Michael will make him the first non-Viking vangel. Zeb will star in the next (probably the final) book and will be life-mating with Regina Dorasdottir, the vangel witch.

     Most chapters begin with a customized menu relating to the action that will be taking place. Some of the menus are humorous (like the menu items for Jasper's Horror Castle: wicked wings soaked in diablo sauce, crispy lady fingers, and marshmallows toasted over hellfire), but they soon get tiresome and I stopped reading them after awhile. There are a few anachronistic moments (for example, Andrea's ability to concoct a starter that allows her to make doughnuts for the starving Vikings and her success in teaching the Viking wives how to use the rhythm method of birth control), but all in all, this is one of the most successful of the books in the series so far. 

     This novel includes all of the usual elements of this series: a flawed hero, a plucky heroine, snarky dialogue, lots of graphic sex, and an HEA ending. This one has fewer plot bumps than many of the earlier books, and the lead characters are more engaging. Click HERE to read an excerpt on this book's page by clicking on the cover art.