Series: DEADLY ANGELS
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4-5; Sensuality—4; Humor—4
Publisher and Titles: Avon
1 Kiss of Pride (4/2012)
2 Kiss of Surrender (11/2012)
3 Kiss of Temptation (3/2013)
6 Even Vampires Get the Blues (8/2015)
7 The Angel Wore Fangs (6/2016)
bestselling author Sandra Hill continues her sexy DEADLY ANGELS series with a good demon who might finally get his vangel wings.
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 brothers—especially Vikar—have 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.
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.
NOVEL 1: Kiss of Pride
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 all—just 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 villain—cruel 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
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 around—an 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 minions—including 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"
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 sin—a 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 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 scene—a 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 industry—lots 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.
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 scent—he 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?
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 Amazon.com page. Just click on the cover art.
NOVEL 7: The Angel Wore Fangs
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 childhood—a 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 spirit—joining cults, going off on adventures with shady people, and having love affairs with conniving men. Andrea has a job that she loves—pastry chef at an upscale Philadelphia restaurant—but 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 time—back 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 Amazon.com page by clicking on the cover art.