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AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UPDATE! Charlaine Harris' SOOKIE STACKHOUSE SERIES: "After Dead"

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Charlaine Harris with a review of After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse, the author's final word on her SOOKIE STACKHOUSE SERIES.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

UPDATE! Christine Feehan's CARPATHIAN/DARK SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Christine Feehan with a review of Dark Lycan, the 24th novel in her CARPATHIAN/DARK SERIES. 


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Debra Mullins: TRUTHSEERS/ATLANTIS TRILOGY

Author:  Debra Mullins
Series:  TRUTHSEERS/ATLANTIS  TRILOGY 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2 
Publisher and Titles:  Tor
          Prodigal Son (10/2013)  
          Heart of Stone (10/2014)  
          Warrior of Fate (10/2015) (FINAL?)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 1/12/16 to include a review of Warrior of Fate, the third novel in this series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first two novels. 

                           NOVEL 3:  Warrior of Fate                           
        FAIR WARNING: This review has spoilers for Heart of Stone.        
PUBLISHER’S BLURB: 
     Warrior Adrian Gray has dedicated his life in service to his people, and has never doubted his calling...until now. Three mystical Atlantean power stones were assumed lost for centuries, but one by one the Seers of Atlantis have tracked them down in a tireless race against the extremist Mendukati. Adrian's mission? To ensure that the stones are acquired and protected by the right people―his people. 

     Adrian has always been uncompromising in his dedication to the cause. But the True Seer Tessa Montana proves a sensual distraction in his quest, and he soon finds his discipline wavering. Torn between his sacred duty to the Warriors and his desire for Tessa, will Adrian and his secrets cost them the war? 

MY REVIEW: 
     Although Mullins weaves a few brief reviews of previous events into the narrative of this novel, she does not include enough details for a first-time reader of the series to make sense of the over-all series plot. Therefore, I do not recommend reading Warrior of Fate as a stand-alone. 

This time around, the romantic representative of the Montana family is 26-year-old Tessa, the spoiled, bitchy daughter who has been the most negative member of the Montana family since the series began. Tessa’s family has coddled her throughout her life, and she has turned into a self-centered sourpuss who blames her overprotective brothers and a long-ago failed love affair for her problems in dealing with life. She constantly complains that everyone treats her like a child, but even as she is complaining, she is behaving exactly like an immature teenager who wants life to go her way—and only her way. At one point, Tessa demands that Adrian stop treating her like a child, and he responds, “Stop acting like one.” Even her mother criticizes her imperious behavior. Tessa’s pouting personality certainly takes some of the shine off this romance, but I admit that she does become marginally more tolerable in the later chapters, although she continues with her on-again-off-again trust issues with Adrian almost to the very end. All in all, Tessa comes across like a steroidal version of Downton Abbey’s haughty Lady Mary. In one sequence, she stomps around berating her father and brothers because they excluded her from interviewing a new employee. Then, a few chapters later, when the family has a major strategy meeting in the aftermath of an attack, Tessa decides to skip it and go to bed because, “It’s been a really complicated night.” So much for wanting to be treated like a grown-up. 

     And now for the action part of the plot: In the previous book, Adrian retrieved the second stone from a cave in Belize, but lost it to his twin brother, Azotay, and was badly injured in the process. Adrian and Azotay were separated when they were ten years old, with Adrian accompanying his father—a council member—to America and Azotay staying behind in Santutegi (their homeland) with his mother. Until Belize, Adrian had no idea that Azotay was the hatchet man for Jain Criten—the villainous, power-mad President of Santutegi who wants to gather all three of the stones so that he can activate them and bask in their power. Now that Adrian knows the truth about his brother, he keeps it a secret, fearing that the Montana family—Tessa, in particular—will no longer trust him. The reader knows immediately that this is a very bad decision on Adrian’s part. Now that Criten has two of the stones, he is desperate to get the third, which is in the possession of the Montana family. Can they protect it in their secure compound, or should they entrust it to the Council of the Temple of Mneseus, stronghold of the Warriors of Atlantis (of which Adrian's cold-hearted father is a powerful elder)?

     Unlike the previous book, the action scenes in Warrior of Fate are scattered throughout the book and include a home invasion and a major kidnapping. The kidnapping is telegraphed way in advance, mostly because it is precipitated by the TSTL decision made by John and Maria Montana to leave the protection of the secure family compound and go off to a charity dinner. The rescuers of the kidnap victims cause their own TSTL moment (during the big showdown scene) when they fail to adequately analyze the means by which their people were initially grabbed by the kidnappers. These are supposed to be very smart people who specialize in developing security systems, so why do they make such dumb mistakes? 

     Just as in the other two novels, the love affair is very rocky—marred by feelings of distrust on Tessa’s part, bad memories of past tragedies for both lovers, and too many secrets kept by Adrian (especially the one about his brother). Tessa veers wildly from being overcome with passion to being completely distrustful of Adrian. There are many graphic bedroom scenes, so if that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy this book. But if you are looking for something new in the paranormal romance genre, you won’t find it here. Unfortunately, Mullins tends to go off on several overblown, melodramatic riffs during some of the interior monologues, like this one in which Adrian contemplates his feelings for Tessa: She was his…his instincts screamed whenever he got near her. It was a chant in his head and a thunder in his heart and the wanton agony of need that burned through his blood. It was the tremble in his hands and the thrust of his c**k and a primal, urgent demand to claim her.” This sounds like a quotation from a bodice-ripper from the 1970s. 

     I’m guessing from the ending that this is the final book in the series, but Mullins does introduce a new character—a gorgeous Atlantis Warrior named Larina Zarnakis—who seems to be quite taken with Rigo, the head of John Montana’s security team, so perhaps we’ll have more novels set in this world. 

     This has been a fair-to-middling paranormal romance series that relies on well-worn tropes and one-dimensional villains. In its defense, though, I’ll admit that Mullins has created an interesting mythology and that a few of her lead characters are developed with some complexity, even taking into consideration their unfortunate penchant for over-thinking every aspect of their developing romancesover and over again. Each book in the series is, essentially, an erotic love story draped over a relatively simple and straightforward plot frame. Click HERE to go to this novel’s Amazon.com page, where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

                           WORLD-BUILDING                           
     The Montana family—the protagonists in this series—are descendants of a survivor of the destruction of the ancient city of Atlantis. All of them have some type of psychic powers that work on everyone but their own family members. I don't want to go into too much detail about the Atlanteans in this post because much of the information isn't revealed until very late in book 1, and I don't want to spoil the story for anyone. If you just can't wait to read about the Atlantis World, click HERE to read an on-line interview in which the author describes her world-building process and the major elements of Atlantean culture in great detail. 

     The series story arc includes three Montana siblings and three missing magical artifacts, so I'm guessing that each book will feature one sibling, one artifact, and one soul-mate romance.

                            NOVEL 1:  Prodigal Son                            
     Twenty-eight-year-old Rafael (Rafe) Montana is a Seer who turned his back on his family five years ago and has been working since then as a bounty hunter for Badda Bing Bail Bonds in Las Vegas. Because he can use his psychic powers to find anyone, he has a perfect record when it comes to tracking down bail skippers. Rafe can also tell when a person is lying, and he can shift into Hunter form (bigger, stronger, and more violent) to defend himself. "Seeing the truth was just the smallest part of what he could do, along with the way he sometimes knew things, like nuggets of information dropped into his mind by the universe. And he could focus on a person and immediately see that person's location. If the image was in color, the person was alive. Black and white, dead. All gifts, the family stories said, from some ancient ancestor in Atlantis. He could find anyone, anywhere. He was a Hunter." (p. 10)

     When Rafe checks the bail-skip files to choose his next case, he comes across the file for Danny Cangialosi and is shocked when he can't "see" Danny. This has never happened to him before, and so he takes the case—determined to figure out why Danny doesn't show up on his psychic radar. While Rafe is searching Danny's empty apartment, Danny's step-sister—Cara McGaffigan—shows up. She is also searching for Danny, who is the only family she has left. 


     Of course, there is instant chemistry between Rafe and Cara because this is, after all, a paranormal romance, despite the fact that it is being marketed as urban fantasy. Their attraction quickly grows hotter and hotter, and within a day or two, they've consummated their relationship, although both pretend (to themselves and to each other) that this is just a temporary fling.


     As Cara and Rafe set out to find Danny, strange things begin to happen. For example: The security director at the hotel that was Danny's former place of employment has hypnotizing powers. Jain Criten, president of the tiny island nation of Santutegi is staying at the same hotel with a team of thuggish body guards and a very bad attitude. Someone trashes Cara's hotel room. A car carrying two scary bad guys follows Rafe and Cara as they head for Flagstaff—Danny's last known location.

     Both the hero and the heroine have many angst-filled interior monologues dealing with their personal tragedies. Twenty-nine-year-old Cara lost her parents and then was rejected by her fiancé because she's too smart and independent (She has two college degrees and is a partner and primary programmer in a computer software company.). Rafe's problem is that five years ago, back when he was a hot-headed young man who couldn't control his powers, he accidentally caused the death of an innocent man and the paralysis of his older brother, Darius. Rafe has lived for years with overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and he fights against his attraction to Cara because he fears that being with him will eventually hurt or kill her: "When she was close, he could think of nothing but her. And that could get us both killed. Which was why he had to let her go. As much as he longed for exactly what she represented…he couldn't let her take the chance…what if he had to fight, to kill, and she got caught in the crossfire?" (p. 328) We've read iterations of these lines so many times that they are just not fresh anymore. Unfortunately, this book does not add any innovations to these overused tropes.

     Another all-too-familiar plot device appears when Rafe and Cara discover that their pursuers are after Danny because he stole a magical artifactan Atlantean gemstonefrom his bossan object that an even more evil villain is determined to take for himself. That villain is portrayed as a one-dimensional sociopath who will do anything to get the stone for himself and will kill anyone who gets in his way.

     Most of the plot follows Rafe and Cara as they take a road trip from Las Vegas to Arizona with the bad guys in hot pursuit. Towards the end of the book, we meet Rafe's family, including the two siblings who (I'm guessing) will inevitably be the stars of the next two books: Darius and Tess. 


     This is a run-of-the-mill paranormal romance with the usual attractive but flawed protagonists and one-note villains—all embroiled in a story line we've seen many times in other series. Cara and Rafe are moderately developed characters, but their dialogue is frequently stilted and their instantaneous lust/love relationship is improbable and stereotypical. Mullins' world-building is interesting, and the general plot is laid out well, but the search for ancient, magical artifacts has been done to death by now. I really had hopes for some freshness and innovation in this series, but so far, it’s just the same old thing. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Prodigal Son


                           NOVEL 2:  Heart of Stone                           

          FAIR WARNING: This review has spoilers for Prodigal Son.          
     The second book tells the love story of Darius Montana and Faith Karaluros. Darius is an empath who can manipulate emotions, and Faith is a Stone Singer who can "channel and utilize the energy stored in any kind of rock, everything from gemstones to the mountains around them to the Earth's core." (p. 11) Faith is supposedly the last Stone Singer on Earth, and her skills are crucial in the mission that is at the center of this series: finding and reuniting the three ancient Atlantean sacred stones and powering them up. The Montana family is the good-guy group, and the Mendukati are the bad guys. In the climax of Prodigal Son, the Mendukati attacked the Montana family's home in an attempt to destroy them and steal one of the stones, but were driven back after a huge battle. 

     A world-building note: Ever since Atlantis fell, the Mendukati have been on a mission to destroy all of the Seers because they believe that the Seers caused the fall. The word "Mendukati" is the Atlantean word for "revenge." The problem is that the Seers had nothing to do with the destruction of Atlantis. They have lived in fear of the Mendukati for centuries and keep trying to tell their side of the story, but the Mendukati leaders are by now so warped in their thinking that their entire focus is on killing the Seers, capturing the three stones, and taking over the world. In this book, we learn exactly what happened on the day that Atlantis fell and who caused its fall. 


     As this story begins, Faith is working at a store in the Old Town district of Albuquerque when two Mendukati warriors try to kidnap her. Faith had been part of the Mendukati during her brief marriage, but she left after killing her husband when he tried to steal her powers in order to destroy a family of Seers. Coincidentally, just as the kidnapping takes place, Darius and Adrian Gray are nearby meeting with Ben Wakete, Faith's beloved father-in-law. They rush to her rescue and convince her to take shelter at the Montana stronghold in Sedona. Meanwhile, the evil Azotay—top dog amongst the Mendukati warriors—figures out Adrian's true identity and makes plans to defeat Adrian and capture Faith.


     All of the action in this book occurs at the very beginning and at the very end. The bulk of the narrative concerns itself with the progression of the love affair between Darius and Faith, a romance that sparks as soon as they meet and flares into a roaring fire within days. Naturally, though, this wouldn't be a paranormal romance if it didn't have loads of angst. Both of the lovers have been through disappointing love affairs before and have dealt with betrayal and pain. Even though their mate bond is established early in the story, Darius compromises their relationship by withholding information from Faith about his empathic powers, so you know in advance that no matter how hot and heavy their romance gets that there will be a major setback when Faith learns the truth.


     This is not a stand-alone novel because it relies heavily on information from the previous book and is basically the transitional piece that connects the first and last parts of this trilogy. if you love traditional paranormal romances, you'll probably enjoy this one. The author does a fine job with her plotting and her character development. Darius is a noble wounded warrior looking for love, and Faith is an emotionally damaged outsider seeking acceptance and family bonds. Unfortunately, the villains continue to be one-dimensional, evil-to-the-core stereotypes—always a turn-off for me. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Heart of Stone.


     The next book will feature the third Montana sibling: Tessa. Her soul mate is Adrian Gray, a man with a hidden identity that is revealed in the final pages of Heart of Stone

Saturday, October 26, 2013

UPDATE! Erin Kellison's SHADOW KISSED SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Erin Kellison with a review of Soul Kissed, the second novel in her SHADOW KISSED SERIES.


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Friday, October 25, 2013

UPDATE! Katie MacAlister's TIME THIEF SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Katie MacAlister with a review of The Art of Stealing Time, the second novel in her TIME THIEF SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

UPDATE! Jennifer Estep's ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SERIES


UPDATE:

I have just updated a previous post for Jennifer Estep with a review of Heart of Venom, the ninth novel in her ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

UPDATE! Chloe Neill's CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRE SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Chloe Neill with a review of Biting Bad, the eighth novel in her CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRE SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

UPDATE! Jeanne C. Stein's ANNA STRONG CHRONICLES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Jesnne C. Stein with a review of Blood Bond, the ninth and FINAL novel in her ANNA STRONG CHRONICLES.


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Friday, October 18, 2013

UPDATE! Liesel Schwarz's CHRONICLES OF LIGHT AND SHADOW SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Lisesl Schwarz with a review of A Clockwork Heart, the second novel in her CHRONICLES OF LIGHT AND SHADOW SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Erin Quinn: THE BEYOND SERIES


Author:  Erin Quinn
Series:  THE BEYOND SERIES
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)      
Ratings:  Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-2  
Publisher and Titles:  Pocket
       The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love (8/2013)
       "The Forbidden Love of Alex Moore" in Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Fiction
       The Three Fates of Ryan Love (1/2015)
       The Seven Sins of Ruby Love (coming in 2016)


This post was revised and updated on 1/29/15 to include reviews of The Three Fates of Ryan Love and "The Forbidden Love of Alex Moore." Those reviews appear first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.


             NOVELLA 1.5:  "The Forbidden Love of Alex Moore"             
     This novella is included in a box set entitled Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Fiction. Although I purchased it for my Kindle several months ago, it is not available on amazon.com as I write this review. Perhaps it will reappear, but I can't be certain.

Here is the publisher's blurb: "Alex’s mission: Kill the hellhounds that have invaded earth and return to his home in the Beyond. But from the start, things go horribly wrong. The hounds are cunning and a human female witnesses their attack—she intervenes and saves Alex’s life. Now he must keep the alluring Lilly alive while fighting his desire for her. When passion flares, Alex risks all to protect her and defend the forbidden life he craves."

     Alex is a soldier from the Beyond who is sent to the frozen North during a blizzard to track some hellhounds that have escaped to Earth. Alex and Lilly meet during an attack by those hounds. They are immediately attracted to one another as Lilly tends to Alex's wounds back at her cabin. As the story progresses, they fight off more hound attacks and fall deeply in love (that well-worn "alone in a cabin in the woods during a snowstorm" syndrome)This is a typical paranormal soul-mate romance, right down to the hero's lonely life and brave protection of his true love and the heroine's tragic childhood (i.e., abandoned by junkie mother, lost foster parents to death, found long-lost sister who then died almost immediately). 

     Don't worry too much if you can't find this novella for purchase because it adds very little to the overall series story arc. The most important concept that emerges from the story is that the Beyond is in a state of flux. More and more Beyond creatures are escaping to Earth, and some are adapting and passing as humanswhich is what Alex eventually decides to do (as we knew he would from the very beginning of the story). 

     The Kindle version has a few grammar and usage errors (e.g., "meddle" for "mettle" and several verb-tense mistakes), but not so many as to be too distracting. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "The Forbidden Love of Alex Moore." 

             NOVEL 2:  The Three Fates of Ryan Love             
     The hero is Ryan Love, eldest of the four Love siblings. After their mother died, Ryan played a major parental role in raising his younger brothers and sisters, particularly the twins, Roxanne and Reece. Reece's tragic death has hit Ryan very hard, and he has suppressed his sorrows by working long hours at the family bar, Love's. Roxanne has left town with her reaper boyfriend, a man whom Ryan dislikes and mistrusts. Ruby is living in the family home.

     As the story opens, Ryan finds a beautiful naked woman in the parking lot as he leaves the bar late one stormy night. She warns him that he must grab his valuables and some clothes and leave the bar immediately because it is going to be destroyed within the hour. That woman is Sabelle (aka S'belle), a seer from the Beyond. Sabelle claims to be an escaped slave of the Fates. Here is her explanation of the Fates: "Destiny is controlled by the Three Sisters of the Fate…The Three control the Coven of Oracles. Seers. They use the seers' visions to shape destiny. Yours. The whole world's…They are very powerful. Even gods fear the Sisters of Fate." Over centuries, the Sisters lost their own seer abilities, so they capture and imprison other seers, use the information from their visions, and manipulate the future to suit their own ends. The head of the Three Sisters is Aisa, a cold and calculating goddess who wants Sabelle back at any cost.

     The story follows the usual two branches: the love story and the action story. Sabelle is already half in love with Ryan. She has been watching him for years, wishing that she could see (and touch) him in real life. Ryan is immediately attracted to Sabelle, but he doesn't trust her completely because he senses that she is holding back on the truth about her reasons for coming to Earth (which she is). Ryan's distrust doesn't stop him from indulging in several graphically depicted bedroom romps with Sabelle, although he almost always suffers from post-coital remorse. The frequent (and lengthy) angst-filled interior monologues deal with Ryan's inability to commit to a romantic relationship and Sabelle's fears that Ryan will dump her when he finds out about her true plans. In the action part of the plot, Ryan and Sabelle travel to Sedona, where Sabelle hopes to meet with someone who has been sending her cryptic anonymous messages and seems to want to help her. Eventually, they link up with some some allies in an attempt to take down Aisa. Near the end of their adventure, Ryan and Sabelle find themselves in life-threatening danger and must put their lives on the line for one another.

     This plot seems more formulaic than the first novel did. The scene at Wal-Mart with the scorpion attack and the out-of-control cars feels awkward and artificial. Aisa is the most boring type of villain, with absolutely no redeeming qualities and no depth beyond her evil, one-note persona. Although Ryan and Sabelle have plenty of lustful physical chemistry, she tells so many lies and half-truths that I never liked her much as a person. Ryan's character isn't very well developed, so I didn't really connect with him. The four allies who join them near the endtwo familiar and two newadd some much needed life to the story. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Three Fates of Ryan Love

             WORLD-BUILDING             
     In this mythology, supernaturals are called Others and they live in a realm called the Beyond"Heaven, Hell, and everything in between." When a human person dies, his or her soul is takenor reapedby a reaper, nameless Others who spend their immortal lives at this single task, all the while trying not to be tempted to take a soul before that person's body actually dies. Some reapers get addicted to accumulating the tiny bits of soul that they retain from every human they reap, and they eventually turn into scavenger demons and then into hellhounds. 

     Others who break God's laws are consigned to Abaddon (from the Book of Revelation, 9), which is comparable to Hell, but much worse. Abaddon is named after its fallen-angel leader (aka King of the Abyss, Angel of Death, the Destroyer), who can command hordes of locusts and flocks of giant ravens to do his bidding. "Scavenger demons took delight in killing, in the terror that consumed their victims, but Abaddon had bathed in their blood. He'd been so cruel, so vicious that he'd been locked away, named for the place of destruction where he'd been banished." (p. 28) To enter mortal Earth, Others must come through portals, and the demons are always trying to break through so that they can cause trouble on Earth. 

       Set in Tempe, Arizona, the series follows the adventures and romances of the siblings in the Love family: Ryan, Ruby, and twins Roxanne and Reece. Each has a magical connection or power, and in each book one of them finds a supernatural mate.

             BOOK 1:  The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love             
     As the story opens, 25-year-old Roxanne Love and her twin brother, Reece, have died and come back to life together three times: once when they were newborns, once by drowning, and once in a car crash. The reaper charged with taking Roxanne's soul is determined to reap her soul once and for all, so he possesses the body of a suicide victim and heads for Tempe to find her. Naturally, the body he possesses is tall, dark, muscular, and totally sexy. The reaper (who has no other name) assumes the identity of his new body: Santo Castillo, a policeman who kills himself because of grief at the deaths of his pregnant wife, his mother, and his surrogate father. When Santo arrives at the Love family's bar, he's just in time to witness a demon invasion in which both Roxanne and Reece are killed (that's death #4) by a scavenger demon and some hellhounds. Santo grabs Roxanne and they go on the run. The story follows them as they are constantly under attack by various demonic Others, including locusts, giant ravens, and more hellhounds.

     The point of view is always third person, but from several viewpoints: primarily Roxanne, Santo, and Reece. This pays off nicely as we are able to get inside each one's mind and watch how each character develops as various events occur and as each has some eye-opening epiphanies. Luckily for the reader, Quinn does a great job of avoiding the usual overload of repetitive angst found in so many paranormal romances. Roxanne has spent her life feeling like a freak because her multiple resurrections have created a storm of publicity and a mob of stalkers. She doesn't know why she keeps coming back, but she does know that each time she dies, someonean unseen male presencecomforts her and makes her feel safe while she's in the Beyond. Reece, on the other hand, comes back from his death trips screaming and panicked; no one is comforting him. Roxanne has always said that she just wants a normal life, but she eventually realizes that, "She was a polite, lonely woman who guarded every word and locked every door behind her. She said that she wanted to be normal, but inside she knew that wasn't possible...She was the woman who tried to jump into a pack of ravenous creatures to save someone she'd never met but was too afraid to reach out to someone she wanted to know. Wanted to know very badly. Wasn't that the opposite of normal?" (p. 187)

     The reaper unexpectedly absorbs all of Santo's memories, emotions, and skills. He can drive a car (and hot-wire one), speak both Spanish and English, and remember every moment of Santo's grief. He even begins to think of himself as Santo rather than as a reaper. As Santo, he also feels lust for the first time in his very long existence. Very soon, the reaper senses that "his identity, already abraded by Santo's, roiled and twisted in the flotsam until even he couldn't determine where one ended and the other began. The line of demarcation between the two vanished in the torrent." (p. 114) In the beginning, the reaper's sole purpose is to discover the secret of Roxanne's immortality and then kill both her and his Santo self by fire, but when he meets her face to face (and body to body), he changes his mind. "Each time Roxanne died and returned to life, he collected a sliver of her soul and those small shards made him yearn for more of her. Always more. It's what had pulled him from the Beyond to take the rest." (p. 62) Santo's biggest fear is that if he tells Roxanne the whole truth about himself, she will hate him.

     This is a well-written paranormal romance, with plenty of compelling action, lots of emotional depth, and excellent character development. The next book will tell big brother Ryan's story. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love

Monday, October 14, 2013

UPDATE! Lee Roland's EARTH WITCHES SERIES


UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Lee Roland with a review of Vicious Moon, the third book in her EARTH WITCHES SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

UPDATE! Seanan McGuire's OCTOBER DAYE SERIES

UPDATE!


I have just updated a previous post for Seanan McGuire with a review of Chimes at Midnight, the seventh book in her OCTOBER DAYE SERIES.      

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

UPDATE! Meljean Brook: GUARDIAN SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Meljean Brook with a review of Guardian Demon, the eighth and FINAL book in her GUARDIAN SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, October 7, 2013

UDATE! Rachel Caine's REVIVALIST TRILOGY

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Rachel Caine with a review of Terminated, the third and FINAL novel in her REVIVALIST TRILOGY.


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

UPDATE! Leigh Evans: MYSTWALKER SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for Leigh Evans with a review of The Thing About Weres, the second novel in her MYSTWALKER SERIES.


Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Friday, October 4, 2013

UPDATE! MaryJanice Davidson's QUEEN BETSY (UNDEAD) SERIES

UPDATE!

I have just updated a previous post for MaryJanice Davidson with a review of Undead and Unsure, the twelfth novel in her QUEEN BETSY (UNDEAD) SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sara Humphreys: DEAD IN THE CITY SERIES

Author:  Sara Humphreys
Series:  DEAD IN THE CITY  
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)      
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2 
Publisher and Titles:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
          Tall, Dark, and Vampire (8/2013)
          Vampire Trouble (7/2014)  
          Vampires Never Cry Wolf (3/2015)
          The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire (1/2016)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 2/6/16 to include a review of The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire, the fourth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first three novels. 

                    NOVEL 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire                    
PUBLISHER'S BLURB: 
He wants eternity? 
Dakota Shelton is a vampire cowboy with a penchant for cinnamon lollipops and Johnny Cash. Though highly skilled and deadly dangerous to his enemies, he's still a Texas good ol' boy at heart. And he has that heart set on wooing Trixie LaRoux—the most badass punk rock chick in town-the old-fashioned way. 

Over her undead body…
Trixie is tough as nails and sharp as a silver stake. The last thing she wants is a man to sit on a porch and not grow old with. So it'll take going to hell and back fighting a new threat to vampires before she admits Dakota's courtship makes her blood hum. Turns out chivalry's not dead after all.
   
MY REVIEW:
     In the fourth novel, two more members of the New York vampire coven find their HEA in a soul-mate romance story that is typical for this series. The major theme running through the book is the power of fate—a power so strong that it can predetermine the destinies of two people decades before they even meet. In this book, Humphreys introduces a third type of supernatural to her mythology and centers the plot around a treasure hunt deep in the heart of Texas. 

     Trixie is a tough-talking pink-and-purple-haired bartender at the Coven, and Dakota is a sentry (a member of the elite vampire police force.) He's a cowboy from Texas, and she's a city girl with a tragic human past. Trixie has been keeping a big secret from her vampire friends: the existence of a daughter she gave up for adoption back when she was a drug-addicted human.

     As usual, the primary story line follows the romance along its rocky road from lust-filled attraction to full consummation and bloodmate commitment. The "commitment" part is the biggest problem for Trixie because experience has taught her that men can't be trusted so it's best to just love them and leave them. She believes that men "did and said anything to get what they wanted. They made promises that were never kept. In the end she was always alone. Abandoned. Worthless. She was powerless…until she became a vampire." Trixie loves being a vampire, especially the strength and independence that it has brought to her undead life. Her biggest fear is that she will become addicted to Dakota like she was addicted to heroin in her human life—which doesn't make very much sense when you really think about it. In any case, that is why she keeps him at arm's length (but not for very long). 

     Dakota seems to be a really great guy: handsome, sexy, good-hearted, and patient. He is highly attracted to Trixie, but he is willing to hold back and give her some emotional space until she succumbs to his manly charms. Dakota notices the sadness that underlies Trixie's street-punk attitude, so he follows her one night when she goes off to check on her daughter, Chelsea, and discovers her secret. He also discovers that Chelsea is in grave danger from a  group of rarely seen shape-shifting supernatural predators. Humphreys has given Dakota the unnecessary and highly irritating personal habit of constantly sucking on cinnamon lollipops because they remind him of the human life he left behind after being attacked and nearly dying before his master turned him fifty years ago. Humphreys frequently inserts the lollipop sucking into the narrative, but then Dakota stops eating them all of a sudden for an unlikely reason. Improbably, Dakota has been celibate throughout his entire vampire life.

     The action part of the story starts when Chelsea (who is pregnant and near her due date) is attacked, and the newly born baby is kidnapped. Dakota has a history with the supernatural creatures who attacked Chelsea, so the couple heads off to Texas to rescue the baby, find a treasure trove, and take down the attacker(s). In the process, Dakota learns that the circumstances of his vampire turning are not what he believed them to be. Like the other heroines in this series, Trixie develops some magical powers that she inherited from her unknown mother (who abandoned her at birth). Her instant success at using her newly discovered talents lends a note of far-fetched implausibility to the story.  

     Although the romance is front and center in this novel, Humphreys includes an action-filled, but convoluted, mystery plot that was compelling enough to make me keep turning the pages into the wee hours of the night. Many of the "mystery" details are predictable—but not all of them, so the novel has a high level of suspense and drama even though the plot begins to unravel and become very improbable as it plays out in the final chapters. If you have enjoyed the previous books, you'll probably like this one, too. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire on its Amazon.com page by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page.  

                         WORLD-BUILDING                         
     This series is a spin-off of Humphreys' AMOVEO LEGEND SERIES and is set in the same world. This time around, though, the lead characters are vampires instead of shape shifters and they live in Manhattan, where they are members of a coven led by Olivia Hollingsworth, best friend of Marianna Coltari, the bear-shifter who married the half-demon Pete Castro in Undone (the fourth AMOVEO novel). In that book, Pete was turned into a vampire by Olivia just as he was on the verge of death. (Click HERE to read my review of the AMOVEO LEGEND SERIES, which includes an overview of the world-building.)

     Pete is now employed as a Sentry (a vampire enforcer) for the Presidiumthe vampires' ruling body, and he is also a member of Olivia's "family." Olivia has named her Greenwich Village nightclub Coven, and she and her entourage live in sumptuous quarters beneath the club. The Presidium is headed by an Emperor, who appoints Czars to run the world's metropolitan areas. The New York Czar is Augustus, a stereotypical power-mad villain.


     If the first book is any indication, each leading couple will be bloodmates, which is the word for soul mate in this series. Most vampires believe that the bloodmate story is only a myth or a legend, but in book 1, Olivia and her lover, Doug, prove that the legend is true. In this world, when a couple bonds as bloodmates, they can speak telepathically to one another and they can day-walk because the sun no longer burns them.


                         NOVEL 1:  Tall, Dark, and Vampire                         
     Everything is running smoothly for Olivia until a rogue vampire kills a man who had spent some time at Coven in the company of Maya, a Coven bartender who is one of Olivia's vampire children. Now, Maya is a suspect in the man's murder, and Olivia is forced to go back to her enforcer role, which she turned her back on centuries ago. If she doesn't track down the rogue, the Czar of New York (who seems to have about the same powers as Eric Northman does as Sheriff of Louisiana's Area 5) will end Maya's existence. Unfortunately, more rogues begin to turn up and the murder rate accelerates, making Olivia's task even more difficult.

     When two NYPD detectives come to Coven to question Olivia and her staff, she is shocked to recognize one of them as a reincarnation of her long-ago loverher fiancé, who was killed before her eyes just before she herself was bitten and turned into a vampire 300 years ago. Olivia has been celibate ever since, mourning her lost lover. About 20 years ago, she began having erotic dreams about him, but she never thought that she would ever see him again in mortal form. Doug Paxton has also been having erotic dreams, and he recognizes Olivia immediately as the erotic center of his night-time escapades. Needless to say, they team up to solve the crime, and immediately fall in lust/love very, very quickly. Coincidentally, Doug is the former partner of Pete Castro.


     This is a by-the-numbers paranormal romance. It has much in common with Amanda Ashley's novels, but with a lot more sex. If you don't mind simple, straight-line plots and are addicted to angst-filled interior monologues and steamy love scenes, you'll probably enjoy this book. But if you're looking for complexity of plot and depth of character, then nonot so much. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read chapter 1. 


     Just a guess, but I'm betting that book 2 will tell the bloodmate story of chaotic, rule-breaking Maya and Shane, a straight-arrow Presidium Sentry who always plays by the rules. If anyone could be called "Vampire Trouble," it would be Maya.


                         NOVEL 2:  Vampire Trouble                         

     The second novel tells the love story of the youngling vampire Maya Robertson and the centuries-old Shane Quesada. Five years ago, Olivia found Maya in the alley behind her club, beaten and raped and on the verge of death. Ever since Olivia turned her, Maya has worked as a bartender at Olivia's nightclub, the Coven. Maya's end-of-life torture has apparently wiped out all memories of her human life. Although Olivia and Maya have both tried to find out who she was in her human life, no one ever posted a missing persons report. This causes Maya to believe that she must have been a terrible person since no one seems to care whether she lived or died. As you can imagine, she has an extremely poor self-image. Maya does have one important mental image from her human lifean older woman who is wearing the same emerald pendant that Maya now wears, a woman who may be her grandmother. But Maya doesn't know that woman's name or how to find her.

     Other than that image, the only human memory that Maya has is of the horrendous moments leading up to her death, and she suffers through a replay of that scene every single night in a recurring nightmare. Maya's way of coping with her fear and anger about what happened to her is to flirt with human males who mistreat women. She lets them believe that she is a helpless blond bimbo, but then turns the tables on the men by seizing control of them with her super strength and taking their blood forcefully. She believes that all men are basically the same: beasts who mistreat women and are driven only by lust and desire for sexual gratification on their own terms. 


     As a result of Maya's emotional distress, she behaves in a cocky, rude, arrogant manner, particularly toward men. She has a fiery temper that gets her into all kinds of trouble, and in this novel it also puts her and Olivia's vampire coven into danger. Although she is physically attracted to Shane, Maya believes that he is just like all mendriven by a need to dominate through sexual power. She couldn't be more wrong.

     Shane is a Presidium enforcer who follows the rule of law. After his maker abandoned him centuries ago, he grieved for a long time and then vowed never to get emotionally close to anyone else. Shane rarely smiles and has kept himself apart from other vampires. Although many women flirt with him, he never takes them up on their offers. Shane is mightily attracted to Maya, but refuses to act on this attraction, until, that is, he gets a taste of Maya's blood, acquires access to her dreams, and realizes that she is his bloodmate.

     As the story opens, Olivia learns that a small pack of werewolves are coming to town, led by Horace, the second son of Heinrich, the werewolf king. Olivia is hugely pregnant and is dealing with all of the hormonal turmoil that entails. Plus, the supernatural world is in an uproar over the fact that Olivia and Doug are true bloodmates who can not only procreate but can walk in the sun. Vamps and werewolves have been enemies in the past, and currently the tenuous peace between them is held only by a treaty signed by an ancestor of the current king. Olivia is worried that her new bloodmate status might tip the scales against the vamps in their relations with the werewolves and other supernatural groups.

     Early on, Maya has a temper tantrum and quits her job with Olivia after Olivia assigns Shane to "babysit" her when she goes out hunting a blood donor. Another vampire club owner nicknamed Rat offers her a job, and she takes it. Unfortunately, Rat is just what his nickname impliesa vile scumbag who is in cahoots with the werewolves. When Horace makes a crude play for Maya, Shane tries to stop him, but that just pushes Maya's rebellious-brat button so she haughtily rejects Shane's help and goes off with Horace in his stretch limo, leaving Shane behind. As you can predict, Maya has definitely made a really bad decision here because Horace is exactly the type of man/beast she fears. When Horace attacks May on the terrace of his hotel suite, Shane flies in to rescue her and attacks the werewolf prince, setting off an international incident. In order to get the situation under control, Olivia sends Shane and Maya off to the bayous of southern Louisiana to a safe house run by a gypsy named Lottie Fogg.

     From that point on, the plot plays out on three levels: the romance, the retrieval of Maya's lost memories, and the werewolf action. The romance proceeds unevenly. Each time the couple has a fantastic sexual experience, one or the other overthinks the situation and gives the other the cold shoulder. This is a popular trope in paranormal romance novels that is used to extend the drama of a budding romance. Generally the "overthinking" episodes for each lover involve angst-filled interior monologues filled with silly, illogical reasons why he or she shouldn't continue the relationship with the person with whom he or she has just spent a blissful night. 


     Lottie is a psychic, and she determines that Maya has some powerful magic within her that is somehow connected to her emerald pendant. Gradually, Maya's memories return, but they cause more questions than answers. When werewolves attack Maya and Shane outside Lottie's house, the entire situation comes to a boil.


     Just like the first novel, this is a typical paranormal romance with an angst-filled pair of lovers, a heroine with unknown powers, a supernatural enemy, and an inevitable HEA for the lovers. Humphreys does a good job with her plotting and characterization, giving the action plot almost as much space as the love storyalways a good thing as far as I'm concerned.


     The only preposterous plot element is the tunnel system that Maya and Shane use to move around during the day. Humphreys wants us to believe that the U.S. has a nationwide tunnel system, which is preposterous, because the water table in New Orleans, where Maya enters the tunnels, is so close to the surface that it is impossible even to dig graves or basements there—much less tunnels. I don't mind fictional elements; I just like them to have a modicum of plausibility. Click HERE to go to this book's amazon.com page, where you can read a lengthy excerpt by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page. 


                        NOVEL 3:  Vampires Never Cry Wolf                         
     This novel tells the love story of the werewolf prince, Killian Bane, and the new owner of the Coven nightclub, Sadie Pemberton (a centuries-old vampire). The two met during the climactic showdown scene in Vampire Trouble when Killian rescued Sadie from his brother's clutches. Killian is 30 years old, and in five years he is expected to take over his father's position as leader of the pack. Naturally, everyone expects him to mate with a top-notch werewolf female, but Killian has other plans. He has fallen for Sadie, who used to be a DJ at the Coven until Olivia's life got so complicated that she had to give up the club. Now, running the Coven is Sadie's primary purpose in life. Although she is attracted to Kilian, she knows better than to get involved with a werewolf. Sadie has always been wary of the wolves. She can always tell if one is around because the scar on her shoulder tinglesa scar from a fatal wound she received on the night that Olivia made her an immortal vampire. Turns out that Sadie's moon-shaped scar is a major element in the plot.

     Killian has decided to stay in New York instead of returning to the pack's Alaska lands, mostly because of his infatuation with Sadie, but also because he wants to start a business of his owna new nightclub called Loup Garou. Unfortunately, someone has been leaving him anonymous threatening notes that promise violence if he doesn't give up the new club and get out of town.


     This is primarily a love story that follows Sadie and Killian from their first lust-filled moments of attraction, through a bumpy period of adjustment that includes a jealous she-wolf rival, and on to their inevitable bloodmating. Sadie is an appealing heroine who comes across as beautiful, intelligent, and very independent. She is smarter and much more likable than Maya was in Vampire Trouble. Killian is more of a stereotypical alpha male, but since he is so handsome and charming, I guess that's good enough. 


     The threats against Killian don't become a major part of the plot until the showdown scene at the very end. The identities of the major villains are obvious from the very beginning, but they aren't really that important to the primary plot, which centers on the development of the romance.  


     There is one continuity error involving Xavier, the mad vampire scientist. On page 81 in a conversation with Sadie, Xavier praises Killian for donating blood and saliva samples for research purposes. But later, when Sadie brings Killian to the lab to have Xavier analyze the threatening notes for DNA (on page 173), Xavier acts as if he has never met Killian.


     Vampires Never Cry Wolf is a typical book for this series, with its arrogant, über-alpha hero; its feisty heroine with hidden powers; and lots of R-rated sexy romance scenes. If you love paranormal romance, you'll probably enjoy this book. Click HERE to go to this book's amazon.com page, where you can read a lengthy excerpt by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page. 


     One brief scene hints that Justine (the Coven's new vampire DJ) and David (one of Killian's werewolf bodyguards) will be the lead lovers in an upcoming book.