Series: FALLEN SIREN SERIES
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF), heavy on the romance
Ratings: Violence—3-4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Roc
"Captured" (novella .5—6/2014)
Cursed (novel 1—10/2013)
NOVELLA 2.5: "Forsaken"
When the son of multi-billionaire Roger Maitlan is kidnapped and his babysitter murdered in cold blood, Emma and Zack travel to New York to work the case. They go undercover, infiltrating a playground of private dungeons where those who are rich and powerful can live out fantasies without consequence. What they find is a conspiracy born of a twisted mind and fueled by greed. The clock is ticking. Will Zack and Emma be able to find the missing boy and their way back to one another?
The plot plays out like a police procedural with a lot of twists and turns and a few magic touches. The partners are assigned to work with a New York FBI task force so they have to be sure to keep their supernatural natures hidden when they are not alone. At first the case appears to be a straightforward kidnapping, but then Emma and Zack learn that Maitlan is keeping some dark secrets that are coming back to haunt him. As they search for clues and deal with ransom demands, Zack has to rely on his werewolf form more than once, and Emma must let loose her Siren magic to make a suspect talk. One of the most enjoyable scenes is the one in which Emma goes undercover as a sexy dominatrix wearing a latex cat suit and carrying a riding crop—quite a change from her usual mousy disguise, and one that really turns Zack on.
This time around, Zack and Emma are on their own, with no interference from Kallistos Kouros (the Western Vampire King, Emma's former lover) or Demeter (the goddess who cursed the Sirens). That gives them a chance to work through their feelings for one another. Zack can't help but be angry that Emma wiped his memories, but he soon quells his outrage and attempts to accept that she must have done it for a good reason—even if she won't tell him what that reason was. Emma loves Zack, but she can't act on those feelings because if she does, Demeter will kill him. Somehow, Emma has to make Zack understand her situation without spelling it out directly—quite a dilemma! To be clear, though, Emma and Zack's relationship problems have no adverse affect on their high voltage sexual attraction, and they manage to sneak away for several steamy interludes.
This is another strong entry in a solid series with fully developed lead characters and consistently well-planned plots. The action subplot of each story is always suspenseful and original, and the romance subplot always sets new roadblocks in the way of their seemingly impossible—but very hot—romance. As we leave Emma at the end of "Forsaken," she is mentally repeating the phrase that keeps her going: "Redemption could be one rescue away," Perhaps if she finds just one more missing person, Demeter will set her free. She can only hope. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Forsaken."
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of "Forsaken" is based on a free electronic copy of the book that I received from the publisher. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.
In the U.S., vampires live under the control of four sovereigns, and they are not all in favor of the increase in human contact. The vamps in this series can day-walk if they take a certain medication called Protectus, and they generally subsist on bagged blood that they purchase at Blood Emporiums. “Emporiums opened up a couple of decades ago, around the same time that Protectus was discovered….It's these two things that really sparked the mainstream movement. It started here in California and spread east, then into Europe and other parts of the world.” (p. 104) Werewolves generally live in packs, under the control of their pack leader. In general, the vamps and werewolves in this mythology have the usual traditional powers. For example, vamps are strong and fast and can do memory wipes, and werewolves have the usual moon problem once a month.
The series heroine is FBI Special Agent Emma Monroe, a Siren. At the beginning of the book, the authors provide this three-part definition of a Siren:
1. One of three sisters ejected from Mount Olympus by Zeus and cursed by Demeter for failing to prevent Hades from kidnapping Persephone (Demeter's daughter).
2. An immortal goddess bound to earth who, in search of her own salvation, saves others from peril.
3. A beautiful and powerful seductress, capable of infiltrating the minds of others in order to extract truth or exert influence.Here is Demeter's decree to the Fallen Sirens—her curse: “You will live as mortal, but love will be denied to you, and you will rescue girls until I, Demeter, think you have done your penance. I will be watching. Always watching. Cross me, your lover will die, and your penance will increase tenfold. All because you didn't save my daughter.” (from Cursed, p. 284)
In this novella, Emma flies from San Diego to Charleston to serve as a consultant on a serial kidnapping/murder case. She is assigned to work with Zack, whose regular partner is unavailable due to a tragic family situation. Naturally, Emma and Zack are immediately attracted to one another, but Emma knows better than to let herself fall for him. She knows that Demeter wouldn't think twice about killing Zack if she thought Emma had feelings for him because that is the crux of the curse Demeter put on the Sirens centuries ago. (Read the World-Building section of this post for more details on Demeter and the curse.)
NOVEL 1: Cursed
As the story opens, Emma is shocked to learn that her new partner is Zack Armstrong, the werewolf she shared a night of passion with a year ago when both were assigned to the same case. Emma and Zack are both FBI special agents, and Zack has now been transferred to the San Diego office. Their first case involves a missing artist, but when more people go missing and when those cases turn out to be connected, the situation gets complicated and dangerous.
The book has two branches in its story line: the romance and the action. In the romance, Emma falls hard for Zack (and vice versa), but she knows that she has to end it to keep him from being murdered by Demeter. To complicate matters, Zack's ex-girlfriend (another werewolf) turns up in San Diego determined to win Zack back. Meanwhile, Zack is trying his best to atone for his past, which has included some wicked deeds that he tries not to think or talk about.
In the action plot, Emma and Zack discover that the missing persons all have a supernatural connection. As the intrepid pair follow the clues, they uncover a diabolical scheme that they must stop before more people disappear. Unfortunately, the scheme is so supernatural in nature that they have to keep their investigation on the down-low so that the FBI doesn't learn that supernaturals actually exist.
This is a well-written book—as you would expect from these experienced and talented authors. The lead characters—Emma and Zack—are fully developed with haunting back stories that deepen their appeal. Even the supporting characters have depth, and that's something you don't always find in this genre. Near the end of the book, we meet a character who will no doubt form the third part of an emotional triangle with Emma and Zack. I don't want to say any more about him because that would be a spoiler. I'll just say that he is a very strong, flawed character who immediately amps up the plot progression and adds a satisfying—if discordant—note of dangerous excitement to the story. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Cursed. Click HERE to view a "Reading Guide" for Cursed.
NOVEL 2: Reckoning
First, let's get the romance out of the way (and this is where the spoilers come in). As the book opens, FBI Special Agent Emma Monroe has entered into a friends-with-benefits relationship with Kallistos Kouros, the Western Vampire King, even though she is truly in love with her werewolf partner, Special Agent Zack Armstrong. Because of Demeter's curse (see the World-Building section of this post for details), Emma had her witchy friend Liz erase all memories of the intimate actions that took place between Emma and Zack in the prequel novella and book 1 because Emma doesn't want Demeter to kill him. Although Emma is enjoying her sexual relationship with Kallistos, she doesn't love him, and he is beginning to become overly possessive in the way that studly vampires are wont to do. Meanwhile, Zack and Sarah, his ex-girlfriend, are living together, but that relationship isn't going very well either.
Now for the action part of the book, which has several connected branches: As the book opens, Emma and Zack are assigned to a serial kidnapping case in which three teenage girls—all students at the same private school—disappear one right after another over Labor Day weekend. As Emma and Zack gather clues and follow leads, this part of the story plays out like a police procedural. Eventually, they find a vampire connection, and that leads into two other story lines, one involving Zack and Sarah's former pack leader and the other involving a powerful vampire from outside Kallistos' territory.
Eventually, the love triangle action flares up in several unexpected ways, leaving Emma uncertain as to her future with either man. The action plot ends with the requisite showdown scene that resolves the kidnapping mystery, but it leaves some important loose ends that will no doubt come back to haunt several of the characters.
I truly enjoyed Reckoning, mainly because of the misery the authors keep dumping on poor Emma (and isn't that perverse?). Demeter is the true villain in this series, hovering constantly in the background, watching and waiting for Emma to show signs of fully falling for Zack, at which time she will sweep in and do away with him—permanently. Demeter is completely untrustworthy, a fact that Emma needs to remember, but keeps forgetting. The action parts of the plot—although they are well written and fast paced—are there primarily as a framework for this tortured love affair. Kallistos, the third part of the love triangle, is a complex and fascinating man—a vampire who never forgets or downplays what he is and a king who always acts first and foremost to protect himself and his vampire subjects. That latter character trait is what Emma has trouble understanding and accepting. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Reckoning.
According to the S.J. Harper web site, the authors have contracted for just two novels, and those books have now been published. As of this date, I have not been able to determine if more books are coming. I will update this post as soon as more information is available.
In many ways this series reminds me of Richelle Mead's GEORGINA KINCAID series in which Georgina, a succubus, cannot physically be with Seth, her true love, because every time they engage in any sensuous activity (even kissing), she risks killing him because succubi are genetically programmed to automatically drain the life energy of any sexual partner, resulting in his death. Click HERE to read my overview of the GEORGINA series along with a review of the final book. Mead kept poor Georgina and Seth hovering miserably and frustratingly on edge for SIX books. I wonder how many books it will take for Emma and Zack to earn their HEA—if, that is, they ever get it. If you haven't read the GEORGINA series, I highly recommend it.