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Monday, March 27, 2017


Author:  Jeaniene Frost
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3-4; Humor—1   
Publisher and Titles:  Harlequin
          The Beautiful Ashes (8/2014)
          The Sweetest Burn (6/2017)
          The Brightest Embers (11/2017) (FINAL)

This ongoing review post was revised and updated on 8/24/2017 to include a review of the second novel, The Sweetest Burn. The post begins with an overview of the world-building followed by my reviews of the first and second novels. Following those reviews is the publisher's blurb for the final novel. I will not be reviewing that novel for reasons that are explained later in this post.

     This world has no vampires or werewolves (at least not in the first novel), but it does have demons—lots of demons—who reside in a realm that parallels and mirrors the human realm on Earth. "Realms start out as duplicate reflections of our world, with everything we build here getting mirrored there...As reflections...They're not tangible yet. That only happens when demons get powerful enough to absorb an area. When they do, the place, along with everyone in it, gets sucked into a new realm in the demon world. So in effect, they swallow it. Then what's left in our world is an empty shell."

     Within the demon realm, there is a hierarchy of power and influence. At the top are the most powerful demons, each of whom has his or her own realm. Because demons can't tolerate being in the human realm for very long, they use willing humans, called minions, to do their dirty work on Earth, marking each one with their unique signatures. Although marked minions, unlike demons, can be killed, they are much stronger than humans. Demons use their minions to import humans into their realms for forced labor and sex.

     Ivy Jenkins, the series heroine is a rare human who can see the demon realm as "a dark, hazy double image" that appears over actual locations in the human realm. She can also see through all magical glamours. As Ivy puts it: "I saw things no one else did." Both of these abilities, along with several others, come from her supernatural genetic heritage. Unfortunately, Ivy has been told all her life that those abilities are symptoms of mental illness, and she has been medicated ever since she was a child.

     Adrian, Ivy's soul mate, is an Eric Northman clone (but superhuman, not vampire): tall, blond, handsome, muscular ("shoulders that could fill a door frame"), arrogant, and stubborn. Both Adrian and Ivy have magically super speed, and strength, along with a few handy magical fighting skills—all of which they have inherited from their separate ancestors.

     To balance out the bad demons, this world has the Archons (aka angels), who are supposed to be the good guys, but who seem to have their own agenda. Zacchaeus (aka Zach) is the Archon who serves as Adrian and Ivy's contact. His job is to give them orders, provide various types of assistance (if and when he decides it's appropriate), and rescue them when they are in grave demon danger.

                         NOVEL 1:  The Beautiful Ashes                          
     Sometimes, falling in love really is the end of the world. Ivy has always seen things that she cannot explain. Strange things. Otherworldly things. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse. Her hallucinations are real, and her sister is imprisoned in a realm beyond Ivy's reach. The one person who can help her is the dangerously attractive rebel who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

     The fate Adrian has fought to escape is herebut he never expected the burning need he feels for Ivy. With destiny on one side and desire on the other, Adrian must help Ivy search for the powerful relic that can save her sister. Yet he knows what Ivy doesn't: the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could destroy the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side, Adrian on the other, and nothing but ashes in between.
    As the story begins, Ivy's sister, Jasmine, has disappeared and Ivy is searching for her. Just as she tracks Jasmine to her last known location, two men try to abduct her. As it turns out, one is a demon minion and one is Adrian. Adrian (of course) wins the contest and takes Ivy to meet Zach. Adrian and Zach explain that Ivy's "mental illness" is really a magical ability to see into the demon realm. They also inform Ivy that Jasmine is being held in the demon realm and that the only way to kill the demon kidnappers and rescue Jasmine is with an ancient weapon that only Ivy can find and wield. As Adrian explains, "To take down demons you need one of three weapons, and the second and third ones will probably kill you...Problem is, the first weapon is lost somewhere in one of the demon realms." Since Adrian can find and enter the portals to the demon realms (and Ivy can't), he must accompany her so that he can physically wrap himself around her and carry her through one portal after another until she can locate and retrieve the weapon. Once they find it, Ivy will have to use it to kill the demons and rescue Jasmine. 

     As the rest of the story plays out, Adrian and Ivy have a few lust-filled physical encounters, but mostly just long passionate kisses, always immediately followed by Adrian stalking wordlessly away with a huge scowl on his face—never explaining his behavior to Ivy. As it turns out, Ivy and Adrian's fates are spelled out in a dreadful prophecy that forces Adrian to try (unsuccessfully) to stay away from Ivy. But that prophecy doesn't keep them from falling head over heels for one another at first sight. (Big sigh...Yes, we have yet another insta-lust couple.) Also predictable (but, utterly unbelievable) is this: Ivy, who is 20 years old, constantly mentions that she has had a number of previous boyfriends, but just as she and Adrian are about to consummate their sexual relationship, she reveals that she is (WAIT FOR IT!)...a virgin! Jeaniene Frost, You've got to be kidding!

     Neither Adrian nor Zach bother to tell Ivy why Adrian keeps trying to stay away from Ivy, so she wallows through a number of angst-filled interior monologues during which she replays her unhappy childhood and wonders why Adrian seems to love and hate her—at the same time: "Why did he keep pulling away at the last minute? Was it the secret he thought was too terrible to reveal? He wasn't a demon or a minion, and he worked with an angel, so how bad could it be?" Adrian doesn't give Ivy the facts about the prophecy and their ancestry until about halfway through the book. He finishes his explanation with these words: "You're the light I can never have...and I'm the darkness you'll never succumb to." Yet, even after Ivy thinks she has all the facts, she really doesn't. In a subsequent scene, Zach and Adrian have a strange reaction to something that Ivy says, and Ivy muses, "Something significant had just happened, and as usual, I was the only one who didn't know what it was. Also per usual, none of them were going to tell me about it."

     I'm sorry to report that Ivy and Adrian are pale imitations of Cat and Bones, Frost's terrific lead characters from her NIGHT HUNTRESS SERIES. In that series, Cat is a fully developed, strong, independent woman, and Bones is her equal-status partner. But poor Ivy gets treated like a child. Both Adrian and Zach continually keep vital information from her. They tell her only what they think she needs to know to carry out her next mission, and they never explain the whole situation to her until nearly the end of the book. At one point, Ivy accidentally discovers that demons can't enter the human realm during daylight hours. In response, Adrian says, "Didn't I tell you that?" and Ivy responds, "No, you didn't...along with a lot of other things..." Ivy sums up the situation with Adrian like this: "He was danger wrapped in secrets tied with a bow of bad intentions, and it was totally unfair that no one had made me feel this way before."

    Frost's treatment of Ivy is probably the most disappointing part of the series for me. She did such a great job creating Cat so when she fails to give us an equally strong, independent heroine, the reader can't help but feel let down. 

     Although the Jasmine/demon conflict is resolved, the book ends in a cliff hanger. Remember, there are three ancient weapons, so I assume that the next two novels will deal with situations in which Ivy must find and wield each one in order to save the world as we know it. She also has to figure out what to do about her convoluted relationship with Adrian.

     I was prepared to love this series based on the NIGHT HUNTRESS and NIGHT PRINCE novels, but (as I said previously), I was very disappointed by the manner in which Frost portrays Ivy. In addition to Ivy's poor treatment by her hero, the plot was predictable, and the primary villain, Demetrius, was a one-note bad guy with absolutely no depth whatsoever. I'll read the next novel in the hope that Frost will do a better job with her heroine and her plot, but if that doesn't pan out, I'll probably stop reading the series. 

     Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 2: The Sweetest Burn                   
     The second novel in Jeaniene Frost's BROKEN DESTINY SERIES finds Ivy and Adrian rekindling their alliance—and passion—as the struggle for the fate of the world begins.

     Conquering a supernatural realm turned out to be easier than getting over a broken heart. But her initial victory has made Ivy a target for revenge, forcing her to reunite with the dangerous—and dangerously sexy—Adrian. Ivy isn't sure which will be harder: finding the hallowed weapon that will repair the crumbling walls between the demon and human realms, or resisting Adrian, who's decided that come hell or high water, he will make Ivy his.

     At first, Adrian tried to resist his feelings for Ivy. Now, determined to break the curse that dooms their love, he's vowed to save her and to have her. If only he can persuade her to forgive his past sins. But defying destiny—and surrendering to the smoldering desire between them—will bring consequences and sacrifices they never imagined.

     As I predicted, this novel continues the overall pattern of the first one. In The Beautiful Ashes, as soon as Ivy learned that there were three ancient religious artifacts that can control and/or kill demons and save the world, I knew that Frost had set up the simple structure for this trilogy: Ivy and Adrian—soul mates representing two ancient warring factions—would search for one of the weapons in each novel while they dealt with their plethora of personal relationship problems along the way.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments,
wielding his staff to part the waters of the Red Sea.
     The plot of The Sweetest Burn is simple: Ivy has to locate the second weapon: the staff of Moses. But here's the problem (same as in book one): No one has any idea where the staff is. Zach and Adrian decide that Adrian and Ivy (along with Costa, Jasmine, and Brutus the gargoyle) will take a cross-country road trip so that Ivy can use her hallowed-artifact radar to find the staff. Unfortunately, cracks are forming between the Earthly realm and the demon realms, so time is of the essence.

     You can predict what happens next. As the group travels West, demons appear and attack them (including one they never expected). Each time, Ivy and Adrian beat them off, with Ivy gaining new powers from the slingshot that is tattooed on her arm. In the romance department, there are many, many angst-filled interior monologues as Ivy ponders Adrian's trustworthiness and continues to refuse to give him her virginity. Adrian has definitely earned Ivy's distrust, and if she's smart (which she isn't), she will continue to question his every word and action. Costa and Jasmine don't trust him either because they know more about Adrian's past life in the demon realm than Ivy does. 

     Meanwhile, Zach (the angel) gets more and more opaque and ambiguous as he holds back on both assistance and information while constantly pushing Ivy to find the staff and wield it against the demons, no matter what horrific effects that will certainly have on her mind and body

     By the end, Ivy and Adrian's relationship is on the verge of more betrayal, so I'm sure that the final book will be just like the first two, particularly since Ivy has one more hallowed weapon to find and Adrian just keeps on being Adrian. 

     Ivy is such a disappointment as a heroine, mostly because Frost allows the men in her life to have all of the information and to make most of the decisions. Ivy just gets dragged along because they need her. Zach needs her Davidian powers, and Adrian wants her body (although he says that he loves herwhatever that means to a former demon prince). At this point, I don't care enough about Adrian's daddy issues and the status of Ivy's virginity to explore any more of their adventures, so I do not plan to read or review the final book.

     Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 3: The Brightest Embers                    

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH CONTAINS A SPOILER FOR THIS NOVEL. The final artifact is the spearhead of Longinus (aka the Holy Lance). Zach explains that, "Longinus was the Roman soldier who thrust his spear through the side of Jesus of Nazareth as he hung on the cross." The shaft is long gone, but the spearhead is somewhere in the world. 

     Ivy's final task is to find it and then create a set of portals that will allow all human slaves in the demon realms to escape back to Earth. But at the end of book two, Adrian is already planning to betray her—for her own good, of course, because he always knows what's best for her—and that's exactly why I really hate the way Frost has characterized Ivy, the clueless world saver, and Adrian, her over-the-top über-alpha hero who ALWAYS takes charge of every situation (and Ivy lets him, every time). I will not be reading or reviewing The Brightest Embers, but I have included its back-cover blurb below.


     You can run from your destiny, but you can't hide. Ivy thought that she and Adrian had conquered their fates. Yet with thousands of innocents still trapped in the demon realms, she's determined to locate the final hallowed weapon and harness its unparalleled power to free them. But the last relic nearly put Ivy in the grave—there's probably no coming back from this one.

     Adrian's dark lineage has made him the most powerful of his kind, yet even his incredible abilities might not be enough now. Instead, the treacherous fate he has fought so hard to escape might be the only way he can save Ivy. Their scintillating bond has been tested before, but never with so much on the line. Now fate will come head-to-head against true love, and nothing they've endured can prepare Ivy and Adrian for the unthinkable choices they'll face.

     Click HERE to go to this novel's page where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art after its publication date (11/28/2017).

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