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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Author: Nancy Gideon 
Plot Type: Urban SMR
Ratings: V4, S4, H1
Publisher and Titles: Pocket
      Masked by Moonlight (2010)
      Chased by Moonlight (2010)
      Captured by Moonlight (2010)  
      Bound by Moonlight (2011) 
      Hunter of Shadows (2011) 
      Seeker of Shadows (5/2012)        

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 6/25/12 to include a review of the sixth book in the series: Seeker of Shadows. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the earlier books:

        BOOK 6: Seeker of Shadows       
     This book tells the love story of Jacques LaRoche, owner of the New Orleans Shifter club, Cheveux du Chien (translation: “Hair of the Dog”) and Dr. Susanna Duchamps, a Chosen research scientist specializing in genetics. Several years ago, Jacques was a Chosen slave in Chicago—a bodyguard for Susanna. Eventually, they fell in love and she became pregnant, but there was no HEA ending to their affair. When the affair and pregnancy were discovered, Susanna was forced to allow the Chosen scientists to wipe Jacques’s memories and banish him from Chosen territory. At the time, she believed that this was the only way to save his life. Ever since then, Jacques has been living with no memory of his life before he was dumped in New Orleans. He can remember only that he once had a mate, but he doesn’t know who she is and what happened to her.

     As this book opens, Susanna has come to New Orleans as a favor to Nica (heroine of book 5), not realizing that Jacques lives there. When Nica asks Susanna to meet her at the Cheveux du Chien, she sees Jacques for the first time since he was taken away from her. As soon as she sees him, Susanna’s mating urge kicks into high gear, but Jacques does not recognize her (although he does feel some lustful stirrings). Nica wants Susanna to use her knowledge of supernatural genetics to help Cee Cee ensure the safety of her unborn child. Cee Cee is worried that the baby's genetic mix will create problems, either before or after birth. Susanna, who is already dealing with the genetic problems of her own daughter, Pearl, agrees to help. Susanna owes Nica a favor because Nica retrieved Pearl from kidnappers as part of Nica's previous job as a mercenary assassin.

     The rekindling of the romance between Jacques and Susanna forms the primary plot, but there are several secondary story lines, all of which are pulled together in the climactic ending. One thread deals with the unrest that is simmering among the Shifters. Max has been paying too much attention to his business interests and not enough to the Shifter community, and many Shifters are afraid that Max will bring down the wrath of the Chosen on them and their families. Another story line focuses on Susanna’s troubled relationship with her Chosen “partner,” Damien, who rescued her after the debacle with Jacques and has allowed Pearl to live with him and Susanna as a Chosen child, even though she is half Shifter. Finally, we have another chapter in the Max-Cee Cee story as Max finds himself in terrible danger, and Cee Cee tries one last time to save the life of her best friend, Mary Kate. (That story line reaches all the way back to the earliest of the “By Moonlight” books.) The romance plot is settled happily by the end of the story, but some of the other story lines are left unresolved, particularly Max’s tenuous situation and the growing discontent within the Shifter community.

     This, for me, is the weakest book of the series so far. In the central romantic relationship, Susanna holds back so many secrets from Jacques, and yet--illogically and unbelievably--he just keeps forgiving her, time after time. Where is the rage and resentment that he must feel? After all, she has kept his daughter from him all these years--not to mention all of his memories. Although it wasn't entirely her fault, one would expect him to show more anger than he does. Jacques has never been shy about showing his emotions, but in this book he evens hides them from Max. He's a different character here than he has been in past books, and that's not a good thing.

     The series has now fully become focused on the genetic relationship among the Shifters, Chosen, Ancients, and humans. Apparently, all of the New Orleans political and mob-related story lines are dead and gone. At this point, with a new couple getting together in each book, we have a series that is fully committed to the paranormal romance genre in its narrowest form, and this seems a shame.

     In this world, supernatural creatures are unknown to mortals, and Shifters exist in secretive clans. As the series opens, Charlotte ("Cee Cee") Caissie is a New Orleans homicide detective who is still trying to get her life in balance after several tragedies in her past. Charlotte's soul mate, Max Savoie, is a mob enforcer, seemingly indentured to the big boss, Jimmy Legere. Besides being tall, dark, and handsome, Max is a Shifter who can become an enormous, powerful wolf.

     Because the hero and heroine come from such different worlds (and species), the angst levels are at all-time high levels throughout each book. As the series progresses, Max is seen by his fellow Shifters as the savior of the Shifter world, which has been subjugated for centuries by the Chosen.

     Here, Max's fellow Shifter, Jacques LaRoche, explains the legend of the Chosen to Cee Cee:

    "The gods mixed with beasts to create the Ancientsprotectors for their people....but in time they also grew arrogant....They began to destroy those whom they'd been created to protect....In their fury, the gods cleaved them all in two. But instead of that killing them, their spirits were divided and lived on as separate beings. One half remained beasts, able to change form, but without the courage to rise out of their role of servitude. The other half retained the mental gifts of instinct and manipulation, but were frail, without the physical ability to challenge man for control. The beasts fled to the wilderness of the Celtic shores, becoming the Shifters. The others hid among men in France, calling themselves the Chosen Ones....The Chosen Ones...found their other savage halves [the Shifters], and used them like weapons to crush their enemies and force kings to bow before them." (Bound by Moonlight, p. 194)

        BOOKS 1, 2, and 3       
     The first book, Masked by Moonlight, explores the developing romance between the Cee Cee and Max as a series of brutal murders sets New Orleans on edge. The next books follow the development of the couple’s romance as they try to maintain their relationship in the face of their widely different lifestyles and moral codes, particularly when Max moves up to a top position with the mob.

     In book 2, Chased by Moonlight, Max is a murder suspect, and Cee Cee must prove his innocence.

     In book 3, Captured by Moonlight, Max’s mysterious past catches up with him and threatens his life with Cee Cee. Romantic miscommunication and high levels of angst run rampant as the couple struggles with their wildly diverse life styles and moral codes.

        BOOK 4: Bound by Moonlight              
     As book 4, Bound by Moonlight, begins, Cee Cee and Max attend a high-society charity event, appearing in public for the very first time socially and causing quite a stir among friends and enemies alike. Cee Cee's partner (Alain Babineau) and some of Cee Cee's other police colleagues saw Max in his beast form in the climax to the previous book, and neither Cee Cee nor Max is sure that they will keep his supernatural secret. In the meantime, a series of grisly murders of young prostitutes has the city on high alert. Cee Cee heads up the investigation and eventually goes undercover as a strip club dancer, much to Max's dismay (although he is definitely turned on by her costume and her dancing). As in the previous books, both Max and Cee Cee have many angst-filled interior monologues lamenting their tragic pasts, their differences (especially the species thing), and the uncertainties of their future together. In the midst of the main plot (the serial murders), an assassin slips into town, but all we get from him is a brief interior monologue as he discreetly spies on the happy couple from the balcony of Max's bedroom and lets us know that he will be back, presumably in the next book. We do get the full story on the murder of Max's mother and more information about Max's connection to the Chosen. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Bound by Moonlight. 

     Although Cee Cee and Max spend way too much time pondering the quandary that their lives have become, I like this series a lot. The world-building is inventive and thoroughly developed, and the charactersboth leading and supportingare multi-dimensional, with good sides and dark sides. Not even the worst villain is totally bad, which makes all of the characters very interesting to watch. Every time I get to the end of one of the books, I think to myself that Cee Cee and Max are finally on the road to their HEA, but I'm always wrong, and I don't even mind because the pot holes that Gideon places in their road to romance are so darkly entertaining.         

Here is a quotation from one of Cee Cee's musings about her life before Max:
     "How many nights had she spent like this? Only instead of the turkey wrap and diet soda, she'd have been working through a six-pack and a bag of chips, lighting one cigarette off the butt of another. With no hope of a sexy lover showing up to seduce her, she'd have been deep in work until fatigue or the alcohol caught up with her close to dawn. Night after night. For years, it had been enough. No worries about saying the wrong thing. No fear of stepping on sensitive toes. No relationship rules to remember. Just the freedom to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. No one wondering why she hadn't called. No one crowding into her space, into her thoughts. Into her heart." (Bound by Moonlight, p. 115)

        BOOK 5: Hunter of Shadows       
Max and Cee Cee have (finally!) bonded and their soul-mate status is now solid, so the fifth book in the series introduces a new romantic couple: Silas MacCreedy, a Shifter cop with lots of secrets, and Monica (Nica) Fraser, a mercenary assassin who is a rare shape-shifting female—who also has secrets. We met Nica very briefly in Bound by Moonlight when she saved Cee Cee from a street attack by some thuggish shifters.

     As Hunter of Shadows opens, Silas and Nica meet violently as he attempts to save her from a street attack, not realizing that Nica has set up the situation so that she can take down her attackers. Nica is a lethal assassin, and she has been ordered to come to New Orleans so that she can find a way to fit in with the local Shifter crowd and wait for further instructions. We don't learn much more about her mysterious mission (or her master) until late in the book. Silas has his own reasons for being in New Orleans, and, once again, we don't learn his story until well into the book. What we do know, right up front, are the following facts: Silas and Alain Babineau are both undercover at Carmen (Manny) Blutafino's sleazy club, trying to gather enough evidence to bust him. Babineau may or may not be a dirty cop. (Remember, he's furious with Max for providing his estranged wife and step-son with a place to live away from him, and he still hates/fears Shifters.) Max's old nemesis, Francis Petitjohn (T-John), is still up to no good as he keeps trying to finagle his way to the top of Max's empire. The Chosen (and some Shifters) are still determined to wipe out Max and take over his territory for themselves. The police department and the local government are both filled with traitors, many of whom are on Manny's payroll. 

     All of these story threads are woven through the romance between Silas and Nica, which is just as angst-filled as Cee Cee and Max's ever was. Silas has committed himself to certain violent goals in order to provide safety and security for his family, and even though he's falling in love with Nica, he must put duty and honor ahead of love. What a guy! Nica is also in a difficult situationforced to kill both friends and enemies (and sometimes loversgasp!) whenever she is ordered to do so. She definitely has resigned herself to the fact that she can't commit to a long-term relationship with a guy when she might have to kill him. Near the end of the book, several characters learn new facts about their genetic heritage, including Cee Cee, and this genetic theme grows stronger in the next few books.

     With this book, the series takes a sharp turn toward the same type of world that Nalini Singh has created in her PSY-CHANGELINGS seriesa world in which the good-guy Shifters are in constant battle with a psychically powerful race that wants to either use or destroy them. For Singh, that villainous race is the Psy; for Gideon, it is the Chosen. Hunter of Shadows gets very mystical at some points, with mind-walking, psychic mind control, mental energy surges, and lots of twisted head games. I'm not sure that this is a good thing. I really enjoyed those earlier, not-so-mystic books, and this one didn't quite work for me. Maybe it's because I got so involved in Cee Cee and Max's story that I am not ready to give them up.  

1 comment:

  1. This is the sexiest, most intriguing series that I've ever read! Max is hotter than New Orleans in July, and Cee Cee is more feisty than Brenda Lee Johnson! What a treat to follow their story, and to see new characters being introduced with grab-your-a**-and-hang-on action! If you miss ANY of the Moonlight books, you'll be sorry!