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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Predatory" Anthology: Alexandra Ivy, Nina Bangs, Dianne Duvall, & Hannah Jayne

Authors:  Alexandra Ivy, Nina Bangs, Dianne Duvall, & Hannah Jayne
Title:  Predatory
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Publisher:  Zebra (5/2013)

     This is a collection of four romantic novellas, each featuring vampires among the lead characters. 

     Each novella is part on an ongoing series. In each review below, I have included a pink-link to my review of that series.

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"Out of Control," by Alexandra Ivy 
Ratings: Violence3; Sensuality4; Humor2
First Paragraph: "Valhalla was the stuff of myths. Named for the home of the Norse gods, the sprawling compound was a safe house for those people too 'special' to be mainstreamed into society (a nice way of saying an orphanage for the children and adults unwanted by their families). Everyone knew that it was a home for freaks."   

     This novella serves as an introduction to Ivy's new series, THE SENTINELS, which revolves around the warriors (Sentinels) who protect people called high-bloods, who are "gifted" with special abilities. As this novella explains, "Sentinels were raised and trained by monks in mysterious arts that were never spoken of outside the monasteries. [Most were] heavily tattooed to protect them from being controlled by psychics or attacked with spells." (pp. 15-16) The high-bloods (aka freaks) are born with various sorts of mutations that manifest themselves in talents that include psychic abilities, necromancy, spell-casting, and other magical abilities. Click HERE to read my overview of THE SENTINELS mythology and my reviews of the books

     In this novella, the Sentinel Nikolo (Nik) Bartrev has been shadowing Angela Locke, a young and beautiful genetics researcher who is not nearly as human as she thinks she is. Nik is certain that an escaped sociopathic high-blood named Dylan is planning to kidnap Angela, and he swears to prevent that from happening. What Nik doesn't plan on is falling head over heels in love with Angela. When Dylan shows up, Nik rescues Angela, but then loses her. The rest of the story follows Nik as he handles the situation with Dylan, laying his life on the line to save Angela.   

     With its mostly male Sentinel team, fragile human heroines, and lots of threatening bad buys, this series looks to be similar (at least on the surface) to Ivy's GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY as well as lots of other paranormal romance series that feature immortal warriors. Ivy always tells a good story, and this series will probably be just as successful as GoE.

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"Ties That Bind," by Nina Bangs 
Ratings: Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2 
Munch's The Scream
First Paragraph: "A ticking clock. The creaks and groans of an old building settling. A print of Edvard Munch's The Scream hanging on a pale green wall. They didn't mean much individually, but as Cassie sat alone in the office of Eternal Rest Funeral Home listening to the tick tocks, the creaks and groans, and staring at the print...She took a deep breath and prayed for human contact before she did her own interpretation of The Scream."   

     This novella is a far cry from the crazy romantic comedy found in Bangs' popular CASTLE OF DARK DREAMS series, although it does have a big dose of sexy romance. As the story begins, Cassie (our heroine) is subbing for a friend as the night receptionist at Eternal Rest. this is a big deal for Cassie because she has hated and feared dead bodies ever since a horrific childhood incident. When a pair of killers traps her in the basement body room, she manages to kill one of them and release Ethan, a tall, dark, and handsome vampire, from his imprisonment in a glass coffin. The rest of the story follows Cassie and Ethan as they team up with local vampires and take down the villain. Click HERE to read my review of the CASTLE OF DARK DREAMS books. 

     This mythology is extremely complex, and I have to believe that Bangs will be developing a series around it. Each vampire in Ethan's bloodline has two "selves," the First One—the human self, and the Second One—a deadly monster. If a person even glances at the Second One's face, he or she will immediately drop dead. In this case, looks really do kill. Ethan explains the situation to Cassie: "The First One is our humanity. Even as vampire it's dominant unless we kill. The act of killing wakens the Second One....The Second One is an elemental consciousness passed on in the blood my maker used to create me. It lies dormant until it senses a kill. It doesn't care about conscience or human emotions. Its primal drive is to destroy....The beauty of the Second One's face attracts its victims, its eyes hold them captive while it won't be able to look at me. If you try, the Second One will kill you." (pp. 149-150) 

     The story is full of action and emotion. Even with its complex mythology, it's a great read. Click HERE to read an excerpt from this novella.

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"In Still Darkness," by Dianne Duvall 
First Paragraph: "Like the last survivor in a post apocalyptic world, Richart d'Alençon strode down the deserted North Carolinian street. Buildings long since abandoned for the night stared out at him with vacant eyes. Quiet enfolded him, both comforting and disconcerting. A new enemy had risen among the vampire ranks. A self-proclaimed vampire king, who has ordered his followers to transform their victims instead of just feeding from them."

    This novella is part of Duvall's IMMORTAL GUARDIAN series. Click HERE to read my overview of the series mythology and my reviews of the books. Richart, this story's hero, is one of the Guardians. In the opening scene, he rescues Jenna McBride from a vampire attack, killing all but one of her attackers. Jenna isn't the usual 20-something, sassy chick one frequently finds in paranormal romances. She is a single mother in her late thirties with a college-age son, and she manages a 24-hour superstore. When Jenna wakes up the morning after the attack, she doesn't remember anything about it because these vampires secrete a memory-wiping drug when they bite their prey. Richart sticks around to guard Jenna because he fears that the vamp who escaped will be back to finish what he started. Soon, he realizes that he can't stay away from Jenna because of the physical attraction between them.   

     Even though Richart knows better, he asks Jenna out on a date, and their relationship begins to deepen. No sex yet, though, because Richart wants to wait until he tells her what he really is before he beds her. In the meantime, Richart is out with the other Guardians every night fighting the vampires, who have invented with a new drug that can knock out a Guardian. When Richart is shot with a drugged dart, he accidentally teleports into the middle of Jenna's living room. Now, his secret is out, and he is in a short-term coma. The rest of the story follows the couple as they talk things out, spend some sexy time together, and take care of a health-related issue that will change Jenna's life forever.   

     If you're reading the series, you'll probably enjoy this novella. If you haven't read any of the novels, you may not understand some of the references.

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"High Stakes," by Hannah Jayne 
First Paragraph: "Some people were meant for big cities. And fabulousness. I'm one of those people. I'm Nina LaShay and one day, my brand will be everywhere."     

     This novella is part of Jayne's paranormal chick lit series, UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY CHRONICLES (UDA). Click HERE to read my overview of the series mythology and my reviews of the books. 

     The heroine of this novella is Nina, roommate of the heroine of the UDA series. Nina is a fashionista vampire who is one of three finalists in a fashion design competition. (Her clothing label is Drop Dead Clothing.) When Nina's competitors are murdered, one by one, she is the prime suspect. But there's another possible suspect: Pike, a sexy photographer who keeps hanging around. The plot follows Nina and Pike as they try to solve the murders and keep themselves out of jail. Of course, they are attracted to one another, but Nina tries to keep her emotions under control because there is no way that she is going to fall for a human—if he really is a human.   

     This is the weakest of the four novellas. It's also the only one with humor, but that humor is of the never-ending, snarky, chick-lit variety—my least favorite kind. The character development is nearly non-existent, and the "humorous" dialogue is frequently not very funny. You'll know almost from the beginning who the real killer is, so there's no real suspense. It's just one scene after another of sarcastic dialogue and TSTL moments for Nina.

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