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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dani Harper's GRIM SERIES

Author:  Dani Harper
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)     
Ratings:  Violence-3; Sensuality-4; Humor-2-3  
Publisher and Titles:  Montlake
          Storm Warrior (8/2013)
          Storm Bound (3/2014)

      This folklore-based series takes place in a human world in which supernatural beings (e.g., faeries, witches) exist but where most mortals do not know of their existence. 

             BOOK 1:  Storm Warrior             

     The supernatural aspect of this book revolves around the Tylwyth Teg (aka faeries) and is primarily based on Celticparticularly Welshmythology. In this world, most humans don't realize that faeries exist, except for the few who have always believed in them as mystical beings who must be appeased by leaving out little snacks for them to keep their favor.   

     The book begins with an action-filled prologue that takes place 2,000 years ago. Rhys, a fierce Celtic warrior, is on the run from his captorsRoman soldiers who have forced him to fight in the gladiator arena for the past two years. When Rhys stumbles into a faery cave, the faeries learn that Rhys' nickname was "death bringer," sowith their twisted sense of humorthey turn him into a huge black mastiffa grim (aka a barghest, aka a gwyllgi) whose job is to be a literal messenger of death. A grim appears to a person only when that person is slated to die soon, and as death comes, the creature howls. As the book opens, Rhys has been a grim for two centuries, right up until he decides to give his own life to save a beautiful veterinarian named Morgan Edwards.

     As we meet Morgan, she is on vacation in Wales, her ancestral country, where a mastiff wearing an intricate silver collar follows her around wherever she goes. Soon after she returns home to her veterinary practice in Spokane Valley, Washington, she is attacked one night by a meth addict and is saved by that very same dog, who nearly dies when the attacker viciously knifes him. Morgan saves the dog's life and adopts him, and Rhys (still in dog form) vows to protect her always. Then, when Morgan takes him home with her and welcomes him into her home, Rhys' magical silver collar falls off, sending a signal to the faeries, who already know that he broke the rules by leaving Wales and by saving Morgan's life. On Rhys' first night in Morgan's house, the faeries appear to him and swear that "the Tylwyth Teg will relinquish our claim upon you...until such time that this mortal woman relinquishes hers by the power of three." (p. 52) In other words, if Morgan rejects Rhys three times, the faeries will get him back and return him to his animal form forever. The next morning, Rhys wakes up as a humana totally naked, extremely well-built human male. 

    When the naked Rhys tries to explain his centuries-long life to Morgan, she understandably thinks that he is mentally ill, and Rhys winds up in a jail cell, charged with indecent exposure. There he makes the acquaintance of an elderly man who offers him a place to stay and a job as a handyman. At this point, Rhys goes through the predictably humorous routine in which he must accustom himself to the 21st century—a puzzling world of zippers, buttons, cars, and coffee machines. 

     In the meantime, Morgan has been having nightly erotic dreams about Rhys (in his sexy human form). When she sees Rhys as a human, she recognizes him from her dreams, but still doesn't believe his story, even when he shows her the scar left by the knife wound he received when he rescued her from her attacker while he was still a dog. Nearly all of the erotic scenes take place in Morgan's dreams, although the couple does eventually get together to consummate their relationship in real life.

     The story follows the two as Rhys begins staying in Morgan's barn to care for a wounded horse and keeps trying to convince Morgan to believe his story. Morgan's friends do believe in Rhys, but Morgan is stubbornly resistant to his strange story because she believes only in facts that are logical and scientifically provable. Morgan's Welsh grandmother had always told her tales of the Tylwyth Teg, but she sees them as just fairy talesfigments of her grandmother's over-active imagination. Will Morgan reject Rhys three times? Will the faeries come for Rhys? You probably already know the answer to those questions, but you might want to read this entertaining novel anyhow.

     The most entertaining characters in the story are in supporting roles: Leo, the old man who helps Rhys adjust to the modern world, and Ranyon, an ellyllon, an elf-like elemental creature who befriends Leo and Rhys. Ranyon was sent by the faeries to spy on Rhys, but he soon decides to switch sides. The hero and heroine are not strongly drawn. Rhys is so patient and calm that he's almost boring, and Morgan is so stubborn and narrow-minded that she's annoying. Rhys could convince Morgan of the existence of faeries just by introducing her to Ranyon, but he holds off doing that because "he didn't want Morgan to believe because he'd brought her living evidence. he wanted her to believe him becauseWell, because she trusted him." (p. 139). This may be a nice sentiment, but it makes for frustrating story-telling.

     This is a paranormal romance of average quality, with the all-too-familiar sexy, trapped hero and the beautiful, feisty-but-clueless heroine. The author includes some interesting details on Celtic folklore and shows her obvious love of animals by including some emotional scenes in Morgan's animal hospital. If you love that type of story, this one's for you. Click HERE to read three short excerpts (scroll down a bit to find them).

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