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Thursday, September 17, 2015

NEW ANTHOLOGY: "On the Hunt"

Authors:  Alexandra Ivy, Rebeca Zanetti, Dianne Duvall, Hannah Jayne 
Title:  On the Hunt 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) 
Publisher:  Zebra Paranormal Romance

Four well-known paranormal romance authors entice readers deep into the shadows, where vampires, immortals, and other supernatural creatures heat up the night. Three of the novellas are parts of ongoing series. One is the introduction to a new series. This anthology is quite similar to the Predatory anthology (2013), which features three of the these authors (Ivy, Duvall, and Jayne). Click HERE to read my reviews of the Predatory novellas.

     You might enjoy reading an interview with the authors of this anthology on USA Today's Happy Ever After web site. Click HERE to go to that post, which is entitled "Why Do We Love Paranormal Heroes?"

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Alexandra Ivy: "On the Hunt" 
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2 
From her SENTINELS series: book 3.5. (Click HERE to read my review of that series.) 
Fun fact about Bailey and Mika: She is a dedicated, tofu-loving vegetarian, while he is a committed carnivore who requires a daily 12-ounce T-bone steak.

Mika Tanner has loved Bailey Morrell, a beautiful Healer, since childhood. But his duty as a Sentinel, a supernatural guardian of an ancient race, clashed with her rebellious spirit. Now a dangerous new anarchist group not only threatens life as they know it—but any chance of their being together again. 

     In the action part of the plot, Wolfe sends Mika to find Jacob Benson, a young acolyte at the monastery in Louisiana. Joseph has unexpectedly taken a car and disappeared, and the monks are certain that he is in some kind of trouble. When Mika gets to the monastery, he discovers that his former lover, Bailey, is living in a warded cottage in the swamps and that she has healed Jacob from wounds suffered in a car crash and a beating.

     Much of the story focuses on the love story, during which Mika and Bailey reunite and work out the differences that caused Bailey to leave Mika behind in Valhalla without even saying good-bye. In the action part of the story, Mika, with Wolfe's help, solves the mystery behind Jacob's disappearance, but not before Bailey is put into deadly danger by the Brotherhood, a group of humans who despise all high-bloods. It's nice to have another chance to interact with Boggs, the mysterious blind dopplegänger who turns up from time to time to help the Sentinels solve various mysteries. This time around, he warns Bailey that "One that you trust will betray you…Danger stalks you." Of course, Bailey ignores Boggs's warning, and that failure, added to her softheartedness, leads to a major TSTL moment.

     Ivy is a great story teller, and even with this straightforward plot, she does a good job at grabbing the reader's interest and sympathy. Unfortunately, the characters are rather one-dimensional, particularly the villain. In a novella format, character development tends to suffer because the plot takes up most of the space. Fans of the series will enjoy this side trip away from Valhalla to a monastery that sits in the middle of a bayou. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from this novella.

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Rebecca Zanetti: "Scorpius Rising" 
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—1 
Introduction (.5) to her new SCORPIUS SYNDROME series 
This quotation is at the heart of the governmental conflict: "There are two types of people in this world…The kind who believes the ends justify the means and…people who live the life they want because there are people out there, like us, making sure the ends justify the means…If we don't get a handle on this infection, only one type of person will remain…Survivors." 

With a deadly disease spreading like wildfire across the country, microbiologist Nora Medina needs to focus all her energy on stopping the pandemic. Playing with dynamite—in the form of her way-too-hot ex—is the last thing she should be doing. But forced to work with Deacan McDougall against unexpected enemies with the seconds ticking by, she knows the explosion is coming. 

     In this introduction to her new series, Zanetti combines a deadly plague, a pair of conflicted ex-lovers, some slippery governmental decision making, and lots and lots of graphic sex. The lovers, Nora and Deacon, have been divorced for eight years. She is an anti-government microbiologist, and he is, at heart, a fierce, pragmatic soldier. Although Nora has made a solid life for herself and is a world-renowned scientist, all it takes is some über-alpha posturing, superior physical strength, and skillful seduction from Deacon to turn Nora into a submissive, compliant puddle of lust. Maybe it's just me, but I am uncomfortable with paranormal romances that reinforce the idea that true love requires an overdose of I-know-what's-best-for-you overprotectiveness from the male and unconditional submission by the female. So that element takes some of the shine off the story for me.

     The plague is caused by the Scorpius bacteria, which arrived on earth deep inside a meteorite that was part of the Scorpius Comet. Some graduate students cracked open the meteorite, gave it a taste (yuck!), and—voila!—the disease had its initial outbreak. The bacteria is deadly, killing most of its victims (about 75%), causing psychotic breaks in about 15-20% of the infected, and leaving the final 5-10% seemingly healthy, except that their frontal lobes are mutated so that they become sociopathic carriers whose sole focus is on spreading the disease. The novella's villain belongs to that final group. The bacteria is spread through bodily fluids (e.g., saliva, blood, urine, genital fluids).

     The romance is the major plot line, with Deacon committing himself to getting Nora back. The action part of the plot concerns a Scorpius survivor who becomes fixated on Nora. Here's how Deacon sums up his situation: "He had an ex-wife who hadn't quite realized her importance in his life, a possible bacteria from outer space that was killing people, a dead president, a weak vice president, and a stalker he needed to stop but not kill."

     One last nit-pick: There are several misused wordsprobably AutoCorrect errors that were missed by the copy proofer, but nevertheless, distracting. Here are two examples: Nora was "ferreted" to the CDC (no, she was "ferried"); Zach hated his "formal" self (no, he hated his "former" self). 

     The first novel in the series, Mercury Striking, is due 1/26/16 with Nora's best friend, Lynn Harmony, as its heroine. I haven't yet decided whether I'll keep up with this series, but I will read the first novel to see whether Zanetti allows Lynn to continue to be independent, competent, and in charge of her own life whether she is in a romantic relationship or not.

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Dianne Duvall: "Phantom Embrace" 
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2 
From her IMMORTAL GUARDIANS series: book 5.5. (Click HERE to read my review of that series.) 
Fun fact about Yuri and Cat: They enjoy listening to paranormal romance audiobooks together, especially the bedroom scenes.

Immortal Yuri Sokolov was born with the ability to see spirits, yet he's never seen one as lovely as Cat Seddon, the woman who haunts his home and his dreams. But amid their star-crossed love, a new danger may have Yuri facing a different kind of eternity. 


     Except for the super-quick progression of the romance, this story is quite different from Duvall's usual IMMORTAL GUARDIANS stories, mostly because the heroine is a ghost. Besides David and Seth, only two of the Guardians can see ghosts: Yuri and Marcus. The ghost in this story is Cat, sister of Bastien, who was killed long ago by her husband, a newly turned vampire, while she was pregnant with their child.

    The two-pronged plot follows the development of the romance and the beginnings of another vampire uprising. The romance gives new meaning to the term "dream lovers," and the bittersweet ending will have you reaching for a handkerchief.

     Obviously, the yet-to-be-identified traitor within the Guardian network is still up to no good. This time, someone is raising a army of vamps who are highly trained in martial arts and other warrior skills. This villain is also increasing the potency of the tranquilizer that is the only drug that can affect Guardians. 

     Also part of the story are scenes involving Zach, who proves that he is not the traitor, and Lisette, who suffers at the hands of the new vampire army. I'm guessing that this new vampire army situation and the identification of the traitor will play heavily in Duvall's newest novel in this series, Shadows Strike, which I will be reading and reviewing in the next few days.

     In the first few pages of the story, Duvall provides a concise summary of the key events of the series up to this point, so if you need to brush up on your series history, this bit of exposition will come in handy.

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Hannah Jayne: "Stake Out"
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2; Humor—3-4 
From her UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY series: book 6.5. (Click HERE to read my review of that series.) 
Here's an example of the humor—Nina's description of the contents of her refrigerator: "Blood bags were kept on the top two shelves; batteries, nail polish, and a lone beer in the door should we have a visitor; and the crisper and meat drawers kept my selection of hats and scarves in pristine, if a little cold, condition. Vlad kept his Doc Martens in the freezer."

Vampire fashion designer Nina LaShay has a lot on her plate—just two days until fashion week and the model who was flirting with her photographer boyfriend is now a corpse in her studio. But when dead turns into undead and dangerous, Nina must find out who’s responsible…before the beautiful baby vamp takes too many bites out of the Big Apple. 

     Just as she did in her novella in the Predatory anthology, Hannah Jayne offers up a first-person narrative in the voice of Nina, the fashionista vampire. Once again, Nina and her bird-shifter boyfriend, Pike, get involved in a serial murder case, but this time the murders result in undead bodies—newbie vampires—rather than truly dead corpses. Detective Moyer is back on the (crime) scene, suspicious that Nina is at the heart of yet another crime wave.

     This is the only one of the novellas in this anthology that tries to be funny, and it frequently fails. The story is a never-ending series of bad decisions, nonsensical plot points, and TSTL moments of all sorts. Someone is killing off Nina's supermodels the day before her big New York fashion show, and Nina is determined to track down the culprit so that Detective Moyer doesn't arrest her for the crimes (even though the bodies keep going missing from the morgue). Meanwhile, a mystery fashion designer is stealing all the attention away from Nina with a line of fantastically gorgeous gowns. In the big showdown scene at the end, an annoying, non-funny UNDERWORLD character (who smells "like the most unholy combination of blue cheese and feet") shows up in an extremely unlikely role. The story is basically a series of disjointed scenes that just don't hold together.

     This novella is an example of why I have never been able to truly enjoy this series. The plot lines are silly; the characters are inane; the situations are ridiculous; and the violence level is much higher than you'd think (or want). 

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