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Monday, September 21, 2015


Author:  Rebecca Zanetti 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4+; Humor—2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Lyrical Press (Kensington)
     1     Wicked Ride (6/2015) (Kellach and Alexandra)
     2     Wicked Edge (11/10/2015) (Daire and Cee Cee)
     2.5  "Teased," novella in 1001 Nights (12/2015) (Chalton and Olivia)
     3     Wicked Burn (6/7/2016) (Simone and Nick)
     4     Wicked Kiss (Summer 2017) 
     5     Wicked Bite (Summer 2017) 

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 6/6/2016 to include a review of Wicked Burn, the third novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the two novels and the publisher's blurb for the novella.

                             NOVEL 3:  Wicked Burn                              
     Simone Brightston knows she can beat the rap her enemies are pinning on her. An Irish witch is nobody's fool, and she didn't get to her position on the high council without serious power. But her cousins want her to hide outand they somehow convinced her arch nemesis to play getaway driver.

     Of all the men she's known, Nikolaj (Nick) Veis is the hardest to intimidate. With his demon-dark eyes and his inscrutable beauty, he's as desirable as he is dangerous. And he knows better than to underestimate Simone. So when he pulls up on a roaring bike and tells her to climb on or fight it out, she grabs a handful of jacket and holds on tight. Running from the law may not be the smartest plan. But when it comes to Nick, hot pursuit and a blazing fast ride are exactly what Simone's looking for.

     When we last saw Simone at the very end of Wicked Edge, she was being framed for treasonous acts by an unknown enemy and was unwillingly being forced to go on the run with her estranged lover, Nick. Wicked Burn begins right in the middle of their attempted get-away when they are captured by the Guard and transported to Ireland. From that point on, the story line follows Simone and Nick as they outrun and outfight one enemy group after another until it's almost impossible to believe that they will survive to the end of the book. Zanetti packs so many twists and turns into this plot that it's always just a matter of time before the couple is ambushed by yet another unexpected enemy. In between attacks, they forgive one another's past transgressions and have lots of blazing hot make-up sex. We've been waiting impatiently for this couple to get back together, and Zanetti rewards us with an explosive, passionate reunion.

     Fans of the series definitely won't want to miss this novel because it introduces so much new information: New creatures are added to the mythology. New enemies enter the plot. Nick and Simone's tragic romantic history is revealed. Simone's exotic parentage is explored. And much more. Although nothing much gets resolved in this novel, the new information helps to explain events that took place during and preceding the recent war between the demons and the witches, particularly Nick's role in making Zane Kyllwood the ruler of the demon nation. It also divulges the truth behind the long-time friendship between Bear and Simone.

     I can't really summarize the plot in this review because it would spoil the intrigue if I mentioned any of the new information that drives several of the story lines. I will say, though, that Zanetti maintains her usual mix of suspense, sensuality, and sardonic dialogue all the way through. Other than telling the love story of Nick and Simone, the purpose of this book is to lead us into the fourth novel, which will (I hope) tie up some of the loose ends of the major conflicts that have been developing throughout the series: Who is distributing the lethal Apollo drug to Seattle and other cities? Who is framing Simone and why? Who is attacking the Coven Nine (and other witches) and why? One of the villains is unmasked at the end of this novel, but the identity of the person pulling the strings behind the scenes remains a mystery. 

     I enjoyed this book even more than the previous one, mostly because of its compelling plot and its wild and crazy lead couple. Nick and Simone are both independent, intelligent characters who follow their own rules, and their burning-hot romantic partnership is fun to watch. Even though Nick tries to out-alpha Simone, she is always one step ahead of him, mapping out just as many secret plans as he does. I especially liked the story line featuring Bear and Simone. Bear has always been one of my favorite characters in this series, and I hope that he eventually gets his own book. Perhaps he will, now that all the facts about his history and his hidden talents are revealed in this novel.

     Wicked Burn ends with Adam in pursuit of Tori (Alexandra's sister) after she is captured and imprisoned by the Guards of the Coven Nine. I'm guessing that we'll be getting their love story in the next book.

     Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Wicked Burn on the book's page. Just click on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

BONUS: Included at the end of Wicked Burn is a new REALM PROTECTORS novella, "Talen." Here's how Zanetti describes it: "I wanted to write a novella and tie the Dark Protectors to the Realm Enforcers, so I put out the question to my Facebook Street team…on who they'd like to see in a novella to be included with Wicked Burn. There was one pair they overwhelmingly said they'd like to catch up withso here' adventure for Talen and Cara." In the next day or so, I'll be adding a review of this novella to my REALM PROTECTORS review page. Click HERE to go to that page.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Wicked Burn is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this honest review are strictly my own.

     This series is set in Zanetti's DARK PROTECTORS (DP) world after the evil Kurjans have been completely wiped out and there is finally peace in the supernatural world. In DP, as in this series, the Kayrs family leads not only the vampire nation, but also the Realm, which is a coalition of vampires, shifters, demons, and witches. In this spin-off series, Zanetti tells the love stories of a trio of witchy brothers, all of whom are Realm Enforcers. (Click HERE to go to my DARK PROTECTORS page to read reviews and/or publisher's blurbs for all of the novels and novellas in that series.) 

     In DP, the villainous Kurjans created a deadly virus that attacked the mating bond. Now that the Kurjans are gone, the supernaturals have manufactured a synthetic strain of that virus that has the power to negate the mating bond. If an enhanced human decides to break the mating bond, he or she can take the virus and still maintain the immortality that resulted from the initial mating. I am guessing that this synthetic virus will play a part in at least one of the romance plots in a future book in this series. 

     If you are a fan of erotic paranormal romance (and who isn't?), this is the series for you. The immortal supernaturals are hot and sexy, and they're over-the-top aggressive in both love and war. All of the supernaturals are immortal, but they can die if they are beheaded. Here are some of their characteristics:

They cannot mate with a normal human, but they can mate with an enhanced human, one who generally has some type of psychic ability. 

They are always beautiful physical specimens with super strength and speed. 

Mates are extremely important to the supernaturals. They mate only once and when they do, a brand appears on the body of both the supernatural and his mate (except for vampires, who do not scar). 

All supernaturals are members of the Realm, the coalition of the various species that is ruled by the vampire king, Dage Kayrs.

    The four supernatural species in this world are witches, shape shifters, demons, and vampires. Here are the characteristics specific to each species:

> Witches can be either male or female. Here, a witch explains the difference between witches and humans: "We're different species with different chromosomal pairs. Humans have twenty-three pairs. Witches have twenty-seven pairs. So, the difference between witches and humans is similar to the chromosomal difference between humans and, say, a potted plant." (from Wicked Ride) At the moment of mating, a witch burns a Celtic knot symbol onto the skin of the mate, and the human mate soon becomes immortal (after developing four new chromosomal pairs). Witches can manipulate oxygen molecules to produce fire from their bodies. For example, they can create and throw balls of fire at enemies. As one witch explains, "We employ quantum physics, as humans partially understand it, to alter matter when necessary. Like to create fire and throw plasma." (from Wicked Ride) The witch nation is ruled by the Council of Coven Nine. The witches' kryptonite is a mineral from Russia called phenakite (aka planekite, aka PK), which can negate their powers or even cause death. 

> Shape shifters are of three types: feline, wolf, and multi. Most of the multi-shifters take the form of a bear. These shifters can take their animal form at will—no need to wait for a full moon. They are strong and fast-moving.

> Vampires drink blood only during sex or during battle kills. Their fangs recede when not in use. They are not sensitive to the sun. Most have an extra magical talent (e.g., teleporting). Vampires have 30 chromosomal pairs.

> Demons: Ninety percent of the demon nation is male. Most can teleport and control the minds of humans and of nonhumans with weak mental shields. All are physically strong.

     The novels feature the three Dunne brothers: Adam, Kellach, and Daire. They are witches who serve as Enforcers for the Realm. Daire describes them like this: "Kellach is the wild one, Adam the logical one, and I'm the cranky one." (from Wicked Edge

     If you like erotic paranormal romances, you'll probably enjoy this series. The heroes are all über-alphas, and the women are all feisty humans who—deep down—love to be dominated. 

                             NOVEL 1:  Wicked Ride                              
Alexandra Monzelle is a hard-fighting, heat-packing Seattle vice cop, and she’s not much interested in being protected. Her short skirt and sex-kitten heels are tools to lure her suspects into talking about the deadly new drug hitting the streets. She can take care of herself and then some. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to get that through to Kellach Dunne. 

     Kellach is a fresh import from Dublin, and he’s landed at the heart of a vicious motorcycle club that deals in guns, narcotics, and mayhem. He’s all male, all rough power—and all interference in her damn investigation. Maybe he’s one of the good guys. Maybe not. Lex knows an affair with an immortal like him would risk everything. No matter how delicious he looks. 

     As the story opens, 31-year-old Alexandra (Lex) is spending most nights undercover in sleazy bars, trying to find the source of a deadly new drug that has hit the Seattle streets hard. If people take too much of the drug—called Apollo—they shoot fire from their hands, burn up from the inside, and die screaming in a heap of charred, bloody flesh. Meanwhile, Kellach (Kell) Dunne and his two brothers, Adam and Daire—all witches—are also undercover in Seattle. The siblings are Realm Enforcers, and they have infiltrated Titans of Fire, a local motorcycle gang that deals drugs and guns. They are determined to get Apollo off the streets because it is made from PK, a mineral that, in large doses, can be fatal to both witches and humans. Kell is a 350-year old warrior who has fought in several immortal wars, but he looks like he is only in his early 30s. 

     From the moment that Lex and Kell have their first encounter during a confrontation with an Apollo user, the sparks between them begin to fly, both literally and figuratively. Lex believes that Kell is a drug-dealing criminal, but she is so attracted to him that she has trouble thinking straight. At the same time, Kell is falling just as hard for Lex, but he wants her to stay out of the drug investigation for her own safety. Naturally, their relationship moves along a very bumpy path as they fall in lust, then in love—alternating between stormy arguments and steamy sex all the way to their HEA.

      The Dunne brothers want to get Apollo off the streets as soon as possible for the safety of the witches of Seattlenot to mention the rising number of humans who are consuming fatal overdoses. They believe that the person behind the drug is a witch who is using Seattle as a testing ground and will then move the drug to Ireland, with the intent of killing all of the many witches who live there. Soon, witches begin to attack Lex, causing Kell to fear for her life.

     Eventually, due to unforeseen circumstances, Kell is forced to explain the supernatural world to Lex so that she will understand what is actually going on. After he demonstrates his fiery talents, she begins to believe that the Realm exists, but she goes back and forth between loving him and distrusting him. In fact, that is the fatal flaw in her character. She constantly explodes into manic fits of distrust in which she makes dumb decisions and stumbles into a multitude of TSTL moments. I don't understand how she can be a good police detective if she behaves this way on a daily basis. Zanetti attempts to blame Lex's mistrust of Kell on her daddy issues, but really, an intelligent, well-trained, experienced police officer just wouldn't be acting like an emotionally disturbed airhead. Lex has had the stereotypically tragic past of many (most) paranormal romance heroine. Her mother has multiple sclerosis and her deplorable father is in prison for murder and drug dealing. Both parents become key figures in the plot as the book nears its end.

     Several other supernaturals are introduced as supporting characters, and I'm sure that most of them will appear in future books: 

     Bear: head of the Seattle Grizzlies motorcycle club; a friend and ally of the Dunne family 

     Simone Brightson: Kell's cousin, who serves in this book as his lawyer. 

     Nicholaj (Nick) Veis: the Realm's demon liaison; he has had a stormy relationship with Simone ever since he broke her heart a very long time ago 

     Parker Monzelle: Lex's human father, who is in prison for most of the novel 

     Jennie Monzelle: Lex's human mother, who still loves her husband even though he is a dope-dealing murderer 

     Victoria (Tori) Monzelle: Lex's sister, lead singer in a rock band 

     Garrett Kayrs—Dage Kayrs' nephew (a vampire)—and Logan Kyllwood—Dage's nephew-in-law (a halfbreed vampire/demon). Both young men got into girl trouble in Ireland, so Dage has sent them to Seattle to "help" Kell in his investigation.

     The story has an intriguing plot, interesting characters, and lots and lots of graphic sex scenes (up against a tree in a thunderstorm, inside a truck parked outside Lex's police station, and sometimes in a bed). One of those scenes includes some light S&M. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Wicked Ride.

     I'll stick with this series for now in the hope that the depth of the characters signals that it will be more than the usual genre series. To end this review, I want to quote Daire Dunne as he describes his dream mate: "I'm not mating an enforcer or a cop or even a shifter. Fate finds us the perfect counterpart, and mine will be nurturing, like having kid, and won't even consider drawing a weapon…I'm not mating for another few centuries." Book 2 tells Daire's story, so we'll soon see how close to the mark he is on describing his future mate.

                             NOVELLA 2.5:  "Teased"                              

The Hunter: For almost a century, the Realm’s most deadly assassin, Chalton Reese, has left war and death in the past, turning instead to strategy, reason, and technology. His fingers, still stained with blood, now protect with a keyboard instead of a weapon. Until the vampire king sends him on one more mission; to hunt down a human female with the knowledge to destroy the Realm. A woman with eyes like emeralds, a brain to match his own, and a passion that might destroy them both—if the enemy on their heels doesn’t do so first.

The Hunted: Olivia Roberts has foregone relationships with wimpy metro-sexuals in favor of pursuing a good story, bound and determined to uncover the truth, any truth. When her instincts start humming about missing proprietary information, she has no idea her search for a story will lead her to a ripped, sexy, and dangerous male beyond any human man. Setting aside the unbelievable fact that he’s a vampire and she’s his prey, she discovers that trusting him is the only chance they have to survive the danger stalking them both.

                             NOVEL 2:  Wicked Edge                              
     Daire Dunne is more than ready to take a quick break from his duties as a Coven Nine Enforcer. When he spots a sexy blond across a Titan's of Fire party, it's not long before she's on the back of his Harley on the fast track to his apartment. Unfortunately, one overheated kiss in, the woman drugs Daire and steals valuable files that can't fall into enemy hands. The second he comes to, the hunt is on.

     Now that Cee Cee has the information to take down an enemy that destroyed her family, she can implement her perfect plan for revenge. Nothing will stop her, not even a shockingly sexy enforcer barging into her life. Not even the spectacular, fire-branding sex engulfing them. But if Daire ever figures out who her family really is, all bets are off. 

     In this romantic adventure, it's Daire Dunn's turn to fall madly in love with a most unsuitable lovera gorgeous blond demon he meets at the Titan's of Fire clubhouse. After some hot and heavy petting, they head back to Daire's penthouse apartment, where….they don't make passionate love because she drugs him, steals some important files, and takes off on his motorcycle. Yes, Cee Cee has an agenda that she has been planning for yearsan agenda of revenge against the demon who ruined her life and that of her family. As the story progresses, Cee Cee proceeds with her plans, with Daire constantly in pursuit (even though she distrusts him completely and manages to drug him again). The man is head over heels in love with Cee Cee (and she actually feels the same way about him).

This is where Daire and
Cee Cee 
have their
Arctic adventures
     By the time we're a quarter of the way into the story, Daire has pursued Cee Cee to the Arctic, where they are attacked by a herd of polar bears (eight of them), threatened by armed demons, thrown into the frigid Arctic Ocean when their plane crashes, and marooned on a desolate, ice-covered island. And that's just the beginning of their adventures. (NOTE: Polar bears are solitary animals that do not travel in herds, but if an author needs her characters to be attacked by animals on an Arctic island, facts must be twisted just enough to fit the story line.)

     It turns out that Cee Cee is just as fierce and stubborn as the Dunne brothers. She'll do anything to finalize her plans, even if it means hiding her true identity from her lover or sacrificing herself to save her family. I will not reveal Cee Cee's true identity here because it would be such a huge spoiler. In fact, I recommend that you avoid reviews that break the spoiler rule on this, because knowing her real identity too soon will definitely take a lot of the suspense and fun out of the first 1/3 of the story for you.

     This is a rollicking tale, filled with one outrageously dangerous scene after another as Cee Cee and Daire team up to fulfill Cee Cee's goals and stay alive while they're doing it. Eventually, the families of both lovers get involved in the scheme, with some being put in grave danger while others come to the rescue. Actually, the family-meet-family scenes are quite humorous, because Daire is a witch and Cee Cee is a demon, so there are lots of half-hearted threats and  endless snarky, species-related bickering between various family members on both sides.

     Several story lines continue from the first novel: the Dunne brothers' search for the witch who is flooding Seattle with the lethal Apollo drug, their continuing undercover assignment inside the motorcycle club, and their "frenemy" relationship with the bear shifters. Bear, leader of the Grizzliesmakes several humorous appearances in this novel, still making the Dunn brothers growl in reaction to his gleeful flirting with their women. He's quite a character.

     Daire and Cee Cee are delightful lead characters. Daire has always claimed to be searching for a nice, docile mate, but Cee Cee is the complete opposite, and Daire can't get enough of her. Their verbal sparring is fun, and Cee Cee's ability to drug Daire multiple times, blow up his apartment, and keep her secrets from him make for a wild and wonderful romantic ride. Their bedroom scenes are frequent and graphic with neither of them holding back on their emotions. 

     I enjoyed this book much more than the first one, mainly due to the engaging lead characters and the wild plot. The next novel will focus on the romance between Simone Brightson, the Dunne brothers’ cousin, who is in danger of losing her Coven Nine position, and Nicholaj (Nick) Veis, the Realm's demon liaison, who has had a stormy relationship with Simone ever since he once broke her heart. As this book ends, Simone is being framed for treasonous acts by an unknown enemy, and she and Nick are on the run together. There are also hints that Adam will be pursuing a romance with Tori, Alexandra's sister. (They met in book 1.) 

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from Wicked Edge on the book's page. Just click on the cover art.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Wicked Edge is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this honest review are strictly my own.

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