Category Archives: Paranormal

Love’s Complicated

Last week I posted my review of Storms, the initial installment of Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak’s new paranormal shifter series Tau’s Pride.

Schemes set into motion in Storms build momentum in the second book, Sacrifice.

The Pride (Not Pack. Did you catch that? Cause the change is ruffling lots of feathers and fur!) are flipped again as Regina and sexy angel Sebastian consummate a love that’s been simmering since even before Regina’s birth. The consequences of this union promise to reverberate throughout the shifter universe. If that’s not big enough news, Regina and her bodyguard Jon also have an important moment. If all of this “free love” makes you squirm, you’re not alone. Some of Regina’s most trusted mentors and confidants question whether she’s gone too far over to the “feline” way of being, with a serious loss of the special bonds conferred by the Wolf’s monogamous nature.

Regina accepts the validity of the question–she just doesn’t know what to do about it. Since the Dream Walk back in Legacies, a law of love that is greater than any particular species custom has asserted itself, and she feels compelled to honor it. Judging from what happens at the end of Sacrifice, this proves to be a wise impulse, but it has its costs. Harry for one, now transformed beyond anything he or we could have imagined, seems an outlier in this situation right at the point where he’s decided he wants to be more a part of his marriage and his family.

The final battle of Sacrifice is complex, brutal and resolves (to the degree that anything can resolve midway through a paranormal saga) in a most unexpected and satisfying manner. Weirdly enough, I’m especially concerned about a couple of the “villains” I’ve become attached to. I fear Kelly and Dorchak may have done too good a job with their characters–here I am rooting for the wrong side!!!!

Buy Tau’s Pride: Sacrifice on Amazon

 

One Saga Leads to Another

I have had the pleasure of featuring the writing team of Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak, authors of the Bonds of Blood & Spirit shifter series several times. If you’d like to check out my interview with the pair and reviews of the books, you can start here.

Storms opens after the epic battle that ended Kelly and Dorchak’s Bonds of Blood & Spirit saga and launches the sequel series Tau’s Pride.

The forces of darkness have been beaten back, but only just. As Regina, Cole, Harry and all our other favorite players welcome Regina and Harry’s daughter, enemies are already mobilizing a new attack. The details are sketchy–the authors keep their plot machinations pretty quiet, dropping only tantalizing hints here and there. In the meantime, we follow developments both inside and outside the Pack’s compound.

For instance, Harry’s recovery after nearly being burned to death during the battle isn’t as complete as everyone believes. And then there’s hunky Xander, a fairly new addition to the saga, who is on a search for the sister he’s been separated from since childhood. His story becomes irrevocably entwined with the fate of the Pack (Or is it Pride? Ah…therein lies a big part of the conflict. Just what is this new ordering that has emerged after the Legacies Dream Walk?) as multiple story lines converge. Shifting roles and strained bonds cause all manner of drama and conflict. The end, rather than bringing resolution, brings only more change that drives the action forward into the next installment.

Kelly and Dorchak do a great job juggling their huge cast and also balancing action and character development. They are skilled at creating characters who are more than appearance suggests. Baddies turn out to have compelling soft spots and good guys potentially tragic blind spots.

Storms is an explosive beginning to what promises to be another epic shape-shifting adventure.

Buy Storms

Tau's Pride Saga, Book I, STORMS

Cover of STORMS, book one of Tau’s Pride.

The Story is in the Eye of the Beholder

For the past two weeks I’ve been slogging away at chapter eight of my current project, which re-imagines my zombie novel Dead Town as a romance. I took on the challenge in response to readers’ demand for full disclosure on the budding relationship between young mother Sara Molloy and ex-marine Patrick Bannon. Since the original horror novel is told in the first person through the eyes of Sara’s 14-year-old brother, there was no way to truly delve into the couple’s minds in that book and witness their attraction build into affection and, finally, true love.

Sara and Patrick share point of view in Dead Town–The Romance. This allows me to dig into their reactions and emotions. Nevertheless, I did worry that I’d end up with a book that was more old material than new. Old material with added sighs and kisses. Turns out this isn’t at all the case. I was lucky in that Scotty and his friend Kranky are so central to the original that they had many many scenes to themselves. This left gave me a free hand in coming up with completely new stuff for Sara and Patrick.  Of course, it also meant losing some of my most exciting zombie-fighting scenes and funniest lines. Kranky and Scotty made such a great team, it hurt to have to demote them to supporting roles this time around.

Writing Dead Town–The Romance hasn’t been easy. There’s a tendency to look at those sections that are held over from the original as written in stone. I resist altering reactions or dialog, even though it’s often the case that changing the point of view changes the entire mood and thrust of the scene.

Chapter eight has proven to be an exercise in that classic advice, “Author, Kill Your Darlings.” Not only did I need to rewrite 90% of it, the point of view needed to switch halfway through. Sometimes a single chapter can handle that. Other times, it can’t. This time around, I ended up with a complicated series of mini-climaxes that just didn’t sing. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Probably because it couldn’t be fixed. After two weeks of frustration, I realized that needed to divide it into two chapters. That simple decision threw everything else into focus. The result is two chapters that balance character and action, reflection and reaction, and help elevate the novel from a “retelling” into something that stands on its own.

Seems that what’s true for a novel is also true for the author of the novel–perception IS everything.

Order Dead Town

AN UNEXPECTED AFFAIR

A romance novelist heads to a holiday cottage hoping to break through writer’s block and finds herself drawn to the retreat’s enigmatic owner.

An Unexpected Affair (Scottish Werebear, #1)

An Unexpected Affair

Clarice Adler is under a deadline to turn in her next novel and she’s no where near finished. So her attraction to Derek McMillan is unexpected and unwelcome, especially since she believes he’s married. For his part, Derek is not at all interested in starting anything up with Clarice. He’s a werebear, and everyone knows (according to him) that bears are loners. It doesn’t help that labors under serious baggage stemming from his parents’ fatal car accident. Derek is sure there’s more to the event than officials will admit. Resolving this plot line links all of the subsequent books, though the romances in each novella are self-contained.

The setting in this book is done so well that you can SEE the farm, cottages, and surrounding open spaces. There’s also a nice, slow build to the relationship. This easy pacing is refreshing and it’s also not easy to pull off in such a short book.

As soon as I finished this, I hurried to download the next two. The accident plot takes some interesting turns over the course of the series, but I think this first one is the best by far in terms of character development and emotion.

A DANGEROUS HUNGER by J.S. Scott

When a reclusive academic’s work on demons lands her in danger, she must accept the protection of a sentinel demon with an appetite for food and romance.

A Dangerous Hunger (The Sentinel Demons, #2)

A Dangerous Hunger

This was my least favorite of J.S. Scott’s The Sentinel Demon series. The chemistry between Dr. Talia Maris and Drew Winston never quite gets going. The book starts out with some excitement as Drew plots to capture his elusive charge. It’s kind of cute how he finally manages to lure her into his clutches. But the relationship never really takes off. Drew is the least smoldering of the three heroes in the series. There’s nothing particularly unique about him. Talia is a more fully developed character–and she has a great cat.

The underworld introduced in A DANGEROUS BARGAIN is explored and it’s pretty scary. But the bad demons (the “Evils”) aren’t as big a threat as in the first book, where they caused all sorts of trouble.

The book entertains but it doesn’t sweep you away.

A DANGEROUS BARGAIN by J.S. Scott

A sentinel demon must protect his soul mate from his enemies.

A Dangerous Bargain (The Sentinel Demons, #1)

A Dangerous Bargain

There’s a lot of sexual tension between Zach Winston and Kat Larsen. The premise of Scott’s fictional universe–that sentinel demons were created to protect humankind after the gods of Mt. Olympus retired to the Elysian Fields and left people unprotected from the evil demons who desire to prey on them–is interesting and well thought out. So is the concept of “Radiants”–the fated mates that are the keepers of the sentinels’ souls.

The fast pace and a carefully placed twists kept me reading. Also, for once, the bad guys (“Evils”) of the series are actually pretty scary. I get a little tired of amazing heroes fighting powerful foes who turn out not to be so powerful after all. Scott’s baddies turn up when you least expect it and cause lots of chaos.

Zach’s brother demons are interesting–especially Hunter. When I finished this book, I immediately downloaded the other two. In fact, last week I posted my review of A Dangerous Fury, Hunter’s book. It’s the third in the series and my favorite, so it jumped to the head of the review line.

Excellent paranormal romance.

ETHAN’S MATE by J.S. Scott

A vampire warrior must find his fated mate to reclaim his soul.

Ethan's Mate (The Vampire Coalition, #1)

Ethan’s Mate

This is book one of J.S. Scott’s The Vampire Coalition paranormal romance series. It’s a novella…kind of. Really, it’s too short for that designation. It’s a long short story, which is fine. Nothing wrong with short fiction. Ethan and the heroine have strong and believable chemistry and the premise behind the author’s imagined world is interesting.

Pacing is a problem. This installment sets up the series and offers erotic content, but this is at the cost of plot depth and character development. The evil vampires are fascinating, but they are not used to the fullest effect. The ending is too abrupt.

ETHAN’S MATE gives us good a sense of where the larger Vampire Coalition series is going. The question is do we want to be bothered going with it? I probably won’t.

A DANGEROUS FURY by J.S. Scott

A sentinel demon with anger management issues must rescue a woman who holds the secret to defeating his kind’s biggest enemy.

A Dangerous Fury (The Sentinel Demons, #3)

A Dangerous Fury

This is my favorite of J.S.Scott’s Sentinel Demons series. Hunter Winston is by far the darkest and most complex of the three sentinel “brothers.” His zeal for killing “Evils” (the bad demons) makes him break all sorts of rules and gets him into serious trouble. As we learn, Hunter has plenty of reasons to be bitter. In many ways his long-term mission has been much harder and more damaging that those of his brother demons, Zach and Drew.

The future of all the Sentinels depends on his current assignment, but this woman he’s charged with protecting isn’t easy to trace. Hunter has to fight his way to her hidden mansion. By the time he gets there, he’s not a happy camper. I can’t say much more or even give the woman’s name without completely spoiling a plot full of unexpected twists that shed light on the creation of these unique demons and their mission to protect humanity.

There’s amazing chemistry between the leads. Scott builds up Hunter’s bad attitude so well that we expect an explosion when the couple finally comes together. Which brings me to my only real criticism of the book–the romantic tension resolves too quickly. I wanted a more stubbornly rebellious Hunter, who fights his attraction to this woman tooth and nail. However, even with the premature tying up of the romance part, there’s plenty of action and plot revelations to keep you reading.

An exciting and entertaining paranormal romance.

Review: Haunted House…Haunted Life

A dying woman’s obsession with her childhood “friend” follows her into an uneasy afterlife.

Disclaimer: This isn’t an easy book to review properly without spoiling. The story really needs to be experienced firsthand for the biggest impact, so forgive me for any vagueness here.

HAUNTED HOUSE...HAUNTED LIFE: (What We Leave Behind) (The Coffee Break Series Book 5)

HAUNTED HOUSE…HAUNTED LIFE: (What We Leave Behind)

HAUNTED HOUSE…HAUNTED LIFE starts out as a darkly funny drama, and the main character, Jeanne, seems like a long-suffering wife and mother yearning for one last contact with the only friend she’s ever had. Things quickly turn on their head, however, and we learn that “Anna Maria” isn’t quite who–or what–we think. Nor will Jeanne’s search for her be as simple or straight forward as we expect. Instead we watch in stunned horror as the woman we’ve been rooting for with the batty husband and disappointing kids slowly twists into someone else altogether as her obsession ratchets higher and higher.

At the same time as Jeanne struggles toward her goal, there’s a secondary family tale going on. This one centers on parental love and the lengths some will go to in order to make amends to those most important to them. I love how, in a way, misguided, tragic Jeanne provides the opportunity for another remorseful soul, to find his way to reconciliation and peace.

This is a funny, sad, moving book that I’ll remember for a long time.

Review: BOUND BY LIGHT

*I received an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

A young woman moves to London after her mother’s death and is swept into the arms of a movie star who is more than he seems.

Bound by Light (Cauld Ane, #7)

Bound by Light

I’ve read all of the Cauld Ane books. It’s a great series and BOUND BY LIGHT has one of the most endearing heroines. Sydney is likable and vulnerable. She has everything anyone could want on a material level, but she’d give it all away to have her mother back.

Movie star (and Cauld Ane) Thane Allen is strong and protective without being overbearing. Though Sydney might disagree! She balks at his attempts to keep her safe from a stalker who turns out be far more dangerous and unhinged than anyone expected.

I figured out WHO the villain was early on. So did Sydney, even if she didn’t understand that she knew. The WHY behind it all did come as a surprise. Let’s just say that at its core this book is about the mother-child bond–at its best and at its worst.

The binding scene between Thane and Sydney could have been more sensual. I’m not saying Jackson should have been more graphic in her depiction of their coming together. I do think it was noticeably underwritten. Sex aside, it would have been nice to know more about what Thane and Sydney were feeling and thinking at this pivotal moment.

Also, the pacing between the 50% and 80% points lags a little as we follow Thane and Sydney from home visit to home visit to home visit. It is nice to catch up with the previous Cauld Ane couples, but all the relatives and their wonderful estates do begin to blur together.

The climax makes up for the travel section. The villain is SCARY and it’s heartbreaking when Sydney learns that her childhood memories are not the whole truth. I can’t say more without spoiling the story.

BOUND BY LIGHT is romantic and suspenseful. Five stars!