Review: Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2

Review: Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 by S.E. Smith, Carol Van Natta, Jessica E. Subject, Alexis Glynn Latner, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley
Format: eARC
Source: publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Pages: 826
on October 10th 2017
Publisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!

10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.

My Review:

I loved the first Pets in Space collection, as well as all the pets collected therein, so I was happy to sign up for Pets in Space 2. And I’m glad I did.

This is a collection to savor, and possibly also one to plan on reading over a long trip. This book is huge. Why? Because this is not a collection of short stories, it’s a collection of novellas. Novellas are longer, meatier and just have room for more story all the way around. So if you like SFR in general or stories where animals help the humans get their romantic act together, this one is a winner from beginning to end.

I have to confess that I haven’t read them all, yet. I want to have time to get into each story, and possibly see how many books in each author’s series I need to add to my towering TBR pile.

That being said, I really enjoyed the stories I did read. But because this is my “best beloved” genre, SFR, I have a few quibbles.

I read the first two stories, Pearl’s Dragon by SE Smith and A Grim Pet by MK Eidem straight out of the gate, before I realized I had to pace myself a bit. I liked both of them, but Pearl’s Dragon spoke to me a bit more. It was fantastic to see a “woman of a certain age” as the romantic lead. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough, even though in science fiction it is easy to posit more than enough medical advances to make it not merely plausible, but very, very possible. And it’s fun to see someone I can really identify with as the heroine!

But both of these stories are in worlds that I am not familiar with, and that are several stories into their worldbuilding. As much as I enjoyed them, I always had the feeling that there was a whole bunch that I was missing because I hadn’t read the previous stories. Which look like a treat. As soon as I get a round tuit, I’ll be back to visit these worlds again.

I went hunting for a cat story, because, cats. I love cat stories, and cat’s stories, and that’s why I have two of my own. And I loved Rescued by the Cyborg by Cara Bristol, even though I have not read the series that it comes from, either. Little Mittzi added just the right touch of comfort and whimsy to a story that definitely had its dark and gritty moments. And Mittzi even saved the day!

Then I went looking for the stories in universes that was already familiar with, and explored two of those, Veronica Scott’s Star Cruise: Songbird and Pauline Baird Jones’ Time Trap.

Time Trap was a bit shorter than the rest, and just didn’t have quite enough time to deal with what feels like some very complex worldbuilding under the surface. And that’s ironic considering that this is a time travel story. I liked Briggs and Madison, but because I didn’t have a lot of background for them I found myself short-cutting what I did have and grafting it into universes I’m more familiar with. Something kept saying Stargate to me, but I’m not sure if that mental leap was remotely correct. Still, great characters, but the worldbuilding had clearly happened elsewhere. Sir Rupert, on my third hand, was an absolute hoot. Pun completely intended.

Of the stories that I read, I think that Star Cruise: Songbird was the best of the marvelous bunch. It probably helped that I have read several books in the Star Cruise series, and was relatively familiar with the worldbuilding. This story felt the most complete, in the sense that we had a chance to really see the relationship develop from its shaky start to its life-altering conclusion. The bond between Grant and his raptor was nicely done, and Karissa’s problems, while they were difficult, showed that she was dealing with her life and just needed a bit of help – not that Grant needed to rescue her at every turn. I also loved that they found a way to be together that melded both their worlds. A great story with a well deserved and interesting HEA.

Escape Rating A-: There are mostly hits in this collection, and plenty of temptation not just to immerse yourself in this book, but to go back and do a deep dive into every one of these authors’ worlds. I loved the first book, and this is a fitting continuation. I hope that there will be a Pets in Space 3 to look forward to next year, because this collection has become an annual treat.

Review: Illumination by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

Review: Illumination by Susannah Sandlin + GiveawayIllumination (Penton Legacy #5) by Susannah Sandlin
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: paranormal romance, vampires
Series: Penton Legacy #5
Pages: 364
Published by Suzanne Johnson on July 4th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

He came to Penton seeking peace. Nik Dimitrou joined the Army to escape his family legacy, only to have his psychic abilities exploited as a weapon. Now, as a civilian, he turns to the bottle to veil the images that haunt his mind whenever he touches anyone—except vampires. With them, he has finally found a place. But as Penton moves into open warfare with the Vampire Tribunal, Nik finds himself a linchpin in the deepening conflict, not to mention a transformation in his own body more frightening than anything he’s faced.

She wanted to change the world. Shay Underwood watched her Peace Corps parents move from one third world country to another—until both died following an outbreak of fever. Driven to her own career in tropical medicine, Shay works to cure the disease that killed her parents—until a careless weekend outing draws her into a world far more dangerous than the diseases she studies: a vampire society engaged in human trafficking.

Two cities, two strangers, one world. With Penton rebellion leader Aidan Murphy making risky choices and chief vampire lieutenant Mirren Kincaid forced to take a leadership role for which he is unsuited, it will fall to two outsiders, Nik and Shay, to find a way for Penton—and themselves—to survive in this much-anticipated conclusion to the award-winning Penton Legacy series.

My Review:

Redemption by Susannah SandlinIn my review of the first book in this series, Redemption, I called this series “vampire toffee”. Once you sink your teeth into it, you can’t unstuck. And that was just as true in Illumination as it was in the previous books in the series. I’ve been waiting for THREE years to find out how the mess that we were introduced to in Redemption finally got resolved.

And now I know.

One of the things that seems to be a hallmark of most vampire fiction is vampire politics. It does make a certain amount of sense that people who live for centuries if not millennia would end up spending entirely too much time jockeying for power. And as the ultimate apex predators, vampires often end up in that quandary where power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And when that absolute power is challenged, any and all horrific means can be justified to serve their ends – those ends being to get back in power and eliminate all threats – even the threats that have the potential to save their lives.

The background to this series is one that has been used before, but with a twist. Vampires have always existed among us. They can ensnare people they need, feeding a vampire produces an addictive high, and they can wipe out inconvenient memories of those who have seen or heard to much. Or just kill them, as we are not really people to most of them, merely food.

However, the world has changed, and not in a good way – at least not for the vampires. I don’t mean technology, although that plays into it a bit. But in this near-future scenario, a worldwide pandemic was averted through the development of a preventive vaccine. As the pandemic was widespread (that’s what pandemic means, after all) most of the world’s population got inoculated against it. Something in the vaccine makes the blood of the vaccinated humans poisonous to vampires. It’s an unintended consequence the humans are completely unaware of.

But the vampires are starving. The population of unvaccinated humans is tiny.

The conflict that runs through the entire Penton Legacy series revolves around the best method for dealing with the vampire food shortage. The Vampire Tribunal, the, let’s call it the traditional viewpoint, wants to capture and enslave unvaccinated humans by any means necessary, and will kill anyone, human, vampire or shifter (yes, this world has shifters, too) who gets in their way.

The scheme they hatch in Illumination is possibly their most disgusting yet. They must be stopped.

The forces on the side of stopping them begin Illumination very much on the ropes after the horrific events that end Allegiance. Aiden Murphy, the leader of the Penton vampire scathe, has come up with a different way for vampires to survive. Instead of coercing, co-opting and controlling humans, Penton only accepts volunteers who are willing to live in cooperation with humans and shifters. It’s an alliance of equals, and the Tribunal sees it as a threat to their way of life.

Penton fights back with everything and everyone they have. They might just lose it all, but if they do, they’ll go down fighting every step of the way.

Escape Rating B: Before I talk about what I thought of Illumination, there are a few PSAs (public service announcements) that I need to get out of the way.

First, Illumination is the end of a story that begins in Redemption, continues through Absolution, Omega, Storm Force and Allegiance before it comes to its epic conclusion in Illumination. In order for the conflict between the vampire factions to make sense, for the created world to hold together, and for the reader to care about all the characters, it really is necessary to read the whole series in order.

Second, that really isn’t a problem because the whole thing is vampire romance crack. You’ll be hooked, and you’ll feel compelled to see what happens next.

Third, even though Storm Force was not labelled as part of the Penton series, it really is. It comes between Omega and Allegiance and begins the second arc of the Penton saga.

And now back to my review of the actual book in hand, Illumination.

Allegiance ended on a terrible cliffhanger. Not that book was terrible, because the books in this series have all been tons of fun, but terrible in the “things are always darkest just before they turn completely black” sense. It ends on a serious downer, the situation looks bleak, and the reader isn’t sure if the Pentonites can recover.

And that was back in 2014. It’s been a damn long time. It took me awhile to get back up to speed on what was and wasn’t happening, who it was happening with/to, and figure out what was what.

Also, because of the events in Allegiance, Illumination gets off to a slow start. The heroine is literally trapped, the hero is unconscious, and Aiden Murphy, the prime mover and shaker of everything Penton, has completely lost his grip. It takes the first third of the book for Aiden to begin to get back into fighting shape. Once he comes back to life, the book does too.

While Illumination does contain a romance, as all the books in this series do, the romance in this one takes a back seat to the resolution of the vampire civil war. And it needs to. Without a solution to the dwindling food source problem, there can’t be a lasting solution to much of anything. Nobody gets a happy ever after if there is no ever after.

As with the first book, Redemption, the romance in this entry has a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome problem. There’s an attempt to gloss it over because the hero and heroine were also high school sweethearts, but it’s still definitely there. It doesn’t keep the romance from working, but it’s a presence.

On my other hand, one of the great things about this entry in the series is the way that everyone works together, and that everyone’s skills are needed to win this fight. This is not a series where the alpha male vampires rescue and protect the weak human females. Everyone has a stake in this war, and everyone, vampire, human, shifter, male and female has skills that are required to win it.

And bringing the dinosaurs back to life, even temporarily, was just plain cool.

In the end, I really got a kick out of this series. I’m a bit sorry to see it end, but happy that all those poor people hanging from cliffs at the end of Allegiance finally got let off the hook. And while my trip to Penton is over, I have more books from this author to look forward to. Susannah Sandlin also writes as Suzanne Johnson, and she’s awesome under both names!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Susannah is giving away 2 $25 Amazon gift cards (or equivalent order from Book Depository for entrants outside the U.S.) to lucky participants on this tour

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Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

Review: Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin + GiveawayBlack Diamond (Wilds of the Bayou, #2) by Susannah Sandlin
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Wilds of the Bayou #2
Pages: 255
Published by Montlake Romance on October 18th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.
The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

My Review:

Drug mules are always bad news, but in Terrebonne Parish some of the drug mules have four legs, a tail, and seventy-two big, sharp teeth. In other words, there’s a crazy fool using live alligators to smuggle drugs.

While karma is bound to catch up with these idiots eventually, the agents of the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife can’t wait that long. The new drug being smuggled, Black Diamond, is a nearly instant addicting drug of the bath-salts type. One user has already shot himself in broad daylight from the top of a drawbridge.

And newly returned LDFW agent Jena Sinclair has just come home to find her kid brother Jackson at their house, higher than a kite, and a stash of Black Diamond in his room. This case has just hit way too close to home.

wild mans curse by susannah sandlinAfter the events in Wild Man’s Curse, Jena has come back to the LDFW scarred and more than a bit fragile. Being forced to return to her parents’ toxic household in New Orleans for her rehab was very nearly the death of Jena. And she’s still not all the way back at the beginning of this case.

Hunting down drugged gators and crazed drug dealers leads Jena straight to the equally scarred and still somewhat fragile Cole Ryan. Cole is living completely alone and off-the-grid after his wife, daughter and mother were killed by a teenager hopped up on meth who decided to shoot up a shopping mall to get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. He missed the girlfriend and wiped out Cole’s family, and a whole lot of other families, instead.

When he meets Jena, Cole sees her as a kindred spirit and an attractive woman, and discovers that his time alone on the bayou has healed him way more than he thought. But the isolation that Cole found so healing is just the kind of isolation that the drug dealers need for their insane “catch and release” program for their toothy drug mules.

Once Jena traces the clues, with Cole’s help, it’s a fight to the death to stop the dealers before the dealers stop them – permanently.

Escape Rating A-: I absolutely adored the first book in this series, Wild Man’s Bayou, and loved Black Diamond almost as much. This is a romantic suspense series where the suspense is front and center (and suspenseful!) and the romance, while not in the forefront of the action, backseat drives this story at all the right moments.

This story has a big whodunnit aspect, as Jena and the LDWF, along with every other law enforcement agency for miles around, is desperately trying to figure out who is smuggling the Black Diamond into the parish, and how. While it is pretty clear from early in the story that the gators are somehow involved, working out the who, how and why takes center-stage.

Along with Jena struggling to get her feet back under her and her game face on. Jena is the first cop to leap to the idea of the gators as the mules, but has a difficult time shoring up her confidence to even suggest the possibility to the powers that be.

We see her search her soul for the reasons that she doesn’t want to take the charge she knows she has to, and we feel for her every step of the way. As we do for Cole Ryan, as he just about brings himself back from the dead to reach out to Jena and save them both.

However, if we never see Jena’s parents in any future books in this series, it will be just fine with this reader. Much of Jena’s self-doubt can be laid at her parents’ door, and I found myself wanting to slap them until they got their heads out of their asses about both of their children. I digress just a bit.

The ending of Black Diamond is bittersweet, as we discover the ways that good people do very bad things for very unfortunate reasons. And it feels right.

I love this series, as I have nearly everything that the author has written under both her Susannah Sandlin and Suzanne Johnson names. I sincerely hope that the Wilds of the Bayou series continues, because I want to read more about this fascinating place and these marvelous people.

black diamond tour graphic

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Susannah is giving away 1 $50 Amazon gift card and 5 $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky entrants on this tour.

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Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Susannah Sandlin, also known as and writing as Suzanne Johnson, back to Reading Reality! Because I always love her books, I usually jump on the chance to get a guest post from Susannah whenever she has a book on tour, whatever name it happens to be written under. If you like urban fantasy, start with Royal Street, the first book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series as Suzanne Johnson. If you prefer paranormal romance, visit the vampires of Pentonville in Redemption, the first book in her Penton Legacy series as Susannah Sandlin. And if you prefer your romantic suspense to be more-or-less firmly grounded in the real world, you can’t do better than starting with today’s review book, Wild Man’s Curse

And now, here’s Susannah to talk about her turn to the fully-human side of the romantic force!

Wild Man's Curse Banner 851 x 315

In Praise of the Human

by Susannah Sandlin

Most—okay, all—of my early work was paranormal in nature—urban fantasy as Suzanne Johnson and paranormal romance as Susannah Sandlin. So when, under my Susannah Sandlin pen name, I branched out into romantic suspense, I feared it might be hard to “go human.”

I’d had a taste of it in my standalone STORM FORCE, where I had a team of former Army Rangers and shifters of various species working together to solve a case of domestic terrorism. In that case, I had to find a way to make my human Ranger hero, Kell, be able to hold equal ground with the shifters who report to him and the heroine, Mori, who isn’t exactly human herself.

It was that book that convinced me I could do romantic suspense. The plots of my Susannah Sandlin paranormals have always been fast-paced and conflict-driven—I’ve called them paranormal romantic thrillers in the past—so the only difference between the books I’d written in the past and the romantic suspense novels was the absence of paranormal elements.

Even the characters aren’t so different. In a good paranormal, the characters are complex. My Penton vampires have ugly pasts, dark secrets, deep emotional wounds—the same things my human heroes have (well, minus fangs and a very high-protein liquid diet). They’re as vulnerable as humans in some ways—a vampire caught in the daylight can’t defend himself, of if he’s found during his daysleep. Humans are omniphotounsensitive. (Yeah, I made up that word.)

Except even in my romantic suspense novels, I’ve never quite been able to get completely away from mystical elements. My first romantic suspense, LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP, dealt with a relic stolen from the Knights Templar, whose lost treasure is one of the world’s great mysteries. The second, DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD, tackled the mystery of the Royal Crown Jewels lost by England’s Bad King John (of Robin Hood fame) shortly before his death in the 13th century—were they stolen by a monk? By his entourage? Stashed away for safekeeping before the landowners could have him dethroned?

When it came time to plot the first book in my new series following a team of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents—think badass game wardens—I knew I had great alpha hero potential and could create complex heroes and heroines similar to those of my paranormal books. But again, I had to bring in a touch of the mystical.

In the case of WILD MAN’S CURSE, it’s the voodoo and Native American mystical elements that come into play. It’s never a given as to whether the rituals of the voodoo practitioner Eva Savoie and her great-niece, heroine Celestine Savoie, are true—but they are true to those characters. And since Celestine is part Chitimacha, a Native American tribe indigenous to South Louisiana, she brings some of their mysticism into play as well. Does it qualify as a paranormal element? In a way, I suppose. Although Eva and Celestine are certainly human, their beliefs help define them and strengthen them—as all belief systems do. And the fact that the villain in the novel fears Celestine’s beliefs, even if he doesn’t share them, gives her an advantage.

Strong heroes, smart heroines, cool stories. It’s what I try to imbue in each of my books, whether the characters are wizards, vampires, shifters, undead pirates—or completely human!

About the Author:
Suzanne-Johnson-Susannah-SandlinSusannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.Web: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com
Blog: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com/blog
Newsletter: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com/newsletter
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSusannahSandlin
Twitter: @SusannahSandlin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Susannah_Sandlin
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sj3523/

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of this tour, Susannah is giving away one(1) $50 Amazon gift card and five (5) $10 Amazon gift cards to lucky participants in this tour!

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Review: Wild Man’s Curse by Susannah Sandlin

Review: Wild Man’s Curse by Susannah SandlinWild Man's Curse by Susannah Sandlin
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: romantic suspense
Series: Wilds of the Bayou #1
Pages: 276
Published by Montlake Romance on April 5th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie—a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva’s cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.
With no jurisdiction over the case, he’s forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva’s beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry’s involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva’s murder and protect Celestine from the same fate? Or will an old family curse finally have its way?
From award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes the first book in the Wilds of the Bayou series.

My Review:

If you are looking for romantic suspense that is just a touch creepy but is still firmly planted in the real world, run, don’t walk to get a copy of this book. I’ll confess to loving all of Susannah Sandlin/Suzanne Johnson’s work, but Wild Man’s Curse was simply marvelous.

She always does an excellent job of painting the setting of her stories, and this one is no exception. Wild Man’s Curse mostly takes place in Terrebonne Parish, on the swampy southern coast of Louisiana. It is one of those places that is losing ground to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, literally. It is also a place where the gumbo of Cajun culture is still alive and well, preserved in fish camps and tiny houses all up and down the bayous.

Both Gentry Broussard and Celestine Savoie are children of those swamps. But they are both all grown up now, and dealing with deadly legacies and cursed inheritances that have passed from mother to child, or from brother to brother.

Ceelie’s great aunt Eva is brutally murdered in her house on Wild Man’s Bayou. Gentry is the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) agent who discovers her slashed body and witnesses her murderer running away. But he doesn’t believe the man he saw leaving could possibly be real because Gentry knows he killed his brother Lang in a drug-bust shootout three years ago in New Orleans. But the killer looks much too much like Lang to be a coincidence.

Ceelie Savoie is old Eva’s great-niece, and her last living relative. Ceelie inherits Eva’s cabin, along with the ire of whoever killed the old woman. Ceelie has also inherited Eva’s talent for “reading the bones”, even if her skills are rusty. In that melange of French, Spanish, Cajun and Creole culture that makes up the Louisiana swampland, Eva was a practitioner of some of the arts we think of as voodoo. And so, much to her surprise, is Ceelie.

So Ceelie comes home to Wild Man’s Bayou from a floundering attempt at a singing career in Nashville. She has no place else to go. But she promised her late father that she wouldn’t stay in Terrebonne, so she’s planning to clean up Eva’s estate and take her inheritance elsewhere. No matter how much the swamp calls her back home.

And no matter how attracted she is to Gentry Broussard. And very definitely vice-versa.

But before she can even think of leaving, Ceelie and Gentry have to figure out who targeted the old woman, and what on earth they wanted from an old lady who didn’t seem to own anything beyond a well-tended shack in the back country. And for Gentry, he needs to know if the reports of his brother’s death are, as they say, greatly exaggerated. Because if Lang is still alive, it’s entirely possible that Gentry is going to have to kill him again.

If only to prevent Lang from taking away the woman that Gentry has come to love.

Escape Rating A: Wild Man’s Curse is pure romantic suspense, and it is absolutely marvelous. If you have been considering reading one of Sandlin/Johnson’s books but we’re turned off by the paranormal, this one will get you hooked for sure.

The voodoo practice in this story is of the tarot card/ crystal ball variety, not that either of those elements is used. The story works perfectly well whether the reader or the characters have any belief in the supernatural or not. Some of the key characters are superstitious, but then, lots of people are. Eva and Ceelie’s ability to “read the bones” only provides them with vague warnings, and it is clear in the story that those warnings aren’t enough to prevent events, only to help them prepare a little.

The suspense element in the story is what keeps it moving along at a pulse-pounding rate. Gentry isn’t sure that he’s seen Lang, and with good reason. So there’s a big element of the story of Gentry owning up to seeing his dead brother, and putting resources in place to take care of the threat. As well as Gentry eating a lot of professional crow because he doesn’t warn people soon enough.

A big part of the investigation is just trying to determine how everything ties together. There are a lot of questions, and at the beginning, very few answers. We get to watch as Gentry, Ceelie, the detectives from LDWF, the Parish police and everyone else work to find the missing link between old Eva Savoie and young Lang Broussard, as well as trying to discover what the secretive old woman might have owned that would be worth torturing and killing her for, as well as worth continuing to hunt Ceelie for.

The secondary characters are also well done. Gentry’s LDWF partner is terrific. It is marvelous to see male-female police partners who have no sexual chemistry. They are partners. They are almost siblings. But while they each appreciate the scenery, there is no sexual tension at all. And I like Jena and hope there’s a book and romance in her future.

The romance between Gentry and Ceelie burns hot from the very beginning. But they both rightly resist the impulse for as long as they can, ramping up the tension every step of the way. While Gentry’s dog Hoss steals his every scene along with Ceelie’s, and the reader’s, heart.

I loved this first entry in the Wilds of the Bayou series, and absolutely can’t wait for more.

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Review: The Astronaut’s Princess by Lisa Medley + Giveaway

Review: The Astronaut’s Princess by Lisa Medley + GiveawayThe Astronaut's Princess by Lisa Medley
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance, time travel romance
Series: Cosmic Cowboys #2
Pages: 111
Published by Big Cedar on February 16th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Astronauts, Aliens, and Apaches? What could possibly go wrong?

Working for a billionaire space entrepreneur has its perks: a nice paycheck, free room and board, and all the space flight hours a guy could want. But everything has a price. Astronaut Noah Wright has survived an alien attack, time travel and a wormhole, but the Apache princess he brought back through time may be the death of him.

Ela, only daughter of Chief Itza-Chu of the Mescalero Apaches, finds herself out of place and out of time. Everything she knows of her early 1800's life has vanished. Her savior and protector, Noah, is kind, but he’s not her family and certainly not Apache. Her only wish is to get home, but returning through the wormhole that brought her to the future threatens more than her past, causing her to have to rediscover what home really is.

My Review:

space cowboys and indians by lisa medleyWhen I reviewed the first story in Lisa Medley’s Cosmic Cowboys series last summer, I said that she had done serial novels right. Space Cowboys & Indians had a proper beginning, middle and end for that story, while still setting up the action for this next book in the series, The Astronaut’s Princess.

While the mechanics of the time travel in the first book still read like a whole lot of handwavium (time travel always does) the results have very real-seeming impacts on all the people involved. And possibly on the whole damn planet.

And just as she did with Space Cowboys & Indians, the story in The Astronaut’s Princess wraps up its arc while still dropping plenty of hints about the trajectory of a possible book 3.

Space Cowboys & Indians was the journey. The Astronaut’s Princess is all about what happens when our time and space traveling cowboys return to 21st century Earth – with a passenger. They made a  deal  in the 1800s to bring the daughter of the Apache chief back to their time to heal her fatal case of the measles in order to have the tribe’s help in defeating the aliens and stealing their ship.

The Apache princess, Ela, is none too happy at waking up in the 21st century. And she has no qualms about generating as many temper tantrums as it takes to get those astronauts to take her back to her tribe. She also doesn’t have the language skills to understand that it can’t be done.

Instead she breaks her room in the medical facility and screams at the top of her lungs for Noah Wright, the astronaut who has tried his best to help her and care for her – even though she drives him crazy. He’s unwilling to admit to himself that it might just be more than one kind of crazy.

Noah has a lot on his plate. While the alien ship and the asteroid’s minerals made him and his two fellow astronauts Tessa and Cole rich, it’s working on the Space X development that makes him happy, at least some of the time. This is his chance to be an astronaut, and he’s not letting it go.

But the owner of the project, Duncan Janson, wants to reopen the wormhole that led to the 1800s. And he’s building a space hotel tethered to the moon. And he’s got some kind of “in” with the federal government. More importantly, he’s willing to cut through all kinds of legal, ethical and safety concerns to see all of his dreams of space avarice come true.

When Noah’s attempt to re-settle Ela with the local Apache tribe turn up evidence that the time travel trip and the aliens they battled have had an effect on the local tribe and on history, Noah finds himself heading back into space with a lot on his mind – and a stowaway in his ship. It isn’t until Ela returns to space that she finally realizes that she can’t go home again – but that she can make a home with Noah in the 21st century, if he’ll just give in to what they both feel.

And if Janson’s attempt to open the wormhole don’t end up swallowing Earth into a black hole leading to oblivion.

Escape Rating B: Both Space Cowboys & Indians and The Astronaut’s Princess are short little novellas. If you want something fun to read but don’t want to get caught up in a three hundred (or three thousand) page marathon, these are nice, bite-sized science fiction romance treats.

Also, and unlike so many parts of serial novels, both stories are complete in themselves while still furthering the arc of the book-as-a-whole. While I don’t mind well-done cliffhangers, I hate it when books feel like middle chapters of something and both the beginning and ending are elsewhere. That is definitely not the case here.

It took a little while for me to get into The Astronaut’s Princess. While I love the concept of being brought forward in time (Star Trek IV anyone?) the story dwelled a bit too much on Ela’s tantrums, helplessness and unwillingness to at least investigate her new circumstances. She comes off as much more childish, or much more self-absorbed and self-centered, than I liked. While that may be realistic for her situation, I didn’t enjoy reading about it.

But once the action gets going in this story, it really gets going. Not just because I loved the shoutouts to Roswell and all the myths about Area 51, but because the action switched from slow to non-stop, and the imminent danger kept me on the edge of my seat.

It also firmly established that billionaire Janson may cause more evil than an alien invasion in the future. And I can’t wait to see what happens.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Lisa is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky entrant.

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Review: Blood and Metal by Nina Croft + Giveaway

blood and metal by nina croftFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Blood Hunter/Dark Desires #5
Length: 268 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: August 24, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

She’s his last chance for redemption…if she doesn’t kill him first.

Copilot of the Blood Hunter, Daisy is a newly-turned vampire, and she’s hungry. Really hungry and it’s interfering with her plans for revenge. Unfortunately, the only thing that can distract her from said hunger is sex…which is a problem when she can barely refrain from draining any man dry within moments. But old flame Fergal Cain might just be the sexy-assed solution to her problem.

Part human, part cyborg, and with a poison coursing through his system, Fergal’s running out of time to find the scientist who has the cure. Unfortunately for him, the misfit crew of the Blood Hunter put a serious kink in his plans. And if the poison doesn’t kill him, the hot little vamp he can’t resist might do the honors herself…

My Review:

Plant girl turned vampire meets intrepid reporter turned cyborg. Or at least that’s one variation on the romance between Daisy, copilot of the Blood Hunter and Fergal Cain, escaped prisoner. However, there are many, many layers to both of their identities, and lots of both internal and external tension in this latest installment in the marvelous Blood Hunter series.

temporal shift by nina croftThe previous book in this series, Temporal Shift (reviewed here) serves as a bit of a reboot for the series. During the events of that book, which take place on the other side of a wormhole, only six months pass for the crew of Blood Hunter. It’s during those six months that Daisy, a genetically modified young woman with a whole lot of chlorophyll in her DNA, is nearly killed and is changed into a vampire in order to save her life.

The crew of the Blood Hunter has already lost some of their nearest and dearest in the galactic power struggle that they keep finding themselves in the middle of, and Rico, who swore that he would never turn anyone again, turns Daisy to keep her with them. Especially since her near-death is all his fault.

But Daisy the vampire is also a problem. She’s hungry ALL THE TIME, and doesn’t have enough control to manage her hunger. Her crewmates are now also food, but food she doesn’t want to kill. Lucky for her, they are all immortal and can afford to feed her regularly. Rico tells her that sex will also quiet her hunger, but every single person on the Blood Hunter is part of a couple. Everyone has already found their soulmate, except for poor lonely and starving Daisy.

When they come back through the wormhole, they discover that 20 years has passed in the world they left behind, and everything has gone into the shitter. The very militant and anti-anyone-not-pure-human Church of Everlasting Life has taken control of everything, and people in general are either true believers or truly terrified.

deadly pursuit by nina croftThe head of the church, Temperance Hatcher, is responsible for the deaths of too many of the Blood Hunter’s crew. And he has two of the crew as hostages, Alex and Jon. Alex has been forced to resume her role as reluctant High Priestess in order to keep her husband Jon alive. (If you’re curious about how they got together in the first place, read Deadly Pursuit (reviewed here) for the story of Alex’ escape from the Church and their unlikely romance.)

In their first unsuccessful attempt to break Jon out of prison, the crew rediscovers Fergal Cain instead. When they first met, Fergal was an investigative journalist infiltrating a company that produced cyborgs. Twenty years later, Fergal is an escaped cyborg attempting to rescue the one man who knows the details of Fergal’s condition, and the one man who can possibly keep him alive.

The Blood Hunter crew can’t leave Fergal behind, they’ve just blown his cover as a prison guard. But Fergal is certain that he can’t stay with the Blood Hunter, he’s carrying too many deadly secrets that will either get them all killed, or get him tossed out an airlock. But when he and Daisy discover that they are everything the other one needs to cure everything that ails them, he can’t make himself turn away.

Not even when it is much, much too late.

Escape Rating B+: I’ll confess to being a bit confused by the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey bits in Temporal Shift, so it was great that the author put the crew back into normal space and into a story where time behaved normally again.

At the same time, the 20 year break served as an interesting reboot. When the crew left normal space it took the leaders of the two of the three major power groups with them. So the Collective and the rebel conclave both collapsed without their leaders and the Church very much ascendant took over everything.

Rabid theocracy is not anyone’s friend in this book. In this case, the True Believers in human purity are unable to tolerate any deviance, either in DNA or in thought. The prisons are full and the people are scared, quite reasonably, to death.

Fergal Cain has a big secret that he is carrying through most of the book. However, it is a secret that is easily guessed by the reader. And my knowing what it was did not detract from the drama, because the tension always revolved around other people’s reaction to that secret, not its existence.

Daisbreak out by nina crofty and Fergal make a perfect pair. He is a cyborg, and he normally has to hold back on his strength and capabilities. Daisy is a vampire who is afraid to let down her guard out of fear that she might kill her partner. Except that Daisy discovers that while Fergal may be terrific in bed, he isn’t food for her vampire. As a cyborg, he tastes terrible!

But that they are each able to let down their respective guards makes their intimacy, both physical and emotional, hard for them to resist. Fergal has never belonged to anyone or anything before, and his connection to Daisy, and through her to the crew of the Blood Hunter, kills his resolve to remain alone. It may be safer on his own, but he finally discovers that being connected to other people is worth it.

And Daisy finds herself in a relationship that is not just worth fighting for, but also worth living for, and someone with whom she may be able to share “forever”.

If you like your science fiction romance with a heaping helping of non-stop action adventure, start this series with Break Out (reviewed here). You’ll be glad you did.

 

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Blood and Metal Button 300 x 225

As part of the tour, Nina is giving away 2 sets of the paperback copies of the first three books in the series, Break Out, Deadly Pursuit and Death Defying and 5 ecopies of Temporal Shift, book 4

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Fearless by Elliott James + Giveaway

fearless by elliott jamesFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Pax Arcana #3
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: August 11, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When your last name is Charming, rescuing virgins comes with the territory — even when the virgin in question is a nineteen-year-old college boy.

Someone, somewhere, has declared war on Kevin Kichida, and that someone has a long list of magical predators on their rolodex. The good news is that Kevin lives in a town where Ted Cahill is the new sheriff and old ally of John Charming.

The attacks on Kevin seem to be a pattern, and the more John and his new team follow that thread, the deeper they find themselves in a maze of supernatural threats, family secrets, and age-old betrayals. The more John learns, the more convinced he becomes that Kevin Kichida isn’t just a victim, he’s a sacrifice waiting to happen. And that thread John’s following? It’s really a fuse…

My Review:

daring by elliott jamesI rushed into Fearless immediately after finishing Daring (review next week) and I absolutely couldn’t stop reading it all day. Read at breakfast, read at lunch, read on the stationary bike, read during game saves and cut scenes. Just read.

The Pax Arcana series is gripping and gritty urban fantasy of the “hero is a snarkmaster” school of thought. Start with Charming (reviewed here). John Charming isn’t charming, but he has a cynical way of explaining what’s going on that will keep you turning pages long after you should get some sleep.

So far, at least, John Charming isn’t really very charming, and although he can be daring, at least in the “fools rush in” sense, he isn’t fearless either. It’s just that most of John’s fears are for the people around him and not for himself. He’s having a hard time admitting that he deserves a chance at happiness, or peace of mind, or even a decent night’s sleep.

In Fearless, we have the first story where John rushes in to save someone who is not a member of his merry band of tricksters, and a story where John himself does not start out as the primary bait or target.

Sheriff Ted Cahill, former Clayburg police detective (in Charming) and current Tatum County Sheriff and recently made dhampir, has invited John and his friends to help him with a missing persons cases that smells supernaturally fishy.

So John begins this story as a not-so-innocent bystander, sitting in a diner with his almost-girlfriend Sig and watching as seemingly every creepy and/or inanimate being or thing in Tatum starts zeroing in on college-student Kevin Kichida, who feels (or smells) just a little bit supernatural himself.

The trail leads John and Company to a powerful witch baking bread near Tatum, and a supernaturals-only underground fight-club in New York City. As John and Sig navigate the crowded supernatural community of New York, they try to draw just the right amount of attention from the man who runs the fight club – an old man who has spent centuries using his own descendants in an attempt to make himself a god.

Poor Kevin is his grandson, and he’s scheduled to be granddad’s next human sacrifice – unless John and Sig and their friends can get to granddad first. And end him.

Escape Rating A-: Rules are made to be broken. Or in the case of the Pax Arcana, seriously, seriously bent. One of the continuing threads in this series is the way that the bad guys, or the deluded guys, will use the letter of the Pax to get around the spirit of it.

While I’m specifically thinking of the way that the Knights have indoctrinated all of their generations to believe that werewolves and other supes are a threat to the Pax just be their existence (they actually aren’t), the whole thing gets stretched to its limits by the evil dude in Fearless.

He is always very, very careful to hide what he is doing from the normals, even as he pulls shit that makes everyone want to hurl. He never exposes the supernatural community to outsiders. He just wrecks completely magical murderous crap within it.

Breeding descendants solely for the purpose of taking over their bodies and extending your life is so disgusting that even his own ancestors have rejected him.

charming by elliott jamesThe Knights, and other so-called defenders of the Pax are often evil bystanders, and by that I mean in the sense of “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” With a lot of truly evil creatures, the Knights and their associated brethren do a whole lot of nothing, while pursuing too many people who are willing to live and let live, but stretch the Knights’ definition of people.

Like John Charming and his friends. They take on Kevin’s grandfather not because no one else can, but because no one else will.

The way that the final pieces of the plot/counterplot come together at the end is awesome, and also awesomely convoluted. One of the conventions of this series, at least so far, is that we don’t see all of the pieces until after the dust has barely settled, and John finally explains what he and his cohorts did. It lets the reader get caught up in the danger zone, without knowing how it will all turn out. I like it.

I also like John Charming and his rather motley group of friends. John is definitely out of the snarky anti-hero as hero school of urban fantasy. His self-talk and overall narrative tone have the kind of gritty cynicism that reminds me of Harry Dresden in the later Dresden Files, or or John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s Nightside. John Charming is never quite sure whether he’s mostly a good guy because he wants to be, or because he’s compelled to be, or because staying with Sig and their friends is way better for his humanity than going back to being a lone wolf.

Fearless also has the feel of a big caper story. There are a lot of moving parts, some of which are moving in realms and phases that we can’t see. In the end, those parts all come together in an explosive climax that will make you groan, and then, finally and in relief, cheer.

After the end of Fearless, the eARC included a sneak preview of the untitled fourth book in this terrific series. While I’m ecstatic to know that there IS a next book, I’m afraid to read the preview. I know it will be just too much of a tease because I already want it NOW!

Fearless Button 300 x 225

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of the tour, there is a prize of one $15 Amazon Gift Card to a lucky commenter:

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Space Cowboys & Indians by Lisa Medley

space cowboys and indians by lisa medleyFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Cosmic Cowboys #1
Length: 175 pages
Publisher: Big Cedar
Date Released: July 15, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

How can the chance of a lifetime go so horribly wrong?

Mining Engineer Cole Hudson signed up for NASA astronaut training, but after washing out short of getting his gold wings, he retreats to Alaska where he stakes out a gold claim. When billionaire entrepreneur Duncan Janson offers him an opportunity to join a mining team on an asteroid, Cole jumps at the chance.

But nothing is as it seems. Former NASA reject and rival classmate, Tessa Hernandez, is also a member of the team, and from the beginning of the mission test flight, things go wrong. They soon discover they’re not the only ones on the asteroid. As they try to escape, they are pulled through a wormhole and back to the early 1800s New Mexico desert where aliens and Apaches may be the least of their problems.

 

My Review:

cowboys and aliensWhile Space Cowboys & Indians isn’t really like the 2011 movie Cowboys & Aliens, it also isn’t not like it. Along with a bit of Farscape or the time-travel episodes of Stargate: SG-1. Also a bit of John Heldt’s The Mine. Along with a small contribution from the rebooted Star Trek.

Which is just fine. I love all of those antecedents. Admittedly some more than others. (I wish they’d kept their rebooting craziness away from MY Star Trek.

Space Cowboys & Indians really only has one erstwhile cowboy in it. Texan Cole Hudson is a mining engineer who flunked out of the NASA astronaut program in a very near version of our future. When he receives an offer he doesn’t want to refuse – trading mining in Alaska for a chance to mine an asteroid – he’s all in.

His pilots are also late-program washouts from NASA, Tessa Hernandez and Noah Wright. While Noah and Cole get along just fine, something about Cole has always rubbed Tessa the wrong way, and nothing about their new jobs has changed that.

There is a Space X contest, similar to the one going on right now, that will award jillions of dollars to the first company to establish tourism on the moon. Duncan Janson’s brilliant idea is to send Cole, Noah and Tessa out to mine an asteroid. Sales of the space minerals will more than fund his Lunar Hotel – if it works.

Cole definitely finds minerals on the target asteroid – but their little ship is not the only one stopping on this particular asteroid for a mining and refuelling stop. When both their little Space X capsule and the alien ship get sucked into a wormhole, the crew finds themselves in the middle of the adventure of their lives. One even bigger than the adventure they were already on.

They crash in the New Mexico desert, not far from where both the Space Xport and Roswell NM will be, nearly two centuries in the future.

Instead, they have landed in early 1800s Apache country, and they need to convince the most fearsome tribe in the Old West to help them kill an alien, commandeer its space ship, and leave the way they think they came.

It might work. It might kill them. Or the alien might get them all first.

Escape Rating B: The time travel is a bit of handwavium. But then again, time travel pretty much always involves handwavium. What’s more interesting here is the result.

Once Cole, Tessa and Noah figure out where and when they are, they are left with a fascinating dilemma to discuss. Has this all happened before? Will it all happen again? Did the aliens in Roswell really exist? Who else (or what else) has accidentally found him, her, or itself on Earth after a one-way trip through that semi-stable wormhole?

How much of their own history are they messing up just by being where they are? And how much of it are they creating?

Finding the Apaches was a stroke of luck. That the downed alien also finds the Apaches is a stroke of luck. Good for our astronauts, bad for the alien and some of the Apaches. We get just enough of a glimpse of life in the tribe to wonder how realistically they are portrayed, but it doesn’t matter for this story.

What does matter is Cole’s outrageous lie to the tribe – that he and Tessa are married. It keeps them together, and sets up the possibility that their rivalry will turn romantic.

The story as a whole is a bit lightweight, but those questions that the reader is left with have echoes which will hopefully be resolved in later episodes in this series. Meanwhile, this first episode is a ton of fun.

Speaking of the series – I read some material that led me to believe that this was the first part of a serial novel. If it is, this one is done right. The story has a beginning, middle and end that provides definite closure of the events in this book while still leaving plenty of teasers for the next installment. Readers are left hoping for more, but not dangling in mid-story. Thank you, Lisa!

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post by Suzanne Johnson on Pirate Love + Giveaway

I’m not sure whether I love reading about romantic pirates in general, as the author asks in her guest post, but I am certain that I enjoy reading about her pirate in particular. Suzanne Johnson has turned the legend of Jean Lafitte into a fascinating and enigmatic character who always has his finger in too many pies.

After having read her entire Sentinels of New Orleans series so far (check out today’s review of Pirate’s Alley) I will say that in this case, Lafitte is a much better bet for our heroine than any of the dogs who have been, sometimes literally, sniffing around her. Read this awesome urban fantasy series for yourself and see if you agree!

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Pirate Love
by Suzanne Johnson

When I introduced the early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte in the very opening scene of my Sentinels of New Orleans series, I had no intention of making him a major character. But the more I learned about him, the more fascinated I became—and I was thrilled when readers became enamored of my French pirate as well (he was my pirate by then), because it meant I had good reason to keep him in subsequent books.

But why? I mean, I’d like to say it’s Jean Lafitte himself and my incorporation of him into an urban fantasy—he was, after all, an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Tall and striking in appearance, reasonably well educated and exceptionally smart, with a sly and playful sense of humor, a natural leader, at home with New Orleans society and equally at home with the ruffians living in the bayous of Barataria.

He was also a smuggler at a time when piracy carried a death sentence, a man who didn’t hesitate to use violence if he felt it was needed, an arrogant man who flouted his intelligence and wealth over those he considered inferiors (i.e., most bureaucrats), a devious man.

But it’s not Lafitte, as much as I love him. It’s our fascination with pirates. There’s a whole romance subgenre built around pirates from a century or two earlier than Jean Lafitte—who really was the last great pirate of the Caribbean. (The legions of fans of the Disney “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise might or might not be fans of Johnny Depp’s sexily goofy Jack Sparrow; they are fans, however, of pirates.)

So what is it about pirates women love? They are perhaps the ultimate alpha male, and while we might not like alphas that much in real life, we do love them in our romance novels, right?

Alpha males are independent and, yeah, more than a tad bossy. Well, the fictional pirates we love are all that and more. We don’t, after all, daydream about the dude who’s swabbing the deck—we want the CAPTAIN of the pirates. He’s the one bad boy to rule them all, to borrow a phrase. He stands at the helm of the ship, riding the open waves while everyone hustles to avoid his wrath at the same time they respect him because he treats them fairly and pays them well.

The wind whips through his (enticingly long) hair, the breeze ruffles his (enticingly half-open) shirt that billows over his (enticingly tight) trousers. Other ships flee him. He’s confident, smart, daring, and has an (enticingly overactive) libido—but only when he crosses paths with the right woman.

Who might be us, of course, living vicariously through the heroine.

Alpha males though they might be, pirates had a moral code, by all accounts. In the village of pirates that sprang up around his (enticingly lavish) two-story home in the Baratarian swamps south of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte tolerated gambling and even allowed a few ladies of the evening to ply their wares. But any of his men accused of rape were sailed far, far, far offshore and set adrift without provisions.

Pirates were also (enticingly) hard to catch—not only for the authorities, but for women. They enjoy a woman’s company but they are too independent to become a love-stricken sap. Until, of course they cross paths with the (enticingly sassy and independent) right woman.

Who might be us, of course, living vicariously through the heroine.

So yeah, we romanticize the things we like about historical pirates—their independence and general badassitude—while ignoring the ugly parts like murder and brutality and the sheer discomfort of a life at sea, on the run.

Modern pirates? They’re armed with AK47s, prey on innocent people, and commit murder for money. They’re from places like Somalia rather than England and France. We do not romanticize them; will women three centuries now look back on them with the same lust, er, I mean fondness we have for the pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries?

Who knows? Till then, give me a bad boy with a cutlass and a bottle of rum any old day. How about you? Do you like reading about romantic pirates, or are they too alpha for you?

Suzanne-Johnson-Susannah-SandlinAbout the Author:Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
Website: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Suzanne_Johnson
FB: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSuzanneJohnson

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Suzanne is generously giving away 1 $50 Amazon gift card and 2 $15 Amazon gift cards to lucky winners.

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