ARC Review: Desperate Possession (Protectors #3), by Hildie McQueen

DesperatePossession-400-600Crescent Moon Press
Release Date: January 1, 2014
Paranormal Romance

Fallon Trent is going to die. Either the Protectors will kill him or he will do the honors himself. Either way, the powerful demon in him will not be allowed to flourish. After living so long, why does the love of his life have to enter his life at the same time as possession.

As a human demon slayer, Tonia Mohr’s sole purpose is revenge. The more demons she kills the better – and she will continue finding the one that killed her husband. But will she be able to keep her oath when the man she loves becomes more demon than not.

In Hildie McQueen’s Atlanta, there are Protectors and demons. Three castes of the latter, in fact, walking around looking very human, and some are up to no good.
The third Protector novel focuses on the plight of Lord Fallon Trent, a British noble who, like his brothers-in-arms, acquired immortality in his 20s, along with nightmares and the physique of a Greek statue. A privileged young man in prior to his change, Fallon has long had a way with women, so a lover’s bed is a good place to pick up where “Desperate Surrender” left off.

Tonia Muhr–a US Marshal by day, demon slayer by night—begrudges the clothing that hides Fallon’s body from her as he dresses to leave her apartment. She doesn’t know much about him. His name. He’s British. He’s filthy rich. And if sexual talent were converted to dollars, his actual bank account would pale by comparison. He’s that freaking great at it. At the same time, he wants her to stop looking for the kind of trouble that introduced them, and with a murdered husband in the ground, walking away from the demon world is something she won’t do.

Fallon’s recent performances in bed aren’t entirely his doing. A master demon has been slowly preparing him for possession over the course of weeks. The symptoms of this process are a desire to kill everyone around him, which he fights, and a voracious appetite for sex, which he indulges with a very willing Tonia.

In between romps, Fallon patrols the streets and looks for the demon that’s marked his claim on him, where his paths continue to cross paths with Tonia’s.

Tonia and Fallon’s do-si-do with demons becomes a tango when he finds her bleeding and near death on her bathroom floor. Fellow Protector, Roderick Cronan saves her life the same way he once saved his own wife; he infuses her with the only blood available…Fallon’s. It was once a rare thing, but there are now three mated protectors in Atlanta. What’s their exasperated boss Julian to do with the fourth soldier to disobey his very clear orders?

First, he throws the Protector’s rule book at the lone remaining single man on the team with a stern command to, “Read it.” Then, he insists Fallon join with Tonia in the same ancient Roman ceremony that joined Roderick, Cynden, and Kieran, to their respective wives. This takes place on the spot, without input from Tonia, and it doesn’t go over well at all.

What was once a glorious casual sex relationship becomes marriage overnight, complete with competing expectations, mistakes, and bruised egos. The sex between them is passionate, almost animal, and possibly driven more by Fallon’s demon’s lust than his own. It doesn’t care much if it fills the growing rift between Tonia and Fallon, or pushes it open wider, as long as it gets fed.

Desperate Betrayal, the first book in this series, was an exercise in trust and forgiveness between soul mates. Book two, Desperate Surrender followed man overcoming deep-seeded emotional scarring to reluctantly grasp happiness and hold onto it for dear life. In the third, Desperate Possession, the battle against demons is closer to home than ever, and deeply personal.

The Protectors novels are among my very favorite in the Paranormal Romance genre. The chemistry between characters is at times amusing, heartwarming, and maddening. The settings are rich, the fights are explosive, and the sex scenes are scorching. With incubus, Sebastian, taking on a larger role, the introduction of two very interesting new characters, it is clear that Ms. McQueen is not done in Atlanta. So, I will be anxiously awaiting the next novel, hoping (and crossing my fingers, and praying to gods I don’t believe in) that we’ll soon know Julian’s story. I mean, with a new master demon at the helm in Atlanta, it might be time for the Protector’s leader to pick a bedroom at Fallon Trent’s house.

I would recommend the Protector novels to fans of Paranormal Romance, Christine Ashworth’s Caine’s Brother’s novels, Lynn Rush’s Wasteland series, and SyFy Channel’s Lost Girl.

I was given an advance copy in return for my honest opinion.

My Red Star AwardAbout My Book Reviews


Book Review: Silencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

silencing breathSilencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

Just as Sarah Ross is learning everything she can about her new abilities as an Indigo Child and settling into a normal life with her beloved Evan, her entire world shatters when Evan disappears without a trace.

Desperate to find him, Sarah’s search leads her to a sadistic serial killer who confirms her worst fears are true; Evan has been kidnapped, and he is once again in the clutches of his abusive family of necromancers.

Sarah uncovers not only Evan’s dark past he tried so desperately to protect her from, but also The Key of Solomon, an ancient text for summoning the dead.
Knowing her abilities are limited in the face of this ancient power, Sarah is forced to face the Malandanti in order to save him. However, one question remains: once he is found, will Evan be the same man she fell in love with?

It’s been four years since Sarah Ross became entangled in Evan Valenti’s strange world of sorcery and skinwalking. They have settled into life in Seattle, complete with a cute house, coffee rituals, and morning sex when they can swing it. This particular moment, they don’t quite have time for the latter. Evan, a successful contractor, is due at a meeting with co-owners in 10 minutes, so they reluctantly settle for a steamy kiss, and then he’s gone. It’s just as well. Sarah, a senior at the University of Washington, has a meeting with a potential advisor. There she learns that not only will she be accepted to graduate school, but also she’ll be working with Dr. “Jerry” Goderich on research regarding psychopaths, starting immediately. There’s a man fresh off a kill sitting on ice at the prison and Jerry’s antsy to get into his head. That’s when Sarah’s beloved normal life comes to a screeching halt. She recognizes the prisoner on sight. She killed him four years ago.

Ms. Brothwell crafts a strong female lead in Sarah Ross. When we met Sarah in Stealing Breath, she was a girl struggling with teenage insecurities on top of her ability to feel the emotions of those around her. Four year later, all of them with Evan at her side, she is a confident woman with control of the power that could have easily destroyed her. Now, Evan has been taken away from her, and she will fight to get him back with little more than love and raw determination, even if it means confronting the devil himself. And when the Valenti family is involved, that’s not just a figure of speech.

The author doesn’t pull any punches with Evan’s situation. Sarah may not know exactly what Stefano, the older Valenti brother, is putting him through, but the reader gets to see all of it. Beautiful Evan is rendered vulnerable, made to bleed, and broken over the course of days with even his ability to plea for mercy silenced by dark magic. As a reader, I held on through every page that Evan could hold onto Sarah, and himself, long enough to be rescued, even as I wondered if anyone could.

This book was somewhat of a surprise for me, as I had some issues with Stealing Breath. However, those awkward bits were left behind in North Dakota along with Sarah Ross’ former life. Silencing Breath is a huge step forward for Joanne Brothwell. The writing is clean, the prose tight, and the stakes dire. There’s cause for  concern on nearly every page that Sarah and her allies won’t get out of this book alive.

I was given an advance copy in return for my honest opinion.

My Red Star AwardAbout My Book Reviews

Book Review: A Stiff Kiss, by Avery Olive

StiffKiss-200x300A Stiff Kiss
By Avery Olive

Who knew kissing a corpse would change everything?

Death always hits Xylia Morana too close to home, but she likes it that way. She hangs out with the terminally ill, attends random funerals, and every so often, when the weather is right, she sleeps in open graves.

But after Landon Phoenix, the high school hottie, dies in Xylia’s hands, she sneaks into the morgue to say goodbye. How could she know stealing a kiss from his corpse would wake him up?

With Landon returned to the living and suddenly interested in Xylia, life has new meaning. But what Xylia doesn’t realize is that by kissing Landon back to life, she’s thrown Life and Death off balance. The underworld demands a body, and it might just have to be Xylia’s this time.

Xylia found her mother dead on Christmas Day. In the years since, she has been obsessed by death. Her father, a doctor, finds her habit of attending the funerals of strangers unhealthy. With a planned road trip held hostage on a condition of good behavior, Xylia puts on a goofy outfit in her school’s colors–the only clothes she owns that aren’t black–and she gets into her dad’s car to attend the last soccer game of the year. Xylia’s relationship with her father has become distant over the years since her mother’s death and soccer games are the one activity that they still do together. The ride is tense, though, in the wake of their argument.

During the soccer game, the team’s star, Landon Phoenix, has only one thing on his mind. Giving the talent scouts in the stands the best performance of his life. A scholarship is his only way out of the small town his family is struggling in. In fact, his focus is acute that the signs of his body failing him escape him completely. He throws a soccer ball back onto the field to begin the next play. It falls to the ground mere feet from him, confusing him. The last thing he sees is shock on his cousin Daniel’s face before his lights go out. He dies minutes later in the back of the ambulance while Xylia and her father try to revive him.

A few hours later, Xylia kisses Landon goodbye. And he sits up.

A Stiff Kiss is a complicated story told simply, following a formula that is reminiscent of the movie Big. A child dissatisfied with her present situation does something desperate which results in something bizarre. Like Josh Baskin, Xylia is at first horrified by the outcome of her actions, but later takes advantage of it, even as it becomes clear that there is a price to be paid for the new reality she enjoys.

But being a dual POV novel, Xylia’s decisions are not the only ones with consequences. Landon has an on-again/off-again girlfriend who won’t take a hint, a college plan that depends solely on soccer, and an exhaustion related death and ressurection in his medical history (which makes him pretty much un-recruitable). Has he been given a second chance? Or is he living on borrowed time?

Avery Olive incorporated the best and worst of teenagers into A Stiff Kiss. In Xylia, we see strong individuality paired with deep insecurity. Landon gives us passion, and drive fueled by desperation. In the students around them, we see scorn, fear, love, and pain, all in fleeting moments that pass away as quick as they come for teenagers, who take the wrong things too seriously or not seriously enough.

As a fan of YA paranormal and John Hughes movies, I very much enjoyed A Stiff Kiss. Put the resurrection bit aside and what remains is a story about a pair of kids whose broken pieces fit each other, and that’s something I think most people would relate to and find endearing.

Book Review: Blood Dreams, by Christine Ashworth

blood-dreams-cover2Blood Dreams (Caine Brothers Series #1.5)
By Christine Ashworth

It’s December, and Los Angeles is in the grip of a serial killer – or so Gregor Caine would like to believe. But the moon grows fat as it builds toward the Winter Solstice and an eclipse. An old woman searching for a friend gone missing believes danger is coming, and the Blood Dreams that keep interrupting Gregor’s sleep portend a swarm of demonic activity.

After summer’s setback, Kendall Sorbis is finally getting started on his Revenge Life List. First up, open a portal to the Chaos Plane. Second, invite the Caines to come and play…

Hours after the Caine boys finish off what remains of Twisted, a vampire night club, a power-hungry witch stands by the smoldering ruin. The vampire slaughter has left behind a residue of power, and Kendall Sorbis has plans for it.

Six months later, days before the winter solstice, Gregor Caine is plagued by horrible dreams of dead bodies, blood running down walls, and women screaming while waiting to die. His brother Justin is having them, too. Sensing something bad coming, and seeking to protect their brother and his wife, the older Caine brothers send the newlyweds out of town on a late honeymoon. Meanwhile, the dreams get worse, the homeless body count rises, leaving Gregor feeling helpless, frustrated, and angry.

Blood Dreams is a prologue of sorts to Demon Hunt, laying pieces for the action and the character development that will come, including one crucial piece about Gregor and Justin’s baby brother, Gabriel, that occupies only three lines but speaks volumes about the man Gregor Caine, was, and will be.

Blood Dreams is absent of the creature violence and steamy sex scenes of its related novels, but Justin and Magdalena are in prime snarky form to liven things up. And, as I expected, the story was well-written, entertaining, and worthy of an hour before bedtime.

My Red Star Award

Book Review: Demon Hunt, by Christine Ashworth

DemonHunt-ChristineAshworth_smDemon Hunt (Caine Brothers Series #2)
By Christine Ashworth

Tribred Gregor Caine decided long ago to deny his blood legacy, so he isn’t thrilled when paired with a full-blooded Fae to hunt the demons threatening to decimate Los Angeles. As they fight side by side, he finds she calls to both his Fae and his demon blood; a call he can’t resist.

Warrior Fae Serra Willows crossed into the Human Plane to help destroy the demons released from the Chaos Plane. Finding and shutting down the portal between worlds is more challenging than she expected…and Gregor and his world more seductive than she had ever imagined.

As the killings escalate, Gregor and Serra realize one of the most deadly demons from the Chaos Plane has marked Serra as his own. To save her, Gregor has to face his greatest fear—losing his humanity to the darkness in his blood. But in a race against time, that darkness could become his greatest strength. And he will kill to claim Serra’s love.

Serra Willows journeys through a portal from her world to find an ally, Gideon Caine, and lands on the beach near Santa Monica and immediately slips into the role of a jogger on the beach. As she’s followed nearly to the car waiting for her by a human male, a demon walks on scene. Herein lies a struggle that will pervade the story’s hunt. Serra, a Fae warrior, is duty-bound to protect the weaker creature. And Gregor Caine’s man card stipulates that he shield women from harm. Anyone up for a game of paper-rock-scissors, because these two are about that stubborn? The demon settles the dispute by dragging Gregor from the bushes, and Serra must call down the wrath of nature to burn the demon to a crisp to save him.

Demon Hunt follows the formula set in its predecessor, Demon Soul. The Caine brother in focus is a damaged guy hiding years of emotional baggage behind a steel exterior. Witness to his mother’s rape by a demon, he’s lived his entire life denying his super-human blood because what good is it to him or anyone else. Learning that Serra is Fae annoys him. Having to work with her irritates him. Taking orders from her is enough to make the big man twitchy, much to the amusement of his younger brother Justin.

There’s much to praise about Ms. Ashworth’s work. Her writing is fluid. Her plots and subplots are complex and delicately interlaced. Her creature battles are fast, vicious, and thrilling. But she excels as sexual tension, keeping the reader on the verge of yelling at the pages “get it on already.” This is certainly true of the main couple, Gregor and Serra, as she offering casual sex and he’s gallantly holding back. But, Justin and his witch girlfriend, Magdalena, are on scene and sizzling with their Benedict and Beatrice style. (For those of you who don’t get the reference, please read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.)

Don’t tell Maggie that I called her Justin’s girlfriend, because she might turn me into something slimy, but they are the air each other breathes. (Take note, Ms. Ashworth, I expect Demon Rage to be explosive. * grin *)

The Caine Brothers series has taken me completely by surprise. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Demon Soul, but this was not it. Part Angel and part Shakespeare, with a dash of erotic spice blown like a kiss off the author’s hand, The Caine brothers is a example of what the paranormal genre should aspire to.

My Red Star Award

Book Review: Demon Soul, by Christine Ashworth

demonsoul-200x3002-1Demon Soul (Caine Brothers Series #1)
By Christine Ashworth

Gabriel Caine stands on the edge of the abyss. A vampire has stolen his soul and if he doesn’t get it back soon, his next step will be into Hell. Only the naïvely mysterious Rose can help him retrieve it. Without her, he really will become the devil himself.

Rose Walters has been sent back from the dead to complete one task-save Gabriel Caine. She’s drawn to Gabriel on the most basic level, but restoring his soul may cost Rose her life.

Rose has touched the whole of Gabriel, making him yearn for a love he believes he can never have. Her willingness to put her human life on the line for him forces him to bring all three parts of himself—demon, human, and Feri bloodlines, and the strengths of each—into harmony and into the fight that decides their fate.

Before dawn, Rose Walters wanders into a Santa Monica strip mall, broke but for the clothes on her back and shoes that her feet are bleeding in after an eight mile walk. She repeats “Gabriel Caine” silently, right up until the moment she’s approached by the man himself. She’s dismayed to find a man whose twice her size and can read her thoughts as if she’s speaking out loud. How she is supposed to rescue him? That is what she was sent back to Earth to do. Still, Gabriel accepts there’s something special about her, right after he gets over her accidentally wicking away what remains of soul.

Not only did Christine Ashworth give me what I expected–beautiful yet flawed characters, emotional baggage, sexual tension, creature battles, and catharsis–but she included something very unexpected with Gabriel’s laid-back brother, Justin, and his witchy associate, Magdalena. They are, as far as I’m concerned, Benedict and Beatrice from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” They speak in snark and are obviously falling in love as fast as they can snap back at the other’s insults. Meanwhile, everyone around them sees the romance that Justin and Magdalena would swear to their graves doesn’t exist. And Ms. Ashworth uses torturous restraint, using them just enough to brighten and complement Gabriel and Rose’s story without becoming a distraction.

Demon Soul is a remarkably complex story for its length. Rose’s back story is woven into Gabriel’s current problem, which is the key to an ambitious vampire taking over her master’s Los Angeles crime empire, that the Caine boys aim to put a dent into. There’s also a delightful little demon named Mephisto that reminds me of Marie Sexton’s Cole Fenton that I hope makes an appearance in a future Caine Brother’s novel.

It’s also a fun read, despite some dark subject matter. I would recommend Demon Soul and the Caine Brothers series to fans of Hildie McQueen, the TV show Angel, and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

My Red Star Award

Book Review: The Will of the Darkest One, by Sean Poindexter

WillofTheDarkestOne_SeanPoindexterThe Will of the Darkest One (The Dragon Blood Chronicles Book 2), by Sean Poindexter

Crescent Moon Press, (December 5, 2012)

New alliances are formed between unlikely allies as the dragons try control the damage unleashed into the human world. The bond between Garrett and Meg is crystallized, but as their worlds collide there are repercussions. Aoni’a and Meg try to help Yvonne with her impossible secret with the unlikely assistance of a curious human sorcerer. As Garrett and Ardeth undergo a dangerous journey to save Yvonne’s new child, Meg continues to explore her own secret.

Darker motives surface as the vampires seek revenge. Max becomes a target in a retributive strike by a pack of vampires hoping for advancement, but they may have bitten off more than they can chew. The dragoness Gruda seeks vengeance for the death of Xyus, while Veles Fraise collects allies for his coming war against humanity. Shades of his ultimate plan are revealed; the ancient dragon Fraise may serve a higher, darker will than even his own.

The Dragon’s Blood Chronicles pick up where The Shadow of Tiamat leaves off. Megan Crunk’s best friend Yvonne is nearing her second trimester of a bittersweet pregnancy. Knowing that the child growing inside the human female isn’t human, Meg’s dragon boyfriend Garret Terago, and his friend Aoni’a, act immediately to mitigate the dangers of the woman’s condition. First thing, Yvonne only knows her baby’s father as the sadist that raped her, so Aoni’a takes her to a clearing on Garrett’s property and shifts into her dragon form, opening the human’s eyes to world in which she’s become entangled. Yvonne responds by promptly passing out. Luckily, Aoni’a has fast reflexes and catches the delicate woman before she hits the ground.

Dragons come about two ways. Typically, a female mates with the intention of spawning. The hatchlings grow to be reasonable creature. They have all the knowledge of their mother. They build out of the way lairs in which to hide their beautiful treasures. And they establish human identities and go out of their way not to attract attention. Aoni’a is unusual in that she enjoys the company of Hollywood’s elite, but all of Megan Crunk’s dragon acquaintances are otherwise typical.

Nigel Xyus, the dragon who impregnated Yvonne, was spawned the other way. A human sorceress magically impregnated herself for the purpose of creating a dragon that would serve her, and her son inherited her evil nature. Half-dragons are only half in that they have human mothers. Had Yvonne not become pregnant, Xyus’s human mother would have gone unnoticed.

Yvonne’s delicate condition drives several plot arcs of The Will of the Darkest One.

Firstly, dragon mothers carry their eggs for 12 months before laying them, after which the spawn will continue to mature for another three months. Yvonne cannot carry the egg longer than nine months. It will tear her apart from the inside, and being premature, the dragon will also die. So, the egg must stay inside Yvonne as long as she can carry it, and then it must come out. That requires the services of an arcanist to magically transfer the egg from Yvonne to Aoni’a. Enter Fred, a squat, smelly slob of man who would attract no attention at a comicon whatsoever but somehow manages to steal a few scenes from his dragon co-stars.

Unrelated to Yvonne’s pregnancy, Aoni’a knows something about Meg, that she won’t tell her and Garrett. She guides Meg, but insists that the human must find many of the answers leading to the secret on her own. This sub-arc contributes to some vampire action in this book, but is meant to set up action in the next book.

After reading The Shadow of Tiamat, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. I was left with such in incredible feeling of euphoria, I found myself unwilling to read another book for a week. Meg and Garret are endearing characters and their romance is sexy and beautiful. Like I said, this book picks up right where Tiamat left off. Meg and Garrett had been separated for a few months and just reconciled, so it should come as no surprise that make-up sex happens in the opening chapters. And, Sean Poindexter’s writing, so it’s hot steamy, Meg clawing at the shower walls and screaming at the top of her lungs, sex. Given his handling of sex in Tiamat, I expected there to be this scene, and then references to sex here and there.


Garrett, as it happens, was the exception among dragons in regards to interest in sex. Most of the dragons in this book are quite active in their human forms. Aoni’a, in Meg’s words, is a ‘magnificent whore,’ having alluded to trysts with everyone from Marc Antony (and Cleopatra) to Rick Moranis. The one person she’s desired sex with but was never able to seduce was Garrett. In The Will of the Darkest One, we see dragons sharing intimate-but-non-sexual company. We hear of threesomes with human swingers. We see sadistic torture-fucking. And back in Garrett and Meg’s bedroom, the initial five-orgasm make-up session is just these two getting warmed up. The hottest of their scenes comes in around the two-thirds mark, when Garrett comes home after a long, dangerous trip in the effort to save Yvonne. He throws Meg down on the floor of their balcony, in the rain. Sex between them is something he enjoys, though not simply because it’s pleasurable. It makes him happy because it makes Meg happy, but he’s always in control, releasing himself usually upon her command. The beauty of the balcony event is in Garret losing control while making up for lost time. For the first time ever, Meg fears that he’ll hurt her. He doesn’t, but he does give her everything, which is all she’s ever wanted from him. Seriously, it’s the most incredible sex scene I’ve ever read.

It wouldn’t be a Sean Poindexter book without violence and there’s lots to be had. Due to limitations of sorcery, Garrett’s major fight of this book is in his human form, so we get to see him battling demons with a six-shooter owned by Jesse James, and the sword that belonged to a Frankish knight he ate a few centuries back. The vampire slaughter in this book then is left to “Meg” and her former boss, Max, who has a few of the funniest lines in a book laced with humor.

My one complaint about the book is that the ebook is littered with text and formatting errors. The paragraph tabbing is one, maybe two characters. Several scene breaks are missing, jumping the action from Missouri to a fortress in Europe without warning. There are Frankenstein sentences that somehow survived editing. I am notoriously bad about them in my own writing, so I found no difficulty reading through them, though a reader may be jarred from the narration by them. This story is so good, I couldn’t care less about the typos. Once again, I am left enchanted by Sean Poindexter’s imagination.

If you like paranormal romance, hot guys, snarky girls, and the idea of dragons squeezing vampires like tubes of toothpaste, The Dragon’s Blood Chronicles are for you. I’m actually a little pissed off that The Elohim Legacy (The Dragon’s Blood Chronicles, Book 3) isn’t on my Kindle right now, but at least you don’t have to wait for the first two.

Book Review: Desperate Surrender, by Hildie McQueen

Desperate Surrender, by Hildie McQueen
Crescent Moon Press, 2012

When Wendy O’Sullivan is charged with guarding the Key of Peace, she reunites with the Protector she’s dreamed of since the day he rescued her from a demon attack.

Betrayed by his wife, Kieran Fraser, hasn’t kissed, much less loved a woman in over three hundred years, his heart firmly encased behind thick walls. The fierce immortal is charged with protecting Wendy, but can he shield himself from the diminutive spitfire, who manages to get past all his guards?

Faced with arranged marriages to others and battling demons, that will stop at nothing to trap Wendy. Will they be forced to surrender their love, for the greater good?

In Desperate Betrayal, the first of The Protector Novels, betrayal danced with fierce attraction as two strangers find their life-mates under undesirable circumstances. Much like the man it follows, McQueen’s sequel, Desperate Surrender, bears much resemblance to its brother, but under the skin, it’s truly a different beast.

The Protectors’ rules regarding marriage and family have been tested in recent years. One man created an unsanctioned bond with a woman, resulting in a miracle pregnancy. Another improbably found his life-mate when she literally tracked him down. Together, the incidents turned their boss, Julian, cold on Atlanta, as if there was something in the water that was responsible.

Kieran couldn’t have imagined he’d be a party to the mating mess. He takes every opportunity Julian provides to vent his tension. The women are compensated very well for nights they don’t remember, so it’s win-win in his book. His 6-foot-five frame and three-hundred-plus pounds of muscle serve as armor for the most fragile heart in the history of mankind. A woman would have to be lucky at a moment he’s careless to get anywhere near the atrophied organ. Marry one? He’d laugh at the idea if he knew how to laugh, which he doesn’t.

The bitter Scot is damned good at his job, and after he leaves behind a metric ton of demon dust on the streets of Atlanta, Julian decides that the escorts aren’t working. The boss believes that the only thing that will stabilize Kieran is a woman in his bed on a permanent basis, so he insists on Kieran settling down. The ironies are not lost on the Protector when he’s forced into an arranged marriage, by a boss who frowns upon such distractions, as a consequence for doing his job too well.

Even annoyed as the situation makes him, Kieran’s too empty to bother resisting much and agrees.

Wendy O’Sullivan, the best friend of Kieran’s brand new sister-in-law Emma, knows well more about the demons and Protectors than she should. (She told Emma how to find Cynden, setting in motion the events of the first book.) After saving her from a demon two years before, Kieran erased her memory of the event and of him. At least, he thought he did, but it didn’t take. She has thought of him every day since then, but she never thought she’d see him again. Then, one week before the start of Surrender, they crossed paths in Emma’s hospital room. Kieran vaguely recognizes her, but she is careful not to let on that she knows him. She knows he’d try to erase her memory again, and this time he might succeed. She fears losing more than just her memory of demons and of him, but of everything that’s happened since meeting him as well.

After she’s attacked once again, this time by a demon looking for a mysterious key, Wendy finds herself in Kieran’s care at the home of Lord Fallon Trent in one of Atlanta’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Just like that, Kieran’s women problems go from zero to two in short order. Suddenly, there’s a woman he wants, but she’s under his protection and professionally he can’t get involved with her. Even if that didn’t matter to him, he gave his word to marry the woman Julian chose, and the boss man’s not the sort to overlook insubordination or change his mind.

Kieran is a man of principles, so he surrenders what he wants to be fair to Wendy. He keeps his distance, even at the risk of being rude, and spends a good deal of time taking cold showers. It’s good for a stretch of delicious sexual tension, and when the man’s resolve finally breaks, it’s not with a crack but a shatter.

Where as Desperate Betrayal was an examination of trust between partners, Desperate Surrender delves into deep-seeded emotional scarring and the risks one man will take to take control of his life. In addition, Surrender takes a few steps out of its romance framework and includes the POV of additional characters—master demon Gerard and Fallon—to set up the events of the third Protector novel, Desperate Possession. This allows Hildie McQueen to leave her audience hanging with a sense of foreboding opposed to hanging onto the edge of a cliff, which as a reader I appreciate since the next installment may not be available for months.

I would recommend Desperate Surrender, and the Protector Novels, to fans of paranormal romance, particularly readers partial to Lynn Rush and Jean Murray, and also to the audience of SyFy’s Lost Girl.

Book Review: Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen

Desperate Betrayal, by Hildie McQueen
Crescent Moon Press, 2012

Cynden Frasier (Cyn) is a member of a group of immortal warriors, the Protectors, assigned to protect humans in Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter of a major uprising in demon activity. When Cyn is approached by a beautiful woman in a dirty alley, he is intrigued by the fact that she can see him for what he is, a terrifying demon slayer, and still dares to approach him.

Emma Blake, a half-demon, has to convince Cyn to help rescue her sister from powerful demons. Terrified that the Protector will kill her if he realizes what she is, she still goes against every instinct and approaches Cyn for help. Despite knowing that she is leading them both into territory so wrought with treachery, neither of them may survive.

Can Cyn and Emma overcome betrayal, the ancient rules that prevent Protectors from taking a wife, unless she is his one true mate? And if they do, will it even matter?

In Hildie McQueen’s Atlanta, there are Protectors and demons. Three castes of the latter, in fact, walking around looking very human, and they are mostly up to no good. Scottish Protector Cynden Fraser, like his brothers-in arms, suffered a brutal growth spurt in his early 20s that left him a walking Greek statue—beautiful, massive, ageless—gifted with the strength and speed necessary to hunt demons. The Protectors are permitted marriage in only two incidences: encountering one’s life-mate, which is rare, or by arrangement of the order’s leader, Julian, aka “The Roman.”

These men exist to stand between mankind and the threat of evil. Period.

The mating rules of the Protectors have never been a problem for Cyn. While he has a voracious appetite for women, it’s rare that any one woman can hold his interest passed a third orgasm. Furthermore, he’s hit a dry spell, a mixed blessing of sorts because he has lots of other problems that need his attention. His Protector friend, Roderick Cronan, was recently been abducted. The demon father of Cyn’s adopted son is making noise about wanting custody. The demon population in Atlanta is growing bigger and bolder. The last thing he needs is girl trouble.

So, when Emma Blake approaches him a) knowing who he is, b) knowing what he is, and c) begging for his help to free her sister from a high-level demon strong-hold, he turns her down flat. There are enough demons to deal with on the street. He doesn’t intend to walk into a nest of them to rescue a woman who he is certain is already dead. Emma is persistent, but even after she tells him that Roderick is being held in the same compound, he continues to refuse.

Still, Cyn wants to believe her. He doesn’t want to accept that Roderick is dead, or that the man’s wife and son will be without him, so Cyn does commit to a rescue. Julian commits several other Protectors to the mission, including Cyn’s cranky brother Kieran, and pretentious Lord Fallon Trent. Cyn is a man who understands the value of keeping friends close and enemies closer, so Emma remains close at hand, but out of earshot of the mission plans. It unnerves Cyn that he’s drawn to the woman, even while sensing there’s something off about her, even while suspecting that he can’t trust her, even while knowing that she is going to betray him.

That something is a big deal. Emma is half-demon, born to a human mother and a demon father. And while the story about her sister is true (as she knows it), it’s also a trap to lure Cyn to a master demon named Gerard. Julian is holding another master demon captive. Gerard is sure that two of the world’s most powerful Protectors will suffice for a prisoner exchange. Even though Cyn knows the moment of truth is coming, when Emma finally does betray him, it cuts him deep.

In Desperate Betrayal, Hildie McQueen balances a series of betrayals against a theme of trust and forgiveness. It is hard to let our loved ones go, but that burden can be impossible to bear when that person is all that remains of your family. Cyn is lucky among the Protectors to have a brother who shares his calling and immortal gifts. He can step into her shoes and ask himself if he could sacrifice his brother for the sake of a lover, but forgiveness can be another burden impossible to bear and his does not come easily. McQueen lets the emotions of the events play out naturally, rebuilding a relationship between Cyn and Emma amidst the manifestations of one demon’s lust for power and other’s greed.

Desperate Betrayal is an action-packed novel with steamy sex and a tense atmosphere that lives up to its title. It also moments of unnerving brashness and incredible sweetness. The story of Atlanta’s demon hunters continues with Desperate Surrender, which focuses on Cyn’s brother Kieran and Wendy, a human he saved years ago. I would sincerely recommend this book (and series) to fans of Lynn Rush’s Wasteland series, Jean Murray’s Soul Reborn, and SyFy’s Lost Girl audience.

Book Review: Taste, by Kate Evangelista

Taste, by Kate Evangelista
Crescent Moon Press, April 2012

At Barinkoff Academy, there’s only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

The clang of a bell wakes Phoenix McKay from a nap. Before the second clang, she is on her feet and racing for a door that weighs a metric ton (or, might as well, given her penchant for slacking off in gym class). She slips. A third clang. She manages to open it just enough to slip through. A fourth clang follows, then a fifth. She’s late…unforgivably late…for the only appointment of her day that really matters. She stands outside as the sixth and final bell clangs, staring at an undisturbed blanket of show across Barinkoff Academy’s parking lot. The school had one rule, inflexibly enforced: no students on campus after curfew. The last bus back to the dormitories left ninety minutes earlier.

It’s cold, dark, and the dorms are miles away. She figures that if she’s going to get expelled anyway, she might as well try to find a janitor or someone to give her a ride. But the people she finds in the hall aren’t Barinkoff staff. They’re freakishly beautiful, guys and girls alike, and dressed in clothes from another century. One gleefully informs her that they are the “Night Students.” He casually mentions wanting to taste her. She doesn’t know what that means, but the look in his eyes leads her to believe he might mean it literally. Just as she thinks running might be a good idea, she finds herself behind a Mr. Tall-Dark-Handsome. His name is Demetri and he clearly intimidates the others. First, he asks the young man if he heard him correctly. Did the word taste cross his lips? He then commands all of his classmates to say nothing about Phoenix to anyone before taking her away, an order that shocks them all.

Demetri leads her straight away to a secret passage that connects the library to the chemistry lab. After introducing her to a young mad scientist reminiscent of Topher Brink (Dollhouse), her savior ingests a half-dollar size pill and then he drives Phoenix home. He promises that the Headmaster needn’t know about her breaking curfew if she promises to never miss curfew again. In doing so, he unknowingly breaks the first rule of Phoenix…never tell her what not to do.

If I could fill out an order form for the perfect novel, the result would be Taste. Kate Evangelista had me hooked from the very first sentence. She begins with a flawed first-person narrator in an acute, undesirable situation before immediately turning up the danger factor. Through Phoenix, she reveals to the reader a parallel world that is subtly sinister on the surface, with a separate cast of players that arrives and departs with the sun. From there peels back the layers on this world that lies behind and beneath Barinkoff Academy as if they were the petals of a flower. The pacing is like a choreographed dance between Phoenix, Demetri, and two other Night Students named Dray and Luka. The dialog is precisely to my liking; saying just what it needs to, at the right time and in the right way.

From the very first word, the details build into a steady crescendo of tension, along the main plot, the romantic arcs, and underlying subplots. When the climax hits, the strings start popping one by one, dropping the story by degrees, as if it were a weight suspended from them.

Through it all, Evangelista’s cast never drops character. Demetri is stoic, duty bound and passion driven, and keeps his priorities straight to a fault. Luka, his diametrically opposed frenemy, is carefree, careless, and manages to be deep and shallow at the same time. Phoenix’s wealth and privilege aside, she is sad, confused, curious, and intimately aware of how unfair life can be. The author’s voice is pitch-perfect.

I would recommend Taste to fans of Beth Revis’s Around the Universe, (along with anyone 15 and older who reads), with a word of caution: Hold onto something, or this book may well blow you away.