A Hunter Under the Mistletoe
I loved this cover so much that I requested the book knowing nothing about either author or the series. The book, unfortunately, does not live up to the cover.
The two Stavros brothers, Rafe and Gabriel (if I never see heroes with those names again, it will be too soon) run a mega-successful Las Vegas casino called the Archangel, while concealing the fact that they are actually part of a phoenix-type species, the Helios. In each book, the brothers find the woman of their dreams while evading attempts by humans called Hunters to murder them, for vague reasons – something to do with unleashing a god called Chaos and opening an immortal gate? It’s unclear. There are high points – the Vegas setting is particularly fun – but I just didn’t get into either story enough to have wanted to finish them on their own merits.
All Is Bright by Addison Fox
Rafe accidentally rejuvenates (read: explodes in fire) in front of Archangel landscape designer Evangeline Kennedy. When Evangeline won’t let go of the mystery, she becomes entangled in Rafe’s secrets – but Rafe learns she has secrets of her own, including the fact that her father was a Hunter. Rafe is completely generic; remove the fact that he bursts into flame four times a year and he could be absolutely any other wealthy, dark-haired Harlequin business tycoon, whisking the heroine away for spa treatments and buying her fancy dresses. I liked Evangeline a little more, because her landscape-gardening career was new to me and interesting. I never put much thought into the people behind hotel and resort plant arrangements, something I will certainly do in the future. More minuses: I was uncomfortable with the boss/employee dynamics as Rafe seduced Evangeline. Chaos’s attempts to disturb the casino were supernaturally interesting, but displayed so much power you wonder why the god keeps coming after the Helios (Helioses? Is the plural just Helios? It makes me twitchy) via incompetent human minions. I wanted more depth of character and more depth of setting, and got neither.
Grade: C+ Sensuality: Warm
Heat of A Helios by Karen Whiddon, introduces pop megastar Megan Fox. Megan is the gorgeous ebony woman on the cover, but you’d barely notice from the text, which never goes further than to call her “dusky.” That’s a color Google Image search and I both associate with a much lighter skin tone. Gabe is the brother for Megan, who is taking up a residency at the Archangel. Despite the fact that Megan is down-to-earth, polite, and low-key (a celebrity who doesn’t even have a password on her phone?!?!?!), Gabe just KNOWS from her tabloid reputation that she’s really a diva. The author makes Megan win a three million dollar jackpot and donate it to the local animal welfare organization to prove him wrong, which is absolutely ridiculous. Not only are there tax issues that need to be considered (her accountant must be screaming), but Megan shouldn’t have to martyr herself to prove herself Gabe and the readers.
Anyway, Hunters are still after the Helios, and coincidentally Megan, like Evangeline, is ALSO from a family of Hunters. There’s an anticlimactic confrontation, with the god Chaos inexplicably nowhere to be seen, and then it’s Christmas.
Grade: C+ Sensuality: Warm
I enjoyed the choice of the Las Vegas setting instead of the classic paranormal locations like New Orleans or the classic Christmas locations like the Northeast. It was fun to picture a desert Christmas, and the desert is a good fit for a paranormal hero so linked to heat and fire. The city built for entertainment also meshed nicely with the luxury and pampering the brothers want to show the heroines. But a setting alone can’t overcome mediocre characterizations and superficial worldbuilding, and on the whole I don’t recommend this collection.