Rebecca Zanetti writes a variety of contemporary and paranormal romances. The ones I’ve read to date feature classic alpha male heroes and kick-ass heroines, both character types that I enjoy reading about. The Realm Enforcers series is a spinoff of her Dark Protectors series and Wicked Burn marks the third entry. I’ve read the previous two (but not the earlier series) and quite enjoyed them. In fact, the first book in the Realm Enforcers series, Wicked Ride, made my best of 2015 list. The characters in this book, Simone and Nick have been part and parcel of this series to date as secondary characters and finally get their chance at a happy ending.
Nick, a Demon, and Simone, a Witch, were lovers until fate intervened a century ago. On the eve of proposing to Simone, Nick was told by a prophetess that if he didn’t follow a certain course of action, Simone would die. To protect her, he broke things off and for the next hundred years worked tirelessly and ruthlessly to bring about the current stability between the various immortals. Vampires, Witches, Demons and Shifters now co-exist relatively peaceably, after intrigue, fighting and ultimately a war that cost many lives. Power struggles among and inside the various factions were often steered by Nick in his fight to get Zane to be head of the Demon Realm, with him as second in command. Now, someone has targeted Simone and accused her of treason, which is punishable by beheading if she is found guilty. After decades of protecting her from the sidelines without her knowledge, Nick isn’t going let all his hard work go to waste. Determined to be part of her life once more, he’ll give up his own life before letting her be harmed. Having been devastated by Nick’s abrupt dismissal of her years before, Simone is wary (rightfully so) of getting involved with him again. Can Nick convince her that this time he won’t break her heart?
I love a good second chance romance, and Nick has his work cut out for him in having to prove to Simone that he’s worth the risk. A ruthless demon, he is determined, strong, protective and willing to do anything to get what he wants. He’s sacrificed his own happiness for long enough and he wants Simone back in his life, and his bed. He’s not going to give up on her easily, even though she is wary of accepting him back into her life on an intimate level.
Simone is a strong, courageous and passionate woman. She’s a witch and has a position that she’s worked hard for on the Coven Nine, so to be accused by her peers of treason is a devastating blow. Her mother is the leader of the witches and obviously on Simone’s side in the case against her, though she has some secrets which, when revealed, change Simone’s beliefs about her past and possible future with Nick. When she and Nick are together though, it’s easy to forget that they’ve ever been apart. Their sex scenes are very steamy, and they definitely have chemistry together. Nick is a demanding lover, but Simone isn’t afraid to push back and they are equal partners in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, this novel suffers from an overabundance of characters, right from the start. The focus on the main couple is diluted by the introduction of a lot of characters I assume are there as a kind of “check-in” for readers of the Dark Protectors series. . I don’t remember having this problem with the other two books, but here there are suddenly lots of unfamiliar names front and center. Now granted, some of this has to do with Simone’s position on the Coven Nine and these are her cousins and friends, but for a newcomer to either series, it is confusing. Fortunately things settle down, though every now and then another name is thrown in that I didn’t recognize and made me wish for a glossary of all the characters in all the books to date that are interconnected. I do plan to read the Dark Protector series because I quite like the world building the author puts into her stories, but it’s lengthy and so is my TBR pile.
Similarly, the plot seems to be scattered. The overall story arc of the series deals with a drug called Apollo, which contains the ingredient planekite – a fatal ingredient to humans and more importantly, to witches. Part of the story deals with the treasonous implications of Simone’s possible involvement with planekite mines. While the case against her is central to the story, the introduction of yet more new characters and Simone’s family and heritage run away with the plotline in an entirely new and unexpected direction. While the intent is to add something fresh and exciting to the novel (it did give me a few eyebrow raising scenes), it seems as though the story is trying to be too many things at once and loses its focus. Simone and Nick get a happy ending, but the plot is left with lots of holes to fill. In the end, Nick’s character saves the book as I like him enough to counter the negatives. He proves time and time again to be a worthwhile mate for Simone. Wicked Burn is the weakest entry in the series to date for me, but I still plan to continue the series and hope the next one has a tighter, less convoluted plot.