Few authors, IMO, have managed to steer clear of what I call the ‘middle child’ syndrome in series writing. More often than not, the follow-up to their debuts often suffer from a lack of certain oomph due to the readers’ familiarity with the world and characters that were already introduced in the first book.
Sometimes, the new leads in the sequel fail to live up to the high standards set in the debut … something quite unavoidable as readers are wont to compare and anticipate the same level of intensity, excitement and tightness in plot and pace in the successful debut.
I found immense pleasure in discovering that Kresley Cole and Jacquelyn Frank have not only outdone themselves with the follow-up masterpieces to their new paranormal series (The Immortals and The Nightwalkers respectively), they’ve gotten me so hooked on their series that I’m already looking eagerly forward to their next instalments, which are on my auto-buy list.
The plot for Cole’s No Rest for The Wicked is centred around this immortal Amazing Race, briefly mentioned in the debut, in which Kaderin the Coldhearted has maintained her position as the undisputed champion for 12 years. This super achieving Valkyrie assassin has encased her heart in ice since the death of her sisters at the hand of a vampire she relented from killing in a moment of misguided mercy. Enter Sebastian Wroth, a reluctant vampire who’d liked nothing more than to end his lonely self-exiled existence, whom Kad was hired to kill.
For the first time in her very long life, Kad hesitated and against all odds, this sad outcast of the Lore stirs her emotions, bringing back and amplifying many folds all her deadened feelings, particularly lust. Burdened with hatred and starved without touch and contact from others through his self imposed isolation, Sebastian was overwhelmed by feelings of protectiveness, gentleness and tenderness towards the fey and exquisite female and clung on to the idea of making her his Bride as his reason to live.
Freaked out by her returning emotions and dangerous attraction towards an ancient enemy, Kad fled from his embrace. What’s a guy to do except go in pursuit, only he’ll have to participate in the same grueling race which will take them through ancient tombs and catacombs, subzero terrains and the depths of the ocean on quest after quest. With each win he helped her, Sebastian began to slowly win Kad over. But with a key that allows the winner to go back in time to regain what once was lost as the prize at stake, Kad is forced to choose between her love and reuniting her family. Can she win all?
I’ve always have a soft spot for heroes named Sebastian (Winter in Devil and Black Ice are amongst my faves), so could you really blame me for rooting for Sebastian to win Kad over? Besides, I love how both characters grow in their emotional strength as the book progresses and I think Cole has chosen the right soulmate for Kad in Sebastian. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this scorching follow-up is written with the same trademark wicked sensuality as its predecessor. The plot has all the excitement of a hunt, and Cole took the trouble to embellish the universe of the Immortals by way of tips and hints for Sebastian, who’s been alienated from the folks of the Lore for so many centuries he needed serious crash course in the dos and don’ts. It made me appreciate the detail and attention that went into creating a believable alternate universe of witches, sirens, Lykaes, and other fey and mythical creatures.
In Gideon, Jacquelyn Frank delves into the task of relieving the sexual and emotional tension that was very evident between Magdelegna, the Demon King’s sister, and their race’s oldest surviving male and clan healer. The reason behind their strained relationship was finally revealed here and the reader senses that it’s about to come to an explosive resolution.
The journey to that truth was simply exhilarating, involving them finding out they were destined for each other, and trying to manage the expectations and reactions of the royal household as well as battling a serial killer who’s been hurting and enslaving members of their race with the help of necromancers. Investigating a traitor, the Demons team up with the Vampire Prince and the shape-shifters’ Queen, whose story is up next in Elijah, and the confrontation with a gang of perverted magic users led to a closer collaboration amongst all three nightwalker races.
Gideon, IMO, was a great improvement over Jacob, which I enjoyed despite the cringe-inducing endearment and some tried-and-tested conflict points. The battle scene, and the emotional scenes here carry an intensity and tightness that matches the pace of the plot’s development and the progress of Gideon’s and Legna’s relationship. The tension between them was treated with the right amount of sensitivity and expertly drawn out. She gave them a very human romance with all its attendant concerns such as dealing with overanxious siblings’ reactions, having to deal with insecurities and emotional baggage. She made them quite easy to relate to on an emotional plane, which I think is why the story engages the romance reader.
You can bet that I’m going to be tracking the release of the next book by these two talented authors. I’ve never dreamt that I’d be devouring paranormal romances – vampires and werewolves used to turn me off – but the tide has definitely turned with well-written works such as these and Nalini’s.