May 24, 2010

Touch of Seduction by Rhyannon Byrd

Touch of Seduction

Rhyannon Byrd

Grade: B-

Urban Fantasy Romance

Touch of Danger, the fourth in Rhyannon Byrd's Primal Instict series of urban fantasy romances, follows the first three books by nearly a year, and that is its primary flaw. The first three books were released one per month for three months, so there wasn't a problem getting up to speed and retaining momentum as the world-building increased in complexity and scope. I've been a big fan of the author since discovering her at Ellora's Cave many years ago, and reviewed the Edge of Hunger, the first Primal release, for Publishers Weekly (click here to read it on book's Amazon page). I graded it B+ and its two follow ups straight B's. If not for the state of confusion I more than occasionally found myself in while reading book four, it would have earned a straight B as well, if not a B+. Instead it earns a B- and a suggestion that readers skim book three - Edge of Desire - prior to starting Touch of Danger. Book five, btw, is already out and book six is scheduled for fall.

A war has secretly begun as dangerous paranormal creatures long ago sent to hell join forces in order to escape their prison and kill all those who stand in their way of ruling the world. Standing in their way are various "clans" of other paranormals, including witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and combinations thereof. Among the "good guys" are the Watchmen, a secretive group, comprised mainly of shapeshifters who heretofore have only watched and recorded paranormal goings-on. Byrd owes a boon to Anne Rice's Talamasca and the Highlander franchise for the Watchmen, and I can see influences from Marjorie Liu, Angela Knight, and Lora Leigh in the Primal Instinct series. This is not a condemnation or accusation; it's actually a compliment since I'm a fan of Knight's Mageverse, Liu's Dirk & Steele series and Leigh's Breeds, As I'm now also seeing comparisons between Byrd, Knight, Liu, Showalter, and Leigh in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles and Sarah McCarty's Shadow Wranglers series, it occurs to me that it makes sense for preternatural creatures to face an existential enemy of either human or paranormal origin. Armageddon tends to really up the ante on action, you know?

Perhaps I tend to like these series better than other urban fantasy/urban fantasy romance series because there's a larger purpose at hand, a fight that will effect the world as a whole. Come to think of it, this may also explain why I think Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries have, for me, finally run out of steam; in Harris' series the preternatural are warring each other, but not with an overall plan to rule the world...and humanity.

In Touch of Seduction, tiger-shifter Aiden Shrader is tasked with protecting the human woman Olivia Harcourt, who acts as guardian to her young niece Jamie, whose mother was killed by Casus baddies. Olivia was the sole human in a family of witches, and Jamie is half witch/half Merrick, which makes her quite literally irresistible to the Casus. The extreme sensuality Byrd was known for in her EC books was somewhat muted as this series began; in this book it's back in full force, even though there aren't more than a couple of full-on love scenes. The book actually begins when Aiden goes to rescue Olivia and Jamie in advance of a Casus attack. The moment he sees and scents Olivia, he realizes he's in deep shit. He cannot help himself and they end up in a raunchy clinch in which Olivia is a full participant. Though she's human, she calls to Aiden in a primal way. Trouble is, he can never trust a human, particularly a human woman and vows to be immune to her temptation.

As for Olivia, she sees herself as plain, mundane, and meek, and cannot fathom the gorgeous shifter's attraction in her. She's far more accepting of the weirdness that surrounds them once they hit the road on their way to the Watchmen compound (they cannot fly due to Jamie's inner-ear issue). Olivia's self-image doesn't seem to match how Aiden and the two watchmen traveling with them see her; her being cheated on by an ex-boyfriend cues in the reader that she's been a doormat and that perhaps she has some allure visable only to those with special powers.

The very young Jamie seems to take everything in stride, which both Olivia and Aiden find unnerving; this preternatural calm will serve her well as the story reaches its climax in a battle with the baddies, who now also include a race of Death Walkers. At the start Aiden gives her a Dark Marker to wear in order to protect her from the Casus, but as the story progresses, the Watchmen learn there's an unintended consequence, a downside to using the Dark Markers. To say more would give spoilers. In fact, to say much more about the storyline would detract from reading it. Even though I got lost in world-building, hopefully you'll take my advice, skim the previous book, and more fully enjoy the wonderfully tortured love story between Aiden and Olivia, their erotic love scenes, and the playfulness Jamie brings out in those charged with protecting her. The Casus and Death Watchers are indeed frightening and once you're up to speed on the various clans and hellish species and can fully enjoy the ride, I think you will. As for me, I'm going to start Touch of Surrender and will cross my fingers that by the time book six comes out later this year, I'm not once again confused.


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