Jezebel is used to being alone. It might not be ideal, but she has grown accustomed to keeping her thoughts to herself, staying busy when she isn’t working, and distancing herself from others. It’s a life she wouldn’t necessarily choose, but it’s what she knows. And then came August. An innocent meeting on the beach leads to what Jezebel believes is the opportunity to work for a wealthy local. When she can’t help but be mesmerized by the very thought of his attention, she quickly begins to realize there is much more to August than meets the eye and much more to the relationship he desires.
Awakening, by Jennifer Leigh Pezzano, is a supernatural romance novel for the ages. Jezebel, the book’s main character is the perfect mix of an unlikely heroine lacking a certain amount of self-confidence and a woman ready to take on the world. Her encounter with the mysterious but incredibly desirable August is one that takes even the reader by surprise.
From the first chapter, Pezzano’s writing is striking and flows beautifully across the page. Whether it’s her main character’s inner voice or the narrative that fills the space between the unique encounters between Pezzano and August, her words are simply breathtaking. The more intimate moments between the two characters are touching without being overtly sexual and explicit.
There is a profound sadness to August’s story, and I loved the bits of history Pezzano includes in her work. These elements of reality only serve to deepen the reader’s involvement in the plot. Pezzano knows how to engage readers, pull them into her characters’ dilemmas, and feed them just enough reality to make them question whether her story is born of real events–she is just that good–she makes the reader feel like a meeting De Sanguine might be a distinct possibility.
I encourage any fan of vampire romances to give Pezzano’s work a try. It does not fit the mold. It does, however, offer readers a new and fresh take on an old genre. I was thoroughly impressed with the depth Pezzano is able to give her characters and the extent to which she is able to take a story set in recent years and make it feel so refined, so detailed, and so stunningly beautiful.
Pages: 344 | ASIN: B08P5SMG3M
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Awakened follows a warrior who is vampire royalty as he tries to protect a woman from evil as she tries to cope with her new reality and the connection between them. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The books in the series follow members of the Circle of the Red Scorpion. Based on the storyline in Book 4, Returned, it made sense that Awakened was the next book in the series. I don’t want to give too much away but there has been a vampire power struggle brewing since Shattered. Though there is some resolution in Awakened, a future book in the series will end it – at least for a time. Vampires are forever so there will always be someone else who wants to take the power.
I really enjoyed the connection between Dominic and Chantelle. Was their relationship planned or did it develop organically?
I plan the relationships in the series since many of the stories are related and prior storyline planning for the series is necessary. A subplot may begin in one book but ends in another story. The same with growing attractions between two characters. I compare it to putting together a complex puzzle.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted Dominic to accept who he was despite his heritage and realize it was the flaws of others that caused the issues in his life, not him. His calling as a warrior was far greater than those issues.
This is the fifth book in your Circle of the Red Scorpion Series. What can readers expect in book six?
In Book 6, Pursued, Elemental demon, Moses Thorne, is investigating a string of grisly murders in New Orleans when he meets a woman he never thought he would see again. Would he be able to trust her?
As Moses tries to solve the murders, a vengeful demon plots to kill him. He can no longer evade the world of demons he fled over a thousand years ago.
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Awakened (Circle of the Red Scorpion Book Five) by Charlene Johnson is a paranormal romance about a half-vampire half-human warrior who has spent hundreds of years battling an evil vampire bent on torturing and imprisoning humans. Twice throughout the centuries Dominic Rinaldi believed Nicodemus Bartolome was dead, but now he has shown up again, when he attacks a human woman named Chantelle Mallory in San Francisco. But there is something different about Chantelle. As Dominic’s feelings for her grow, will she be able to accept learning the truth about what he is? And will Dominic be able to protect Chantelle from the evil stalking her?
I liked the variety of paranormal beings in this book, and how they worked together to stop magical creatures who harmed humans. I enjoyed reading the sections of the story that focused on the search for the voodoo priestess’s descendants and the romance developing between Dominic and Chantelle. Dominic’s sister, Carmella, was not a likable character when she was first introduced in the story, and I thought the author did a really good job of redeeming her in the end. Some of my favorite characters were the other members of the Circle of the Red Scorpion. I enjoyed the interactions between the team, especially Moses Thorne and Nick Savage, and I liked learning about their different paranormal abilities.
While I enjoyed this story for its emotional connection between characters, I felt that there was an abundance of backstory about various characters at the beginning of the book, along with some flashbacks throughout the story, that slowed the momentum of the book.
With that aside, author Charlene Johnson still tells a dramatic vampire romance story in this riveting fifth entry in her paranormal Circle of the Red Scorpion series. Awakened is a rousing supernatural love story with spellbinding lead characters and a story that will have readers hooked.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B08H14WPR6
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Rise for Me follows a vampire who is forced into a reunion with his soulmate that abandoned him, and she’s harboring another secret. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The inspiration for Rise for Me actually developed after answering another author’s writing prompt. On social media, he asked his followers to create a fictional story about how we met. That is temptation incarnate for another writer, so I answered with something like this:
We met at the carnival and you were the creepy clown who snuck up behind me. I was so scared, I hit you with my corndog, and got mustard in your hair. You were so angry, we wrestled into the duck-pond booth, and tore it all to pieces. You laughed and I laughed. We both ended up wet, but we’re friends again, and all is good.
Not the best writing, but it was a fun response. That author is a horror writer by the way…lol After that little paragraph, I started thinking what a great vampire story.
Mariah and Roman have a deep emotional connection. What were some driving ideals behind the character’s relationship?
Vampires are almost always fated mate stories, but it’s rare to see a character leave for any extended period of time. Given Mariah’s age at the time the knowledge is revealed to Roman, I felt their separation appropriate although difficult for my hero. As a vampire and gypsy, Roman knows what it’s like to be judged, so he easily empathizes with Mariah’s infirmity. By the same token, Mariah has suffered judgement most of her life, so she knows what it’s like for Roman. This dynamic between them, along with the fact that they’re mates, drives the angst for her return, his forgiveness, and a happily-ever-after ending.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I am disabled from Guillain-Barre syndrome, so I know what it feels like to be different. Because I wear drop-foot braces, I walk a little weird. My mother was born with a hairy birthmark in the center of her forehead that was removed by a cosmetic surgeon later in her life. I’ve seen these things with my own eyes, experienced them, been stared at, and know how devastating they can be, but I also wanted to show the positives. The people of the carnival, including Roman, are accepting and don’t judge anyone. There are people just like Mariah and Roman in the real world, people in my life. Roman never looked on Mariah as anything but beautiful. Different doesn’t mean ugly…it means unique. I think Mariah realized how much more important Roman’s love was versus the healing he bestowed her with maturity and distance. In a world based on beauty, I feel as an author it’s important to put that kind of message in my stories. Mariah suffered real problems. Don’t we all wish for a vampire mate to heal us? Those types of situations draw the romance reader because many can identify. I was a reader, and still am, long before I ever wrote my first book.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Seduction by Blood is another fated mates, vampire book that releases February 22, 2021. It deals with an abusive relationship in the beginning, so again, I’m hitting on a major issue while showing the heroine’s inner strength and growth throughout the story. The vampire is old world and is woke by his mate’s blood traveling through the root system on his property. This book is paranormal erotic, cowritten with another author, and published by The Wild Rose Press.
Hand-Carved Wolf is undergoing a major revision and will be available March 1, 2021, through Kindle Unlimited. This is a fantasy romance that deals with two widowers, and the ghost that bridges the gap between them. It’s unique in that the hero and the ghost are both Native American, my heroine is strong and feisty, and it’s in the current time period. It’s a longer book, 160+ pages, because of the issues that come from losing a spouse. The hero is also a single father and trying to put his and his daughter’s life back together when the heroine barges into his world. The book is loaded with sassy banter and was fun to write. It’s a good story with deep meaning, more of a classic romance about second chances, so I’m hoping romance readers enjoy it.
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Rise For Me is a thrilling paranormal romance novella that surprised me with the amount of emotion that is packed into so few pages. Although the vampire romance genre is dense, Rise for Me is still able to remain unique and bring something new to the genre. The story surrounds a carnival run by Roman, our alluring main character, who is the ringmaster, vampire and warlock. Our female protagonist is Mariah, a character with emotional depth, who becomes Roman’s mate after a spell was performed. Although she has kept away, she has come back into Roman’s life and has a personal secret. The two have multiple forces working against them, including Mariah’s father, but they are inextricably bound to each other nonetheless.
Rise For Me is short, but is manages to take readers on a roller-coaster of emotion. Maybe because the story was short, or maybe because I so enthralled with the story, but I blew through story quickly. I read it all in one sitting! Author Kristal Dawn Harris’ writing is easy and keeps the story on the character and the action. Readers feel the pain that both Roman and Mariah felt by being apart all those years and empathize with Mariah as we learn the real reason why she has come back. This story has a great mix of character development and steamy scenes. I found the vampires in this story to be unique enough to stand out in the vampire genre, and I am impressed with how much background on our characters was given considering this story is around sixty pages. There was is a peculiar angst and passion between Roman and Mariah, I wanted more of their story and the way the novella ends only made me want more on these two characters.
I definitely recommend this if you are into vampire romance stories and are looking for a quick read; a long train or plane ride as this story can easily transport you into another world. I just wish we were there a bit longer. Readers easily get attached to Roman and Mariah and their complicated relationship. This is a suspenseful supernatural love story that will have fans raving, and begging for another installment.
Pages: 61 | ASIN: B08RRYSPHY
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Reign: The Assault of Lucifer Morningstar follows a powerful shifter as he defends the citizens of Florence from a satanic mob. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I have written two vampire mystery thrillers previous to Reign: Snow Blood (a 5-book series about the original vampire) and Moon Blood (a sequel to Snow Blood) along with a Prequel entitled, Kane – The First Blood Son. Reign takes characters from those two books as well as introducing new ones (spawned from characters in the first books). Reign Book 1 was a natural progression and is soon to be followed up with Reign – The Rise of The Lich (Book 2 of the Silver Blood Knight Series.)
Honestly, I was inspired because I wanted to create something quite different from the vampire/paranormal stories I grew up with and loved.
Reign is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
All my books are narrated by either dogs or wolves. They symbolize loyalty, persistence, a fierce protective nature, and unconditional love for all who are family and friends. I strive to have people answer this question for themselves: If they can love us in this way, why can’t we do the same for each other?
What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
Obviously good vs. evil. But more importantly, as stated above, I wanted to show what unconditional love means… loving a person or creature for who he or she is, and not what we want them to be. I wanted to examine what it means to be loyal and how some things aren’t what we think they are.
This is the first book in the Silver Blood Knight series. What can readers expect in book two?
Our heroes will be given another almost invincible antagonist to battle. I’ll dive deeper into the inner workings of the heroic band, and they will have to contend with numerous surprise attacks from unexpected sources in book 2. Through it all, their love for and loyalty to each other will shine.
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Phantasia follows demigod ex-cop Carissa who is hellbent on clearing her father’s name. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The single myth that drove this story forward was the one with Alkippe, Ares’ daughter who was raped by Poseidon’s son. Ares retaliated and killed him. Poseidon was obviously unhappy about this and Ares’ became the first god to be tried for murder on the Areopagus. The Areopagus, a hill in Ancient Athens was where judicial business took place. This myth is the over-reaching story arc that spans from book one, right through to book three, which I am writing as we speak. Book one was the kill, book two the trail and book three is the verdict.
Carissa is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
Apart from the basic ideals and psychological needs, I want her to go from ordinary to extraordinary and she still has a bit more learning to do before she hits her full potential. When I sat down to write the series, Carissa was standing in the middle of a labyrinth or mayhem, that said, you are here, and she needed to find her way out of the maze both internally and externally. There is a lot that we can take away from myths and we only need to look at our own life experiences to see how much we grow and change due to life throwing things at us.
I enjoyed the infusion of Greek mythology throughout the book. What kind of research did you undertake to keep things accurate?
I am so pleased to hear that. I loved myth when I started my first book and it seemed natural to me. I have always loved Homer’s representation of the gods because they are so vivid and intervening. I wanted my gods to exude the same presence of Homer’s and I do play a little bit on that whole anger and revenge cycle. In terms of research, I am in the middle of a degree in the Classics and Archaeology. A little late in life but why not? 😃 So, I guess I can say that I have a bit of arsenal up my sleeve. 😊
This is book two in the Phi Athanatoi series. What can readers expect from book three?
Spoiler Alert: I keep saying, and apologies for being so cliché, it’s going to be bigger than Ben-Hur. You can expect more craziness from Carissa’s family. A character may not survive. The gods are as intervening as ever, and Xen and Carissa may go through a small learning curve before they get their Big Fat Greek Wedding. 😃 Definitely some fun moments to deal with the darker elements.
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Phantasia by Efthalia is the second installment in Efthalia’s Phi Athanatoi series. This novel follows Carissa, an ex-cop and demigod granddaughter of Zeus, as she embarks on the greatest mission of her life thus far – saving a few morally astray Greek gods from causing ruin and chaos to not only their ethereal realm in Mount Olympus, but also to the susceptible and unknowing mortal world below. Efthalia’s entertaining way of storytelling and character building, combined with a unique plot that blends romance, adventure, Greek culture, and Greek mythology, are all key aspects that make this a thrilling paranormal romance.
Even though this is the second book in her Phi Athanatoi series, Efthalia does a great job at building each character so that even if a reader picks up the book out of sequence, they have enough context about important details to still be able to follow the story line. Carissa and Xen’s romance is hot, steamy, and palpable in all the right ways, while still making apparent the couple’s devotion to one another. Even auxiliary characters, such as Carissa’s mortal family members, are given the chance to shine, reminding readers how embedded loyalty and familial ties are to Greek culture. All the characters are likable, realistic and have their own sense of morality that adds to the depth of the overall novel. Each scene is portrayed in a way that allows the reader to easily envision happenings as they unfold.
Efthalia is a brilliant writer who also uses her work as an opportunity to highlight Greek culture. Her numerous and regular Greek vocabulary and cultural references add significant depth to the reader’s experience. The Greek glossary at the end of the book, which provides definitions of all Greek vocabulary used throughout the text, is a further welcome touch. Her vivid depictions of each of the Greek gods in the story, from Zeus to Ares to Hades, reflect the well-researched nature of her storytelling.
There are definite aspects that are reminiscent of popular thrillers, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since there are sexual scenes, depictions of alcohol use, and some images of violence, this novel is best enjoyed by an adult audience. I would recommend Phantasia and the rest of the Phi Athanatoi series to anyone with an interest in the adventure romance genre, as well as any aficionados of Greek mythology.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B083TBWNPH
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