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Jillian Burns

REVIEW:  Relentless Seduction by Jillian Burns

REVIEW: Relentless Seduction by Jillian Burns

Dear Ms. Burns:

I enjoyed your Harlequin Blaze release Relentless Seduction. It’s got just the right blend of humor, sex, mystery, and faux vampires. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I gotten to the last page.

Relentless Seduction by Jillian BarnesClaire Brooks has coke-bottle glasses, frizzy brown hair, no sense of style, a PhD in microbiology, and a best friend who’s gone missing in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Claire and her friend, Julia, have been best buds since third grade. They decided to come to the Big Easy to celebrate their last year of being in their twenties. Julia’s a wild and crazy girl and, over the years, she and Claire have drifted apart: Claire’s on the uptight side and is devoted to her job. But, years ago, when Claire needed support, Julia was there for her. Now that Julia’s in danger–Claire’s sure Julia wouldn’t have vanished on her–Claire is determined to find her friend.

Julia was last seen, 24 hours ago–via a cell phone shot she sent to Claire–standing in front of a purple neon bar sign in the French Quarter. The bar, called Once Bitten, is a vampire themed bar. It’s not the sort of place Claire would normally go within a mile of but the police have said it’s too soon for Julia to be declare officially missing and Claire is, as I said, determined to find her friend.

When Claire enters the bar, she’s completely unimpressed with all the vampire wannabes hanging about. When she sees the bartender, however, she’s pretty damn impressed.

The moment the man turned her way a quiver of desire shot through her. Slate gray eyes fringed with dark lashes bore into her, freezing her in place. His collar-length black hair wasn’t dyed, nor was the thick stubble darkening his angular jaw.

His grin softened as he leisurely replaced the tumbler on a shelf behind him before sauntering over to flatten his palms on the bar before her.

“What you need, cher? ” His voice was as smooth and as deeply southern as Spanish moss hanging from a Cypress tree. He wore a wide leather bracelet on his left wrist and a thick onyx ring—a bat with its wings wrapped around his right ring finger. She lifted her gaze to his hard chest outlined by a tight black tee.

Claire opened her mouth but nothing came out. “Have y-y— She felt her face heat and her throat close up as he stared at her expectantly. Two decades of therapy and determination to overcome her stutter destroyed in an instant of anxiety.

The hottie is Rafe Moreau and he’s not just the bartender, he owns Once Bitten. Rafe knows the seedy side of New Orleans well–he grew up dirt poor in the city and has been working at bars since he was fifteen. Claire asks him for help finding Julia and, initially, Rafe, not looking for trouble he doesn’t already have, says no. But, after Claire spills her drink on a instantly furious guy in a dog collar, Rafe steps in to save her and, from that moment on, he and Claire together try and figure out what the hell happened to Julia.

Relentless Seduction is a fun book. Claire and Rafe are an appealing couple. Rafe’s afraid to love–he had a bad childhood–and Claire’s uncomplicated desire and affection for him is just what he’s needs. Claire’s a nerd whose brain makes her happy but she’s never figured out how to enjoy her body and Rafe’s just the guy to show her what she’s been missing. (And, yes, in ways I liked, their relationship has overtones of the fabulous romance between Dennis Quaid’s Remy McSwain and Ellen Barkin’s Anne Osbourne in The Big Easy. When Rafe seduces Claire, I could just hear the whisper of the famous interchange between Remy and Anne: ” That’s OK. I never did have much luck with sex anyway.” ” Your luck’s about to change, cher.”)

The plot of this book steams right along–it’s scary and funny at the same time. The sense of place is strong and, whether you love New Orleans or not, it’s an interesting place to literarily visit.  It’s a challenge to write suspense, sex, and sly comedy all mixed together but Ms. Burns breezily pulls it off.

She also manages to get a bit of moralizing in as well and it’s done in a subtle, sweet way. Once Bitten isn’t really for those who want to be vampires, it’s for those who “don’t fit in, the individuals that society might call freaks can come to Once Bitten and know there are others like themselves, and not feel so alone.” In Relentless Seduction the message is live and let live. Or, as Remy McSwain says, “Just relax, darlin’. This is the Big Easy.”

I often like Blazes and I’ll add Ms. Burns’s name to Blaze authors I look for. I give this effort of hers a B.

~Dabney

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REVIEW: Primal Calling by Jillian Burns

REVIEW: Primal Calling by Jillian Burns

Dear Ms. Burns:

This is my first encounter with your writing and it was a good one. In fact, this is a book I could have seen myself re-visiting if the heroine hadn’t annoyed me so much in the first half. Max, though, was one of the sweetest heroes I recall reading about in a long time. Sweet, strong, playful, with a tender heart.

Primal Calling by Jillian BurnsSerena Sandstone is the famous host of a travel show but she years for an investigative journalism position, primarily because she has grown up in the shadow of her father, a former Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. She’s always sending ideas to her producer in hopes that she will be able to get her station to fund an investigative junket. When her last idea is rejected by her producer after wrapping up a shoot in Alaska about the Idaterod, Serena is despondent. She believes that she has to do something to prove to the network that she isn’t just another pretty face.

At the airport, Serena spots a long haired, bearded pilot stepping out of his cargo plane and begins weaving a story about him, his dog, his plane. Her imagination is kicked into high gear after overhearing two female airline employees refer to him as the “White Wolf”. Within minutes, Serena has dragged enough details out of the employees to learn that White Wolf was Max Taggert, a half Iñupiat pilot whose plane crashed three years ago and only he and one other person survived. The other two passengers’ remains were found eaten and Taggert refused to speak about the incident. He was still under FAA investigation and the families of the deceased are suing him. Serena smells a story.

Max is poleaxed when he sees Serena, too long without companionship, he is easy pickings. He intuits that Serena isn’t quite being honest with him but he tells himself he doesn’t care. A gorgeous woman is sitting beside him sharing a drink and flirting with him.

“So, what do you do in L.A.?”

Deep concentration on the label peeling. “I don’t really live there, actually. I mean, I own a condo there, but I travel all over the world for business and I’m hardly ever home.”
Interesting. She hadn’t actually answered the question. Something didn’t add up, but he let it go. Who cared what she did for a living? Or why she was slumming tonight. It wasn’t any of his business. Live and let live. For whatever reason, he had a beautiful woman sitting next to him sharing a drink.

He cleared his throat. “Have you eaten dinner?”

She looked surprised at the change of subject. “No, I-’no.”

“Well, don’t eat here, whatever you do.”

A feminine chuckle accompanied the flash of perfect white teeth as she turned to him. “Shall we go eat somewhere else?”

We? He scrutinized the sincerity in her eyes. Maybe she’d made a bet with a girlfriend to sleep with a native on her last night in Alaska. Would a half-breed count? Glancing around the bar, he spied his only competition: the old native in the last booth. He swung back to face her. “Sure, why not?”

Serena, to her credit, is up front about why she is sidling up to Max and Max rejects her advances. He doesn’t talk to reporters, even for sex.

Serena refuses to give up and tells herself her Pulitzer Prize winning father would not be deterred by one growly refusal and a slammed door. Serena irritated me in her quest for this story. Her invasion of Max’s privacy, her persistence that she was right to know all of his secrets was offputting.

Max and Serena are forced, through a series of believable events, to spend time together and Max eventually (albeit reluctantly) brings Serena to Barrow, Alaska, where his home is. We learn that Serena’s goal in life is to do something worthwhile and she views what her father did as the measurement of her worth. Through her exposure to Max and others, she begins to let go of the valuing herself by her father’s standards. For Max, he has to make himself vulnerable again. He’s suffered a lot of loss in his life and Serena makes him long for things he thought he had jettisoned from his heart.

There’s a somewhat mystical overtone to the story with Max’s Iñupiat grandmother and her visions but I thought it was touching and fit within the overall feel. One thing I really, really appreciated about this story was the small cast of characters. There was a certain sense of isolation but the small cast of characters allowed me to focus more closely on the developing romance. I really did feel these two individuals, even in a short time, fell in love. I particularly appreciated the ending which didn’t make either of them change who they were but rather found them to be blended together to make a better unit, a happy, more content unit.

And Max, man, he was just such a sweet character. I hope that doesn’t sound emasculating because it isn’t. He just had such a good heart. I don’t get enough of Max in romance. B-

Best regards,

Jane

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