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.
Claire 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.