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REVIEW:  Pax Demonica by Julie Kenner

REVIEW: Pax Demonica by Julie Kenner

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When orphan Kate goes to Rome with her family, she’s hoping for a little R&R. The chance to bond with her husband, spend quality time with her kids, and visit her pseudo-family at Forza Scura.

In other words, this suburban mom is doing the tourist thing, and intending to do it up right. But while Kate may want to take cheesy pictures and buy overpriced souvenirs, the demon population has other plans. And soon Kate and over-eager daughter Allie are thrust into the middle of a demonic feud.

Now Kate’s going to have to call on both her hunting skills and her mothering skills-because if she fails, Kate and family might just find themselves sightseeing in hell…

Dear Ms, Kenner,

I had gotten used to yearly installments of the Kate Connor Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series. In “Demon Ex Machina,” some fairly intense stuff happened and the book ended with Kate, her teenage “demon hunting daughter in training” Allie, plus husband Stuart and toddler Timmy outbound for a vacation in Rome. Since Kate got her training during her years living there, I knew that things were bound to get hot and heavy fairly soon. After all, demons rarely leave Kate alone for long now that she’s back in hunting mode. I set my series alarm for another year and hunkered down to wait.

And wait. And wait. And wonder if this would be another series cut off before its time. In 2012 you announced that the series would continue with a new book soon which got me all excited yet still I waited. Okay so I realize I sound as if I’m whinging but I did have moments of doubt that I’d ever see this book. Until, Huzzah!, “Pax Demonica” was released and I exhaled the breath I’d held for the last five years.

Events quickly reve up and within 12 hours of landing in Rome, Kate – and Allie – get confronted by demons 3 different times demanding something from Kate about which she’s clueless. This is par for the course for this series. Yet it spins its wheels a lot in that Kate mentally rehashes a lot of information about the state of her marriage and trust with Stuart, demon hunting and training Allie. Lots and lots of the same thoughts. Still, given how long it’s been since the last book, I really needed a bit of a refresher as a few facts Kate mentions had completely slipped my mind.

The demons step up their activity, new characters are introduced, the Connors do some sight seeing and Kate runs up some hefty phone charges to her friend Laura back home trying to sort out just what exactly is going on. Something is rotten in the city of Rome and Kate doesn’t have long to figure it out. But wait! it looks like some demons, who need human body shells to experience the finer things in life like fine Italian leather, good wine and, one presumes, chocolate, might actually be willing to kick in some information in order to keep the status quo. Go figure.

As the plot accelerated, it began to get into some deus ex machinas – there’s a ritual needed to destroy something that wasn’t destroyed earlier. Why wasn’t it destroyed? Well the ritual wasn’t known. Why can it be destroyed now? Well, the ritual was recently discovered. How was the object found after years of being hidden? Well we don’t know but it has been found now.

Even with everything I’ve just said, darned if you don’t suck me into the climax of the book, whirl me around until my head spins and send me screaming to the end of the ride. The finale here is funny as well as gripping and I have to agree with Allie – it’s so Indiana Jones that I’d probably set up the obstacles exactly as is done too. Hey, it works.

Once again the story is the same in some regards yet it’s different and new too. New local, some new people, some new – uh, helpers, and the Connor family’s relationships continue to change even as they grow as people and a family. Allie looks to have a bright demon hunting future, Stuart might shape up to eventually be more of a help than a hindrance, and Kate could have a new part time job.

Usually I’d say that this series should be read in order but honestly, I can say that since I didn’t remember much of the last book, I went into it a little blind and did okay. There’s enough explanation given to catch things up without it turning into an info-dump. I’m so glad to see this series continuing as my heart has been ripped a few times in the past over unfinished books. I do hope that we won’t have to wait this long for the next installment to see where things go from here. B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Baby, It’s You by Jane Graves

REVIEW: Baby, It’s You by Jane Graves

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With only the wedding dress on her back and her honeymoon luggage in the car, Kari Worthington is running away. Determined to put her controlling father, her rigidly structured life, and the uptight groom she left at the altar in her rearview mirror, she escapes to the Texas Hill country . . . and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner’s doorstep. All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. So why is she fantasizing about losing herself in his powerful arms?

For Marc Cordero, freedom is so close he can taste it. He’s devoted his life to managing the family business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to hop on his Harley for parts unknown-until a runaway bride bursts onto the scene. Free-spirited and tantalizingly sexy, Kari excites him like no other woman has before. But when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

Dear Ms. Graves,

The blurb and what it brought to mind grabbed my attention when this book was offered to us for possible review. The idea of a runaway bride in her wedding dress made me think of “Smoky and the Bandit” with Sally Fields ending up in a car with Burt Reynolds while peeling off her wedding dress as they roar down the back roads of 4 southern states with Sheriff Buford T. Justice hot in pursuit. Okay so the book ended up having almost nothing more in common with the film but it did make me want to read it.

Well the actual book starts off great. I loved the humor, I loved the heroine, I loved the hero’s laconic way of speaking and acting which brings Kari up short – when pressed to help her out of her mud caked wedding dress with its millions of small buttons down the back Marc thinks a second and then replies that no …, no he really doesn’t have to. I loved the pet themed B&B Marc leaves Kari at and I adored Gus, the proprietor who is obviously storing up the whole encounter for the next day’s gossip sessions in this small town. I was floating on a happy cloud.

Then the cloud started raining just a little as things slow down a mite. Two one note villains appear – and really all the bad guys in the story are fairly one dimensional – but thankfully disappear soon after and never bother us again. Kari struggles to fit into a job she’s not suited for and while Marc begins to show more of his responsible side in helping her out, getting a plan for her life and dealing with her blistered feet, he’s not quite as funny to me as he goes about it. Then comes a scene that should clue in advanced Romance readers of a plot point to come. There’s a lot of talking going on among these people but not much listening.

Things then get really messy with everyone coming home to roost at various times which makes for life altering changes and seeing dreams/promises in a new light. I got mad at some of these characters. Well, I got mad at most of them but then I realized that the emotions and reactions are so realistic that my reaction is belief in what’s happening on the page rather than eye rolling. Real, strong emotions can get messy. Life is messy. Not everyone behaves well when things don’t go as they’d like, expect or think they want. So, this is good. Exasperating at times but still good.

The plot snarls get untangled quickly with the page count running out but it’s done in believable ways – Angela’s junior college plan, Daniel’s happiness at Marc finally acknowledging faith and pride in his IT accomplishments, Marc figuring out that the open road can be lonely and it’s nice to live around friendly faces who know him and whom he knows and that he’s excited about the future because he’s good at what’s about to come. Kari realizing she doesn’t want to leave Rainbow Valley – well, she’d kind of already realized that earlier. It’s a good lesson in what we think we want may not always be what we need or – even what we really want. After the book took a turn from the fantastic opening, I wasn’t sure I’d like the change but the story ended up being deeper and more realistic than it would have otherwise been. B

~Jayne

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