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REVIEW:  Tempting the Fire by Sydney Croft

REVIEW: Tempting the Fire by Sydney Croft

Dear Ms. Croft:

A story about the elusive Chupacabra, a hot bad guy who isn’t what his file makes him out to be, and two hot women, one with psychic powers and the other living with a curse, in a South American jungle dealing with a mythological creature sounds pretty exciting. However, there were elements to both the story and the writing of Tempting the Fire that didn’t work for me.

Tempting the Fire by Sydney CroftSela Kahne is an operative working for the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (otherwise known as “ACRO”. Hee…you made an acro for ACRO) and is a trained cryptozoologist. She’s back from a cryptozoological conference and for some reason, is covering her attendance at the conference as a vacation. Within moments of her return to work, Sela is told she’s going to the South America to infiltrate a company called Global Weapons Corporation (GWC). ACRO has gotten a hold of a very strange US military recording of what may be an attack by El Chupacabra, and there is a GWC camp in the area that may have either taken out the SEAL company or may have sent their monster to do it.

Sela does have special powers (other than a degree in cryptozoology), which is why she’s an agent for ACRO. She’s psychic. But her psychic powers only kick in when the person she wants to read is having an orgasm. Now that I see that written in black and white, it’s absolutely hilarious. Sela originally worked for ACRO as a Seducer (which seems to be an entry-level position from what I’ve gleaned from the book). On her last Seducer assignment, Sela was beaten to within an inch of her life by some sadistic no-good criminal, so she won’t work as a Seducer any longer which makes it odd that she’d be used for field duty…except in a case like the Chupacabra. Sela and another female operative are headed to the jungle to let GWC capture them. There, Sela will be able to get as much information as possible on the Chupacabra and the other operative, Marlena, will act as the Seducer, working on Logan Mills, second in command at GWC. ACRO’s very interested in GWC’s activities. Agents have discovered that GWC has been contracted by Itor to produce and sell weapons. Itor is public enemy #1. If all of this sounds confusing, make no mistake, it is. The first chapter of the book is very info-dumptastic and the reader is introduced to a huge cast of characters, all of whom we’re supposed to care about.

Once things move to the jungle, the book gets more interesting and less confusing. Of course, ACRO’s plan of having Marlena seduce Logan doesn’t work out (shocker). The story between Sela and Logan is interesting and there is real character development. Marlena and Chance’s storyline is significantly less engrossing, and borders on simple hormonal sex. I think a lot more could have been done with these two and we could have spent a lot less time with the third storyline. This occurs at ACRO HQ and pulls the action away from the jungle and it annoyed me to no end. I couldn’t figure out why Creed and Annika were so important, so I went and looked at the authors’ backlist to see if they had their own book. Imagine my surprise when I found out that 1. they don’t and 2. they’re slated to have one at some point. I’ve read so much about the two of them that I’m not interested in reading any more. Out of all of the characters introduced to me in Tempting the Fire, I found Annika to be annoying and acting on the verge of stupidity and Creed to be stubborn and boring.

Sydney Croft is the pseudonym for Stephanie Tyler and Larissa Ione. I don’t think I’ve read any stand-alone books from either author, and this book, while having exciting elements and some interesting characters, couldn’t hang together for me. I felt that Sela and Logan’s relationship and even the secondary story of Marlena and Chance were shortchanged due to the gigantic cast of characters not integral to the main story that took up so much space and time. C


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REVIEW:  Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft

REVIEW: Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft

Dear Ms. Croft:

I really wanted to like this book. I like the publishing house. I met the authors behind the psuedonym (Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler) and they seem totally great. Unfortunately, nothing in this story actually worked for me. The book opens with a heavy sexual overtone and never relents. Riding the Storm read like an erotic romance whose paranormal aspects seemed buffer space between the sex scenes.

Riding the Storm Sydney CroftRemy Begnaud is a man who can affect the weather. The why behind this is not fully explored and therefore never discovered. It’s a gift or a curse, depending on whom is rendering the opinion. Haley Marie Holmes is a scientist for ACRO (Agency for Covert Rare Operatives), an secret organization made up of individuals who have special powers. She is sent to study Remy Begnaud and recruit him for ACRO before the evil Itor organization filled with its own mutants, err people with special powers who do evil instead of good.

ACRO is headed by a reclusive figure, Devlin O’Malley. He provides a “safe haven to Special Ability types in return for their helping to keep safe the world at large.” Devlin is blind but has special powers enhanced by his blindness. He’s not quite the parapalegic telepath that is Professor Charles Francis Xavier of the X-Men, but similarities between the X-Men world and this story is quite strong. There is even a reference to X-Men:

But ACRO had found itself a new operative, an X-Man, of sorts, providing Remy accepted their offer.

Devlin and ACRO help operatives hone their powers much as the Professor trained the original five teenage mutants and others including Storm, a mutant who could control the force of weather, to harness their powers. In essence, Riding the Storm read as if it was highly inspired by the referenced comic book.

There is a short secondary storyline featuring Annika and Creed, two other ACRO operatives who are inside Devlin’s childhood home attempting to communicate with a ghost.

The trouble is that the paranormal world was not fully developed other than the links to sexual act and desire. There is actually science behind the theory that people are affected by the weather. Every person has a different chemical makeup and can react differently in terms of electrical response. Some scientists posit that is why some individuals can sense water better than others. Their bodies are actually the divining rod, not the stick or tool they wield.

If there was more science explored behind the paranoramal aspects, the otherworld aspects would have created a more believable escape. At the least, I was looking for an explanation as to why some people had the special abilities and others did not. What creates the tension? Is it nothing more than a rock-paper-scissors game wherein everytime ACRO and Itor Corp fight, the outcome might be different and its all left up to fate? Or are the ACRO operatives just better, stronger fighters than Itor. I.e., ACRO gets all the great Special Abilities and Itor gets the also rans?

The sex even bothered me because to a large extent all the sex scenes were driven by supernatural forces (i.e., the weather or the ghosts) rather than the characters’ own feelings. There was a weird sexual compulsion that seemed to be taking place. Remy is turned on by the weather, by Mother Nature, and to some extent, he must have sex during strong weather patterns. Creed decides that he and Annika must have sex to achieve a desired outcome with the ghosts.

The secondary storyline between Annika and Creed was not integrated at all with Remy and Haley story. It was as if two separate stories were written and then storyline scenes were alternately placed to elongate the book. There was no cross between the two. I.e., how did the ghost/ghostly apparitions fit into the storyline that dealt with Remy’s struggle with his relationship with Mother Nature.

I think that the secondary storyline was an attempt to capitalize on the formula of success developed by Suzanne Brockmann and JR Ward where the insertion of a strong continuing secondary character romance can increase anticipation for a forthcoming book. To that end, I think Riding the Storm was somewhat successful. Devlin certainly has secrets and Annika and Creed’s storyline is completely left hanging so that if the reader was engaged by that story, she would surely be on the lookout for the next one.

The sex is hot and well written in the story and I do know that is difficult. There is a plethora of scenes involving nearly every main character to please nearly every fantasy imaginable including a male on male bondage scene. For me, though, the derivate but not fully explored paranormal world and the compulsory nature of the copulations made it a difficult read. D.

Best regards,


Riding the Storm can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format at Books on Board or Fictionwise.