Jayne Ann Krentz
Sizzle and Burn (2008)
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Genre: Romantic Suspense (Paranormal)
Psychic private investigator, Zack Jones, is working for the Arcane Society, a private organization dedicated to the study of paranormal phenomena, to find and stop an evil group of psychics dubbed Nightshade. Raine Tallentyre's scientist father was a member of the Arcane Society, but was destroyed when the Society found out that he was working on recreating a formula that not only enhances psychic powers, but also turns its users into sociopaths. After her father was killed, Raine and her Aunt were forced to go into hiding, but now it seems that Nightshade is interested in Raine, and Zack must protect her. SPOILER: Raine and Zack have both been burned by love before, and have a hard time trusting in each other. They finally realize that while they both are strong psychics in their own right, they are stronger when they work together.
Geographical Setting: Oriana, Washington
Time Period: Contemporary (2008)
Series: Book Three in the Arcane Society series
This action-packed novel reads at a brisk pace--the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages to keep up with both the romance that blooms between Raine and Zack and the mystery that they must solve together. Krentz's direct writing style also makes this a fast-paced read, because she does not provide the reader with any detail that is not important to her story and most of the exposition is done through conversational passages. The most descriptive passages of the novel are included to describe sexual encounters between Raine and Zack, and there is a high level of sensuality throughout the book. The main characters are familiar: the self-sufficient, yet insecure, woman and the alpha, take-charge man, but both characters are defined by their psychic abilities, which flush them out and make them appealing and interesting. Zack sees visions when he touches objects that are tinged with violence and Raine hears voices that have been left behind
by people with murderous intent. The way their psychic abilities play out makes the tone of the book generally dark, although Krentz tries to combat this by inserting fun secondary characters into the mix. The book is told through multiple points of view, so the reader gets inside all of the character's minds to truly understand each person's motivations. Because of their unique psychic abilities, both Zack and Raine felt as though they would never be able to find a partner, so this idea that there is a perfect partner for everyone, no matter what, makes the romance aspect of the novel satisfying. Finally, this book is set in Washington state, but serves as an unimportant backdrop where the romance and mystery unfold.
Read-alikes: For those who enjoyed Sizzle and Burn, try Blue Dahlia by veteran romance writer Nora Roberts. The story centers on the romance of Stella and Logan, who encounter a ghost known as "The Harper Bride." The ghost objects to Logan's new role in Stella's children's lives, and Stella and Logan must figure out who the ghost is and how to get it to go away. Just like Sizzle and Burn, Blue Dahlia is a fast-paced read that features sensual romance tinged with mystery and the paranormal. Krentz's direct and conversational writing style also is similar to Robert's use of witty dialogue to tell the story. Another suggestion is Beyond Fearless by Rebecca York. In Beyond Fearless, sparks fly when psychic Anna Ridgeway and Zack Robinson work together to find a powerful psychic who is stalking Anna. This paranormal romantic suspense is another fast-paced read featuring interesting characters with unique abilities and has a comparable level of sensuality to Sizzle and Burn. Heather Graham's The Vision is the story of diver Genevieve Wallace seeing a vision of a dead blonde woman while in the water. No one believes Genevieve until a body washes up on the shore, and Thor Thompson is uniquely qualified to help her solve the mystery. Graham's novels are filled with appealing characters, fast-paced action and a high level of sensuality, and The Visions is no exception. Another book to try would be The Fifth Victim, by Beverly Barton. This story is about psychic Genny Murdoc, who experiences a horrible vision of a ritualistic slaying. FBI Dallas Sloan is called to investigate, and he realizes that the killer always murders four women and makes his fifth victim a woman with paranormal talents, making Genny the intended fifth victim. Romance blooms between Genny and Dallas, as he fights to save her life from this brutal killer. Just like Sizzle and Burn, this story is an action-packed paranormal romantic suspense that reads at brisk pace, features a sensuality level comparable to Krentz and provides the reader with interesting main and secondary characters. Safe Harbor, by Christine Feehan, would be another book to try. The story is about the romance between magically-gifted Hannah Drake and Sheriff Jonas Harrington, as Jonas searches for a man who beat and almost killed Hannah. Feehan's story combines a high level of sensuality with a compelling love story between two familiar, yet interesting, main characters. Safe Harbor also is fast-paced and most of the exposition is provided through dialogue, just as in Sizzle and Burn.
Red Flags: Several explicit sexual scenes, and some violence.
Trust Me (1995)
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Genre: Romance (Contemporary)
Sam Stark, the brains behind Stark Security Systems, has been left at the altar yet again, and Desdemona, the caterer at his latest marriage attempt, desperately needs to get him to pay for all the food he ordered. She does get her check, along with a continued relationship with Stark - he hires her to cater all his business's social events. Stark and Desdemona couldn't be any more different. He's logical, business-minded, and controlled, frequently compared to a computer, while she is energetic and intuitive. He has had little connection with his family, while she is constantly surrounded by hers, despite being the only non-actress in a family of theater people. As Stark's relationship with Desdemona deepens, he begins to thaw a bit, and the sudden appearance of Stark's young half-brothers in his life furthers this development. Stark and Desdemona's relationship is threatened, however, when someone attempts to steal his pet project, a program called ARCANE. Stark suspects Desdemona's half-brother and can't understand why she continues to defend and suppport him. In fact, Stark can't understand why she doesn't seem to mind being the financial support for her entire theatrically-inclined and financially-challenged family. Things get even more serious when a man turns up dead at Desdemona's catering business. Stark feels that Desdemona must choose either him or her half-brother - and he's been burned too often to believe that she'll choose him. SPOILER: It was not Desdemona's half-brother, but rather Stark's best friend who tried to steal ARCANE. Desdemona nearly gets hurt, and Stark blames himself for not dealing with the matter in a more controlled way. He almost manages to retreat from her emotionally, but she and her family refuse to let him do that. In the end, Desdemona and Stark are happily married.
Geographical Setting: Seattle, Washington
Time Period: Present day (1995)
Krentz has a lively writing style and many of her contemporary romance novels feature suspense and humorous moments; this book is no exception. The pacing of this book changes a little about half way through. In the first half, the focus is on the characters, who are the main appeal of the story. Krentz uses this part of the book to establish the characters and their relationships between each other. The characters often have long conversations with each other - in fact, the book begins with one such conversation, as Desdemona tries delicately to get Stark to give her her check while Stark is busy musing about his failed weddings. The main characters are stereotypical, but appealing: Stark is an overly logical nerd who also happens to be successful and attractive, and Desdemona is an energetic and successful small business owner. Both characters are influenced by their pasts. Stark's emotional coldness is the result of his parents' divorce and the long years of emotional neglect that followed, while Desdemona's near-kidnap at the hands of her disturbed father as a child has resulted in a determination to support her loving step-family in any way she can. There is also a whole host of likeable and often quirky secondary characters. For instance, there are Stark's young half-brothers, who are struggling through their parents' divorce. The boys are amazingly mature, which may strike some readers as less than believable, but they are at least not overly cute. Desdemona's family also includes several interesting characters, including Kirsten, who opens up a "tasteful boutique" featuring a variety of adult products, and Macbeth, a leather-wearing biker who helps Stark watch out for his half-brothers. In the second half of the book, the pacing speeds up a bit, as Krentz brings in the more suspenseful corporate theft storyline. Readers will likely be able to figure out who is responsible before the end of the book, mostly because there aren't really that many acceptable suspects.
Read-alikes: Readers who liked this book may want to try Mistress by Amanda Quick (one of Krentz's pseudonyms), which features a hero similar to Stark. The heroine, like Desdemona, is intelligent and interested in protecting her family (she enlists the hero's help to save her beloved aunt from a blackmailer), and there is a good amount of suspense. The Eve Dallas books by J.D. Robb (pseudonym for Nora Roberts) may make good read-alikes, since they also feature interesting and likeable minor characters and a hero who is successful, controlled, and good with computers. Although the mystery and suspense aspects tend to be more important than the romance, the relationships between the characters are the main appeal of this series. Naked in Death, the first book, is a good place to start. Readers who liked Krentz's lively style, Desdemona's family, and the mentions of food may want to try The Trouble With Mary by Millie Criswell. This contemporary
romance features plenty of delicious food (including some recipes) since the heroine is a restaurant owner, and a large and interfering Italian family who'd rather the heroine found herself a nice Italian boy, similar to Desdemona's family's insistence that she would do better with a theater person. Jennifer Cruisie's Welcome to Temptation is another contemporary romance featuring humor, suspense, and an interesting family. Sophie Dempsey, the only one in her family who is not a con, gets roped into filming a soft porn film for a friend, which gets her into trouble with the small town's sexy mayor. Stephanie Bond's Got Your Number is another fairly lighthearted book with lively writing and occasional humor, although the emphasis of the story is more on the mystery than the romance. Roxann, a volunteer at an organization that helps abused wives escape their husbands, finds herself needing police detective Joe Capistrano's help after the husband of one of those women starts going after her in order to get his wife back.
Red Flags: minor swearing; dead body (almost no description, though); a few moderately explicit sex scenes; Desdemona had an abusive father, but the abuse isn't described; Stark's father divorces frequently and does not think anything of this; adult products, such as vibrators and condoms (these are mainly in the story for the humor - Stark and Desdemona use the condoms, but nothing else).
Truth or Dare (2003)
Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
Genre: Romance (Suspense/Paranormal)
Zoe and Ethan Truax make an odd newlywed couple. She is an interior designer with psychic talents who spent time in a psychiatric hospital run by a corrupt administrator as a prison for relatives of the rich, and he is a one-man private investigation firm. Both are members of the emotionally walking wounded: she, from her first husbandís death and her imprisonment in the sanitarium, and he, from his inability to stop his brotherís kidnapping and murder. Their speedy marriage was a sham to thwart her former in-lawsí attempts to put her back in a psychiatric hospital. However, Zoe and Ethan move to Whispering Springs, Arizona and decide to try to make a real go of their marriage. The couple has a great sex life and each feels love for the other but doubts their importance in the otherís life. Their circle of friends include Arcadia Ames who was also a patient that escaped the Crystal Lake Manor Psychiatric Hospital with Zoe, Harry a profession bodyguard and Arcadiaís new love interest, Singleton, an antiquarian book dealer who looks like a member of the Hellís Angels MC, and Bonnie, the widow of Ethanís brother. As November approaches, the anniversary of the death of his brother, Nathan worries that Zoe will leave him and Zoe keeps her encounters a web of psychic mist as secret as she fears she is losing her mind. The threat of danger invades the lives of the Truaxs from many directions as someone stalks Zoe, an infuriated con artist threatens Nathan, and Arcadia comes to believe that her dead ex-husband has returned to kill her. SPOILER: The web of insanity Zoe senses comes from the anal-retentive apartment manager, Robyn Duncan. Robyn was a patient at the Crystal Lake Sanitarium that Zoe had never seen. Robyn escaped the critical ward, following Zoe to Whispering Springs with a plan to become just like her.
Geographical Setting: Whispering Springs, Arizona
Time Period: Contemporary (2003)
Series: Book 2 in the Whispering Springs Series
The structure of the story creates a compelling pace as the point of view alternates with each chapter to a different character. The characters are introduced slowly, but Zoe, Ethan, and Arcadia are very detailed. Krentzís secondary characters are intriguing and three dimensional and play important roles in the story. Truth or Dare offers multiple plot lines that weave together seamlessly to evoke a menacing atmosphere where there is no more safety in the light of day than the dead of night. Krentzís writing style remains unpretentious, yet polished, whether describing the beautiful colors of the Southwest or the somewhat explicit sex scenes of Zoe and Ethan.
Read-alikes: For readers who enjoy Krentzís ability to blend multiple plots and double entendres might enjoy Second Sight, the first book in the Arcane Society Series that Krentz penned under her pseudonym, Amanda Quick. This Victorian Romance also features a strong, psychic woman, and introduces the reader to intriguing secondary characters. The main character, Venetia Milton, is a early professional photographer who has the ability to see auras. She accepts a job from the Arcane Society, a secret organization founded centuries earlier by an alchemist, to photograph their relics. Working in a mansion, far from the rules of Victorian society, she seduces Gabriel Jones, the descendent of the organizationís founder. Once back in London she learns that Jones has died and poses as his widow to garner respectability. Things really get interesting when she must hide, a very much alive, Gabriel who shows up on her doorstep. Suspense builds as a thief who stole a notebook from the Arcane House containing a formula that can enhance psychic powers, targets Gabriel and Venetia for murder. Readers who like a mild paranormal edge to their somewhat hot romance stories might enjoy Linda Lael Millerís Deadly Deceptions, the second title in her Mojo Series. Set in Arizona, like Truth or Dare, the story centers on Mojo Sheepshanks, a Private Investigator who talks to ghosts. In Deadly Deceptions, Mojo tries to help the shade of a seven-year-old girl. Her homicide cop lover helps with the case but he complicates her life by moving back in with his ex-wife to protect his twins in the wake of the girlís murder. Now You See Her, by Linda Howard, might be a good read for those who want a suspenseful tale with lots of twists and turns like Truth or Dare. In this contemporary tale, Paris Sweeney is an artist who leaves her small hometown because she can see the dead and her neighborís think sheís going crazy. Sweeney is inclined to agree with them, but when she moves to New York there are so many people that the dead blend in and she can ignore them. What she canít ignore is her passionate relationship with millionaire, Richard Worth, which seems to heighten all of her senses. Her paranormal talents and senses take an odd turn when she starts sleep painting (like sleepwalking) producing works of murder scenes. The works are such accurate replications of a crime scene that she becomes a suspect in the killings. Readers who enjoyed the relationship storyline of Zoe and Ethan as they struggle to create a real marriage from a sham might enjoy Tempting Fate, by Meryl Sawyer, another romantic suspense story set in Arizona. Like Zoe and Ethan, Kelly Taylor and Logan McCord wed for selfish reasons. For Kelly, the marriage will help her adopt the son of her dead husband by another woman, and for Logan, Kellyís investigative journalist skills will help him solve the mystery of his childhood kidnapping and the real reason for his link to a wealthy, local, family. They are drawn together by mysteries but there is no mystery to the attraction they feel for one another. Readers who enjoy detailed characters and stories that focus on strong, smart, sexy, women might enjoy Shirley Hailstockís More Than Gold, a romance with plenty of suspense and steamy passion. The main character, Morgan Kirkwood, has special talents but they are physical, not paranormal. Morgan is a former Olympic Gold Medal winning gymnast who was recruited by the CIA during the Olympics twelve years ago and now finds her life in danger. Her story mirrors that of Arcadia, in Truth or Dare, as Morgan has changed her identity and started a new life to escape dangers from her past. Jack Temple, the handsome CIA agent who recruited her during the games in Seoul, Korea reappears to help protect Morgan and their relationship sizzles. This story is a compelling read as the depth of each character is revealed from chapter to chapter.
Red Flags: Explicit Sexual Content