Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz

Luther Malone is an ex-cop and a part-time operative for Jones and Jones. He's reluctant to work for them, because the last job he did resulted in him getting shot, badly enough that he still walks with a cane, even though it's been months. In fact, it's likely he will always need a cane. He's taken up a secondary profession, bartending, working with two other ex- J&J operatives, Petra, and her husband, Wayne, owners of the Dark Rainbow bar.

Like them, Luther has paranormal powers. He's an aura reader, but he can push his aura onto others, temporarily controlling them. But it takes a lot of energy and usually leaves him feeling exhausted after he uses his power. But because he's no longer a cop, and the bartending work doesn't pay much, he still does occasional work for J&J. But after his last job ended so badly, he's not sure if he wants to work for them any more, even if it means being even poorer than he is.

So, when the head of J&J, Fallon Jones, contacts Luther with a new job he needs Luther's assistance on, Luther considers whether or not to turn him down. But Petra thinks he should take it, an intuition from her paranormal side, so he does. He's assigned to a surveillance job with fellow J&J agent Grace Renquist. Grace is from Eclipse Bay, Oregon, where she works as a librarian for the J&J archives.

She is also an Aura Talent, and Grace isn't her real name. She's hiding a secret- that she was Martin Crocker's executive assistant before he died in a "boating accident" on his private island. The truth was that he was selling arms illegally, having made a deal with a set of very bad men, and he was intending to kill her and dispose of her body, thinking he didn't need her any more. But when he tried using his new talents on her to kill her, she was able to turn his talent back on him, saving her life and allowing her to escape. However, she had to adopt a whole new identity to avoid being blamed for Crocker's death, and her body was sensitized by causing his death, giving her a bad shock whenever she touches someone else. For this reason, she dresses in long-sleeved shirts and wears gloves to avoid having anyone touch her- it hurts when someone does so.

When Luther hears that Grace is a librarian, he gets an image of her as a gray-haired old lady, but when he meets her, he's cheered by her youth and beauty, even if he finds it weird that she's wearing so much cloth and gloves on her hands. He invites her to change for the islands, but she turns him down. He's attracted to her, which concerns him a little, as lately, he's been neglecting that area of his life, and it might impact their job together. She does take off her gloves for the final plane ride, and discovers that they are meant to act as a married couple while on the mission, under the name of Carstairs.

But as soon as they check into the hotel where they are to begin their surveillance, they run into a strong Hunter Talent who, most assuredly, is not native to the islands. Who is he and why is he there? Does he have anything to do with their mission? Luther uses his talents to ensure he and Grace don't attract the notice of the Hunter, and Grace discovers that touching Luther doesn't hurt her. She wonders if her side-effect has worn off, or if Luther is simply special. but the clear indication that someone is after their target worries the both of them. It's not just the hunter, but Grace interrupts someone dressed like a maid waiting in their target's room, about to kill the real maid- and this female killer can use her voice to kill.

Grace runs her off, but it's obvious that this surveillance mission has gone south when their target begins meeting others with paranormal powers, and each of his associates is guarded by a hunter or hunters without a full complement of hunter-type abilities- which is strange, since just about all hunters have the full complement of hunter abilities- is it possible that these hunters weren't born with their powers, but received them from a version of the Arcane Society founder's formula? They hope not, since, the formula drives others insane even as it expands their powers.

It soon becomes clear that their target is also a user, and there is something in his aura that Grace can pick up on. The other men their target is meeting are the same, and Grace and Luther quickly discover that their target is part of a distribution network for the formula. But the woman who Grace interrupted in the act of trying to kill the maid and lie in wait for the man they are watching comes back to finish the job, and now she wants to kill Grace as well.

Luther and Grace are forced to take shelter in Waikiki, with Luther at his house. Having become lovers, she finds herself growing closer not only to him, but to his bosses, who are really more like his family. But can Grace and Luther survive the attacks on her and bring down the woman who killed their target? And can they find a forever love when their lives are under attack, and both hold so many secrets?

I liked this book a lot. I liked the way each character was set up, the secrets they were keeping, and even the villains. The female assassin was extremely scary in her thoughts and actions., enough that it gave me some chills. Yeah, she's crazy, but is it a part of her personality, a function of how her power works, or something else? Or even some of all three?

Like I've said before, I don't usually like modern-day romances, but this series combines the best of romance with paranormal powers, action, suspense and mystery. You are almost certain to find something to like in the story. And although there are quite a few characters in the story, it never gets confusing or where you are unsure of what is going on. I also enjoyed the descriptions during the lovemaking of how Luther and Grace's powers meshed, and how he accepted her when she confessed who she really was... many authors would have turned it into a "how could you have lied to me" and used it to drive the characters apart for a while. Ms. Krentz never gives into that impulse, and I commend her for it.

This was a wonderful continuation of the Arcane Society story into the modern day. The two characters, Grace and Luther are wonderful together and mesh very well. (and not just when they make love). I can't wait to read more of this amazing series. Recommended.

No comments: