Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sizzle and Burn by Jayne Ann Krentz

Raine Tallentyre hears voices. No matter where she goes, if she touches where an evil person has touched, she hears their voice in her mind, spilling out the evil of their heart. And if she touches something that belonged to the victim of a crime, she can hear their last moments. She's used her talent to help a local cop solve cold cases, but she doesn't want any of the credit, allowing everyone to think that he alone broke the cases.

Zack Jones, on the other hand, sees visions. When he touches something, he can see its past inside his mind- sometimes as the person who used an object, and sometimes as the person it was used on. A member of the Jones family, he works for his family, investigating things of strange psychic powers, but he also acts in other cases as well. In this case, he is called to Oriana, Washington, to speak with Raine Tallentyre, who has just discovered a woman in the basement of her aunt's house.

Raine's aunt is also a psychic, but no one ever believed her, that she had psychic powers. She raised Raine, who had the same sort of powers her aunt once did, and prejudiced her against the Arcane Society. She raised her niece to not trust the society or have anything to do with them. Now, though, her aunt is dead. She left her house to Raine, and Raine was thinking of selling it. She contacted a Realtor, but when they were walking through the property, she felt the psychic spoor of a predator in her aunt's house, saying he needed to "burn the witch". She tracked it down into the basement, where she discovered a new lock on a locker in the basement. She had the real estate agent call the police, who opened the locker and found a woman inside. The only surprise to Raine is that the woman was still alive.

Because of the case, Raine is being given a lot of attention that she doesn't really want. Yes, she helps her friend, Bradley Mitchell, solve cold cases, but she never wants publicity for her help. She doesn't want her psychic abilities made public, because that would garner her the attention of the Arcane Society- something she definitely doesn't want. But it seems she's gotten it anyway when Zack Jones shows up in town.

She expects to hate him, given that he's not only a member of the Arcane Society, but also that he's a Jones, but when she talks to him, she's amazed to find that they have more in common than she ever dreamed. Not only does his power work in a similar way to her own, but they also share a power level in common, and people's reactions to their power level. Both are extremely high- high enough to be considered freaks, even within the Arcane Society, which is filled with people who have psychic powers and should, theoretically be more open to such things, but even these psychics are uncomfortable around people who are so powerful.

Unluckily for Raine, the man who hid the girl in the basement is a serial killer, and somehow, he's found out who is responsible for his prey going missing, and just like her aunt, this man considers Raine a "witch" who must be dealt with immediately- by killing her if at all possible. But first, he wants her to be completely terrified- so he breaks the teacup that she drank from in the bed and breakfast (each room has its own distinct and unique tea set) and puts a piece of it in the pocket of her robe in her home. When she finds it, Zack touches it and knows that Raine is in danger. He's already attracted to her, and he's not willing to let her fall prey to the killer. If it is at all possible, he is going to save her from the man.

But this isn't the only problem that will trouble Raine. First, her policeman partner, Bradley Mitchell, is up for promotion to chief of Police. He and Raine haven't been as close since he revealed his distaste at sleeping with her when Raine had fallen in love with him and tried to take their relationship to the next level. His reaction hurt her badly. She thought he didn't think of her as a freak, and maybe he didn't when she was helping him out with a case- but when it came to having a personal relationship with her, well, that was very different. Now, Raine finds herself drawn to Zack in many ways, including sexually, and when they find themselves in bed together, it's more than either of them ever dreamed, or even hoped for. But can they have a successful relationship when Raine questions Zack's motives?

Also, a noted true crime author named Niki Plumer is there to write a book on the hero detective that solved so many cold cases and gained such fame for doing so. She wants to follow him on a cold case, showing how he solves it, but Bradley knows that he can't do so without the help of Raine, and has the grace to confess that to Niki. She offers to speak with Raine about the book and tempt her with large amounts of money to work with Bradley for the book's sake. After all, it will make her famous! Of course, that's the last thing that Raine wants, and Niki is surprised and shocked when Raine turns her down cold, and decides to look into her background to see what she can learn about Raine.

Zack, meanwhile, finds that someone is out to kill him as well, and learns from the Arcane Society that Raine's father was kicked out of the society because of his experiments with the Founder's Formula. And Zack Jones's uncle was one of the people responsible for the raid on the laboratory, and had even romanced her aunt. But the raid killed their relationship and made her aunt dislike the Arcane Society- and pass that dislike down to Raine. But with the forces of Nightshade, an organization who would like to perfect and distribute the founder's formula, out after Zack and Raine, they must not only catch the man known as the Bonfire killer, but discover why Nightshade is interested in Raine and her aunt, and discover how her aunt really died. But will what they find change the Arcane Society forever?

This is the third Arcane Society Novel, written after the Amanda Quick title "Second Sight" and "White Lies". One of the things I like about Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jane Castle is that her heroes are all Alphas, but tend not to be assholes who order women around and assume they know what's best for her. Instead, they are strong, confident men who know when they have met the woman who is right for them, and they don't fight it. They are confident enough to accept the woman, and all her skills and talents, and appreciate her for them. For me, that makes them very sexy.

But Raine is just as wonderful and strong as Zack is, and even though she distrusts him because of who he works for, once they are in a relationship, she never uses that as an excuse to evict him from her bed. It's not like they share a bed every night (more often they play endless games of cards to stave off the nightmares that both of them are subject to from the visions they receive (Zack) or the things they hear (Raine)), but Raine is under a lot of pressure in the book, and she doesn't crumble. Far from it. She's still able to look at things with a sense of humor and holds up very well.

The minor characters in this book are also well-drawn, from Raine's goth girl shop assistant to Bradley himself, who could have been a complete caricature and jerk in the hands of a lesser writer. Instead, he's a normal guy- a bit thoughtless and clueless when it comes to personal relationships, but that's a fault of many guys. Underneath it all, he's decent, just not right for Raine. I also loved Raine's adopted uncles, who helped her aunt Tally raise her. They are funny and very well-drawn, to the point where you probably won't even notice or care that they are gay- Krentz resisted the urge to make them flaming or stereotypical as well, to which I can only say, "Yay!" because in the past, in romance novels, being gay made you TEH EBIL.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a genuinely refreshing take on romance, and on the Arcane Society. I also liked Zack, and the way that he and Raine interacted, and how quickly they connected with one another. Not in a sexual way, although that happens quite quickly as well, but how they understood each other and what each other went through because of their structurally similar, if in kind different talents. I think I enjoyed this more than any other book save for Fired Up. It was that good. Highly recommended.

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