Guardians of Stone: Montlake Romance, December 2012, 311 pages. Anita Clenney is a paranormal romance author. She has also written the four book Connor Clan series. Guardians of Stone is the first book in Clenney's The Relic Seekers series. The second book in this series, Fountain of Secrets, is also out.
Kendall Morgan has a sixth sense, she can see the history of things. She works for rich relic collector Nathan Larraby. One evening her boss calls and tells her to come immediately to his Virgina estate. There she's surprised to meet Jake Stone, who Nathan has also called in on short notice.
Nathan has a job, for both Kendall and Jake. He's sending them to straight away to Italy in search of an ancient box, which for centuries was guarded by a secret order, containing something powerful. There's urgency because a mysterious, possibly dangerous man is also seeking this box. When Kendall is shown a mere sketch of the box, she has a traumatic vision of blood and bones.
In Italy, Jake and Kendall are booked into a luxury hotel suite, with separate bedrooms. In the elevator, a man looks at Jake and Kendall and does a double take. Kendall sneaks out of their shared room, without telling her bodyguard Jake, to spy on the man. When Jake finds her missing he worries, but eventually he finds Kendall lurking on another floor of the hotel. After overhearing the man from the elevator talking on his cell phone, they are not reassured.
River Road: Tor books, November 2012, 332 pages, cover art by Cliff Nielsen. River Road is the second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series. The first book in the series, Royal Street, Suzanne Johnson's first novel, was in our Fall 2012 bracket of Battle of the Books. A third book in series, Elysian Fields, is also now available.
River Road is set in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, unbeknownst almost everyone, old gods, historic undead and other preternaturals flooded into New Orleans. The Elders employ wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco, aka DJ, to handle paranormal problems.
At a hotel in the French Quarter, there's a meeting between Drusilla and the historical undead pirate Jean Lafitte. He saved her life during Hurricane Katrina and now he's requesting her help for a friend. Lafitte wants DJ to try to negotiate a truce between the feuding merpeople clans living near the mouth of the Mississippi. Each clan blames the other for poisoning the waters. Lafitte also wants as repayment a dinner date with her.
DJ drops by the apartment of her co-sentinel, the shapechanger Alex Warin, to inform him of an upcoming meeting, but Alex is out on a date. She encounters Alex's cousin, Jake, a former Marine, who is now, because of Drusilla, a loup-garou, a werewolf. When DJ arrives home, she trips over toilet paper unrolled by the cat.
The Battle: This match-up features a paranormal romance going up against an urban fantasy.
Guardians of Stone is a paranormal romance, with the emphasis on the romance part. Nathan is the handsome, rich guy and Jake the hunky, tough guy. Kendall is described as blonde with "killer" legs. Kendall's breasts get mentioned multiple times in the first 25 pages.
Jake's banter with Kendall, which is occasionally humorous, is often overtly sexual, which I don't think is appropriate for people who have just met, working together on a job. Kendall merely slams a door in Jake's face.
Kendall and Jake are supposedly in Italy, but, in my opinion, there weren’t enough descriptive details to make me believe that they were truly in Italy. In this age of heightened security, it bothered me that the supposed good guys are traveling under fake passports, and Jake brought a gun overseas.
River Road is an urban fantasy full of slang expressions and references to things in New Orleans. French words are sometimes thrown in. For the most part, I found the results to be sassy and fun. But occasionally I think the author went a bit overboard, such as when a DJ admitted, "My face warmed to the shade of a trailer-trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge."
I liked that DJ got annoyed with her high heels, and took her shoes off.
This is book two in a series, and I think the author did a good job of incorporating back story elements that probably happened in book one.
It bugged me, somehow, that the historical figure, Jean Lafitte, has the hots for the female protagonist, Drusilla. For me, another case of a historical figure out of their context. But I'm OK with DJ finding the undead Lafitte sexy.
Both of these books contain romance elements, with their female characters admiring "hot males". To be honest, I've never been a reader of romance. So, after 25 pages, I'd rather continue reading the book that contained more fantastic or paranormal elements, which I also found to be more colorfully written.
THE WINNER: River Road by Suzanne Johnson
River Road moves on to the second round, to take on The Doctor and the Rough Rider by Mike Resnick.
To see the whole bracket, click here.