Tag Archives: Paranormal romance

Spider’s bite (Elemental assassin series)

Spider’s bite / Jennifer Estep

The Elemental assassin series occupies the middle ground between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Set in a vaguely defined southern town, the series features intense action, scenes of cookery described in vivid detail, and fairly graphic violence.

Plot summary

Gin Snow, alias “The Spider” juggles her career as one of the south’s most highly sought after assassins with working in her adoptive father and handler’a barbecue restaurant.

Betrayed by her employer on what was supposed to be her last job (at least for the time being) Gin embarks on a quest for revenge that will last for several books and that will eventually reveal the true identity of her parents’ murderer.

Also people have magic powers and there are the obligatory vampires.

So how is it?

It’s fun in a totally disposable kind of way, despite the terrible name of the series. It’s one of those series that I’ll grab whenever I can’t find enough books at the library, but it’s not really something I’d actively seek out.

I find myself coming back to it significantly more often than I do similar series, in part because despite the body count the series never gets really stressful. It’s dark but not disturbing and the presence of magical healing powers goes a long way to reduce the sense of peril.

These are books I’ll finish in a day on my commute. I’m five or six books in at this point, having just finished the “parent murderer” story arc (the identity of whom was painfully obvious from the beginning).

Estep does a decent job of inserting the sequel hooks gradually, where elements that go relatively unremarked in earlier books are built upon over time to make the whole thing feel more connected than some series. It’s not exactly a monster of the week series – more like the mythos episodes of the X-files, where the monster of the week is there but is a lieutenant or other relation to the Big Bad. 

The romance element is present but follows the urban fantasy arc of building over the course of the series rather than the historical romance method of each installment featuring a different family member. I’d still call it urban fantasy but some of the romance novel writing style and plotting is definitely there.

The violence isn’t as graphic as, say, Nalini Singh’s work, but the romantic elements also aren’t as intense. The Elemental assassin books are plot driven first and foremost, so while it has definite crossover appeal paranormal romance purists would be better off reading Singh.


It’s a perfectly serviceable series but not a first line recommendation. Worth reading, even if Gin’s competence level varies wildly from scene to scene. Definitely a go-to recommendation for crossover paranormal romance/urban fantasy fans but not one with much appeal outside the genre.

For those who don’t mind the violence but want more romance/character development I’d recommend Nalini Singh’s Angel’s kiss.

For those who would prefer less emphasis on the romance I’d recommend, as usual, the October Daye series. 

For those who like the tone of this but are less thrilled by the magic, I’d recommend Rachel Caine’s Revivalist trilogy

Nightshifted (Edie Spence novels)

Nightshifted / Cassie Alexander

True story: every time I see the cover of this book I initially misread it as “Nightshift Ted”, which I assume would be a contemporary fantasy novel about a janitor who is forced to clean up after the apparently mandatory vampire/werewolf conflict.

It’s actually about Edie Spence, nurse working the night shift in the … Supernatural ward of the county hospital.

I think there’s definitely something to a satirical urban fantasy about the put upon janitor of the supernatural.

Brief plot summary

Edie Spence works the night shift on Y4, the hidden ward of the county hospital where the werewolves and vampires and zombies go. Attempting to fulfil a dying patient’s last wish, Edie finds herself over her head and involved in some sort of conspiracy or something involving vampire child pornography (seriously).

So how is it?

Just okay, but I keep checking the series out from the library so it has something to keep me reading.

My immediate impression was that the author has obviously read Nightwatch and played Vampire: The masquerade.

Since then I’ve realized that it could just be that she’s mining from the same cultural well, but the nature of the supernatural detente seems reminiscent of Nightwatch and the structure of vampire society is remarkably similar to V:tM. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I have I be honest; the vampire vs werewolf plot is one that holds no interest for me. In fact, despite my love of urban fantasy the very presence of vampires and/or werewolves (especially werewolves) is an immediate strike. It’s a setup I just don’t find compelling. I’ve been reading more vampire books lately but as far as urban fantasy sub genres go the only one I like less than vampires is werewolves.

Coupled by the fact that Cassie Alexander is a practicing nurse, so the whole thing has that “nursey” tone* (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of my best family members are nurses), this book was facing an uphill battle to get me to enjoy it.

*I don’t really have a better way of putting this. There’s just a way of talking and writing that nurses seem to have. Spend some time browsing Pinterest if you don’t know what I mean, there’s plenty of study guides and inspirational material for nurses and it all has that same feel. My inability to articulate this is one of the many reasons I am not even a semiprofessional critic.

I did end up enjoying Nightshifted. Its saving grace was that it didn’t focus too heavily on the minutiae of the supernatural creatures and focused more on the characters and their relationships. That it wasn’t chock a block full of vampires lurking around being sexy and mysterious helped a lot. The character “Grandfather” helped too.

One thing: my library separates mass market paranormal romance (shelving it with romance) and urban fantasy (shelving it with sff – although 75% of the mass market sff at my library is urban fantasy). This series is with the sff stuff but on the paranormal romance – urban fantasy continuum Nightshifted is closer to paranormal romance, both in style and in content. So be aware of that.

It does make me wonder: where’s all the queer paranormal romance? Everything I’ve read in the genre has been super heteronormative. Kind of disappointing.


It’s not bad but I wouldn’t go out of y way to recommend it.

It’s good paranormal romance, an if you’re in to the “human woman gets involved with vampires/werewolves” style of paranormal romance this is a definite recommend.

For urban fantasy fans it’s more of a tentative recommendation. I’ll quantify it with a checklist below. Add/subtract what applies to you and see if this is the right series for you

[+1] fan of urban fantasy

[+2] fan of paranormal romance

[+1] fan of the vampire/werewolf thing

[+1] you’re a nurse

[+1] liked Nightwatch but thought it was too scary

[+1] prefer a “normal” human protagonist

[+1] fan of White Wolf RPGs

[-1] hate paranormal romance

[-1] dislike explicit sex scenes

[-1] tired of the “old Universal monster movies” approach to urban fantasy

[-1] looking for a kick butt heroine and/or extended Hollywoodesque action sequences

[-1] looking for something funny, light, or nonviolent

Black wings

Black wings / Christina Henry


Luckily Black wings is the name of the first book and the name of the series, so no confusion here.

Black wings sits somewhere between the InCryptid books and the Ghost finders books for me. It’s an interesting premise but there are some devices that I’m not a huge fan of that prevent me from really getting into the series.

Brief plot summary

Maddy is a grim reaper, charged with ferrying the deceased to the afterlife. She’s also the landlord of an apartment building in Chicago, struggling to balance her responsibilities as a psychopomp with the need to make ends meet. Finally finding a new tenant in Gabriel Angeloscuro, Maddy will soon discover a long-buried secret about her family and the true origin of the grim reapers.

Continue reading Black wings