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Review: Cursed by S. J Harper


Cursed
Author:  S. J. Harper
Series:  Fallen Siren 1
Publisher:  Roc, October 1, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425263297 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Cursed by S. J Harper
Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She's cursed. He's damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.

FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!




Jennifer's Review

Cursed is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series by S.J. Harper, the pen name for co-authors Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne Stein. The Fallen Siren Series follows Emma Monroe, an ancient siren cursed by the Goddess Demeter to spent eons on earth helping others in need, while seeking her own salvation and hiding her true self. Emma is trying to fulfill her purpose by working in the missing persons section of the FBI. Emma is dismayed when her new partner turns out to be an old flame, werewolf Zack Armstrong. While she deals with her undeniable attraction to Zack, the pair must race against time to stop the menace that is kidnapping area women.

Emma and Zack are both highly intelligent and strong, and they both harbor secrets and carry scars from their past. Neither one is perfect, but together they work perfectly. The chemistry between the two is red hot, creating amazing sexual tension amid the chaos of the cases they are trying to solve. They heat up the pages in some scenes in a wonderfully steamy way. The supernatural side of both Emma and Zack is a vital component to the story and is extremely well done. The world they live in is based on ancient myths in part, but is also enhanced by the imagination of the authors. They add their own flavor to the myths that I found delightful.

The story is told through Emma’s eyes, which was fine, but I found the tense the authors used to be a little off-putting at first. Emma uses the present tense, not something I’ve really seen in the first person very often, if at all. The tense wasn’t enough to detract from the story, but it did take a little getting used to. The plot revolves not only around Emma and Zack, but also their pasts and the current cases they are working on. These are all blended beautifully so that nothing gets pushed aside or lost. There are a few secondary characters of note. Emma’s friend Liz, who is privy to her secret, is a fun character, but the Goddess Demeter tends to steal the scenes when she shows up in all her angry glory. The mystery kept me sufficiently intrigued throughout the book and had a satisfying ending. There are a few surprises that add to the complexity of not only the plot of this book, but also to the world in which it takes place, and while the missing persons cases are solved, the fate of Emma and Zack is left up in that air. This means there will be more to come from this writing duo and I am very interested to see where they take the characters in Reckoning (Book 2) and how far they go with this new supernatural world they have created.

Feature: Cursed by Alexa Egan


Alexa Egan is the author of The Imnada Brotherhood novels - Demon's Curse, Shadow's Curse and the upcoming Warrior's Curse. In addition to the 3 novels, there are 3 eNovellas - Awaken the Curse, Unleash the Curse and Vanquish the Curse. These 3 eNovellas have been collected in one eBook, Cursed, which is available for $0.99 until April 14, 2014.


Cursed
The Complete Imnada Brotherhood Novellas
Pocket Star, March 31, 2014
eBook, 300 pages

Feature: Cursed by Alexa Egan
The complete collection of Alexa Egan’s “not-to-be-missed” (Romantic Times) Imnada Brotherhood novellas—a dark and sexy series about a clan of shape-shifters living secretly as humans.

Awaken the Curse
University student James Farraday and professor’s daughter Katherine Lacey embark on a curse-ridden quest to find Katherine’s father, who vanished while studying a mysterious ancient obelisk. As they unravel the mystery, legends point to the existence of the Imnada, a race of shape-shifters said to have died off a thousand years ago. Or is the professor’s disappearance the result of a very human villain? Soon James and Kate’s search for the truth means fighting for their lives. Yet every hour they spend together exploring the past leads them to a very present and irresistible temptation…

Unleash the Curse
Neither actress Sarah Haye nor London’s most eligible bachelor, Sebastian Commin, the Earl of Deane has ever forgotten their scandalous night of white hot passion—and the differences that make a future together impossible. Yet they find themselves back together as they try to solve the mystery of a brutal attack on an Imnada shape-shifter and a sinister entity known as the Naxos. When the Naxos strike again, Sarah realizes she’s willing to risk a little scandal to save the world…and the man she loves.

Vanquish the Curse
Lady Estelle Swann didn’t come to London in search of a husband. Instead she’s here hunting for one of the magical Keys of Gylferion in hopes of preventing a war between Fey-blood and shape-shifter. So when the notorious scoundrel Lt. Jack Ramsay turns his dangerous charms her way, she’s more than a little suspicious. But he’s after something else—something that leads the couple on a mission both complicated and deadly. Soon Estelle and Jack find themselves fighting not only unseen enemies but their own very dangerous attraction…



The Imnada Brotherhood

Warrior's Curse
The Imnada Brotherhood 3
Pocket Books, April 29, 2014
Mass Market Paperbook and eBook, 400 pages

Feature: Cursed by Alexa Egan
The third novel in the dark and sexy Imnada Brotherhood series about shape shifters in Regency-era England.

Despite being cast out of his clan, Gray de Coursy has been summoned to his estranged grandfather’s deathbed. A perfect opportunity to steal Jai Idrish, the Imnada’s most sacred relic and his last hope for breaking the fiendish spell imprisoning him.

Chosen as the Imnada clans’ next high shaman, Alys Swynford’s very soul has become inextricably bound to Jai Idrish—a crystal sphere that dates to the very origins of the Imnada. So when she catches Gray stealing it, he is left with only one choice—keep shaman and sphere together as the pair travel to The Gateway, the door between this world and the one the Imnada left behind aeons ago. For only there can the curse be lifted and Gray freed.

But conspirators among the Imnada have already opened the door to the shape-shifters’ ancient and deadly enemy. Now it will take the strength of the warrior and the power of the shaman to stop this otherworldly executioner—before it’s too late.



Shadow's Curse
The Imnada Brotherhood 2
Pocket Books, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Feature: Cursed by Alexa Egan
Can the magic of desire defeat the powers of darkness?

Forced by her half brother to use her dark gift of necromancy for profit, lovely Callista Hawthorne is determined to flee to her one chance for safety, her aunt in Scotland. With no hope of success unless she finds help on the long road north, she offers cursed shapechanger David St. Leger an irresistible bargain.

David—one of the mysterious Imnada—stalks the night streets of Regency London as a large black wolf. Renounced by his own kind, he spends his desperate rage on thieves and murderers. While Callista’s proposal will allow him to escape the terrible enchantment binding him, agreeing to her terms will force him into the treacherous world of the half-Fey Other, his clan’s ancient foes.

Drawn together by danger, David and Callista find passion in each other’s arms. But can they forswear the centuries of enmity separating their two races, and find a love they dare not even imagine?



Demon's Curse
The Imnada Brotherhood 1
Pocket Books, December 26, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Feature: Cursed by Alexa Egan
She holds the key . . .

One of the mythical race of shape-shifting Imnada and a member of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery suffers under a ruthless curse. As the result of a savage massacre on the eve of Waterloo, he and the men he served with are forced to live the hours of darkness trapped as their animal aspects. Now one of them has been murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada may finally have been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth—Bianca Parrino, the beautiful actress whom every man desires.

. . . to his forbidden desires

Forging a new life for herself after escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Bianca is again drawn into violence when a dear friend is brutally murdered and she becomes a suspect. Forced to place her trust and her life in Mac’s hands as they flee a determined killer, Bianca cannot deny she is falling for the mysterious soldier. But will his dark secrets tear them asunder? Or will love be the key to breaking even the cruelest of spells?


Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters

Please welcome Benedict Jacka to The Qwillery. I'm thrilled have Benedict at the blog today as part of the Cursed Blog Tour. I'm a huge fan of Benedict's Alex Verus series, which is one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series and on my automatic buy list.


Surprising Characters

One of the most fun things about writing is when your characters end up surprising you.  To begin with a character is completely your own creation:  you invent their appearance, personality, background, abilities, and everything else.  For most characters, that’s where it ends.  For the really good characters, though, it’s different.  They take on a life of their own and end up doing things that make sense based on their nature but which you really didn’t expect at the beginning. 
    From a writer’s point of view this is enormous fun, because it means you don’t know what’s going to happen next.  Usually the writer gets to decide everything in advance – having your characters surprise you adds a small but very welcome bit of unpredictability to the story.  Characters like this are the most interesting to write, and often the most interesting to read. 
    In the Alex Verus series, the characters that have surprised me the most are: 

    • Luna:  Luna was probably the most difficult character to write in Fated, and the one who was most heavily rewritten from first draft to finished book.  Partly it was because she was the main female character (characters of the opposite sex are always harder to write than your own) but mostly it was the problem of giving her a real personality rather than having her identity dominated by her curse.  One of the things I did out in China was write a short piece from Luna’s point of view in diary format, and it helped when I came back to do the first major rewrite. 
    All the work was worth it though.  Luna’s developed more and more as I’ve kept going and right now (as I’m writing Book #4), out of the whole cast I’m finding her the most fun to write.  She’s probably had more character development than anybody else in the series and she’s settled into a very good rapport with Alex. 

    • Arachne:  I have no idea where Arachne came from.  For some reason I’d decided that I wanted Alex to have a nonhuman friend who was very nice but physically terrifying, and I think my mental processes went something like “What’s really scary?  Oh yeah, giant spider”.  The dressmaker angle was just completely random – the spider-weaver aspect is obvious, but I really don’t know why I ran with it as far as I did. 
    But it worked, and somehow or other Arachne ended up turning into one of the permanent fixtures of the series.  I think she fills some kind of grounding/experience-related role among the cast of characters.  She doesn’t show up that often (usually only a couple of scenes per book) but she’s always fun to write when she does. 

    • Cinder and Deleo:  Cinder and Deleo started off as bit-characters for Fated.  Cinder was a thug, and Deleo was the slightly-more-competent-but-equally-threatening thug.  Once I started to work on Deleo’s background, though, she began to develop, and as I figured out the links between her and Alex’s history she turned from a simple villain into a much more complex character.  (I also worked out just why she’s so crazy, which is going to be revealed in Book #4.)  Cinder got his turn in the limelight too, in Cursed.  As a part of it I worked out a background for him as well, though I’m not sure when it’ll make its way into the books. 
      I think the appeal of Cinder and Deleo is the old draw of having sympathetic villains.  They’re very definitely in the bad-guy camp, but they’ve got redeeming qualities that make it hard to just dismiss them.  They make for very memorable scenes when they and Alex have a reason to co-operate, but I’ve been careful not to overuse them – I don’t want them to suffer the fate of Spike from Buffy! 

    There are two other characters whom I’m warming to, but I’m going to avoid mentioning them as they don’t get properly introduced until Taken.  (Well, not technically true I guess – one of them does make a cameo in Cursed.  See if you can guess who it is!)



About the Alex Verus series

Cursed
Alex Verus 2
Ace, May 29, 2012 (US)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters
Benedict Jacka's acclaimed Alex Verus series continues with Cursed.

Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex has been keeping his head down. But now he's discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures—destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda. Hired to investigate, Alex realizes that not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power...


The UK Cover (Orbit, June 7, 2012)

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters
Things are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, his apprentice is settling in and his shop in Camden is gaining quite a reputation.

But when a mysterious woman bursts into the Arcana Emporium one night with an assassin on her tail, Alex is thrown into a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual. His old enemies are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick, and at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed – if he only knew which.

He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.



Fated
Alex Verus 1
Ace, February 28, 2012 (US)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters
Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex's own powers aren't as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future--allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever's inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none...


The UK Cover (Orbit, March 1, 2012)

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters
Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer.

In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won’t sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you’re looking for, he might just be able to help. That’s if he’s not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.



And the US cover for Taken...

Taken
Alex Verus 3
Ace, August 28, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters



About Benedict

Guest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters
Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he's studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.

Website:  http://benedictjacka.co.uk/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/BenedictJacka













The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of Cursed (Alex Verus 2) - print book for US or eBook for international - from Ace/Penguin!

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Which book series is/are on your must buy list?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address for the print copy of Cursed and an email address for the digital copy of Cursed. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, June 27, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
Review: Cursed by S. J HarperInterview with Alexa Egan, author of The Imnada Brotherhood Series - April 25, 2014Feature: Cursed by Alexa EganGuest Blog by Benedict Jacka - Surprising Characters

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