The Hot Zone

Jayne Castle
September 2014, Futuristic Romance
Jove, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515154725
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

I have read most of the books written by Amanda Quick and a few by Jayne Ann Krentz, but this is my first by Jayne Castle (even though they're all the same author). This book bleeds over from Krentz’s Arcane Novels series to a futuristic society cut off from earth on the planet of Harmony. This is the third book (plus a novella) in the Rainshadow series, but one does not necessarily need to read the previous books to be able to enjoy this one.

First, the setup: Harmony is a planet that was inhabited by Aliens centuries before the present residents. This planet is teeming with paranormal activity as well as biological experiments conducted by the Aliens that are hidden in underground caves. Most of the residents of Harmony have paranormal powers and even those who would not have demonstrated paranormal powers on earth will have whatever latent powers enhanced by the extraordinary psi activity on Harmony. An entire industry has arisen to deal with the paranormal activity as well as the consequences of the biological experiments conducted by the Aliens (think dinosaurs) and an underground rainforest. For a while Harmony was able to communicate and travel back and forth to Earth, but the open curtain that allowed interstellar travel in the first place suddenly closed leaving Harmony cut off from Earth and the trade and supplies they needed for a civilized planet. It has taken them 200 years, but Harmony has survived and created their own civilization…a civilization full of power and scary things that go bump in the night.

Sedona Snow is a gatekeeper. There are psi-gates in the underworld and only gatekeepers can open them. Traveling below ground is extremely dangerous. Without tuned amber, the psi-activity makes navigation impossible and anyone who ventures down without amber will become hopelessly lost. When the book opens, Sedona is being held captive by a Dr. Blankenship who has kept her in some type of perpetual dream state for weeks. The drugs he has used to do this have begun wearing off, but Sedona pretends to be under the influence of that dream state so she can discover what is going on and plan an escape. She soon discovers that she has acquired an additional talent, the ability to create psi-fire. Multi-talents are rare and usually end up going mad from the extra paranormal power. Sedona is afraid that whatever Dr. Blankenship has done to her will lead to her destruction. With the help of a dust bunny named Lyle and her new super fire powers, Sedona escapes Dr. Blankenship’s underground laboratory. She immediately makes her way home to her “husband”. Now, there are two types of marriages on Harmony – a marriage of convenience (MC) and a covenant marriage. Sedona has an MC with Brock Prescott. When she gets to her front door, it is opened by Brock’s administrative assistant in dishabille. It seems that Brock not only failed to search for Sedona in the 3 weeks she has been gone, he has already filed for divorce. So Sedona eventually makes her way to Rainshadow Island, a place where misfits go to escape.

Cyrus Jones is a Guild CEO who has come to Rainshadow Island ostensibly to investigate strange activity in the underground tunnels and the Preserve (a place uninhabited by humans, but which may have large predators left over from the Aliens), but there are secrets within secrets afoot. Jones is also a descendent of the original Arcane family which began dabbling in paranormal activity back in the 17th century on earth. Everything about the powerful Jones family is mysterious, including Cyrus Jones’ power. He is a Dead Zone specialist (his power knocks out all other psi-power in his vicinity). That is a good thing when exploring underground tunnels. It is not such a good thing in the romance department. His power can not only knock out the power of his partners, but it can actually kill them. So Cyrus is almost resigned to the fact that he will never marry or have children. When he discovers that Sedona Snow is immune to his power, well…hallelujah, thine the glory! It is a good thing that Sedona returns the attraction. However, all is not sex and roses for Sedona and Cyrus. Someone is setting psi-traps for her and her ex-husband Brock shows up on Rainshadow wanting her back.

If you have not read any of the other Rainshadow books, it takes a while to figure out just what is going on in this book, but Castle eventually provides enough information for the reader to get an understanding of this new world and the interesting people who inhabit it. Sedona Snow is a very strong character with kickass powers. She is also a hardworking optimist. I think it would be hard for any reader not to like this character. There is also a touching vulnerability to her that is mirrored in Cyrus Jones. Cyrus is one competent and protective guy. He is also richly drawn by Jayne Castle and his resignation to living a life without a partner is almost heartbreaking. The reader really roots for this union early on. The character of Lyle the dust bunny is just wonderful. I am assuming he looks like a dust bunny with four eyes and bonded with Sedona during their escape from Dr. Blankenship’s laboratory. He now serves as Sedona’s early warning system for danger.

Jayne Castle has done a credible job of world building in this series (even though I have not read the previous books), but I waffled over the grade a bit because it still took me a little too long to understand what was going on. However, I am reviewing this book and not the previous ones, so the slightly lower grade reflects the confusion in the early part of the book. If I had read the other books, I might have given this one a higher grade. The villains are realistic without resorting to caricatures and the secondary characters are fairly well drawn, but could have used a little more fleshing out in my opinion. The story is basically a paranormal/romantic suspense and this Castle does very well. I love it when I fail to see something coming and Castle kept me on my toes until the very end.

If you are an Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle fan, this book is just another ripping good, suspenseful tale by a master storyteller. While I previously stated that reading the other books in the series is not necessary, I will state that it would probably be preferable. If you have read all of the other Rainshadow books in the series, I am sure you will find this one to your liking.

-- Mary Skelton

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