Friday, July 27, 2007

Familiar Stranger by Michele Hauf

From the Dark Enchantments blog site (which is really fun- the CHARACTERS post blog entries): "Four hundred years ago a secret, hermetic order was created to keep the world safe from evil paranormal beings. Ever since, the Cadre has been dedicated to maintaining the delicate balance between the mortal and dark realms through research and observation of otherworldly entities. Seldom does the Cadre interfere. In recent decades, an opposing force has been created by the British Intelligence Service. This covert group, called P-Cell, has but one directive: destroy paranormal creatures of all kinds. As the two organizations fight faithfully for their separate causes, unbeknownst to either of them, the dark forces of evil gather, preparing to overtake the mortal realm.... "

Michele Hauf - Familiar Stranger (Silhouette Nocturne) - Jack and Mersey
also available as an ebook from eHarlequin

Category: M&Ms - a bit lighter and/or not quite as satisfying as Peanut M&Ms, but still Oh-So-Enjoyable! (B,B-,C+,C)
Flame Height: 5" out of 9"

From the back cover: "Recruited by a secret paranormal organization to hunt demons, Jack Harris never guessed the revenge he sought for his partner's death would be this complicated. Jack's worldview is black-and-white—until he is ordered to follow Mersey Bane, a beautiful woman who is also a familiar with shape-shifting abilities. Mersey belongs to the Cadre—a peaceful hermetic order that captures and studies Otherworldly Entities—which is at odds with Jack's organization.
As Jack delves deeper into the inner workings of the Cadre, he finds himself drawn to Mersey like a moth to a flame. She may challenge all his beliefs, but she brings color and passion to his world. Jack doesn't know whether what he feels for Mersey is love or lust. But if he doesn't figure it out soon, they may become the hunted instead of the hunters.

Ya gotta love Jack. He's such a manly hero- stubborn to the bone. His first encounter with an OE (Otherworldly Entity) was as a child when a cat changed into a naked pregnant woman and he distracted the demon who was about to attack her by throwing a crystal ball at it. A few nights later the cat reappears and... oops! Nope, you need to find that out for yourself. Let's just say that, in Jack's world, everything is black or white. He refuses to believe what he saw, so therefore it didn't happen.

As an adult, his MI5 partner (and object of his unrequited love) is killed by a demon (it's an eeewwww!) and Jack is also attacked. Afterwards, he's recruited by the super secret P-Cell branch of MI5 and their motto can be summed up as "If it ain't human, kill it." A perfect fit for Jack- no grey areas.

Then along comes a clue-by-four named Mersey Bane. She's an adept that can capture demons. She's also a familiar (in the DE world, familiars can bring demons into our world) who can change into a cat. I try to form mental pictures of characters in my head as I read, but seldom do I picture celebrities. In Mersey's case, however, one picture kept popping up for her looks AND personality- Liv Tyler. And throw in a little Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, too. She's quirky, impulsive, ethereal, seductive, vulnerable, irrepressible, fearless, sad, lonely and EXACTLY what our oh-so-pigheaded Jack needs in his life! I'm telling you, this character was just so damn likable!

So one night Mersey and Jack find themselves hunting demons in the same warehouse. Only their objectives are in direct opposition- Jack kills demons. Period. Mersey, however, is aware that not all demons are evil and, in fact, some are quite necessary to humans (like lust demons). She captures the evil ones in crystals she carries around with her and takes them back to the Cadre for questioning then release back to their own realm. Jack and Mersey each get a demon in their own way that night, and in the process become intrigued and fascinated with each other.

There is some enjoyable world building going on in this book. We go inside the Cadre and learn quite a bit about that organization's history and the rather interesting characters who reside there. Oh, and wait till you meet the denizens of Faery! These sure aren't sweet little winged cherubs- Michele bases them on the original myths and legends!

And through it all, poor Jack with his rigid manly delusions, learns that there really is far more to this world than just his black or white view of it all. He goes from "If I don't believe, then it does NOT exist" to "If I believe, it WILL exist".

I would like to have learned more about the history of Mersey's parents and the demon lord's involvement with them, particularly since it was the prime motivation for many of his actions. I got the gist of it, but I think there's an interesting story there and I'm hoping Michele has plans to revisit and expand on it.

Overall, this is a light, but highly enjoyable read. It contained just enough darkness to keep me engrossed and the main characters are just plain perfect for each other- their personalities play off each other beautifully. I'm looking forward to the rest of the Dark Enchantments series. But I have to admit (and this is no reflection on the other authors) that I wish Michele was writing all the books in the series so we could catch-up with Jack and Mersey in a future book. Nonetheless, she has set the bar for this series pretty damn high- are you up for it Cynthia, Nina, and Pat?!
Piquant Opines: RT (4.5 stars!): "...contains a novel idea that's brilliantly executed. Her characters are fresh, as is her story, and readers won't want to put this one down.", Devon

Familiar Stranger shows a release date of 08/01/07 but I saw it in my local Borders last week. I've linked to Amazon for all the print books, but remember that they will all be available as eBooks from also:
09/01/2007 - Cynthia Cooke - Rising Darkness (I linked to Cynthia's DE page- VERY creative!)
10/01/2007 - Nina Bruhns - Night Mischief
11/01/2007 - Pat White - Saving Destiny


Devon said...

Glad you liked this. I was interested in it. Will have to give it a try.

QB said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Devon!