Captured Innocence

His Last Best Hope

On a Long Ago Night

The Price of Innocence

The Price of Passion

Scandalous Miranda

Too Wicked to Marry

Primal Heat by Susan Sizemore
(Pocket Star, $6.99, R) ISBN 1-416-51335-3
Primal Heat appears to be the sequel to I Thirst for You. Not having read the previous installment, I was at a distinct disadvantage. And whether she climbed on the paranormal vampire bandwagon willingly or was thrown there by her editor, Sizemore’s writing in this arena is not the fluid, pleasurable experience I remember from her historical novels, such as her splendid The Price of Innocence.

Matthias Bridger is the “Prime,” or guardian, for his family clan of vampires. Matt is as jaded in love as one would expect from a guy who’s been around for over a hundred years, but at the wedding of his cousin Marcus to Josephine Elliot, Matt falls instantly in lust (and a quickie affair) with Jo’s sister, Phillipa. They part, only to meet several years later at the christening of their new niece. The flame hasn’t died; in fact, it’s burning hotter than ever.

Phillipa is a Las Vegas cop who is involved with someone else, but she can’t resist the pull of Matthias. Matt, however, has a big problem on his hands. A group of vampire hunters who call themselves The Purists are hunting down and killing vampires – and it looks as if Jo and the baby are in their sights. There may even be some members of Matt’s clan involved. With the help of a friend who is a werewolf, and using a psychic link that he shares with Phillipa, Matt saves her life, and that of Jo and the baby. Then in order to keep Phillipa safe, Matthias decides he must keep his distance from her. Which didn’t make a lot of sense to me; if he’s the protector of the family, wouldn’t he want her close so he could, you know, protect her?

The sex is hot; Sizemore has that nailed (pardon the pun). Presumably the vamp world was better defined and explained in the first book, because here the reader is expected to jump right in with little background. There are a lot of unanswered question, too, such as how these vampires can wander around in broad daylight, and why their lovers don’t become vampires as well.

Phillipa, while feisty and likable, is not well-defined, and for that matter, neither is Matt. There is an interesting plot element involving Phillipa’s struggle with diabetes, and this is resolved in a clever (although somewhat convenient) fashion. But as for their emotional connection, they meet, hop into bed, part, meet again, and fall right back into lust, but this is all without knowing each other on any deeper level. Not what readers are going to buy as the basis for a real romance. Sizemore’s writing is uncharacteristically choppy, too – the prose is abrupt and passionless, as though there was a longer, better-developed story here and somebody hacked it up. The result is a plot that’s hard to follow, characters we barely know, and a mediocre reading experience.

Susan Sizemore has been writing in the sci-fi and paranormal subgenres for a few years now, and her books have been generally well-received. Happily for admirers of her earlier books, she’s still writing the occasional historical romance as well. Much as I love her writing, Primal Heat only rates three stars, and I’m in no hurry to look up the next installment.

--Cathy Sova

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