Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Guest Blog, Review & Giveaway: Pirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson

UFI welcomes Author Suzanne Johnson. Thanks for Joining us!!

Preternaturals Behaving Badly 

Once upon a time, the eye of a big bad hurricane named Katrina slightly missed New Orleans but then, before we could catch our breath, the winds whipped around and hit us from the north, blowing the water of Lake Pontchartrain into the bowl-shaped city. We all know that horrible story.

What people don’t realize is that the barometric pressure of the hurricane also tore down the barriers between the modern world and the preternatural Beyond, allowing paranormal species that had been held out of our world by the wizard sentinels to come pouring in.

That’s the premise behind the Sentinels of New Orleans series, but we’re moving farther from the hurricane and more into what happens next-ville. As in, the vampires and elves and other species have no intention of staying across the border like good boys and girls. No, they want to play in the modern world.

Only they don’t play very nicely.

And so it happens that in PIRATE’S ALLEY, the newest book in the series, there has been an Interspecies Council formed. It’s extremely dysfunctional; if it helps any, think of it as the U.S. Congress. But I digress. I thought it might be helpful to break down the preternatural groups and the current balance of power—or at least power as it stands when PIRATE’S ALLEY begins.

Wizards. The wizards (witches being minor mages in this world) are the largest group, the group with the most structure, and the most regulated. They make their home in the human world, mainstreaming to keep their world hidden. For centuries (maybe more) the wizarding Council of Elders have held the responsibility of monitoring not only the vast network of wizards around the world but the borders between the human world and the vast Beyond. This is done through the Sentinels (think border guards) and the Enforcers (think hired killers for preternatural bad guys). Sentinels are almost always wizards, and enforcers are usually shifters or werewolves. On the Interspecies Council, the wizards have three representatives: the First Elder, who is in charge of running the council meetings, and two additional Elders.

Fae. The people of Faerie, which is located in the Beyond, are the second-largest preternatural group. The Kingdom of Faerie is a monarchy ruled currently by Queen Sabine. She is very old and childless, and her two nephews are in a battle over who will succeed her as monarch: Christof, the Prince of Winter, and Florian, the Prince of Summer. The fae have been so self-absorbed in their own political battles that they’ve ignored the other species—until now. Like the wizards, Faerie has three representatives on the Interspecies Council—Sabine, Christof, and Florian. Since the fae are somewhat unstable, they tend to bring chaos with them wherever they go.

Vampires. The people from the Realm of Vampyre are the third-largest group, although considerably smaller in number than the wizards and fae. Other than wizards and shifters, vampires can best mingle with human society because it’s in their best interest to be self-regulated and secretive. They’re also very disinterested in politics as long as they aren’t inconvenienced. So they tend to make shaky allies: whoever offers them the best deal gets their allegiance (until a better deal comes along). The vamps have two representatives on the Interspecies Council: the Regent of Vampyre, Garrett Melnick, and a vice-regent who owns a bar in the French Quarter, Etienne Boulard. Monsieur Boulard is currently having some legal issues, however.

Elves. The elves are the smallest of the four “major” species and are political beasts. What they lack in numbers they make up for in power and what I like to call moral ambiguity. Their land of Elfheim in the Beyond is divided into five realms—one each for the clans representing earth, air, fire, and water, and a neutral space where their four-member Synod meets. On the Interspecies Council, the Elves have two representatives: Synod leader Mace Banyan, who is also chief of the air elves, and Quince Randolph, aka Rand, chief of the earth elves. The earth elves are the smallest of the clans, but Rand has risen in power due to his blood bond with our wizard heroine DJ. He thinks it’s a marriage; she thinks he’s badly mistaken.

Shifters and Weres. They are one of the smaller groups, and are represented by the head of the Enforcers. Most of them are mainstreamed into society and hold regular jobs; the Enforcers work for the Elders.

The Water Species. Another smaller group composed of the merfolk, nymphs, nyads, and other water folk. They are represented on the council by Toussaint Delachaise, head of a large merclan that lives in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. His son, Rene, is a good friend of DJ’s.

Gods and Monsters. This is a loosely formed coalition of species that, apart, don’t have enough people for representation. Griffins, dwarves, goblins, etc., make up this group. Currently, a senior ranking goblin is the council representative, but since the goblins are very fond of alcohol, no one is sure if he will be able to resist heading to a French Quarter bar instead of a council meeting.

The Historical Undead. The smallest organized group, these are deceased famous humans who are granted immortality in the Beyond through the magic of human memory—as long as they’re remembered, they will live on. How long they can hang around the modern world without going back to the Beyond to “charge their batteries” is determined by how famous they still are. The historical undead are represented on the council by the illustrious French privateer Jean Lafitte.

And there you have it—the Interspecies Council. Their first official meeting takes place early in PIRATE’S ALLEY. You might say it’s, em, explosive.

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.

Find Suzanne and her books

Pirate's Alley 
Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Amazon BN Book Depository
 Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.
I love me some Jean Lafitte so I enjoyed the fact that he had a huge role in PIRATE'S ALLEY. We also see a lot of Alex, Rand and Eugenia.

Some things that happened in PIRATE'S ALLEY. There has always been danger in the past books, book four brought the danger even closer and more personal to DJ's life. She has a lot to work through and I enjoyed following her as she solved the latest mystery. Eugenia becomes more involved in the world of paranormal when she finds out she's expecting. Rand proved himself just as shady and jerkish as we all thought he was. Alex's loyalties are tested to the max and he has a hard time trying to figure out where his loyalties should lie. DJ was able to work out a lot in regards to her feelings about Alex as well as how she feels about Jean Lafitte.  I was pretty happy with the way things played out and how she came to the conclusion about the one she wanted.

There were a few spots throughout the story that I felt were a bit slow, but the ending made up for all of that. I am DYING to get my hands on book 5. I NEED to know what is going to happen next. PIRATE'S ALLEY was one of my favorite Sentinels of New Orleans installments. 

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


DJ, are you awake?
    Freaking elf. “Go home, Rand.”
    I am home. Where are you?
    I frowned and burrowed my face into the soft down pillow. Which wasn’t my pillow.
    Holy crap. What had happened?
    I sat up and took in several observations at once, none of which made sense and all of which sent my heart rate jack-rabbiting hard enough to send my blood pressure into the ozone.
    First, I was lying beneath a heavy bedspread woven in a rich blue-and-cream print. The bed was an elaborate confection made to look like an antique half-tester, and a brass chandelier hung overhead.
    I recognized the Hotel Monteleone. I recognized Jean Lafitte’s bedroom in the posh Eudora Welty Suite in the Monteleone. I didn’t have a clue as to how I got here.
    Second, I wore only underwear. My clothes were thrown across a chair in the corner. I had no recollection of removing them.
    Third, the pillow next to mine still held the clear indentation of a head, and there was water running behind the closed bathroom door.
    What in God’s name had I done?
    Rand! Where are you? So help me, if that elf was behind this, I’d splay him open like a catfish and watch his guts fall on the floor. Then I’d batter and deep-fry him.
    God, Dru. Stop shrieking like an elven shrew. I think you got too cold and went into a survival state.
    Survival state? Then I remembered, and shame joined panic. I had gone into hibernation like a bear, right out on Royal Street in front of God and everyone. Quince Randolph, you sonofabitch! Why didn’t you warn me that would happen?
    Stop yelling. How did I know you’d be stupid enough to go traipsing through the snow to the point of unconsciousness? I can tell you’re in the Quarter, but where are you?
    Catch you later.
    I slammed shut every mental door I could imagine and then troweled imaginary caulk in any imaginary cracks around said doors. I was vaguely aware that, off in the distance of my mental stronghold, Rand was yelling at me.
    Had Jean hauled me back to the hotel like a sack of pommes de terres? How had he explained a hibernating blonde to the hotel management? At least my dark blue underwear matched. Had he taken advantage of me? No, it wasn’t his style. Which meant I’d consented.
    Alex was going to kill me if I didn’t kill myself first. I wasn’t sure hibernation-brain was an adequate defense.
    The bathroom doorknob rattled and I dove under the covers, even though I realized it was like closing the barn door after the half-naked cows had escaped.
    From my hiding spot, I heard the door open and footsteps cross from tile to carpet before stopping with a rustle of fabric. “Hey, babe. You finally back from the dead? Whatcha doin’ under there?”
    “Rene?” I poked my head out and frowned at my buddy the merman, fully dressed in jeans and a Saints sweatshirt. His feet were bare, and he walked around the bed and climbed in as if either one of us belonged here, much less at the same time.
    “What are you doing here? What am I doing here? Who undressed me? Where’s Jean?” And, as an afterthought, “Why are we in bed?”
    Now that I realize I hadn’t acted like my licentious great-aunt Dru and slept with the pirate, I transferred my anger to the proper place and it wasn’t to myself. I’d kill that sneaky Frenchman if he weren’t immortal.
    Rene was not immortal, however, and he was within reach. “You better start talking, fish boy.”
    “Aiyeeee.” Rene cackled like the Cajun he was, and fluffed the pillow behind his head. “I told Jean you’d be spittin’ mad. Nothing happened, babe. Your clothes were wet and I was just trying to keep you warm. I’m a shifter, you know. We run hot.”
    “Oh, do you now.”
    That made him laugh harder.
    I threw off the covers and stomped over to my clothes. He’d seen whatever I had and I knew he didn’t want it, so there was no point in hiding. I picked up three soggy layers of T-shirts and sweaters, and cords so wet they weighed about ten pounds.
    My breath hitched. The staff; I’d lost the staff. I whirled to Rene, who sat propped against the lush draped fabric that covered the headboard, watching me with a grin. “Where’s my bag?”
    “In the living room. Everything’s there, babe, even your magic stick. Jean, he took care of you.”
    Yeah, I just bet he did. It was hard to argue effectively in underwear I’d intended only Alex Warin to see, so I went into the living room, dug my room key out of my messenger bag, and stuck my head out the door, looking up and down the hallway.
    “I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere,” I yelled at Rene, and made a run for it, jamming the keycard into my door lock and slipping inside before I was spotted. If hotel cameras caught my mad dash on security footage, well, I’m sure they’d seen stranger things. This was New Orleans, after all.
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New Releases: 5/3-5/9

Tue. May 5th
 Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge  
 Day Shift (Midnight, Texas #2) by Charlaine Harris 
 Dust to Dust (Ashes #2) by Melissa C. Walker  
 Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown by Michael Alan Nelson
 Her Wild Hero (X-Ops #3) by Paige Tyler
 Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly 
 Tracked by Jenny Martin
 Undertow (Undertow #1) by Michael Buckley
Wed. May 6th
Thur. May 7th
 City of Fae by Pippa DaCosta

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