Joint Review: The Hot Zone (Harmony #11) by Jayne Castle

hot zone by jayne castleWhere did we get the book: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Jove
Release Date: August 26, 2014

The world of Harmony has its wonders, one of them being Rainshadow Island. Just beneath its surface, a maze of catacombs hides a dangerous secret……

Halloween—with its tricks and treats—is a dust bunny’s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow’s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it’s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn.

And now, Sedona’s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow….

*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

Marlene: I want my own dust bunny! They seem like the most awesome pets ever. A predatory tribble with a taste for candy and danger. They just sound absolutely adorable, and like a kitten on speed.

E: I look at my two furballs, remember how I had to clean up shredded candy wrappers in the past, and I think I have my own set of dust bunnies only mine just have 2 eyes each. *grin* actually I have enjoyed the dust bunnies since they showed up on screen. Their ability to get into mischief, their protective nature, and how they have an entire society/life of their own.

Marlene: I picked this book up because I just love the entire series. There, I’ve confessed.

Castle’s Harmony series is a kind of futuristic paranormal romance, where colonists from Earth who possessed too much paranormal talent set up their own planet, which eventually got cut off from the mother planet (meaning us). The neat thing about Harmony is that the planet has it’s own background of alien psi, so all the latent powers in the human population stopped being latent.

Rainshadow Island is a host of “really weird” effects on a planet where the baseline is always slightly weird. The more that the human colonists discover about the aliens who inhabited Harmony before them, the stranger things get.

There’s also a thread of plot/subplot that stretches all the way back to Earth, and some links to family history that goes way, way back. If you haven’t read any of the Arcane Society books, there are multiple places to start. The Arcane Society begins in the Victorian era (stories written as Amanda Quick), continues through our contemporary era (written as Jayne Ann Krentz) and proceeds to the future on Harmony.

E: Umm so I picked this book up because they are on my auto-buy list along with everything by Quick and Krentz. So I really can’t judge my co-reviewer for loving this series. What I have enjoyed the most I think about this world is how humans seem to continue evolving and finding ways to deal with the secrets protected by Harmony’s uncharted underground. You don’t have to be familiar with the Arcane Society to enjoy this story because Castle provides a quick overview of them and their connection to this futuristic setting.

Marlene: The heroine of The Hot Zone is the prime mover of much of the action. The story starts out with Sedona Snow rescuing herself from kidnapping and experimentation in a secret lab with the help of Lyle, a friendly dust bunny who attaches himself (itself?) to Sedona.

After discovering that she has acquired a dangerous second talent of firestarting in addition to her strong gatekeeper talent, Sedona finally reaches civilization only to discover that she has been missing for nearly a month, and that her temporary husband has dissolved their “Marriage of Convenience” without bothering to search for her.

Because multi-talents are generally unstable, Sedona lets her quite reasonable fear of either being institutionalized or simply re-kidnapped take her to Rainshadow Island, a small community that’s just chock-full of folks who are a little bit weirder than average.

She finds a place where she belongs, and settles in. Life is just starting to calm down when the Ghost Hunters’ Guild sends a new Guild Boss who wants to employ her, and both her ex-husband and her estranged family start pestering her to reconnect.

And someone tries to kidnap her again. And again.

Throughout all the escalating tension, Sedona takes care of herself. She’s not fooled by her ex or her family who suddenly want back into her life. She may not know why they’re back, but she knows that it isn’t for her good. She takes care of herself.

She’s wary enough of relationships to think that the hot new Guild Boss, Cyrus Jones, may be interested in her more for what she can do talentwise than for herself. It takes her a quite reasonable while to trust him, even though he is relatively trustworthy (at least for a Guild Boss).

E: Sedona was a very fascinating character. She had an immense amount of willpower and a stubborn refusal to let anyone get the better of her. Growing up she was taught that she was unwanted since she was the living reminder of her dead parents’ indiscretion. Neither side of her family was willing to do anything beyond the legal minimum so she learned to only depend on herself. Her sense of independence was given a booster shot when she was betrayed by the Guild and her recent Marriage of Convenience husband decided to think of her as out of sight equaled out of mind.

I loved seeing her get some of her own back during her initial escape from her kidnappers. Her actions said quite plainly she had decided to become a force and run her own life in a place she felt safe. I was even more excited watching her deal with her ex, her family, and Cyrus on her own terms.

Marlene: Cyrus is, on the one hand, a very alpha example of a paranormal romance hero. However, he is smart enough to know that what works in keeping the Guild in line is not what will work with Sedona. And he has plenty of relationship issues of his own; his talent makes him just about unmatchable for the Arcane Society matchmakers. Only Sedona has the strength and the right kind of talents to deal with his ability.

There is some very old history between the Jones family and the Snow family. Cyrus alludes to enough of the history for his initial connection to Sedona to make sense, but the full story is in In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz.

E: Cyrus was also fun. As Marlene stated, Cyrus was an alpha but he wasn’t the overbearing type. He was more subtle and seemed to know from the beginning he needed to convince Sedona, not just run roughshod over her. I loved how he was prepared to hire her and completely turned her impression of what the more secretive sect of the Guild was capable of besides making people disappear, permanently.

Yet for all of his patience and gentleness with Sedona, Cyrus wasn’t a pushover. He was perfectly capable of protecting what he considered his and commanding the respect of the Guild Hunter masses. I also enjoyed the unusual aspects of his talent and the variety of applications he has discovered.

Marlene: One of the things that is so much fun about the Harmony series is the setting. Harmony is just a cool place, and by 11 books in we know enough about the general history for the author to be able to get into some specifics.

The extra-weird weirdness of Rainshadow Island is one of those specifics. As much ambient psi as there is on the planet as a whole, Rainshadow has its completely unique elements. The aliens left behind some scientific experiments, and they seem to still be running, often with disastrous results. A factor which adds oodles of suspense.

And we have one of the more original uses of the “mad scientist trope” that threads in and out of the entire Arcane series. One of the original Jones was literally a mad scientist who invented a secret formula for increasing psi powers. Every so often, that formula gets stolen or recreated, and the hunt for his secrets is on again.

E: Oh I really enjoy how Castle has expanded this world. Things are changing on the mainland and I am sure more discoveries exist but when she started focusing on this island it was like an entirely new ecosystem came to life. The concentrated energy, the isolation, crystal acting as an amplifier, and the change in color from standard luminous green to an unusual blue was just another sign of the unknowns waiting in Harmony.

As Marlene mentioned the combination of mad scientists, potentially cross species mad scientists’ results colliding was certainly enough to keep me wondering what will they uncover next on Rainshadow Island. Not only does this island have a very strange admosphere but it also attracts those who don’t quite seem to fit in elsewhere. The combination of inhabitants who make Rainshadow Island their home also provides a lot of enjoyment.

Marlene: I love this series, and can’t wait to dive into each new installment as it comes out, no matter which of the three eras it’s in. The Hot Zone was a fast trip back to Harmony with lots of suspense, tons of romantic tension between Cyrus and Sedona, AND a dust bunny who saves the day.

I give The Hot Zone an A.

E: This was certainly another fun installment in Castle’s world of Harmony. She provided a very determined heroine who knew how to handle her business and deal with the unknown. Partnered her up with a silent but deadly man, who was strong enough to support and not feel the need to take over while handling his part. And the dust bunny who lives life to the fullest. Castle continues to stay on my auto-buy list because I know I can always sink into her stories, expect to laugh, worry, let my imagination run wild, and emerge with a happy sigh at the end.

I give The Hot Zone an A-

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