Rebecca Zanetti
November 2012, Paranormal Romance
eKensington, $6.99, 261 pages
Part of a series

Grade: C-
Sensuality: Hot

Note: This eBook can be purchased at Amazon and other eBook retailers.

Provoked is actually Book 5 in Rebecca Zanetti's Dark Protectors series, but don't let that put you off. I've only read 1 1/2 of the other books in the series and had no trouble following the action in this one. What might put you off instead is the knowledge that lurking within this book lies just about every eyeroll-inducing cliche of paranormal romance.

Kane Kayrs has come searching for a demon destroyer. His vampire family, the Kayrs, are at war with the demons and his brother Jase is a demon prisoner. Seeking to rescue Jase and protect his family, Kane needs the destroyer. Naturally, this gifted individual is an attractive human female. Amber Freebird is not just human, but is also a commune-dwelling vegan and pacifist who has no idea demons or vampires exist, or that she has any supernatural powers. Not surprisingly, when Kane shows up at the bar where Amber works and tells her that she must come with him, Amber is more than a little taken aback.

However, after a series of events involving various confrontations with local ne'er do wells, Amber ends up on the road with Kane. The rest of the story deals with their relationship, as well as with Amber learning to use her powers and all the Kayrs fighting demons. It's all fairly predictable stuff, but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining. I found the dialogue maddening and sometimes overly simplistic, but some of the battle scenes make good reading. Basically, the plot boils down to vampires and demons(and Kurjans - which are basically pasty, blood-sucking bad vampire-like creatures) hate each other. The vampires are the good guys, so readers need to root for them to beat the demons and Kurjans.

This book had the occasional fun scene, so I wouldn't call it completely terrible. However, it lacked a certain something. For example, instead of relationship development between Kane and Amber, we get the often overused Instalust Romance. Amber is destined for Kane and therefore the two will get together, be mated forever, and have hot sex happily ever after. And all of Amber's pacifist beliefs? Well, they could have provided excellent fodder for conflict depending on how they were used. However, as a reader, I never saw Amber caught between two worlds. She mentions her pacifism, but it seems to get trotted out merely as a convenient way to stir up conflict with Kane - or as a reason for Amber wimping out and requiring rescue from Kane in a confrontation. It never felt like Amber had to do a lot of deep soul-searching to reconcile her way of life with Kane and the Kayrs.

In addition, the worldbuilding felt a little like playing Calvinball. It seemed as if every time the author wrote her characters into a corner, a convenient rule of their world would provide an out. For instance, a vampire gets driven outside in the sun? That's okay. Vampires like the Kayrs don't die in sun(they don't sparkle either, in case you wondered.) In a way, it works because the worldbuilding in this book is fairly thin. More than a little bit of the story reads like a thriller, but with vampires and demons thrown in. The secondary plot involving scenes of Jase's imprisonment get a little more interesting in terms of worldbuilding, but it's still not the most complex paranormal universe out there.

Kane and Amber's relationship certainly has plenty of heat, but it was hard to believe in much beyond lust with them. I could buy that Kane wanted Amber as soon as he met her, but the deepening of their relationship didn't feel entirely believable. In addition, once Kane got Amber back to his family compound, there were the almost obligatory "Aren't those super-alpha Kayrs men just something?" female bonding exchanges.

With rather thin worldbuilding and an annoying overuse of cliches, Provoked just didn't hold my attention. There are many better paranormals out there, and I just cannot recommend one that seems a bit weaker than the average. I know this series has a following, but I just don't see myself joining it.

-- Lynn Spencer

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