Naughty or Nice?

Night Pleasures

Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon
(St. Martinís, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-98482-0
Sherrilyn Kenyon populates Night Embrace with a multitude of beings: Dark Hunters (undead but not vampires), Daimons (vampires), Greek gods and goddesses (still very much active in this world), Celtic gods and goddesses (ditto), humans (both garden variety and Squires who serve the Dark Hunters), and one being who isnít a Dark Hunter or a vampire, isnít a god, and certainly isnít human. On one hand, Kenyon has done some entertaining and involved world building. On the other hand, the first three or four chapters of Night Embrace were a challenge as I tried to sort everybody out.

Night Embrace is set in New Orleans, in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. (Have you ever noticed that stories such as this are never set in Boise, Idaho, at their River Festival, or in Topeka, Kansas, when the Sunflower State Games are underway? Strange.) Talon is just about to have his first cup of coffee of the night - Dark Hunters, like vampires, cannot tolerate daylight - when he sees six Daimons stalking a young woman. He reluctantly abandons his breakfast to rescue her. His fighting expertise, ability to heal, and powers of telekinesis should make dispatching six Daimons a sure thing, but not this time. This time Talon is the one who needs rescuing when he is run over by a Mardi Gras float.

His rescuer is Sunshine Runningwolf, a local artist. Before he passes out, Talon tells Sunshine he is an illegal alien - not exactly a lie - and she promises to take him home with her rather than to a hospital or a doctor. When she gets him home and puts him to bed, still unconscious, she takes advantage of the opportunity to appreciate every inch of him, all 6í 5Ē, and to recognize how very attracted she is to him.

Night Embrace is not one of those books where the hero and heroine slowly learn to know and appreciate one anotherís finer qualities before they jump into bed. No sirree! Before the sun sets that very day, Sunshine and Talon are doing the dirty. Even though Dark Hunters are supposed to limit their sex lives to one-night-stands, Talon has a hard time walking away from Sunshine afterwards. In fact, Sunshine seems less bothered by their parting than he is.

Not to worry: The driver of the float and his pals arranged Talonís encounter with Sunshine for their own sinister reasons, and they will arrange more encounters. It is part of a scheme cooked up by two gods - Camulus and Dionysus - to unleash the Atlantean Destroyer and take over the world. To make sure that happens, Camulus and Dionysus figure Sunshine will keep Talon distracted until itís too late.

Criticizing Night Embrace is almost too easy. The plot is complicated, unbelievable, over the top, and frequently confusing. Neither of the lovers develops much over the course of the story, ending up pretty much the same people that they were in the beginning. Night Embrace is at least the second story set in this world, and too much back-story is devoted to introducing characters from Night Pleasures. So how come I enjoyed it?

First of all, Sherrilyn Kenyon is a decent writer - not spectacular, mind you, but not awful, either. Secondly, her tone is good-natured: weíre all here to have fun, she seems to say. Nothing serious, nothing heavy, and at least one scene that had me chuckling out loud. She introduces a myriad of secondary characters and keeps them distinct and memorable, right down to Talonís pet alligator. The action is non-stop, and the settings, though clichťd, are colorful. And, hey, I donít mind fanaticizing about a buff 6th century Celt who is endlessly good in bed.

If you just want to have fun, you could do a lot worse than Night Embrace.

--Nancy J. Silberstein

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