Name: Starfire Chronicles of Shadow Mist Book One
Author: Michele N. Zugnoni
Genre: new adult paranormal romance
Publisher: Forbidden Press
Date of Publication: July 30
ASIN: Not assigned yet
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 110,000
Cover Artist: Michele N. Zugnoni
Michele is a recovering demon (AKA attorney) who left the legal field to follow her dreams of writing and teaching college-level English. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling as far as her credit card will take her, reading an assortment of fantasy and paranormal, and playing with her frisky animals (two black cats and two loud-mouthed cockatiels). She’s loved vampires since she was four, when her BFF confided that her older sister was a vamp who enjoyed drinking blood. Like any four-year old, Michele thought this was the most awesome thing ever. Michele currently lives in Modesto, California, but will move to Santa Barbara to begin a Ph.D. program in education and literacy this fall.
“D’you ever wonder,” Julia’s fingers glided along her cat’s back, blazing a path into its fur, “if there’s a place so far away, it just has to be perfect? That –” she sighed, “that maybe if we traveled far enough, we could – I don’t know, we could maybe cut around the bull shit and the lies and just live the life we’re supposed to live? Free of everything but the truth and ourselves?”
Clay tilted his face toward the stars. “Maybe. If there’s a place far enough away.”
“Sometimes I feel like there has to be.” She pulled her gown around her legs, letting the material drift against her skin. “Otherwise, what the hell else is there?”
“Mrow,” agreed the cat, nuzzling its cheek against Clay’s hand.
“Nice cat.” Falling onto the deck, Clay scratched behind the creature’s ears. “What’s its name?”
“Pandora.” Julia pushed herself to her elbows, causing the feline to fall onto her lap with a startled mrow. She smoothed her apologies against its fur. “Named her after a story my mom told me once. When I was a little girl.”
His heart sprinted as he stared into her eyes: stained with starlight and sparking with secrets, they grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. “A story?”
“Hmm.” She nodded. “About a girl who just couldn’t take no for an answer. She opened this box she wasn’t even supposed to touch, and let out all the dark, evil things of the world. Anger. Jealousy. Spite. Malevolence. Everything bad. Until she got smart and slammed the lid shut, trapping just one thing inside. You know what that was?”
Julia tilted her face to the heavens. “Hope,” she murmured, her answer mingling with Clay’s whispered: “Hope.”
A crease formed between her brows, and she lowered her gaze to skewer Clay with her fiery stare. “Thought you hadn’t heard the story, Lumince?”
Clay shrugged. “I’ve heard it. I just wanted to hear you tell it.”
The starlight faded from Julia’s eyes and she reached for her bottle of champagne. “Aren’t you breaking the rules? Coming out here to talk to me?”
Clay smothered a grimace. “Rules?”
“Yeah, you know.” Curling her hand around the bottle’s neck, she lifted it to her mouth in a fluid yank. Her throat spasmed around the rush of alcohol; plunking the bottle onto the deck, she moistened her lips and leveled him with her stare. “Should any vampire be caught keeping company with a human,” she air-quoted the law with her fingertips, “that creature will suffer no less than two years in a Reaver-run penitentiary and –”
“And no less than thirty lashes of a pinewood whip.” Clay tugged his fingers through his curls, swallowing a sigh as Pandora curled onto his lap. “I know the law.”
“Then why are you out here talking to me?”
There was a dare in her eyes, in the way she pushed her fingertips against his hand; capturing one between his fingers, he held it in his grasp. “Last I checked, Reavers didn’t exactly qualify as human. Or have the laws changed again?”
Julia arched a brow. “Nice,” she drawled, twisting her fingertip from his hand. It fell against his arm, where it burned her touch into his skin. “Do you talk like this to all the girls, or am I just special?”
Clay met her gaze and took a breath. “I’m still trying to figure that one out.”
She blinked. “Well, let me know when you do. ‘Cause I’m just dyin’ to find out.”
She tilted her head for another drink, and Clay watched as the neckline of her dress fell open, revealing the Reaver mark etched into the skin below her collarbone. Unbidden, his fingers drifted to the design: a jagged “R” seared within a circle, smooth against his touch. “Did that hurt?”
He thought he heard her breath catch; he knew he saw her eyes widen as her gaze drifted to his hand. “Enjoying the feel?”
“Sorry.” Clay yanked his hand away, his cheeks burning against the warm September breeze. “I just…I’ve never seen one this close before.”
“You mean my cattle brand?” She skimmed the mark with her hand. Her forehead creased and her mouth puckered as she stared at the fingers he’d touched her with seconds before. “It’s okay, I guess. It’s just – I’ve never had anyone touch it before. It’s . . . kinda weird.” Her hand brushed against his arm, causing his breath to catch. “But it didn’t hurt. Or, it did for a minute, when I first got the flash.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “It’s like…a moment, when you know you were chosen. A searing pain, and then you get the mark. It happened when I was thirteen. A full year before any of my other friends were chosen, which really kinda sucked.” A sip from the bottle, washed down with a tuck of her mouth. She smacked her lips together. “But it’s okay. I’ve gotten over it.”
“Wow.” Clay raised his brows.
“Yeah. I guess.” Shivering, Julia swigged another long drink. He took the opportunity to caress her hand with his thumb, sliding it beneath his palm.
She shifted until she was sitting, her gaze drifting to his mouth. “I wonder…”
“What do you wonder, Jewels?”
Her eyelids fluttered at the endearment, a spark of surprise sizzling through her gaze. “I – I wonder if …” Julia’s free hand glided into the air, and she skimmed her fingertips against his lips. “Do you mind?”
Clay swallowed and leaned forward as her touch seared itself into his skin. “D-do I – Oh.” He blinked. “Oh, yeah. Um, okay. Sure.” He slid open his mouth to reveal a pair of gleaming white fangs.
She smoothed her fingers over their tips, wincing as they pricked her skin. “They’re sharp.”
“It’s okay.” Flipping his hand, he captured her fingers between his own. “I don’t bite, and I never hurt.”
He was caught within her stare, pulled within the molten fire flashing through her eyes. His heart dipped as she yanked her hand from his touch, a guarded mask slipping over her features. A second later, and the bottle was at her lips, the rush of liquid flooding her throat. He caught the bottom with his hand, causing her to lower it until it hovered between them both. “Why do you drink so much?”
“Why do you care?”
“Actually,” he lowered his hand and she plunked the bottle onto the deck, “I guess I’m trying to figure out why you pretend so hard like you don’t.”
“Maybe it’s easier that way.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Clay scratched behind Pandora’s ears, making the creature purr. “Or maybe you’re just too scared to try it any other.” Her eyes flashed fire, but he caught her hand before she could flail him with her words, flipping it to run his fingertips along the lines of her palm. “I told you. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I don’t hurt, and I never bite.”
“No.” She ripped her hand away. “You only touch.”
Julia is a rebel who, unfortunately for her, didn’t choose to be a Reaver. She is more likely to bend the rules than to follow her destined path. But then, she meets Clay. Clay is a Luminace, an un-spoken enemy. She meets him on the night that the Reavers and the Lumince’s were supposed to sign a treaty. Things didn’t go as planned as a massacre happens reinstating mock fare. Mock fare is allowing the random testing and killing of a Luminces on what the Reaver deems appropriate at the time. Julia isnt interested in fighting the Luminece because she has fallen for one. As Clay and Julia continue a forbidden affair her father, Chief of Reavers, try to slaughter the Lumineces. Julia, Clay and others feel that this war has gone on long enough and must learn to fight back to restore peace between the two worlds.
This book was slow to start. I actually put the book down a few times, but, when I told myself “I have to finish this book!”, I came back to it. And, I stopped entirely too soon!!! This book has a lot of twists and turns that kept me interested and involved.
The author did a really good job building up the characters. I find that in a lot of books, this doesn’t happen. The characters are thrown into a book with a little history and you are kind of left to figure out the rest on your own. Nope, not this one! The points of views between the characters is always appreciated because you can see how other characters really feel!
The story line is awesome! I love how unique the story is and especially the names!! They sound like something that is real because as I read I felt like I was reading history and not fiction! The back story of the Reavers and the Lumineces is very interesting and I love that the author included this.
This book gets really emotional at the end. I wasn’t expecting it and it took me by surprise. So beware! Overall, I loved the book once I got a grip! I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves paranormal books. It is very unique and the book was seamless. A definite 4 out of 5 stars.