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Within the Flames
Series: Dirk & Steele #11
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Darkness Calls, A Wild Light, In the Dark of Dreams, Huntress, Wild Thing, Never After, An Apple for the Creature, Mortal Bone, Holidays are Hell, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, "A Dream of Stone & Shadow", Labyrinth of Stars.
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Eleventh in the Dirk & Steele paranormal romance series about the “employees” of a specialized detective agency based in San Francisco. The couple focus is on Eddie and Lyssa with most of the action occurring in New York City.
Whoa…intense. Between the paranormal action and the sadness of so many people living on the street, homeless, this was an excellent story. Liu presented their situation simply and mostly through the shared life experiences of Lyssa and Eddie.
It’s a long process, getting Lyssa to accept Eddie’s help. A very long process. One full of revelations and drama. The need to kill ever prevalent. Liu has a nice balance between Eddie and Lyssa. She wants to protect him while he refuses to leave; she wants to run and hide, but is fed up with the neverending hunt. He wants to run with Lyssa to protect her, but he also understands her decision to end it.
In between the large drama, Liu has filled out the story with the small dramas. Jimmy’s contretemps with Mack over Icky’s stealing his dinner. The encounter between Tina and her abusive husband. Eddie’s anxiety over Swint’s release from prison. Their encounters with Lannes…especially the dramatic back-and-forth with Lethe’s witch family.
All while we learn the back history for both Eddie and Lyssa. Well done. Liu teased it out very nicely.
Too funny, asking the cab driver to wait ’cause they’ll wanna leave fast. I just loved the cab driver’s response when he learns it’s a family reunion: “I’ll buckle up”. Oh, man, I do love what Lyssa did to Lethe’s family! They deserved that and MORE.
A very odd courtship. But so appropriate for these two.
Eddie’s control has shattered. It’s been a year since he lost it so badly. But the news that his sister’s murderer was released from prison for good behavior is enough to send anyone up in flames. Just not as literally as Eddie.
But there is no time for him to hunt down Malcolm Swint or to gain control over his fire power. There is a dragon shape-shifter in danger, hunted by the Cruor Venator, and only Eddie with his fire gift can find her, handle her.
Between Eddie and Lannes and the news that Jimmy brings her of the street people who are going missing, Lyssa barely needs that itch between her shoulder blades to tell her the hunters are closing in on her.
Only Lyssa has been on the run for so long that she isn’t sure whom to trust. And now, she begins to realize how careless she’s been.
The Consortium is…
…a family-run organization of beings with gifts used for power and money gained through “human trafficking and experimentation, bioterrorism, and mass murder”. The a Priori is a branch of that same organization and using their gifts for material gain; I’m not sure how evil they are, but they have recently allied themselves with Dirk & Steele. Another branch of the Consortium which broke away from it sixty years ago and founded on the value of helping others and headed up by Roland.
Lyssa Andreanos is 21 now and a dragon shape-shifter whose parents were murdered by the Cruor Venator when she was 12. She’s been on the run and living on the streets ever since, making her way as an artist and book illustrator. Kara Hadrada, a witch, was her mother; Allan, her father, was a dragon shifter. Estefan is/was a leopard shifter in Florida who had befriended Lyssa. A very bad idea as it turns out. Tina and Jimmy Sutabuhr are a mother and son whom Lyssa befriended and has been helping to get off the street. I do like his dog’s name — Icky.
Eddie has been with Dirk and Steele for some years now. It’s a relief to have backup after all those years surviving on the streets. He and Lyssa are pretty big on denying their full selves. His murdered sister was Daphne.
Lannes is a gargoyle married to Lethe, a witch (see Wild Road). He’s willing to help Eddie find Lyssa…once he’s left Lethe with her family. A move he will come to regret. Even if it is to help save a girl from a coven of witches. Lethe’s witch family includes Uncle Douglas who despises Lannes and wants to keep him to give to the Cruor Venator to save themselves; Morgana, Lethe’s mother who intends to rip her baby out of her womb; and, Ursula Hadrada, the only one out of the eight on their side.
Serena McGillis works for the a Priori, the good half of the Consortium. Roland is broken for some reason. A psychic, he uses his gift to spot trouble ahead of time for the agency he started. But he hasn’t left the house in over 10 years. Long Nu is an ancient dragon shifter allied with Dirk & Steele who sends Eddie into danger.
Albert and Mack are homeless people, neighbors of Lyssa’s. Mandy and Flo are heroin addicts, homeless, and sort of friends with Lyssa. Dame Rose runs the Kosmic Klub, a hangout for the Dirk & Steele people.
The Cruor Venator is an incredibly evil being who has gained her power through drinking the blood of good people — I can see her point about not drinking from bad people, it’s only bitter and nasty-tasting… Betty and Nikola are witches who serve the Cruor Venator in hopes of becoming one themselves. They delight in torturing their victims whom they kidnap through a projection of fear and drinking their blood. Malcolm Swint was scum and Eddie’s mother never saw it. Not until that night the police found him. Aaron Roacher is Tina’s husband. More scum who served a greater purpose by allowing Lyssa to discover more about what a good man Eddie is.
The Cover and Title
It’s flaming all right! It’s a beautifully gowned Lyssa in red leaning back in a field of red, yellow, and orange flames against a lilac sky.
The title is truly accurate for both Eddie and Lyssa are Within the Flames.