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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret Santa by Sierra Dean

Secret Santa by Sierra Dean
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Holiday, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (136 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewer: Foxglove

’Tis the season for ho-ho-homicide.

Secret McQueen, Book 2.5

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The season for mistletoe, Christmas lights…and a killing spree. When Secret’s friend, Detective Mercedes Castilla, asks for help to solve a series of murders longer than a string of lights, Secret resigns herself to the fact her holidays will be anything but peaceful.

It seems someone is killing New Yorkers in an unusually gruesome way, and as the bodies pile up faster than presents under the tree, the police are no closer to finding the killer than Secret is to finding the perfect present for one of her boyfriends, Lucas.

Tracking down a monster in Manhattan the week before Christmas is almost as difficult as shopping for her ever-expanding collection of loved ones. When tragedy strikes close to home, Secret must do everything in her power to put an end to the horror in time for Santa to come down the chimney.

Secret Santa is definitely a different kind of holiday story.

It’s Christmas, and Secret McQueen is meeting her friend Mercedes Castilla for some necessary shopping. What do you get for a billionaire werewolf king who has everything?

But Mercedes has another agenda, along with the shopping. There have been a series of strange occurrences, and she believes they fall into Secret’s expert area: paranormal beings. Because Mercedes is the only police officer that knows that the things that go bump in the night are real, she realizes that what is happening is not normal. When young shifters begin to go missing, and a series of grisly ‘gifts’ are left around town, Secret is persuaded to look into things.

Then there is the pressure of meeting the parents of one of her two wolf soul-bond mates, her sweetie Desmond’s family. When Desmond’s younger sister Penny disappears on Christmas Eve while on a trip to the corner store, Secret discovers the disappearances and the murders are all linked. Complicating matters even more is the simmering attraction between her vampire sentry and former mentor Holden Chancery.

Can Secret find Penny before she becomes another of the ‘gifts’ left by the killer? Just what kind of creature is causing the deaths and disappearances? Will Secret ever find the perfect gift for Lucas?

The world that Sierra Dean has created is a unique mix of reality and fantasy, with humans and paranormal beings living and working together. Ms. Dean writes the Secret McQueen books with a marvelous mix of romance, danger, humor and lots of action. I like the growth of Secret and the people in her life, and enjoy watching as these people interact with genuine feelings.

Secret is strong and smart, but frustrated at her new position. As a Tribunal Leader, she misses the action of chasing rogues and fighting. So when this case comes with a chance for some action, Secret steps up to help. She is even more determined to stop the creature when it hits close to home. I enjoyed watching as Secret agonized over ‘meeting the family’ just like any normal human, and loved her confusion as Holden confronted her about the unspoken attraction between them.

Desmond is Secret’s soul-bond mate: at least he is one of them. He is the second to the wolf-king Lucas Rain, the other part of their unique soul-bond triangle. He is strong, handsome and very family oriented. I love that he surprised Secret by completely decorating her apartment for the holiday while she was out shopping, and I love that he isn’t afraid to be domestic around her. He has become comfortable living in her home, and isn’t shy about being exactly who he is.

There is a touch of mystery in this, because whatever is killing the victims is leaving gift bags filled with body parts in public places without being seen. When one such ‘gift’ turns up in the police station, Secret knows she has to stop this thing. Then, when Penny becomes one of the missing, the stakes become higher than ever.

The secondary characters here are mostly Desmond’s family and the police, with very little from the Vampire side of things. There is one extremely tense scene with Holden, but the focus in this is the wolves, and the missing teens. I liked that Secret didn’t try to do this all alone, but called in as many favors as she could to discover what was doing these awful things and how to stop it. And I enjoyed the scorching hot scenes with Desmond, as Secret and he become closer.

This is one holiday treat for those who like things a bit different for the season.

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