Ilona Andrews and the Hugh D’Ambray Book

First things first: I’m sorry for not posting this sooner. My only excuse was that I was closing on a house in December, plus celebrating the holidays, so things were a bit chaotic. But I should have posted this last month.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors. Regardless of whether it’s the Kate Daniels urban fantasy, the Edge paranormal romances, or the basically unclassifiable Innkeeper serials, Andrews’ books are among the best in the genre. Both the worldbuilding and character development are kickass, and they have a knack of making their bad guys more complex and sympathetic than many.

Which is probably how this whole thing started.

About a month ago, I wrote an entry asking whether Ilona Andrews was punking us. I had been scanning the comment section of one of her blog entries, and she referenced writing a Hugh D’Ambray book–one of the aforementioned complex, sympathetic villains in the Kate Daniels series.

It was a very quick comment, and things don’t always translate very well online. And certainly, a blog comment isn’t the same as an announcement. What you guys don’t know is that I reached out to Ilona on Twitter afterwards. And then this exchange happened:

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Welp. That certainly sounds like a “this book is going to happen” to me! *Cue squeeing.*

Now, this isn’t an official announcement. Things could change, they might change their minds, etc. But it’s certainly better than an April Fools’ joke, right?!?

Is Ilona Andrews Punking Us?

So I am a huge Ilona Andrews fan.

Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team, and their books are amazing. Seriously. The Kate Daniels series has some of the best worldbuilding and characters in the urban fantasy genre. It took me a couple of books to get into it initially, but now its one of my auto-buy series. In fact, Andrews is one of my auto-buy authors, and when they release something–whether it’s the more romance-centric Burn for Me or their kooky, unclassifiable Innkeeper serials, I’m there.

Well anyway, last April, Ilona (the wife half of the team) played a prank on her readers, giving us a book blurb with Hugh D’Ambray as the protagonist. In the Kate books, Hugh is very much, unapologetically the bad guy–but a sexy one. Ilona has implied that he’s a sociopath. But their characters are so complex and interesting that I’m not sure it matters. I think they can plausibly redeem Hugh and turn him into a romantic figure. Or maybe not. Maybe he’ll just stay the mostly bad guy. Or all bad guy.

Look at Kresley Cole’s Lothaire. Lothaire had been the ambiguous villain in that series since the beginning. He’s still the villain after it’s over. Yet it’s one of Cole’s highest-rated books. We like our bad guys. Maybe it’s a little bit of wish fulfillment.

So anyway, today Ilona wrote a blog post, and I caught this in the comments:

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Ummm….does that say what I think it says?

Anytime the possibility of a Hugh book has come up in the past, Ilona has denied the possibility.

It’s not April 1 again, is it? *Checks the calendar.*

It’ll be a tough sell, convincing readers that Hugh is still “good” enough to be a hero, in any way, shape, or form. (Like I said, basically a sociopath.) But I think if any authors can do it, it’s the Ilona Andrews team. Count me as one fan hoping this one is true.

 

Sometimes the Joke’s On You

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One of my favorite urban fantasy writers, Ilona Andrews, posted this yesterday, announcing a spinoff novel of the popular Kate Daniels series starring fan favorite villain, Hugh D’Ambray. Here’s the blurb, pulled directly from Andrews’ site:

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, bowed to only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master is gone and Hugh must carve a new place for himself and his people in the post-apocalyptic world where magic comes and goes in waves. With former allies ready to tear him apart, Hugh is forced to make alliances to preserve the Order of Iron Dogs, warriors who would follow him anywhere.

Serafina Price is the head witch of the Midwestern Covens. She is powerful, devious, and smart. Her people think she is a goddess, her enemies call her Snake. Tasked with protection of her people, she is trapped between the magical heavy weights about to collide and plunge the entire region into war that human authorities have no power to stop. Desperate to preserve the covens, she would accept help from the devil himself.

They detest each other, yet they need each other to survive. How can two people famous for betraying their former allies cement their agreement without a shadow of a doubt?

They marry.

It turned out to be an April Fool’s joke. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that one of the “blurbs” came from a fictional romance writer who had been mentioned within the series. How meta.

But maybe the joke’s on Andrews. Fan reaction to the fake book was largely positive, and largely disappointed when they realized it was a joke. The fans want this book. I want this book, because it sounds completely amazing.

Redemption stories are a common trope within the romance genre. One of my personal favorites is The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. At the end of the previous book in the series, the hero, Sebastian, is a womanizer and a kidnapper who threatens to rape the heroine. By the end of his own book, he’s a devoted husband head-over-heels in love with his wife. You can’t help but root for him. So yes: it can be done.

Let’s just ignore the fact that Hugh D’Ambray is probably a sociopath. That can all be cured with the love of a good woman, right? He’s probably just misunderstood.

(Who am I kidding? I still totally want this book.)

I’d probably be able to come up with more examples of romance redemption, except this:

I’ve been working my butt off, and I’m almost done. I’ve officially passed the point on my rewrites where my editor has said, “This is how long I want it to be.” And I’m still going. This was a challenging, and exhausting, process to me in so many ways. Because of changes I made to the plot, I have basically had to rewrite about 90% of the book.

I’m almost there. Just need one final push.

Best of 2014: Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews

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So it’s the end of 2014, and in that spirit, I’ve decided to post about my 10 favorite books of the year. Here are the caveats:

–Only books published in 2014 were considered. (I read some AWESOME books in 2014, but they weren’t published this year, so I didn’t consider them for this list.)

–I am arranging the books alphabetically by author. (Sorting them beyond the top 10 would just be too complicated for me.)

–This is a completely subjective list. I have not read every book published this year, not by a long shot, and I just picked the top 10 based on the books I liked the best, the ones that really stuck with me. I am always looking for suggestions for more books I might enjoy.

–I’ll post another entry every few days until I get the top 10.

So for my first entry: Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews.

The blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire . . .

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

What I loved about this book: Ilona Andrews (the pseudonym of a husband-and-wife writing team Ilona and Gordon) is/are one of the best fantasy writers out there. Period. If they ever got divorced, it would be a huge loss to the speculative fiction world.

Burn For Me is the start of a new series. One of Andrews’ strengths is world building, and they did not fail us here. The ability to use magic has created a caste system, and the country is dominated by powerful magical houses. Nevada is not one of these houses. Her family barely scrapes by on the revenues from her private detective work. But she has a powerful and rare gift—the ability to distinguish truth from lies—that she keeps hidden from everyone except those closest to her.

The book reminded me a bit of one of Andrews’ earlier words, Bayou Moon, in that Nevada is surrounded by a strong, supportive, colorful family. As such, Nevada, unlike many other heroines in the urban fantasy genre, has a profound sense of responsibility and family devotion, and she has a strong support network at her back.

Rogan is a tougher nut to crack. He’s abrasive, at times cruel, and frequently acts like a jackass. But there are glimmers to him that make you think that maybe he’s not as “mad” as he pretends to be. He’s everything you know you shouldn’t want in a boyfriend—but damn, he’s a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, Ilona Andrews is one of the few writers who can make the villain—a pyrokinetic named Adam Pierce—almost as compelling as the hero. Andrews posted a blog entry several days after the release of the book asking readers whether they thought he could be redeemed. The discussion became very heated, no pun intended. How many other modern writers do you know who can inspire that much passion over the bad guy?

Even though the book has been marketed as a romance, it reads more like an urban fantasy. The romantic relationship here is more prominent than it is in Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, but it is definitely a slow burn, and it’s not the only thing going on here.

Bottom line: If you like complex world-building, intelligent heroines, badass but also possibly wounded heroes, and edge-of-your-seat fantasy stories, this one is for you. I have never picked up an Ilona Andrews book and been disappointed. This year, with both the release of Burn For Me and Magic Breaks, their seventh Kate Daniels novel, their awesomeness streak has continued.

Stay tuned for the rest of the top 10!