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The Jaz Parks series – fun with assassins and vampires

There are a growing number of vampire and paranormal books out there, and so many of them are wonderful. I’ve written reviews of several, read a lot more, and even have a category devoted to the genre. However, most paranormal novels that include romance have a strong male lead and a woman who makes compromises, but ends up changing him as much as he changes her. A lot of people who read of these stories think that the women are weak. I disagree, but yet look for great paranormal novels where the woman is a strong lead without an immediate romance (I’m not knocking romance, though!). Anyone who agrees with me should definitely check out Jennifer Rardin’s Jaz Parks series!

In Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Jaz Parks, #1), we meet Jaz Parks. Jaz is an assassin who works as a partner/assistant to the government’s chief assassin, a vampire named Vayl who is over 250 years old. In this world, vampires and others are known to exist. Vamps and others are both law-abiding and not – Jaz and Vayl are one of the teams sent to deal with the non-law-abiding set. Jaz is dealing with some major emotional trauma after her boyfriend and previous team were slaughtered, and only she and her brother survived, her best friend and sister-in-law was one of the casualties. As a result of that event, she and her brother aren’t on speaking terms. Her sister is living a decidedly non-CIA life and is happily pregnant, while her dad is retired and bored, pestering anyone around him. Is it any wonder Jaz throws herself into her work?

Vayl and Jaz are assigned to assassinate a top Miami plastic surgeon with ties to terrorist organizations in Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Of course, things are always more complicated than you first expect! Jaz is a “Sensitive”, which means she can smell vampires and identify others. This comes in very handy when the Miami plastic surgeon is discovered to be connected to paranormals in addition to the terrorists. The ensuing story is filled with twists and turns that aren’t expected – the connections between individuals, and the rationale behind them are also surprising. The mystery alone will keep you reading, even if you aren’t a big fan of paranormals!

Jaz is a strong character, and while she develops a crush on her vampire partner, she is first and foremost a CIA employee and assassin. Sure, she gets trapped on the top of a building with her partner’s late wife (can you say awkward?), but she maintains her strength of character throughout. It was heartening to see such a strong character as Jaz break down in tears, or be sidelined for a bit due to an injury – we need strong female role models, but they can’t be infallible! Jaz feels so real, a very multi-faceted character with strong secondary characters to back her up.

Vayl, and Jennifer Rardin’s other vampires require absolutely no sunlight. They also require blood, but do not have to kill or turn their “donors”. They are difficult to kill, but a stake (or other wood) through the heart or beheading will work. Vayl himself is claustrophobic (so he has a tent over his bed rather than a coffin), and a very private man. He has picked Jaz to be his partner to help her develop her Gifts as a Sensitive, as well as for other reasons we will uncover. He is an enigma who manages to make toes curl with just a brush of his hand against Jaz’s cheek. It is a nice change to see a series in which there are both “good” and “bad” vampires, rather than a fully romanticized version of the paranormal world.

I loved Once Bitten, Twice Shy so much that I was thrilled I had Another One Bites the Dust (Jaz Parks #2) on hand to read immediately. I highly recommend ordering both books – once you’ve started reading about Jaz and Vayl, you won’t want to stop! The end of Once Bitten, Twice Shy has an interview with Jaz – I strongly suggest reading that as well, it’s a lot of fun!

Another One Bites the Dust adds some of the secondary characters from Once Bitten, Twice Shy to Jaz and Vayl’s team. These characters had been brought to life in book 1, and are now fleshed out even more – Jennifer Rardin’s writing helps me play out the story in my mind’s eye. I can clearly visualize Jaz, Vayl, Cole, Cassandra, and Bergman in their RV as they set up as a sideshow at the Corpus Christi Winter festival as a cover for rescuing some unique biotechnology stolen by a power-hungry vampire. Picturing Jaz, the CIA assassin and Black Belt as a belly-dancer makes me giggle. Especially when I read her descriptions of all the places she hides weapons in her costume! (We don’t need to mention how much I’d like to be in Corpus Christi in the winter…)

Another One Bites the Dust delves further into each character, and we watch Jaz begin to heal from the earlier events in her life. Jaz’s initiative, strength, and her sense of teamwork make her a character whose story I really enjoy following. The world of Jaz Parks feels so real, as if Jennifer Rardin had been a fly on the wall as these adventures took place. Jaz’s story is told in the first person, by Jaz, so we see into her thoughts and know only what she knows. Thankfully, she’s very clever, and the insights are not made exclusively by her male counterparts. By the end of Another One Bites the Dust, I’m anxiously awaiting a romance, and can feel the sexual tension in the book. It’s so great to read novels by an author who takes things slow and deals with Jaz’s recovery from her trauma as well as her feelings for her partner. Jaz’s father also returns, and is seen in a different light, helping Jaz heal.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy was listed as one of the Top 13 Books of 2007 by SciFi Chick!

I’m really looking forward to the February release of Biting the Bullet (Jaz Parks #3) and the following release of Bitten to Death (Jaz Parks #4)! I’m really curious what will come next for Jaz, Vayl, and their friends – and if romance is in the offing!

Check out my review of book 3 – Biting the Bullet 

These books were received from the publisher for review.

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