CURSED: Have You Ever Been Unjustly Punished?





Fallen Siren Book 1
By S.J. Harper
304 pages | 01 Oct 2013 | Roc/Penguin


Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She’s cursed. He’s damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!,,9780425263297,00.html#
S.J. Harper is the pen name for the writing team of Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne C. Stein, two friends who met at Comic-Con in San Diego and quickly bonded over a mutual love of good wine, edgy urban fantasy, and everything Joss Whedon.



Before he can express disappointment that I’ve moved out of reach, I do two things that are guaranteed to leave a man speechless. I reach for the button on his trousers and I drop to my knees.



My Take!There’s a lot to love in this first in a series by the writing duo known as S.J. Harper, including the line quoted above.    And, I can’t really find anything to dislike. The constructed world is consistent with some interesting and unusual conventions like a three night full-moon downtime for werewolves. The dialogue and inner monologue feels genuine and the laws and norms of the society in which the book is placed are obeyed to the necessary degree.  The writing is great, with enough wit and humor to lighten the mood without taking away from the job or Emma’s situation.

And, Sirens!   Such an unusual creature.  The character herself says she was born of Gaia and there are only three of them. With unworldly beauty masked by a spell, Emma is serving an endless sentence of saving the lost and not being allowed love.  Her judge and jury was Demeter and have I got to say, she is a total “stone-cold” bitch. It’s amusing that Demeter is so pissed off by Persephone’s abduction for half the year.  In other stories I have read in the past few years Demeter was trying to marry Persephone off to a creepy guy when she falls in love with Hades and runs away to be with him.

This Demeter would never even consider that scenario.  Her behavior is childish and unfair.  I have a feeling that if Persephone were caught robbing a bank Demeter would find someone else to blame. In her world Persephone is always a victim and it’s always going to be the Sirens’ fault. Sure, in most old tellings of the story Persephone is stolen away and even raped by Hades, but if we’re retelling the mythology for the real world it’s interesting to consider other possibilities. I just read of one where Zeus, Persephone’s father (who raped his sister, Demeter and got her pregnant) arranged Persephone’s marriage to Zeus without either Demeter’s or Persephone’s knowledge. (Coastline Journal, Rape of a Goddess, Mary Naples, MA Humanities (Women’s Studies) Dominican University of California,

Have you ever been severely punished unjustly by someone who just wouldn’t listen to your side or consider any version but their own? Gosh, it makes me sad to think about it.

I asked Samantha why they chose Sirens and she was nice enough to respond:

Why a Siren? Jeanne and I had both written many of the other standard – vampires, werewolves, shifters, witches, demons, angels. We wanted to try something different. We researched most of the standard myths and mentions of Sirens in literature and were pleased to find out that there was still a little mystery surrounding them. So we mixed in some of the standard interpretations and then we added in some original tidbits to come up with how Sirens fit into both the pantheon and our universe.


Readers also tire of reading the same species over and over — at least this one does.  Vampires and Werewolves are exciting but introducing something different gives the reader something to really look forward to.  Especially when the character is as well constructed as Emma.

Emma is an old soul — one of the oldest.  But while her weariness from the restrictions her sentence places on her is evident, her attitude is often youthful, and her interaction with Zack is far from old.Zack’s character is interesting.  His life in his pack and before the FBI is still a mystery of sorts.  I think this first novel was really Emma’s.  I think we’ll learn more about Zack in the coming books.  Emma is protected by a spell from a long line of a family of witches.  While the current witch is her best friend, I remained uncertain as to her benevolence; is she a friend or is she a warden with whom the prisoner has developed a friendship?

The pacing in the book is more or less right on. There’s a lot of set-up and discovery there wasn’t anything that felt like filler.  So the pace is active if not action packed until the end which does involve a great deal of activity. (BTW – I want my own really old vampire to get rid of wrinkles and stuff). There could be a little more intimacy; but it will be hard considering Emma’s beaus tending to end up dead (Demeter – that bitchy goddess!)
I could not stop reading this story; I always had to know what would happen on the next page and understand Emma’s story. This is the perfect book to read after a big holiday meal, while the snow (or dust or sunshine) flies around outside. If you like the idea of ancients walking among us with all too human failings and feelings then this is a great choice.



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Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to ...
Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to return to her mother Demeter after Zeus forced Hades to return Persepone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)