Taste Me (Underbelly Chronicles Series #1) by Tamara Hogan | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Taste Me (Underbelly Chronicles Series #1)

Taste Me (Underbelly Chronicles Series #1)

4.2 15
by Tamara Hogan

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TASTE ME is the first book in a gritty, fast-paced, and sexy urban fantasy romance series featuring a world where incubi, sirens, valkyries, vampires, and werewolves live undetected alongside humankind. Someone has to keep the peace-and the secrets.

Siren rock star Scarlett Fontaine is finally home after an exhausting year on tour with her band.


TASTE ME is the first book in a gritty, fast-paced, and sexy urban fantasy romance series featuring a world where incubi, sirens, valkyries, vampires, and werewolves live undetected alongside humankind. Someone has to keep the peace-and the secrets.

Siren rock star Scarlett Fontaine is finally home after an exhausting year on tour with her band. Incubus security guru Lukas Sebastiani has more urgent problems than protecting the stubborn diva, but now that they're forced into close proximity, they're fighting an attraction that leads them to the brink of disaster...

Editorial Reviews

From Eloisa James's "READING ROMANCE" column on The Barnes & Noble Review

Most women would agree that it's preferable to be labeled a goddess than "hardheaded." It's true that Cat Stevens celebrates his hardheaded woman -- she'll "make me do my best" -- but Elvis Presley has a different take, calling her "a thorn in the side of man." Love songs aside, a man with a "head like a rock" is not high on my list of ideal spouses. However, these five novels make a strong play for the desirability of a stubborn partner. The problem is that a hardheaded person is likely to have planned out his or her life without including you. And he or she is unlikely to want to change direction.

Julia London's A Light At Winter's End is a complex and heartbreaking novel about a country western songwriter, Holly Fisher, whose sister has a breakdown and dumps her baby on Holly's doorstep. Heather graduated valedictorian, married the perfect man, and wears diamonds and heels. Holly, on the other hand, has stubbornly kept writing country music her entire life, in the face of her family's conviction that she's a drifter and a failure. Holly's career is finally taking off when she has to move to the country to take care of the nephew she hardly knows. Her neighbor turns out to be a lonely cowboy, Wyatt Clark, who knows more about babies than she does, since his wife left him, taking their child. Together Holly and Wyatt forge a sweet, tentative, and joyful family -- until Heather reappears. When Holly, sans baby, is swept off to Nashville, she leaves Wyatt behind. She's spent her whole life fighting to be a singer, and she can't imagine changing direction -- even just to include Wyatt in her plans. It takes her quite a while to realize that she'd been a fool to think that her life had to go as planned. When she tells Wyatt that she misses him, that she loves him more than anything, "more than music," it's doubly romantic because we've watched her fight so hard against that realization.

Jill Mansell's Staying at Daisy's features another woman whose stubbornness almost costs her a happy future. Daisy MacLean's husband was in a car crash with the girlfriend Daisy knew nothing about -- and who turned out to be pregnant. So Daisy avoids charming men like her former husband, especially Dev Tyzack, a sarcastic, gorgeous man with the habit of saying things like, "You know, if you relaxed more, I'm sure you could find a husband." Daisy doesn't kill him on the spot, which is a tribute to her self-control. But her self-control is also the problem: she can't relax enough to admit that Dev might break the mold. Like Holly, Daisy cannot picture a future other than the one she has planned for herself. It takes a head like a rock to inform Dev that now they've had their fling, "you and I will never see each other again, and we'll all live happily ever after." But in her blow-off is the clue to the hardheaded person's primary mistake: they have already decided exactly how to live happily ever after. It's not easy for Daisy to take the plunge and realize that a safe life is not necessarily a happy one.

Cathie Linz's hero in Bad Girls Don't knows exactly what he doesn't want in his life: chaos. Skye Wright, a single mom, belly dancer, and self-proclaimed free spirit embodies chaos. Sheriff Nathan Thornton is repelled by the very idea of a girl with a purse full of unpaid driving tickets, and the conviction that waving a smudge stick around her apartment will "cleanse" it. Too bad this former Marine's commonsense is overruled by fierce desire. This is an enchanting novel, full of funny characters and -- at its heart -- a stubborn man who does his best to resist when Skye dances her way into his life. As with Daisy, there's a tragedy at the heart of Noah's stubborn wish to color within the lines. And in her own way, Skye is just as hardheaded: she wouldn't have considered a policeman as a boyfriend in a million years. But as she says, Noah doesn't "kiss like an uptight cop." Noah and Skye bring out the best in each other: he grounds her, and she takes the edge off his cautious approach. If you haven't discovered this happy, funny book, grab it -- and then save it for a rainy day.

Tamara Hogan's Taste Me offers a fascinating riff on a similar couple. Scarlett Fontaine is a rock star with all that label entails -- fans, grueling tours, amazing musical ability, a wild lifestyle. Lukas Sebastiani is a lot closer to Noah. He's not a cop -- and since this is set in a paranormal parallel universe, he's actually an incubus -- but as head of Sebastiani Security, he has a cop mentality with, as he puts it, "control issues." He doesn't want to be with Scarlett because he can't be absolutely certain that he can protect her: "Intellectually, he knew that he had to step back, let her take risks, to live her life -- beautiful, wild, and free." This makes Scarlett sound a bit like a lioness in Born Free, but Lukas's and Scarlett's clash is classic. Where Scarlett sees a shooting star, Lukas sees space debris hitting the atmosphere. Taste Me is a fantasy, with a secondary plot that involves a crazed murderer with a possession problem. But the fun of the story isn't merely in its paranormal flourishes (though the co-existence of Annie Leibowitz and fairies is a burst of creative anachronism) but in the collision of two hardheaded people. Both Taste Me and Bad Girls Don't make it clear that airy-fairy, politically correct girls can be just as narrow-minded as the obstinate, conservative men who long to keep them safe.

Molly Harper's How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf pushes the pairing of a free-spirited heroine and a hero with uncanny abilities and over-protective instincts to hilarious extremes. Mo Weinstein has dropped everything in her life, put her belongings in a beat-up Ford, and rented a tiny house in Grundy, Alaska -- as far from her parents and the "lower 48" as possible. In short, she's the epitome of a free spirit, although she desperately wants to deny that her hippie parents had anything to do with her choices. Mo's first rebellion had her almost married to a Christian Conservative with membership in the Steak of the Month club; her second takes her to Alaska. She meets Cooper Graham as soon she enters Grundy. He's the opposite of the "normal" man she hopes to find: he's a werewolf who hates back-to-nature weirdos (read "free spirits"). And Mo realizes, with a sinking heart, that he's just her type: "That cinched it. He was an asshole. I was definitely going to end up sleeping with him." How to Flirt is a rollicking, sweet novel that made me laugh aloud. Cooper is the epitome of a stubborn male, determined to stay far away from Mo until he's certain he can protect her. But it's really Mo's wise-cracking, hilarious voice that makes this novel such a pleasure to read.

There's a canonical base to each of these novels, obviously: opposites attract. But I think the real pleasure of watching an obstinate man or woman fall in love is that they try so passionately to avoid it -- and that burst of emotion makes for great romance. When Lukas, in Taste Me, finally succumbs to the lust and love he's been fighting, Scarlett says he "tasted of coffee and desperation": that desperation is a reader's treat. It's hard not to finish reading these five novels and find yourself agreeing with Cat Stevens: once a hardheaded man (or woman) stops fighting the conviction that he don't want you, "the rest of your life will be blessed."

Product Details

Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Publication date:
Underbelly Chronicles Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

"Shit. Shit, shit, shit." Lukas Sebastiani pounded down the narrow stairs separating his warehouse living space from the business floors of Sebastiani Security, tucking his black T-shirt into yesterday's jeans on the run and trying not to trip on his boot laces.

He was late.

As he thundered down the hallway, several employees working the night shift craned their heads above cubicle walls then descended, like Whack-A-Mole gophers. Lukas shouldered into his office, dropped into the battered leather chair, elbowed a pile of case files out of the way, and quickly fired up the secure computer and one of the oversized monitors on his desk. "C'mon, c'mon," he muttered, his large hands twitching over the keyboard. The Council meeting had started over an hour ago-a 3:00 a.m. start time to accommodate the vamps-and Sebastiani Security's proposal to allow their newest employee unlimited access to the archives was first up on the agenda. Lukas looked at his watch. "Damn." Council meetings were run with unwavering efficiency. Thankfully Jack Kirkland, Sebastiani Security's managing partner, had authorization to issue the Security and Technology seat's vote.

He flexed his stiff shoulders, rolled his neck. What a shitty start to the night, and the long day to come.

He'd been rocked from sleep by waves of lust, pain, and lightning-hot adrenaline that he'd been forced to gulp like he was being water boarded. The tastes and smells had twisted on his tongue, filled his nasal cavities-pinecones, ashes, ozone-and, just in case he hadn't gotten the message the first time, he'd vomited it right back up.

Lukas closed his eyes and drew in a careful breath through his teeth. Someone had died. One more person he hadn't been able to save.

The sour aftertaste still sat on the back of his tongue, rolled in his stomach like a greasy stew, and he couldn't get the scent of ashes out of his nostrils. Reaching for the ever-present bottle of antacid on his desk, he cursed his hyperactive senses. Why couldn't he be more like his father, his brother and sisters? All incubi absorbed emotional energy for sustenance, could sense and interpret the emotions as they were absorbed, and take vicarious pleasure in them. But through some quirk of genetics, Lukas's interpretation abilities were snarled-he sometimes tasted emotions, sometimes smelled them-and however he experienced them, they were always heightened.

Some fucking gift. He pulled the wastebasket closer to his chair as his stomach lurched.

But his genetic quirk had a practical application.

Because he could taste and smell emotions, he could sometimes match an emotional energy signature to the person who'd experienced the emotion-like a glorified police dog. He took calls from their police force at all times of the day or night, visited grisly crime scenes, to gather that one additional piece of the puzzle before the taste or smell dissipated. It was just one more piece of data, like DNA, nothing magical about it. And not admissible in court. It took strong detective work to connect that taste to a specific person.

Lukas sighed and keyed his obscenely long password.

What had happened? To whom? He'd learned from experience that he'd just have to wait. But damn, it was frustrating. He wanted to do something physical, hit the street, make some calls. Anything but sit here and attend a fucking meeting.

Be careful what you wish for, you just might receive it. He'd asked for this. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the uptick in Homeland Security surveillance, he'd convinced the Council that a Security and Technology division with full voting rights was necessary to manage the risks to their people, to keep their species' existence under humanity's radar. And now attending meetings was part of his job, and took way too much time. What the hell had he been thinking?

He leaned in for the retina scan. His gritty eyes stung. The only reason he was awake now, sitting at his desk with shower-wet hair, burning eyes, and pillow creases on his face, was that Jack had sent a message to his mini-comp from the boardroom. Its vibrations against his bedside table had woken him up, annoying as a buzzing mosquito.

His eyes darted to another monitor, to where the Hot Sheet taunted him with its serene Code Green status indicator. There were a few yellow blips here and there, reflecting their police force responding to calls, but the overall status was green.

Bullshit. He did not have time for this PowerPoint rodeo. He needed to be out on the street, looking for... He dropped his head into his hands. He had no clue what to look for. But he'd be doing... something, instead of sitting in his office. If he looked long enough, he'd find someone doing something they shouldn't be doing.

The conferencing software finally engaged. It was officially too late to go to the break room and snag some coffee.

His hair was soaked. He considered blocking outgoing video, but then decided not to. It wouldn't be the first time that he'd attended a Council meeting looking less-than-professional, but with a couple days' worth of beard and dripping-wet hair, right now he probably looked like a wild man. His father was going to shit an elegant brick, ask to meet with him afterward to discuss appropriate protocol now that Lukas held his own Council seat.

As water dripped down his neck and saturated the soft cotton of his T-shirt, the conferencing software worked its magic. On his monitor, he watched a holographic version of himself, dripping hair and all, shimmer into his chair next to a suited-up Jack. The boardroom chairs were too damn small for someone their size to sit in all day long, but somehow Jack managed to look like he was ready to walk a fashion runway-and kick a few asses along the way. But him? Even his holograph looked uncomfortable, spilling over the arms of the seat.

He took a minute to blink away the cognitive dissonance this technology produced in him. But it was worth it, because another benefit of attending the meeting holographically was that the distance buffered the buffet of tastes which inescapably leached from the group. While most of the women on the Council had fruity essences that combined very pleasantly, he didn't think his stomach was up to Krispin Woolf's mothballs tonight.

"Good morning, thank you for joining us, Mr. Sebastiani," Willem Lund, the Chairman's executive assistant, greeted him, his fingers tapping as he efficiently took notes at his keyboard.

"Sorry I'm late, Willem," Lukas said, zooming his camera to the boardroom's windows to ensure the security screens were engaged. Even though it was still dark, and the Sebastiani Labs corporate campus was located way out in the boonies southwest of the Minneapolis metro, you could never be too careful.

He then pulled back so he could see the whole room.

The Sebastiani Labs boardroom looked like any large conference room found in corporate America-if that corporation had lifetimes of experience, proprietary technology, and obscene financial assets at its disposal. Against a side wall, a tableclothed credenza groaned with a selection of juices, water-fresh and saline-and synthetic blood. And coffee, damn it. A huge silver urn of coffee.

A pale maple table dominated the room, large enough to seat the council members, their seconds, and Willem.

Meet the Author

Author Tamara Hogan loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her partner Mark and two naughty cats. A voracious reader with an unapologetic television addiction, Tamara is forever on the lookout for the perfect black boots. This, her debut manuscript, won the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and was nominated for the Romance Writers of America'sprestigious Golden Heart® Award.

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Taste Me 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Lizee More than 1 year ago
Siren singer Scarlet Fontaine is more than a rock superstar, she's a member of one of the most prominent families on the Underworld Council. When she returns home to Minneapolis after a punishing year of touring, she finds that more than her body is ravaged and exhausted-emotionally she's at the end of her strength. To make matters worse, the council meant to protect the interests of the city's non-human citizens, is suddenly beset by a series of vicious attacks from an unknown assailant. When the attacks escalate to include the murder of one of the council's own, everyone's safety-Scarlett's most of all-is in jeopardy. Chosen to protect her is Lukas Sebastiani, an incubus with whom Scarlett had an unforgettable affair years before. She has never forgiven Lukas for walking away from her, but she's also never stopped loving him. As the danger grows around Scarlett and her band, Lukas can't hide the fact that he feels his own love and passion for Scarlett. While the hunt for the killer goes into high gear, Lukas is determined to keep Scarlett safe until she's out of danger, even if it means having her move in with him or spiriting her away to the Sebastiani's secluded north woods cabin where her proximity tortures him with desire. He doesn't believe for a moment he's worthy of keeping her forever, but despite their resolve, Scarlett and Lukas's love grows more passionate, and Scarlett's mind and body begin to heal under Lukas's care. But despite their growing hope for a future together and Lukas's vows of protection, the killer still manages to find Scarlett. Will Lukas reach her in time to save her? Or are his fears of being unworthy end up being real? Tamara Hogan has written a captivating novel not just for readers who love paranormal romance, but also for those who, like me, don't know the genre well. With characters as rich and emotional as those in any traditional romance, "Taste Me" will hold you from the first page. Scarlett and Lukas entice you to root for them. The members of Underworld Council will capture your sympathies as you get sucked into their world, and even the antagonist will surprise you with his rich personality. If you want a highly sensual love story and a great fantasy to boot, pick up "Taste Me." It's a wonderful read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
At the Subterranean Club for werewolves, a homicide occurred. Sabastiani Security Lukas Sabastiani the Incubus is very concerned as changes to the ruling Council is happening and homicides could derail the presenting of other species to the humans. Making it worse, the victim is Were Andi Woolf, daughter of the Council's biggest opposition to coming out to humanity, Krispin Woolf. However, Andi still lives barely. Meanwhile rock star Scarlett Fontaine the Siren is worn out from an extended tour with her band. However, the assault on Andi and other deadly attacks on the band and those associated with the band places her at risk; especially as the daughter of a Council member Claudette. Lukas is assigned to protect Scarlett, the female he knows owns his soul; she feels the same way about him. Neither realizes who the serpent is destroying their Eden. This is an exciting and spellbinding second chance at paranormal love urban fantasy. Readers will believe that the other species exist as sirens, incubus, weres and oh! my! seem genuine. Although the set up of the Hogan universe starts a bit slow, sub-genre fans will enjoy clubbing with Scarlett and Sebastian while wondering who the psychopath is and the motives for the killings and the attempted murders. Harriet Klausner
KatjaA More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I try out a lot of the freebies that are available for Nook, and this is one of the few that made me want to purchase more books. The characters and mythology are interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great. The only thing i found wrong was that in the beginning, the sheer number of characters was confusing. However, once you recognise everyone it becomes a great story. Well-written. Weekend-eating. Great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect but liked it very much. I would & have recomended it. The charcters are a lot of fun, may be a little predictable in some places but when Scarlet & Lucas finally there are fireworks!!!
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Found this book hard get into. There is nothing that is capturing my interest to want to continue reading it