I admit it. My reaction to most paranormal romance has been eye rolling. It’s ridiculous because I love fantasy and even some horror; my first “book boyfriend” was the Phantom of the Opera. It’s also unjust to dismiss an entire sub-genre because of some horrible covers you once saw fifteen years ago. For the record, I feel the same way about most romantic suspense. Also unjust. I’m working on it.
However, if most paranormal romance is like the Hearts of the Anemoi series by Laura Kaye, I’m well on my way toward revising my opinions. The premise of the series is that the Anemoi are wind and weather gods. Each hero represents a different wind and a different season of the year: winter, spring, summer and in the case of East of Ecstasy, fall. The heroines are all at crossroads in their lives, most having lost someone they loved to accident, death or disease. In each case, they are back on their feet, but maybe still a bit wobbly, making them both receptive to a divine hunk of man appearing in their lives and surprisingly non-skeptical of their love interests’ supernatural natures. In East of Ecstasy, we get the resolution of the entire series so don’t run right out and buy just this one: these aren’t stand-alones.
Devlin is the son of the god of the East Wind, the dangerously mentally unhinged super-villain of the series. Remember when we talked about really broken heroes a few weeks ago? Well, apparently I hadn’t seen broken until I saw a broken god. Devlin is so broken that heroine Anna even coins a term for him: Tall, Dark & Angsty. My husband promptly abbreviated that TDA. So if you ever see me refer to a TDA hero again, you’ll know what I’m talking about. As for Devlin, I’ll just say this: he had a very rough childhood and adulthood hasn’t been any kinder. I don’t want to go into too many specifics because it’s pretty integral to the romance, but when he arrives in the heroine’s doorstep, he’s literally starving. I suppose given the blog I write, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have a pretty visceral reaction to starving people. That reaction apparently also extends to fictional characters. Devlin just has so much emptiness to fill. And when yawning emptiness meets vast power, it’s clear that not only this relationship, but the entire world may hang in the balance of him getting it together.
By contrast, Anna is quite self-aware and capable. She does suffer from a chronic pain disorder, but manages to take care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s, and also manages a thriving career as an artist. That’s actually something I appreciated in the entire Anemoi series. Though the heroines all have challenges, they come across as capable, confident and not particularly needy. I guess one of the perceptions I had of paranormal romance was that the heroines always need saving. But these heroines do an awful lot of their own saving, both of themselves and their heroes. Plus Anna is not all she seems, but that’s a big part of her story arc so in the interest of not going all spoilery, I’m going to leave it at that.
The plot is more epic than the previous three books, which all seemed more personal and much more about the romance than this last one, which not only had to resolve the romance between Devlin and Anna, it had to resolve the entire series, including dealing with Eurus, Devlin’s super-villain father. I’ll be honest, the love story in East of Ecstasy did get a little tiny bit overshadowed by the epic battle I knew must be looming, but because Devlin and Anna were such a strong pair, it was easily my favorite book of the series. Watching Devlin come into his own in every respect was immensely satisfying and in the end, it’s really Anna who saves the day.
Hearts of the Anemoi wasn’t a completely perfect series, but it was close enough that it guaranteed I’ll be trying more paranormal romances in the future. And more Laura Kaye too; I already read Hearts in Darkness, her indecently hot contemporary erotic romance set practically in my backyard. If you’re new to Laura Kaye and unwilling to commit to a four-book series, start with that one. It’s cheap, short and will absolutely hook you on her style.
It’s the snow demigod who kicks off the series, Owen, who loves ice cream with a passion, but the frozen treat does manage to make an appearance in nearly every Anemoi book. Particularly peach ice cream, which is Owen’s heroine Megan’s favorite. There’s also a neighbor character who first pops up in the third book who constantly tests out her new ice cream concoctions on the gods next door. And poor Devlin. He’s so happy any time someone sits him down and feeds him. He loves everything. It’s completely heartbreaking.
I always assumed it was much more difficult than it really is, but if you can make custard and are willing to invest in one piece of special equipment, you can make ice cream. You’ll need an ice cream maker or stand mixer with a freezable bowl attachment for this recipe. Also, the bowl really does need to freeze overnight and your custard needs to chill overnight. Rushing either of these steps will result in frustration.
Anyway, peaches are at the height of their season right now in the middle of summer and our farmer’s market has tree-ripe luscious peaches by the score. You’ll need a pound and a half or so of them. I used five medium size ones, resulting in about 3 cups of peach puree. If you get a bit less, that’s fine too. You’ll beef up the peach flavor with some peach schnapps.
Speaking of the alcohol, which includes both peach schnapps and bourbon, there is no Anemoi-esque reason for it. I just found some super cool instructions for adding significant quantities of alcohol to ice cream using unflavored gelatin and wanted to try it out. Surprisingly, it worked. I expected the ice cream to be meltier than normal non-alcoholic ice cream, but that wasn’t the case. The gelatin really does seem to stabilize it somehow. I haven’t tested this recipe without the alcohol and gelatin so I’m not sure what kind of results you might get from leaving it out.
Finally, this ice cream is beyond amazing. I have a pretty tough resistance toward my own creations. I mean, I bake something nearly every day and it takes something extra special to keep me eating it after smelling and tasting it for sometimes hours while I made it. This ice cream? This needs or leave my house immediately or I’m going to eat all of it all by myself, one spoonful out of the freezer at a time.
Someone save me please?
Makes: 1 quart
Time: 48 hours (Hands on: 1 hour)
1 1/4 pounds ripe peaches (about 5 medium), peeled and pitted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half & half
2/3 cup white sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup bourbon, cold
2 tablespoons peach schnapps, cold
1. Place the freezer bowl for your stand mixer or ice cream maker in the freezer and let it freeze at least overnight. Put your bottles of bourbon and peach schnapps in the fridge to chill.
2. Roughly chop the peaches and puree in a food processor or blender until completely smooth, should yield 2 1/5 to 3 cups peach puree. Stash this in a bowl in the fridge for a few minutes.
3. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream and half & half until hot enough that it’s too hot to keep your finger in it, but not boiling, stirring frequently.
4. In a heat proof bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until completely combined and lightened in color.
5. Temper half a cup of the hot liquid into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Then whisk the tempered mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat until thickened enough that it coats a spatula and drawing a line across the spatula with your finger creates a nice, hard line with no drips.
6. Remove the thickened mixture to a heat proof bowl and whisk in the vanilla extract and peach puree. Refrigerate overnight.
7. When ready to freeze your ice cream, put a 1/4 cup of cold water in a small bowl and whisk in the unflavored gelatin. Whisk in the cold bourbon and peach schnapps. Add this mixture to the chilled peach mixture, pouring it through a fine sieve to catch any large lumps of gelatin. Whisk to combine.
8. According to the manufacturer’s directions on your ice cream maker, churn the mixture for 20-30 minutes until it resembles slightly melty soft serve. Remove from freezer bowl with a silicone spatula to a large, shallow container and place in freezer. It will freeze to a more standard ice cream consistency over the next 6-8 hours.