Mona Lisa Darkening
RomCon Contest finalist in Erotic Romance
Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee
for best erotic fiction
CAPA Award finalist for best fantasy erotic romance
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Monére, Children of the Moon Series#6
From the time she was an orphan child, Mona Lisa knew she was different—but she never knew how different. As a Mixed-Blood daughter of the Monère, she rules her own domain in the Louisiana Bayou. But her life of power is about to be lost, and Mona Lisa must survive a realm in which she is divided from within…
On the vernal equinox, when night equals day and the barriers between worlds become gossamer thin, Mona Lisa gathers her people beneath the full moon. Instead of drawing down the replenishing white light of the moon, a terrifying darkness descends upon her and takes her into NetherHell—the cursed realm of the damned. In this place, the evil queen whose essence shares Mona Lisa’s body is strong enough to fight her host for control—and she does.
But in NetherHell, Mona Lisa’s internal struggle is only the beginning. Captured by a Gargoyle warlord who wants her for his own, Mona Lisa is torn from both within and without by desire, love, and ecstasy. And when her first love crosses the boundaries of the world to rescue her, she must choose her own destiny—before others choose it for her…
“Mona Lisa Darkening is a spectacular continuation of the Children of the Moon series that moves this series from interesting and enthralling to an extraordinarily riveting series that will hook you from the first book and always, always leaving you wanting for more of Mona Lisa and her motley family that she has created for herself…For the most part, this book is entirely about Mona Lisa and how she finally comes to terms with who she is, what she is becoming and what she means to those around her – but it’s not until she almost loses it all that she realizes how much she loves being who she is – a Monère Queen. I must admit that I loved this book so much that I felt cheated when I turned the last page and there was no more to read, leaving me anxiously awaiting for the next installment of this spectacular series. Mona Lisa Darkening is an incredible book that will hook you into the fantastic universe that Sunny has created for the Monère and the rich characters that inhabit this wonderful landscape. Do get yourself Mona Lisa Darkening as it is an action packed book that is bound to make you a fan of Sunny and the Children of the Moon series!”
— Sabella, Joyfully Reviewed, Recommended Read
“MONA LISA DARKENING is her best since The Children of the Moon debut novel, MONA LISA AWAKENING. MONA LISA DARKENING not only introduces a well thought out new character, but brings back a favorite of readers…Halycon is probably most people’s favorite of Mona Lisa’s loves, but Gordane makes a strong go at the title. He will leave readers demanding to know more about him.
MONA LISA DARKENING is a self describing title. The sweet, innocent Mona Lisa we met in the first novel is long gone, but in a good way. The character continues to grow throughout each novel making her boldest moves yet…you will find yourself drawn in.
If you haven’t read Sunny’s Monere, Children of the Moon series, and I confess I read all four to do this review, I believe you’re missing out. I was pleasantly surprised by all four and can’t wait for the next installment.“— SunandHeir, Bitten By Books, 4 Tombstones
“Stunning addition to this erotic paranormal series…MONA LISA DARKENING was much anticipated by this reader and is Sunny’s newest installment in her Children of the Moon series. Powerful, richly dramatic and gripping with intense visuals and strong personalities, MONA LISA DARKENING pulls you in at once and holds you in its claws to the very end. A good read.”
— Lory Martin, Fresh Fiction
“Sunny raises the bar with this latest installment of her series, which is quickly becoming a guilty addiction. Mona Lisa is evolving as an appealing heroine…bold, brave and sexy as sin. Here, she finds herself in real danger, and there’s plenty of action, as well as the hot sex readers have come to expect.”
— Gail Pruszkowski, Romantic Times, 4 stars
“I love the Monere and I think that this is probably the best book since the first. I liked the other books in the series but Mona Lisa Darkening was supremely excellent. The other books focused on a variety of characters but the main focus of this story truly was on Mona Lisa and how having the darkness inside her from absorbing Mona Lousia and becoming Halcyon’s mate have affected her…Sunny has a way with words that allows the reader to feel as if they are witnessing the events first hand. It takes a great deal of talent for that to happen: a talent that Sunny has in abundance. Vivid descriptions, strong world building, and a grasp of what it takes to make a story breathe all combine to make Mona Lisa Darkening a book that I’m happy to recommend.”
— Hayley, Fallen Angel Reviews, 5 angels, Recommended Read
“[I]n Sunny’s new and amazing installment in the Monere saga, MONA LISA DARKENING, Mona Lisa is back with an all new adventure that is going to blow your minds!…Kim Harrison and Keri Arthur better watch out, Sunny is jumping in with both feet and definitely leaving her mark on the paranormal world. By far, MONA LISA DARKENING is the best installment in the world of the Monere yet. I was riveted…literally could not tear myself away from the pages through this entire story. MONA LISA DARKENING introduces a new character and even brings back a fan favorite that will have mouths hanging wide open, hearts bleeding and fans of this incredible series demanding more from the illustrious author…This entire series automatically goes on my keeper shelves to re-read again and again. If you haven’t read Sunny’s Monere series yet, you’re totally missing out. I guarantee you will be hooked from the very first book and I hope this series doesn’t end for a very long time!”
— Amanda, Dark Angel Reviews, Recommended Read
“MONA LISA DARKENING is without a shadow of a doubt the best book yet in the Monére series! Sunny expertly combines a phenomenal tale together with Mona Lisa’s alluring charm to create a gem of a story…MONA LISA DARKENING is superb. Sunny shows that her characters and stories have the sort of depth needed to make the Monére series a lasting one. The world building of NetherHell is extraordinarily well done and serves as the ideal backdrop for a story such as this one. MONA LISA DARKENING is diabolically clever and sure to be an instant hit!“
— Debbie, CK2S Kwips and Kritiques, 5 clovers
“Using an excellent twist, Sunny totally refreshes her unique erotic urban fantasy saga. A simple celebration turns dangerous for Mona Lisa while her loyal followers feel helpless and concerned as they do not know what happened to their beloved queen…their frustrations enhance Mona’s trek through Netherhell, the realm of the damned that makes Dante’s depiction look PG. The superb DARKENING focuses mostly on a beleaguered Mona as she struggles to survive…”
— Harriet Klausner, 5 stars
“Sunny knows how to pen a good story that is quite visual to this reader. The well-rounded secondary characters add just the right zest to the storyline, enhancing the main players. The demons know how to send chills down the readers back, too. It was truly intense, especially when Mona Lisa was carried into the eerie darkness, leaving her people wondering what is happening when she vanishes. I found that a convincing scene in itself. With great flare, and the perfect twist, this story engages the reader and asks for more. “
— Linda L., The Romance Studio, 4-1/2 hearts
“Sunny’s Monere series is always beautifully written and leaves her fans craving more. Mona Lisa’s character continues to grow and change with every installment. Her straightforwardness and ability to love are her most endearing traits. I would recommend starting at the beginning of this series so that you can truly enjoy this story, after all you wouldn’t want to miss a thing.”
— Lori Sears, The Romance Readers Connection, 4 ½ rating
“I was really hesitant to read this book. I figured that since it takes place in a world of Sunny’s creation and that it is definitely a fantasy/paranormal book that there would be a lot of jargon that I would not understand since I haven’t read any of her other books. I am pleased to say that I was completely wrong. Sunny grabbed my attention from the very first page of her tale and I was compelled to read until the very last sentence. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Mona Lisa, Halcyon and Gordane. Would she make it out and how would her struggle with Mona Louisa impact her? Sunny’s novel is completely accessible to readers new to her books…I really enjoyed the book and plan on reading the others in the series. I highly recommend it as a great adventure.”
— Eye On Romance, Overall 10 Rating
“Mona Lisa Darkening is perhaps the best book of the series so far. The roller coaster ride that is Mona Lisa’s life, whether it is the fairy tale portion or the harsh new reality is passionate, tender and always captivating. Mona Lisa Darkening is best enjoyed if you have previous familiarity with the series although essential background is included in the narrative for those that would like to dive right in.”
— Doug Knipe, SciFiGuy.ca
“In Mona Lisa Darkening, things are now more action packed, with the usual paranormal erotic mixed in. Mona Lisa faces more danger than she’s had before and has to rely on a unlikely ally if she hopes to survive…fresh and original…Author Sunny will enchant fans new and old.“
— Veronica, Night Time Romance Reviews, 5 stars
“With a fine eye on detail, Sunny transports readers to another realm right along with her characters… A wonderful series that fans of fantasy with a dark and sexy side shouldn’t miss.”
— Kimberly Swan, Darque Reviews
It was the first day of Spring. It was also the time to Bask, to draw down the silver rays of the moon and let its renewing light seep into us. Us being the Monère, the children of the moon—what I was, what my people were. Creatures descended from another planet. We were blessed with supernatural speed, strength, and beauty. As a human-Monère Mixed Blood, the first ever to be a Monère Queen, I had the first two. Missed out on the last one, though. Oh well. Better to be fast and strong, in my opinion, than beautiful. And able to Bask, to draw down our home planet’s renewing light and energy and share it with my people. Oh yeah, that gift was perhaps the most crucial of all, and the one I was most thankful for. Because without that renewing light we lived only a hundred years, a human’s lifespan, instead of the three hundred years our lunar birthright gifted us with.
If you asked my people, I think they’d take the ability to Bask, over their Queen being a raving beauty any day…or rather night. As a people descended from the moon, we were the children of darkness. When the sun set, that was when our day began. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t ask my people, because even though my looks were plain—not hideous, but definitely not beauty queen material either—they treated me as if I were a raving beauty. The men, at least. The men who were my lovers.
Under the moonlit shadows of the darkened night, I glanced at two of them there by my side. Amber, my rugged Warrior Lord, who loomed a head taller than other men. Whose great strength lay not just in the heavy muscles roping his massive body, but in the love and devotion gleaming from his dark blue eyes. That—the pull of emotions in him—weakened me more than his obvious and splendid body strength…physically swayed me toward him before I caught myself. Not yet, I thought, but soon…soon.
Beside him stood Dontaine, my master at arms, my other lover, blond, fair of face and body, a sumptuous feast to the eyes. Whereas Amber looked like a harsh god of war, Dontaine was like a Greek statue—a Greek god. A living Adonis with sun-kissed hair, splendid green eyes, and a body any woman would want to worship with her hands, her tongue, her mouth…any part of her body. He, too, looked at me with love, though I don’t know why. Out of all my lovers, he was the one I rejected the most. The one I used the most. Used literally for blood.
It was an odd night, a special night—the vernal equinox, Aequus Nox, which meant equal night, when day and night were of equal length, and the sun crossed not only the Earth’s equator but the celestial equator as well. Even more special, it was one of the rare times when the full moon coincided with the first day of spring, the season of renewal. Perhaps that was what was causing this strange restlessness within me—a skittiness, a feeling of something not quite right. Spring fever likely.
My people were gathered around me, and I recognized more of their faces now, recalled their names. Intricate, interweaving strings bound us all together, and I was slowly learning the many loops and circles. I’d worried over that, my lack of connection to my people, over four hundred of them. But like many things in life, names and familiarity with the people behind the names came slowly with time, and hopefully—thankfully—I would have plenty of that. Time.
I had survived to see another full moon emerge in its brilliant round glory. Quite an achievement, tainted as I was with demon darkness. If the whims of fate had swung another way, I would have been dead by now, killed by Prince Halcyon, the ruler of the demon dead realm. Instead I was his lady, his mate—the High Lady of Hell.
And where was my Demon Prince? Presiding over his people in that other distant realm, Hell, while I presided over mine here in the living realm. I was missing the festivities of Aequus Nox, one of the big demon holidays. At least that was how it sounded to me when Halcyon had explained it. Were it not the full moon, the time when we Basked, I would be down there with Halcyon, mixing and mingling and being introduced to his people. A daunting thought because his people had fangs and drank blood—my blood if they had the chance. But then, so did I. Have fangs and drink blood, that is.
I was a human-Monère Mixed Blood Queen with demon dead essence residing in my living being. Quite a tongue-twister and mind-bender. The poetic term for my condition was Damanôen, demon living. A rare state of being because most of my kind had been slaughtered as soon as they were made, usually by the demons whom those very unwise Monères had blood raped because, alas, that was what sparked our living demon state. Why would they do that, you might ask—drink a demon’s blood? Because it gained them a demon’s strength, which was even greater than a Full Blood Monère’s. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone that, it’s a secret. A secret that demons would—and have—killed to protect.
The downside, and there always was one, was the physical manifestations that occurred along with that stolen power. It was pretty hard to hide what you had done—what you had become—when you started sprouting fangs. Now don’t get me wrong. Fangs are no stranger to the Monère. Lots of us had them. But only in our animal-shifted forms. Not in our human forms. Of course, my fang-flashing happened only when the niggling presence of another demon triggered the demon essence in me. Then wham! It was like turning into the incredible Hulk. Only instead of growing green and muscle-bound and horrendously ugly, my teeth morphed into fangs, my nails sharpened into dagger points, and I had the uncontrollable urge to suck down blood, any which way, any damn how. Pretty hard to keep hidden a powerful urge that almost took you completely over until you satisfied that hunger with a sip or two of blood. By the time you gained back your control, the gig was pretty much up.
Halcyon had come up with an even better idea. Don’t try to hide it. Simply make them think it had occurred for another reason, hence my official recognition as Halcyon’s mate. When I finally manifested my demon traits in front of Monère witnesses (those that tattled), which was bound to occur someday soon, they would think that I was becoming what I was becoming because I’d been contaminated by my demon lover through sex. Sex, after all, was how the Monère usually shared and acquired gifts and power. And since such a relationship had never occurred before, a demon taking a Monère mate, all would blame it on that. And perhaps on the fact that I’d been down to Hell a time or two.
The real cause of this all, though, was the former Queen of this Louisiana territory, Mona Louisa. She’d swallowed down Halcyon’s blood, and I in turn had sucked her light and demon-tainted essence into me. That was another secret, what I could do, Mortal Draining. It made me feel guilty that the blame would be placed on the wrong person, on Halcyon instead of me and that former bitch Queen that no longer existed, except sometimes in me. Mona Louisa was dead but not entirely gone. I felt her occasionally in my dreams.
As a vulture in her other form, she’d been able to fly, and sometimes I dreamed of soaring through the sky, of smelling death and rotting, decaying flesh down below—carrion. Even more odd, outside of dreams, in my waking state, in my demon awakening state, my eyes changed from my normal brown to cool crystal blue—Mona Louisa’s eyes. A creepy thing, that.
I shrugged away my morbid thoughts and concentrated on the here and now: the full moon riding like a giant beacon of light above us, and my people waiting expectantly for me to draw down its life-extending rays. There was no real science to it. I just opened myself up—best way to describe it. Every child of the moon felt that distinct pull when the moon came into its full and round ripeness. It was like an invisible, tugging rope reaching down to try and open up a door inside of you. I simply stopped resisting and let whatever was being pulled inside of me flip open and become just a conduit…a conduit of lunar light. It shone down on me now like a spotlight, filled me up, filled me to bursting, then overflowed out from me.
Little butterflies of light flittered down from the heavens, swooped into me and spilled out like a cresting tide, washing over my people, darting into them, bowing their backs, lighting them up like flickering candles set aflame. We shone brilliantly for a long spun-out moment in time until that lunar light was swallowed and absorbed into us. Until we no longer glowed and skin became simply skin once more, not incandescent light, incandescent energy.
The last two times I’d done this, the only two times I’d done this, that was it. Over. Fini. Not so this time. This time was different. This time something hazed my vision. Something hazed the moon, actually, because that was what I was looking at.
Like a veil being thrown across its bright surface, a shimmering darkness swept across the moon like spilling ink, blocking out the light like an eclipse, only faster, much faster. It occurred in the blink of an eye, so fast that I almost doubted what I was seeing. Would have doubted it had I not felt it as well—a weight like a descending hand reaching down to cover me. Not that gentle tugging sensation but something much more heavy and forceful.
My people cried out in alarm and I could do nothing to stop it or respond to them as a black power slammed into me, closed like a gripping hand about me, and swallowed me down into a dark and fathomless void.
I didn’t lose consciousness, although that might have been kinder. Nope, I had to stay awake and aware throughout the entire experience of…well, I guess, dying. Because what else do you call it when your heart suddenly shudders into echoing silence and no longer beats?
The stillness of sound, the absence of it, was more noticeable to me because I was trapped somewhere inside my own body. I saw, I experienced sensations—the blistering heat, the gray reddening of pre-dawn light—but it came to me filtered, through a thick and muffled layer, as if someone else was using my eyes and in control of my body and I was just along for an unwilling ride.
My taken-over body was lying on the ground. The very hard, very hot scorching ground. Get up! I screamed. But whoever was in charge now, ignored me and just reveled for a moment in simply being back. Her thoughts. Her words.
Whoever she was, she was in no hurry to move, in case it was all just a dream. I called it more of a nightmare.
She gazed up at the sky, all she allowed me to take inventory of. But it was worthy of note, actually. It was a scarlet, fractured sky, like it had been broken apart and put back together. And the impression wasn’t just from the uneven layers of red firmament that transitioned one piece into another abruptly, but the twin suns themselves, shaped like the Chinese yin and yang symbols. As if a giant hand had plucked down a single sun, torn it apart, and cast the broken pieces back into the sky.
The light was abruptly blocked as a man, a mean-looking stranger, stood over us. No one I recognized. I just knew that he wasn’t one of my people. The orange prison garb he wore was a really big hint.
Prison garb? I heard that other me wonder. She hadn’t recognized the attire.
So he’s human, flashed her thought within me, and the momentary alarm that had flared up over that rough and menacing face subsided beneath her smug superiority. Humans were inferior in strength and speed, she thought.
It was that familiar sneer in her voice that rang a bell in me. That made me think: Mona Louisa?
Of course. Who else did you think it was? came the contemptuous answer. Sounding exactly like that blond bitch of a Monère Queen whose essence and light I had sucked down into me.
But you’re dead, I thought. Blaec, the High Lord of Hell, had killed her after I had done my unsuccessful best.
And now so are you.