ILL WIND is the first book and one of the things I loved about these books that made it stick out in my mind after all this time, despite the paranormal romance genre being such a saturated market, is that it had such a fun and unusual premise. In this world, some people are gifted with affinities to elemental magic: earth, wind, fire, and air. Air and water are co-occuring and people who have these abilities are referred to as Weather Wardens. The others are Earth and Fire Wardens. They're tested and brought into a bureaucratic industry that magically lobotomizes people who don't come into the fold. For their own good, of course.
Jo is currently on the run from exactly this fate because she's been accused of killing one of the most powerful Wardens, her old boss. Also she's been infected by a demon that's slowly consuming her. There's a mystery behind both of these situations that you find out later, but I won't spoil it. To save herself, she's looking for THE literal most powerful Warden, a man named Lewis, who was her first love. But he's on the run too, after going rogue and stealing some of the djinn that the Wardens use as living resonance crystals to amplify their powers. But how do you find the most powerful man in the world if he doesn't want to be found? The answer to that might be in the mysterious hitchhiker she picks up: a skinny guy with cute glasses and nerdy shirts named David who isn't what he seems.
This is definitely dated and you can really feel the 2003 publication date-- jokes about sexual harassment, flip phones being peak technology (I lol'd), spring BREAAAAAAAAAK. But in most regards, it actually holds up pretty well. Joanne borders on Mary Sue at times, but she makes some bad decisions and reckless choices that humanize her. I also liked that she was pretty comfortable with her sexuality and her femininity and didn't go around slut-shaming other female characters or disparaging girly things like so many of the other urban fantasy "kick-ass" heroines did. I only learned about what "pick me" girls are pretty recently, but learning the definition made me realize why so many UF romances struck a sour chord with me: the so-called strength of these heroines came at the cost of other women, and embodying the traits that would make people admire a male action hero. I don't like that.
You know what I did like? This book. The heroine literally gets her clothes shredded in a storm and is like YOLO while people stare at her in fear, and she's literally just as comfortable on the beach in a bikini. Now that is bad-ass. Also the love interest is a beta hero who has pretty eyes and deadly powers, and that is an awesome combo. Actually, Lewis was great, too. And the way that their relationship was portrayed as shifting from lovers to friendship was quite well done. So if you are looking for actual feminist fantasy romance that won't come at the cost of other girls, pick up these books. They're great.
4.5 out of 5 stars