“There may be a myriad of things Phenex would rather be doing than entertaining the haut monde in a hoity-toity vampire club on a Friday night, several thousand of which pay a hell of a lot better...literally, but when you're a demon-hunting Fallen who used to be the Angel of Song, the gig at least gives you a chance to connect with the very music that called you into being eons ago.
The night starts looking up when Phenex catches the scent of blood. A lot of blood. Definitely a bad omen in this particular club, which sits above the underground haven of the supernatural community he's tasked to defend. Looks like he'll be pulling double duty as entertainer du jour and otherworldly ass-kicker after all.
Emergency room nurse Sofia Rivera is on a mission. Her roommate and best friend hasn't been home in days, so she sneaked into the club where she works to talk to her and make sure she's okay. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but that was before she caught sight of her friend in the crowd, followed her into the bathroom, and tumbled headlong into a horror movie. Some freak was...biting her friend...drinking...he had fangs...
Before Sofia could really process the reality of the situation, she's defending herself against an actual vampire, and if that isn't enough to make her brain take a fast train to Looneytown, the huge guy with the big set of wings and the really serious sword who slams into the bathroom and cuts the vampire in half right in front of her sure helps pack her bags.
Now Sofia's got to contend with a group of rogue vampires who aren't fond of letting witnesses live and a pushy, arrogant...and, okay, gorgeous former angel as a self-assigned bodyguard making sure she does.
As a huge fan of Kendra Leigh Castle's Dark Dynasties series, I was thrilled to see this new series debut. I was a little perplexed when I started reading it, though, because it sure didn't read like a first book. In fact, it very much read like the third book in an existing series. Turns out, there's a good reason for that. Though released by a different publisher, there is an earlier novel and a short story/novella set in this world with some of the characters that show up in this book. That created some problems for me in this story because I definitely felt like I was missing something whenever those characters were mentioned or their histories discussed.
It wasn't an issue of not being able to follow the developing events in this book, or the world not being sufficiently defined. It was just a niggling sense of being out of the loop that pervaded while I was reading. I hate that feeling, but I tend to be fairly obsessive about reading a series in timeline order to begin with, so it's likely it bothered me more than most.
Setting that aside, though, I liked this book very much. Castle creates lovable characters. Her heroes tend to be alpha males who are deliciously flawed or tragically wounded in some way but with big squishy centers for their heroines, who themselves are feisty, independent, intelligent females and very easy to like - a plus for me, because I'm picky about my book heroines. Phenex and Sofia were right on trend and I enjoyed them both very much. They had depth of personality, fantastic chemistry, and each complimented the story and each other.
I mean, come on, Phenex had flower boxes! Loved that!
The plot lacked some of the complexity and definition of her Dark Dynasties series, and the storyline leaned more heavily on the romance and relationship between the main characters than on the external plot conflict, which often felt more like an afterthought. That was a shame, too, as I really enjoyed the world and the idea behind Terra Noctem, the underground city of nightwalkers. I would have loved to see those expanded with a meatier plot.
Fortunately, the characters were strong enough and their romance compelling enough to support the book without it. Phenex and Sofia had a great relationship, and the ups and downs of its evolution were truly driven by the people they were and the lives they had lived to that point. I've gotten so tired of stumbling across contrived relationship conflict in romance. It's boring and trite. The conflicts that crop up between Phenex and Sofia were natural consequences of their personalities, their passions, and their pains.
Sofia in particular endeared herself to me with an unshakable strength of character and determination to be true to herself in the face of ravaging heartbreak. I loved the hell out of her for that...though I did want to give Phenex a kick in his sexy tush for putting her into that position.
The book also has a solid cast of intriguing secondary characters with a truly unique, and sometimes contentious, dynamic. There lies a wealth of story potential and I can't wait to read it. I definitely want to spend much more time with them and in Terra Noctem in future books. I don't expect this series to approach the depth and dimension of Dark Dynasties, but with Castle at the helm, I have no doubt I'll be highly entertained and fall in love with each Fallen on their rocky road to redemption.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Covet publisher Entangled Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.