When it comes to supernatural folk, vampires are pretty low on my list. Not my favorite. Not by a long shot, and that was before they went all sparkly and shit.
You can imagine my surprise when I found myself reading, and enjoying, not one, but TWO vampire books this month.
Jeaniene Frost’s Once Burned takes characters from her Night Huntress series and gives them their own story. Specifically, Vlad Tepesh (yeah, The Impaler). After a freak accident when she was a teenager, Leila’s left unable to touch any normal human without electrocuting them. Vampires fare marginally better with her, but no one can stand her touch for long. That is, until she meets Vlad.
Along with this painful problem, she’s gained the ability to catch glimpses of other people’s pasts and futures. It’s because of this that Vlad wants her help-someone he thought he’d dealt with a long, long time ago becomes a nuisance again.
Oh, and did I mention there’s some scorching (haha) chemistry between Leila and Vlad? No? Well, now I have.
Leila’s smart, sassy, and not about to sit around waiting for someone to save her. Right from the get go, she talks back to Vlad, and she’ll try and run from him if she thinks it’ll save her ass. She wants to solve her own problems, and after years of going without touch, she’s so starved for it. Yet she realizes gorging on the one man who can give her what she wants will only leave her heartbroken.
Vlad…Vlad, Vlad, Vlad. He is my favorite kind of hero. He’s a Barrons kind of guy, all imposing and authoritarian and “do exactly what I say because I will end you otherwise”. He’s all the hotter because Leila’s not afraid to call bullshit, and while he might be the most alpha of alpha males, he’ll take it. He doesn’t pity her. He wants her stronger, and forces her to learn control over her abilities. Sigh. At the risk of offending Bones groupies, I have to say Vlad is many, many times the vamp he is.
On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got Molly Harper’s The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires. With a title like that, you know you’re in for some witty, fun, and fluffy reading. Iris is doing pretty well for herself, running a daytime concierge service that caters to her small town’s vamp population, taking care of all the errands they can’t run themselves during daylight hours. It’s not a wealth making machine, but it provides for herself and her younger sister, Gigi. She’s quite content with her life.
Until she stumbles over Cal lying unconscious on his kitchen floor.
Convinced someone’s out to get him, Cal persuades Iris to hide him in her basement while he tries to find the person behind his poisoning. What ensues is a combination of a fish out of water story and the age old trope of opposites attract.
Iris, like Leila, isn’t going to sit around on her ass waiting to be rescued. Armed with Buffy references and candy, she can take anything that’s thrown at her and handle it with humor (sometimes inappropriately). Despite all the work she does for them, vamps make Iris uncomfortable and does her best to avoid them, so trusting Cal doesn’t come easy. Their relationship has fits and starts, and it’s never, ever smooth.
Cal hasn’t been human for centuries, and he’s avoided humans for the most part, keeping to himself. Yet he finds himself strangely protective of Gigi, concerned for Iris, and baffled by both Iris’s constant need for Twizzlers and Mars bars and the explosive chemistry between them. And before you start thinking it’s all hearts and flowers on Cal’s end, he’s not so sure about trusting Iris, either, even when she proves to have the know-how he needs to track down his poisoner.
If you’ve never read a Molly Harper book, I can’t recommend them enough. I loved How To Flirt with a Naked Werewolf, and after reading Care and Feeding, I’m going to go back and read the first one in this new series, Driving Mister Dead. As for Once Burned? I liked it so much, I’m actually going to buy the second one when it comes out next spring. Yes, buy. As in, not get it out of the library.