Making some new House Rules

The vampires of Cadogan House are preparing for a new era: they’re leaving the relative security of the Greenwich Presidium and striking out into the wilds of Chicago as Rogues. Granted, they’re still Housed vampires, but still.

House Rules, book seven in the adventures of Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House, opens a few days after the vamps decided they’d be better off without the GP monitoring their every move, waiting for them to so much as sneeze in the wrong direction. They’ve got to clear the House of all things belonging to the GP and make sure their affairs are in order, because who wants to get caught with their pants around their ankles by an organization that wants nothing more than to make an example of them?

As if the approaching separation ceremony isn’t enough, Noah, the unofficial leader of the city’s Rogue vampires, comes to Ethan and Merit with a problem of the murder kind: two of his Rogues are missing, and eventually turn up dead.

There are lots of threads in this plot, and Neill weaves them together with skill, never allowing one to slack for long. What could have been a soup of words and half thought out ideas is a complex, tense, and just snarky enough story to keep you turning the pages long after you should have gone to bed.

Merit and Ethan’s relationship seems to be finally gaining traction. God knows the pair have been through enough, and we see more sides of Ethan in House Rules than we’ve seen before (he cracks a zombie joke!). The stumbling block of Lacey Sheridan, Master of San Diego’s Sheridan House and Ethan’s ex, seems like just that: a tiny bump in the jealousy road for Merit, one she’s trying hard to be mature about. Lacey has other plans, though, and what started out as a bump grows into a mountain Merit’s no longer certain they can scale when she’s forced to tell Ethan the secret she’s been keeping from him.

But that’s not all. Merit and Mallory’s friendship seems to be gluing itself back together. We discover Cather’s love of country music (to go along with his adoration of Lifetime movies), and we get to see just what Jeff Christopher shifts into (want to read a love letter from Jeff to Fallon, his lady love? Click here and grab a tissue.)

The snark. Oh, the snark. What I love so much about The Chicagoland Vampire series is the dialogue, both internal and external. You forget these people are vampires with super strength and have the ability to wield a katana with as much grace as a samurai and find yourself drawn into their conversations and their lives. Those exchanges between Merit and Lindsey, or Merit and anyone, really? Those are what ground these books in a reality that you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to accept. Sure, they drink blood and go poof in sunlight. But they love, cry, tease (mercilessly tease), and fight with all the humanity and passion you or I would.

The threads finally get pulled tight and tied off, for once, and we leave House Rules behind prepared to face the next stage of life as a Cadogan vampire, free of the politics and groveling inherent in being under the Greenwich Presidium, and there’s whole new set of rules and boundaries to figure out. But this time, they get to make their own, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they fend for themselves.

In the Seattle area? Author Chloe Neill will be at University Bookstore on The Ave tomorrow, February 9th, at 3pm. Guess you know where I’ll be tomorrow, huh? 🙂

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