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Thursday, October 3, 2013


Author:  Sara Humphreys
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)      
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor2 
Publisher and Titles:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
          Tall, Dark, and Vampire (8/2013)
          Vampire Trouble (7/2014)  
          Vampires Never Cry Wolf (3/2015)
          The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire (1/2016)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 2/6/16 to include a review of The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire, the fourth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first three novels. 

                    NOVEL 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire                    
He wants eternity? 
Dakota Shelton is a vampire cowboy with a penchant for cinnamon lollipops and Johnny Cash. Though highly skilled and deadly dangerous to his enemies, he's still a Texas good ol' boy at heart. And he has that heart set on wooing Trixie LaRoux—the most badass punk rock chick in town-the old-fashioned way. 

Over her undead body…
Trixie is tough as nails and sharp as a silver stake. The last thing she wants is a man to sit on a porch and not grow old with. So it'll take going to hell and back fighting a new threat to vampires before she admits Dakota's courtship makes her blood hum. Turns out chivalry's not dead after all.
     In the fourth novel, two more members of the New York vampire coven find their HEA in a soul-mate romance story that is typical for this series. The major theme running through the book is the power of fate—a power so strong that it can predetermine the destinies of two people decades before they even meet. In this book, Humphreys introduces a third type of supernatural to her mythology and centers the plot around a treasure hunt deep in the heart of Texas. 

     Trixie is a tough-talking pink-and-purple-haired bartender at the Coven, and Dakota is a sentry (a member of the elite vampire police force.) He's a cowboy from Texas, and she's a city girl with a tragic human past. Trixie has been keeping a big secret from her vampire friends: the existence of a daughter she gave up for adoption back when she was a drug-addicted human.

     As usual, the primary story line follows the romance along its rocky road from lust-filled attraction to full consummation and bloodmate commitment. The "commitment" part is the biggest problem for Trixie because experience has taught her that men can't be trusted so it's best to just love them and leave them. She believes that men "did and said anything to get what they wanted. They made promises that were never kept. In the end she was always alone. Abandoned. Worthless. She was powerless…until she became a vampire." Trixie loves being a vampire, especially the strength and independence that it has brought to her undead life. Her biggest fear is that she will become addicted to Dakota like she was addicted to heroin in her human life—which doesn't make very much sense when you really think about it. In any case, that is why she keeps him at arm's length (but not for very long). 

     Dakota seems to be a really great guy: handsome, sexy, good-hearted, and patient. He is highly attracted to Trixie, but he is willing to hold back and give her some emotional space until she succumbs to his manly charms. Dakota notices the sadness that underlies Trixie's street-punk attitude, so he follows her one night when she goes off to check on her daughter, Chelsea, and discovers her secret. He also discovers that Chelsea is in grave danger from a  group of rarely seen shape-shifting supernatural predators. Humphreys has given Dakota the unnecessary and highly irritating personal habit of constantly sucking on cinnamon lollipops because they remind him of the human life he left behind after being attacked and nearly dying before his master turned him fifty years ago. Humphreys frequently inserts the lollipop sucking into the narrative, but then Dakota stops eating them all of a sudden for an unlikely reason. Improbably, Dakota has been celibate throughout his entire vampire life.

     The action part of the story starts when Chelsea (who is pregnant and near her due date) is attacked, and the newly born baby is kidnapped. Dakota has a history with the supernatural creatures who attacked Chelsea, so the couple heads off to Texas to rescue the baby, find a treasure trove, and take down the attacker(s). In the process, Dakota learns that the circumstances of his vampire turning are not what he believed them to be. Like the other heroines in this series, Trixie develops some magical powers that she inherited from her unknown mother (who abandoned her at birth). Her instant success at using her newly discovered talents lends a note of far-fetched implausibility to the story.  

     Although the romance is front and center in this novel, Humphreys includes an action-filled, but convoluted, mystery plot that was compelling enough to make me keep turning the pages into the wee hours of the night. Many of the "mystery" details are predictable—but not all of them, so the novel has a high level of suspense and drama even though the plot begins to unravel and become very improbable as it plays out in the final chapters. If you have enjoyed the previous books, you'll probably like this one, too. Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire on its page by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page.  

     This series is a spin-off of Humphreys' AMOVEO LEGEND SERIES and is set in the same world. This time around, though, the lead characters are vampires instead of shape shifters and they live in Manhattan, where they are members of a coven led by Olivia Hollingsworth, best friend of Marianna Coltari, the bear-shifter who married the half-demon Pete Castro in Undone (the fourth AMOVEO novel). In that book, Pete was turned into a vampire by Olivia just as he was on the verge of death. (Click HERE to read my review of the AMOVEO LEGEND SERIES, which includes an overview of the world-building.)

     Pete is now employed as a Sentry (a vampire enforcer) for the Presidiumthe vampires' ruling body, and he is also a member of Olivia's "family." Olivia has named her Greenwich Village nightclub Coven, and she and her entourage live in sumptuous quarters beneath the club. The Presidium is headed by an Emperor, who appoints Czars to run the world's metropolitan areas. The New York Czar is Augustus, a stereotypical power-mad villain.

     If the first book is any indication, each leading couple will be bloodmates, which is the word for soul mate in this series. Most vampires believe that the bloodmate story is only a myth or a legend, but in book 1, Olivia and her lover, Doug, prove that the legend is true. In this world, when a couple bonds as bloodmates, they can speak telepathically to one another and they can day-walk because the sun no longer burns them.

                         NOVEL 1:  Tall, Dark, and Vampire                         
     Everything is running smoothly for Olivia until a rogue vampire kills a man who had spent some time at Coven in the company of Maya, a Coven bartender who is one of Olivia's vampire children. Now, Maya is a suspect in the man's murder, and Olivia is forced to go back to her enforcer role, which she turned her back on centuries ago. If she doesn't track down the rogue, the Czar of New York (who seems to have about the same powers as Eric Northman does as Sheriff of Louisiana's Area 5) will end Maya's existence. Unfortunately, more rogues begin to turn up and the murder rate accelerates, making Olivia's task even more difficult.

     When two NYPD detectives come to Coven to question Olivia and her staff, she is shocked to recognize one of them as a reincarnation of her long-ago loverher fiancé, who was killed before her eyes just before she herself was bitten and turned into a vampire 300 years ago. Olivia has been celibate ever since, mourning her lost lover. About 20 years ago, she began having erotic dreams about him, but she never thought that she would ever see him again in mortal form. Doug Paxton has also been having erotic dreams, and he recognizes Olivia immediately as the erotic center of his night-time escapades. Needless to say, they team up to solve the crime, and immediately fall in lust/love very, very quickly. Coincidentally, Doug is the former partner of Pete Castro.

     This is a by-the-numbers paranormal romance. It has much in common with Amanda Ashley's novels, but with a lot more sex. If you don't mind simple, straight-line plots and are addicted to angst-filled interior monologues and steamy love scenes, you'll probably enjoy this book. But if you're looking for complexity of plot and depth of character, then nonot so much. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read chapter 1. 

     Just a guess, but I'm betting that book 2 will tell the bloodmate story of chaotic, rule-breaking Maya and Shane, a straight-arrow Presidium Sentry who always plays by the rules. If anyone could be called "Vampire Trouble," it would be Maya.

                         NOVEL 2:  Vampire Trouble                         

     The second novel tells the love story of the youngling vampire Maya Robertson and the centuries-old Shane Quesada. Five years ago, Olivia found Maya in the alley behind her club, beaten and raped and on the verge of death. Ever since Olivia turned her, Maya has worked as a bartender at Olivia's nightclub, the Coven. Maya's end-of-life torture has apparently wiped out all memories of her human life. Although Olivia and Maya have both tried to find out who she was in her human life, no one ever posted a missing persons report. This causes Maya to believe that she must have been a terrible person since no one seems to care whether she lived or died. As you can imagine, she has an extremely poor self-image. Maya does have one important mental image from her human lifean older woman who is wearing the same emerald pendant that Maya now wears, a woman who may be her grandmother. But Maya doesn't know that woman's name or how to find her.

     Other than that image, the only human memory that Maya has is of the horrendous moments leading up to her death, and she suffers through a replay of that scene every single night in a recurring nightmare. Maya's way of coping with her fear and anger about what happened to her is to flirt with human males who mistreat women. She lets them believe that she is a helpless blond bimbo, but then turns the tables on the men by seizing control of them with her super strength and taking their blood forcefully. She believes that all men are basically the same: beasts who mistreat women and are driven only by lust and desire for sexual gratification on their own terms. 

     As a result of Maya's emotional distress, she behaves in a cocky, rude, arrogant manner, particularly toward men. She has a fiery temper that gets her into all kinds of trouble, and in this novel it also puts her and Olivia's vampire coven into danger. Although she is physically attracted to Shane, Maya believes that he is just like all mendriven by a need to dominate through sexual power. She couldn't be more wrong.

     Shane is a Presidium enforcer who follows the rule of law. After his maker abandoned him centuries ago, he grieved for a long time and then vowed never to get emotionally close to anyone else. Shane rarely smiles and has kept himself apart from other vampires. Although many women flirt with him, he never takes them up on their offers. Shane is mightily attracted to Maya, but refuses to act on this attraction, until, that is, he gets a taste of Maya's blood, acquires access to her dreams, and realizes that she is his bloodmate.

     As the story opens, Olivia learns that a small pack of werewolves are coming to town, led by Horace, the second son of Heinrich, the werewolf king. Olivia is hugely pregnant and is dealing with all of the hormonal turmoil that entails. Plus, the supernatural world is in an uproar over the fact that Olivia and Doug are true bloodmates who can not only procreate but can walk in the sun. Vamps and werewolves have been enemies in the past, and currently the tenuous peace between them is held only by a treaty signed by an ancestor of the current king. Olivia is worried that her new bloodmate status might tip the scales against the vamps in their relations with the werewolves and other supernatural groups.

     Early on, Maya has a temper tantrum and quits her job with Olivia after Olivia assigns Shane to "babysit" her when she goes out hunting a blood donor. Another vampire club owner nicknamed Rat offers her a job, and she takes it. Unfortunately, Rat is just what his nickname impliesa vile scumbag who is in cahoots with the werewolves. When Horace makes a crude play for Maya, Shane tries to stop him, but that just pushes Maya's rebellious-brat button so she haughtily rejects Shane's help and goes off with Horace in his stretch limo, leaving Shane behind. As you can predict, Maya has definitely made a really bad decision here because Horace is exactly the type of man/beast she fears. When Horace attacks May on the terrace of his hotel suite, Shane flies in to rescue her and attacks the werewolf prince, setting off an international incident. In order to get the situation under control, Olivia sends Shane and Maya off to the bayous of southern Louisiana to a safe house run by a gypsy named Lottie Fogg.

     From that point on, the plot plays out on three levels: the romance, the retrieval of Maya's lost memories, and the werewolf action. The romance proceeds unevenly. Each time the couple has a fantastic sexual experience, one or the other overthinks the situation and gives the other the cold shoulder. This is a popular trope in paranormal romance novels that is used to extend the drama of a budding romance. Generally the "overthinking" episodes for each lover involve angst-filled interior monologues filled with silly, illogical reasons why he or she shouldn't continue the relationship with the person with whom he or she has just spent a blissful night. 

     Lottie is a psychic, and she determines that Maya has some powerful magic within her that is somehow connected to her emerald pendant. Gradually, Maya's memories return, but they cause more questions than answers. When werewolves attack Maya and Shane outside Lottie's house, the entire situation comes to a boil.

     Just like the first novel, this is a typical paranormal romance with an angst-filled pair of lovers, a heroine with unknown powers, a supernatural enemy, and an inevitable HEA for the lovers. Humphreys does a good job with her plotting and characterization, giving the action plot almost as much space as the love storyalways a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

     The only preposterous plot element is the tunnel system that Maya and Shane use to move around during the day. Humphreys wants us to believe that the U.S. has a nationwide tunnel system, which is preposterous, because the water table in New Orleans, where Maya enters the tunnels, is so close to the surface that it is impossible even to dig graves or basements there—much less tunnels. I don't mind fictional elements; I just like them to have a modicum of plausibility. Click HERE to go to this book's page, where you can read a lengthy excerpt by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page. 

                        NOVEL 3:  Vampires Never Cry Wolf                         
     This novel tells the love story of the werewolf prince, Killian Bane, and the new owner of the Coven nightclub, Sadie Pemberton (a centuries-old vampire). The two met during the climactic showdown scene in Vampire Trouble when Killian rescued Sadie from his brother's clutches. Killian is 30 years old, and in five years he is expected to take over his father's position as leader of the pack. Naturally, everyone expects him to mate with a top-notch werewolf female, but Killian has other plans. He has fallen for Sadie, who used to be a DJ at the Coven until Olivia's life got so complicated that she had to give up the club. Now, running the Coven is Sadie's primary purpose in life. Although she is attracted to Kilian, she knows better than to get involved with a werewolf. Sadie has always been wary of the wolves. She can always tell if one is around because the scar on her shoulder tinglesa scar from a fatal wound she received on the night that Olivia made her an immortal vampire. Turns out that Sadie's moon-shaped scar is a major element in the plot.

     Killian has decided to stay in New York instead of returning to the pack's Alaska lands, mostly because of his infatuation with Sadie, but also because he wants to start a business of his owna new nightclub called Loup Garou. Unfortunately, someone has been leaving him anonymous threatening notes that promise violence if he doesn't give up the new club and get out of town.

     This is primarily a love story that follows Sadie and Killian from their first lust-filled moments of attraction, through a bumpy period of adjustment that includes a jealous she-wolf rival, and on to their inevitable bloodmating. Sadie is an appealing heroine who comes across as beautiful, intelligent, and very independent. She is smarter and much more likable than Maya was in Vampire Trouble. Killian is more of a stereotypical alpha male, but since he is so handsome and charming, I guess that's good enough. 

     The threats against Killian don't become a major part of the plot until the showdown scene at the very end. The identities of the major villains are obvious from the very beginning, but they aren't really that important to the primary plot, which centers on the development of the romance.  

     There is one continuity error involving Xavier, the mad vampire scientist. On page 81 in a conversation with Sadie, Xavier praises Killian for donating blood and saliva samples for research purposes. But later, when Sadie brings Killian to the lab to have Xavier analyze the threatening notes for DNA (on page 173), Xavier acts as if he has never met Killian.

     Vampires Never Cry Wolf is a typical book for this series, with its arrogant, über-alpha hero; its feisty heroine with hidden powers; and lots of R-rated sexy romance scenes. If you love paranormal romance, you'll probably enjoy this book. Click HERE to go to this book's page, where you can read a lengthy excerpt by clicking on the cover art at the top left of that page. 

     One brief scene hints that Justine (the Coven's new vampire DJ) and David (one of Killian's werewolf bodyguards) will be the lead lovers in an upcoming book.

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