Rating: 4 Stars
A Great Find! A Strong Read!
There are few things in life I enjoy more than reading, and fewer still things I enjoy more than finding a book by a new (or new to me) author who can weave a truly compelling story. One of my ideas of Nirvana is a new (or new to me) author who can weave a truly compelling story that I can buy and read for a ridiculously low price. I have found my Nirvana in Heather Killough-Walden's gritty paranormal romance, The Third Kiss: Dorian's Dream.
A dollar? Seriously?? Oh, happy day!
Two hundred years ago a gypsy woman sought out the Romanian vampire king to tell him of a future that would change the course of the lives of the vampire race. She foretold of dreams and the existence of a special few women who could carry the seed of a vampire king and give birth to a new race of half-human, half-vampire children who would bear all of their race's strengths and gifts and none of their weaknesses. She foretold the potential for new armies and an evolution to the immortals' existence. As the vampire kings spread across the globe to increase the likelihood of dreaming of, and then finding their queens, financial empires were amassed and kingdoms secured.
In Baton Rouge, two hundred years later, the prince of the French vampires and the only halfling vampire in existence, Dorian Adalard, is haunted by dreams of a woman with long blond hair and almond eyes. The vision of this captivating woman smiling, laughing, and then large with child - possibly Dorian's child - shakes Dorian to his knees. And then, as he haunted the streets of New Orleans an hour away, Dorian's path crosses with one Emma Rose Nekoda, the woman of his dream, and his body and mind are stirred in ways that he'd never experienced before. Before he even knows her name, he's drawn to her, follows her from the shadows of the Big Easy as she spends time with her art gallery owner brother and his life partner. He learns her by reading her mind and listening to her conversation, and finds out this captivating woman is a photographic artist in town for the art gallery showing her brother is sponsoring.
When he learns her name, Dorian's stomach drops, his heart nearly seizes, and he knows his life will never be the same, for his half-brother, the sadistic and powerful French vampire king Julian Adalard had also had his fated dream and the woman he has already commanded his day walking half-brother to retrieve...by kidnapping, if absolutely necessary...is one Emma Rose Nekoda of Lubbock, Texas, visiting New Orleans for an art gallery exhibition the next night.
While he can't ignore his attraction to the genuinely kindhearted Emma as he maneuvers his way into her company, he knows the lengths his half-brother will go to to amass the army of halfling nightmares so Dorian is left with no choice than to turn Emma over to the evil bastard and try to protect her as much as possible, even knowing Julian intends to strip Emma's humanity from her and give her the third kiss, turning her into a changling vampire and making her ultimately his queen for all time. Dorian's...and Emma's...feelings for each other be damned.
The Third Kiss: Dorian's Dream is a dark, gritty, and totally compelling story with a wonderfully unique take on vampire political and sociological structure. I was thrilled to stumble across the book. It has a southern-smooth narrative with rich, flavored, and textured world building surrounding New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and enough character development to really breathe life into Dorian and Emma and bring into taut, stomach-clenching detail their fates and the threat the malicious king poses. Killough-Walden tightens the plot and slowly ratchets up the danger and the sense of impending doom as the story progresses, culminating in a stunning climax and a few events that took me by surprise. The concept and plot of this book is worthy of Machiavelli. I was totally engrossed and invested in the characters and their story throughout. What a find!!
It's not perfect, though. The world building was strong but there were some inconsistencies in the mythos and a few timeline discrepancies and continuity errors. There were a few unanswered questions and plot threads that went unexplained and unresolved - which would be less of a problem if this book is the start of a series, but I don't know that it is. A plot hole or two also could've been an issue if I'd focused too closely on them. I know from experience that there are readers out there who are sticklers for pinpoint accuracy in all of these areas. I wouldn't recommend this title for those for whom details like this ruin the enjoyment of the read. On a personal note, I noticed them but they didn't significantly draw my attention away from the emotional impact of the story.
On the other hand, and while I'm desperately trying to be comprehensive and informative without adding spoilers, I do have to say I can't fully understand why Dorian didn't deal with his evil brother long before suffering under his fangs to the point of death, considering the abilities Dorian had. A direct attack may have been fruitless, but you can't tell me that a bright man who was as adept at business as Dorian couldn't figure out some other way free of his half-brother's treacherous magical slavery, or that the idea of revolution had only occurred during the course of this book and even then only after someone mentioned it. That stretched my willing suspension of disbelief. So, too, did a couple of Emma's too-quick emotional turnarounds during the course of the story.
Still, The Third Kiss: Dorian's Dream is one of those books that impressed me beyond the issues I had with it, and it's a book that will stick with me for its originality and sense of uniqueness. I'm thrilled to have stumbled across Heather Killough-Walden's stories - this one in particular - and have purchased all her other titles currently available on Kindle. I'm very excited to see what other tales this strong storyteller has to tell.