Series: Dead in the City, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 320 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
More than I was Expecting
Three hundred years ago, Olivia Hollingsworth watched a monster slaughter the only man she ever loved, then was forced to become a monster herself. She's never quite gotten over it.
Sure, being a vampire has its perks, but mostly Olivia just tries to keep her coven, those vampires she's turned and the humans she's saved, safe and gainfully employed at her night club. In all that time, through every thing she's seen and done, with every soul she's saved...one way or another, she has never forgotten the man she gave her heart and body to all those years ago.
For the past two decades, against everything she knows to be true about her kind, Olivia has dreamed of that man. Her Douglas. The one she couldn't save. And then he walks into her club, alive, breathing, and decidedly human, and Olivia's reality takes a quick trip to the land of surreal.
Homicide detective Doug Paxton has a grisly case on his hands, a victim who looks like he was mauled by an animal, the blood drained from his body. All evidence points to the night club near where the body was found. Meeting the owner, however, rocks Doug to his core, because for all that he knows he's never met the deliciously gorgeous Olivia before, he's seen her almost every night for as long as he can remember. In his dreams.
Two souls separated by centuries, divided by more than surface differences, are destined to complete each other in ways neither had ever dreamed. If the forces working against the city's inhabitants and the vampire race itself doesn't kill them both first.
I had some trepidation when I picked up this book. I wasn't a big fan of Humphreys' Amoveo series debut and I was a little worried by this book's title and cover, which gave me the impression of this being a fluffier book than I favor for my paranormal romance. Fortunately, however, that impression was wrong. This is more the sort of darker-edged story that I prefer.
In fact, neither the story nor the characters are anywhere in the vicinity of fluffy, and for almost three-quarters of the book I was highly entertained by the foundations of the gritty world that Humphreys started fleshing out here, as well as the deadly plot and intense characters. I enjoyed the role reversal in the power structure of the relationship between Olivia and Doug. For all that Doug is quite obviously an alpha male, he is human when he's introduced as a character and Olivia is not. She's a former warrior and current savvy business woman, fiercely independent and more than a little jaded about her kind.
She is the power in the relationship and I liked that dynamic between them very much. I was less fond of her three hundred year celibacy, but that was more in how it kept being mentioned. After three hundred years, one would think the subject would be played out, that it would be a moot point, just a fact of Olivia's unlife or whatever, so it didn't feel natural that it kept coming up in the narrative. I get that readers need to be made aware, but a more organic way would have been appreciated.
That was a relatively minor hiccup in my fondness for Olivia's character, however. She's keenly intelligent, loyal to her family, and struggles with the darker side of her nature. I found her interesting and wish the story had provided even more depth to her character, delving into more of her issues with the dark impulses of her kind. She's obviously set herself up as an outsider in her world, and her entire coven are misfits, all survivors of one tragedy or another. I would have loved to have a more comprehensive view of all of that.
With so strong a female lead, I was surprised to find myself liking Doug as much as I did Olivia. Humphreys tread a delicate line in their relationship. Olivia was strong in ways that didn't undermine or contradict Doug's own strength of character, and that thrilled me, but he was also quite endearing, mostly for his butt-over-brains reaction to coming face-to-face with the woman of his dreams. He was so adorably poleaxed by Olivia I couldn't help but be charmed. That he was also a no-nonsense homicide detective with a hella amount of sexy going on just upped his appeal.
Well...I did for most of the book, anyway. My appreciation for Doug as a character in general and as the romantic hero went through a very large change right around the same time he did. Frankly, I thought he was more than a little bit of a douche bag at times in the latter half of the book, and he spouted off some pretty unpalatable plans to address his new condition.
I think I could have accepted that as a part of his character evolution, though, had there been a corresponding evolution of the romance arc surrounding it. As it was, I just couldn't engage in any of the sexy good times between Doug and Olivia so soon after he tossed himself on the not-so-metaphorical pyre and acted like a judgmental, ignorant wanker. And there was a disappointing lack of addressing that issue throughout the end of the book.
Unfortunately, that downturn in the romance coincided with a couple of elements of the external conflict in the plot that didn't appeal to me. For the majority of the book, this was a nicely woven, darkly suspenseful tale with a strong thread of romance tying it all together. Then things went just a step too far down the road of implausible, illogical, and abrupt and I had to shake my head a little.
Beyond my issues with the not-so-fabulously changing Doug, the conclusion to this book was not to my taste. The resolution of several of Olivia's and Doug's life-threatening problems got handed to them on a silver platter that came out of nowhere, and it included some very odd story developments and awkward attempts to hash out a few more quick bits of world building and shady explanation. In a few pages, what had been a dramatic Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads morphed into into a quick, way-too-convenient and tidy conclusion. It was a very uncomfortable deus ex machina that left me feeling confused and a little frustrated.
It was still a better read than I was expecting, though. I didn't have a lot of luck with the Amoveo series. It just wasn't my cuppa, and I was worried this book would also fall short. It didn't, really, even if the ending was too abrupt and clean for me. The larger portion of the book was a lot better than I was expecting and highly entertaining for it all. I may have absolutely no idea what direction the series is heading in - not after that conclusion - but I'd be interested in finding out.