CBR14Bingo: Hot – The spice is very high with this one, if also very bloody.
I had these on my TBR for a while when they were previously self-published as the Bloodline Vampires novella series. So of course I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of the books released in one volume. This is pure Katee Robert, but it reminds me more of her Touch of Taboo series than her newer Dark Olympus books.
Mina is a dhampir (half-vampire, half-human) but unlike her half-siblings, she hasn’t inherited any of her vampire father’s power. Bloodline vampires like him have specific powers like the ability to control fire or shapeshift. Her only use is as a sacrifice to Malachi, a bloodline vampire he has under his thumb. But after their initial encounter, Malachi is nothing like what she expected. And with his help, Mina might be able to win them both the freedom she desperately dreams of.
“I am a pawn in other peoples’ power games, destined to be moved from one side of the board to the other without any agency of my own.”
For a book that starts with a definitely dubcon encounter, one of the main themes revolves around choice. Most of Mina’s life has consisted of survival, always the weakest and most disposable in the room. Her only worth to her father was being the vampire version of Doordash for Malachi. Initially she’s convinced that Malachi’s attempts to give her choices are nothing but a ploy, though she can’t figure out what his endgame is. But she soon realizes he’s as much a prisoner as she is. As Mina and Malachi become entangled with two other bloodline vampires, Wolf and Rylan, the choices get harder and the consequences get worse. Mina has to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to meet her goals, and whether those goals have changed.
“It’s so much easier when you don’t have a choice, and Malachi insists on giving me one, over and over again. I kind of hate him for it. I kind of love him for it, too.”
You know the AO3 tag “plot what plot?”? It’s not quite that, but there’s some pretty big plot holes, as well as deus (demon?) ex machina. I mean, it’s hard to have a lot of tension in a book when the end game is right in the title. What the book really focuses on is the relationships between the four of them. To be clear, a lot of that relationship building is done through sex, lots of steamy sex, in every combination they can imagine. At the start of the book, Mina is could be most kindly described as naive and terrified, but she has a spark of bravery that first Malachi and then the others bring out in her in very different ways. Each of the vampires has history between them, history that Mina’s inadvertently stepped into and has to learn to deal with quickly. Malachi’s protective and somewhat sweet, and it’s obvious he falls hard for her from nearly their first meeting. He’s a steady, strong and a source of stability for her as the rest of her life keeps changing. Wolf’s a loose chaos-spewing cannon, the vampire equivalent of the kind of person who starts (often violent) drama and then grabs the popcorn. And Rylan’s the oldest vampire of the group, standoff-ish and cynical but secretly terrified to accept the relationship the other three are offering. With four very different personalities, getting the polyam romance to work for all of them is something Mina struggles with.
As for cons, since this book was originally three novellas, there’s several instances of repeated information between the books. I wish this had been rewritten (or just edited a bit) as it was jarring to be reintroduced to the characters and plot points over and over. The passage of time also felt a bit off. For instance, It’s mentioned in passing that’s it weeks later, but nothing has measurably changed in terms of plot or relationship to even indicate that. The vampire’s powers also were confusing to me, as they’d suddenly use them in a new or different way for no discernible reason.
Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s an enjoyable and steamy read but not quite as good to me as her other work.
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.