Sourcebooks Casablanca (6 Aug 2013), Paperback: 320 pages
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Olivia Hollingsworth is the owner of gothic club The Coven, a popular haunt which she has built up over the past ten years. Her human customers are unaware that she is a vampire, that she is over three hundred years old and is the leader of her own vampire coven – who also happen to be staff members at the club. She has been celibate since her turning three hundred years ago, as it was also the night that her first love, Douglas, was killed, and she has felt guilty ever since that she lived and he died.
One morning, Olivia finds one of her progenies, Maya, playing around with a human as if he were a toy, having been drinking from him all day. She reprimands her young charge, glamours the human so he forgets and goes about running her club as usual. However, the human soon turns up brutally murdered, with the hand stamp from the club leading the police right to The Coven’s door. Maya is their lead suspect, but Olivia maintains a steadfast belief that she is innocent, and that this crime was carried out by another vamp.
Murder is not her only problem, as she takes a particular interest in one of the police detectives, Douglas Paxton. He is the spitting image of her human love from three hundred years ago, and there is an instant connection between them. Olivia starts thinking that this could be part of the Bloodmate legend, which implies that when two vampires mate like this they can become daywalkers. Both have been having dreams of the other for several years, despite the fact that vampires cannot dream, but Doug is not a vampire, so surely the Bloodmate legend is irrelevant?
As more bodies start to build up, placing The Coven staff at the centre of suspicion, Olivia faces a race against time to find the rogue vampire committing the murders and clear Maya and the rest of her team. The investigation places her in continuing close proximity to Doug, and it is obvious that neither can fight their desire for each other for much longer. With the vampire council monitoring their every move, the search for justice becomes even more urgent than before.
I really liked Olivia as a main character, as she was a fiery redhead with a passion for protecting her wards from whatever threat they are facing. All she wants is to run her club whilst providing a safe haven for her coven, as she left the life of a council sentry many years ago. I liked how protective and driven she was, as she does not want to use her vampire nature to hunt, but to protect. However, despite this there is always an undercurrent of how dangerous she can be if pushed, with there being implications that she has murdered and taken live feeds rather than her bottled stock. She is so confused about her reaction to Doug, as the Bloodmate legend is so rare that many don’t believe in it, but there is no denying her connection to him, even though it could bring even more trouble for her coven.
Doug was an interesting character, as he has had dreams of a red-haired woman for as long as he can remember, and it is only when he meets Olivia that he realises they were of her all along. For him, no woman has ever been able to compare, with his attraction to her often causing him to break police protocol by getting too close. However, he is a devoted cop, and even though he likes Olivia he would not hesitate to arrest a member of her coven if it meant justice would be served. As more bodies are found under suspicious circumstances, he starts to doubt his own instincts about Olivia, and his tough armour starts to crack under pressure. I thought he had a lot to deal with in a short space of time and he coped surprisingly well, having natural instincts that proved to be correct in most cases. He was a highly intriguing character and I liked how protective he was of Olivia, proving to have gentlemanly values that were very sweet.
This book was easy to read and quick to digest, with the plot proving to be fast paced and full of action. I liked how Humphreys took the time to give us an insight into all the minor characters in the book, such as the rest of The Coven staff, but at the same time I would have liked a bit more detail regarding some of the supernatural elements. For instance, we are told that vampire Pete has demon blood but aren’t told how this relates to his vampire nature or what affect that has. I would have liked to know more about the council too, as we are only presented with their monitoring and hunting side but not their safety measures or what good they do. In this way, the book was very one-sided in favour of Olivia and Doug’s story. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m hoping the paranormal world will be expanded in the next book.
I really enjoyed this book as the first in a series, and found it to have an exciting plot and several twists and turns. I thought the ending of the book was obvious at first, but then there was a twist thrown in which I definitely hadn’t anticipated. This made the ending more gripping and full of tension, with a climactic finale that could be a game changer for the future books. I thought the chemistry between Doug and Olivia was electric, and it was unclear how this would turn out throughout the book. The romance scenes were well-timed in relation to the action, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
A highly entertaining paranormal romance, this book was full of kick-ass action and a romance that stood the test of time. Although full of a multitude of mentioned paranormal concepts, I expect that these will be fleshed out in more detail in future books. The characters were engaging and easy to relate to, with this story providing a dark backdrop to New York and the political struggles that lurk beneath the city’s surface.