Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this novel well before its release date. Since this is my favorite paranormal author, that was a big deal for me! As some of you may recall from my Lets Talk Vampires post, the author of this novel is one of the ones I recommended who has a good vampire series to check out. The book arrived yesterday and I was finished with it by early this morning. Definitely a page turner. For those who are interested in the new “Night Prince” series, you will be able to purchase the first novel, Once Burned, through Amazon and other booksellers on June 26th of this year (or you can pre-order now for either the paperback or eBook).
Synopsis: Leila is a human who hasn’t been able to lead much of a normal life due to a horrific accident with a downed power line when she was thirteen. It left her badly scarred, but also gave her some unusual abilities. When she touches objects, she is able to see impressions about others who have held them before her. This is along with a couple of other unique talents that may or may not be considered a blessing. Knowing such abilities could bring trouble her way, she has managed to limit her contact with others so as to not draw the wrong kind of attention. Even she could only keep up her cover for so long, though. One fateful slip-up and she reveals herself in a very public way.
This draws the attention of a group of vampires who want to use her abilities for their own evil purposes. They want Leila to track down the world’s most notorious vampire, Vlad Tepesh, also known (to his annoyance) as Dracula. She quickly realizes how dangerous helping his enemies will be for her and concocts her own plan. Get on his good side so he might consider not killing her and letting her get back to her semi-normal life. Things don’t go the way she expects, though, as the plot against Vlad goes much higher than the lackeys that kidnapped her. Leila has no choice but to stick around and help him until the danger is over. Seems logical enough, but what she doesn’t count on is her attraction to such the dangerous and cold man. Keeping her heart intact may be the most difficult part of all.
Vlad’s meeting with Leila is certainly one where the sparks fly, literally. He is a vampire who can control and manipulate fire. She is a human woman with an electric charge so strong most people will die if they touch her. It would almost seem they were made for each other. Yet their attraction is only part of the equation since danger lurks all around (this is urban fantasy, rather than strict romance so there is plenty of action). Also, Vlad might be willing to protect Leila, but he isn’t willing to give her his heart. His goal is to keep her close so his enemies can’t use her against him. She has to keep this in mind if she wants to survive (physically and emotionally) while living in his world.
If ever there was a novel that could be both dark and humorous the whole way through, Once Burned would be it. I laughed enough that my husband was no doubt tempted to call the professionals to handle the problem. Jeaniene Frost has an amazing ability to create vivid, sinfully delightful characters that always leave you wanting more. Her newest novel is no exception. Leila is a strong woman who has come to terms with her unusual life and abilities, despite the odds against her. She gives as good as she gets and she is more easy to relate to than you would expect. Vlad is as dark and dangerous as any self-respecting vampire of his notoriety should be. Yet he is also a lot more. He genuinely cares about his people and will do anything to protect them. His enemies are ruthlessly destroyed and betrayal among his own is immediately punished in the worst possible way. Vlad hasn’t been coined “The Impaler” for nothing. Next time I read this novel I’m going to have to keep tally of how many people, exactly, were impaled. This sounds gruesome, but the details aren’t so vivid that you actually get too upset about it and most people he does it to deserve it anyway.
The story itself and the pacing are well done. There is never a dull moment. I have wanted to learn more on Vlad’s background since his appearance in the Night Huntress Series. This novel elaborates on his past in satisfying detail, though there is room left for more growth in later book(s). Not only that, but the author gave Leila a unique background I hadn’t expected. There is a lot more to her than the short excerpts Jeaniene Frost has released thus far. Though I won’t reveal much, I will say the “bad guy” in this book is a new one not seen in the Night Huntress world before and he is a formidable opponent for Vlad. I was glad it wasn’t someone who could be easily vanquished, but instead one who made things quite difficult for the hero and heroine. Though some of the previously known characters- including Cat, Bones, Mencheres and Kira make an appearance, they don’t play a large role in helping against this foe. Vlad prefers to handle his problems himself. It ended much like I expected it to, mostly resolved, but with some various issues left for later resolution. At least there isn’t a deathly cliffhanger like some novels have.
For those of you who have not read the Night Huntress Series, you’re probably wondering whether it’s a good idea to grab this novel or not. I will say it can stand alone. There are some vague references to the other series, but much of the time you wouldn’t even recognize them unless you knew what to look for. The author was careful to keep this new series separate and provided all the explanations you need to get the most out of this novel. It can be easily read by a newcomer. Having said that, I would still highly recommend you go back to the beginning because Vlad is best appreciated after seeing him first through Cat’s eyes (though he doesn’t show up until book three- At Graves End). Not to mention I’ll be tempted to impale you myself if you enjoy paranormal romance and haven’t tried this series yet.
Five whips for this awesome read!
If you’re worried about starting a new series and breaking your budget. I’m happy to say that Jeaniene Frost worked out a deal with her publisher, HarperCollins (Avon), to reduce the eBook price on all her full-length novels. Each eBook can now be purchased for $5.99 rather than the previous $7.99 (it’s still set at that price for the paperback). That makes it a bit more attainable than it has been in the past for those unwilling to spend a lot on something they aren’t sure about. Not to mention you can always load the sample to see what you think first.
As an aid to those considering starting this series (especially while waiting for Once Burned to release), I’ll post the reading order below:
Halfway to the Grave (Book One)
One Foot in the Grave (Book Two)
At Graves End (Book Three)
Destined for an Early Grave (Book Four)
First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World Series*)
Eternal Kiss of Darkness (Night Huntress World Series*)
This Side of the Grave (book five)
One Grave at a Time (book six)
Home for the Holidays (Part of the anthology Bite Before Christmas**)
*Night Huntress World books are romance novels (in third person) for side characters of the Night Huntress Series. Since the regular series is written in first person through the eyes of Cat, this is the only way to give them their story. First Drop of Crimson and Eternal Kiss of Darkness can be read alone but are best read in the order above. They are also not critical to the main series and can be skipped (though you’d be missing out on some good romance).
**Home for the Holidays is part of an anthology done with Lynsay Sands. Though there are other novellas for the Night Huntress series and world, this is the only one I would say is vital to read. It has some very important details in it that are important to character backgrounds and is on the longer side of novella length (almost at short novel size)