I know that most of my readers don’t give a crap about this – probably – but as blog fodder goes, reviews are good. And besides, blogs are for being honest and this is a pretty frank admission: I just read four vampire books that went way beyond the Southern Vampire Mystery series: they were categorized as… “romance.” I tweeted this the other day:
That about sums it up. It started with Twilight, which I enjoyed but was wanting more. Then I read the nine books in the Sookie Stackhouse universe (btw, I have a Borders gift card just waiting patiently in my wallet for May 4th, when the next book comes out!) At the recommendation of a friend, I checked out The Midnight Breed series. I figured it was ok to check these out from the library because they don’t have covers featuring a big blond guy with hair waving in the breeze and some sultry female wrapped around his legs, giving him the eye. Because if I ever sink that far, you have permission to punch me in the face.
What I really like about Adrian’s work is that three quarters of the books are actually focused on the on-going plot and not just the sex. Maybe they’re all like this and I haven’t read enough Harlequin novels to know the difference. But that’s one of the redeeming factors of this series, in my opinion.
(There be spoilers ahead; you’ve been warned.)
Book one, “Kiss of Midnight”, revolves around the story of Lucan, who is the Gen One leader of a group of warrior vamps called the Order. What I appreciate about this version of vampires is their origin: an alien race crash-landed on earth centuries ago and fed on the blood of humans. These Ancients mated with human females and the first generation was born. Except these vampires rose up against their fathers at some point to stop all the carnage and the demise of entire civilizations and the Order was formed. After that debacle, their purpose was to take out Rogues, who are vamps who have fallen into the clutches of Bloodlust, rendering them beasts of endless fury that don’t simply feed from a blood Host but kill in the process. Once turned Rogue, they don’t operate in the manner of other vampires who are, you’ll remember, half human.
When I started reading this first novel, admittedly I was not instantly drawn to the story of Gabrielle, a photographer who never quite seemed to fit in and never took photos of people, just creepy places like asylums. When she somehow manages to witness a feeding frenzy outside a club and snaps some shots of Rogues at work, the story starts building. Lucan was hunting said Rogues and realizes that she has been involved. Obviously, their world must stay secret so he’ll do what it takes to keep her hush hush. This is a theme amongst the four books I have read so far.
Lucan poses as a police officer to get to Gabrielle. Of course, he finds himself attracted to her and soon finds out that she’s a Breedmate. That is, a woman who possesses the special ability to conceive and bear vamp offspring, should the two engage in a Blood bond. Throughout this story, Adrian is building the overlying plot that someone seems to be amassing a large Rogue army. At the same time, Lucan himself is walking the thin line between sanity and Bloodlust, a path he’s been down before. He’s lusting after her in this state but soon finds that his rational side, still present, cares for her in a much deeper way. It is Gabrielle, of course, who will pull him from the depths of his despair and right his wrongs. In the end, she finds out that he is vampire, she is Breedmate and they are mated. She is brought into their compound to live, giving up her old life as she knew it. They live lavishly below the earth and she has the most amazing, sensual relationship with Lucan. You quickly see that giving up all she used to know is not a bad deal.
Book two, “Kiss of Crimson”, carries on the plot that we left off on: the Order was led to a Rogue lair (that Gabrielle found through her special Breedmate talent of being drawn to creepy Rogue places) and they took out a good chunk of the forming army. In the process, they partially lost one of their members, Rio, in the explosion. He was caught by the C4 blast and is sent to their infirmary for an indefinite amount of time. However, this installment focuses on Dante, an 18th century warrior who is wounded from the start of the novel and finds himself searching for shelter and sustenance in a veterinarian’s building. This is where he meets Tess. Badly wounded, she tends to this mysterious man and then he feeds from her, scrubbing her memory afterward and stealing away into the night.
From the last book, we find out that the evil one in charge of the Rogue army was none other than Lucan’s brother, Marek, who had long ago betrayed the Order but was thought dead. The other aspect of the plot that we learn about in this one is that Tess’s ex, Ben, has unknowingly been manufacturing a street drug called Crimson which, if taken by humans, does little but if ingested by vampires, turns them Rogue in a matter of seconds. It vaults them into a Bloodlust like no one’s seen before. This bit of info is why Dante must continue to seek out Tess. Much like Lucan, Dante is afflicted with his own personal demon. He keeps having these incapacitating visions of fire and demise, which he assumes will be his own. So he feels as if his time is limited and his death is seeking him out all day every day.
I definitely buy the Dante/Tess relationship more than Lucan and Gabrielle. It felt more real. Thought Lucan was losing himself to Bloodlust, he had more control. Dante was really spiraling and needed her more than even he thought.
This one ends in a perilous scene, of course, with a meeting of Rogues and Ben, now turned Minion (human sucked to the brink of death who lives to serve his vamp master). We find out that Dante’s fiery vision was not his own death but that of Tess, pointing out that for as long as he’d had these visions, he was linked to her in some way. The cool thing about the relationships built between Breedmates and vampires is that they are so much more intense than anything we imagine humans could have. Through the blood bond, where each takes the life force of the other and through their connection to one another, they are linked in a more inextricable way. I am not sure that readers can even fathom what this might feel like. We are mere mortals.
The other aspect of this second book was the introduction of Sterling Chase, who is an agent from one of the Darkhavens in the area. This is where the vampires of the world reside with their mates. In a lot of ways, they resent and despise the Order, considering them to be savages and never appreciating them for their service to the vampire race. Chase’s brother was killed and he feels like it is his duty to avenge him, both for his own sake and his widow’s, Elise. Not only that but her son, Camden, has gone missing, along with some other Darkhaven youths, and the Crimson is to blame.
Here’s a tie-in that Adrian has craftily woven; Elise resurfaces in the beginning of book three, “Midnight Awakening”, alone and out for vengeance after the death of her son at the hand of Chase in the end of book two. He did what had to be done; Camden was too far gone to come back. In her intense moment of grief at the scene of the crime, Tegan, one of the other Warriors, takes her home.
So book three opens with Elise living in the city instead of the Darkhaven and tracking Rogues; taking her own brand of revenge. Her husband has been dead five years so she has begun to age. Breedmates will live eternally so long as they are receiving blood from their mate. So not only does she face this, but her ability is to hear peoples’ thoughts. In the city, she is bombarded by the evil, lustful, purely maniacal intentions of the masses. This brings down upon her debilitating headaches. While out one night, she encounters a Minion who has been sent to pick up an important package for his Master. Elise kills him and somewhere in her escape home, Tegan comes into the picture, smelling the blood.
From the start of the series, Tegan has been the most mysterious of all the warriors. He seems slightly reclusive, quiet, and very apathetic about, well, everything. We have learned that he’s about as old as Lucan and they have been through an awful lot together. His story is more intense than the warriors we have been introduced to so far. Long ago he lost his Breedmate to the Rogues and nearly slipped into Bloodlust himself. In all these years, he has not forgiven himself for not saving his mate nor has he allowed himself a relationship/much human contact. Hence why this book focuses heavily on his reluctance to show Elise any sort of kindness or allow himself to feel anything towards her. Of course, this is inevitable, as is the theme of these books. As the story is developing, so are the relationships. I have to say though, the first two books we have to simply believe the impossibility of each warrior coming into contact and subsequently falling in love with a woman who just so happens to be a Breedmate. At least for Tegan and Elise, she’s already down with the vamp scene, knows about Darkhavens, has been in one for as long as anyone, and so that aspect is absent from this installment.
The on-going search for Marek has led them to Germany, where they have traced the package Elise intercepts to an older family. This will hopefully shed some light onto what Marek’s plans may be. In the meantime, Tegan’s icy cold heart begins to melt just a little bit and at some point, they are thrown into certain situations in which they must help/confide in each other. In terms of the romantic scenes, this book far outdid the others. I think they were far sexier and more wanton than the others. As my friend’s friend relayed, “Tegan makes me want to do bad things.” I agree!
Adrian continues to impress in book four, “Midnight Rising.” Marek has been taken out but an enemy still exists. At the end of book three, the warriors came across a cave – a crypt – in which an awful thing has been discovered. With Rio back with the team – though a shell of the man he once was – he has been entrusted to blow the cave, sealing in what was found. However, we find out in the beginning of this novel that he has yet to detonate the C4 and head to Spain, as he promised the Order. Rio has fallen into despair ever since his former breedmate, Eva’s, betrayal in book one. The betrayal that scarred the left side of his body and certainly left it share of scars on his soul. He no longer wants to live and yet, cannot take that one last step into the sunshine. The vamps burn like all others in lore, which I appreciate since they are not “undead” like others.
The main woman in “Midnight Rising” is Dylan Alexander, a journalist who writes for a tabloid mag. She stumbles across Rio’s hiding spot while hiking on vacation. The thing I instantly like about her is that she’s super down to earth and does not and will not believe in monsters. She does not easily allow herself to be scared. This is a good attribute to have, considering she’s about to launch herself into another world of things humans only believe to be myth. On top of that, she has to have this attitude to accept the broken Rio as he is, scars and all.
The plot takes some twists and turns and we find out that the thing living in that crypt – being kept alive – was one of the original Ancients. Though Marek is dead, the legacy lives on in whomever has sprung the ancient one and is using him for some dastardly deed. Rio is forced to leave the cave and track down Dylan, for she has taken pictures of him and said cave, possibly revealing all that their world is and the evil that may fall upon humans.
For most of the book, she is being held by the Order – first in Germany in the home of their contact there, Reichen. Then, once state-side, she is taken to the Order’s compound. She is still refusing to believe any of this vampire bull-hockey and only wants to get back to her mother, whom we learn is dying of cancer. Here is where the story gets very complicated and Adrian successfully juggles a lot of balls. There’s the aspect of Dylan staying in the compound, because she’s coming to believe that she is special – yes, she too is a Breedmate – but she needs to be with her mother ’til the end. Then, she realizes she’s falling in love with Rio. Through her love, Rio is beginning to see the value in his life and recover from the awful betrayal, his tormented past in Spain, etc.
Adrian continues to deliver intense love scenes and passion, which I can freely admit is part of what has kept me reading. But furthermore, the plot that has evolved continues to draw me in and keep me interested. I definitely want to know how the evil side is progressing and what the warriors will fight next. The steamy stuff is just a perk of all this.
There was even a scene in this one where I nearly cried. The relationship built between Dylan and her dying mother and the need she has for Rio really socked me in the gut. I was perhaps surprised by my reaction to this. Though I kept saying that these were fluff stories I could finish in a matter of days, I believe this to be some quality storytelling and give this series an A so far. I am first in line for the fifth book at the library and can’t wait to see where our author takes us from here.
(ETA (12/21/10) : I have finished all these books but never reviewed them. And yes, I have read all of J.R. Ward’s BDB series. It was WAY better. In fact, I think her vampires ARE the standard for PNR.)