Title: Hard Bitten (A Chicagoland Vampires Novel)
Author: Chole Neill
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: 12th May 2011
Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals – and they’re camping outside Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Behind its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are . . . tense, to say the least. But they have to work together when the may of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting: there’s been a violent vampire attack which has left three women missing. They mayor’s message is simple: get your house in order. Or else.
Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it’s not easy when she can’t tell who’s on her side. So she goes outside Cadogan House, secretly calling in a favour from someone who’s tall, dark and part of an underground vamp group which might be able to shed some light on this attack. It’s not long before Merit finds herself in the dark, heady heart of Chicago’s supernatural society – which seems to be full of vampires ready to fulfill the human’s worst fears. She’s about to learn that you can’t be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands . . .
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Hard Bitten is a rip-roaring read for any vampire lover.
It is the fourth book in Neill’s A Chicagoland Vampires Novel, and continues on from the plot of Hard Bitten. Neill has managed to balance the action and the romance plots in the series brilliantly, so neither overpowers the other and at times they seamlessly merge. Neill does however follow the conventions of the Paranormal Romance genre and have a first person narrator – everything is told from Merit’s point of view, and it works because Neill resists the temptation to tell the reader too much. Neill also follows the convention that Chicago is gangland, albeit with vampires and shifters and other creatures of myth instead of the usual gangster/mobster.
The mystery/action plot line is an interesting and intricate one, with a brilliant twist at the end which I did not see coming. Neill creates a very tense atmosphere in the book, where it is hard to tell who to trust. But she breaks this tension with bits of lightness – Merit’s friendship with Mallory, and Ethan’s attempts at wooing Merit back into his arms – which act as a nice break, but at the same time allow the tension to build.
Neill also continues the tension between Merit and Ethan between their roles as Sentinel and Master of Cadogan House, and the possibility of a romance between them despite their history. The romance is not only a cat and mouse game between Ethan and Merit, but it also has to battle with their respective positions within the House.
The ending of the book was . . . a bit of a surprise, to put it mildly, but with seven books in the series, according to Neill’s website, I’ve got my fingers crossed for better things to come – and that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t what they seem. With the next book out in November this year, there isn’t long to wait . . .