Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire Novels are unique in many ways. They have an interesting mythology, featuring contemporary vampires, and include all manner of paranormal and magical beings living in Chicago. The heroine is the pivotal character, and there is a continuing story line throughout the series with each book ending in a cliff hanger.
The series begins with Merit, a graduate student who was savagely attacked by a rouge vampire on her way home from the University’s research lab. Left for dead, she’s rescued by Ethan Sullivan, the Master of one of four Vampire houses in the city. His only way to save her is to make her one of them and she soon becomes the Sentinel of Ethan’s Cardogan House. Over the course of the last three books we’ve seen Merit move into her new role as a vampire and become a true guardian of the house while maintaining her sense of humanity. We also meet the other magical and supernatural beings living in and around the Windy City. There have been fights, territorial disputes, and jockeying for power. We’ve seen the tug and pull in each book as both humans and supernatural beings learn to live together.
Hard Bitten , the latest book in the series, picks up after a shapeshifter attack on Cardogan house has the human population in an uproar. The humans want the Vamps gone and protests are breaking out all over the city. As a result, the Vampires are sequestered in their respective houses until the situation can be resolved. To add to the tensions, rogue vampires are holding rave parties that are becoming increasingly and uncharacteristically violent. The city’s Mayor calls on Ethan and Merit to handle the situation…or else. Now, Merit not only has to find out who’s behind the raves, she has to go up against the highest reigning order of Vampires, and they’re none to happy with Merit’s way of doing things.
Hard Bitten is a sleek, sexy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy mystery. There’s a crime to solve, but there’s also the cunning combination of politics and intrigue, making it very hard to know who to trust and who will end up winning. As usual, the author writes a finally crafted novel, and for those who haven’t read the first three books she makes it easy to pick up the mythology and follow along. In each successive book Ms. Neil has left me on pins and needles with a cliffhanger done so well I anxiously awaited the next installment. But with this book the ending literally took my breath away. I didn’t see it coming and it CERTAINLY WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. Notice the 'all caps' - I’m shouting here for a reason. I’m not about to tell you why I was shocked, because that would just give it away, and I believe each reader will need to rate their own reaction on the stupefaction meter. However, when I got to the “shocking part", I put the book down and sent my sister Marisa a text because I just had to tell her what I just read. She immediately phoned me and said “You have got to be kidding me?!” My response, “No, I’m serious as street crime, and I think you need to call an ambulance because my heart just stopped”. Quite simply the author is a rule breaker, and you don’t meet many of them in romance. Does it pay off? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Me… well… she surprised me enough that I want to keep reading the next in the series.
What happens when an author breaks the rules and completely goes against what you would expect? Do you continue to read the series?
Maria Lokken is an avid romance reader and an award winning television producer
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