Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was Merit’s. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker-and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.
Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she’s traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude- and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan’s attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone’s still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood.
Okay, I liked this one a lot. The summary gives you the first few chapters of the book–Merit is a grad student in medieval literature at the University of Chicago. Her family is from money, but she doesn’t really associate with them. She’s not really into the whole society scene (is there really a society scene in Chicago? I wish there was). She’s attacked while walking across campus at night, and she’s changed into a vampire. She is really ungrateful about having had someone change her life, and she really harps on about how she never “consented” to be made into a vampire. That annoyed me, but I think that’s only because I’d jump at the chance to be a vamp. Embarrassing confession, but true. Merit is given a how-to book for new vamps, which she proceeds to ignore for the majority of the book. Some grad student she is.
She meets Ethan and boy, is he a douche. I mean, yes, he’s sizzling hot and all of that, blond hair and green eyes, et cetera, but he was made in like 1660 and he acts like it. The vampire houses in this novel are based on feudal societies, which is kind of silly considering how the whole feudal system turned out in the end, but whatever, what do I know? No one’s tried to change me into a vampire against my will (grumble, grumble). Ethan and Merit have some weird connection, of course, but it’s mostly just sexual tension, as Ethan is, as mentioned above, a douche. Merit turns out to be stronger than your average baby vamp, and challenges Ethan to a duel. In his house. Like, the first time she meets him. Merit is kind of dumb for someone who everyone says is so smart. That doesn’t mean I don’t like her though, and other characters do point out her dumbness throughout the novel.
Mallory is Merit’s best friend and she’s mostly hilarious. She has her own storyline with one Catcher Bell, who works in Chicago’s equivalent of a supernatural crime division. He’s smoking hot and he and Mallory have sex on every available surface of her house, which causes Merit to move out. I sometimes wished the book was about Mallory, so there’d be more romance and less whining. I’m making Merit sound worse than she is, but she does whine A LOT.
The mystery is what makes this book, for me. I love a good mystery, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Merit and the Cadogan team hunt for the rogue vampire killing girls around Chicago’s Hyde Park, wearing alternating symbols of the three houses (Cadogan, Grey and Navarre) to implicate, well, everyone. There is a lot of vampire house in-fighting and a general refusal to cooperate with the police. The Masters of the individual houses are intimidating, with big personalities. I didn’t figure out the mystery until right before it was revealed (which isn’t saying much, really), and then I was surprised.
What I liked most about this book was the accuracy! I am Chicago born and raised and I’m still living here, so I know my city and I get a little giddy when an author actually knows the geography. Like, I love Jim Butcher but not only did he put aWalMart in Wrigleyville, he also gave Wrigley Field a giant freaking parking lot. Dude, I know you’re from St. Louis, so you’re probably a Cardinals fan, and they’re mortal enemies of the Cubs, but COME ON. I’m a freaking White Sox fan and his Wrigleyville bungling offended me! Anyway. That’s a major plus for this book. I also liked the vampire canon–no sun, but they can eat food normally and their hearts still beat. They have to drink blood, of course, but they do it with bagged blood a la Moonlight (anyone remember that show?). I always wondered why the Twilight vamps never drank bagged blood. I mean, Carlisle was a doctor, right? It would have been easy.
Yes, this is yet another vampire book, but it’s more refreshing than the spate of YA romances and less rage inducing than the Sookie Stackhouse series, so if you like vampires, mystery, and urban fantasy, this is a book for you.