ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
paranormal historical romance
Scandals with Bite #3
April 7, 2015
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When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.
Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?
As I finished up Bite at First Sight with a smile on my face, I found myself making a mental connection between the phrase, “love at first sight”, the title of the very tongue-in-cheek vampire romance movie, Love at First Bite, and finishing with the title of this third book in Brooklyn Ann’s Scandals with Bite series, Bite at First Sight.
The phrases and titles blend together in a kind of word game where you change or remove one word and get from A to B to C. And it all fits!
The amount of slightly campy humor that was injected into Love at First Bite fits right in with the Scandals with Bite series, even though this latest entry is a bit darker than the earlier pieces of fanged, fluffy fun in the series.
This one needed to be just a bit darker, so it works. I’ve also just realized that the story is a play on the “Beauty and the Beast” trope, and the darker tone works well for that, too.
This series uses the tried-and-true convention of matching an unconventional heroine with an even more unconventional hero, or possibly vice versa.
Cassandra Burton’s unconventionality is tied up into what she does, while for Rafe Villar is it part of what he is. The author definitely makes it work.
Cassandra was ahead of her time. She doesn’t merely want to become a physician, she is actively preparing herself for that role, in spite of a society that laughs at a woman who wants to go to medical school. (It’s the early 19th century, society laughs (and actively forbids) women from stepping out side a set of preconceived and limiting roles).
Like most of the would-be doctors in that era, her only way of studying human anatomy from the inside is to dissect corpses. Therefore, like many doctors of her era, Cassandra is forced into becoming an occasional graverobber.
And that’s where Rafe comes into the story. After the events in Bite Me, Your Grace (reviewed here) and One Bite Per Night (likewise here) Rafe is now the interim Lord Vampire of London. There have been recent scuffles between vampires and hunters in London, and there are all to many vampires who believe that someone is disinterring recent graves in order to find more of their kind.
Rafe finds Cassandra in the midst of her body-snatching quest, only to discover two things – she’s not after his (or any) vampires and she’s one of the few people he can’t mesmerize. She’s immune to his power. But by the time he figures that out, it’s too late – he’s revealed that vampires exist, and that puts her under vampire house arrest until the mysterious Elders tell him what to do with her.
This is a kind of torture for both of them. Cassandra and Rafe have met before – Cassandra was one of Angelica Ashton’s friends long before Angelica became the Duchess of Burnrath (and a vampire herself). Rafe was Ian Ashton’s second-in-command during that rather messy courtship.
Cassandra has always been fascinated with Rafe, not because he’s quintessentially tall, dark and handsome, but because he isn’t. Rafe was horribly burned, and the doctor in Cassandra wants to repair the damage. He’s also quite striking, although handsome wouldn’t be the right word. Cassandra, a widow, has some other ideas of what Rafe could do to, or with, her that she tries not to reveal.
She just plain fascinates him, but he assumes that she couldn’t possibly be interested in someone as scarred and disfigured as he is.
Of course, they are both wrong, but it takes a long house arrest and a lot of shared danger for them to finally figure that out. When they do, it’s almost too late. Rafe’s enemies are using his tolerance for the all-too-human Cassandra as an excuse to stage a coup. And if the conspiracies don’t bring Rafe down, the Elders he has disobeyed just might.
Escape Rating A-: This series just keeps getting better. So much so that I really hope the author continues to explore this world where vampires meet the Regency. It’s a lot of fun.
I said that this book was darker than the first two, which definitely had a higher froth quotient. It’s darker because both protagonists have more pain and darkness is their own histories, and because the conspiracies and potential coup provide an underlying layer of dark deeds and betrayal that color the narrative.
Rafe is terribly scarred. He fought off a vampire hunter who attacked him during his daysleep, and was so intent on killing the crazed bastard that he followed the man outside into the sun to finish him off. The price was a scarred face and more importantly, a withered and dysfunctional left arm. People, including other vampires, see Rafe as crippled. Rafe seems to think that the scars only reflect his internal darkness. He sees pity or revulsion in people’s eyes, and he turns away, first and with rudeness, so that he doesn’t have to face them.
Cassandra wants to be a doctor, but in the society in which she lives, even her intellectual pursuits are frowned upon. She is used to hiding who she really is and what she really wants, or only associating with people who sympathize and understand. That she is a widow loosens some of the social strictures, but not enough. She is under scrutiny at every moment. In Rafe, she sees a personal and professional challenge. She wants to see if his arm can be repaired. She longs to discover if the hot dreams she has about him mean that he might possibly show her some of what she missed in her loveless marriage.
While they separately spend a lot of mental energy trying to stave off their mutual attraction, the reasons why they do so make sense. He neither believes in love, nor that anyone could possibly love his scarred self. Cassandra’s experience of what married life is like for a woman make her shy of shackling herself to anyone. Also she knows what Rafe is and can see that they have no future.
The political in-fighting in Rafe’s new dominion keeps the suspense level high. Cassandra does distract him, and he is new to the job. Also, he’s just plain new at the idea of managing anyone other than himself, and makes a whole lot of “new leader” mistakes. The underlying sense of privilege and prejudice that empower the leaders of the so-called revolution are properly disgusting. Their use of propaganda and whisper campaigning seems all too modern. They are good enough at being bad to be a serious threat to Rafe’s and Cassandra’s lives.
Cassandra finds a sphere in which she can finally be who she really is, providing she lives long enough to enjoy it. But Rafe is the one who really grows and changes during the story. He has to reach beyond his self-imposed isolation to discover that he has friends who will stand by him at any cost, and that he is capable of both inspiring loyalty and feeling it in return.
If the combination of paranormal and historical romance sounds like fun, this book proves that it really, really can be. Even better, this story can stand on its own, although once you’ve read it you’ll want to go diving into the previous books for the background.
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