Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Urban fantasy
Series: Hell’s Belle, #1
Length: 254 pages
Date Released: June 14, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of Providence, RI to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt.
Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city’s community of witches.
But Nina’s investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.
The story starts with the main character fangirling over the real-life mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, as he kicks vampire ass into the afterlife. And it just rocks.
After Booker books out of the story, we move up the coast to a dive bar in Providence RI, which is every bit as seedy as Newark, and I didn’t know that was even possible. Our heroine thought she was taking a timeout from her work in Blood Ops, the special branch of the Department of Defense dedicated to permanently dealing with supernatural bad actors, but a vamp stalks into her bar with the not so hidden agenda to stake Nina, and suddenly it’s all hands (and fangs) on deck.
In the process of figuring out why this one rogue vampire is determined to get Nina, she discovers that there is a lot more to her half-vamp/half-human heritage than anyone in her life has ever bothered to tell her, starting with the tiny detail that she isn’t half-vamp/half-human after all.
While the secrets and hidden truths keep boiling up out of the past, and the rogue keeps culling the supernatural population as a way of building up power, Nina has to deal with all her new-found powers going out of whack; a ghost who wants to possess her in order to get revenge on the rogue, and an FBI agent who isn’t sure whether she’ a possible suspect or a possible sex partner or possibly both. Nina’s sure he can’t handle the truth he keeps claiming to want.
The demon running for mayor of Providence may be the most normal part of the case!
Escape Rating B: This first book is one hell of a journey of discovery, both for the heroine and the reader; Nina discovers she only knew half (maybe) of her own story, and the reader discovers Nina’s world. There’s quite a lot of urban fantasy worldbuilding going on in this story.
The concept of a “Blood Ops” unit as an official arm of the DOD is both fun and scary. If there were supes, there would also be Men and Women in Black to take them out. Nina’s snark about the BO division of the DOD makes for great gallows humor.
There are a whole lot of supernatural types and tropes mixed into this soup. Vamps, weres, ghosts, banshees, witches, druids and even hell-hounds of both the good and bad persuasion and even demons. It’s going to take an entire series to straighten out who the good supes and bad supes are. Sounds like fun.
But the action follows Nina. Her heritage makes her strong, but the hijacking of her self-discovery has made her vulnerable, and it’s that vulnerability that makes her interesting as well as potentially dangerous. And definitely endangered. Neither Nina nor her team is quite sure yet whether she is bait or slayer or some of each. Only time will tell. Watching her come to terms with her new knowledge about herself and her place in the world makes her worth watching.
But I’m very much afraid that a demon politician strikes way too close to reality.