Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Belladonna Agency #1
Length: 384 pages
Date Released: April 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Welcome to a mesmerizing world where vampires hide among humans. This centuries-old species has its own rules, code of conduct, and taboos. Only the FBI knows that vampires exist—and although the Bureau agrees to keep their secret, it also plots to give humans the upper hand.
Turning mortals into vampires is forbidden.
But there are creatures who refuse to play by the rules.
Ever since he was turned, FBI special agent Ty Duncan has had one mission: bring rogue vampires to justice. As a recruiter for Belladonna, a shadow agency formed to keep vampires in check, Ty must tap Ana Martin, a troubled ex–gang member and one of the few mortals who can infiltrate places that his kind and the law cannot. From their first encounter, Ty fights a hunger to make Ana his own.
When Ty claims to have information about Ana’s missing sister, Ana has no choice but to trust this captivating stranger who awakens her deepest desires. But as she and Ty climb the heights of pleasure and passion, an enemy is conspiring to destroy them both.
Can Ana help Ty find his humanity in a love that could heal them both, or will their passion lead them into a darkness impossible to escape?
Turned introduces us to a slightly different version of the fanged ones. In this world, some vamps are born, and others are made, in other words, turned from human to vampire. There are lots of politics involved, because, well, immortal vampires make for convoluted politics. But in this case not all of the political complications are on the vampire side.
Ty Duncan is an FBI who was turned against his will by a bunch of rogue vampires. The rogues are rogues from their own laws, because in this world, the vampires don’t want to increase their population by turning humans. They just want to stay under the radar and not come out of the coffin.
The FBI not only knows that vampires exist, but they have been recruiting rogues to turn people for them. Some senior FBI officials see vampires as faster, stronger, better agents, and don’t even think that anyone who is a rogue is probably a rogue through and through.
So the FBI loses control of its vampire-makers, after the rogues turn two FBI agents, Ty and Peter, very much against their will (and with extra added torture and other collateral damage).
Now the FBI needs to track down the rogues and cover its ass with the Vampire Queen, who specifically told them not to turn anyone. In other words, the FBI has a good old-fashioned clusterfuck on its hands.
Especially when they find out that their former rogues are running a human blood slavery operation on the side. Just when they thought it couldn’t get much worse, it does.
So of course they create an even shadowier arm of the agency to track down the rogues and put a stop to the blood slavery. Let’s call this the creation of plausible deniability, although there is also a certain amount of “locking the barn door after the horse it out”.
That shadow-arm of the agency is called Belladonna, and the name is intended to mean both “beautiful woman” and “deadly nightshade”. Their intent is to recruit deadly women who can become agents and spies, whether they ever become vampires themselves or not.
Ty is instructed to recruit Ana Martin, for two reasons; she has already proven that she can be deadly when the situation demands it, and because the suspected leader of the blood slavery ring is a man who has been obsessed with Ana since he jumped her into a gang when they were teens.
Ana lets herself be recruited because the Belladonna Agency has promised her the one thing that she has been searching years for; contact with her long-lost sister. Both Ana and Ty try to hide their mutual ulterior motive, that they are attracted to each other with a need that neither of them can fight, no matter how much they both believe that they are not worthy of the other, and that any possible relationship is doomed from the start.
But nothing that Ana has believed all her life turns out to be true. Everyone betrays her, or has betrayed her, and more than once. Except Ty. No matter what happens, he tells her nothing but the truth, and not just because vampires are unable to lie.
Ana just has to learn to trust her feelings, and herself, before it’s too late.
Escape Rating C+: Because this is the first book in a series, there is a lot of setup and there are still some things that are unexplained. Vampire society looks complex (it generally is) but we don’t learn how things got this way or what the vampires are really up to.
We view what it is like to be a vampire from Ty’s perspective, and he’s both untrained and miserable about his turning. He hates himself and his life. He keeps trying to protect Ana from the monster that he feels he is, instead of letting her decide for herself. Too often, his way of protecting her is to push her away rather harshly, and she naturally reacts by pushing back, equally harshly.
Also, although this is a love story, it uses the insta-love trope. One gets the sense that Ty and Ana are fated mates, although that’s never explicitly said. But they have a stronger instant chemical reaction to each other that is more than just insta-lust. (And Peter has the same reactions to the Vampire Queen when he meets her).
If there is a fated-mate component, it would be better to know that, rather than have the story lead down that road and then NOT explain.
Ana is a very strong heroine. She’s made a good life for herself in spite of an extremely rough start, and she takes a beating, whether physical or emotional, and keeps moving forward. The other women introduced in the story as the rest of the team are definitely promising potential heroines as well. The prospect of reading their stories is one I’m looking forward to.