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Book Review: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

Jeaniene Frost has been one of my go-to, comfort food writers since I started reading the urban fantasy genre a few years ago.  One of the more popular tropes in urban fantasy is to blur the line between urban fantasy (a fantasy taking place in a contemporary, usually urban, environment) and paranormal romance (a romance involving supernatural or paranormal creatures or happenings).  Frost does this more than most, with immensely fun, readable results.  Her Night Huntress series follows half-vampire Cat as she falls in love and saves the world with badass, 243-year-old vampire Bones.

In that series, we met Vlad Tepesh, the real-life vampire who inspired the legend of Dracula.  In the past several years, Vlad has become one of the most popular supporting characters of the series, and fans have anxiously been awaiting the release of his book—me included.  Well, we don’t have to wait anymore, because Vlad’s book, Once Burned, is here—and it was worth the wait.

The description, courtesy of Jeaniene Frost’s website:

She’s a mortal with dark powers…
After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…
He’s the Prince of Night…
Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him – a beautiful mortal with powers to  match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

As a huge fan of the Cat and Bones pairing, I wondered whether Vlad and Leila could feel as compelling, or as fun.  At the same time, I looked forward to reading a new pairing because, after six books, I pretty well know what to expect from a Night Huntress book.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Both the romantic elements and the adventure elements (Vlad and Leila must track down a vampire who is trying to kill Vlad) of the story work very well.

Vlad has been very well-developed as a hero, and we get to know a lot more about him here than you did in Frost’s previous books.  I like the way Frost used the legend of Vlad the Impaler and fictionalized it to create her hero.  I also like that she’s not afraid to show Vlad’s violent, even cruel, tendencies.  Vlad is a nearly 600-year-old vampire, and a very powerful one.  His moral code is very different than most human’s—yet he does have one.  We see Vlad torture other vampires, even kill them, but it’s all in the name of justice and protecting himself and Leila.

I liked Leila as a heroine.  She’s strong, sarcastic, and tinged with darkness—my kind of girl.  I liked that Leila was an ordinary human who got sucked into the supernatural world completely by accident, and completely against her will.  Frost excels at writing women who are lonely, lost, and cut off from the world.  Leila, with powers that literally prevent her from touching anyone, is no exception.

My only concern is that I wish we would have seen more of Vlad’s perspective.  Since the book is narrated by Leila, we only get to see Vlad through her eyes.  I had been hoping the book would have been third person, with alternating POVs between Vlad and Leila.  It’s not a big deal: Leila’s voice more than carries the book, and I certainly liked seeing Vlad through her eyes, faults and all.  But it would have been nice.

Unlike many romances, this is not a happily ever after ending—more of a happy for now.  It’s enough to make you want to come back for more, but it’s not a total cliffhanger, either.  Since Frost has already announced she’s writing a second book in the series, this is a good thing.

Overall, this is a fun, exciting book that takes a lot of the things I love about Frost’s writing—intense romances, hot sex scenes—and reinvigorates them with a new pairing.  It would make a great beach or vacation read.  It’s also a great entry point into Frost’s world.  If you’re a fan of urban fantasies with a lot of romance, or paranormal romance with a lot of urban fantasy elements, this book is highly recommended.