Night’s Cold Kiss by Tracey O’Hara

Night’s Cold Kiss by Tracey O’Hara
Night's Cold Kiss by Tracey O'Hara (Dark Brethren, Book 1)
Night's Cold Kiss by Tracey O'Hara (Dark Brethren, Book 1)

Our obsession with vampires isn’t over, with a new series hitting the shelves this week. Debut author Tracey O’Hara shows us why we love to be seduced by danger and darkness.

Antoinette Petrescu, haunted by her mother’s murder at the hands of a vampire, makes her living tracking down Necrodreniacs—rogue vampires addicted to the death-high that occurs when they drain, and therefore kill, a human. But when a series of murders forces her to work closely with Christian Laroque, an Aeternus vampire, Antoinette discovers that she has a few things left to learn about vampires—they’re not all vicious murderers, and she’s not as immune to their charms as she’d thought.

Humans and parahumans co-exist in this world under a peace treaty that’s beginning to unravel. Not everyone is interested in peace, and resentment has endured long after the end of a bitter and bloody war between vampires, Animalians and humans. Antoinette and Christian suspect there’s a mole within the Council for Human and Paranormal Relations (CHaPR), leaking information and trying to disrupt the tenuous peace between the different races. More disturbingly, Antoinette is convinced that her mother’s murderer—thought to be dead—is stalking her.

As their investigation progresses, Antoinette has to reconcile her fear and anger against vampires with her desire for Christian. Even if she can trust Christian enough to be his lover, she fears who he is, his vampire nature, and that one day he might ask more of her than she’s willing to give.

Urban fantasy romance

Don’t ask me if this book is paranormal romance or urban fantasy, because I really can’t be sure. The spine says “Fiction”, and O’Hara’s website calls the series “dark urban fantasy”, but I think this book might work well for romance readers. So I’ll hedge my bets and call it urban fantasy romance.

There’s a bit of politics in the plot, and the back story for how paranormal creatures came to be is a little unorthodox. I think I prefer my vampires to just be, without the explanation, but I’m guessing the back story will play a part in later books, so I’m willing to reserve judgement.

This book reminded me of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series, but with a little more urban fantasy and without such a huge difference in power between the hero and heroine.

“Why is he here?” The edge to her voice cut deeper than any blade.

Her skin glowed with a fine sheen of perspiration and damp patches marked her workout sweats. Antoinette’s deliciously hot scent brought an image of her naked beneath him, moaning in pleasure as he bent to take her throat. He quickly scrubbed it from his mind. It wasn’t what he came here for and he had no time for such distractions. “Miss Petrescu, if I may—”

“I was not addressing you, vampire.” She spat out the last as she would a foul-tasting morsel.

“Antoinette,” her uncle roared.

She flashed a contrite expression, but only for a second. When her eyes met his her blood sang with bitterness and hatred. He could smell it on her breath, taste it in the air around her. So full of anger. Such deep and powerful fury.

Can’t get enough of vampires

Although I’m suffering from vampire exhaustion, I must admit that O’Hara writes some sexy vampires. After having read a lot of paranormals where the sensuality seems ramped up for effect and the sexual chemistry comes across as forced, O’Hara’s subtlety was a welcome relief.

There are elements in the story that may not work for very traditional romance readers. Christian has sex with a blood “donor” very early in the story. However, this happens well before he begins any kind of romance with Antoinette. O’Hara uses this scene to demonstrate some very interesting details about the world she’s created. It’s not particularly graphic, but I found it very hot.

O’Hara also explores the dynamics of power and lust between different characters. I love the way she portrays Christian’s sensuality. Later in the book she explores the difference between Aeternus and Necrodreniac vampires, and the struggle to control blood lust.

Characters, pace, etc.

The pace of the story flattens out toward the middle, which becomes very plot-heavy just when I wanted more romance. But I suspect that’s just me, and that urban fantasy readers will like it well enough.

I had some issues with Antoinette as a character. She starts off as an incredibly capable warrior, and the way she gets past the trauma of her mother’s death reflects her inner strength. And yet she doesn’t always make sensible, mature decisions. She can be petulant and undisciplined and easily angered. There’s a scene in which she observes a trainee hunter and thinks about how fear can help them, but anger always hinders good decision-making, yet she doesn’t always apply the same principles to herself.

I was particularly frustrated by a scene early in the story when Antoinette suffers from an infected wound and still refuses Christian’s help. Based on her back story, I expected her to be more of a survivor by instinct.  Plus, this could’ve been used to amp up her internal conflicts by forcing her to do things she dislikes because it’s for her own good or for the good of her mission.

In general, though, I think many of my nitpicks boil down to the author needing to trust her readers a little more. It’s an easy misstep for a new author—and let’s face it, a lot of prolific authors are still doing it (and getting worse)—and I hope that in subsequent books O’Hara will consider holding back some of the detail and letting the plot unfold naturally. She does this well in the love scenes—layering the text and dialogue and characters with nuances—and I would’ve liked to see the rest of the story treated with the same subtle hand.

Yay or nay?

Night’s Cold Kiss is a good debut effort. Does it stand out from the many vampire romances in the market? I’m not sure, but O’Hara has a way with words when it comes to vampire seduction that should appeal to readers who like their urban fantasy with a decent romance.  I’m looking forward to seeing O’Hara’s writing develop in what looks to be a promising series.

This review was based on an Advanced Readers Edition generously provided by the author. This book was released in the US on August 25 and will be on sale in Australia from September 1.

New Author Challenge 2009The Pub Challenge 2009Title: Night’s Cold Kiss (excerpt)
Series: Dark Brethren (Book 1)
Author: Tracey O’Hara
ISBN: 9780061783135
Release date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Eos (Harper Collins Australia)
Format: Mass market paperback

Where you can buy this book

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Galaxy | Intrigue | Nile | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Romantic Reflections | Siren | More
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Dymocks | | Fictionwise | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository