Monday, March 1, 2010

Review of First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost

I love Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. I love the over-the-top paranormal stuff, the intensity, the explosive chemistry between the characters, the sizzling sex, even the horror and violence. Cat's first person narrative gets us right into the thick of it, and makes these books come alive.

First Drop of Crimson is absolutely nothing like that series.

But it is nevertheless a fantastic book.

First Drop is coming from a very different point of view. Instead of Cat's bitchy first person narrative, we are watching a story unfold about a normal human woman who has suffered debilitating trauma. What if you were a normal human woman and you had your entire world turned upside down? Your new husband, who you adored, was horribly murdered by paranormal beings? You watched ghouls torture and destroy your friends and family? You miscarried your first child?

This is the story of Denise, a regular woman suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how she finds the strength and integrity to fall in love again, do the right thing, and battle evil. In a sense, this is much more impressive and dramatic than having a paranormal heroine battle evil. Denise is just a regular schmo who becomes a true heroine by the end of the book. In spite of her horrible fear of paranormal beings, she is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family, and eventually the vampire she loves.

Spade is also fascinating. He fell in love with a human once before, and was destroyed by her gang rape and death. He vows never again to become involved with a mere mortal. In spite of an intense sexual attraction to Denise, he tries to distance himself from her. He grudgingly begins to respect Denise, as he sees her rise above her PTSD and feelings of guilt about her dead husband. Their love story unfolds slowly, step by step, in a very subtle way.

Subtlety is certainly not Frost's M.O. in the Huntress series, so I was very pleasantly surprised by her approach to this story. It's not the crazy, intense thrill ride we get with Cat. The Huntress books don't really deal with believability. They are so over the top, that just isn't in the mix. But I found Denise a much more plausible and likable character than Cat. She is a real woman. With real issues, dealing with a horrifying situation. Denise's growth over the course of this book was very believable, and her growing trust in Spade was believable, too. She grapples with an intense sexual attraction to him in spite of her guilt feelings about her dead husband. I also love her humor thrown into every situation....she is a great character!

When Spade finally professes his love for Denise, it is an incredibly romantic and touching moment. I think the love story between Spade and Denise is...I can't believe I'm going to say this...sweet. I know, hard to imagine a love story between a hard-hearted killer vampire and a frightened human-turning-into-a-demon as a sweet romance, but there you go. I loved it!

My favorite part of this book is when Denise saves Nathaniel at the end. It bothered me a lot that he was a throw-away, a means to an end, when in fact he seemed like a nice person who had been horribly abused. I LOVE that Denise saved him, and tried to protect the man she loved at the final climatic scene. She showed tons of integrity and grit--a perfect match for Spade.

Okay, maybe I lied when I said it is nothing like the other series. There are still some elements reminiscent of the Huntress books. The sex scenes are very hot, the build-up for the suspense is excellent, and this story has plenty of wit and humor.

I am very impressed with this book. Jeaniene Frost has shown another side to her writing chops, and I, for one, think she rocked the house. I am looking forward to more Huntress books, as well as more installments of this spin-off series.

Grade: A