Not every book in this series has been created equal, but I think this is definitely one of the strongest installments.
The story features Santiago, regional commander of the vampire Guardians. (And for those of you following along from the previous books, the boss of Dominic, Lily and Jackson.) He's gruff and impatient. He's domineering and prone to outbursts. But there is much more to him than that. He's also a man full of angst and self-loathing for his own failings. He tortures himself (literally) over his perceived shortcomings. And he believes himself to be incapable of treating a woman any better than his adulterous father treated his mother.
Santiago's life gets turned on its ear when Roxy enters the picture. She is a woman who knows her own mind and heart. He's not her boss, so she doesn't have to take his crap... and he barely knows what to do with himself when his tantrums and orders fall on deaf ears.
Roxy was a Guardian long ago, but now she is a teacher to those who need to learn to scent-track. She agrees to teach a course for her old student and friend, Lily, which is what puts her in Santiago's orbit. But once he realizes there may be a traitor in his organization, he realizes he can use her special gifts to sniff them out. The two end up posing as lovers as a cover for her internal investigation. From there, it's only a hop, skip, and a jump until their ruse turns into reality.
I liked Roxy a lot. She has issues, sure, but for the most part, she really has her act together. For all of his swagger and bluster, Santiago is really kind of a basket case. I enjoyed watching him come to terms with his problems and accept the gifts Roxy is giving.
We didn't have to wait terribly long for the sex, which was gratifying ('cause the sex was good.) But I really appreciated the fact that the tender feelings between Roxy and Santiago grew over the course of the book. It felt like their relationship was an evolution and that helped me invest more. --I also thought the Darkblood plot was well-done. The pacing was good and I liked that the resolution was neither obvious, nor tied in a perfectly neat bow.
The internal conflict was a little heavy on assumptions and misunderstandings, but I've seen worse.
This is book four in the Sweetblood series and I think it would work as a standalone, though longtime readers will no doubt enjoy seeing the couples featured in previous books. I loved seeing how far Dominic and Mackenzie have come!*ARC Provided by NetGalley