Jeaniene Frost is back. Not that she went anywhere, really. But the last couple of Cat & Bones books didn't quite knock it out of the park for me. This book most assuredly did.Once Burned
is the long awaited Night Huntress spinoff, featuring Vlad. Right off the bat, I have to tell you that he makes this book sing. Not every cocky hero is a winner. In fact, most of them are downright off-putting for me. But Vlad finds just the right balance of swagger and depth. He is arrogant, but his walk matches his talk. And perhaps most importantly, he is never a jerk to his heroine. It isn't love at first sight. He doesn't write her sonnets or pick her flowers, but I could see respect there. I could believe it when I watched her fall in love with him.
Leila is human, but she isn't normal. An accident with electricity in her childhood left her with serious side effects. Now, she can not touch others without discharging power. She also carries the gift of psychometry. She can touch a person or a thing and see past, present, and future events tied to it. And whenever she touches someone for the first time, she always sees their darkest moment.
As the story begins, Leila accidentally gets a vision of a murder about to take place. She manages to prevent it, but in the process, she ends up calling some unwanted attention to herself. A group of vampires kidnaps her, planning to use her gifts to track down Vlad for his enemy. What they never expect is for her to reach out to him psychically instead. She makes a deal with Vlad to turn over her kidnappers in exchange for a rescue. And it works! But Vlad isn't quite willing to let her go after that. He hopes to use to her find the mystery man who ordered her kidnapping, in exchange for keeping her safe from future attacks. It's as they work together and grow to know one another that the two move beyond a business arrangement.
I like Leila. She is genuine and loyal, smart and pragmatic. I enjoyed watching her fight her feelings for Vlad. It made it even sweeter when she eventually succumbed. The sex is really hot. Nothing kinky, just really sensual and satisfying. The plot is interesting, the writing is conversational, and the pacing was so good that I didn't want to put down the book, even hours past my bedtime.
Night Huntress fans will be happy to know we get cameos from some familiar faces. Make no mistake, though. Vlad is the star of this book. He is sexy and complex. He is possessive and protective. But he doesn't give his heart easily and that bears mentioning. The ending isn't your typical Happily Ever After. But I thought it was a solid Happy for Now. One with great potential to grow in the next installment. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Very, very good.
Rating: A*ARC Provided by Avon