I’m a big fan of author Lauren Dane’s writing. She’s a versatile author, having published in several different genres of romance, including contemporary, paranormal, urban fantasy, sci-fi/fantasy, and erotic romance. I haven’t read many of her erotic romances, but I love her contemporary Chase Brothers series and her paranormal de la Vega Cats and Cascadia Wolves series. She writes hot alpha heroes and steamy sex scenes, which is definitely a win-win for romance readers. So I was really excited when her urban fantasy Goddess with a Blade was released earlier this month and I received a copy for review from NetGalley. I couldn’t wait to read it! Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
The heroine of the novel, Rowan Summerwaite, should be a great urban fantasy lead. She’s intense, sexy, and the physical vessel to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. At the beginning of the novel, she’s just returned to Las Vegas after months away, defending her killing of the former vampire scion of the city. She is part of the Hunters Corporation, which polices the vampires and defends the unknowing humans against undead predators. Upon Rowan’s return to Las Vegas, she’s summoned to meet the new vampire scion in town, Clive Stewart. He is of course super hunky and really uptight, contrasting nicely with our brash heroine, and their sexual chemistry is off the chart. As a series of vicious murders are uncovered in the city, Rowan has to work with Clive to discover the vampire killing female junkies before the human authorities learn that vampires are in their midst.
Here are my problems with the novel. My first criticism is that the writing is uneven and at times awkward. At least twice when I was reading conversations between characters I had to stop, go back, and count lines to figure out who said what. The beginning was rough, and it made it really difficult to get into the novel. This is a shame, because as the novel progressed, the writing noticeably improved and I was drawn into the action.
I also didn’t like Roman very much until about halfway through the novel. Clive is portrayed as refined and Rowan is brash and bold, setting the two of them up for an intense attraction between opposites. Unfortunately, in her early conversations with Clive, Rowan goes out of her way to be vulgar and crude, in what is clearly an attempt to show her as strong and assertive but just makes her seem really immature. She claims to despise vampires, yet almost immediately has sex with Clive. The scenes where she interacts with the Goddess Brigid and her acolytes portray Rowan as soft and caring, a stark contrast to her abrupt and overly aggressive interactions with Clive. I think the intent was to show that the relationship between the two changes them both, softening Rowan’s harsh edges and relaxing Clive, but Rowan’s attitude in the beginning goes just a little too far. As the novel progresses, she becomes less vulgar and crude but remains assertive and strong. I think she could have been this way from the beginning without sacrificing any strength of character.
Despite the problems with the beginning of the novel, the plot is action-packed, and the mystery is intriguing. Once the writing began to flow better and Rowan became less worried about maintaining a tough image with the vamps and more concerned about finding the vamp serial killer, the novel improved considerably. I liked the world Ms. Dane created in this novel, and the way she introduced us to Rowan’s history was excellent. We learn about her training for her role as the vessel for the goddess and her vampire father figure, and the scenes with him are well done and show emotional complexity. While I haven’t seen any information on Ms. Dane’s webpage indicating that this is the beginning of a new series, it easily could be, since there were several elements of the story that would provide ample material to develop. Given the improvements of the second half, I would be interested in reading a second novel in this series, because I very much liked the fictional world and how the mystery was tied up in the end. Overall, the novel had some serious problems at the start that were resolved as it progressed.