I’m always looking for new authors who write about vampires, and it was exciting to receive a copy of Ms. London’s Embraced by Blood for review from the publisher via NetGalley. I’ve since seen the book on sale at Barnes & Noble and Walmart, and I’ve got to say the cover is a bit off-putting, which is a shame, because this is an enjoyable read. I’d hate for anyone to pass over the book because of aesthetics. Embraced by Blood is the second novel in Laurie London’s Sweetblood series, although there is also a novella, “Hidden by Blood,” between the two, and it’s currently available for free for the Kindle. Embraced by Blood features a spurned lover and a former double agent, and is a romance about redemption, one of my favorite tropes. However, while I enjoyed the characters and the story, overall it felt a little flat to me.
Alfonso Serrano was a double agent for centuries, secretly working for the vampire Guardians who protect humans while he pretended to be one of the vicious DarkBloods. In his youth Alfonso rebelled against his straight-laced Guardian Council father and ended up addicted to Sweetblood, the most addictive and prized human blood type. After overcoming his addiction, he pretended to maintain his DarkBlood inclinations in order to provide the Guardians with vital inside information. His Guardian handler was Tracker Lily DeGraff, with whom he maintained an on-again, off-again affair. At the beginning of the novel we learn that he staged his own death to escape the DarkBloods and then rejected Lily, since he knows that his Blood Assassin will be hunting him and endangering everyone he cares for. When Alfonso learns that the DarkBloods are organizing through an online role-playing game called Hollow Grave and that they are targeting Guardian Trackers, he re-enters Lily’s life to protect her and her daughter, Zoe. The heroine Lily is one of the Guardians’ most talented Trackers, able to follow individual blood scents like no other, but her abilities have been failing her lately. Lily’s been training a new Tracker and blames herself for her trainee’s abduction because her waning abilities didn’t warn her of the danger following them. Losing her tracking abilities is akin to losing her identity, and this couldn’t be a worse time for her former lover Alfonso to return. The two have to work together to find her trainee and stop the DarkBloods’ attacks on humans, all while avoiding Alfonso’s DarkBlood Assassin.
The characters of this vampire romance are what sell this book for me. I’m a sucker for a redemption story, and this one appeals on two fronts. Alfonso has labored for years in secret, trying to redeem himself for his misspent youth. Also, his rejection of Lily was an attempt to protect her from his past. His work with the Guardians against the DarkBloods more than make up for his past, and it’s clear that Lily and Alfonso’s love affair has only grown deeper through adversity.
I enjoyed the action, liked the characters, and thought the romance was at times touching and at others sizzling. So why did this fall flat for me? After I read the book the first time, my reaction was, “Meh.” So I read it a second time, because I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like the book more. It wasn’t until I picked up a favorite of mine after re-reading Embraced by Blood that I figured it out. The problem is definitely the pace of the narrative. There were times when the novel just seemed to drag, especially at the beginning, when Alfonso was pondering his past and his relationship with Lily. The same happened with Lily, when she would think about her past. Whenever the characters would engage in interior monologues, the tempo of the narrative would get bogged down, which led to my mind wandering.
The book was an enjoyable read, just not an outstanding one. Despite the problems in pacing, I felt that the other aspects of the novel did work for me, so I’ll definitely give Ms. London’s other work a chance.