From the BLURB:
It's been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she's survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a man she both desires and fears. For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago, Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death. A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and evil - and a desperate race to save their love...
Abby is having a terrible day, and it's about to get worse. It’s bad enough being an assistant to the employer from hell, Selena. Between having to mix her nasty green weight loss concoctions and getting hit on by her boy-toy, Dante, Abby is about ready to throw in the towel (no matter how much she needs the money). But then the most awful thing happens . . . Selena is murdered. Brutally and in her own home, Abby and Dante are there to witness her charred bodies last breath. And then something strange happens. As Abby touches the body, prepared to give CPR, she is thrust into a strange delirium. Something happens to her body, and when she awakens Dante is determined to get her out of the house and into hiding. Because, apparently, when Abby touched Selena’s dying body she had the Phoenix transferred to her . . . whatever that means.
According to Dante the Phoenix is a supernatural being that banishes the dark Prince (of hell!) from the earth – since the two of them cannot occupy the same plane of existence simultaneously. The Phoenix lives inside a ‘Chalice’, a chosen one who inhabits its powers and keeps the Phoenix safe from demon-kind who would have the Chalice killed (thereby killing the Phoenix) and allowing the Prince to walk among us.
Not only that, but Dante turns out to be a vampire . . . a vampire who has been shackled to the Chalice for hundreds of years. And now Abby is his new assignment, and he will protect her (and the Phoenix) with his life.
‘When Darkness Comes’ is the first book in Alexandra Ivy’s ‘Guardians of Eternity’ paranormal series.
This series has been on my radar for a while now, mostly because whenever I'm on JR Ward’s Amazon page, Ivy’s books come up as ‘recommended reads’. I can see the correlation between the series – apart from the vampire characters; Ivy’s series is currently eight books deep with a changing HEA for each instalment. Ward’s first book, ‘Dark Lover’ came out in 2005. Ivy’s ‘When Darkness Comes’ was released in 2007. But Ivy’s ‘Guardians’ series is more of a ‘lite’ version of the epic Black Dagger Brotherhood series. And this first instalment is nothing too spectacular (or overly original). But it’s a case of ‘just-missed-the-mark’ as opposed to ‘failed-epically’.
When we meet them, Abby and Dante have been living together in a mansion owned by Selena (Abby’s employer and Dante’s assumed sugar-mama). Dante has been affectionately calling Abby his ‘lover’ and been partaking of some serious flirtations which have been frustratingly tempting for Abby. The book literally begins on a BOOM – with Selena dying brutally and passing the Phoenix onto Abby (thereby installing Dante as her very own personal vampire bodyguard). From the moment that Selena dies, Abby and Dante are being hunted down by demons who want the Phoenix dead so that the dark Prince may reside on earth . . . so yeah, a lot happens in the first chapter.
I quite liked the action starting from the get-go. The novel was immediately infused with an adrenalin rush and the quick pace ensured that Dante’s explanations of the Phoenix were quick and to the point (honestly, there’s so much back-story about the Phoenix that Ivy could have written pages and pages of summary, so I'm glad she went the quick-fire route!). I also quite liked the fact that Dante and Abby already had a lot of sexual tension between them. They’ve been experiencing this strange flirtation for months now – but Abby has been put-off by her assumption that Dante was Selena’s boy-toy, and she also thought he was too cocky by half. For Dante, he’s been with countless women and experienced just about everyone and everything, so he’s a little surprised by his dogged flirtation with Abby. He is drawn to her pure soul and determination to ignore her attraction to him. The Phoenix binds Dante and Abby together to ensure that neither can escape from their true feelings for one another . . .
On the one hand, it’s hard to be dumped into the middle of Dante and Abby’s established attraction. But on the other hand, I quite liked the fact that there’s not much will-they-or-won’t-they . . . it’s more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘if’. Dante reminded me a little of Jean Claude from the Anita Blake series for his persistent pet-name of ‘lover’ (named before he and Abby even kiss let alone get between the sheets!) and his sensuously persistent flirtations.
Romantic tension can be so over-done in the paranormal romance genre, so I quite like it when authors like Alexandra Ivy give us a couple that are devoid of overt tension. But it’s a double-edged sword. Abby and Dante were a ‘sure thing’ and pretty much immediately affectionate; but it’s also a little boring when there’s no drama or guess-work involved in the romance. It does ensure that there are lots of sexy interludes between the two, and it helped that Abby and Dante sparked together. They had plenty of witty exchanges that kept me chuckling;
“Adventure?” Abby swatted at a biting mosquito with a grimace. “An adventure is walking through St. Mark’s Square in Venice, or sipping coffee in a charming bistro in Paris. Not wading through a briar patch in search of witches.”“Actually, the last time I attempted to enjoy coffee in Paris, I nearly had my head lopped off by the guillotine,” he murmured. “So you see, lover, it’s all a matter of perspective.”Abby stumbled at the off-hand confession. “Good Lord, would you stop that?” she complained.“What?”“Mentioning the past so casually. I thought I was ancient because I can remember Melrose Place.”He merely laughed.
One thing that didn’t work for me in this novel was Abby. She became quickly repetitive and somewhat annoying. A big deal is made of the fact that Abby has a ‘pure soul’, which demons can sense and are attracted to. But Abby’s soul is made all the purer because she has had a tough childhood – which we know about, because Abby mentions it all the time (at the drop of a hat). It got to the point where Abby spoke about her violent-daddy-drunk-mother-abandoning-brothers so many times that I lost all sympathy for her. I wish she’d kept a little something back, and not put her heart on her sleeve. As it was, it really read as though she slipped her broken childhood into just about every conversation with Dante. Grr!
Realistically, ‘When Darkness Comes’ isn’t reinventing the paranormal wheel. JR Ward has done it bigger and better. Dante and Abby were a so-so couple, with plenty of sexy interludes but not much interesting tension. What saves this book is also what saved ‘Dark Lover’ – the promise of other characters. Dante is friends with a powerful older vampire called Viper, who runs a supernatural brothel. This guy is dangerous . . . and wickedly tempting. His is the hero of the second novel, and I just know that I've got to keep reading to get his story! Ivy also mentions some of Viper’s minions – Egyptian vampire twins who are sinfully attractive and rumoured to have bedded many President’s wives in the past. I have my fingers crossed that those two make an appearance in future books!
I may not have LOVED ‘When Darkness Comes’, but I did enjoy it. I will keep reading because I thought the same thing about Ward’s ‘Dark Lover’ – and I was glad I persevered with that series beyond Wrath and Beth’s ‘meh’ story.