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Friday, June 24, 2011

'Chosen by Blood' Para-Ops #1 by Virna DePaul

From the BLURB:

Five years after the Second Civil War ends, humans and otherborn— humanlike creatures with superhuman DNA—still struggle for peace. To ensure the continued rights of both, the FBI forms a Para-Ops team with a unique set of skills.

CHOSEN BY BLOOD

Leader of an Otherborn clan, half-breed vampire Knox Devereaux would do anything to find a cure for the anti-vamp vaccine slowly starving his people into extinction. When the FBI contacts him about leading a team of hand-selected Others on a mission to reclaim the stolen antidote, Knox accepts. His new assignment places him in direct contact with Special Agent Felicia Locke, the beautiful human he’s craved since their very first meeting.

In an alternate history the US Second Civil War has all but wiped vampires out of existence, and in the aftermath of peace they are on the brink of extinction. A vaccine was invented that tainted human blood, ruining it as a food source for the vampire population. As a result, the number of fanged are dwindling.

Now the US vampire population live in a sanctuary called ‘The Dome’, and are led by Knox Devereaux – a dharmire human/vampire hybrid, and among the last few unaffected by the vaccine.

Knox was a soldier in the Second Civil War, but now he lives to lead his dying race . . . a heavy task to fall on his shoulders. As the vamp leader, Knox is expected to marry a pure vampire female and help to procreate and save the fading population. He already performed his duty when he married the vampire Noella, and had two beautiful children with her. But even though Knox married Noella, he has always been in love with her best friend – the human female, and FBI hostage negotiator, Felicia Locke.

Knox’s leadership role is about to get even more complicated. The FBI have got wind of an antidote to the vaccine – something that could eliminate the contamination of human blood and restore the vampire’s food supply, thereby saving an entire race of paranormal people.
And sine Knox has the most to gain from this antidote, he is heading up the mission to find proof of its existence. Together with a walking-dead-woman simply called ‘Wraith’, a werewolf called Hunt, psychic human O’Flare and a mage named Lucy, Knox will put his life on the line to save his people . . . but when Felicia joins the task-force, Knox suddenly has more to lose, and gain.

‘Chosen by Blood’ is the first book in Virna DePaul’s new paranormal series, ‘Para-Ops'.

It’s always nice to read fresh blood in the urban fantasy / paranormal genre. Old favourites will always be anticipated New Year releases, but the promise of a fresh new series to sink one’s teeth into is equally exhilarating. So it was with great enthusiasm that I delved into DePaul’s first book, ‘Chosen by Blood’. . .

This novel is the establishment of the series focus Para-Ops team. In DePaul’s alternate world, paranormal people are marginalized and ostracized in the wake of Civil War. Thanks to a vaccine, humans gained the upper hand in the war by eliminating themselves as a food source for vampires. But when a cure is rumoured to exist, all paranormal factions see it as an opportunity to right the imbalance between humans and paranormal’s.

‘Chosen by Blood’ mostly concerns the Para-Ops leader and vampire head-honcho, Knox Devereaux. Not only does Knox have the weight of his people’s existence on his hands, but he is being confronted with his own personal wants and desires in the form of human FBI agent, Felicia Locke.

In theory, Felicia and Knox have a good romance – full of unrequited love and unimaginable yearning, stirred up with controversy over her being a human and Knox being part vampire. Knox has been pursuing Felicia since they first met, despite her uneasy attraction to him and his marriage to her best friend. Noella and Knox even proposed a mating-pair arrangement, whereby Felicia would be Knox’s mistress. But Felicia wanted monogamy and fidelity, and she had no interest in being ‘the other woman’. When the novel opens, Felicia is attending Knox and Noella’s wedding anniversary when Knox succumbs to lust and proposes this ‘ménage’ arrangement to a disgusted and heartbroken Felicia. Skip ahead two years and Noella is dead, murdered the only way a vampire can be – her heart ripped out and burned. Felicia has managed to avoid Knox, who has been in France for some time arranging his new marriage (which will strengthen ties with the European vampires). But Knox is still adamant that Felicia be his mistress – and he hopes that when they are reacquainted, Felicia will be willing to shake off the shackles of close-minded human fidelity.

Right away, DePaul is on the back-foot with regards to Knox and Felicia. First off, she references their first meeting where, apparently, sparks were flying and lust was running high. But readers are given little to no back-story about Knox and Felicia’s first meeting. We don’t even really know how Felicia came to be best friends with the vampire Noella (strange, since their friendship probably kicked-off in the wake of vampire discrimination?). But most detrimental of all is that readers never experience Knox and Felicia’s first meeting, either in flashback or detailed remembering, it’s always just stated as a fact that they have a heart-tugging attraction to one another . . . Urgh. True love, soul mates and love at first sight all rolled into one. If you’re like me, then this romantic premise really bugs you because it gives the author a scapegoat – ‘soul mates’ can replace actual attraction, and ‘love at first sight’ is cited instead of actual scenes of sexy repartee and genuine affection. Such is the case with ‘Chosen by Blood’. Knox need only be in the same room and Felicia creams her pants. And even when Felicia is heart-broken and insulted by Knox’s offer of mistress-status, Felicia still wants him and can’t deny her attraction to him. It’s telling, not showing; DePaul is telling readers that Felicia and Knox want each other, without showing us much evidence to back it up.

For some people, Knox’s offer of blatant infidelity will be quite off-putting to the overall romance of the novel (especially when vampires in most paranormal romances ‘mate for life’). But DePaul actually works this unorthodox offering into the story . . . Felicia is frustrated by Knox’s presumptuous and hollow offer of an extramarital affair. But it’s the norm for vampires to marry pure-bloods, but take other lovers – while Knox believes that Felicia should ignore her stuffy human preconceptions about fidelity and monogamy – both of them are ruled by their cultures and beliefs, but are desperate to change the other’s thinking.

I thought that Knox and Felicia’s tug-of-war romance, with the hurdle of misconceptions about fidelity and marriage, was interesting and tension-filled. But their actual ‘sparkage’ and heat just wasn’t there . . . as evidenced by their first sex scene. This was clunky and unsatisfying. Considering the fact that Felicia had been ignoring her lustful pull towards Knox for years, you would think that their first coupling would be explosive and soul-affirming – instead it read awkward and unfulfilling.

Knox and Felicia were a pretty awful first HEA couple for the new Para-Ops series. But there is hope for two secondary characters introduced in ‘Chosen by Blood’. The living-dead-girl, Wraith, and human psychic Caleb O’Flare. I loved these two – they are both combative and hurtful towards one another, but only to hide their true (awkward) attraction. These two stole the romantic spotlight, completely. I’m thrilled that the next book, ‘Chosen by Fate’ is about their romance . . . and whereas DePaul just told us that Felicia and Knox were attracted to one another (as opposed to showing us), I can definitely attest to O’Flare and Wraith’s sizzling chemistry.

The romance in ‘Chosen by Blood’ felt completely flat to me, but I did like DePaul’s world building. The story of an alternate history and Second Civil War is ingenious and full of possibility. The vaccine/antidote storyline of this book is a good introduction to this universe, in which vampires are dwindling and ‘Others’ are discriminated against. But there’s plenty of leeway for deep exploration . . . in the wake of war one group is always the down-trodden, the loser forced to succumb to the whims of the victor. That’s humans and ‘Others’ in DePaul’s world. I’m willing to forgive a lot of the romantic fizzle, purely because I loved this Civil War storyline so much;

The door opened and Knox Devereaux stepped inside. He was, as always, impeccably dressed. Tall and grim-faced, his dark pants, expensive black duster jacket, and polished boots made him look like a GQ outlaw.
Yes, indeed, Mahone thought. The times had changed.
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness no longer applied just to humans.
Wraiths had a right to vote. A court had just ruled that a mage’s right to practice magic was akin to one’s right to worship. And vamps, both full vampires and dharmires alike, couldn’t be denied health coverage based on ‘malnourishment’ being a pre-existing condition.
The Others were demanding their due and making their presence known.

I will also say that the ending of this book didn’t entirely work for me. The dénouement drags, and a lot of previously-unmentioned villains pop out of the woodwork to complicate the finale . . . . But like I said, I’m willing to forgive a lot of DePaul because I loved the back-story universe she created. I’m also really excited to read Wraith and O’Flare’s romance – which is sure to wash out the bad taste Felicia and Knox left behind.

2.5/5

1 comment:

  1. Awww this looked so promising, so sad to see it didnt deliver as it could =/

    Thanks for the review hon!

    ReplyDelete