Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Gabe Vadas has returned to Chicago after five years traveling around Europe with his uncle slaying vampires. Gabe has inherited special slayer skills that allow him to recognize a vampire’s presence, even up to a couple of blocks away. Which has come in handy dealing with murderous vampires who do nothing but sleep and attack. Now that he is back in his hometown, Gabe plans to continue on as a vampire hunter. When he spots a hot, young vampire in a club, Gabe follows him, intent on killing the man. But when Harvey turns the tables on him, Gabe is shocked that Harvey lets him go. And soon instead of hunter and prey, the two become friends and lovers.
Spirit Sanguine is divided into three parts, each that has a distinct storyline. At the same time, each part combines to create an overaching narrative making a complete story within the book. (For those of you who read Harper’s Dead in L.A., the structure here is similar.) I thought it worked quite well here as Gabe becomes a detective of sorts, and each section follows one of the cases.
In Seeing Red, we get Harvey and Gabe’s introduction and see the beginning of their relationship. Physically things are intense for these guys right away, and they begin to develop a friendship as well. Gabe learns that the vampires in America are totally different than the European ones he is used to. Instead of being feral killers, they are pretty much like regular people. In fact, in Harvey’s case, he doesn’t even drink human blood, but instead a synthetic concoction he has created. Harvey introduces Gabe to his friend Dill and Dill’s vampire lovers Ray and Stan. When Dill goes missing and turns up kidnapped, Harvey and Gabe get involved in coming to his rescue, encountering someone from Harvey’s past. Their exploits don’t go unnoticed, and Gabe catches the attention of head vampire honcho Victor Augustine, who offers him a job now that Gabe’s slaying days are over.
In The Cheerful Corpse, Harvey and Gabe have moved in together and Gabe is settling into his job working for Victor. He is everything from messenger to rogue vampire catcher, often with Harvey’s help. When a young woman shows up dead under suspicious circumstances, Victor asks Gabe to investigate. And a second murder with similar patterns makes it clear that someone is killing humans who offer themselves to vampires to feed. Gabe works to find the killer, with the help of Denton Mills, a human who can sense what happens to a person at the time of death. Gabe and Harvey must figure out who is killing these people before they become targets themselves.
In Bad Blood, Victor sends Gabe to Las Vegas to investigate some men from Harvey’s past that seem to be up to no good. It turns out some vampires are feeding on dying hospice victims, causing a dangerous vampire addiction. Gabe and Harvey work to stop the bad guys, following a trail that leads them to the highest circles of vampire leadership in Vegas. But the closer they get to what is really going on, the more danger they find themselves in.
I really loved the structure to this book. On one hand there are almost three discrete stories that give you a chance to absorb the book in chunks, each with a resolution of its own. At the same time, Harper manages to weave them all together into a story that really flows, as we see the overarching development of Gabe and Harvey’s relationship.
I just loved these two guys together and they were the highlight of the story for me. The writing is so crisp and the dialog really zips between them. I loved their banter and playfulness and the way they interact with one another. Gabe is our POV character and we find him here at a bit of a loss. Now that he is no longer slaying vampires, the whole purpose of his life for the past 5 years is over and he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Though he doesn’t have the desire to hurt the mostly harmless vampires in Chicago, at the same time he enjoys the thrill of the hunt and chase. Personally Gabe is sort of out of sorts as well. He has no experience with relationships, and even as he and Harvey are settling into domesticity, he can’t quite recognize how serious things have become between them. Harvey is also a great character. You don’t run into many Buddhist, vegetarian vampires. Harvey is bright and fun and a great match for Gabe. He doesn’t let himself get pushed around or left out, and they make a great partnership.
I would have liked to understand Gabe a bit more as he sorted out his feelings in the relationship. He seems to go an awfully long time without really even understanding that he is IN a relationship. I mean, the guys are living together and sleeping together, but he doesn’t even consider Harvey a boyfriend, more of a friend with benefits. As a reader, it seems clear to me that they are in fact dating at the very least, but Gabe sort of seems oblivious for a very long time. I get that the past five years have been weird for him and he hasn’t been in that many relationships. But he had a traditional upbringing with parents who loved one another. All of this shouldn’t have been quite so foreign and so I didn’t totally get him in this regard.
Harper gives us some great world building here as well. She manages to provide a lot of the set up without it ever feeling like an information dump, and her vampire world was really creative and interesting. We also get a great cast of side characters, and Harper manages, with a few small exceptions, to keep all the pieces moving together really well. I especially loved Harvey’s friends Dill, Stan, and Ray and would love to get more of their story. The idea of a young human partnered with these vampires who have been together for centuries was totally alluring. At the end of the third section I did feel that things got a little muddied with lots of characters and motivations and I had a bit of trouble keeping complete track of what was happening, but other than that things flowed very well.
My only real problem with the book is that I feel like we have lots of loose ends that never got tied together throughout the book. For example, much is made of Harvey’s homemade vampire tonic and his goal of getting vamps to drink that instead of blood. I felt like this was leading to something, and it is touched on several times throughout the book, but doesn’t go anywhere. Also, in the second story it is clear that Gabe has a bit of an attraction to Denton, especially because at the time he isn’t particularly clear about his feelings for Harvey. But again, it seemed like we were building to something that never happened. We are also shown this dichotomy between the American friendly vampires and the European dangerous ones. The story builds to an explanation, but doesn’t ever get quite there. And the biggest issue for me was the circumstances surrounding Harvey’s turning. I don’t want to give too much away here but there was definitely suggestion, especially in the first story, that there was a bigger picture here and I kept waiting for that to develop. Even though we get some closure, it just felt like issues were set up that never got fully answered.
So overall I really loved this one. The writing is snappy and crisp and keep me entertained throughout. The pacing was really great and the stories within a story kept the plot moving along. And Harvey and Gabe were such great characters. I really loved them and would be thrilled to read more about these guys. Just a perfect couple and a really fun and engaging story.
Cover Review: I like this cover but I wish one of these guys looked more like Harvey who is half Chinese and a bit on the pretty side.
P.S. Lou stopped by yesterday with a great excerpt from Spirit Sanguine. She is also giving a copy away so be sure to check out that post and leave a comment enter.