Alain Autenberg works in Special Projects for the Swiss Guard at the Vatican, and only a very few know Alain’s true mission. Along with his partner, Father Lotario, Alain works to protect Rome and the Vatican from supernatural threats. The city is filled with vampires, ghouls, demons, and more and Alain works in secret to protect people who have no idea these dangers exist. But it is a lonely, isolating life, especially as Alain keeps himself at a distance after losing his lover years ago. He has sworn never to get close to anyone again lest his job lead to the loss of another life of someone he loves.
When Alain is asked to mentor new soldier, Cristoph Hasse, he definitely wants to keep Cris at arm’s length. Not only is Cris brash and stubborn with a huge chip on his shoulder, but Alain can’t stop his fantasies about the man. Now is not the time for him to be taking on additional responsibility either, as there is a rash of supernatural killings suddenly cropping up in Rome and Alain and Lotario can not figure out why. Something serious is going on, something that involves vampires and demons and the Vatican itself. But Alain is left with no choice, and as time passes, he finds himself liking Cris and the two become friends. Alain is determined, however, that nothing more can happen between them despite the attraction.
Before long, the case heats up and Cris ends up getting involved despite Alain’s wishes. Things are turning more deadly, the situation is dire, and secrets are uncovered. Now it is becoming a race against time to figure out what is really going on and who is behind the chaos and destruction before it is too late to save the city and their lives.
Wow, I had no idea what to expect from this story and I absolutely loved every minute. The combination of adventure, suspense, creative world building, and incredible attention to detail and setting really make A Time to Rise shine.
The story takes place in Rome, with a focus on the Vatican, and Tal Bauer has done an amazing job grounding the story in the location and the history of this area. It is clear Bauer has done the research as both the Vatican and Rome just come to life here, with such wonderful details on everything from the atmosphere of certain neighborhoods, to the locations of buildings and landmarks, to life in the Vatican. What is amazing is that the story never feels bogged down or overburdened with information. Instead it all just comes to life, the vivid detail making me feel like I was really there, walking through a cardinal’s apartment, or standing with the guards at the gate, or racing through the streets of Rome with Alain and Lotario. The city becomes almost its own character and the story is so incredibly rich and engaging as a result.
Along with the setting, the paranormal world building here is great. The story mixes the true to life history and setting of Vatican with the paranormal world, giving it a solid foundation that makes everything totally believable. As more details are revealed on the history of the Swiss Guard, the role of the different players at the Vatican, and the creatures haunting the streets, I could find myself totally accepting that all these things could be true and really happening while we are all oblivious. Not only that, but the mystery and suspense elements are so well done here. Slowly we begin to see the pieces fitting together and we follow along with Alain and Lotario as they try to uncover what is really going on. Bauer does a great job of giving us just the right pieces of information to lead us along the story, without us knowing quite what is happening until the very end. Whether it be Alain’s past relationship, or secrets of the Vatican, or what is really happening with the vampires and demons, we get the right information at the right time to be satisfying, but also to keep the mysteries intense. I found it incredibly exciting and such a fascinating story.
I also really enjoyed Cris and Alain together. There is a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe at the start here, mostly because Cris is surly and difficult and kind of a pain in the ass. He is hiding a lot of pain and confusion and it comes out as belligerence, but getting to know Alain and getting his support really changes him. I loved the two of them together, and although their relationship develops slowly, the chemistry between them is intense, and the love between them at the end shines so strongly. My only real issue with the story, however, is that at times these guys are too separated. Most of the first third of the book alternates between Alain and Lotario on the case, and then scenes with Alain and Cris, but the storylines are sort of running in parallel. Also, we hear about how the guys are spending a lot of time together, but we don’t see it on page and are just told that they are now close friends. So I would have liked more time to explore their connection. But once they are together, they are intense and amazing.
I don’t feel like I am doing this story justice as I try to describe it because there is a lot going on here that I don’t want to reveal. But this was a book that I wanted to be reading constantly. From the moment I picked it up, I wanted to be reading it every minute, and I found myself constantly thinking about the story when I had to put it down. The book is just fascinating and exciting and so incredibly creative. And the ending is not just explosive, but something I never saw coming. While the story does have a resolution, the door is open for more adventures and I can not wait to see where Bauer takes things in future books, because wow.
So this was a fabulous story, one I am still thinking about days later and that made a huge impression on me as I read it. I can definitely recommend this one, especially to folks who love romantic suspense and stories that put a paranormal spin on real world locations and events.
P.S. I just have to mention that Father Lotario is one of my favorite side characters in a while. He is a drinking, swearing, obnoxious priest who is kind of an ass, but also has a heart buried deep down. He truly cares for Alain and he risks his life along with him, and is not above a little matchmaking either. Loved him.