Rating: 4 stars
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Alexei Karsynov works hard to keep others at a distance. He (grudgingly) has some friends at work in the Vampire Related Crimes Division, but he isn’t interested in getting too close to anyone. Alexei has a lot of secrets in his past that he knows will ruin everything if they are exposed. He also has lost everyone he cared about, some to betrayal, and he isn’t interested in opening his heart back up again. Unfortunately, Claude Church has decided he is interested in Alexei and, despite Alexei’s best efforts to run him off, Claude is persistent.
Claude has been estranged from his brother, Marcus, for years, but he is happy to be back and reconnecting with him. Now that he is consulting with the police on a new case, it gives him a chance to not only spend time with Marcus and Finn, but also with Alexei. Alexei may be grumpy and brooding, but Claude still can’t resist him.
The group is investigating a case of a murdered vampire. Claude’s expertise leads them to realize that the vampire was killed by a hunter, part of a group that can be traced back to Europe and has spread to America. When the hunters seem to be targeting Alexei, he realizes that the attacks are tied to his past. Alexei is sure that no one will forgive him if they knew his truth, but Claude surprises him by sticking by Alexei no matter what. But even as things begin to grow between Alexei and Claude, they still face a group of hunters who want to see them dead. It is going to take all they have to fight for their lives and stop the hunters before it is too late.
How to Lure a Hunter is the third book in Alice Winters’ Vampire Related Crimes series, this time focusing on a new couple in Claude and Alexei. Alexei has served as a foil for both Finn and Marcus in past books, and Claude made an appearance in book 2, so familiarity with the series is helpful, but the overarching plot from the first two books is already wrapped up so you can jump into the story here pretty easily. I don’t want to give too much away about Alexei’s past and his big secret, but I will say that Winters does a nice job having his backstory unfold, intermingled with the currently storyline. It balances well, giving us pieces of the story at just the right times to connect the past and the present. There isn’t as much law enforcement investigation happening here as in the earlier books, so there isn’t as much crime drama here as I was expecting and it takes a little time before the action really picks up. But I think the storyline is engaging and Winters does a nice job bringing in Alexei’s backstory and tying things all together.
Claude and Alexei end up being a lot of fun together, and I loved seeing how Claude’s steadfastness and caring really help Alexei open up. Now, the guys do start the book very much at odds, with Claude desperately trying to gain Alexei’s interest, and Alexei rebuffing him at every turn. In Claude’s case, he pretty much throws himself at Alexei in a way that, were this not a humorous romance novel, would border on stalkerish and harassment. I think it would have helped to better understand why Claude was so into Alexei (especially because they meet in the previous book), as I sometimes wondered why he puts up being treated so poorly for so long. Alexei comes across as about 90% mean, with about 10% sort of reluctantly amused frustration for the early part of the book. We are privy as readers to the fact that Alexei is more charmed by Claude than he admits, but Claude just keeps taking the abuse. I will say Winters does establish a foundation for this, both in Claude’s relentlessly sunny disposition, but also in his interactions with Marcus who similarly loves him but treats him poorly. But I still found it a little rocky at the start to understand why Claude is so invested. That said, once these guys settle into things, it really comes together well. Alexei is so fearful of sharing his past, but also about opening up his heart to more betrayal. It has left him putting up walls and holding himself distant. Claude’s support makes Alexei realize he can count on other people to be there for him, including coming to accept his growing friendships and connection with Finn and Marcus, as well. I like how Claude is so open and out there, in his personality, his dress, and his openness with everyone. It is so hard for Alexei to understand, as he is exactly the opposite. But somehow, they make it work and each finds the other endearing.
I was really interested to see how Winters would shift this series, both to new MCs, as well as to a new plot as the first two books tied up a big series arc. I think Claude and Alexei end up being a lot of fun together and I enjoyed watching them interact as a couple, as well as to see the bond building between them and Marcus and Finn. So for fans of the series, or anyone looking for a humorous paranormal, this is definitely one to pick up.