Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


For Ethan, photography does more than pay the bills and let him see the country, it helps him express himself. His work has a permanent home on his online storefront and he is no stranger to gallery showings. It doesn’t hurt that both Ethan and his audience enjoy the themes he chooses to document and right now, it’s abandoned places. While exploring the town of Cromere, Ethan discovers an abandoned church and decides to explore it at night, sure that there will be amazing plays of moonlight and shadow over the decaying sanctuary. Instead, he finds a man crucified, yet somehow still breathing. Even more terrifying: There are signs that others are coming to finish the job. Running on adrenaline and fear, Ethan helps the man off the cross and stumbles into a whole world he never knew existed.

Auris’ mother gave him a prophecy long, long ago and when it comes true after being attacked by overzealous so-called priests in a church, he is determined to follow through on it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ethan is amenable to his part of the prophecy—being Auris’ one true love—even if he doesn’t believe it. What started out as the worst night of his life in a long time has turned into Auris’ greatest joy. But just because he found Ethan doesn’t mean he’ll get to keep him if Auris isn’t careful about the threat the priests pose to them both. These priests are dedicated vampire hunters after all, and they’re absolutely willing to slaughter an innocent human if it means destroying a vampire like Auris. With danger closing in, Auris will have to act quickly if he hopes to protect and build a relationship with Ethan.

Illuminated is the first book in the Vampire Tales series from Alexa Piper. For me, it came across as a surprisingly cozy read, despite some darker overtones. The almost exclusive focus on Auris and Ethan added to the intimate feel of the story. I thought the prose really showcased Ethan’s deep interest in photography and reinforced how much it’s a part of him. Ethan was a fun main character to guide the action. He was both accepting and skeptical of Auris’ claim to being a vampire, though Ethan quickly realized that it was true. He wanted to explore the obvious connection with Auris, but unlike the vampire, he was hesitant to jump from strangers to fated lovers with a single look (or a single de-crucifying, I suppose). Conversely, Auris felt cool and mysterious—exactly how I like my vampires. On the cool side, he was all style and reserved passion when it came to Ethan. He wanted to take things at Ethan’s pace, even though Auris knew Ethan was the one for him. On the mysterious side, well, the guy had existed for thousands of years, but all we really found out about him and vampires was that they have cool eyes, are somewhat weaker during daylight hours, and Auris specifically was given a prophecy by his mother. Still, the dynamic here echoed another vampire property I’m keen on—specifically how the mega-hot vampire fell hopelessly in love with an almost painfully normal mortal.

The pacing of the book felt very solid. Even though only a couple of days elapsed over the course of the book, the way Ethan’s and Auris’ scenes played out made this time feel longer. They talked to each other a lot—hell, their first real interaction/date involved a round of twenty questions. And with both characters not just explaining, but exploring each other’s chief personality quality—i.e. Ethan’s photography and Auris’ being a vampire—it felt like they built up a solid foundation. Plus, well, they’re fated for each other and they shared a mutual attraction. Instead of a will-they-won’t-they trope, this hit me more like a “when will Ethan realize that he is Auris’ forever mate.” It was fun to watch them navigate their physical connection, their dissimilar histories, and the danger of the priests together.

Overall, I found Illuminated to be a quick, cozy read. If you want something paranormal that focuses on the two main characters finding and embracing a seemingly innate romantic connection, this is a great choice. Ethan felt relatable in an average Joe kind of way, but has his intense interest in photography and unwaveringly kind heart to make him interesting. Auris is all calm coolness, willing to do whatever it takes to keep Ethan safe, while still letting Ethan be Ethan. Now that these two have found each other, I’m excited to see where the story goes from here.