vicious waltz coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel


Roger has wanted to kill Seamus, the head of the Great Lakes Coven, for more than 25 years and his goal is finally more in reach than ever. With his hunter boyfriend, Zack Wright, by his side, Roger now has a partner skilled and savvy enough to help him with his task. Seamus is a cruel master, killing on a whim and unfit to lead. If Roger and Zack can kill Seamus, hopefully they can get the rest of the coven to follow Roger, who can lead them into a new future.

However, knowing what they have to do and figuring out how to actually do it are two different things. Zack is anxious and ready for action, wanting to take on Seamus and finally end his reign — and just maybe earn the respect of his family back in the process. But Roger is wary about jumping in too soon and unsure how to proceed before he gets back to the Coven and gets a better idea of how to take on Seamus and who will follow Roger once Seamus is dead.

Roger and Zack head to Chicago, along with Roger’s two human “pets” and vampire Takashi Sato, a friend and former lover of Roger’s. As the group begins working to reintegrate Roger into the Coven, Zack is forced to take on the public role of “pet.” It is a struggle for Zack, who as a former hunter is used to taking action, and is now expected to be quiet and subservient in public. But Zack also struggles figuring out where he fits in this vampire world or even knowing what he wants for his life once they ultimately succeed in killing and dethroning Seamus. However, even as the group gets closer to their goal, Seamus continues to be incredibly dangerous. Finding a way to take him down is proving near impossible — especially before he gets them in his sights in return.

Vicious Waltz is the second book in J.S. Harker’s Fang and Dagger series and picks up shortly after the end of the first book, Wrong Hunt. That book came out about a year and a half ago and I was a little worried when reading through my notes that I wasn’t going to remember enough to pick up here. But while you are absolutely going to want to read these in order, I think Harker does a nice job conveying the basics you need to know to transition into this second story. We open with the Roger and Zack still living in Taliville in Nell’s mansion as Zack recuperates and they prepare for the move to Chicago. Zack is frustrated, itching to get things going, while Roger insists they need more time to plan. Zack is also recuperating physically from being stabbed by his brother, Cal, and emotionally from his family disowning him when they learned Zack is dating a vampire. He is dealing with a lot of internal angst as he tries to let go of all the ingrained hate for supernaturals his family instilled and reconcile that with his new friendships and relationship. Zack also has been trained all his life for action, and he hates not only waiting around, but the public face he has to put on as Roger’s “pet.” There is so much protocol and politics and Zack hates it all. I think Harker does a nice job here, and throughout the book, of showing Zack’s frustration as he is caught between these two worlds and is figuring out his place.

Once the story moves to Chicago, we see the group begin to try to reintegrate Roger into Coven society. Roger and Zack are accompanied by Kit and Carver, two human “pets” who haven’t been told the real reason why they are in Chicago (which didn’t particularly thrill me, considering they don’t realize how much their lives are on the line). They are also traveling with Takashi, a vampire who Roger used to date and with whom he still has a strong connection. Again, Zack wants to act as soon as they can, but Roger is still biding his time. He wants to better understand Seamus’ support, who his allies might be, and the best plan of attack. So Zack and Roger find themselves at odds, as Zack is frustrated and Roger feels like Zack doesn’t trust him. We then spend most of the book watching the group attend various vampire events as they try to figure out how to take out Seamus. I think getting this look at vampire life was interesting and it does give us a chance to get to know more about what both Roger and Zack are struggling with internally. But I do think it goes on way too long. This book is about 450 pages and, aside from time at the start in Taliville and then some action at the very end, almost all of it is “day-in-the-life” scenes of them all hanging out and going to events. I feel like so much of this could have been trimmed down to get the pacing more on track without sacrificing the character development. As it is, it fees like this waiting period goes on for way too long and all the action is saved for the very end.

Speaking of, this book ends on a big cliffhanger. I knew that going in, and actually found it worked fine for me. Basically, one of the characters has to make a major, life altering decision. We actually see them make their choice here, so we are not left wondering what they will do; it’s more not knowing what the fallout from this choice will be. So I think the book actually does come to a natural ending here and leads nicely into the next installment.

Aside from the vampire dynamics, there is the relationship between Roger and Zack, which later adds in Takashi. The relationship plot has always felt like sort of the back burner story in these two books, and while Zack and Roger are now boyfriends, we don’t spend much time focused on the romantic side of their connection. Roger has had an on/off romantic and sexual relationship with Takashi over the years, and he and Zack discuss being poly. They decide to open things up and both men begin a relationship with Takashi both individually and as a triad. For all that there isn’t much romantic development between Roger and Zack, there is even less between either of them and Takashi. We get very little information about Takashi’s past relationship with Roger and their feelings for each other, and virtually nothing in terms of Takashi’s budding relationship with Zack. It is just sort of like the guys think the other is hot and then decide they are boyfriends. It doesn’t help that the book’s POVs are exclusively from Roger and Zack, and Takashi is not a main character, so he always feels off to the side. It just seems like there is potential here that is not explored and could be developed further in terms of the characters and their relationship dynamic.

As I said, this one ends with some big excitement and a cliffhanger that shakes a lot of things up. I am eager to see how it all comes together in the next book and what the future holds for Roger, Zack, and Takashi.

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