Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Ben Redbourn is going to be the new Dark Earl of Crofton and serve on the Vampire Council. His sire, Charles Redbourn, is tired, ready to settle down and enjoy his undead life with his beloved husband, and has decided now is the best time to get it all done with. Ben, on the other hand, isn’t ready; he has things yet to do. So, he calls for an investigation against the new Dark Earl, something which should take a few months — maybe even half a year — and give him time to tie up a few loose ends.

The Invigilators who oversee such matters for the Vampire Council send two Warlocks to reside in Crofton and deal with the matter: Julian, a powerful Warlock, and Ashley Niven, son of the high Warlock. The Invigilators have no idea who called for the investigation — since Ben went for anonymity — and have turned their attention to finding who might have raised the concern. Is it one of his vampire siblings, Henry or Catlin, who might prefer to be the next heir? Is it the demon butler, the elven secretary, the werewolf archivist, the ghost servant, or the human cook, tired of being chained to a vampire master? Could it be someone from a rival vampire house simply looking to cause trouble? Ashley and Julian will get to the bottom of this, one way or another.

This is the first book in the Dark Earls series, which involves vampires, ghosts, elves, dragons, shifters, werewolves, demons, warlocks, and humans. There is a spell for almost everything, and a magic potion when all else fails. The rules of the world are vague, but there are certainly chapters going into potion making, because Ben is a genius potion maker. He’a also rich, tall, dark, and handsome; he’s a vampire playboy who has no preference in gender or number of partners. The book feels like it very much wants me to be aware that he’s hot, desirable, and the best thing since sliced bread.

For the most part, it kind of works? Ben has a personality, a sense of humor, a sense of justice, and treats people with respect. Honestly, Ben is the best part of this book. And he gives away the plot … a lot. Most of Ben’s chapters have him revealing plot elements or twists, which means there is never a need for or a chance for anyone to discover anything. Ben will tell them, and if he doesn’t, someone else will. So rather than reading a mystery, it’s just following along a prescribed path and, to be honest, it was kind of boring.

Ashley is the worst part of this book. Ashley and Julian decided to play good cop/bad cop in regards to Ben, with Julian as the good cop, which is the only way to play it, because Ashley doesn’t present enough personality to play good cop. He seems mostly good at complaining, posturing, and being unintelligent. And, in theory, he’s good at sex — but more on that in a moment.

Ashley is supposed to be smart. He is not. He is supposed to be good at making potions. He isn’t. The few times he tries, he’s so bad Ben has to rescue him. The one time they make a potion together, it’s Ben and Ben’s skill leading the way, while Ashley just stands there. Ben leaves Ashley books — books with strange and innuendo laden titles, which Ashley doesn’t read, opening himself up for mockery because the title is always a joke, and what’s in the book is worthwhile — pointedly so. This joke is repeated twice, but Ashley still never gets it. He comes across as having neither an understanding of nor the ability towards subtlety or nuance, and I don’t think he’s able to put two and two together without someone giving him the answer. Ashley sulks, he whines, he’s defensive and dull. Reading a character who is supposed to be smart but who, when judged on their words and actions, is quite stupid isn’t my favorite thing to do. It’s not that Ashley is a badly written character, he’s just a bad character. Other characters and the narration try to paint a picture of a clever, brilliant, intelligent man, but nowhere in his words or actions is he able to live up to any of this. He’s also a terrible friend, and was a terrible boyfriend — ditching his ex because he got bored, while assuming they’d stay friends because, well, it’s what he wants. And he’s lucky Julian went along with it, because Julian is the only reason they getting any work done.

So, magic. Ashley tries to cast a spell on Ben to compel Ben to unlock a box. To be fair, no one said Ashley was a good person, so sure, he can go ahead and take over someone’s thoughts and bodily autonomy. It backfires, and instead he and Ben are suddenly so horny for one another it’s like magic. This is because the two are fated mates, of course. They don’t get along, it’s an unequal match in terms of intelligence, compassion, or empathy, so all they have is sexual compatibility. According to the book, it’s the one thing Ashley might actually be good at.

The writing is fine. The pace is fast, because there’s never any tension. There’s no need for a mystery or surprise, because everything will be explained in the first third of the book, and then it’s just a matter of having it rehashed in the last third. Ben was fine as a character, but many of the side characters blended into one another with no discernible voice. I didn’t buy the romance, and personally found it somewhat uncomfortable because I just don’t buy Ashley as being right for — or good for — Ben in any regard. Personally, I don’t think there’s enough here for me to recommend this story.