Blood Bargain (Amazon USA, UK, Canada - preorder)
by Maria Lima
Keira Kelly has settled in at Wild Moon Ranch with handsome Adam Walker, her vampire lover, but her life is not so hot. Not only is Keira still struggling with the Change that will bring her an as yet unknown paranormal power, but Adam's avoiding intimacy and mysteriously growing weak. At least she has Tucker, her 1200-year-old shapeshifting ex-Viking brother, around to help. When a ranch hand is reported missing and some teens disappear, Keira and Tucker have a heap of unexpected trouble piled on 'em. There's a lot of weird doing down around Rio Seco, Texas, and after Keira and Tucker stumble across some dangerous clues in an abandoned cemetery, things get even stranger...
Blood Bargain is the sequel to Maria Lima's debut novel, Matters of the Blood, which Tia reviewed last October. It's also the second book in the Blood Lines series. The blurb in the back of the book reports that Maria Lima is working on a third novel in the series.It should be interesting (and maybe enlightening!) for followers of this blog to compare how Tia and I each related to this series.
Tia really enjoyed Matters of the Blood, even though she's not generally into urban fantasy. However, I ran into problems because these books come very close to being paranormal romance. In fact, I might actually classify them as that. And I'm not very big on romance, particularly when it involves the type of characters and relationship portrayed in these books.
But before I get too far off on a tangent, let me start with some background on Blood Bargain. The story in this second book is still set in Texas and still features Keira Kelly, who is half Sidhe and half something else that's never specified, but isn't human. Her friends, relatives (those left alive and/or in the area), and love interest from the previous book reappear in this one. I have to say my favorite character is probably Keira's half-brother, Tucker, an immortal shapeshifter who alternates between being an annoying older brother and an extremely insightful person.
The book was a quick read just like its predecessor. I would have liked to see Keira with greater personal stakes in the story from the beginning, because that would have increased the tension and moved the book along even faster. By the end, however, the stakes do get very personal for her.
Now we get to the biggest reason this book didn't completely work for me: the romance. Keira's love interest, Adam Walker, is an incredibly handsome and sexy vampire who owns a dude ranch called the Wild Moon (it's actually a sort of retreat where vampires can go to be safe). Adam, who is pure alpha male, is very much the decision-maker in their relationship, while Keira is ruled solely by her emotions and physical desires whenever he's around.
I prefer love relationships that are more equal, with men who are less perfect and women who approach the relationship a little more rationally. In fact, I wouldn't have minded seeing Keira get with Adam's second-in-command, Niko, who is flawed and has a dark past (yes, I admit I have a weakness for dark flawed characters), but somebody equally deserving got Niko (anyone who read Matters of the Blood already knows who).
In other respects, Keira is a strong female character, and I'm sure many people would find her fun to read.
I wouldn't have minded getting a stronger sense of place from the book. The Texas setting is an interesting choice, but aside from the obvious Hispanic influences and references to ranches I didn't pick up on the "flavor" of this setting.
Overall, though, I felt Blood Bargain surpassed Matters of the Blood. This story delved deeper into Keira's heritage and personal issues (although the twist in the very last chapter disappointed me; it was a bit of a cliche). It also delved deeper into some of the secondary characters, giving us a taste of who they are and what their backstory is, which made them richer. It's nice to see a series where the second book is stronger than the first.