Urban Fantasy Romance
I've been out of town this week, and the one book I finished was one I sold the night before leaving to one of "my" customers...Sarah McCarty's Jared. It's the second in her Shadow Wranglers series (following Caleb), which features a family of nearly 300-year-old vampire ranchers.
Although it's not connected to one of the author's lesser-known books - The Conception, which was supposed to have been the first in The Others series that never came to fruition, possibly because she moved from Ellora's Cave to Berkley and Harlequin in the interim - I can't help but wonder whether the idea for her Shadow Wranglers grew out of the EC-published book. Both, after all, feature vampire brothers battling formidable foes who will stop at nothing to achieve their evil goals - including horrendous scientific experimentation - and seemingly innocuous or weak heroines who turn out to have unique biologies that render them the perfect mate, and, as you might suspect, are the only women able to turn their battle-hardened vampires into loving husbands.
I think in the past few years I've read just about everything Sarah McCarty has written. At AAR you can find my review of Sam's Creed, her response to winning an award in AAR's annual reader poll for Caine's Reckoning, and some commentary about Running Wild at both AAR and my old blog. She's not an author I would have read five years ago, but now she's an auto-buy for me, even though her books have an over-the-top quality and can be incredibly kinky. The kink is toned way down in Caleb and Jared; probably the most kinky of all her books is Mac's Law. It's a book so kinky and focused on a single sex act that I'm not sure why I like it, but I've long moved beyond questioning what draws me to particular kinks.
Anyway, it turns out that it's not just kink that draws me to McCarty; while I noted before writing this that AAR rated Caleb as "burning," my sensuality rating for Jared is "hot." A strong hot, to be sure, and explicit, but as far as erotic romance goes, it's nowhere near burning.
Let me get specific about Jared. Jared Johnson rescues Raisa, a delicately beautiful vampire from the enemy: Sanctuary vampires who plan to create a master race of vampires and to kill Renegades like the Johnson brothers before taking on humanity. Both characters came from a different time; Jared may be one tough dude, but he has an almost courtly manner when it comes to caring for Raisa, who has somehow survived as a vampire for almost three hundred years even though drinking blood makes her violently ill. Raisa's on her own mission, though, and while Jared would take her under his protection, she is as honorable as he is and plans to carry out her task whatever the personal cost.
Along the road to his ranch they must spend some time with one of the few werewolf packs who won't tear a vampire to shreds, and it is while under their protection that Jared learns about Raisa's blood allergy...and that his is the only blood she can drink. More complications ensue once they make it back to his ranch, complications involving two of his three brothers. To say more would give spoilers, and while I guessed one of them, the other came entirely out of left field for me, so kudos to McCarthy for that.
McCarthy's books are perfect for those who like to read about killing machines who are forced to deal with emotion and embrace their humanity as a result of falling in love. Which is why I put up with her sometimes ridiculous love scenes - we won't get into the book featuring a chapter-long sex scene performed on horseback - and the other flaws that crop up in her writing.
I'm going to add an "If You Like..." recommendation here...if you like McCarty's vampires or werewolves, you might like Lora Leigh's Breeds. I'm nearly finished with Lion's Heat and find Jonas Wyatt cut from the same cloth as the Johnson brothers, although he's an extremely difficult character. Still, it's amazing what love will do to a killing machine...