Avon / June 26, 2012 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital
After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude...until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire...
Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him - a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.
Jeaniene Frost sure does know how to write couples.
And it’s that genuine relationship dichotomy that makes her latest a must read. Once Burned is the first book in a spinoff series inspired by her Night Huntress books (main couple: Cat and Bones).
The perk of a first book in a new series from Frost? New love with complications.
Leila is stubborn, but with good cause. She’s human, but you wouldn’t know that by touching her. A childhood accident left her charged with electricity. You touch her and get one hell of a shock. She tries to pass it off as a taser at one point, but it’s a stronger jolt. And, you know, she’s not carrying a stun gun.
Additionally, if it’s her right hand that grazes you, she’ll get a vision of your worst sin. If she works at it, she might even see your future. She doesn’t want that. She does her best not to touch people and works for the carnival. It’s easier to avoid suspicion if you’re in a new town every few days.
Until the vampires come calling. They’d love to use her gift – one that works on objects, too. When others would seek to exploit her, then kill her, Vlad steps in.
The other vampires were hunting him, and now he offers Leila protection. With the catch he’d like an assist in tracking down the bastards trying to kill them both.
Accidental contact with Vlad proves Leila’s gift doesn’t harm him. One of the perks of being able to control fire is it makes vampire Vlad fireproof. Leila’s never been able to touch another person for prolonged periods without clunky rubber gloves. And now here’s the gorgeous, protective vampire she can touch. Oh, does she want to touch him.
These two play a bit of cat and mouse, but the truth is they are well matched.
Vlad had long led his section of Romania with an iron fist. Torture and murder are routine on his watch. You let him down, expect to be impaled. His subjects fear him, but also love him. His protection means something. And Vlad sees Leila as his to protect.
The protection part is a plus, but the iron fist thing just isn’t flying with Leila. She’s too strong to let Vlad tell her what to do or how to behave. She openly disagrees with him, demands he change his behavior and, at one point, slaps him.
And he’s not sure how to handle it. People just don’t do that to Vlad. It’s good for him (maybe not the slap part) to have a woman who challenges him. Who reminds him the importance of feeling. Who shows him there is something worthwhile inside – something worth sharing.
Vlad pushes Leila, too. She’s always hiding. Her fears of jolting and injuring others and viewing their horrors keep her from interacting as much as she’d like. Vlad doesn’t let her run and encourages her to mingle with others – as long as they all know she’s his, natch.
Their attraction grows – as is the way of romance novels – but also each character grows. These two are better together. Vlad has to deal with the reality of feeling something and sharing part of himself with another. Not something he’s done in years and years. Leila has to accept she’s sharing her heart and that might mean staying still, actively using her gifts.
The romance in Once Burned is captivating. The sex, toe-curling. But it’s the genuine, innate match of Vlad and Leila that will make you tumble head over heels for this book.
Okay, maybe the sex, too.
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter - @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.