NAL / February 5, 2013 / $15.00 paperback, $9.99 digital
At the tender age of 27, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal —tested like never before.
It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined.
There are two main things that make Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series standout. The crazy will-they-won’t-they tension between vampire Merit and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan is the first. The second is the robustness of the characters. Every person in Neill’s world is vibrant and real. You want to be friends with them, you want to know what’s going on. In many ways, Neill’s Chicago is an edgier, urban Bon Temps.
The strain on Merit’s relationships with friends and Ethan tempered that looking glass element in the last couple books. With House Rules, all our favorite characters come back to life in a way that makes us cheer for and worry about them.
Merit is back to being Merit. She’s cautiously happy about her relationship with Ethan. Yes, they are together. For real. They live together and everything. She’s still plowing forward with what she thinks is right—most notably her participation with the Red Guard. She’s funny, as expected, and makes Ethan go to a diner for food. Even gets him to order a Patty Melt. You know he loves her.
I can’t say Ethan Sullivan hasn’t changed. He’s bolder, believe it or not, after his staking experience. That said, he has the same arrogance and devotion that made readers (and Merit) fall for him in the first place. We get more of him than usual because he and Merit are together. He’s charming and dirty at times. He also makes a zombie joke. About himself. Lighthearted Sullivan isn’t a bad thing.
Mallory is back, too. Kind of. She isn’t a dominant force in this book, but she and Merit really are on the track to being good friends again. She’s clean from the magic (Scolding from Berta will do that.) She’s back to colorful hair and a sunnier disposition. Merit goes to her for solace, and it works. Mallory is a source of support instead of just another keg of stress. Also, the return of the nickname Darth Sullivan.
We see Jeff Christopher as more of a leading guy at the unofficial Ombuds office. That means he’s around more. He hangs with Merit some, and despite his serious crush on her, continues to remind her that he has a girlfriend. It’s adorable and one-hundred percent Jeff.
Even the moments with Lindsay, Luc, Margot and Darius feel right. House Rules puts all the Chicagoland Vampires characters back on track, and that makes for a solid novel.
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.