Once Bitten, Twice Burned
Brava / April 29, 2014 / $14 print, $11.99 digital
Ryder Duncan keeps his secrets. With a twisted scientist starving him in a 10 X 12 cell, it's not easy to conceal the abilities that set him apart from other vampires, or his plans for escape. But survival - and revenge - are worth waiting for. Until the so-called doctor tempts his appetites with something special: a woman, with a soft Southern accent and a scent like flowers. Sabine. Sabine Acadia didn't volunteer to be dinner. She was kidnapped and tossed into the cage of a monster. A monster with fierce green eyes, a body that speaks of ruthless power—but a touch gentle as a caress. Ryder knows things about her, secrets Sabine needs to learn fast. Because while they might soon escape this prison, she's fighting an urge to set all her desires free...
To say I love Cynthia Eden’s new Phoenix Fire series would be a massive understatement, and Once Bitten, Twice Burned does a great job of expanding the universe. For those experiencing VFS, otherwise known as Vampire Fatigue Syndrome, this series will be a breath of fresh air. Obviously, based on the title, the series revolves around Phoenix, beings even the paranormal creatures of this world think are a myth. While the most recent installment of the series does in fact feature a vampire, he is different. We met Ryder in the first book as he desperately searched for the phoenix he had met in the lab; one taste of her blood gave him unthinkable powers and ignited scorching passion and an insatiable hunger.
The flames seemed to burn hotter, while his touch on her skin felt curiously cool. Almost soothing. “You know me, right? We were together?”
His fingers stroked her skin.
“I know you,” he said. His head lowered to her. “Don’t let your control break. Fight this.”
Fight the fire? The scream inside? What?
His lips took hers. The kiss was the last thing she expected, and her gasp of surprise slipped into his mouth. The kiss was soft, gentle, even as the fire raged on the wall near her. The sprinklers kept pouring water on them. Water that dripped over her face and held her frozen against him.
No, it wasn’t the water that kept her immobile.
This second book gives us the much-needed background on Ryder and Sabine’s budding romance before he escaped, and fast-forwards to their happy, and complicated, reunion.
“Would you want me to take your will away?”
She realized he hadn’t actually answered her question. Could he do it? Could he take the memory away?
But with all the crazy crap that was going on already, did she want to add mind control to her list?
No, thank you.
“It took me three days to remember who I was.” She licked her lips. His gaze dropped to her mouth. Lingered. His gaze seemed to heat. “No no, don’t take the memory away.” It had been desperation talking. “I don’t want anyone to ever mess with my mind again.” Because she was convinced that Wyatt had done something to her. He’d made her forget.
We get to see a little more out into the human world as Sabine tracks down her older—human—brother in New Orleans. Because of the events in the first book, the world now knows that the “willing” experiments of Genesis Lab weren’t as willing as everyone thought. Like many other paranormal romances, Eden segregates the humans into the supernatural-friendly, and the supernatural-intolerant. At this stage in the game, they are just a peripheral part of the world-building, but with the introduction of Sabine’s brother (who I hope, probably in vain, will get his own book one day), and all the creatures (good and evil) released into the world, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of that dynamic play out in future books.
Humans see the supernaturals as either monsters to be feared, or victims to be pitied. How “monster” is defined is a theme that will be prevalent throughout the series, and in particular in this book. For humans, Ryder and Sabine are the obvious monsters, but as more is revealed about Genesis Labs and Wyatt and Co., I can see that focus shifting. For now, though, Ryder is a vampire, and not just any vampire but the very first one. He’s feared and revered among his kind, and yet he hates himself and fears his hunger. Sabine, in many ways, should be more afraid than she is. We learned in Burn for Me that each time a phoenix dies and rises, part of itself is forgotten (for however short a span of time) in the fire that brings it back to life. Sabine, just as Cain before her, has the potential to lose her humanity in the fire
You don’t know what I’ll do to you.
She didn’t let her smile break free. Sabine stilled and waited.
The door opened. Sabine didn’t rush for the door. She didn’t do anything. They thought they’d trained her. Broken her.
They were wrong.
In many ways, Sabine needed to embrace her darker side in order to survive the brutality of Genesis and the chaotic human world she encounters one she escapes. Eden is a master at releasing tiny details of the world, while focusing on the given couple. In Once Bitten, we gleaned a few of the deeper issues going on in the Phoenix Fire world, it left me just as worried about the outcome as the characters within the story surely are, but leaves me panting for more in this series. Playing with Fire, featuring the appropriately-named Dante, can’t come soon enough.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Once Bitten, Twice Burned by Cynthia Eden, available April 29, 2014:
Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt. She works for Heroes and Heartbreakers.