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Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Once Burned

Title: Once Burned
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Page Count: 346 pages
Publisher: Avon
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:

She's a mortal with dark powers...

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...

He's the Prince of Night...

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.

Of all the reviews posted here lately, this is the one where I disagree the most with others who've read the same book.  In general, it certainly seemed that lots of people loved Once Burned and Vlad as the hero of his own spinoff series.  Try as I might, I really didn't and i think at the end of it all it was the uneven power dynamic that finally tipped the scales for me.

Let me start off with the positives- Leila was a believable heroine given the raw material she had to work with.  She's a human, but she's aware that supernatural whatnots exist because she is one (she shocks people and sees their deepest shame, the result of an electrical accident earlier in life) so she doesn't fall into the trap of being unable to accept supernatural powers that belong to other people (as an aside, this is one of my biggest pet peeves in paranormal romance.)  She realizes that people will think she's a complete crackpot if they find out about her abilities or her perceptions so she keeps them under her hat as best as possible and tries to staff off radar.

Her cover is blown when some vampire flunkies kidnap her and she makes a telepathic connection with Vlad Tepes, a major player from the Night Huntress series and yes, he is THAT Vlad.  He's intrigued by Leila and rescues her from her captives.  He has to make sure she's not a spy and that she's telling the truth and all that, which means she has to come stay with him while he figures out why this latest bad guy wants to kill him.

This is where things start to go downhill, in my opinion.  Vlad is certainly an anti-hero, in that he's out for his own gain and lives by his own moral code, lopsided though it may be, and that's fine, but I feel like if it were anyone else (that is, not a pre-established sort of historical person) or he hadn't had some page time in the Night Huntress series where he seemed a little bit more vulnerable, for lack of a better word, he would have just come off as a controlling asshole.  Friends, anyone who impales your loved ones, regardless of the reasons, is not a nice person, and you should probably hold off for someone who's a little less murderous.

Then there's the issue that Leila doesn't really have any recourse against him- he's faster than her, stronger than her, has lived longer than her, has endless resources at his disposal whereas she has the clothes on her back, and even her powers, formidable as they are against every other character in the book, are worthless against him.  She's dependent on the fact that he's attracted to her for her safety and the safety of her family and loved ones, and even the moments when he does sweet things seem kind of odd in light of the fact that he's also so cold and calculating the rest of the time.  It veered out of romance territory and into creepy territory.

I'm not sure if some of these issues will be addressed in future books, since there are at least two more books planned that feature these two, but I certainly hope that they are.  I found the imbalance of power killed the romance for me even more than the "Leila is going to die and Vlad isn't" element, and admittedly that's usually a deal breaker in PNR for me too.

Overall Rating:

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