This is the first book in the Vampires in America series by D.B. Reynolds. At least the first two books should be read in order, but I would advise reading all of the novels in sequence.
Cynthia Leighton is a private investigator that has vampire clients. She is a former cop with a family history in Hollywood. When a respected female vampire is kidnapped, Master vampire Raphael hires Cyn to investigate. During the investigation there is sexual chemistry between the two, but is it something permanent or just a flash fire?
As I wrote on the landing page for this series, there are a lot of vampire culture and society references in Raphael. For me, I got an Underworld feel when I pictured most of the vampires in the series. I can just see hot vampire chicks kicking ass in tight black leather. We see how there is a hierarchy to the society, plus how physical and psychic (their “vampire” senses) are respected. It is clear that vampire society have different values than modern humans. In the beginning of the novel, Raphael shows how yearly these 8 vampire Lords meet to discuss vampire politics.
But courtesy was the hallmark of vampire society. When one lived and mingled with others for hundreds of years, such niceties mattered.
We see here how old fashioned the vampire society is when its roots are so historic in feudal and Elizabethan procedures.
Cyn is extremely modern and strong female lead. In most other books, we might see a “girl next door” or a “damaged” female. But Cyn is someone who is extremely independent, and if she wants to have a sexual affair she does. There are very few romance books that start out with such a scene; we tend to see delicate virgins or someone who has been abused.
So, Cynthia is a very dynamic character. This independence that we see throughout the book, becomes so important when she finally admits to herself that she has feelings for Raphael.
Because I’m terrified, she wanted to say. Terrified my own need would drown me until there was nothing left of who I am, nothing but the smell of you, the touch of you on my skin, until there was nothing but you.
We can see here that giving into Raphael is a weakness for you, one that she is afraid that her love would be all consuming obsession. She is a character that I think not all women will be able to identify, but for me she grew on me as I began to understand her personal history. I will further discuss her when I review the second book, Jabril.
In my personal life, I get along with arrogant assholes. So often, I might have someone say, “oh John is such an arrogant asshole”. I might agree, but my opinion has always been that if they can back it up, it’s not just arrogance it’s uber self-confidence. There are times when extreme arrogance is just the sexiest thing ever.
Raphael is that person. At first, when we meet him, his cool calculation might turn you off, you certainly see that self-centered aspect of his personality. The first thing to consider is that he has lived for hundreds of years. What would our mentality be if we were one of (if not the) most powerful vampire who has lived so much history?
“I am one of only eight vampire lords on this continent. My power is, frankly, beyond your comprehension. I expect, and have earned through my own efforts, the respect of those around me, and if not respect, then at least courtesy.”
There is more to his motivation and his personal growth, but we really don’t see that until book two, Jabril.
A theme is defined as the subject of the piece. So what is it that the reader should get out of this book, other than enjoying the mystery and suspense of the book? Part of the theme I will leave off until I review Jabril, because their relationship does not solidify until then. But I will hint at it here. Strength. This book is about strength, in so many ways and how it is more than just one facet. Physical strength alone is not enough; often it takes courage and mental acuity to overcome problems. We see this in the main storyline here; how the little female human sees things that save the day that the powerful vampires miss. But we also see this in the characters of Cyn and Raphael; their strengths actually keep them apart for this first book.
D. B. Reynolds does an exceptional job of painting the vampire society and psyche. I genuinely enjoyed getting into the mind of Raphael to understand what motives him. We see him develop profoundly in book two. Ms. Reynolds made two risky character choices that do not fit the stereotypical hero and heroine. Somehow, she managed to make these individuals likeable despite their personal faults. I applaud her skills.
What could be better?
This is not a typical romance book with a typical format. I would be curious to learn if Ms. Reynolds purposely made the love story of Raphael and Cyn two books rather than one. Some readers might find it difficult to move from book one to book two with the same two characters, but Ms. Reynolds did it seamlessly. As for what could have been better, I found the character of Holly; the “angsty sister” seemed a bit tropey. It was as if we just needed to have a vehicle for conflict so Ms. Reynolds made her a one-dimensional bitch.
Overall, this is an excellent book that kept me turning the pages until the end. It is a book that I have read repeatedly. If you enjoy the first part of the book, then go ahead and have the second book, Jabril ready to go. Raphael’s main characters are not stereotypical. This is a two-part review; see my review for Jabril for Raphael and Cyn’s character and personal development.