This is the second 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 former cop with Hollywood connections whose current job is as a private investigator with vampire clients. After her case closes for Lord Raphael, they part ways. To escape her feelings about Raphael, Cyn takes a job for a neighboring lord, Jabril. The case becomes very personal for her as she learns the difference between a noble and a corrupt vampire lord and the case suddenly hits close to home.
As I have written before, these first two books should be read in order and while they are two separate stories, Raphael ended in a cliffhanger. This book continues layering the atmosphere of vampire culture. Certainly here we can see how evil and debase a lord can be in Lord Jabril. What happens when in the modern world we find vampires using human laws to their advantage and consider young women chattel? How Ms. Reynolds handles the relationship of the two sisters (Mirabelle and Elizabeth Hawthorn) is extremely heartbreaking and is not a “typical romantic” view of vampirism.
We discussed the character of Cyn in the review of Raphael. In Jabrial, we continue to see her strength of character and force of will. Early on we see how Mirabelle (a young vulnerable vampire) perceives her:
Mirabelle barely stifled the gasp of longing that stabbed through her hard enough to hurt. The woman was everything Mirabelle knew she would never be- beautiful, confident… free.
Here we see Cyn as a strong and confident woman. But not only that, we see she has a compassionate heart, even if it is often covered in sarcastic armor:
The woman met her eyes again and winked. Mirabelle felt a flush of pleased surprise. A simple exchange, the wink of an eye, that’s all it was. But it said so much: We’re together here, you and me. Two women in a room of fools.
Cyn discerns many things that a casual observer might miss, and she is not afraid to take a stand in helping others when faced with these challenges.
As I posted in the Raphael, we see him initially only as an arrogant male. At first, yes, you see his physical and mental strength, but he lacks any appearance of compassion or care. Yet truly, this man is a complex character and you can see his devotion to his people as this story unfolds. His personal growth by the end of the book to me, is the most profound:
No, my Cyn, there has been no one in all of these hundreds of years who mastered me. Until I met you….I gazed down at your face, at your eyes filled with desire for me alone, and I knew I would give everything I owned to keep you safe at my side and in my bed.
To have this arrogant male admit his need for anything is what is so remarkable. In the past, he is accustomed to take what he needed as a vampire first, second as a powerful Lord. But here he could not buy Cyn; he could not tempt her with all of his vampire skills. He had to come to her as a naked male, not as a powerful lord.
I referenced the theme in the Raphael review: strength and the fear of weakness. Both Raphael and Cyn are individuals with strong wills, and admitting they feel emotions or love is a risk of weakness they both fight. Cyn thinks:
Love let you down, made you vulnerable. No other emotion had the power to wipe away reason, to destroy carefully built walls and leave you bleeding in the wreckage.
In some ways this is a Sampson and Delilah tale, how this one woman brings this giant to his knees. At the same time, we find a woman who is used to people only seeing her family name and wealth and not the caring person inside. This book is also about accepting the vulnerability and taking the risk on love.
I will repeat what I said for Raphael because in so many ways this is truly just a book broken into two parts. 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. In Jabril we see how Raphael accepts his need and love for Cyn. These characters are not perfect, and they are not instantly relatable, yet, as we see them interact with each other and the world around them, we grow attached.
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. Because both Cyn and Raphael are both complex characters, we really did need the extra time to develop each character and their relationship. As for making anything better, there is nothing major that bothered me.
Overall, this is an excellent book that kept me turning the pages until the end. It is a book that I have read repeatedly. There are many layers; on the surface there is the love story. Another level we have the “who done it” (two separate challenges). On a deeper level, we have a commentary on societal reliance on power without strength of character. If you have a leader who can only retain mercenaries or just as evil henchmen, then how secure is he in his retaining his position?
Ms. Reynolds has quickly become one of my favorite authors and this series is an automatic purchase.