Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage. But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!
Dear Ilona Andrews,
I really enjoyed the first part of this online serial you run on your site every week for several months for free and then publish as a complete book. I also read and enjoyed the second part of the story but after thinking it over I decided to not review it simply because I really hated one of the characters who clearly was not supposed to be a bad guy (at most I felt you wanted me to think he had shades of grey, but overall was a decent guy who would do anything to stop the war.). I was afraid that he would be pulling strings behind the curtain in this book as well and I guess he helped set certain events in motion. However thank goodness he at most appeared very briefly in this part of this story. Even if events went into the general direction he may have wanted to, I never felt that he robbed Dina of her agency here.
I loved this book. I know that the story has not changed much from the online version but I think I noticed that some transitional parts were smoothed out and yes, we have a little sex at the end – one scene.
Early in the beginning of the book Dina receives unexpected message from her sister asking for help. Dina’s sister never asks for help according to her and that’s why Dina understands that situation must be dire. I have to be honest – I do not remember Dina’s sister ever being mentioned before, while her brother Klaus was. I could be wrong of course – I have not read first and second parts before starting this review. If I am right, I do wonder if Maud’s existence was planned from the very beginning or decided before this book began. Not that I am complaining much, I just think that if I am right it shows that in online serial author can easily take the story in some unexpected places.
In any event, I was so happy that we met Maud and her daughter Helen. Apparently Maud married a Vampire and went to live with him several years ago, only as it turns out he betrayed his House and they exiled him and Maud and their daughter to the certain planet where both of them had to take some mercenary jobs to survive and her husband was making more and more stupid choices and eventually got himself killed. Maud and her five year old daughter avenged his death but they really could not survive on that planet for much longer. All of this we learn after Dina manages to get them out, but to do so she must ask Arland, powerful vampire who is a Marshal of House Khar and who holds Dina in the highest affection for help and Arland is only too happy to oblige to provide his ship and assistance to get Dina to the planet (not everybody can get to that planet because reasons). And we knew since the end of the second book that Dina and Sean were going to attempt to date and of course dating apparently includes helping the girl you like saving her sister in the galaxy far away so off they go.
Their little expedition ends well and Maud and Helen are with them now and they are on the way back to the Inn. Arland is more than a little smitten by Maud’s fighting skills by the way J.
All of this happens pretty quickly in the first few chapters of the story, and the main storyline starts when certain alien species come to Dina and ask for her help to retrieve Archivarius to her Inn. The reason why Dina initially hesitates is because Hiru are almost destroyed by other species called Draziri – basically Draziri were and still are participating in genocide of Hiru. Draziri destroyed their home planet and Hiru are unable to live almost anywhere else. Most of their people are dead and Hiru want to ask Archivarius where they could go to find the planet where nature conditions would be sustainable for them. Archivarius is I guess also a creature which has a lot of knowledge (maybe all of it) of the galaxy? What I was sure about is that one can ask Archivarius a question and they would answer. The problem is twofold – Archivarius will be arriving to the Inn from different places in different forms and they would need help to get there and Draziri folks are already following Dina. One of them is threatening her when she did not even make the decision yet. She wants to help Hiru but she is hesitant to put other guests in danger.
Dina’s present guests however do not mind a little bit of fighting apparently.
“I will be more than delighted to lend a hand,” Arland said. “You are a guest,” Maud said. “I’m on a sojourn,” he said. “Trying to improve my physical and mental state. A little exercise is good for the body. It is my understanding that an innkeeper must meet the needs of her "guests. I require a battle.” “Nobody asked me,” Caldenia said, gliding into the room from the kitchen. “Because I’m apparently, what is the saying, chopped kidneys.” “Liver,” I said. “Thank you, my dear. Chopped liver. However, I would welcome some excitement as well. Life can be so dreadfully dull without a little spice, especially around the holidays.” Only Caldenia would call the threat of an interstellar invasion “a little spice.”
However as Sean tells her:
"“What makes you so sure I’ll take them up on it?” He grinned at me, turning into the old Sean Evans. The transformation was so sudden, I blinked to make sure I didn’t imagine it. “You’re a carebear.” “What?” “You’re the type to get out of a perfectly dry car in the middle of a storm in your best dress so you can scoop a wet dog off the road. You help people, Dina. That’s what you do. And the Hiru need help.” “I’m sensible,” I told him. “I’ll give you till tonight,” he said. “You won’t even last twenty-four hours."
Of course Dina decides to offer Hiru who came to her a shelter and protection from Draziri and to help his species to retrieve Archivarius, bring his parts to her Inn and to ask him a question about their new planet. Hiru as a payment also offer her a chance to ask Archivarius a second question – they know that Dina is still searching for her parents and asking Archivarius a question is incredibly expensive, Hiru pulled all their remaining resources to be able to do that and to be able to pay for Dina’s question as well. Of course she is unable to resist a chance to learn something about what may have happened to her folks.
Draziri are formidable opponent, but Sean, Arland and Maud (and her little daughter is a vampire let’s not forget that) are quite skilled in their own right. I liked how a lot of auction was mixed with certain romantic elements and a lot of humor. Their humor really works for me!
I think I would classify the book as a romantic fantasy, but I really liked that Dina and Sean’s developing relationship kept developing and how they managed to negotiate couple of very important things in between all the war action. I adore Dina and I think I love her even more after this book if it is possible. I liked that she did not play games where her love life was concerned. She may have hesitated whether it was too fast to fall for Sean that much even if they had been through so much, but she let him know that she loved him. And I loved Sean too. I did not mind at all that Sean went to do his thing in book one and for the most of book two he and Dina were not really together – I thought he needed to obtain experience in the world Dina grew up in, even if lots of that experience was very painful. But I really liked them together in this book. I think they make great partners.
I don’t know which character in this book I did not like – Armand and Maud were fantastic. Helen was great. I am usually perfectly okay with children in the stories if they fit in the story (same as any adult character, really), but Helen besides being funny and fierce and vulnerable after what she had been through, had acted as *five year old* girl. She was not meek at all, but she did not act as if she knew more than adults did, she did not try to give adults advice. She acted as a little girl with her magical upbringing and her human upbringing would act.
And I really hesitated as to what excerpt to quote to demonstrate the humor in the book and decided on this one. Dina really wants to celebrate Christmas which she missed by a couple of days because of all the strategizing and fighting , and the person who is explaining why this could be a problem is a seven foot tall Red Cleaver Chef Orro, who looks like a giant Hedgehog and who can make a feast out of the few simple ingredients.
"“I want to celebrate Christmas,” I said. “Isn’t it a little late for Christmas?” Caldenia asked. “I know, but I still want to celebrate it. I want the tree and decorations. I want gifts and Christmas music. I don’t care how many Draziri are out there. They won’t take Christmas from me.” “Yes, but we don’t have a suitable male,” Orro said. “And only one dog.” I looked at him.
“What is this Christmas?” Wing asked. Orro turned from the stove. “It’s the rite of passage during which the young males of the human species learn to display aggression and use weapons.” Sean stopped what he was doing and looked at Orro. “The young men go out in small packs,” Orro continued. “They brave the cold and come into conflict with other packs and they have to prove their dominance through physical combat. Their fathers teach them lessons in the proper use of swear words, and the young men have to undergo tests of endurance, like holding soap in their mouths and licking cold metal objects.” Sean made a strangled noise. “At the end of their trials, they go to see a wise elder in a red suit to prove their worth. If they are judged worthy, the family erects a ceremonial tree and presents them with gifts of weapons.” Sean was clearly struggling, because his head was shaking. “Also,” Orro added, “a sacrificial poultry is prepared and then given to the wild animals, probably to appease the nature spirits.” Sean roared with laughter. I grinned at him. He leaned back, shaking, laughter exploding out of him. “Your culture is so complicated,” Wing said. “On my world, we just go on a quest to kill something big.”
"“I suppose small Helen could substitute for a male,” Orro said thoughtfully. “I’m sure we can get her a proper gun.” “We can’t,” Sean managed between gulps of laughter. “She’ll put her eye out.” “That does seem to be a prevalent concern among parents,” Orro said. “Perhaps we could employ some sort of protective eye wear.” “Orro, you and I must watch Christmas Story together, so I can explain that movie to you.” I opened another screen. “Images,Christmas feast.”
I cannot recommend this story highly enough – romance, adventure in space, creative world building, great characters and humor.
Oh and I also thought that the resolution of the main storyline in this part of the story was full of real wisdom.