UNMASKED  by Helen Hardt


From the "Blood Bond Saga" series, volume 4
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The fourth entry in Hardt’s (Undaunted, 2018, etc.) erotic supernatural saga finds a vampire struggling to control the darkness within himself as he and his human lover search for missing friends and family.

Lately, Dante Gabriel has felt a dark energy pursuing him, but he’s come to realize that he is that darkness. However, the ever present ghost of the vampire’s father, Julian, convinces him that he can learn to control his inner evil. Dante believes that his greatest asset in this task is Erin Hamilton, the woman he loves and with whom he shares a blood bond—one so strong that he may not be able to live without her, and vice versa. Dante regularly consumes Erin’s blood for his sustenance and their sexual gratification. Now, he begins experimenting with BDSM in the bedroom—a riding crop is involved—as a way to embrace his dark energy without allowing it to take over. Meanwhile, some of couple’s loved ones have gone missing, including Erin’s best friend, Lucy; Dante’s pregnant sister, Emilia; and his uncle (and Julian’s twin), Brae. Dante’s cousin, River, and Erin’s brother, Jay, who are partner detectives, aid in the couple’s search, but they believe that answers may be found in the seemingly untranslatable Vampyre Texts. Dante’s paternal grandfather, Bill, knows the book’s secrets, but he’s inexplicably mum, and finding another copy is an exhausting task. It’s soon apparent that the being who’s responsible for people going missing is also leading rogue vampires who’ve targeted Erin. That leader is likely the same female vampire who, for a decade, held Dante captive for unclear reasons.

Hardt’s latest installment shows some definite character and plot evolution. Over the course of the series, Dante and Erin’s sex has progressively intensified, particularly in Dante’s aggressive demands. But this book has added new suspense, as there’s a strong possibility that he could lose control and hurt Erin (without her permission). Dante also shows frightening signs of an elitist mentality; for the first time, he may see vampires as superior to humans. The mystery proceeds well; the investigating group identifies at least one of the rogue vampires, and Erin finds a prime suspect for the vampire boss. Dante’s former captor has been an enigma since the series’ beginning; this time, the author treats her readers to a big reveal, although this is most certainly not the final series installment. Hardt also centers on her characters’ human traits, eschewing vampire conventions such as immortality and lethal sunlight, but her narrative makes sure to showcase other supernatural elements. Dante, for example, continues to gain new powers, and Julian possesses an ability that could have a serious impact on the world at large. As in preceding books, the plot maintains a brisk, steady momentum courtesy of Hardt’s condensed descriptions and rapid-fire dialogue. At one point, for instance, Dante equates Erin’s “irresistible” scent with a bevy of images and senses: “Dark coffee, dark chocolate, the richest, darkest blackberry, the richest, darkest Merlot.”

A first-rate outing in a consistently enthralling series.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64263-085-5
Page count: 382pp
Publisher: Waterhouse Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2019


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