|Title: Hard Bitten
Author: Chloe Neill
Series: Chicagoland Vampires #4
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reviewed by: Julia
Kissing. References to sex.
Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals–and they’re camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are … tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.
Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn’t help that she can’t tell who’s on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who’s tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago’s supernatural society–a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human’s worst fears, and a place where she’ll learn that you can’t be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands…
If TWICE BITTEN was about the flash and bang of giving into attraction for the first time, HARD BITTEN is about the chemistry and conflict of evaluating a long term relationship. Half way through this book, I was struck by how much I’ve grown to love series. Not just for the characters and the action within, but also for the decisions Chloe Neill has made as an author. Neill takes the long view, just as her immortal heroine Merit is learning to do, and never is that so apparent as in HARD BITTEN. Neill doesn’t pick the spikes and crashes of sugar-high romance, but rather writes the worries and growth of complex, interesting characters.
Though I had had a less passionate response to previous Chicagoland Vampire novels, HARD BITTEN clicked with me right from the get go. Merit and Ethan’s relationship discussions are nuanced and emotionally intelligent, making it both interesting and enjoyable to read their interactions. As for the action, the Chicago populace is up in arms against vampires, and I loved how something as mundane and recognizable as fear and prejudice (and picket lines) drew all of my favorite supporting characters together against a gathering storm. Around all of these circumstances was the menace of Celina and the not so benign neglect of the Presidium, but it is definitely the day to day that held my focus.
My mid-book musings turned out to be truer than I knew. The ending of HARD BITTEN was a risk I never would have expected to see, one that makes it very difficult to write a review that doesn’t consist of me typing “holy cow” over and over and over (because seriously, Holy Cow). This book has a dramatic ending in the best of ways, and it is the cruelest of pleasures to wait for DRINK DEEP in November.