In Blood Guard, the first book in the two-book Mission series, author Megan Erickson introduces her readers to the vampires of the Gregorie clan and the women who love them. Just reading the premise had the paranormal junkie in me salivating. A brand new series that promises danger, excitement, and a heavy dose of vampire/human lust. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is ‘quite a bit’, as it turns out. Blood Guard is essentially a mishmash of every tired paranormal genre trope rolled into one book. Die-hard fans of the author may be willing to give this book a chance, but if you have never read Megan Erickson before, I would not recommend that you start here.
The Mission in the series title refers to Mission City, New Jersey, the small town Tendra Parrish has called home for the last five years. One night, while working as a bartender, Tendra is disconcerted to find a dark-haired man staring at her from across the room. Even more shocking is the frisson of lust that courses through her veins. Checking it all up to the emotional upheaval she’s been going through as a result of her mother’s recent death, Tendra resolves to get some sleep. She’s certain she’ll never see the enigmatic stranger again.
Fate, however, has other ideas. On her way home from work that night, she is knocked out by a sweet-smelling chemical. When she regains consciousness, Athan Gregorie – her assailant and mystery man from the bar – tells Tendra that he is a vampire from the Gregorie clan and that she is his Sanguivita – a woman who is destined to become the savior of his clan. Athan’s job is to take Tendra back to the Gregorie stronghold so she can be mated to their king, Idris, Athan’s older brother. According to the ancient prophecy, the Gregorie king that feasts on Tendra’s blood will gain the strength and power needed to vanquish his enemies. As the Gregories are currently engaged in a war with a clan of evil vampires that wants to destroy all humans, it is imperative that the prophecy is fulfilled as soon as possible.
What follows is your basic road-trip romance strung together by cliched scenarios, illogical plotting, and a whole lot of info-dumping. As Athan escorts Tendra back to the Gregorie compound – and in between dodging vampire assassins – he fills her in on the history and customs of his people. While the world-building has the potential to be interesting, the way in which Athan narrates it to Tendra is anything but. Add to that a vampire/human orgy (for what is a vampire romance without a prerequisite orgy?), vampire saliva that contains a potent aphrodisiac, and a dying woman who can only be saved by a vampire bite, and what you have is a vampire romance that reads like just about every other vampire romance you’ve read before.
As frustrating as the above flaws are, they pale in comparison to the huge plot holes that are peppered throughout the second half of the story. To list all of them would make this review about five pages long, so I will just mention the more egregious offenders. To get to the Gregories’ land, Athan and Tendra walk – first through the underground city the vampires have built using the city’s abandoned subway tunnels, then through the woods that lie between Mission City and the Gregorie House. Setting aside the implausibility of an underground city that has remained undetected by humans for so many years, the question I am left with is the same one that Tendra asked Athan: Why can’t they just drive? This nugget of wisdom, however, is nonchalantly brushed aside by Athan, who replies that cars make bigger targets. I suppose this is true, if it weren’t for the second, even more problematic conceit. If you are a human being hunted by a bunch of vampires, why would you put yourself in danger by sleeping during the day and traveling at night? Can’t Athan just give Tendra the directions to his house so she can drive there during the day when, you know, the evil vampires aren’t out to get them? Granted, this would have shortened Tendra and Athan’s journey to about three hours and deprived them of all the hot, steamy sex the two still manage to find time for. But I would think that the need to stay alive would trump, well, pretty much anything any day. And speaking of sex, the kind that happens here is energetic, loud, and full of profanity. While I don’t typically have problems with characters dropping an F bomb or two during sex, their usage here doesn’t feel natural or organic because I didn’t buy into the relationship.
By far the best part of this book and what saved it from an even lower grade is Tendra. A sassy, tough-as-nails woman who is as dangerous with a switchblade as she is with a pair of stiletto heels, she is at first skeptical of Athan’s claim that she is the Sanguivita. She rails at the injustice of being expected to give up her future in the human world and live a life she did not choose among vampires. In true Tendra fashion, though, she does not allow herself to dwell on her anger for too long. Once she realizes that the Gregories need her help to defeat the Valarians, she not only agrees to accompany Athan back home but also becomes actively engaged in ensuring their survival. The fact that she is able to reach the Gregorie land unscathed is as much due to her prowess with a knife as it is due to Athan’s skills.
Athan, on the other hand, is just your stereotypical stoic, much-maligned second son. The reason Tendra gives for falling in love with him – that he showed empathy for her plight and concern for her well-being during their journey – is hardly a sound basis for a relationship. As a result, I have a hard time believing that they are going to be happy spending eternity with each other after having known each other only a few days.
Aside from a kick-ass heroine, I also enjoyed the chapters towards the end, when the author reveales a twist I didn’t see coming and when Idris is finally introduced. I found myself intrigued enough by Idris that I am even considering reading Blood Veil when it comes out. I suppose that counts for something but as a standalone book, Blood Guard lacks the believable romance and fresh world-building I have come to expect from authors of Megan Erickson’s caliber. Here’s to hoping that her next book will give the fangirl in me something to be excited about.