Crimson City
Grade : C

Last year’s 2176 series was an interesting concept: a different author writes each book in the futuristic series, set in the same world and having continuing characters. Liz Maverick, author of The Shadow Runners, the third entry in the 2176 series, kicks off LoveSpell’s similarly styled Crimson City series with the aptly named Crimson City.

The bloody war that ignited between the vampires, werewolves, and humans gave rise to a new name for Los Angeles: Crimson City. A truce ended the war between the three species, but the vampires, with their immense wealth and their skyscraper condominiums, draw the resentment of the humans living at the city’s midlevel and the werewolves living underground. Both vampires and humans have set up complex intelligence forces to protect and defend their species. A genetically altered human with weapons built into his body, or “mech,” has targeted and killed the co-leaders of the vampire community, threatening the uneasy truce. Dain, a senior field officer of the human intelligence force, Battlefield Operations Division, meets with Fleur, the now de facto leader of the vampire intelligence force to find out who sent the mech and why.

The main romance in this paranormal action romance is incredibly underdeveloped. The secondary romance is also underdeveloped, but manages to be more engaging. Dain and Fleur go from gazes of intense attraction to declarations of steadfast love based on a handful of pleasant conversations. Author Maverick tells, but does not show, us that the couple feels a deep connection to each other. There’s also a disturbing tone in the spark of their attraction. When Dain and Fleur meet for the first time, and Dain grabs Fleur’s neck and pushes her against the wall when she threatens him, Dain’s manhandling excites Fleur. Hmmm, manhandling is romantic for a woman. Not. He manhandles her a couple more times in the book, which still excites her, and exhibits some domineering tendencies. What a catch.

Crimson City is more devoted to the two investigating the death of the vampire leaders. Each species is a suspect: the werewolves - easy scapegoats, the Rogues - vampires who choose to live outside the community, and even the human intelligence force themselves. Each species acts suspiciously, and it’s intriguing to wonder which one is the true guilty party.

Personal demons haunt both Dain and Fleur. Of the two, Dain’s situation is more emotionally compelling. A chemical explosion injured him and destroyed his memory. So complete is the memory loss that he can’t remember anything from his previous life and has to rely on his boss, Kippenham, to remind him about his wife, Serena. Dain feels tremendous guilt and sadness over not remembering any aspect of Serena, their marriage, and their supposed love for each other. His tortured vulnerability makes him appealing, but it doesn’t quite fit with his other unappealing traits. There’s an explanation for these opposing personality differences, but guess what - in the end, it turns out Dain is still a rough, domineering kind of a man, just with a smidgen of vulnerability to make him not entirely boorish.

Fleur is now the head of the vampire intelligence force because the murdered vampire leaders were her brothers and her family has always overseen that leadership role. She has to prove her leadership skills and gain the respect from her people because in her youth she made the terrible error of making her human lover a vampire, a violation of vampire law. Fleur’s situation is perfectly reasonable, and perfectly dull, too.

Maverick sets up action sequences and fills them with nice details, but they are all surprisingly muted and distanced, lacking punch and verve. There’s a monotony in the structure of her sentences that creates a dull impact.

Crimson City is a quick and easy read; it is also a disappointingly average one.

Reviewed by Jeanne W
Grade : C

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : September 18, 2005

Publication Date: 2005

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