Touch of Madness
Even though Touch of Madness is obviously part of a series, I instantly felt drawn into the book even as I knew I was landing in the middle of the action. Kate Reilly’s struggles against the vampiric Thrall caught my attention so completely that I was content to catch up on bits of world-building here and there as I followed her adventures and enjoyed the development of her relationship with Tom. Even considering the paranormal setting, the main couple feels so solid and real that it is easy to enter their world.
The Thrall is a race of parasitic vampires who use humans as their hosts and, as the human hosts die, the Thrall must find new ones. Having survived a Thrall attack, Kate is now considered to be Not Prey. She is not a Thrall host, but her protected status also gives her an unwanted psychic connection to the Thrall. She and other Not Prey are being studied at a hospital in Denver when things go horribly wrong. Without giving too many details away, Kate finds herself on trial just as things in her personal life begin to take a stressful turn.
Kate’s werewolf boyfriend, Tom, is bound to obey the leader of his pack. Unfortunately for his relationship with Kate, his pack leader has begun to pressure him to break up with her so that he can mate with a human surrogate and ensure the survival of the pack. Not only does the pack want children, but werewolves are also sworn enemies of the Thrall. Needless to say, a girlfriend with a psychic mind connection to the Thrall is not a great prize among a werewolf pack. Much of the story focuses on Tom and Kate’s relationship and, though each suffers through their own stressful situations, their time together is one of the high points of the story.
While I like courtship stories, I also enjoy seeing a couple grow in their relationship. I may not have been there when Tom and Kate got together, but seeing how they stay together felt so deeply real that I loved reading about it. Instead of silly contrivances and pages of indignant flouncing, Kate and Tom figure out how best to reach out to and support each other in times of crisis. Watching these two build a deep connection really makes this book.
The action plot has its high points, too. While the villains of the piece were just a bit too e-e-e-e-vil to be really outstanding for me, the general plot did sweep me along. The authors do a good job of explaining how their world works without snapping readers out of the plot and, while the true villains of this book were less than satisfying, I did appreciate some of the more ambiguous Thrall figures thrown in as secondary characters.
Kate and Tom are both strong leads and their story so drew me in that I really want to see more of them. The villains mentioned above and the credibility-straining legal drama (or at least it strains this lawyer’s ability to believe) keep the grade solidly in the B range, but, paranormal junkies – and anyone who appreciates a relationship between strong equals – will want to check this one out.