I’ve enjoyed the Chicagoland Vampires since the first book, Some Girls Bite, and Twice Bitten is a solid installment in the series. The story flows well and the characters remain their interesting selves, although I was a little disappointed that the heroine, Merit, loses her nerve for a big chunk of the story.
Merit is House Sentinel of the Cadogan House, recently changed by the House’s Master vampire, Ethan Sullivan. In the complicated world of supernatural politics, she has extraordinary powers that are still developing, making her a desirable asset for every side of the game. The story starts as she’s being offered a place in a sort of vampire Secret Service, a group called the Red Guard that ensures the balance of power and authority among vampires. While Merit considers the offer and its potential betrayal of Cadogan House, the offer is quickly pushed to the back burner as more pressing matters come to the front.
Ethan, the bane of Merit’s existence and also a source of undeniable attraction, has decided to loan her to Gabriel Keene, the Apex of the North American Central Pack of shape-shifters. The majority of shifters are tired of the growing tensions with vamps and want to leave, and are convening in Chicago to talk it out once and for all. Gabriel wants a Master to make an appearance as a gesture of peace, and Ethan wants to bring Merit as security. During a meeting, the shifters are attacked, and while it may outwardly seem like the vampires are the source of these attacks, Merit suspects there is subversion within the shifters themselves.
I’ve always considered Merit an awesome character. She’s got the modern sensibility, but isn’t overly gung-ho about asserting her girl power rights. She’s got a wry sense of humor, and is determined to maintain her humanity in the face of the supernatural mess going on right now. She’s snarky, but also very in touch with herself. Her relationships are real and come with equally real problems. In this third book, I feel like the author was trying to show a different side of Merit; she’s more insecure, which is okay, but it’s so much that it seems out of character. I still like her, but she’s lost the backbone that I enjoyed in the previous books.
Ethan has always had a touch of stereotypical self-absorbed vampire about him; he is quick to point fingers and slow to trust. He’s all about the bottom line, although at times he shows startling sensitivity. His relationship with Merit is, of course, extremely frustrating, and theirs is the typical roller coaster type that will not come to a conclusion any time soon.
Without going into major spoiler territory, my main quibble is that I didn’t like the turn their relationship takes in this book. I wasn’t surprised at Ethan’s actions (I mean, I’m sure everyone could see it coming, and besides, he is a vampire unused to thinking like a human), but I was surprised that Merit essentially accepts his decision with arms wide open. She gives up without a fight, and although she moans and groans the rest of the book, she also decides that the best way to act around Ethan is to become extra boring and a bit of an ass-kisser. The ending reconciliation is a half-hearted attempt to leave the readers dangling, but again, I think everyone could have seen it coming a mile away.
With all that, I still liked Twice Bitten very much. It may not be the strongest in the series, but it was still a very enjoyable read. The writing style is fast and well paced, and Merit remains the real star of the story. Merit’s interactions with her friends and family are always fun to read, and her growth as a fighter – not to mention her reconciliation with her vampire self – is truly interesting. I remain hopeful that she will return to her normal fiery self in the next book, and slap Ethan silly for his mistreatment of her.