Title: A Bargain of Blood and Gold
Series: Midnight Guardians: Book One
Author: Kristin Jacques
Length: 280 Pages
Categories: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Murder Mystery, Historical Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: A Bargain of Blood and Gold takes its time building up to the peak of the danger to a town that has been cursed by a devil’s bargain, and Jacques does a commendable job of weaving a dark and dangerous atmosphere rife with the macabre and unusual into the mystery.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A novice hunter with a mission. A five-hundred-year-old vampire with a strong sense of irony. A town plagued by creatures in need of saving.
When Johnathan Newman arrives in Cress Haven, the last thing he expects is for his life to be irrevocably changed. Sent by a clandestine league of vampire hunters to investigate a string of murders, signs point to a vampire lurking amid the townsfolk. Johnathan’s attempt to enlist the locals leads him to an unlikely partnership with Vic, the town’s most eligible, enigmatic bachelor.
As the pair work to solve the mystery, Vic’s secrets come back to bite him. Revealed, the vampire fights his attraction to a man trained to destroy him, while Johnathan’s emotions land him in the middle of forbidden desires. Even if Vic isn’t the murderer, how can Johnathan yearn for his natural enemy?
As Vic leads Johnathan into encounters with terrifying beings straight from children’s nightmares, Johnathan learns that not only is the world stranger than he knew, but that those he once trusted have far darker intentions that will place hunter and vampire at the center of a conflict between realms.
Cress Haven holds more sinister secrets than its resident vampire, a secret so great, it could unleash Hell itself.
Review: I’ve always believed, whether fair or not, that setting up expectations for a book is risky. When I saw the tagline for A Bargain of Blood and Gold, which declares it’s recommended for fans of Gail Carriger, KJ Charles, and Emily Tesh, all of whom I’ve read and capital L Loved, I naturally jumped all over the book. Who wouldn’t with a comparative lineup like that? That said, I also anticipated a level of excellence in the storytelling that might have been a bit inflated, considering, but this book is quite good in its own right, and I didn’t need the connection to these authors to determine that.
Kristin Jacques draws inspiration from a variety of paranormal/fantasy realms to populate her story with a centuries-old softboy vampire, a cadre of Hellhounds, demons, the fae, and one Johnathan Newman, “fiend” hunter. He isn’t a Van Helsing, by any stretch of the imagination, but he is in training with the Society to become so, which juxtaposes nicely with his grim (he’s not even certain how old he is, so he chose twenty) and decidedly paradoxical backstory. The author goes on to plant a lovely seed of internal conflict in him that only grows stronger the more he spends time with a man named Victor, who hires Johnathan to help investigate a rash of murders in a remote Maine village called Cress Haven. When John discovers Vic’s secret, he goes to war with the truth that he is obligated by his training and commitments to the Society to kill a man he goes on to consider a trusted ally . . . and may even love.
This assignment couldn’t be that dangerous, or the Society wouldn’t have sent someone like Johnathan out here.
Therein lies the rub as John and Vic’s murder investigation intensifies; the absolute treachery and deceit of it all catapults Johnathan into conflict. Their connection deepens and becomes a cautionary tale about preconceived notions as they work together to unravel the mystery of who, or what, rather, is brutally murdering young women in and around the area, an assignment John is not qualified for in the very least. He, and we, soon realize this is not a case where learning as he goes along is a remotely viable strategy, and, in fact, he has more brushes with death than he should realistically be capable of surviving, but there are even stranger things afoot for him than the clues to these brutal killings. There are the riddles of the Morrigan to unravel, as well as attempting to assimilate what is happening to his mind and body, and sussing out why he is incapable of confiding any of it to Vic.
A Bargain of Blood and Gold takes its time building up to the peak of the danger to a town that has been cursed by a devil’s bargain, and Jacques does a commendable job of weaving a dark and dangerous atmosphere rife with the macabre and unusual into the mystery. The revelation of who instigated that bargain was a nice twist, with the resulting aftermath consummating in a bloody and intense battle—just like I want a fight for survival to be—with no guaranteed outcomes until the final enemy falls.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another important ally in the story, Alyse Shaw, who is more family than friend to Vic, and who is given a surprise bump in intrigue to her character at the end. She’s going to figure prominently in the next book, based on this tease, and I’m all for it as she shatters the rules of her dubious role as a mere small-town spinster.
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