Chicagoland Vampires #4
Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals--and they're camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are ... tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.
Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn't help that she can't tell who's on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who's tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago's supernatural society--a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human's worst fears, and a place where she'll learn that you can't be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands...
Very rarely do I come across a book that totally knocks me on my ass, but boy by the end of Hard Bitten, I was done for. Sure, there's an ending I couldn't have predicted or expected in a million years, but that's not what surprised me the most. I was blindsided by the emotions that were ripped out of me over the course of the story. The roller coaster story left me hopeful and giddy one minute, and bitting my nails down to the quick, rocking back and forth the next. I can tell you to prepare yourself, but it won't help or matter. Ummm, sorry?
I love that Chloe Neill's plots basically start out right away. And Hard Bitten, is no exception. Merit and Ethan quickly get thrust into solving the city's recent crime hike, and of course nothing is how it seems. There are vamps in the city with major aggression issues who are killing humans, and wouldn't you guess, they've made all the evidence point back to Cadogan House. The action is not too intense, but was just enough for me this time around. Merit and Ethan's relationship woes get addressed from time to time, but this story is definitely not all about them, and I for one was worried that it might be after the last book. I enjoy them don't get me wrong, the push and pull of their relationship is the perfect amount of tease, but when a relationship overshadows a story that's usually the end of my interest. There are so many other great things happening in this story, and most of them I've been waiting for for a couple of books. The plot runs fast, and once you start you'll be staying up late, dying to know how it all shakes out.
Another thing I enjoy about Neill's books is how she never forgets how important all the other characters have become to the story; not just Ethan and Merit. She gives you new tidbits of information about several of the secondary characters here. She involves them in new personal challenges, and succeeds in creating new interest for many of them, including Mal, Jeff, Morgan, and Lindsey. They're not front in center in the story necessarily, but they're important, and by books-end they've each added another layer to their character development. We also get a brand new character in Hard Bitten, and I'm surprised with how many things I want to know about him. I won't talk about him because he's wrapped up in the plot, but I liked him, and I'm pretty sure he's sticking around for a while.
Obviously, I'm not touching on the ending because, well, it's the ending. If you want spoilers I'm sure you can find them out there, but let me tell you as someone who read the story without reading a single review, or without knowing really anything; it's so much better al naturale. The story is meant to be dark and twisty... let it be.
Bottom Line: This chapter in the Chicagoland Vampires story is more than just its ending, it's heartfelt, and exciting, and allows for the series to continue without getting stale.