In Review: Shades of Wicked

A recommended read for those who like sultry supernatural romance.

Shades of Wicked by Jeaniene Frost

Published by Avon Books on October 30, 2018. Hardcover of 370 pages at $26.99 and paperback of 370 pages at $7.99. 

The cover: A topless, fit man puts a hand behind his neck against a violet background. The author’s name is above his belly. The title of the book is below this in larger font colored blood red. Beneath this is the subtitle “A Night Rebel Novel,” as well as a quote from Charlaine Harris. There’s no mistaking this is a romance novel with this illustration by Cliff Nielsen. The title is a bit ominous, but with the blurb Harris I knew this would be a paranormal romance. The man is attractive and is sure to catch potential readers’ eyes. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “The Rule Breaker…Master vampire Ian is unrepentant, shameless…and every shade of wicked. He’s made one too many enemies in his two centuries of existence, including Dagon, a demon who now lays claim to his soul. Ian’s only chance to escape Dagon is to join forces with a Law Guardian, but he’s never been able to abide by the rules for too long. The Law Maker…Veritas’ normal role is police, judge, and jury to reprobates like Ian. But she has her own ax to grind with Dagon, so if she can use Ian as bait…well, all’s fair in law and war. As they scour supernatural hotspots to perfect their trap, Veritas soon realizes Ian’s carefully cultivated, devil-may-care, roguish image hides something much more powerful. And Ian discovers Veritas has shocking secrets of her own. As they’re drawn to each other with a passion as intense as their peril, either love or justice will prevail. But each will have devastating consequences.” I like having opposites paired together, I like how each wants Dagon for different reasons, and I like that the leads are going to be romantically involved, which is a classic formula. Add in supernatural elements and I’m all for this. Overall grade: A-

The characters: There are four main characters in this novel. The first is Ian, a hunky vampire. He’s muscular, he’s ruthless, and he likes to push buttons. The book opens with him hosting an orgy that’s boring him. To show how kinky this immortal is, author Frost gives him a silver piercing in his nether area. This was a surprise, on more than one level, but was a fun quirk. He’s extremely strong, smart, but is in fear of what Dagon will do to him. His feelings for Veritas grow as the book progresses, which is no surprise, but they don’t come off as forced. This was an impressive character change by Frost, because I wasn’t thrilled with the character initially. He’s not sympathetic and his one-liners fell flat. However, but the time the pair went to the American-Canadian border he began to grow on me and he became likable, but without sacrificing any of his sarcastic attributes. I was immediately sympathetic to Veritas, a vampire Law Guardian — one who enforces the laws of the vampire council on those of their kind. She looks much younger than Ian and she is much smaller. Having her physically like this allows for her abilities to surprise Ian and the reader. I won’t spoil what she’s capable of, but it’s very impressive. She is definitely the straight shooter of the pair, with her wanting to do things appropriately, though she’s not above bending the rules to get things done. Her feelings for Ian also grow as the book proceeds and they, too, are very smoothly written. Together they are the classic pair of opposites working together for different reasons and eventually falling for each other. Their relationship isn’t surprising, but it is very enjoyable to read. One recurring character is the vampire Mencheres who sired Ian. He’s familiar with Veritas, and seems to know much about her, but his loyalty is to Ian. His brief introduction in the beginning of the book sets up his appearance toward the climax and he’s quite the threat. The antagonist of the novel is Dagon, which is the name of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s infamous creatures. As a fan of Lovecraft, this name holds a lot of strength with me, but this demon didn’t hold the enormous threat of that familiar name. This was a disappointment, but is definitely a minor one, as the character is a good villain; I just got hung up on the name. Dagon is a double threat for wanting Ian’s soul and for something in Veritas’s past. He’s a smart character and is appropriately strong. His every appearance was good. All the characters in this book are fun. Overall grade: A

The settings: The book opens in Europe in an circus themed orgy organized by Ian for his pleasure. It instantly sets the tone for Ian’s character and given what’s occurring it’s described rather discretely. The New York setting is realistic, with it turning beautifully into a fantasy element, before becoming a location more grounded in reality. I’m tiptoeing around specifically stating what the locales are in New York, because they’re incredibly fun when they’re revealed. I know I’m overusing fun, but sorry, they are really enjoyable. The final setting of the book is not memorable, but that’s only because the action takes precedence to describing the location. That said, what is given of the setting is solid. Overall grade: B

The action: This is an element of the book I was not expecting. This book makes Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer come off as slow and weak. There’s a huge amount of action, starting with the leads battling one another as Veritas tries to take him in. The two break every piece of furniture around them, with neither going easy on the other. Vampires in this book heal incredibly quickly, allowing them to have bones broken, yet continue fighting with the shattered appendages healing within minutes. They can sustain severe injuries, but keep going. This allows the action to continue for quite a while and that makes the action incredibly enjoyable. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: After the issues with Dagon and another character are resolved, one of the leads has to do something that will save the other, but will essentially reboot the story to its beginning. I didn’t enjoy that and when the saved character realizes this, the book ends with a too strong a pull towards a sequel. The epilogue came off as a teaser for a sequel, which I’m more than happy to read and would look forward to, but it’s done too obviously. Overall grade: B-

The final line: This is only the second paranormal romance I’ve read and it’s another thumbs up from me. The characters grew on me, the action was incredibly strong, the supernatural elements fun, and the romance didn’t go syrupy sweet. A recommended read for those who like sultry supernatural romance. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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