January 2013, Series Romance
Harlequin Blaze, #733, $5.25, 224 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373797370
Most of the Blaze books I've enjoyed have been fairly light, spicy reads. While still fun, Relentless Seduction hits a slightly darker tone and the vampire bar and vampire subculture that play important roles in the plot make this book stand out from others I've read. I can honestly say I've never read anything quite like it and since I mostly enjoyed both the plot and the characters, I'm glad I gave it a whirl. Or perhaps I should say that I'm glad I gave it a whirl in spite of its dreadful title, which really has nothing to do with the actual book.
Microbiologist Claire Brooks came to New Orleans with her best friend Julia for a bit of fun. However, after her friend disappears, Claire's frantic search takes her to Once Bitten, a vampire bar where the rather frumpy and buttoned-up Claire sticks out like a sore thumb. When she accidentally spills a drink on a tough and furious customer, bartender/owner Rafe Moreau finds himself having to ride to her rescue. Claire's demeanor and questions annoy Rafe, who worries that Claire will drive off business or that she will find herself in more trouble than she can handle. His attempts to get Claire to leave turn into him(grudgingly, at first) helping her look for her friend as he finds himself impressed by Claire's loyalty.
No one reading this book would be surprised to learn that Rafe and Claire fall into lust and then love with each other during the course of their search for Julia. This is a book from the Blaze line, after all. And in this case, the love story works. Claire is more comfortable in her lab working with data than she is exploring a sexual relationship with a lover who has more than a little bit of an edge to him, and Rafe very obviously enjoys flirting outrageously with Claire and getting her to live a little. The confident lover seducing his uptight opposite is a plotline romance readers encounter more than a few times in the genre and there's a reason for that. When it's done well, it works. And in this hands of this author, it's a lot of fun to read.
Claire and Rafe have a certain chemistry to them that works. Even though Claire is obviously intelligent, she has a vulnerable quality to her just as tough bar owner Rafe has his own insecurities to battle. On the surface, these two come from different worlds, but in addition to physical attraction, they rather quickly start learning how to work together and communicate with each other in spite of themselves. What starts as a grudging acceptance and respect quickly deepens, and I loved seeing these two figure out how to accommodate and work with one another. And the love scenes? Well, they're just deliciously hot.
The mood of this book is also a huge strength. While some of the romantic scenes between Claire and Rafe are flirtatious and even funny, there's also a darker quality to this book. For much of the story, the mystery of Julia's disappearance remains at least partly unsolved and that lends a certain ominous quality to thing. Adding to the equation the vampire-themed bar and some of the information that comes out as Rafe and Claire share their pasts with one another also contributes to a slightly brooding air at times in this book. The author balances this mixture of tones well, and the result is a rather lively read. At times, the dialogue is a little clunky and the frumpy Claire descriptions a little over the top, but not enough to make the book unenjoyable.
Some of the best Blaze books are steamy good fun, and this one has an added edge to it that makes it stand out in one's mind. Relentless Seduction delivers a fantastic trip to New Orleans and it's one I'm glad I read.
-- Lynn Spencer
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