Midnight Rising
by Lara Adrian
(Bantam Spectra, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-044024444-8
Dylan Alexander has always felt a little out of step with her peers. That’s probably because all her life she’s been able to see ghosts.  So, when she’s hiking with friends in the mountains of the Czech Republic and a female ghost appears to beg her to “help him,” she’s more annoyed than afraid. She leaves her friends behind to follow the ghost to a seemingly abandoned cave, where she finds an ancient stone crypt, open and surrounded by human bones, and strange symbols on the walls.  

Much to Dylan’s surprise, one of the symbols matches a birthmark on the back of her neck. She looks around for the “him” the ghost mentioned, doesn’t see anyone, but senses an eerie presence that sends her scrambling out of the cave and back to the safety of her friends. 

Did I forget to mention our heroine works for a tabloid specializing in sensational and supernatural stories? The next morning, having convinced herself what she felt was just her overactive imagination, Dylan heads back to the cave to take some photos to send to her editor along with a story “Ancient human sacrifices discovered in Dracula’s backyard.” Except this time, she does see someone – a crazed and scarred hermit, who totally freaks when she starts snapping photos. Photos taken, once again she finds herself fleeing back to civilization, leaving the madman behind. 

Of course, the madman really isn’t one.  His name is Rio and he is a Breed, as well as a member of a covert Order that has been fighting rogue vampires (suckheads — yuk!) since the Middle Ages. He was left behind by his Order brethren months ago to destroy the evidence in the cave before some innocent stumbled across it.  Oops. And why, you may wonder, was he still there? Well, turns out that during a previous mission Rio was badly burned and scarred and betrayed by his Breedmate.  Since he’s the broody sort, he’s been sitting around contemplating suicide – just blowing himself up with the cave. 

However, meeting Dylan has made Rio want to live again. Plus, he’s got to make sure those photos don’t come to light. He finally blows up the cave and heads to Prague with the intent of tracking Dylan down and destroying the photos. But poor Rio cannot catch a break; Dylan has already sent off photos and story to her editor in New York.  He contacts the Order to begin damage control, and kidnaps Dylan, taking her back to the Order compound in Boston. 

Back in Boston, Rio is embraced by the other Order operatives.  Dylan, on the other hand, is viewed with suspicion, at least until the discovery of her birthmark, which has more significance than she could have imagined. 

Once in Boston, the story develops numerous plotlines, including who might have escaped the crypt, why the spirits of dead women are trying to communicate with Dylan, and who is stalking potential Breedmates. Some are resolved, but some remain to advance the series.  (This is book three in the Breed series.)  From some of the back story, I have the impression Rio is the third member of the Order to have found his Breedmate. 

Is this a romance?  Eventually. Once Rio understands that Dylan doesn’t care about his sordid pastor his scars, he finally accepts that someone could love him.  At which point, the sexual tension that has been simmering finally resolves into some pretty sizzling interludes. As for Dylan, well, let’s just say it would have taken me a little bit longer to get in the mood after being kidnapped and intimidated by group of large, hulking vampires. I guess working for that tabloid gave her a different perspective than most.  However, when she and Rio finally do get together, they make a good team. 

I was looking forward to reading this book because of a cover quote from J.R. Ward, author of the Black Dagger brotherhood series.  Midnight Rising turned out to be a story in which members of a covert brotherhood of vampires kill the bad guys while searching for their destined mates.  A three heart rating seems fair because J.R. Ward and Sherillyn Kenyon both do it better.

--Jean Ward

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