Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “That guy is a douche. Asterisk, I hate him, footnote, he can suck it.“
Fans of Neill and her Chicagoland Vampire series will be pleased with her latest foray back into her exciting world of vampires, supernatural hijinks and baked meats. After a somewhat disappointing predecessor, Biting Cold, House Rules comes back with a vengeance and sets the arc and characters back on track. The GP (Greenwich Presidium) has sanctioned Cadogan House and Ethan has decided to fight back by seceding from the elitist vampire ruling council rather than taking anymore abuse. While the house is preparing for the secession, rogue vampires are turning up dead. Merit and Ethan once again place their lives on the line as they try to figure out who is killing the vampires and why.
I was pleased by the balance permeating this installment. Action, suspense, drama, romance, and humor all blend together to give us a fast paced adventurous story that hooks you from beginning to end. Merit is in top form with her snarky commentary and patent warrior skills. She has grown much through the series, but in here you get the sense that Merit is finally accepting her fate and is at peace with her turning. Ethan Sullivan, Master vampire, head of Cadogan House, and love of Merit’s life, is also more stable in here. Still alpha to the core and demanding complete obedience, he is now willing and able to make concessions. The events in Biting Cold opened eyes to more than just the supernatural political unrest in Chicago. Ethan’s sacrifice has drawn him and Merit back together and proven to them that they are much stronger as a pair. This is a much approved situation. While Merit and Ethan’s relationship has been a strong amusing aspect of the series, the last two books left me with a bad taste in my mouth as their stubbornness was beginning to take the enjoyment out of it. They are both back and finally in sync with one another, able to adjust and weather out any bumps in their relationship rather than their usual modis operandi of running for the hills.
“So you traded up?” I asked, walking toward the car and opening the door. “Do you treat your relationships in the same way?”
“Yes,” Ethan gravely said. “And I spent four hundred years shopping before I met you.”
The mystery is well defined and the plotlines flow steady. Engaging characters and sustainable relationships remains a strong aspect in the overall enjoyment of this series. The dialogue alone, sharp and witty, will keep you laughing and fist pumping at the most inappropriate times. Old and new enemies come into play as Merit and Ethan work to stay one step ahead of the GP and figure out who is killing their kind. We see many old friends and get a small look at how their lives are progressing. Mallory’s present and paying for her ‘lapse in judgment’ by working with the shapeshifters. I like that she and Merit are slowly rebuilding the friendship they lost.
Catcher makes an appearance and we see that he and Mallory are trying to get back to where they were before. No promises are made but I have a good feeling about them. We also see a major step taken concerning Merit’s relationship with the Red Guard, which in turn affects Ethan.
All in all, House Rules is a story of hope, redemption, and new beginnings. I recommend this series to everyone who enjoys a dark humorous Urban Fantasy with plenty of action, romance, and snark. This is not a standalone though and I do not recommend starting the series here. This is a convoluted series that builds upon itself with each new book. The arc is long reaching with minor recapping. Characters evolve and bleed over into to each new story with no real pauses in between.
Overall Rating: B