The votes are in and One Foot In The Grave (Jeaniene Frost) is the reading group pick for May 2008. So head on down to your local bookstore and grab a copy and get to reading! When you’ve finished, head on over to the VRB.com forum and join in or start the discussion.

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Dark of the Moon by Susan KrinardThe year is 1926. Prohibition is in full swing. The Great Depression is only a few short years away. Oh, and vampire clans in The Big Apple are locked in a battle for underworld supremacy. Bet you missed that last part in American History 101, huh?

Lucky for us then that Susan Krinard has put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you prefer) and spun an intelligent tale of love and romance, passion and peril in her enthralling Dark of the Moon.

The story surrounds Gwen Murphy, an aspiring investigative reporter pursuing the mystery of a rumored “blood cult” in New York City, a mystery her father had been investigating prior to his death. Gwen’s probe is a dangerous one, more dangerous than she can imagine, but not for the dark and deadly Dorian Black, a former vampire enforcer living among the human vagrants that take shelter in the docks area. He knows exactly what she’s pursuing because it’s who and what he’s hiding from.

The pair’s paths cross when Gwen is unceremoniously dumped into the river by some ruffians as she waited to meet up with a source. Dorian, in an uncharacteristic act, saves Gwen from the murky depths. Why he’s done so is as much a mystery to him as he is a mystery to her. His immediate attraction to her takes him by surprise and makes him fear even more the darkness that lurks within him and that rises to power during the dark of the moon (hence the title of the book). Gwen is an astute observer, notes the darkness but doesn’t fear it as she probably should and vows to help Dorian better his situation and to discover the secrets of her savior, a man she finds herself inexplicably and irresistibly drawn to as a woman.

Gwen doesn’t give up her pursuit of the “blood cult” rumor, however, and soon embroils Dorian, who tries to warn her of the dangers without giving specifics; his gentle inebriant acquaintance, Walter; and eventually Gwen’s wanna-be suitor, Mitch Hogan.

The love triangle plays out against a background of vampire gangland violence, and is complicated by a mysterious faction of vampires and humans who claim to want peace … but are they what they seem? And will Gwen and Dorian find their way to each other between the sprays of bullets, beatings and the secrets and, yes, sometimes lies?

Dark of the Moon is an engaging read to say the least. Ms. Krinard crafts the story well, progresses it naturally and doesn’t reveal too much too soon. The setting of 1920s New York is a new one for me, and a very good one for the story.

Her heroine is a true tip of the hat to the golden age of cinema and the grand female characters (and actresses) of the time. Quick-witted and tough, but ever feminine, Gwen possess an indomitable spirit, one that serves her well professionally, as she works to carve out her career in a decidedly male-dominated profession. Her drive and independent streak, however, doesn’t set so well with the man (Mitch) courting her affections. He’s a decent enough guy but he’s often less interested in loving her than in changing her and availing himself of her other womanly assets. That is Mitch’s loss and the gain of Dorian, who is intrigued by and drawn to her strength of mind, something Gwen instinctively knows and, being the smart woman she is, desires.

Have you read Dark of the Moon? If so feel free to leave a comment on this post and let others know what you think.

Also, if you’d like, join in the Reading Group discussion of Dark of the Moon, which is this month’s pick.

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Bending to Break coverA.J. Hampton’s Bending to Break is a full-throttle read with some seriously hot sex and a solid story.

It tells the tale of Kayden Gray, a half-vampire, who nightly goes out to slay the evil creatures of the night — demons, unruly vamps … you know, the usual suspects. Though slight of frame, Kayden is big on attitude and kicking butt. Oh, and engaging in verbal sparring matches with the tall and sexy vampire hunter Micah. Between their urges to strangle one another, the duo fights a serious case of the hots for each another. Their attraction accelerates into overdrive when out on a hunt one night their path crosses with a succubus with a plan. Then, before you can say condom, the couple is sexually engaged to the nth degree.

With a quest to become human and gain a mortal soul, the succubus feeds off the sexual and emotional energy created by the couple’s copious copulation. And, if that weren’t enough of a problem for the couple, Kayden’s former lover, a vampire named Jullian, also has plans to arrest control of his prodigy, at all costs. Oh, and then there’s a whole host of other otherworldly nasties gunning for Kayden at the behest of Julian’s own sire. Suffice it to say, the couple has a lot to handle and huff and puff through in Bending to Break.

Kayden and Micah are intriguing characters, quick with the quips, passionate and smart, and they admire one another as much as they drive each other crazy. Ms. Hampton manages to endow them both with a good deal of depth, and her supporting cast is quite intriguing. I wish she had fleshed them out a bit more earlier in the story, and would be pleased if she were to write Elijah (Micah’s brother) and Paige’s (Kayden’s cousin) story at some point in the future.

Readers looking for a highly erotic read with some butt-kicking action and a deftly handled romance between two engaging and excitable characters, may just find that Bending to Break fits the bill.

P.S. One note, I did notice several typos within the text, and there appears to be some portion of the text missing between pages 89-90. None of that derails the story, however.

Have you read Bending to Break? If so, feel free to leave a comment on this post and let others know what you think.

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