Hellbent (Cheshire Red #2) by Cherie Priest
Publisher: Spectra (Random House 2011)
Release date: Sept. 6th, 2011
Source: From publisher for review
Cheshire Red Series
Vampire thief Raylene Pendle doesn’t need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen. But Raylene still can’t resist an old pal’s request: seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts. Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way. But Raylene’s biggest problem is that the death of Ian’s vaunted patriarch appears to have made him the next target of some blood-sucking sociopaths. Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe—all while fending off a psychotic sorceress. But at least she won’t be alone. A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen—right?
After her last adventure, our favorite OCD cat burglar and vamp, Raylene Pendle, is settling into domestic bliss (yeah right), with Ian Stott, the blind vampire that she’d like to be more than friends with, and her two pet humans, Domino and Pepper, street kids, and brother and sister that she’s taken under her wing. Raylene’s longtime contact, Horace Bishop, has a job for her, and just when she thinks she’s gotten away from the “weird jobs”, Horace wants her to steal a collection of, er, penis bones (aka Bakula) from various supes, like weres, gryphons, and unicorns, from the owner who was not willing part with them. Evidently these relics are used in all kinds of spells and rituals, and Horace is desperate to get his hands on them. When Raylene discovers that a brilliant, schizophrenic ex-NASA scientist is using them for her own mysterious reasons, Raylene begins to identify with her, and the more she learns, the more she wants to help her, in spite of her constant resistance to human attachment. Add that to her attempts to untangle Ian from the politics of his House, her growing feelings for him, and desperation to keep him by her side, and you’ve certainly got a recipe for fun, er, disaster! Hellbent is certainly not short of adventure, and when Raylene asks Adrian, ex-Navy SEAL and fabulous drag queen extraordinaire, to accompany her to Atlanta, to act as her ghoul and confront Barrington House (one of the most dangerous Houses in existence), things really get tense.
One of my favorite things about Raylene is that her tough as nails exterior hides her inner vulnerability. She’s very OCD, so she’s drawn to weaknesses in others, and it definitely brings out a “mommy” quality in her, no matter how much she tries to protest that this is the case. I just get more and more attached to Adrian, and Ian is like a gorgeous piece of art that I’d like to admire from afar (not Raylene, though, she wants to admire him way up close, but I digress…). There are a ton of upheavals in Raylene’s life in Hellbent, and she certainly deals with everything in her own unique, anal way, but that’s one of the things I love most about her. She’s a tough nut, yes, but there is a gooey center in there, it just takes certain things to get through to it. In Raylene, Ms. Priest has created a very complex character that’s at once tough and vulnerable, and sweet and salty, then surrounded her with a fascinating cast of characters that leave plenty of possibilities open for future story lines. It’s rare for a vampire character to leave me with the warm and fuzzies, but Raylene manages it, and the conclusion to Hellbent will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!