**Copy provided by author for an honest review.
GOODREADS SUMMARY: For vampire Aidan Murphy, life has never been so desperate. The vaccine used to treat a global pandemic has rendered human blood deadly to his kind, leaving them on the brink of starvation and civil war. In tiny Penton, Alabama, Aidan establishes a peaceful community of vampires and unvaccinated human donors. He dares to hope they can survive until his estranged brother descends upon Penton and begins killing the humans. Determined to save his town, Aidan kidnaps an unsuspecting human doctor and finds himself falling in love for the first time in nearly four centuries. Dr. Krystal Harris thought she was coming to Penton for a job interview, but Aidan Murphy has other plans. Infuriated by his high-handed scheme to imprison her in the small town, Krys can’t ignore the attraction between them. But is it love? Or does her dangerous, charismatic captor want only to bend her to his will?
If you’ve read any of my PNR/UF reviews, one thing you will notice is that I tend to wax poetic about the same things. If I really enjoy a particular book, it almost always has to do with the world-building. Any book that sucks me into a unique world, takes a hold of my imagination and doesn’t let me go, is a winner on all counts. And I loved the world Sandlin opens the door to in Redemption. In fact, I loved this book. It hit many of my book crush points – unique world, relatable heroine, and great couple chemistry. The vampire world of Penton, AL is an interesting one and I invite you all to check it out with me.
One thing that makes the world so interesting, and, quite frankly, a bit scary, is this idea of starving vampires. Vampires in and of themselves are scary but do you really want starving vampires running around? And that’s exactly what we have in the world of Redemption. A vaccine created to end a pandemic in the human world has had catastrophic effects on the vampire world. This vaccine has made most human blood poisonous to vampires. Unvaccinated human blood is hard to come by and highly valued. Enter Aidan Murphy, master vampire and founder of Penton, AL, a small enclave of vampires and their unvaccinated human familiars living quietly and peacefully together in mutually beneficial relationships. Humans in Penton are obviously aware of vampires and are there of their own free will, giving their blood to, and bonded with, vampires of the town.
Aidan had founded Penton on the idea that humans were the equals of vampires. Respect them for keeping you alive, he preached. Treat them as family. Don’t act like monsters.
In return, human familiars have a safe place to live, nice houses, and small town comfort that can’t help but make one feel secure. This idea of the rest of the vampire world, outside of Penton, gives a great sort of looming presence to the story and adds a sense of insecurity to the reader. I mean, a vampire paradise can’t last forever, right? But I’ll get to that in a minute.
The vampires themselves are also interesting. There is Aidan, Irish and at least four centuries old, brooding, lonely, hiding a lot of hurt in his past; Mirren, a huge, physically intimidating vampire whose history as an infamous assassin or henchman is only hinted at here, is Aidan’s right-hand man; William is also a member of Aidan’s circle of trust and son of Matthias Ludlam, a ruthless member of the Vampire Tribunal who wants to bring down Penton and get his son back; there is also 12-year old Hannah, a child-vampire, wise beyond her years with the gift of sight. This is a tight circle, all bonded to Aidan and with a mental connection to him that opens up communication but also allows him to draw on their energy. And vampires use both physical and mental means to battle one another.
I really enjoyed this world. I loved this idea of a small town experiment, of powerful, closely knit vampires and humans, living together, trying to create a new way to relate to one another in peaceful coexistence. I found it interesting that many of the human familiars were recovering addicts, given a new lease on life in Penton, an idea I hope is developed more. I also loved the jocular, caring, yet intense relationships between the vampires themselves and their human familiars. It was such a well-conceived community and I was immediately drawn into it.
Penton also needs a doctor. Enter Krys Harris. I loved her as a heroine. She comes from an abusive past – her father was both physically and mentally abusive; she is swimming in medical school debt; a loner. And she wants to work in rural medicine. Krys agrees to an interview but one thing leads to another and Aidan’s desperation for her help in an emergency situation leads him to kidnap her and hold her in Penton against her will while she treats the wounds of a human patient. The attraction between Aidan and Krys is undeniable.
Something intense flared in his eyes, and her heart thudded as he slid a palm up her arm.
“Do you know how extraordinary you are? I—“ He paused, then shook his head and started back down the hall. “Come on, let’s walk.”
Damn. She really, really wanted to hear the rest of that sentence.
Krys has to fight to escape while also fighting her attraction to him. For me, what makes Krys so relatable is the fact that there’s a constant battle between what she wants to do and what she should do. Given her past, the last thing she wants to do is submit to a man, to feel controlled and manipulated. But there is something about Aidan…I think we’ve all had those moments of trying to decide what our hearts really want versus what we feel we should be or do.
…it felt as if her life has been stripped bare, and she wasn’t sure who Krystal Harris was or what she wanted, except that it couldn’t be a life defined by another controlling man.
This struggle was real and well-developed. And Krys does not back down from trying to escape when the opportunity presents itself. She did not go quietly into that goodnight, if you know what I mean. The resolution to her struggle was not an easy one and I loved that about her.
Now, let’s get back to the end of the vampire paradise. As I said before, one of the great things about this book is the feeling of threat to this idyllic Penton community. That immediate threat comes in the form of Owen Murphy, Aidan’s brother. These two have a twisted past and hold serious grudges against one another. Owen is sent there by Matthias to bring Aidan, and Penton, down. If there is one weak point in the book for me, it’s Owen. I didn’t find him scary or threatening enough. Owen did a lot of waiting around on the outskirts and I just never really felt he was a real danger to Penton. The Vampire Tribunal, on the other hand, is the threat I’m really interested in seeing developed. There is only so long powerful but hungry vampires are going to sit on the wayside and watch Penton thrive. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what that battle is going to be like.
Redemption had everything I like in a good PNR – great romance, interesting world, and a complicated heroine. And I thought about Penton for a long while after finishing Redemption. I even Googled it to see if it was real town. Not that I expected to really find vampires there or anything. Nope. Not me.