At the tender age of 27, Merit became a sword-wielding vampire. Since then, she’s become the protector of her House, watched Chicago nearly burn to the ground, and seen her Master fall and rise. Now she’ll see her mettle—and her metal—tested like never before.
It started with two . . . Two rogues vanishing without a trace. Someone is targeting Chicago’s vampires, and anyone could be next. With their house in peril, Merit and her Master, the centuries old Ethan Sullivan, must race to stop the disappearances. But as they untangle a web of secret alliances and ancient evils, they realize their foe is more familiar, and more powerful, than they could have ever imagined.
**Source: Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Death waits for no vampire.
— Ethan Sullivan
I like bacon.
These two quotes make up the epigraph that prefaces the latest installment in the Chicagoland Vampires series, HOUSE RULES. I read this and laughed. Smiled to myself. I sat back and settled into one my favorite books to date in the series. This had everything I love in Chicagoland – good mystery, good romance, some action, a revelation, and an ending that gets you ready for a new chapter in the overall story arc.
I really loved the plot in HOUSE RULES. There are two parallel storylines and each one is just as interesting as the other. First, we have a mystery. A serial killer is on the loose, murdering vampires and leaving their bodies in creepy macabre scenes that let you know it’s personal. Merit needs to find the killer before more innocents are killed. Meanwhile, Cadogan House is going forward with its separation from the Greenwich Presidium (GP), the international ruling body of vampires, which means it’s essentially going rogue. But of course the GP isn’t going to quietly let go of Cadogan House and all its money. There’s some thieving and some double-crossing, and Ethan and Merit have to figure out how to gain the upper hand in 48 hours or risk losing the house or, worse, starting a war. Each of these storylines really kept my attention. Both were races against time and each one had a resolution I wasn’t necessarily expecting. I actually didn’t figure the killer out until Merit did and when it came to a solution for the GP situation, I was laying blame on the wrong doorstep. I love it when I’m kept on my toes.
Romance…Ethan and Merit are solid. Finally! It was nice to spend time with them as a couple. Sweetness, sexiness, respect, love, and some funny banter make this a relationship I want to follow. I think Ethan can be an ass and this book made me like him more. Yes, there’s a moment of tension between the two but it works itself out. And I don’t think this tension is going to go away. This has everything to do with a decision and a commitment Merit made when she thought Ethan was gone. I loved the fact that she doesn’t back down from that decision; she doesn’t waver because she firmly believes in what she’s doing and sees it as bigger than her and Ethan. I appreciate Merit as a strong female character; she’s no wuss. Merit makes tough decisions and sticks to them, no matter how hard it is to do.
Where Neill always gets it right is in the relationships. There are some great scenes with the witty dialogue I’ve come to expect from the series – shirtless poker with werewolves? Strategy sessions with Luc and Lindsey? Great moments that had me laughing and feeling like the old Cadogan House was back.
Finally, there’s a great action scene at the end when the killer’s identity is revealed. In the course of the fight a big series mystery is finally solved – I know what Jeff Christopher is! And it’s pretty damn cool.
One thing that continues to be a mystery to me is Jonah. The romantic triangle aspect sort of fizzled out with the last two books so I’m still a bit puzzled about his future with Merit. The Red Guard storyline will keep them together as partners but will there ever be more? What’s the intention here? Also, with regards to the GP storyline, and you really have to read the book to understand, I found it hard to believe that they wouldn’t have reviewed security footage earlier. When something is stolen, isn’t looking at security footage the FIRST thing you do?
But these are minor quibbles that don’t take away from the book as a whole. The pacing was fast, the storylines compelling, the characters were…everything you’ve come to love about them. Neill ends HOUSE RULES on a hopeful note. It heralds a new beginning for Ethan and Merit, and for Cadogan House in general. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them all.