"You know you can do anything to me," she murmured. "I'm yours - I always will be." Those words could have been spoken by any number of Kresley Cole's heroines. In "Shadows's Claim," they were spoken by Princess Bettina of Abaddon, unfortunately, during a case of mistaken identity. Bettina is half-sorceress and half-demon and the heiress to her kingdom. Without a mate, her relatives decide to hold a fight-to-the-death tournament to select who will rule beside Tina as King. To say that Tina is not impressed with her potential mates (chosen for brawn, not looks or personality) would be an understatement.
Prince Trehan Daciano is the vampire master assassin of the House of Shadow. Trehan's current assassination assignment leads him to the demonic plane of Abaddon, and some unknown force compels him to enter Tina's chambers. He is an unblooded vampire, but not for long, even when Bettina mistakes him in the dark for her childhood love.
I wish I could spend a day in Kresley's mind. I've read all of her IAD books and novellas, two of her historical novels, and her recent YA novel, The Poison Princess. She seems to have a never-ending supply of imaginative worlds and an endlessly fascinating cast of characters at her fingertips. "Shadow's Claim" has all of Kresley's trademarks, including a heroine who might not initially know her real strength, but gains it over time, along with her confidence. Trehan knows Bettina is his Bride, and he will stop at nothing to possess her. Their passion is mixed with equal parts of lust and tenderness. Another one of Kresley's traits is to sprinkle doses of humor throughout, most notably with Bettina's sort of evil sorceress godmother, Morgana, who I'm fervently hoping gets her own book. Some familiar characters of the IAD series make appearance, but I'll leave those for a surprise.
For me, all of Kresley's books have ranged from good (just two of those) to fantastic (all the rest.) Shadow's Claim falls in the fantastic range of the spectrum. The tension, conflicts, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles between Bettina and Trehan felt real, and not forced for story purposes. Bettina is someone easy to root for, and Trehan is just...YUM - one of the best of Cole's heroes. Unlike far too many romance heroes, Trehan is not ridiculously angst-ridden and prone to temper tantrums - one of my big pet peeves in this genre. Yes, he's hot, strong, and willing to kill and die for Bettina. His personality mirrors his assassin profession in many ways - deliberate, thoughtful, and smooth. In other words, a nice change of pace from the more cliched types.
I don't know of another author who is able to write with such a balanced mix of passion, sensuality, and flat-out hot sex. Cole remains my favorite author, and I look forward to reading more of this new world. However, her next IAD book is "MacRieve," scheduled for May 2013. I'm already anxious to get my hands on that. I only wish Kresley could clone herself so she could write faster!