Dante is one of the ancient race known as the Breed and a vampire warrior who takes to the streets every night fighting to protect both his kind and humans from Rogues, dangerous Breeds who have given themselves over to an all-consuming bloodlust. As he follows a creature he believes to be a Rogue one night, Dante is nearly killed by an explosion and thrust into the river, which carries him far downstream. Riddled with bullets and bleeding severely, he crawls out of the water and into a nearby veterinary clinic, where the lovely woman who owns the clinic comes to his aid. Starved and desperately in need of blood to heal his wounds, he drinks from her, leaving her frightened, but it's not until afterward that he sees the mark on her hand that denotes a Breedmate, a human woman who is compatible with his kind. Dogged by visions of his own death and facing an uncertain future, she's a complication he doesn't need in his life, so even though Breed law dictates that she is now his, he erases her memory of their encounter and tries to forget her. But that proves far more difficult than he imagined, and when he discovers that her ex-boyfriend is dealing Crimson, a dangerous drug that is rapidly turning his kind into Rogues, he knows he must protect her at all costs.
In spite of having a rough life, harboring dark secrets about her past, and being mostly a loner, Tess Culver is a kind veterinarian who has compassion for all creatures. When Dante shows up in the storeroom of her clinic battered and bloody, she jumps into action to help him, but when he bites her, she freaks out. Later, with no memory of the event, she meets up with him again, and this time, she feels an instant connection to the darkly handsome warrior. Each time she sees him, that connection grows stronger and more erotically charged until she cannot deny that she's fallen for him, and even though an air of danger surrounds him, she instinctively feels that she can trust him. But their bond is put to the test when she's attacked by a group of Rogues and nearly drained of life, leaving Dante with no choice except to complete their blood bond in order to save her. Until that moment, she's had no idea what she is or how his actions will affect her, so when she discovers the truth, will she be able to forgive him or will her renewed fear of him and his kind lead to her demise?
I started the Midnight Breed series about a year ago. After hearing rave reviews from other paranormal romance readers, particularly those who compared this series to the Black Dagger Brotherhood - a series I love - I'd been very much looking forward to it. However, the first book, Kiss of Midnight, while good, didn't grab me in quite the way I'd hoped, which is probably why it's taken me so long to get around to reading the second book. The world building sufficiently intrigued me to make me come back, though, and I'm so glad I did, because Kiss of Crimson was an excellent read. It's the story of Breed warrior Dante who is plagued by visions of his own death, and veterinarian Tess Culver, a Breedmate who harbors an extraordinary gift. After chasing a vampire he believes has gone Rogue, Dante is nearly blown to bits, the explosion tossing him into the river, where he's swept away. He manages to crawl out and ends up in the storeroom of Tess's veterinary clinic, where he feeds from her in an effort to heal himself. It's not until afterward that he realizes she bears the mark of a Breedmate, and by Breed law, what he's done makes her his. He tries to fight it, but the bond with her is strong, making it impossible for him to stay away from her. Then he discovers that the vampire he chased that night was actually hopped on a new drug called Crimson that is rapidly turning many Darkhaven youths into Rogues, and it's Tess's ex-boyfriend who is manufacturing and dealing the drug at the behest of the Order's mortal enemy. Dante tries to gently woo Tess before revealing the entire truth of what they are, but when her life is threatened by Rogues, she gets a quick initiation into his dark and dangerous world.
We didn't learn a great deal about Dante in the first book of the series, so going into this one, he was mostly a clean slate, a character waiting to be fulfilled. At only 229, he's one of the younger vampires in the Order, the son of a scholarly aristocratic Breed male and his beloved mate. Dante's mother was a seer who correctly envisioned both her own and her mate's demises. She passed this gift down to her son, and for many years, he's been having visions of his own death but has no idea when it might occur. In part because death is dogging him everywhere he goes, he's had little interest in finding a mate, but that all changes the night he meets and feeds from Tess. The whole incident leaves her understandably freaked out. Dante would have liked to explain everything right then, but with dawn rapidly approaching, he's forced to erase her memories. Even though Breed law says that she belongs to him, he tries to forget her, but he simply can't. So he sets about engineering situations where he can get to know her better and gradually seduce her. Dante quickly realizes that he's fallen in love with her, and things are going well until the actions of Tess's ex-boyfriend end up putting her in mortal danger, leading to the necessity of Dante bringing her into the Order's fold quickly. But when she learns what he is and all that he's done, she may not be able to forgive him. Dante is my kind of alpha, one who's confident and commanding while still having a gentler side and exhibiting vulnerabilities. I'm a sucker for psychic phenomena in paranormal romance, so Dante's visions made him an intriguing hero. I also loved how he went about trying to woo Tess and how he was supportive and protective when she revealed her past to him, all of which showed his kinder side.
Tess is a sweet heroine who has been through a lot in her life. She harbors traumatic secrets from her childhood, as well as hiding her own psychic gift. She's mostly a loner with no family and few friends, which is partly why she's tried to maintain a friendship with her ex, even though she knows he wants to rekindle their romantic relationship and she doesn't. She runs a veterinary practice in a not-so-great area of town, and even though she often struggles to pay the bills, she's always unerringly kind to everyone, animals and their owners alike. With no one to go home to, she has a habit of working late, and it's on one such night that Dante shows up in her storeroom. Being the caring person she is, Tess tries to help the injured warrior, but when he bites her, she's terrified. Of course, after Dante erases her memory, she has no recollection of what happened, but when she starts seeing him again around town, she feels inexplicably drawn to him in a way she's never felt before. Even though he projects an air of danger about him, she quickly falls for him and feels like she can trust him. But when she's attacked by Rogues and rapidly thrust into his world, it's a lot to take in. Tess is a wonderful heroine who is a kind, compassionate person. She's very giving and loving toward those she cares about, both human and animal. I love her psychic talent and what she can do it nothing short of extraordinary. Even though she initially struggles with the revelations of a hidden world she never knew existed, she isn't unreasonable. When Dante proves his love for her by being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, it's an easy choice for her fully accept him as he is.
Kiss of Crimson has a number of interesting supporting characters, some of whom have their own POVs. We're introduced to Sterling Chase, a Darkhaven agent, who bears an unrequited love for his brother's widow, Elise. It's because of that love that he asks the Order for help with the Crimson drug problem, because his nephew has gone missing and is believed to be using. While he isn't entirely up front with the Order, at his core, he's a good guy, who has to make some difficult and heartbreaking decisions throughout the course of the story, and in doing so, he proves himself to be a strong warrior, too. I'm not entirely sure what the future holds for him, but perhaps he'll join the Order. I do know that this isn't the end for him, though, because he becomes the hero of the final book of the series, Darker After Midnight. I'd hoped that perhaps Elise would come to love him back, but that's not to be the case. She briefly meets and has a moment of connection with taciturn, enigmatic Breed warrior Tegan, and they will become the hero and heroine of the next book, Midnight Awakening. All the other warriors and their mates put in appearances as well. We briefly see Rio (Midnight Rising) recovering in the infirmary from events of the last book, while Niko (Veil of Midnight) helps Dante with a dangerous mission. Tech geek extraordinaire, Gideon, (A Touch of Midnight) helps with all things techie, while his mate Savannah puts in a few appearances as well. The Order's leader, Lucan (Kiss of Midnight), is seen, along with his mate Gabrielle. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Harvard, a very cute but ailing little dog that Dante uses to get into Tess's good graces. Then there are the bad guys. Tess's ex, Ben, initially seems like a decent fellow, albeit a little clingy and stalkerish, but his drug manufacturing gets him into a world of trouble as he quickly discovers that Marek, the Order's mortal enemy, is the one pulling the strings and funding his operation.
Overall, Kiss of Crimson was a really great read. I very much liked both Dante and Tess. Dante is the perfect mix of alpha warrior and gentle, passionate lover. Tess is very relatable and easy to love. They fit together very well and more than prove their love for one another, while their romance is emotional, steamy, and tender. The underlying plot about the drug, Crimson, and how it's turning young vampires into Rogues was engaging, well-crafted, and suspenseful. There were a couple of twists that I didn't see coming. While the first book left me a little uncertain about the Midnight Breed series, this one has solidified my interest and I'm hopeful that it produces many more great reads for me. At the very least, I can say that both Tegan and Elise are characters who deeply intrigue me, so I'm very much looking forward to reading their story soon.
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