Olivia Sotiris is an FBI psychologist. Her work has put her in close proximity to some of the country's worst criminals, perhaps none more so than Otis Crump, a serial rapist and murderer who has developed an obsession with her and who she believes is somehow now stalking her from behind bars. Her supervisor thinks that she's making more of it than there is and that she simply needs a vacation to relax and unwind. Olivia goes to the Greek island of Patmos to visit her grandmother who adds a stress of a different kind when all she seems to want to do is play matchmaker between Olivia and all the single men on the island. But the only man who's caught Olivia's attention is the red-haired Scotsman she spies running on the beach below her grandmother's home every night. When he takes the initiative to come talk to her, she discovers someone who is everything she's ever wanted in a man, but can she trust her feelings after spending such a short time with him? Then Otis tracks her down, leaving one of his twisted gifts for her, which sends Olivia running back to the States and Robby left behind. She hopes to reconnect with him at some point, but an off-handed comment from her FBI boss makes her wonder if Robby can truly be trusted or if he might be in league with her sworn enemy.
After being tortured for two days by the Malcontents, all Robby MacKay can think of is getting revenge. Out of concern that his emotions might be putting the team in jeopardy, his own grandfather, who is also his boss at MacKay Security & Investigation, institutes a forced vacation on him. Robby reluctantly goes to Patmos, where he's not having a good time, until he spots a beautiful Greek goddess on the patio of a villa near the one where he's staying. He works up the courage to talk to her and finds that she's all he's ever wanted in a woman and more. But before he can express his feelings, she's disappeared. When he finds out that it had to do with her stalker, he tries to get in touch with her again, but she seems to be giving him the cold shoulder. Eventually she comes around, but no sooner has she started to trust him again than her life is placed in danger from both her stalker and the Malcontents. Not to mention, how is she going to react when she finds out she's actually been dating, not a man, but a vampire?
The Vampire and the Virgin is the eight book in Kerrelyn Sparks's Love at Stake series. It features Highland vampire Robby, who's been a part of the series since the beginning paired with Olivia, a psychic FBI agent who is brand new to the series. Both Robby and Olivia have been through recent trials and are sent on forced vacations by their bosses. They end up on the Greek island of Patmos together, where they meet and share a whirlwind, love-at-first-sight romance. But when Olivia's stalker tracks her down halfway around the world, she runs back to her FBI job in the US to investigate, leaving Robby wondering what happened and whether they'll ever see each other again. Olivia begins to have doubts about Robby and the rapid progression of their relationship, but just as they reconnect and she begins to come to terms with it all, the case of her stalker intersects with the vampires' search for the evil Casimir. Then she gets a major shock when she discovers what Robby really is and that supernatural creatures are actually real. This puts their future in question just as Casimir and her stalker join forces, placing her life in mortal danger. Overall, this was another good installment of this series, although not one that was perfect, which I'll discuss as I go along.
Robby is a nearly three-hundred-year-old Scottish vampire who lay dying on the battlefield at Culloden when his great-great-grandfather, Angus, found him and turned him. Afterward, he tried to go back home, but his wife and daughter were unable to accept him as he now was, leaving him alone and feeling betrayed. Centuries later, he now works for Angus at MacKay Security & Investigations, hunting down evil vampires and protecting good ones. In the previous book, Forbidden Nights with a Vampire, Robby was captured and tortured by Casimir and his minions. He's since mostly recovered physically, but he harbors a single-minded, burning need for revenge. This leaves Angus and his wife, Emma, worried that Robby could put the MacKay S & I team at risk, so he's sent on a forced vacation to Roman's Greek villa on the island of Patmos. There he goes jogging on the beach every night, and on one of these nights, he spots a beautiful goddess on the patio of a neighboring villa. As he gets to know Olivia and discovers that she's a psychologist, he at first thinks that Angus and Emma planted her there to psychoanalyze him, but once he realizes it's just a coincidence, he falls hard and fast for her. Next thing he knows, though, she's run away back to the States. Once he's finally able to get in touch with her again, he has his work cut out for him in more ways than one, convincing her that he's really one of the good guys. Robby is a character that I've definitely been drawn to, especially after all that he suffered at Casimir's hands. However, I was slightly disappointed that aside from his overinflated desire for vengeance, he seems to suffer few ill effects from the torture he endured, nor does his wife's past betrayal play a big role in the story either, which kind of stretched credibility for me a bit. Otherwise, I did very much like Robby. He's a brave warrior who has a kinder, gentler side when it comes to Olivia.
Olivia is a criminal psychologist who works for the FBI, and she also possesses a psychic gift which allows her to read other people's emotions, as well as instantly detect when someone is lying. She spent a great deal of time working on a case involving a serial rapist and murderer named Otis Crump, and during that time, he became obsessed with her. Now she's convinced that he's somehow found a way to stalk her from prison, because she keeps receiving anonymous gifts of apples, a weird connection that only he would know about. However, her FBI supervisor thinks she's reading too much into it, and tells her to take a vacation. She goes to Patmos to visit her grandmother, and while there, she spots a hot guy running on the beach every night. When she gets to know Robby, she feels an instant connection with him like nothing she's ever felt before. She tries to just accept it, but because she can't sense his emotions or know when he's lying, she doesn't entirely trust her own feelings. Then another box of apples shows up, leaving her terrified. Trying to protect herself and her grandmother, she leaves Robby behind and returns to the US, where an offhanded comment from her supervisor makes her wonder if Robby might be in league with Otis. Her heart still wants Robby, so when they finally reconnect months later, she eventually gives in to her feelings, but when she later finds out that he's actually a vampire, she isn't sure if she can get past this new revelation. I like that Olivia is a nice combination of sweet and feisty. I also tend to enjoy characters who have psychic powers, so this part of her persona was intriguing to me. The one thing that I think could have been better, though, is that when faced with not being able to read Robby, she lacked trust in him. While I understand how that might be a strange feeling to someone who'd never not been able to read another person, it simply put her on a level playing field with all other mere mortals. Therefore, I felt like in spite of her powers ruining past relationships, she was kind of relying on them as a crutch, and her lack of trust did put some distance between them.
Being part of a lengthy series, The Vampire and the Virgin boasts a large cast of supporting characters, many of whom headline their own books in the series, past or future. Some only have bit roles or mere mentions, while others play meatier parts. One of those more significant characters is Carlos, the were-panther, who will be the hero of the next book, Eat, Prey, Love. He's at the Greek villa with Robby, keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn't try something stupid and humorously gets involved in Robby's love life. He's also front and center when they battle with Casimir and his minions. Also fairly important are Angus and Emma (Be Still My Vampire Heart) who are not only Robby's family and employers but are leading the charge against Casimir. We get to see Shanna (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire) and the kids (Constantine is so adorable) a couple of times, although I think Roman was only mentioned. Phineas (Wanted: Undead or Alive) and Howard (Wild About You) show up in a few scenes as Robby's co-workers and friends. We get to see Jack and Lara's (Secret Life of a Vampire) wedding. Jean-Luc (The Undead Next Door) appears in a couple of scenes and we see Phil and Vanda (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire) at least once. Connor (Vampire Mine) is another of Robby's co-workers who is there for the battle sequences. There are several other leading characters who are seen briefly, more in the background. Then there's Olivia's amusing, match-maker grandmother who keeps trying to set her up with every guy on the island, and her co-worker, J. L. and supervisor, Barker. Barker is keeping a surprising secret, while J. L. is a supportive friend to Olivia who experiences an equally surprising twist. Then there are the bad guys, Casimir, who we don't see a lot of in this book but who's trying to rebuild his army after suffering losses in the previous book, and Otis, the serial killer who's creepy as hell.
Overall, The Vampire and the Virgin was a pretty good read and a nice addition to the series, but as I mentioned earlier, it wasn't quite perfect. Love-at-first-sight romances can often be dicey for me. I have to really feel an intense connection in order to buy into it. I felt it on some level, but trust is imperative for me in a romance, so having Olivia be distrustful of Robby so many different times did put a bit of a damper on their relationship for me. The other thing that stunted their connection was the amount of time they spend apart. After returning from Greece, they're separated for several months, during which Robby is patiently trying to get in touch with Olivia, while she's in one of her distrustful phases. Then they reunite but only via phone or video chat. Finally they get one night together, before going back to long-distance. It was just a little too much time apart for my taste. Not to mention, there just wasn't quite as much steam in this one as there was in many of the previous books, so I couldn't help feeling that the romance itself could have been a bit stronger. I did enjoy the suspense part and how the author ties together Olivia's stalker case and the greater vampire story arc. As usual there are several humorous moments that made me smile and chuckle to keep things lighter. In spite of the perceived weaknesses in the romance portion of the plot, this was still a good story that has left me very much looking forward to Carlos's book next.
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