Roman Dragenesti is the leader of his vampire coven. As a monk in his mortal life, he was committed to healing his fellow human beings. As a vampire, he has spent centuries abhorring the fact that he must feed from mortals in order to survive and believes that his soul is damned for eternity because of it. As a genius and a scientist, he put his intelligence to work inventing synthetic blood so that vampires no longer have to feed from humans. His invention turned him into a millionaire and has saved countless lives as well, but there are still those among the vampires who refuse to give up the thrill of the bite. One of Roman's scientists is working on a solution to this problem, but when Roman puts it to the test, he accidentally breaks one of his fangs. With only hours left before dawn, Roman must get the tooth fixed immediately before his body's enhanced healing abilities kick in, leaving him a one-sided eater for eternity.
Shanna Whelan is a dentist who is afraid of blood. She is in the witness protection program and on the run from the Russian mob after witnessing a hit in which her best friend was killed. When Roman comes to her in the middle of the night asking for help with his fang, she's not about to implant what looks like an animal tooth into a human mouth. Roman tries mind control on her, but she has an uncanny ability to resist. Before she can do anything, the Russians storm her dental office, leaving Roman with no choice but to save her life. When he discovers that his old enemy and leader of the Russian coven is the one hunting Shanna, he knows that she'll never survive without the protection of another vampire, namely him. To Roman, Shanna is an extraordinary woman, and the more time he spends with her the more he finds himself falling for her, but if she ever finds out what he truly is, can he trust her not to try to stake him in his sleep?
I've been following a few tried and true paranormal vampire romance series, but haven't read any new ones in a while. I was hoping to liven things up with a whole new group of vamps, and that's exactly what happened with How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire. The Love at Stake series has a slightly different mythology than the other series I've been reading, plus an added dose of humor that isn't often found in the paranormal sub-genre. Kerrelyn Sparks uses a good bit of traditional vampire lore while adding a few little twists that are all her own. The funny parts had me chuckling many times, while also keeping things from getting too heavy, but there's still a fairly good dose of seriousness, angst and emotion. All these elements came together to create a very enjoyable start to this new-to-me series, and a pretty impressive debut novel from this author.
Roman was a really yummy hero. He's a genius scientist, technically a virgin, and hot to boot. Romance heroes just don't get much more scrumptious than that to me. The author created a very interesting twist to Roman's character by having him be a monk in his mortal life. As a result he is a pretty tortured hero who believes that God has abandoned him and that his soul is damned to hell. Even though he thinks of himself as an evil creature, Roman is an innately good man who has never forgotten his calling as a healer. He has saved countless vampire and human lives with his invention of synthetic blood, and is working on a formula to keep vampires awake during the day which could also have implications for mortals. Roman is a man who truly cares about people and doesn't want to endanger mortals by feeding from them, nor does he want to turn any more humans for fear of damning their souls as well. Roman is also the American coven leader and as such, he has gained more than a few enemies from both the vampire and human world. I do wish that the author had brought out his genius (read geeky) nature a little more, because we don't get to see much of him at work. Overall though, Roman was a great hero. He adores Shanna and would do anything to give her a "normal" life.
Shanna is a dentist who is afraid of blood. Yup, you read that right.;-) This made for some pretty funny moments when Roman came to her to get his broken fang fixed, but it was also very emotionally touching because of the reasons for her fear. Shanna witnessed a hit by the Russian mob in which her best friend was killed, and now she is hiding out in the witness protection program. She works the overnight shift at a 24-hour dental clinic where she thankfully doesn't see much action, until Roman shows up, and then her whole world is turned upside down. Shanna discovers that things she didn't believe in, namely vampires, actually do exist, but she has an uncanny ability to resist their mind control. I loved the psychic connection she shared with Roman, and the vampire mind sex was pretty hot too. What I liked most about Shanna was her kindhearted, caring nature. Of course, she's shocked and even frightened when she finds out what Roman is, but she comes around pretty quickly, always seeing the good man and not the monster he thinks he is. She actually treats Roman with a compassion that is quite foreign to him.
How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire has lots of great supporting characters, many of whom get their own books in the series. I think my favorites were the kilted Highlander guards. They are led by Angus (Be Still My Vampire Heart), another coven master and one of Roman's closest allies. Among their ranks are also the charming Connor (Vampire Mine) and the cute, boyish-looking Ian (All I Want for Christmas Is a Vampire). There is also the handsome Frenchman Jean-Luc (The Undead Next Door), a third coven master who is allied with Roman. He's a clothing designer, but make no mistake, he's no sissy. We also have playboy, Gregori (Sexiest Vampire Alive) who is Roman's right hand man, and Phil (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire), one of his daytime guards. Next up in the series though is Austin (Vamps and the City), a vampire slayer and member of the Stake-Out team. I also noticed that Caitlyn Whelan who I assume to be Shanna's sister is the heroine of Eat, Prey, Love. Of course there are lots of baddies from the Russian coven including Ivan, their coven master and long-time enemy of Roman. All these characters came together seamlessly to make a very colorful cast.
Overall, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire was a very fun read and a great start to the Love at Stake series. The humor made the story very cute, but it still managed to maintain a certain degree of the edgy emotion I've come to expect from paranormal romance. My only two small complaints would be that the dialog could occasionally get a little long-winded which as an introvert can be a bit tiring to read. The other thing is that the narrative takes place over probably less than a week's time which is a little too quickly for me to 100% buy into the notion of a lifetime commitment by the end, but unfortunately, that seems to be par for the course with many current romances especially in the paranormal genre. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to continuing with the series. How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire has definitely breathed some new life into my paranormal romance reading.
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