Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cherry Stem by Sotia Lazu

Turned at the cusp of a promising career in the adult movie industry, Cherry Stem has to rely on her mesmerizing vampire gaze for her meals and money. With the rent deadline approaching, settling for pocket change isn’t an option, so she reluctantly lets tall, dark, and handsome Detective Alex Marsden take her home for the night and fulfill her needs.

Only she gets more than she bargained for.

When Cherry meets Alex, she expects him to be nothing more than another “girl meets boy, girl feeds from boy, girl erases boy’s memories” hook-up. Once missing young women, the vampire council, and her irresistible ex are thrown into the mix though, she realizes nothing is as simple or random as she thought it was.

And her unlife isn't the only thing at stake.

Where to Buy

A fun read that manages to be both lighthearted and heartbreakingly serious by turns. Just when you're chuckling and settling into this book as something of a light comedy perhaps, something happens that has you holding your breath for Cherry or for one of her guys. While the end is largely predictable, still you'll feel Cherry's heartbreak right along with her.

Cherry is a very down to earth kind of gal with a rather pragmatic view of right and wrong. Sure, there are absolutes she adheres to, such as not hurting her dinner any more than necessary, and not whoring herself out just for the sake of a snack, but in other things her morals are rather more flexible. There are hints that she frequently takes money from her "dates", but if so, we never see it in action, and it's largely glossed over and then forgotten. Fairly young for a vampire, she's still in complete control of her powers, routinely uses them to her advantage, both out of convenience and out of necessity, but she also is still rather human in the way she thinks, at least at times. She's generally more worried about how she looks, and with paying the rent, than most anything else and it gives you the feeling that in the ways that matter, she's really not any different from most 20-somethings on their own in a big city and living on the fringes at least of the fast crowd.

Alex is everything you'd expect in a PNR hero for all that he's "merely" human. Very much an alpha male sort, he takes charge of things between him and Cherry right from the start and insists on playing the part of her protector even though in many cases she's more capable than he is for the task simply because of what she is. At the very least she's a bit more sturdy. Unlike a lot of alpha male types, however, he isn't really the overly controlling type, nor is he a jerk at all. It's clear from the start that he's really a very caring individual, one who's just getting over his own heartbreak after being dumped by his fiancée in the recent past. While that make some men seem weak, it just makes him more endearing, like a big strong teddy bear that you just want to cuddle and make him feel better.

Another character worth mentioning here is Constantine, Cherry's ex, and the man who was her vampire mentor after she was turned. He's the one who taught her all she needed to know to survive, and he fell in love with her in the process. While Cherry still has strong feelings for him, including very lustful feelings for him, at least at the beginning of the book, she's still not as enamored of him as he is of her, and she sticks to her guns that it's over between them, however much she might be tempted to have one last fling with him for old time's sake. While Constantine certainly has his cold and calculating side, especially where vampire politics is concerned, his feelings for Cherry make him a totally relatable character, and it's easy to feel sorry for him for being constantly spurned by Cherry.

While I typically prefer my vampires to be males, Cherry was very easy to like, and I found this to be a very enjoyable read. The author sticks pretty close to traditional vampire lore, but adds in a few twists of her own to make her world unique. There is plenty of witty dialog, plenty of realistic dialog between characters dealing with some very ordinary problems along with the paranormal problems they face, and enough steam thrown in to keep things interesting. The armchair sex between Alex and Cherry near the beginning of the book sets the bar high on that score right from the start, and it continues to live up to the standard that set. But though the passion may be at a constant simmer, especially between Cherry and Alex, but also to a lesser extent between her and Constantine, the sex never overtakes the main plot in importance, instead winding itself around the plot to nicely fill in the gaps.

All in all, this is one I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes paranormal romance, especially of the steamy variety. I give it a strong 4½ stars. Why not 5? Well, I'm not sure I can point to anything in particular that downgrades it that little bit for me, other than for all that I enjoyed it, it just lacked that extra bit of wow factor that makes something a 5 star read for me. Check this one out if PNR is your thing. You won't be sorry you did.

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