In the Service of the King (Vampire Warrior Kings #)

In the Service of the KingBy Laura Kaye

Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Purchased

Kael, Warrior King of the Vampires, loathes the Night of the Proffering. He needs the blood of either his mate or a human virgin to maintain his strength, but hasn’t enjoyed the ritual since he lost his mate centuries ago. Kael doesn’t want a new companion, yet his resolve is tested when he lays eyes on his new offering, Shayla McKinnon. He is drawn to Shayla’s beauty and poise…and the submission she offers. She is eager to give him anything he wishes, including her innocence, to please him. Will Kael give in to their overwhelming desire—even if it means risking Shayla’s life?

Goodreads Summary

I really love Laura Kaye’s writing and nearly everything she’s written is on my re-read list, especially the incredible Hearts in Darkness. I knew this was a shorter-form story just by the price (unlike Cait, I get along great with novellas most of the time), but I was a little taken aback by just how short it felt.

The Warrior King of the Vampires has been stretching out his feedings to once every three months, the maximum possible for himself and his fellow warriors. They can’t feed until he does and he despises his options – find a mate or continue to use the Proffereds, virgins sent to donate blood. He lost his first mate centuries ago and he’s decided he won’t open himself up to that kind of pain again so he impersonalizes his contact with the Proffereds. He isn’t able to keep his distance from Shayla, the young woman who’s in the ceremonial chamber waiting for him though – she bears the hallmarks of his potential mate.

Kaye’s ability to create engrossing characters – heroes that are sexy, strong and vulnerable and heroines that are strong, smart and compassionate – have captivated me since I read my first book by her. Shayla is exactly what I’d expect. She’s driven to exact justice in the name of her murdered sister and has dedicated her life to making herself worthy of being a Proffered for Kael and the warriors. She’s open to what she could be with Kael but she’s not necessarily willing to give up who she is or what she wants either. Her backstory took up what I thought was just the right amount of space for the book and in a way that made sense, where it fit.

Kael’s, not so much. I don’t think I can go all the way and say I didn’t like him but he had some qualities that bugged me. A lot – as in most – of the book is from his side of things and he’s sort of a glum guy. I’ll admit the whole, “lost my first love/mate and can’t/won’t ever love again,” trope drives me up the wall, so that was a bit of a strike against poor Kael from the start. He’s determined never to be happy again, until he wants to be. Then everyone has to be.

Add in a nice little action or some outside tension and that would have made a nice little novella. It didn’t even need to be anything big. Shayla’s sister was murdered by a type of vampire called the Soul Eaters, who drink their victim’s blood and then take their souls. Kael’s warriors are also on a mission to stop them – the Soul Eaters are mentioned more than once and there were actually a couple of places that I thought we might see one of them pop up. But…nothing.

From what I’ve read before – although I know there isn’t exactly a “standard” measurement – a general novella runs around 100 pages-ish. This is slightly smaller at 78 but to me, it felt even shorter. The Harlequin Nocturne Cravings series is specifically for paranormal novellas that are a little spicy, standalone and character-focused, so while I did understand that we weren’t going to be talking about an all-action book, I was hoping for some sort of external conflict to offer a little balance.

My Summary: I still love Laura Kaye’s writing style, still love the way she crafts her characters and can’t argue that Shayla and Kael are well-written. This book seems unformed to me though, more a series of scenes rather than a cohesive story that contains all of the elements that make a reading experience really come together for me. I got my HEA but without some sort of conflict beyond the couple stressing out over each other, my heartbeat never raced enough that I had any particularly rush when it came.

My Rating: C+

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