NIGHTSHADE – Michelle Rowen
Nightshade , Book 1
Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 978-0-425-23982-7
February 2011
Paranormal Romance

San Diego, California – Present Day

Jillian Conrad's decision to get coffee for herself and some of her co-workers ends life as she knows it at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.  As she's about to get on the elevator a man in a lab uniform with the name tag “Carl Anderson” starts to leave it,  and another man with a black eye patch over his left eye and scars over the rest of his face confront each other with her in between.  Carl grabs her, and with a syringe to her neck just before the eye patch man kills him, he injects what they call a formula for bloodsuckers . What feels like liquid fire rips through her body as she is pushed to the ground.  The eye patch man grabs her and takes her away, and Jill can't fight him because she's frozen inside by what happened.

Declan is under orders to bring the formula back to his adoptive father, and if it happens to be inside Jill, so be it.  If his father had told him to kill her he would; he's a vampire assassin, trying to rid the world of them.  His father told him his human mother was raped by a vampire who almost drained her of blood as he was raping her, and she was in a coma until Declan was born, and then she died.  The formula was to be used to poison vampires, especially Matthias, King of the Vampires and perhaps the man who raped his mother.

With the poison inside her body making her violently sick and Declan taking her who knows where, Jill could be forgiven for not seeing the bright side of the situation.  (Oh, there is no bright side, sorry).  Then Jill finds out that because Declan is half vampire, his father has him taking a serum every three hours to suppress its effects.  But it makes him like a robot with no real feelings and unthinkingly obeys his father; no wonder he's such a dedicated assassin.  When several people come after them and attack Declan, Jill gives them his serum telling them it's the formula, and for the first time in over ten years, Declan starts to behave like a normal person, especially since it took away all the desire and passion in his life.

Jill's taken to Declan's father's lab where he and Dr. Gray, who authorized the making of the formula, are sure to know how to take the poison out of her body somehow, won't they?  Things get more and more interesting, but telling you more would spoil a truly excellent story.

Written mostly through the eyes of Jill, Michelle Rowen has created a world encompassing many different aspects.  There is depression medication to keep Declan under control, experiments to poison vampires, lies told to Declan for decades, and spies in the vampire and the dhamphyr (half human, half vampire) world.  An innovative plot with special characters makes this a story with many unique elements.

Secondary characters are diverse and spectacularly interesting.  There's Carson, Declan's adoptive father, and Dr. Monica Gray.  Matthias is King of the Vampires living underground; Karen, one of Matthias's protectors; and Noah, an assistant to Dr. Gray who is involved deeper than he should be.  Various other blood servants of Matthias and other bodyguards fill out the story, along with Kristoff, the former king of the vampires who may or may not still be alive.  Each person is more interesting and fascinating that the other.

NIGHTSHADE is a highly recommended story if you are at all interested in vampires, half vampires, or what can happen when you are injected with an anti-vampire venom.  Book two of Nightshade is BLOODLUST (July 2011) and continues the story of Jill and Declan, and whether Jill can continue to live with the poison inside her body.  Lots of action and strange goings on will keep you engrossed in their story.

Carolyn Crisher