"No secret stays hidden forever."
Elizabeth Hunter's previous forays in fanfiction have already shown her to be a writer of extraordinary talents and with her first published book her writing takes another leap forward into a landscape entirely her own.
Beatrice is a young woman starting to find her path in life after a testing start. A motherless girl who'd taken a few wrong turns in her teenage years following her father's disappearance. She's now settled and steady if a little withdrawn from the world. She's an undergrad studying at the University of Houston and she works part-time in the Special Collections department of the university's library. It's here she meets the enigmatic Gio and a slow-burning relationship begins to bloom. Her weekly rendezvous with Gio soon becomes the highlight of her week and she is curious and intrigued by him with more than a dash of attraction.
Gio, as we've already discovered, is no ordinary guy - in fact Gio's been a vampire since Renaissance times. And Gio's on the hunt - not for blood, but for knowledge and answers. Together they start to unravel a mystery and we gain glimpses of the hidden secrets the strapline refers to. This effortless layering between mystery and romance combine harmoniously in A Hidden Fire and add so much to the reading enjoyment of this novel.
The force of attraction these two feel for each other is all the more powerful as it is delivered with measured precision by Hunter's prose which is always grounded in the immediacy of everyday details. It's an expertly managed sexual tension that runs seamlessly throughout the book and draws the reader in to the 'will they, won't they' game. I won't spoil the outcome of that one for you.
There's a lot of wit and humour shared between the central pairing and their supporting cast. Every character portrayed is richly drawn and has a part to play in the drama that unfolds. This is what I love and appreciate most about Hunter's work - her ability to craft great, multi-dimensional characters that you can't fail to love/hate or have many emotional reactions to.
There's a lot of schlock in vampire fiction but not with A Hidden Fire. Hunter has created a different take on vampires where the sensual nature of vampires is still prevalent and tangible yet forms only a part of their nature. This first book in the trilogy was the perfect opener. Complete in it's own right yet leaving me full of anticipation for the second helping. December cannot come quick enough!
The easy style and elegance of Hunter's writing picks up with Beatrice and Gio five years after the end of A Hidden Fire. Beatrice's has now completed her post-grad studies and secured for herself a fabulous job and a small collection of friends in California.
Nothing stays hidden forever though and fans will be happy when Gio comes back into the frame. In typical Gio style, he deftly inserts himself back into Beatrice's life whether she wants him there or not.
As Beatrice slowly becomes reimmersed in the supernatural world, she cautiously opens herself up to the idea of a relationship with Gio again. This book focuses a lot on the tenuous development of their relationship and it's done in a wonderfully realistic way. Hunter truly does excel in the details and nuances that shape a relationship. Whilst Beatrice and Gio are the heart of the books, the supporting cast still play an important role and new characters come in too. The subtle menace contained in the previous book is still there and there's plenty of action throughout. A shocking murder. A kidnapping. Childhood memories. New alliances. Family new and old. All adding up to another amazing finale.
Hunter gets better and better and for me she's an honest-to-goodness terrific storyteller who builds her books around the characters within them. My only complaint is it should have been Le Havre, not La Havre! She's artful and full of aptitude when it comes to threading together a right good yarn. Knowing that the previously planned trilogy will now be extended to a four book series has me even happier. Bring on March!