Russell Ryan Hankelburg is a man bent on revenge, He survived thirty-nine years in a vampire coma only to wake to find the life he'd known was gone. He has no memory of being turned or the events that lead up to it. All he knows is he'd been found in one of Han's caves with Han's trademark tattoo of ownership branded on his right wrist. After hunting and searching for the Han, he was about to make the kill he'd been carefully planning for two years when she got in the way.
Jia is a woman driven by revenge, Thirteen years ago her family was killed and mutilated by Han. While were-tigers have nine lives, mutilating them ensures they won't come back to claim any unused lives. Since their deaths, Jia's been training to take down the master vampire who has terrorized her people for over forty years, When she chanced upon Han, she thought she'd finally get her chance at revenge. She, however, wasn't fully prepared and he got away sending his guards after her. She was saved from almost certain death by him.
Can two people team up to go after a common enemy?
"Before we get started, I think we should set some ground rules." When she nodded, he continued, "Rule number one: our partnership is strictly for business. Our mission is to find Han and kill him."
But what happens when rules become too hard not to be broken as feelings come into play?
This is the sixteenth book and what very may well be the last book of the Love at Stake series. I would highly recommend reading the first and perhaps a few more of the later books in the series to get a better understanding and view of the wonderful world Ms. Sparks has created for this series. Most of the books can be read as standalones as enough background information is given that you won't feel lost, however, you will miss some of the ambiance and magic that envelopes the series by just jumping in at this point. Now while this might be the last chapter in this part of the series, Ms. Sparks commented in the foreword that this may only be a temporary hiatus from the series. She stated she may eventually write more as she still has a few more tricks up her sleeves that she didn't yet use.
Russell is a cowboy at heart who once had aspirations of running his family's ranch, but the Vietnam war set those dreams on hold as he enlisted. Unfortunately for him, his being turned ended those dreams altogether. He's loyal, strong. smart, and has had to start his life all over again from scratch with none of the support the average person has after waking from his coma. Plus, he's had to deal with the changes brought on by his becoming a vampire. The past two years have been difficult for him and he'd like answers as to why Han turned him. Of the unit he was in charge of, he's the only one Master Han chose to keep alive.
Russell's initial thoughts of Jia, who is were-tiger royalty, is that she is a spoiled princess and he wants nothing to do with her. Slowly, she proves she's more than a pretty face and can kick butt with the best of them. While Jia can at times be impulsive and not think things fully through, Russell manages to reign her in and help her see reason. I enjoyed the contrast between these two and how they manage to find a common ground outside of their hate for Master Han. I loved seeing the spark between them grow into something strong and meaningful as each realizes they had something, or rather, someone to live for and ground them. Additionally, I liked the mutual respect the two came to have for each other.
Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. The novel was nicely paced and laced with juicy twists and turns. Plus, the identity of elusive megalomaniac Master Han is revealed as well as the plans he had in store for Russell. I thought this was a nice ending to a very fun series. Will Ms. Sparks do as she hinted and extend the series later? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Perhaps a spin-off will present itself in the distant future? We can only cross our fingers and hope.