Smolder by Laurell K. Hamilton: Explosive Relationship Dynamics

Vampire hunter Anita Blake is no stranger to killing monsters. It’s part of her job as a Preternatural U.S. Marshal, after all. But even her experience isn’t enough to stop something that is bent on destroying everything—and everyone—she loves.

Anita Blake is engaged to Jean-Claude, the new vampire king of America. Humans think she’s gone over to the side of the monsters. The vampires fear that their new king has fallen under the spell of the most powerful necromancer in a thousand years.

In the midst of wedding preparations—including getting Edward, aka U.S. Marshal Ted Forrester, fitted as best man—Anita gets a call that the local police need her expertise at a brutal murder scene linked to a nationwide slaughter of vampires and humans, dubbed the Sunshine Murders.

But there is more than just a murderer to catch: an ancient evil has arrived in St. Louis to challenge Jean-Claude for his crown, his life, Anita, and all they hold dear. Even with Jean-Claude’s new powers as king and Anita’s necromancy, it isn’t enough; they must embrace their triumvirate or allow primeval darkness to spread across the country, possessing first the vampires and then the humans. Evil will triumph unless Jean-Claude and Anita can prove that love conquers all.

With the Anita Blake series, one of the elements that drives the novels is the relationships and in this novel, there are explosive relationship dynamics. Laurell K. Hamilton quickly pulls readers into the storyline, with Anita Blake preparing for her wedding to Jean-Claude. Surrounding those circumstances are the relationships Anita has formed with the other partners in her life, including her friends and the investigations that require her expertise. All of those plot threads are compelling including a new evil making itself known. 

If you’re familiar with the characters, it will help impact your enjoyment of the novel, however. There are many relationships and characters and if you aren’t up to date on the series, you might not enjoy it as much. That said, one of the aspects I enjoyed the most is the growth of the characters in the series. Anita discusses abuse and therapy. She delves into her issues. And for many readers, that gives them someone to connect with. I loved how the relationships were discussed and that nothing is done without involving the partners that Anita and Jean-Claude have in their lives. This is one of the most positive representations of a polyamorous relationship that I’ve seen. 

One of my issues is that the pacing does tend to drag, mostly because there are so many plot threads. Out of about five threads, only two were resolved. Since the wedding is an ongoing plot thread, that is understandable. And the biggest plot points were resolved  to a certain degree of satisfaction, including one that has carried over for several books. And it is resolved in a fantastic fashion so I don’t mind other points being left open-ended for the next chapter in the series. But be warned, if you want a solid ending, this is not the series for you.

All in all, I love the way Laurell K. Hamilton presents the relationships, I love the twists and turns in how Anita negotiates her love life and the positive aspects to her relationship with Jean-Claude. The major plot thread with the new bad guy is handled well and makes me want to come back for more. And there are explosive relationship dynamics that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stilettos

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