Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

I’d seen Once Bitten, Twice Shy in the bookstore and I liked the premise from what I could tell it was, but didn’t pick it up right away just because of all the series I had already started and haven’t finished. But when it was $1 at the onedollarorbit website, the price was right and I downloaded it.

The Premise: Jaz Parks is a CIA agent whose job it is to kill vampires. A few months ago she was assigned a new partner – Vayl, the only assassin who is also a vampire. No explanation is given but Jaz wonders about it: Vayl has NEVER worked with anyone and he’s considered a big deal. She can’t imagine someone ordering him to suddenly take a partner like her, so she guesses Vayl asked for her specifically, but doesn’t know why. The story begins a few months into their partnership when Jaz and Vayl are in Miami to perform a simple mission to help smoke out their biggest enemy, the Raptor, which soon becomes much more than it seems.

This is the first book in the series:

1) Once Bitten, Twice Shy
2) Another One Bites the Dust
3) Bitting the Bullet
4) Bitten to Death
5) One More Bite
6) Bite Marks

Excerpt of Chapter 1

My Thoughts: This book is told in the person person from Jaz Parker’s viewpoint. Jaz is a character who seems like the prototypical fantasy heroine. Red hair, wields deadly weapons, drives fast cars, and kicks butt at killing vampires. There’s also a bit of a smart mouth, though to me it just seemed like she often shared the first thing she was thinking, no matter how random it was (there were times that Jaz thought she was funny when I did not, but humor is subjective). Jaz also has a dark back story; a recent tragedy hangs over her head, and she doesn’t get along very well with the male members of her family when the book begins (her father and twin brother, David). The only one Jaz has no difficulty with is her sweet-tempered sister Evie, but it sounds like a typical family: there is still love even when they don’t get along.

Vayl is a tall, dark and mysterious vampire (handsome too, obviously), centuries old who has his own reasons for choosing to work for Jaz. I thought his noticing her at the agency then wanting to work with her, was a little hard to believe, but didn’t question it much. The important thing seems to be exactly what she means to him. She’s more than just a coworker.  And this is where I was a little disappointed at the book.  It feels like we’re not getting the slow buildup of a relationship as people get to know one another. Instead we’ve skipped ahead to the “I like you, do you like me?” stage. Frankly, I’m all about the slow build-up and I really don’t know why they even have these feelings about each other, I’m just told they do. It wasn’t what I was expecting in the romance. Meanwhile even though it’s clear we’re in that stage, that’s pretty much where we stay. It just hovers there between them. I suspect the author is not going to address them for a while, which I don’t mind, but if nothing is going to happen, why not show more of why they like each other, and make me believe it?

Most of the characters where like this: a little flat. Jaz and Vayl pick up a team of a private investigator, a psychic, and a tech wizard, and they’re pretty quickly sketched out and don’t do much more than provide support to let Jaz and Vayl do what they do best. Even the villains seemed like the usual fare: the psycho ex, the evil henchmen, evil doctor, terrorists, cult, and Uber-Villain pulling strings behind the scenes. There is however, plenty there to build from and I’m hoping more fleshing out happens in the next books.

Despite all of this, which I know, I know, I sound a little ranty: I didn’t hate it, I enjoyed myself! I didn’t find the read annoying, it’s only looking back that I see some things, but as I read I did want to see where the story was going, and I did want to know the mysterious back story of both Jaz and Vayl.  I think a lot of why I didn’t end up disliking the book was the action. There’s plenty of it, in a very.. action movie kind of way. Think James Bond meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Jaz and Vayl are a good team, working together to kill the bad guys and save the day, using high tech weapons and gadgetry alongside some supernatural abilities. For the most part this was fun, like watching a spy movie: there are getaways and car chases, tense moments, and civilians in danger. It’s easy to follow (although near the end I had that I’m not quite sure where everyone is feeling) and not much thinking is necessary.

Overall: This has several elements of a typical urban fantasy – a strong, kick-ass heroine with mysterious powers she’s beginning to learn, lots of action, and a supernatural love interest. I think that if you are at all sick of this type of thing, move on. Otherwise, keep reading. It’s kind of like a written version of a high octane Hollywood blockbuster. Lots of entertainment value but only for those in the mood for action and entertainment. I still had a fun and will probably pick up the second book, but your mileage may vary. I’d recommend this book for those who also like Karen Chance.

I like the covers. Orbit posted the making of them: Part 1, Part 2.

Other reviews:

Lurv a la Mode has a thoughtful, very detailed review (4 scoops out of 5)
Books and Other Thoughts (also liked it)
LesleyW’s Book Nook – another positive review
Smart Bitches – gave it a B+ and really liked Jaz
Unbound! – isn’t sure yet, will keep reading
Tez at Tez Says also had mixed feelings, will keep reading

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