Los Angeles is now called Crimson City, after the blood that was shed during the wars that occurred when the werewolves and vampires came out of the closet, and clashed with humans. Today the three species live uneasily together; the vampires live a few miles up in a colony formed around skyscrapers, humans live on the ground level, whilst the werewolves form a subterranean city below the ground and largely keep to themselves.
Fleur Dumont is from the family that rules the vampires in Crimson City. She was passed over when it came to looking for new leaders decades before, after embarrassing her family by unlawfully turning her human lover into a vampire. However after the assassination of the current leaders, by a mech [half man half machine] belonging to the human military, she gets her chance to shine and finds herself leading the vampires, whilst trying to solve the murders of the old leaders, and trying to avoid a new war with the other species.
Dain Reston is human. Working as a Battlefield Operations operative, he has the responsibility of maintaining the peace between the humans and the other two species. After coincidentally turning up at the scene of the assassination Fleur asks him to help her look into the murder of the vampire leaders, a request that is backed by Dain's superiors, who want him to uncover if someone from the human military is hijacking the high-end weapons and using them to start a new war.
Will Dain have to point the finger of blame at his own colleagues, or could the vampires or seldom seen werewolves be framing the humans for their own ends?
I downloaded a book called Crimson Rogue on Amazon last year because it was free for a day, and I really enjoyed it. However I quickly realised that it was the last book in a series [Crimson & Steam details the origins of Crimson City], so decided to go back to the start of the Crimson City series to fill in the gaps the book left in various characters background.
A quick look on GoodReads showed that the Crimson City series contains books by five different authors, but CRIMSON CITY, the first book, is also by Liz Maverick, who wrote Crimson Rogue, so surely the book would deliver the same mix of action, romance and drama that book six managed...
... It did. Well, sort of; as is usual for me in romance-lead [really - the series as originally published by Dorchester under paranormal romance] books I dislike the heroine. Fleur IS exactly how I'd expect a vampire to be - elitist and she just seems rather cold. Whilst I admire the realism, it means that I don't like - or root - for her or her cause in the book, when her icy personality is combined with her sometimes thoughtless actions. I've read loads of books which feature worse females leads, so Fleur doesn't distract me too much, but there are still things she says/does that wind me up...
Fleur spends the first part of the book moaning about how it's not fair that the role of leadership has passed over her and that she is in fact ready for the responsibility. A big niggle for me is that she was denied leadership because she was punished after willingly doing something that she knew was wrong, so it comes off as though she's stomping her feet over being treated the same as everyone else would be in that position. Then when leadership is given to her, she proves that she wasn't actually ready for the position, by being impulsive and doing more stuff that she knows is stupid and wrong. It isn't actually the mistakes themselves that grate on me, it's the fact that other people make excuses for her so that she isn't held accountable for many of them.
Another thing that annoyed me about Fleur is that, although the author has a couple of scenes which have her somersaulting and doing roundhouse kicks, she is never in any real danger during her Buffy moments, so it comes off to me as empty posing. When the smelly stuff hits the fan, her cousins or the hero step in and handle things. So she is acting tough, but she really needs the big, strong men when things get real.
I'm still not sure what I think of the hero Dain. He has a interesting background, but I was a bit underwhelmed in general. The speed with which he falls for Fleur is just unrealistic, and the way he makes excuses for her wrongdoing is annoying - she does things that she knows is wrong and endangers other peoples lives. She's in charge of thousands of vampires and could prevent or start a new war, so her various stunts shouldn't just all be shrugged off.
In all honesty, I can't think of anything else to say about him - there's nothing about him himself that niggles me, but there is nothing memorable about him either. At the end of the day he has much better chemistry with his work partner and [platonic] friend Cydney, then he does with Fleur.
It is actually Cydney who is my favourite character in CRIMSON CITY; she is more memorable, thanks to the brief glimpses into her background we get. The fact that she doesn't like Fleur [and isn't afraid to show it] and doesn't want to get caught up in her crap is a bonus for me. I'd much rather read a book which focuses on her.
Another factor that made me disappointed here, is that Liz Maverick also wrote Crimson Rogue, the book which I read first. I enjoyed the romance there, as I could see what drew those characters together, and you can clearly see the passion and which would help cement their growing relationship. In CRIMSON CITY, however, the combination of irritating and unmemorable leads mean that the romance is DOA.
The setting of the series isn't one that screams romance in the first place, so everything feels forced. This isn't helped by the characters, and the speed that the characters fall for each other is totally unbelievable, given their personal backgrounds and present day positions/jobs. I guess I want my romance to have a dose of reality to it. And if you want some hot sex to spice things up, I wouldn't get excited. The sole sex scene happens fairly late in the book and is boring, so don't throw away 50 Shades just yet.
The other thing that I found disappointing, and removed another star for, was the ending; even if I hadn't read book six first, I would have seen it all coming a mile away: the villain and his/her reasoning's are similar to other books and movies of this genre. I already viewed Fleur as dumb, but watching her and Dain flounder around the obvious was painful and boring. I felt like the author had reached her word count minimum and just wanted to finish.
The romantic angle and other niggles aside, I do recommend Crimson City, as being the first book in a series it is invaluable for the world building and for setting the overall tone of the alternate world. I suppose I spoilt it for myself by reading out of order, so I already has comparisons to measure this book against.
The futuristic Los Angeles that is divided between vampire, werewolves and humans is a interesting setting for a series, revolving around politics and the threat of civil war between the three species. I still can't believe that it was marketed as romance though - it seems more urban fantasy/sci-fi, with a smattering of smut to me...
Kindle edition: £1.28
Paperback: OOP, secondhand copies available from 1p.
Book 1: Crimson City - Liz Maverick
Book 2: A Taste of Crimson - Marjorie M. Liu
Book 3: Through a Crimson Veil - Patti O'Shea
Book 4: A Darker Crimson - Carolyn Jewel
Book 5: Seduced by Crimson - Jade Lee
Book 6: Crimson Rogue - Liz Maverick
Book 7: Shards of Crimson [anthology]:
(the Kindle version of these stories can be bought individually)
* A Time to Howl - Liz Maverick
* DX - Carolyn Jewel
* School Bites - Jade Lee
* Dark Awakening - Patti O'Shea (the Kindle version of this is free)
Book 8: Crimson & Steam - Liz Maverick
Liz Maverick says that you can read books one [Crimson City], six [Crimson Rogue], seven a [A Time to Howl] and eight [Crimson & Steam] together as a complete miniseries, but I'd advise against doing this as there are important events that affect the world setting in some of the other entries by the different authors.