Synopsis:Smolder is the third book in Melina Morel’s Institut Scientifique urban fantasy series. I confess that I had not read the previous books in the series, Devour (2007) and Prey (2008), but found that to be no obstacle to easily slipping into the story. Smolder and the series is set in contemporary Europe, primarily France, which presents a refreshing backdrop from the usual North American backdrops. The Institut based in Geneva, researches the secret supernatural races and funds Hunters to protect humanity from the werewolves. Vampires and other shapeshifters are allies in the defense against the predations of the werewolves.
Vengeance has its price. But you pay for passion forever...
Descended from werewolf hunters, Catherine Marais has vanquished countless of their vile kind-including the one that slaughtered her father. Her debt of blood and honor was fulfilled-but her heart is empty.
The only one who ignites Catherine's passion is Ian-a handsome, elegant vampire whose seductive touch she cannot resist. But when he offers her the dark temptation of eternal commitment to each other, Catherine must look within her heart-and her truest desires-to find the answers she seeks...
Catherine Marais is a Hunter, one of the most successful in Europe and a member of the aristocracy of France. In fact the majority of the members of the secret Institut are from aristocratic and privileged places in society. This creates an ambience that is both elegant and reminiscent of the Bruce Wayne style of honour and dedication to the cause. The pacing of the story moves along briskly, with a number of subplots running concurrently, each contributing to the build up of intrigue and tension.
The werewolves are themselves on the hunt for Catherine after a dying wolf helps create a sketch of Catherine after his deadly encounter. This puts Catherine at risk and forces increased security measures as attacks and encounters increase. Added to this mix, Catherine’s sixteen year old niece Solange is crushing on an older boy, Luc, a family acquaintance, whose connection to the their adversaries is unclear but may put her at risk.
I laughed out loud at this thought from Catherine as she contemplates her niece’s actions –
Dear God thought Catherine. Dealing with teenagers made hunting werewolves seem easy by comparison.We further see the humour in the generational gap when Luc has an argument with his father –
"Your whole generation is too political," Luc said with a shrug. "All you guys care about it the pecking order. Who's sucking up to the boss. Who's going to win the prize for werewolf of the year. Jesus! You might as well be the werewolf branch of the chamber of commerce."We are introduced to Ian Morgan, a 200 year old vampire and Catherine’s lover and protector, who while not exactly pressuring her, is encouraging her to be turned. She is not averse to the idea but retains many reservations and struggles with the irreversible changes it will mean to her life and family relationships. This is definitely where the Smolder of the title enters the picture. Un-surprisingly the erotic interludes are relatively low key and intimate.
Points of view shift frequently to give us insight into Catherine, her niece, her niece’s boyfriend, the werewolf leaders and numerous skirmishes involving different werewolves and members of the Institut. As a reader, I like to see the big picture and it again is a nice change from the more restrictive first-person POV. The many threads converge as the werewolves identify Catherine, Solange becomes ensared in events and the werewolves plan an ultimate act of revenge. The concluding scenes are quite dramatic with a cinematic quality to them that would be great on the big screen.
Although Smolder does not introduce a lot of new or original world-building, its strength is the delivery of a highly enjoyable action-oriented story with interesting, eclectic characters and a little paranormal romance. Smolder is the perfect panacea for readers looking to stir and warm the blood a little in the coming winter months.
Penguin Group (USA)
Published: January 5, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages (ARC): 313
Institut Scientifique Series: