Berkley Presents: Smolder

Title:  Smolder 
Series:  Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #29
Author:  Laurell K. Hamilton 
Date Of Publication:  March 21st, 2023
Length:  496 pages
Publisher:  Berkley Books 
Rating:  5 Stars
The wedding of the century between vampire hunter Anita Blake and the vampire king of America Jean-Claude is almost here, but an ancient evil arrives in St. Louis and even Jean-Claude’s unmatched power isn’t enough to save them. Only with the return of a lost love can they hope to combat the monster and save their loved ones and every vampire in the country from being consumed by darkness.

Please enjoy this excerpt from 
EDWARD STOOD IN front of the half circle of mirrors getting fitted for the wedding clothes he’d be wearing as best man in my wedding. I’d been his best man/ person less than a year ago, so turnabout was fair play. He was even hating the clothes almost as much as I hated the formal-length dress that his bride had forced me to wear at the last moment when I thought I’d get away with a tux like the men. Now it was his turn to think he’d get to wear a tux and find out he was half right. Since I was marrying someone who either designed or helped design most of his own clothes, Jean-Claude had ideas for spicing up the traditional boring clothes that most modern men wore. Normally his fashion sense wouldn’t have bothered Edward, who had a very traditional style, but now as he glared at himself in the mirror he was bothered, very bothered. “You have got to be kidding me,”he said. His blue eyes were already starting to turn pale like winter skies, which usually meant he was about to kill something, or that he wanted to kill something. Peter, his very grown-up son, and I sat in little chairs that were usually reserved for mothers of the bride, or other members of the female side of the wedding, because men didn’t have to come to the designer wedding couture side—ever. Edward was my bestest friend, but I grinned at him, because I was enjoying the men getting outfitted in something they hated so much more than any normal tux. “You look great,”I said, smiling, and that at least was true, unlike me in every bridesmaid dress I’d ever been forced to wear. He looked to Peter for a different opinion. “This is ridiculous.”He spread his arms out to his sides so that Peter could get the full effect of the black leather and cloth tailcoat with its high, stiff collar that framed about half Edward’s head. His blond hair looked brighter yellow than I’d ever seen it, maybe it was the black leather framing it? Or maybe it was his desert tan, which wasn’t tanned by most standards, but it was the most color I’d ever seen on Edward’s skin. “Except for the collar, the jacket looks great on you, and the collar isn’t bad, it’s just”—Peter made a waffling motion with his hand—“it’s odd, like it shouldn’t be there, but I really like the leather over the shoulders, and the scalloped leather over the forearm looks like a leather bracer from armor. It’s really cool, Ted.”Peter’s desert tan was a lot darker than Edward’s; technically they were stepson and stepfather, but for them it wasn’t about genetics, it was about love. Edward’s glare softened a little and turned back to the mirrors. He took a visible deep breath and let it out slowly as if he were counting to ten. He pulled on the edges of the jacket as if it needed to be settled in place, but it fit him perfectly; the little bump of the tails on the coat actually drew the eyes to his ass, and since we had never ever been anything but friends I didn’t usually notice Edward’s body like that. I’d thought of tailcoats as old-fashioned until I saw the first of our wedding party in them and realized that they actually accentuated everyone’s booty a lot more than modern jackets did. “Why do I hate this so much, besides the stand-up collar?”he asked. “Maybe it’s just so different from your usual cowboy–U.S. Marshal aesthetic?”Peter suggested. I looked at Edward, and finally said, “It’s the most fitted thing I’ve seen you in since you slimmed down for your wedding. You look slender, more . . . delicate almost, and in all the years we’ve been friends, delicate has never been a word I used for you.”He nodded at himself in the mirror. “That’s what it is, I look smaller even to me.”“You’re in the fiercest shape I’ve ever seen you in, unless you’ve put on weight since I saw you at the pool during the wedding trip. You’re all muscle. Hell, Ed”—and I had to stop and force myself to say, “Ted, I didn’t even know you had a six-pack under there until that weekend.”“I hadn’t. Not since I was in the military twenty years ago, so never since you’ve known me.”“All the moms and most of the daughters at martial arts class think I have the hottest dad and that includes the male instructors.”Peter said it with a touch of pride, unlike some twenty-year-old sons who would have felt competitive with their fathers. Of course, Edward had never been competitive with Peter either. “High praise, I take it, since I haven’t seen your instructors,”I said. Peter grinned. “Yep.”“Since you’re one of the instructors now, very high praise,”Edward said, and he smiled at his son with a pride that I never thought I’d ever see in his eyes for anyone. When we first met, Edward and I had both been so alone, and neither of us had ever expected that to change. Now here we were, both of us happier than I’d ever seen us. Sometimes life was good. Peter looked embarrassed but pleased. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d made instructor, Peter? Congratulations.”“It’s just part time.”“But you’re still in college, so part time is all you can really do,”I said. “There’s really not a lot of money in owning a good martial arts school, and instructors make less. You have to be a belt factory or offer kickboxing as a fitness class or something sell-out like that to earn enough money to pay full-time staff, full-time wages,”Peter said. “You talked to Bill like I suggested,”Edward said. “Bill owns the school,”Peter explained to me, “and yes, I talked to him. I’d need another job that paid better if I wanted to be full-time at the dojo.”He made quote marks with his fingers when he said full-time. “How’s the double major going?”I asked. “I’m really enjoying Preternatural Primates this semester. I never knew how many species of trolls there were, and did you hear new DNA testing split the Yeti into three species instead of just the two?”“Really? I hadn’t heard about that.”“I can send you the link to the article our prof shared with us.”“Please,”I said. “But now I want to see some of the trolls we have in this country in person.”“I’ve seen the Lesser Smoky Mountain Trolls.”I almost added that I knew someone who had their doctorate on the trolls, but the person in question was my ex, Richard Zeeman, and the last time Peter had seen him, someone we both knew had died. Today was a good day; we didn’t need to rake up horrible memories and ruin it. “Really, when?”“They’re indigenous to the area of Tennessee where one of my mentors lives. I don’t remember if I’ve talked to you about Marianne.”“The witch who helped you learn to control your magic, right?”“Yeah, I guess I did talk about her.”He shook his head. “Nathaniel told me after the trip when he went with you and Micah to try and learn how the magical energy worked between the three of you.”I knew that Nathaniel talked to Peter even more than I did, and Marianne was out of the broom closet as a witch, so I guess it was okay that Nathaniel shared. Besides . . . I looked at his eager face so happy in college, learning new things that he’d call up to share, and realized that I trusted Peter. He knew how to keep secret whatever needed kept. “Your face went all serious, Anita, what are you thinking about?”he asked. I smiled. “My first thought was that what Nathaniel had shared could get Marianne in trouble, and then I realized that I trusted you. Trusted your judgment, trusted you to keep secret what needs keeping.”He smiled at me like I’d said something wonderful; maybe I had, but it was one of the best smiles I’d seen on his face since he got to watch his parents walk down the aisle together. “Thanks, Anita, that means a lot.”“You’ve earned it, Peter.”“He’s starting to like his biology classes better than his criminal justice ones,”Edward said, still tugging at the perfectly tailored coat. “Are you still fast-tracked for preternatural law enforcement, or did the trolls lure you to the biology side?”“I still want to be a preternatural marshal like you and Ted, but I failed my blood test for lycanthropy so they’re letting me stay in the program, but they aren’t sure about my future in it.”“I’m sorry, Peter, really,”I said, and patted his arm. “It’s not your fault, Anita.”“You got hurt protecting me.”“If I hadn’t been there the weretiger would have killed you. I don’t regret what I did, and you shouldn’t either.”I looked at that calm, wise face, and thought, When did he get so grown-up? “I’ll do my best to be all healthy and therapy-evolved, but I am sorry that you popping hot on the test is keeping you out of the military and law enforcement.”“I don’t shift, and my test is undetermined just like Ted’s.”“And it’s my fault both times.”“I’m still a marshal, and that you and I got to keep our badges sets a good precedent for Peter to get into law enforcement.”“True, but if it’s my blood getting all up in your wounds when we were both cut up by wereanimals, why don’t both of you show full-blown Therianthropy at least on the test? I mean I don’t change form either, but my test always comes back listing every type of Therianthropy I have inside me.”“The doctors don’t know,”Ted said. “They were interested in the fact that both Ted and I test the same because we were father and son and they thought they had a theory, until they found out we’re not genetically related.”“I went in with Peter last time so the doctors could talk to us together.”“And draw more blood,”Peter said. Edward nodded. “And draw more blood.”“Dr. Lillian wants to draw more blood tomorrow from both of you and from me so she can compare it. Sorry.”“No, we came here to figure out what’s happening to us,”Edward said, then tugged on the jacket as if it didn’t fit right, but I’d never seen him in a piece of clothing that fit him better and that included the tux he’d worn for his own wedding. “And to try on beautiful wedding clothes,”I said, smiling. The seamstress rejoined us then; she had the pants that were supposed to go with the jacket instead of the temporary ones that she’d forced Edward into so she could see how the jacket fit. The pants were black leather. “You are so going to owe me for this,”Edward said. “One, I’ve seen you wear leather for undercover work before. Two, I wore a formal-length dress on a beach with bedazzled flip-flops for your wedding.”“That was not this bad,”he said, motioning at the pants that the patient woman was holding up for him. “I tried on dresses that were so low that I flashed an entire bridal store when I tripped over the hem.”He grinned, then shook his head. “Okay, that’s fair.”“If I said I’m sorry I missed you trying on dresses, would you be mad?”Peter asked. “Yes,”I said, firmly. He and Edward both laughed. I tried to hold out, but I finally gave in, and we laughed until Edward had to go into the changing room and get into the freshly hemmed leather

My Thoughts 
Oh my dearest Laurell...
How I love you and your uber-complex plots.
With title 29 in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series; offering nothing less than sheer supernatural delight.
Staring the delectable Jean-Claude, Asher, a much more alpha Nathaniel, Angel, Devil, and even the return of Richard.
Although I must admit that the absence of Micah is much felt this go round.
Marriage for Anita.

Can't wait for that.

Although the peek at her past that this read offers is just as off putting  as the time that we got to go home with Jason.
It looks as though this read and it's eons old demigod baddie are going to carry over into the following book.
That is worth a serious
... Yay!
This book really let us see the relationship dynamics of Anita's life.  And how the "sliding doors" effect of her polyamory has its good and not so good aspects.
It seems that everyone as done a great deal of evolving.
None to a more attractive degree than Nathaniel.
Oohh la la...
Richard, I can't say that I trust yet.
Although there is a part of me that really really wants to.
Oh well...
I guess we'll just have to wait for Slay, to see how what was so deliciously started in Smolder, plays out.

Reviewer's Note 
Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Books for providing the review copy upon which this honest review is based. 
Smolder is the 29th book in an interrelated series. It is recommended be read consecutively.  To maintain continuity. 

About Laurell

Laurell K. Hamilton is one of the leading writers of paranormal fiction. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Hamilton writes the popular Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels and the Meredith Gentry series. She is also the creator of a bestselling comic book series based on her Anita Blake novels and published by Marvel Comics. Hamilton is a full-time writer and lives in the suburbs of St. Louis with her family.
See Her Socially:  WebGR / TwitterFacebook

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