Reluctant Hood is the first book by Kendrai Meeks. Kendrai is, presumably a pseudonym since her author profile on Amazon says she’s published a whole lot of other books, but her real identity remains a mystery. Probably. I can’t even remember.
After tracking her down to her lair, I begged for an ARC of Reluctant Hood because I wanted to read it so badly. I offered favors of all kinds, but unfortunately for everyone involved, I got the ARC no-strings-attached. (However, I am going to believe that the author likes me so much that she named the MC’s roommate after me. The roommate, Amy, who is a bit promiscuous, drinks a bit much…you know what? Obviously a very different Amy.)
Gerwalta Kline has wished all her life to escape the weight of being named after her infamous ancestor Die Verräterin, the betrayer, better known by humans as Little Red Riding Hood. Unlike the fairy tale heroine, the historical figure defiled her legacy, leading to her being executed for the high crime of mating a werewolf. Desperate to keep history from repeating itself, Geri turns away from her legacy, denies her birthright, defies her controlling mother, and endeavors to live as a human.
Fate is a fickle thing however, and it almost seems like Gerwalta’s name is her curse. In Chicago, she soon encounters Tobias Somfield, a wolf far away from his packlands in England, tracking another of his kind Tobias claims was kidnapped by a cabal of vampires. The last thing Geri wants is to get involved with a lone wolf’s problems, but circumstances don’t give her much choice. Tobias is right about one thing; the vampires in Chicago are up to something. Whatever it is spells troubles for hoods and wolves alike. Even if it means working with a wolf she can’t help but find attractive, and knowing from experience the danger of stepping off that cliff, Geri finds herself acting the part of a reluctant hood.
I have to tell you, I friend-requested Kendrai on Facebook when I saw the book cover because it looked so awesome. I also noticed we had a couple mutual friends, so I figured she wasn’t going to use my pretty public FB information to track me down and axe murder me. (She’s more of a silver knife kinda gal, I think.)
This cover is gorgeous. GORGEOUS. And it’s perfect for the book. Sometimes I see a beautiful cover and then read the book and am confused as to how the two are related. This one? Not so much.
I unreservedly loved this book. The writing style perfectly matched with Geri’s character and the story unfolded beautifully and brilliantly. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read (probably my very favorite fiction genre) and is obviously my favorite to write (until my self-help book series, tentatively titled, “If you give me all your money, you’ll feel really awesome about yourself,” subtitle: “I’m like a faith healer, but without the god(s)”).
The world-building in this book was unique without being unbelievable (or at least any more unbelievable than an urban fantasy novel featuring werewolves, vampires, and hoods could possibly be). The characters are well-developed without being predictable. There were surprises throughout the novel and uncertain alliances and motivations that seemed in-character, believable, and in one very memorable circumstance, extremely upsetting.
The arc was well-paced, action-packed, and fast enough to leave me breathless (and unable to put the book down) without feeling like I’d been hit by a runaway were-train. After finishing, I accused the author of disrupting my sleep patterns and making me paranoid about being locked in my doctor’s office after hours on a Saturday. I’m sure she repented quietly and feels terrible.
Geri is funny. And her sense of humor is desert-dry — my favorite kind.
“Why clip-ons?” [Amy] asked, baffled by the choice [of gold earrings]. “Your ears are pierced.”
I could hardly tell her because, in the event of a vampire attack, I didn’t want to tempt fate further by pulling out a traditional post earring to defend myself, thus drawing said vampire’s attention to a wound gushing his favorite cocktail.
“You’re asking to abduct my friend and feed from her on the honor system? Fine, take Amy. Let’s see how much they bust your balls when they find out you had to force her to go home with you. All your vampy charm and Jedi mind tricks, and you can’t even pick up someone on a college campus…”
Apparently, that’s how you piss off a baby vamp.
Read it. Now. You won’t be sorry! And then pester the author unrelentingly until she gives you book #2. (Seriously, this is a fantastic read and a great start to what I’m hoping is a very, very long series.)