My two favorite genres are historical and paranormal. Imagine my delight when one of my favorite authors, Juliette Cross, decided to write a series of fairytale retellings with vampires. The first book in the series, “The Black Lily” is Arabelle’s (Cinderella) story and beautifully sets the stage for the books to come. You see, this isn’t a normal YA-style fairytale retelling… this one is full of the dark edge I’ve come to expect from Juliette (side note: You must read her Vessel Trilogy if you haven’t).
Arabelle is going to the ball, which is actually a chance for the Prince to select his new blood concubine. But, she doesn’t isn’t there to win Prince Marius’s heart: she wants to pierce it with a gold dagger. Arabelle, aka The Black Lily, is the leader of a resistance organization of the same name. She is a badass woman, entirely in control of her own sexuality and agenda. Marius goes through the motions, but is beginning to sense that something is not right in his kingdom. An attempt on his life sets him on a path he never expected to find a woman he never should have wanted.
World-building has always been a strength of Cross, and this is no exception. I completely understood the vampire monarchy and the “rules” within this society almost immediately. While these vampires are legally limited from killing humans, these are no sparkling, animal-eating creatures. There is true danger here, and Arabelle’s strength and intelligence in fighting that threat drive the book as well as the undeniable chemistry between her and Marius. Can we talk about that chemistry for a minute? From almost the first meeting, there is this spark that is completely believable between the two, and I was actually surprised by the outcome of that meeting. Throw in a late-night lake bath that gets interrupted and a surprise visit to her cottage, and you have some very hot moments. But, even more than the sexual tension, what comes across through the snappy dialogue is that these characters really “get” each other. Even with the fast-paced plot, the secondary characters are true people that we get to know and root for and cry for. I can’t wait to see some of them again! Finally, the twists and reveals are wonderful. I love when everything is not as it seems.
The Bottom Line-
This is an excellent introduction to a series that I cannot wait to devour. These vampires feel fresh, and the fairytale premise is less of a restrictive plot device than it is a creative frame in which the author flourishes. If you love the dark edge of paranormal AND the transporting world of historical, this book is a must-read. 5 stars