Like most books by Whitney Hill, I really enjoyed her novel that centered around a vampire relationship with a half-elf. I initially got into her lore through her urban fantasy series, Shadows of the Otherside, which I also rated very highly and wrote in-depth reviews for. Today, however, I would love to dive into how much I enjoyed her paranormal romance work.
I gave quite a few marked spoilers in my review there, but I wasn’t able to toss in all of the quotes I really enjoyed in the book as well. I’d like to cover that here, and why I liked them so much in some of the paragraphs following. First, though, I will give my general impression as to why I enjoyed this work so much. I meant my review quote: “It’s a book to sink your teeth into and not ever let go, if not to devour in one bite.”
Secrets & Truths subverts expectations. You come in expecting Cade to be the typical bad-boy vampire, and he ‘kind of is’, but also not really. Lya is an item to hunt at first, but that quickly changes. I think his backstory really works well as a major plot point in this book, something I won’t get too in-depth into given that would be major spoilers. I will just say he has a pretty sad backstory and doesn’t come off as ruthless or careless like some vampires are written.
That’s the thing, I like it when vampires have a duality to them of being very violent and powerful when they need to be, but also have a sweet and caring side as well. Sometimes, vampire novels fall into the hole of promoting toxic relationships and accepting it as a ‘good one’ despite the toxicity shown in-book. That isn’t a trap this one falls into at all, and in fact, is something the vampire genre needs more of. Less obsession and more mutual respect, please (yes, this is a jab at Twilight. ) He also wasn’t really closed off when he needed to open up. He just rang as a different sort of vampire in a very good way, and I really, really enjoyed reading about him.
Going to go into slight spoiler territory with some quotes I felt were really great in this story that I did not mention in my review:
“I could fight my own battles, but I was starting to like the idea of having someone to hold my hand and watch with me me while the world burned.” is a quote from Lya’s perspective that I really resonated with. We see, all too often in this genre, a situation where one party will argue they do not “need” the other, and people run off on their own like it’s a good thing. Sometimes, the idea of a relationship itself is frowned upon, as is the idea of relying on someone. Honestly… it’s okay to rely on someone or want to do so if the relationship isn’t toxic. We are a social species, after all, and having someone there for you is a good thing. This quote encompasses that, along with just highlighting the state of both the world displayed in the story (an alternate of our world) and our world itself.
“I had to admit to myself that Cade still handled it with excellent self-control and I’d only really been mad because he’d caught me.” is a quote by Lya and it honestly shows something you really don’t get to see much in these stories. Lya, the main protagonist, messed up, in my personal opinion. She hurt Cade, who honestly was innocent in the situation, and he responded with some warranted aggression, but never by going overboard. There was no excessive abuse toward Lya for her treatment of him, and in fact, he kept his feelings for her despite what happened. As did Lya. Normally you would see a horrible fallout and things not working out, or a protagonist refusing to admit they were wrong. That’s not the case in this story, it was super refreshing to see. This also means Lya is an extremely strong character who does have flaws (as does Cade!) but owns up to them and improves them.
“It didn’t stop me from twisting my wrists in frustrated defiance, cursing my luck for being tasked to bring in a vampire who’d started life as a Goddess-damned pirate.” This not only shows the really strong writing voice Whitney has, but also Lya as a character too. I love everything about this quote from our protagonist, and it says a good deal about Cade too. Also… he’s a pirate vampire, though. A pirate vampire. How am I not going to swoon over him, or Lya for that matter? I can’t get enough of these two.
Before I gush on this book further, I want to dive into a lore discussion. Now, I love how Whitney handles vampires in her universe. First, their natural magic is ‘glamor’, basically a charm which works as both ‘mind manipulation’ toward prey or other victims, and second as illusionary magic. There is a case (I won’t say specifics as to not avoid spoilers) where a vampire glamored themselves to look younger, for example. Vampires will glamor prey to enjoy being bitten and take the edge off of the pain, as well. The ‘glamor’ aspect works extremely well with the vampire myth, as having prey return to you is an excellent strategy. You can make it non-violent, meaning you won’t have a hunger crisis or people hunting you down, typically, and this also means you can continue working in the shadows. I always love to compare vampires who do this to angler fish or trapdoor spiders, where a lure is set up, and the predator jumps for the prey. This concept works well for the vampires in this universe.
The second thing I really like is the ‘viral’ approach to vampires. I love a more biological approach to vampires as opposed to undead, so a symbiotic virus is something that’s a lot of fun. Vampires avoid things like the sun, for example, that would put their cells at risk. If I remember correctly, they are more prone to sunburn (I utilize this in my lore as well, which is always fun to see, rather than a full out ‘bursting into flames’ idea.) Unlike typical vampire media, these ones are not immune to disease of the cells, and anything that could cause aging faster will really mess with them. They, however, do live longer than the average human, but it’s a matter of ‘when are they going to lose their minds and need to be put down’. Fangs & blood drinking usually a must for me, and this is present here for sure, which is excellent. Skin pigmentation, or the loss of it due to lack of sun, also was described in this story, an interesting detail I could appreciate. Noah, for example, kept pigmentation more due to being more freshly turned. Given these are creatures that start off as human, that makes sense, and Whitney went into enough detail so that I could understand the science behind that concept. Also, sterility due to the virus killing off the gametes was described, if I remember correctly. The virus is very strict and aggressive as to what it allows in the body, so vampires are good at avoiding disease in general, they just need to be very careful of cellular damage.
All in all, this book does blend sci-fi and fantasy, particularly biological sci-fi when it comes to vampires. This is my approach but in a different manner for vampires: A virus as opposed to a species, in this case. I enjoyed this lots, and am eager to read on in the series.
One of my inspirations with vampire works is L. J. Smith and her Night World series. I sort of wish I had Whitney’s work when I was a younger child, because this also would have been a huge influence/factor on me as an author (not that it doesn’t now, of course. Whitney is an amazing author that I look up to lots.) This is just the type of paranormal romance that tickles my fancy, and I can’t emphasize that enough. I really would like to see more of these characters and would actually read it again.
Also… getting it as an audiobook sounds like tons of fun, so I do hope that’s on the table. I really think Whitney will be on the big screen someday with her works, and honestly think she should be.