Published: February 2015 by Momentum
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Fantasy, paranormal romance
Source: From the publisher via NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015
City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love–and with a werewolf at that–was never part of the deal.
Life, however, doesn’t always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it’s Elle’s very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.
Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he’s determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost…or the lives lost.
I’m not a huge fan of love triangles and I was half expecting Graced to feature one, based on the cover and the blurb. Instead, I discovered a paranormal romance with intelligence, making it easily one of the best I’ve read in the sub-genre.
Graced does a number of interesting things, starting with the worldbuilding. For example, vampires–who form the majority of the ruling class in the city of Pinton–eschew wooden furniture and trees in their parks to decrease the likelihood of being staked. The book also touches briefly on the difficulties human City Guards have in policing the vampire elite.
However, it was the diversity of the characters that interested me the most. Graced effortlessly includes characters who have different skin colours, who are not neurotypical and who are less able-bodied than the norm. It also includes a range of sexualities including bisexual and asexual. Most of these are incorporated into major characters. Elle and Clay remain firmly in the white, able-bodied, neurotypical, heterosexual category but they are not the only point-of-view characters and the reader gets to experience a number of different perspectives.
The different points of view allowed a good understanding of the motivations of the various characters and I found them all reasonably sympathetic. I appreciated Clay’s cheeky sense of humour and Elle’s devotion to her sister, though I didn’t always agree with her decisions. Nor did I agree with Dante’s ultimate fate, though I could understand the reasons behind such a depiction.
Readers expecting a clear-cut paranormal romance may be somewhat disappointed because Graced is as much a Regency romance as it is anything else. This manifests in more than just the setting and class structure, which evident from the very beginning. The first part remains mostly paranormal romance but as the story progresses, more Regency romance elements are introduced. By the third part, readers may feel like they are in quite a different story to the one they started in, but it was something I enjoyed for the way it shook up my expectations. There were definitely some twists and turns I didn’t see coming.
Overall, Graced was a fun read with some thought-provoking elements. There is space for a series, though no solid indications that there will be one. I’m definitely hoping for more.