I'm a massive fan of Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series and I enjoyed the spin off stories about Spade and Mencheres but Vlad has always been a favourite of mine so I had high hopes for the first book in his series. I'm so pleased to say that Once Burned didn't disappoint, Vlad has found a worthy heroine in Leila and the story contains the great mix of romance and action that any Jeaniene Frost fan will already know to expect. Although this story fits into the overall Night Huntress time line after One Grave at a Time I would actually say that this series can be used as a starting point even if you haven't read any of the other books. Personally I would recommend reading them in order though because Cat and Bones will always be one of my favourite fictional couples and you don't want to miss out on meeting them.
Once Burned is narrated by new character Leila, a human woman with some very interesting abilities. When she was a teen Leila suffered a severe electric shock after touching a power line and ever since then her body has held onto an electrical charge that shocks anyone who she touches. Along with conducting electricity Leila also developed the power to touch an object and get a glimpse into the lives of people connected to it. Leila is aware that vampires exist, in fact her only friend is a vampire who is able to survive the effects of Leila's electric shocks without permanent damage but she has done her best to stay off the radar of anything supernatural. Unfortunately for her she hasn't succeeded and she is kidnapped by a group of vampires who want to use her ability to track down Vlad and ambush him. Leila is left with only 2 choices, she either helps the vampires who she knows are planning to kill her or she warns Vlad of their plans and hopes that he will help her.
Vlad is sexy, arrogant and scary as hell - he didn't inspire the legend of Dracula for no reason after all! His fierce reputation has been earned and he doesn't flinch away from dealing out harsh punishments when they are needed. As much as he is prepared to be brutal to his enemies he does it because he cares about the people who are under his protection. He wants his enemies to know that he will stop at nothing to keep his people safe and if anyone crosses him or those he considers his then they won't live long but they'll still suffer enough to make them regret it. Vlad has spent hundreds of years ruling with an iron fist but he obviously has the respect of the people in his line and they know that as long as they don't betray him he will give them anything they need. Although he is incredibly pushy and arrogant he does have a softer side that Leila is only just starting to uncover and I want to see more of that side to him.
Leila's abilities make it very difficult for her to be around people so she has become quite a loner but because Vlad is immune to her power she finally has the option of being close to someone. The chemistry between them is fantastic but I really liked the fact that they are both wary of building a relationship and are taking things slowly. Things are definitely moving in the right direction for them but I'm glad their story hasn't been crammed into one book and that we're going to spend more time with the pair. Vlad and Leila don't quite manage to beat Bones and Cat to become my favourite couple in the series but they are definitely a fun pair to spend time with and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.
As with the rest of Jeaniene Frost's books Once Burned is a great read full of action, romance, hot sex, humour and great side characters. It was nice to see a brief appearance from Cat & Bones but I'm glad that their presence didn't overwhelm the story and take away from the main couple. This is Vlad and Leila's book and too much of the other characters would have spoilt that. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending to this one so I'm glad I waited until the release of Twice Tempted before reading it and I can't wait to get started on the next book.