by Amanda Steiger, fantasy (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $6.10, ISBN 978-1-59578-742-2

Unclaimed is a romantic urban fantasy with vampires. Yes, I can see your eyes glaze over as you think, "Oh great, another one!" This one isn't halfway bad, however.

Ashley is a vampire who works as a night shift waitress when she's not going vigilante and killing murderous vampires who have stepped out of their boundaries and started butchering their victims. As you can imagine, she finds it difficult to juggle both activities - a vampire has only about 10 hours a day to do everything, after all. Meanwhile, the powerful vampire boss Victor wants her, and as much as she loathes him, all her guns can't help her forget the fact that he terrifies her. Meanwhile, the Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation wants to hire her as a muscle power.

With so much on her plate, dating a cute guy, Will, whom she met while waiting tables isn't a complication she needs at that moment, but it's hard to deny chemistry. He turns out to be a telepath working for the CPRI too, surprise. And the party is going to start when Victor realizes that Will is poaching on the territory that he considers his.

The plot is a bit of a mess in this story as there are too many things going on, but the central plot revolving around Ashley, Victor, and Will is unexpectedly satisfying to read.

Ashley is a terrific heroine - she's not a superhero, but she can get things done. I love the fact that she can experience emotions but when she has to start shooting things, she doesn't let her emotions turn her into an addled dingbat. Ashley knows that she has to do what she does to survive and to keep the streets a little safer, even if what she does isn't pretty and most of the time it ends up with her hands stained with blood. Best of all, she refuses to let Will judge her for what she does. She actually tells him to leave if he can't accept her for what she is. Ashley is a pretty well-developed heroine and she is definitely a character compelling enough to keep me turning the pages of this story.

Will is a nice change from the usual alpha hero type. He's not exactly a beta hero, more like someone who is a nice mix of both alpha and beta qualities. He can get things done and stands up for himself even if he has to get his hands bloody, but he clearly respects, loves, and occasionally apologizes to the heroine for being in the wrong. He and Ashley share a bond that feels real to me because the author builds up their relationship before making them hop into bed.

I wasn't expecting much when I first started reading this story, but it soon grabbed me by the throat. By the last page, I was at the edge of my seat, nearly falling off it. If you are looking for an entertaining urban fantasy story with a well-drawn heroine exhibiting both realistic strengths and vulnerabilities, plenty of emotional whirlwind, and some scenes of glorious violence, maybe you should give Unclaimed a try.

Rating: 88

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