Initially, when I saw Blessed on the shelf of my local book store, I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to read it even though I read Tantalize and Eternal, books 1 & 2 in the Tantalize series. Honestly, I was never really in love with the story, the characters, you name it.
What I did like and what finally got me to pick up the third and final book in the series was the fact that Cynthia Leitich Smith embraced traditional vampire lore, for the most part. At a time when the YA PNR & UF market is saturated with tales of vampires who aren't even all that vampire-y, Smith's contribution is a breath of fresh air. Her vampires, her story was inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula. In fact, the MC in books 1 & 3 of the Tantalize series is a teenage girl named Quincy P. Morris living in modern day Texas. Sound familiar(-ish)?
Smith included an authors note at the end of Tantalize, stating that as a Texan, Stoker's choice of a Texan as one of his novels heroes has long intrigued her. And even though her mythology and sensibility deviate, the use of the name Quincy P. Morris is a tribute to Stoker's vampire hunters, just updated and gender-flipped. At the end of Blessed Smith includes another author's note stating her Tantalize series is a 'conversation of sorts' between Bram Stoker and herself about several of his themes such as invasion, plague, the role of religion and gender-power dynamics. Smith goes on to say that she's tried to honor his classic while reinterpreting and extending the mythology, and integrating a few epistolary elements to tell her story (correspondence, obituaries, menus).
Overall I'd say Cynthia Leitch Smith was successful in her endeavor. I appreciate the fact that she wasn't just trying to jump on the bandwagon by writing another pointless Twilight rip-off Love Story!
--I don't think I could stomach another one of those, by the way. I appreciate that her series is a commentary of sorts on modern society and the lines between good and evil--Finally, a YA UF with a point.
For anyone who is curious: YES, there is a love story within the Tantalize series--more then one, actually--but none of them come about instantly, unlike most books within the YA PNF & UF genres. Also, not all of this series love stories end happily, at least not in the traditional sense (read: will piss off a fair amount of people). Though, yeah, I feel all the love stories end happily in their own way, but that's because I'm weird like that; don't feel it's necessary for every love story to end with weddings, babies, and the couple living happily ever after in a suburbian McMansion. But that's just me.
Is this series perfect? Not so much. In fact there is plenty in this series that just didn't work for me. That said, I like it enough to recommend it to anyone looking for a vampire story that isn't a run-of-the-mill boring carbon copy of the Twilight series. Also I recommend this to anyone who wants to know what happens when vampires and angels cross paths, at least according to CLS (the vampire/angel storyline appears in, and is most prevalent in, Eternal, the second book in the Tantalize series.
I do not
recommend this series to anyone who likes Twilight rip-offs and traditional HEAs. I do not
recommend this book to people who do not like violence of any sort. THERE IS A LOT OF VIOLENCE IN THIS SERIES, PEOPLE!
It's up there on the level of Bram Stoker's Dracula--though not as graphic--especially in books 2 & 3--Eternal and Blessed.