Review: Hearts at Stake, by Alyxandra Harvey (2010)

~ By Elle Filz

By most accounts, Solange Drake is a normal fifteen year old girl.  She’s got loving parents, seven older brothers, and a best friend who accepts her for who she is.

A vampire.

Well, she will be once she hits sixteen.  And since Solange is the first vampire daughter to have actually been born (as opposed to “turned”) in something like 900 years, she’s pretty hot stuff in the vampire world.  Not only does every vampire boy want to make her his baby-mama and an aspiring vampire king wants Solange for his queen, there’s also a bounty on her family’s head.  It’s not pleasant.

Thus begins The Drake Chronicles series by Alyxandra Harvey.  Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t been a tremendous fan of the vampire genre since Twilight hit the scene.  I’m more of a classic Anne Rice sort of girl where the vampires had a certain gentility and the rules were easy to follow (sun, stake, blood…).  After the recent genre turn, however, things have gotten a little weird…especially in YA.  Sookie Stackhouse might still be kicking ass and taking names on the adult side, but way too many mortals in the high school range have tended to retreat into their shells a la Bella Swan and let their 200+ year old neck-sucking boyfriends who look like sixteen year olds solve their issues for them.

That’s why, when the first book in the series, Hearts at Stake, was a Nook Free Fridays Read a few weeks back, I hesitated.  Still, it’s hard to argue with “free” when you’re on the way to the gym with 25 pages left in the book you’re currently reading. I downloaded it and mentally prepared myself for what I “knew” was coming.

As it turns out, I don’t know much of anything at all.

What I learned was that I shouldn’t automatically assume that every vampire book that came after Twilight would, well, suck.  Because Hearts at Stake totally doesn’t.  Told in the dual first person POVs from Solange and her mortal best friend, Lucy, the story reads like Bridget Jones meets Anne Rice.  The girls are full of snark, the story is tight, and the romance between the two teen couples is believable.  There’s no sneaking into bedrooms and watching each other sleeping; Solange and Lucy approach their burgeoning relationships with the maturity (and immaturity) of normal sixteen year olds crushing over eighteen year old guys.  They’re experiencing emotions that Harvey’s teen audience can relate to.  They make mistakes, rebel against authority, and royally screw up sometimes.  And while they sometimes need the assistance of the larger Drake clan to solve a problem, neither of them is the type to roll over and rely on them to actually solve the problem for them.  They are YA heroines to which our girls can and should aspire.

Hearts at Stake (also known as My Love Lies Bleeding) is the first of the three Drake Chronicles novels currently available, and yes, I’ve got the other two on my list now.  For more information about Harvey and the series, visit www.alyxandraharvey.com.

By day, Elle Filz is an IT geek in Baltimore, MD.  By night, you can either find her singing karaoke or jotting down notes for her next women’s fiction story.  She is also an aspiring Betty Crocker-type who thanks God every day that a fireman lives next door.

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