Hell's Belle Series, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: June 17, 2013
Number of pages: 252
Word Count: 74,722
Cover Artist: Jeff Brennan
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Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt. Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city's community of witches.Excerpt:
But Nina's investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.
An urban fantasy set in a decaying Providence, Rhode Island, HELL'S BELLE is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride through a city on the cusp of becoming an urban wasteland. HELL'S BELLE is an energetic, expansive, and cinematic beginning of a new series in the urban fantasy genre.
I was wearing the wrong damn shoes. Bounding through the pitch-black overgrown empty urban lots, my legs were long past aching and well into screaming territory. I gulped in the crisp fall air and forced myself to sprint harder.
"Do you need me to carry you?" My partner Frankie, the vampire I was trying to keep pace with, shouted over his shoulder. His voice was thick with sarcasm.
I slowed down just enough to yank off my heels, carrying one in each hand. I wasn't expecting to play decoy tonight, and I'd be damned if I was going to lose my shoes in some godforsaken overgrown lot in the middle of Newark, New Jersey. These were custom-designed heels from SteamTropolis in Seattle, after all. These vampires would have to pry them from my cold, dead hands before I let them go.
Newark had a pretty major vampire infestation. The despair and decay that the city had fallen into over the past several decades lured us, and the population was exploding.
Frankie and I had spent the last three weeks here, advising the Mayor on how to eradicate the pests. We are part of a small but efficient top-secret task force of hunters that handle rogue supernaturals for the Defense Department. The program had the highest security clearance. Even the President had no idea we existed, or that the crew Frankie and I assembled to help eradicate their vampire pest problem was flying in to join Newark's finest the next day.
So Mayor Cory Booker, head of a crime-soaked New Jersey city, had one up on the Commander-in-Chief. We only let the mayor in on what we were doing because he walked in on a vampire sucking the life out of one of his staffers in his office in City Hall. Even more shocking, Mayor Booker kicked the vampire's ass before driving a stake through his chest. Not only was he unflappable politically, but Mayor Booker’s wild adrenaline surge also made him a first-rate vampire slayer. With that kind of muscle, he deserved to know the truth.
It was our last night in Newark and, to show his thanks, Mayor Booker threw us a bon voyage party at his home. I busted out my best outfit for the occasion: a beautiful strapless number that looked like long silk bandages crisscrossing over each other. The addition of a bustier underneath made my usually small boobs appear more ample. And, of course, finishing the outfit were my fabulously impractical heels.
Since Mayor Booker was the newest threat to the vampires’ stronghold, a vampire nest crashed the party. Six very motivated vamps thundered feet first through his front window. Clearly whoever was in charge considered it a suicide mission and sent out his flunkies. Dressed like a cheap imitation of a Hell’s Angels biker gang, it was vampire amateur hour at the Booker household. They actually brought human weapons in with them, including a submachine gun. Some waved metal pipes.
An amateur vampire is still a vampire, and still just as deadly. Between the fangs, the pipes and the gun, not to mention the glass shrapnel from the window, the place was a bloody mess. Newark’s police chief had a nasty gash on his throat, the vampire missing his jugular by mere centimeters. I was able to stake him with a broken broom handle before he could kill the poor man. Shattered window glass embedded into the arm of the Mayor’s press secretary. Vampire Moron started shooting up the place, so blood was flowing freely. The carnage appeared to be a violent political hit gone wrong. It’s shockingly easy to hide a supernatural attack.
It was bedlam. Frankie and I distracted the hit squad so the Mayor's security forces could get him out of there. It was a good reminder of why I don't usually get dressed up.
After kicking my heels off, I closed the distance between me and Frankie. I could barely make out his aristocratic profile in the sliver of moonlight peeking through the dark clouds. Frankie still looked impeccable in his fitted black blazer, skinny trousers and dress shoes, which he was running around in just fine.
"You need me to carry you, old man?" I huffed, throwing his earlier sarcasm back at him.
Frankie laughed, the rich sound echoed down the alleyway we had turned into. He wasn't the least bit out of breath.
Wait. Echoed? Shit.
I reached out and grasped Frankie's forearm and squeezed. We skidded to a stop, gaping at the brick wall in front of us. My eyes darted around. There was a fire escape about 15 feet above us. Frankie could probably jump it. But there was no way I would make it up there. And Frankie wouldn't be able to jump it with me on his back. Too much weight for a straight-up vertical leap. At over 500 years old, Frankie was one of the strongest vampires I had ever met. But a jump like that was pushing it.
I bent over at the waist, grasped my kneecaps and sucked in air as my mind raced through scenarios for escape. None of them were good. We were going to have to fight our way out of this.
Reluctantly dropping my exquisite shoes on the ground, I reached down the front of my dress and pulled a silver-tipped stake from my bustier.
Frankie's eyes were wide. "Nice tailoring." He nodded appreciatively and peered down my dress. "What else do you have in there?"
I smacked him upside the head. "Focus!"
The five vampires appeared at the mouth of the alleyway.
I crouched low, trying to pick out the weakest link in the dim light. With my mixed blood, I was stronger than a regular human, but I had to be realistic.
"Second from right," Frankie whispered, nostrils flaring. He knew my limits too. "Pretty new dead. Still smells almost human. But watch your back."
This is the first book in the Hell's Belle Series by Karen Greco. The prologue of the story, Bloody Boulevard, is available in a free short story from Smashwords, Barnes & Nobles, Sony, and Kobo. So if you are interested, this is an excellent way to get a sneak peak at the author's writing style.
The story opens with Nina Martinez doing some mild flirting with a customer in her aunt Babe's bar. Nina is a half vampire, half human hybrid who has just recently come home. She has spent the last 30 odd years growing up and training on a secret military base in Nevada under the watchful eye of Dr. O'Malley. She is working as a bartender for her aunt and enjoying living in Rhode Island near what was left of her family for the first time since she was orphaned at 2 years old. Her mild flirtation is interrupted when a rogue vampire comes into Babe's and threatens Nina specifically.
During the fight, the rogue vamp uses a knife that is very much like the special one her father left her. The one that there is supposed to be a limited number of in the entire world. A magic knife that gives her a wound that doesn't seem to want to heal, even with her vamp healing powers. It's at this time she finds out that the customer she was busy flirting with is actually an FBI agent in town to investigate a series of murders. Murders that are suspected of being gang related, his specialty. Murders that she comes to suspect might be have something to do with the rogue vampire and the look-a-like knife.
Okay, yes, I admit that I am a cover snob and this cover seemed a bit amateurish to me. But this is one book you don't want to judge by its cover. Because the writing was anything but. The pacing was well done and information was revealed in such a way it felt natural. There were several times that I found myself placing my hand over my face, feeling the embarrassment of the character when something foolish happened. Or giggling to myself when she managed to pull off something witty or snarky. I was kept involved straight through to the end. This was a very enjoyable read and left me wanting to read a sequel. I am giving this book 4 stars on Goodreads.
10 ebook copies Hell’s Belle
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An award-winning playwright, Karen Greco has spent close to twenty years in New York City, working in publicity and marketing for the entertainment industry. A life-long obsession with exorcists and Dracula drew her to urban fantasy, where she can decapitate characters with impunity. HELL'S BELLE is her first novel.
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