Tag Team Review: Ante Up by Kim Fielding

Love is a high-stakes game.

A century and a half ago, Ante Novak died on a Croatian battlefield—and rose three days later as a vampire. Now he haunts Las Vegas, stealing blood and money from drunken gamblers and staying on the fringe of the powerful vampire organization known as the Shadows. His existence feels empty and meaningless until he meets beautiful Peter Gehrardi, who can influence others with his thoughts.

An attraction flares instantly, bringing a semblance of life to Ante’s dead heart. But the Shadows want Peter too, and they’re willing to kill to get him. As Ante and Peter flee, they learn more about themselves and each other, and they discover that the world is a stranger place than either of them imagined. With enemies at their heels and old mistakes coming back to exact a price, how can Ante and Peter find sanctuary?

Sara - 3.5 Hearts

I liked this addition to the Dreamspun Beyond line though I am still trying to find the balance in these stories of the fluff and fantasy.

Told from the POV of Ante Novak, a century plus old vampire, we begin our story in Las Vegas as we learn how Ante survives. He preys upon patrons of casinos that are usually drunk and takes them to bed, feeds off them and steals from them. It’s a meager existence but one he’s okay with as long as he has a single change of clothes, a book to read and doesn’t fry in the sun.
He’d never met a vampire who didn’t loathe Bram Stoker. In fact, the only author more universally detested by his kind was Stephenie Meyer. Fucking sparkles.
The secret Vampire Society called The Shadows is always around to offer Ante a job or two for pay even though he won’t join their mafia preferring to stay solo. But… one night when out on the prowl, Ante notices a handsome man who seems to have a sort of control over others with a few whispers. The man and his talents are intriguing to Ante who doesn’t see much out of the ordinary from his vamping ways and he decides to find out who he is.

Peter Gehrardi is a sort of con man extraordinaire who has no home, no family and is happy to gently persuade others to do what he wants or needs them to do. When Peter meets Ante, he’s attracted and one night together opens Peter’s eyes and mind to a world he never knew existed. This world and this new attraction to Ante is soon tossed upside down when The Shadows learn of a man who isn’t quite human and who has talents they want for their own.

Ante and his literal cold dead heart haven’t had a reason to live beyond the everyday survival for tens of decades and yet when The Shadows want to use Peter, Ante finds a reason to fight, a reason to flee and a reason to believe in a future.
“You’re really not going to drag me to the Shadows?” “No. I will do my best to protect you from them. That is why I came here.” “Protect me. And risk your own life?” “Unlife,” “But—why? We just met. Why would you give a shit about me?” “Because, Peter, after a century and a half, perhaps it is time I gave a shit about something.”
I liked the story of Ante, his backstory of how he became a vampire and his tie to Lee. Ante’s existence is solitary and sad and I was happy he found more in Peter than a good fuck and suck. His need to protect Peter at all costs and remembers that blood seeks blood, the duo find out there is more to the underworld of the unnatural than either of them knew existed.

The idea of the ghosts was great. I loved the idea of them and then we got to meet Patricia Long whose thoughts on Bakersfield and hell are spot on and all she teaches the couple beyond roman orgy baths. I really liked the authors take on the beyond in the line and had the biggest grin on my face when Ante and Peter arrive in California.

The romance between Peter and Ante was subtle but romantic. Ante’s cold heart can still skip a beat when it finds the right one to be undeadly romantic for and Peter is amazing in how he cares for his vampire boyfriend. The Buffy references were a pure treat and the battle that occurs brought a touch of the dramatic violence to the story exactly where it was needed.

That epilogue though? That was pure fluff and made my heart happy. I wonder if the author has plans to write more in this universe because I would be up to read more in it.

Ante Up truly a romance where both Ante and Peter increase their risk and raise the stakes of the deadly game The Shadows want them to play. It’s a story where excepting one fully can give you more than a few nights of fun, it can give you everything you wanted complete with wine and strawberry jam.

Optimist ♰King's Wench♰ - 3 Hearts

This is my first paranormal cracky fluff. Unexpected is the best word I have to describe it. I found it more serious than what I've come to expect from the Dreamspun line. While it does have a sweetness about it I wouldn't categorize it as fluffy.

Ante is a Croatian vampire grifter living in Las Vegas. Despite there being a network of vamps-The Shadows-that are quite wealthy and influential he's declined their repeated offers of employment. Eschewing the glitz and glamour he lives in the shadows, placing no importance on the material, but he's lonely. His ennui is palpable, so much so that he seems to be flirting with suicide.

Peter is his opposite personality-wise; he too has some grifter tendencies. He's full of life, vivacious and LOVES to eat! A lot. Especially sweets. But he too is alone after having lost his mother and never knowing his father.

The sparks fly when they meet. Each can sense there's is something different about the other that they cannot define. However it's external forces that bring them together, ramp up the pacing in the last 30ish% and spur them to join forces in an effort to save one another.

I liked both Ante and Peter; both are well defined characters. Their connection, the symmetry between them and their HEA are believable and even endearing, but there was something missing for me that I can't pinpoint. Typically when I read the cracky fluff I feel bubbly, almost effervescent but that never happened with Ante Up.

Maybe it was the action plotline that distracted me or the numerous secondary characters. Maybe I wasn't able to downshift out of the heavier issues that pervaded the beginning of the story. I'm not sure.

What I do know is Kim Fielding's writing is still topnotch even though I didn't love this her voice continues to bedazzle me and I will continue to read as much of her work as I possibly can, if for no other reason than to experience the chills moments and sentiments like these give me.
"Our identity shapes us, but it is not our destiny." 
"My heart is yours. I am yours. Even if we have only one day, I am yours forever."
Recommend to UF and broody vampire fans.

 ARCs were provided.

Trivia Question: The book where 2 YouTube bloggers transition from enemies to lovers. 5 pts

Random winner will be chosen on (or about) Noon EST 11/16.

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