Drake Vireo was the first dragon I fell in love with. Hair as black as sin, flashing emerald eyes, and the occasional wisp of smoke curling from his nostrils, Drake is a hunk of burning dragon love. I first met Drake in You Slay Me, when author Katie MacAlister unveiled her complex dragon mythology. Centuries ago, the First Dragon divided the creatures into four septs: the green dragons, the blue dragons, the red dragons, and the black dragons. Each sept is led by a wyvern. Drake Vireo is wyvern of the green dragons. Arrogant, greedy, and oh-so-sexy, Drake is my favorite kind of anti-hero.
The book’s heroine, Aisling Grey, is tasked with delivering a 600-year-old golden dragon statue to Paris and the mysterious Mme. Deauxville. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! First, Aisling stumbles across Aurora Deauxville’s body. Then she runs afoul of Drake the Dragon, who immediately absconds with the gold. And the hunt is on. Aisling wants the statue and answers about what it means to be a Guardian. Drake wants all the treasure he can steal and a mate. After surviving a Dragon’s Kiss and a goblet of Dragon’s Blood from Drake, Aisling is revealed to be—wait for it—a wyvern’s mate. But Aisling has no interest in being “claimed” by a dragon. She’s too busy defending herself from murder charges, conjuring up lower-class demons, and researching exactly what it means to be a Keeper of the Gates to Hell. The dialogue is snappy, the action is fast-paced, and the chemistry between the two main characters is sizzling. Even better, Aisling is in complete denial about being a wyvern’s mate, so it takes the sinfully seductive Drake three more books to win her over: Fire Me Up, Light My Fire, and Holy Smokes.
My second dragon crush first appears in Fire Me Up. Wyvern of the silver dragons, Gabriel Tahou is a total hottie with warm caramel skin, shoulder-length dark-brown dreadlocks, mouth-watering dimples, and mysterious silvery eyes. In an online interview, MacAlister shared her inspiration for the character—actor Jason Mamoa. For those familiar with the HBO series Game of Thrones, he plays the warrior Khal Drogo. Yummy! The silver dragons have an intriguing back story in that they broke away from the black dragons during the reign of the Dread Wyvern Baltic to form a new sept. Today, the black dragons are all but extinct. In retaliation for this betrayal, Baltic cursed them, saying: “No mate shall be born to a silver dragon until a black dragon is accepted as wyvern.” So, in addition to being a healer and an all-around nicer dragon then Drake, Gabriel get’s the sympathy vote. Obviously I wasn’t the only one crushing on Gabriel because MacAlister gave him his own series.
In the first book in his series, Playing with Fire, Gabriel gets around Baltic’s curse by mating—and then falling in love with—doppelgänger May Northcott. So what the heck is a doppelgänger? Let me explain. May is a paranormal “copy” of Cyrene Northcott, who is a naiad or water nymph. But things don’t go so smoothly for Gabriel. First, May’s already bound to a demon lord. Second, she’s an international thief who is wanted by Otherworld Law. And then the demon lord, Magoth, orders May to steal a rare treasure from the silver dragons. As with Aisling and Drake, dragon love does not come easy. On the bright side, we get to follow Gabriel and May’s story in two more books: Up in Smoke and Me and My Shadow.
Which brings me to Love in the Time of Dragons and, perhaps, the most complex of MacAlister’s anti-heroes, the Dread Wyvern Baltic. Hated and feared by all dragons, Baltic’s got a bad rep. He was wyvern of the black dragons through the Endless War or what MacAlister calls, tongue-in-cheek, the “wyr-wide war.” Killed centuries ago by his heir and Drake Vireo’s brother, Kostya Feteke, Baltic was resurrected only to learn that his mate Ysolde de Bouchier had also been slain. Heartbroken and bitter, Baltic is determined to avenge her death and reunite the black and silver dragons. Of course those goals put him against pretty much all of dragondom, including Drake, Gabriel, and Kostya. However, we soon find out that Baltic’s roar is worse than his bite when he meets Tully Sullivan, who turns out to be a resurrected Ysolde. In their second book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Dragon, the mystery of who killed Ysolde, why she was resurrected, and her relationship to the First Dragon start to be revealed. Baltic and Ysolde are clearly soul mates who have been through hell and back for each other. I recently purchased the third book in their series, Sparks Fly, and I'm hoping that MacAlister gives Baltic the same happily-ever-after she gave her first two dragons. We shall see.
After enjoying MacAlister’s dragons so much, I was pleased to see other authors take on these mythical creatures. I stumbled across Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound and Storm’s Heart, the first two novels of the Elder Series, on amazon.com. Her third book Serpent’s Kiss came out in October. Romance author Sophie Jordan has also embraced the scales. In her new young adult series, Firelight and Vanished, the heroine Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons who can shift into human form. And what would a YA series be without a pair of star-crossed lovers? In this case, Jacinda and the draki hunter she falls in love with, Will. While I've not yet read these books, they're on my shelf, and I plan to read them soon. Perhaps a dragon marathon is in order?
So back to my original question—are dragons the new vampires? Let’s go to the Magic 8 Ball, in this case amazon.com, for the answer. I type in “dragon romance” and click “search.” More than 1,000 hits come up between paperback, hardback, and Kindle versions, including my favorite title—Tipping the Scales: Stop Dragon My Heart Around. Guess that’s our answer.