Ella Husted feels like she's burning up. Her skin is crawling with energy, she's so hot she can scarcely bear to put on clothes, and she's so horny that even her succubus roommate Kate is keeping her distance. In the bar she and Kate own together, men and women flock to her like ants to honey. She's raw sex, pheromones saturating the air, carnal power whipping through the environment like lightning. Her heart's beating so fast it is literally close to exploding.
Enter Dominic Sebastian, ancient, influential and (of course) breathtakingly gorgeous vampire, with his young (merely one hundred years old) surfer-boy lieutenant Rick. They've been charged with protecting the unwitting woman from hurting herself or others, and with educating her regarding her true nature. The first step in their mission requires an intense, three-way orgy in order to drain some of her sexual energy as well as her excess blood.
Dominic tries to ignore the evidence that Ella is his predestined soul-mate – the fact that they cannot read one another's thoughts, even though both are telepaths. For a vampire to bond with a human is rare and fraught with problems, even if that human is not a Benefactor as Ella appears to be – a genetically-determined natural donor who can satisfy a vampire's need for blood, indeed, who must provide some of her overly-abundant blood in order to survive. Benefactors appear normal until some vampire induces physiological changes by feeding upon them. Dominic and Rick must determine who induced Ella and why. Meanwhile they face the even more difficult task of persuading Ella to accept her powers and undergo the training necessary to use them safely. Ella is stubborn and a bit bitchy, an orphan and a pragmatist who does not believe in the supernatural, despite her own ability to read minds. She's also a woman with an overactive libido who loves sex but who runs at the hint of any emotions more enduring than pure lust.
As you can probably determine from the synopsis above, Intoxication is erotic romance, not erotica – indeed, an instance of the hopelessly overpopulated subgenre of vampire erotic romance. Nevertheless, the book has some original twists and overall provides an entertaining reading experience on the way to its predictable happy ending.
Ms. De Paulo's vampires are born, not made. They are not undead, but more like a different species or a genetic aberration. They have organized themselves into an elaborate hierarchy and maintain databases of other unusual sub-species such as succubi and Benefactors. Over the course of the book, we meet vampire senators, judges, enforcers, and obnoxious teenagers. They're not monsters at all, even the deliciously seductive female villain – at least not any more than a human might be.
Ella is a somewhat inconsistent but vivid character. She's totally shameless and delights in being a slut - “porno Ella” as she calls herself. Her history and her powers turn out to be a good deal more complicated than Dominic realizes, and she grows into her new role as she learns more about her heritage.
The sex scenes in Intoxication are graphic and arousing, though not particularly extreme or original. I liked the difference in emotional tone between scenes driven by paranormal sexual energy (including the initial ménage), and scenes where there is a deeper connection between Ella and her partner. Pervert that I am, I would have welcomed more multi-partner and lesbian action, but as the book goes on, Ella (in typical romance fashion) cleaves ever closer to Dominic, the man for whom she is destined and to whom she is psychically bound.
The writing is not particularly exceptional but on the other hand it doesn't get in the way of enjoying the story. I wish I could say the same about the editing; there are frequent problems with extra, missing or erroneous words which should have been caught in the copy editing stage. Ms. De Paulo introduces welcome flashes of humor that convinced me she was well-aware of the over-saturated quality of her chosen sub-genre. My favorite was a scene in Ella's kitchen, where Kate reveals her succubus nature and Dominic and Rick try to get Ella to believe they're blood-drinkers. As the reality sinks in, Ella grabs a bottle of garlic salt and starts sprinkling it all over the table and the counters. I laughed out loud.
The lurid cover for Intoxication, featuring a fanged hulk with radioactively-glowing green eyes and massive man-titties, may also make you laugh. However, I have to admit that my dire expectations for Intoxication were not realized. Ms. De Paulo's entry into the crowded field of vampire romances is actually quite a lot of fun, reminding me a bit of Richelle Mead, but with much more explicit sex. If you like the genre, you're looking for entertainment rather than enlightenment, and you're not allergic to romance, give it a try.