Illuminated, Vampire Tales #1 by Alexa Piper - Review, Excerpt and Giveaway

There is a seductiveness in the way Alexa has told her story in Illuminated, combined with sweet humor, and some heat to seal the deal. She captures a love story between a vampire and a human, and we get to go along for the ride as Ethan gets swept away by all that is Auris.

From the blurb:

Ethan is a photographer who loves the interplay of light and shadow in his work and what it reveals. While working on his latest project, he finds himself at an abandoned church after nightfall. Lured by the prospect of capturing something unique with his camera, he ventures inside.

What Ethan discovers in that forgotten place is not what he expected. Instead of sights unseen for decades, Ethan finds a man -- bleeding, hurt, and in need of help.

What Ethan doesn’t know is that he isn’t freeing an ordinary man, but an ancient vampire.

Through a haze of blood and violence, Ethan will have to come to terms with a situation nothing could have ever prepared him for. Auris drinks blood and deals death with ease, but Ethan soon discovers that the vampire is not just a monster. Auris is more, so much more. As if it were illuminated with a camera flash, Ethan can almost see himself and Auris have a shared future. Yet, those who tried destroying Auris once will stop at nothing to do so again.

Content Warnings: Illuminated (Vampire Tales 1) contains scenes of violence, murder, kidnapping, and torture that may be triggers for some readers.

Jacquie's Review:

Though it covered some darker themes - religious zealots hunt Auris, there's torture and unaliving of people - it's simultaneously sweet. There are some really beautiful moments between the pair, so it feels natural that they fall in love.

The writing reminded me of Moonlight Cherries, lyrical, descriptive, with a slow and steady pace.
Ethan and Auris were lovely together, and I hope there are more adventures for the pair.

Rating: 5 Stars

Holly's Review:

Illuminated is the story of Ethan, a budding and talented photographer with a love of the way light casts shadows and being able to capture when the earth reclaims a building. It’s in the pursuit of his next photo collection that he finds more than he bargains for in an old church. He had no idea that when he pulls the stranger down from the cross his life will be changed forever. 

Auris has lived a long life and was caught unawares by priests determined not to let him see another day. When Ethan saves him, he sees the fulfillment of a prophecy almost as old as him. Ethan gets snatched from a cafe, and Auris must get to him in time. 

I was easily lost in Alexa Piper's world; it was relatively low angst for the bulk of the story, aside from some violence in the beginning and near the end, most of the story captures the way Auris and Ethan’s relationship blossoms and their exploration of each other. 

Rating: 5 Stars

Angel's Review:

I was intrigued by this book just from the description of it, along with the fact I've read other books by Alexa Piper before and have definitely enjoyed them. I also enjoyed this one as well. 

Ethan is a photographer who travels around and takes photos of the different lights of an abandoned building. When he arrives at an abandoned church and sees an injured man fastened to a cross, he immediately tries to help him. After getting him down, he realizes this is no ordinary man, this guy isn't human, he's.... A vampire.

Auris has never met a human who could withstand his thrall (mind control) until Ethan. His mom gave Auris a premonition that he would find the man he would love when he was rescued from a cross. He knew Ethan was special right away. If only he could convince Ethan how he feels. 

I enjoyed this story. The world building was terrific! There was so much detail that you could picture everything from the decrepit buildings to the beach, the beach house and the abandoned church where Auris was found. The character detail was great too, a bit unique in the details of Auris. I enjoyed how Ethan couldn't really picture him right away with his eyes close, how Auris appeared one way but was another entirely. I appreciated that difference in this vampire book. The only reason I didn't give this a 5 star is cause I think the relationship progressed a bit fast. I mean, these two were engaging in an intimate activity right after Ethan witnessed Auris killing people. Granted, those people were trying to kill Auris first, but nonetheless. I just think it was a bit fast, but it also fit with the story. 

Overall, a really great book about a vampire who fell in love with a human photographer. 

Rating: 4 Stars

SNik's Review:

First in series (Vampire Tales). Paranormal. Single POV. 

Traveling photographer Ethan doesn’t intend to save a vampire from militaristic priests, but once he is drawn into Auris’s world, he’s not sure he wants to leave. Especially when Auris shares more about his hidden life, and that Auris was destined to love Ethan once they met. 

An interesting world build and a quick fall into a relationship where Ethan accepts his place in Auris’s life and is willing to commit to the man that attracts and intrigues him. Auris is a charming, handsome, compelling vampire and Ethan is confident, artistic and wholly able to accept that his worldview has changed. 

Although there is some violence, the interactions between Auris and Ethan from Ethan’s single narrative seems dreamy and unquestioned and lends itself to the possibility that they are truly fated to be together.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Miki J's Review:

Ethan views the world in a different way....seeing beauty where others would see something rotten, tired or old...  and during one of his "hunts", he discovers something much much more.   

Really does open his eyes to a whole new world (sorry, couldn't resist !!) - very enjoyable book about vampires (no fated mates etc), clueless human who is quite laid back about it all, clever banter between the MC's, plenty of steam, and touch of suspense....and love.    

Absolutely enjoyed this book.

Rating: 4 Stars

Illuminated is available to buy as an ebook.

Title:  Illuminated

Series: Vampire Tales 1

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: February 10, 2023

Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 126 pages

Genre: Romance, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Suspense, Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual, Gay, Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft, Murder Mystery, Vampires

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All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Alexa Piper

I felt the cold fingers of the changing season reach across the café’s outdoor terrace and right up my spine. The warm fall day drew to a close with the trees all along the coast colored in vermilion and gold, and darkness rolled in with the tide, the sky above pretty as pulped roses.

“Need another?” said the very attentive server. Her eyes were ocean blue, and her golden earrings caught the fading light slanting in from across the water. She wore a surgical mask like most of the staff in the region I’d come across, even though they were no longer mandatory. “You seem to inhale them. You know that might cost you sleep, right?”

I smiled back at her and finished the last of my latte. “I always inhale great coffee, but this will have to be my last. I like to work at night.”

True enough, even if I had captured mostly sunlight and shadows, leaves and people today, not my normal fare. The touristy charm of the place had simply lured me in. That all the cafés I found here had great service, view, and coffee didn’t help me regain my work attitude.

She looked me up and down, no doubt taking in my slightly over shoulder-length caramel brown hair, the piercing blue eyes most people liked to comment on, and -- last but not least -- my pseudo-geeky Schrödinger’s Cat tee.

“My mother would tell you that a good boy like yourself should be in bed at night. What do you do?”

I laughed and tugged a strand of my hair back behind my ear. “I’m a photographer, and I like editing when it’s dark out. Just a night owl thing. Could I get the check, please?” This was beginning to feel more and more like a vacation, even though I was working. I wanted abandoned places for my next exhibition, and if you didn’t mind a bit of driving, this area had plenty.

“Wow, an artist. You’re the first in Brightam this season, or at least my first. Be right back.” She winked at me.

I nodded, and she took my empty glass and walked away.

My bag sat on the chair to my right. I dug for my notebook and phone. My slightly battered but trusty notebook contained my longhand list of places I wanted to go see. I unwound the elastic that held the notebook closed and checked the list I’d bookmarked with an old receipt for a bagel and coffee against a map on my phone to see if I could still get something done today. If I didn’t, this really would be a vacation day, and I was firmly not on vacation. Besides, I was sure some lowlight photos might add a creepy aspect to my work people often told me was there to begin with, even if I never saw it.

The seventh item on my list was a church that had been abandoned for decades, complete with a garden of headstones surrounding it, and it was only a thirty-minute detour from my way back to Cromere where I had booked my hotel for the month. I had my external flash in the car. Going to the church and getting photos of headstones and a dilapidated building in the background in the almost dark would be perfect.

“Here you go,” the server said and dropped the check on the table. “I put my number on there in case you’re staying in town and want to do something later. Together.”

I had seen that coming about two lattes ago, and I did consider it. Yet, the church actually sounded interesting, more interesting than vacation sex when I wasn’t even on vacation.

“I’m afraid I have to get some work done, actually.” I indicated my notebook before putting the receipt back to mark my spot and packing everything back into my bag. “But thanks for the offer. Maybe another time,” I said and tipped her generously.

She shrugged. “Keep the number. In case you change your mind.”

I did and smiled at her over my shoulder when I left the café.

Over the ocean, the pinks were surrendering to indigo and teal. Night’s breath was icy on the breeze.

* * *

I pulled on my jacket and left the car back at the mouth of the path that led to the church. It was a short walk of not even ten minutes, and I was glad that I also kept a flashlight in the trunk, because even with an almost full moon above, it was dark out here.

The trees grew tall on all sides, branches eating at the dusky sky. Insect noises and the sound of me walking were the only things I could hear, and there was something wonderfully peaceful about that.

I hadn’t lied to the server, I was a night owl and always had been, but I lived in the city, and night in the city was never really dark nor silent. Being out here was a different experience and refreshing in its way.

The church came up ahead of me like a looming scarecrow, raggedy and weather-beaten, but its former function clear even in its current condition. It was slightly uphill, which helped with that perception, but there was something… I had the overwhelming sense that the church had been waiting for me. That was nonsense. Buildings didn’t wait or want. They just were and aged and crumbled, but the fact this place did make me feel like the church was a living being boded well for the photos. I snapped a couple, looking up toward the church.

The church itself was really just a small building that might have held a congregation of maybe two hundred. From what I had read, there had been an abandoned mining town nearby, and the church had been left behind when the ore ran out. The bodies already in the earth had been left as well, a strange sort of exchange for the ore, iron paid for with bone.

When I reached the cemetery grounds, my flashlight licked against dark headstones that were leaning this way and that in time’s pull. With the dark church behind them, all this needed to be a perfect set for a horror movie was some fog and maybe a wolf howling. I chuckled. This was wonderful.

I decided that I would just walk around a bit so I could get a feel for the place, take some shots as I did so to begin with. I turned the flashlight off, put it in my camera bag, and started. The strobing light of my camera flash threw odd shadows that lingered on my retinas. I made my way toward the church doors in a slow half circle, not really planning anything, just going by instinct. Then, with a shot of a cracked church window, I saw that the door to the building was open, just enough to draw a hard shadow in the light of my camera flash.

I stopped and turned my flashlight back on, aiming it at the door. I took another picture even if the flashlight would mess up the lighting. I wasn’t sure why, because I was pretty good about not wasting shots. Some instinct maybe, or a random muscle jerk.

“Oh, opportunity, you call me,” I whispered, running the flashlight up the door, which was indeed open.


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Meet the Author

Alexa (she/her) has a lot of characters living in her head and wanting their stories told. Many of these people get snarky and won’t stop complaining if Alexa is too slow writing them, which means that for this author, sleep is a luxury. Consequently, Alexa is a coffee addict, but she is sure she has it under control (six cups of coffee are normal in a morning, right? Right!?)

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