Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: June 27th, 2012
Date finished: June 27th, 2012
This is the start of a spin-off series from Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress books. You don't have to have read any of them to understand these, though.
Leila is a human with very unusual powers, after having been badly injured in an accident involving a downed power line when she was 13. Now she can learn things about the objects she touches, and about the people who have held them before her. She pretty much has to be careful about touching people, though, because unless she unloads her power into lightning rods, she can badly shock anyone unlucky enough to get to close to her. Before her accident, she was a promising acrobat, now she does tricks at a circus with a vampire dwarf (he's able to handle her touch to a certain extent), who acts like a father figure to her.
When a group of evil vampires find out about Leila's powers, they kidnap her and try to get her to give them information about Vlad Tepesh (yes, that one - but he really doesn't like to be called Dracula), against whom they're clearly plotting something. When she tries to locate him in her mind with objects the thugs have stolen, he instantly notices her presence, and tracks both her and her kidnappers down. As Vlad realises both what a danger Leila could pose to him in the hands of his enemies, and how useful her abilities could be for him, he refuses to let her go until they've tracked down the mastermind against the plot against him.
As Vlad has the power of pyrokinesis (he can control fire with his mind), and is completely impervious to fire and heat, Leila can also touch him without danger of hurting him. Even other vampires would eventually be affected by her strong electrical powers, but Vlad insists she use him as she would a lightning rod. He's completely unconcerned about her fear of him, and seems to encourage it, yet for all that he is clearly very dangerous and quite ruthless, Leila can't help but be attracted to the first man in her adult life that she won't have to worry about damaging with her powers. Vlad can also read Leila's mind (with occasional hilarious results) and cannot understand why she'd want to fight her attraction to him.
While I enjoyed the first few Night Huntress books, I haven't been that impressed with the later ones, and have usually enjoyed Frost's two standalone spin-off novels from the series more. Once Burned is the start of a series (I think it's a trilogy) and that means that while Leila and Vlad's relationship develops over the course of the book, they're by no means at their HEA yet, and there are more threats to both of them to come in later books. I very much enjoyed both the main characters (I always liked Vlad in his appearances in Frost's earlier books), as well as the supporting cast, and the further exploration of Frost's fantasy universe. While not the best paranormal fantasy I've read, I enjoyed it more than several of the author's more recent books, and will absolutely be checking out the next books in the series.