Like Midnight Curse, Melissa F. Olson’s Blood Gamble is a “popcorn book.” It’s fun in a paranormal sort of way. Our heroine, Scarlett Bernard, is a flawed but lovable character. And the action has good pacing and innovative twists.

But … you knew there was a “but” coming next, right? It’s still just a 3-star read for me. But to me, three stars is a decent if not wildly memorable book. I have no complaints about that.

In Blood Gamble, Scarlett goes to Vegas to check out a new show, partly as a freelance gig and partly on behalf of her city’s cardinal vampire, Dashiell. And boy, does he manipulate her in the process. That’s no bueno in Scarlett’s mind (and mine too). Powerful vampires are such annoying baddies. However, the relationship between Scarlett and Dashiell is much more gray than black and white in Olson’s mythos, which adds depth to the story. As much as Scarlett is evolving as the story progresses, so is the way Dashiell relates to her.

In the process of telling this story, Olson fills us in on various parts of Scarlett’s backstory. We learn more about her relationships with family, and with her friend Jameson, who’s also a null. As much as I missed her handsome sidekick Jesse Cruz, I like the new dimensions to Scarlett’s character.

Scarlett honestly doesn’t think she’s a hero or that she acts in heroic ways. Ironic for the heroine, right? And not an atypical conflict for this kind of book, which Olson tells well. I couldn’t help but smile when Jesse tells her she’s a hero and Scarlett reacts with, “The only heroes I’d ever met were scary badasses, like Lex. And I felt about as scary as the average Yorkshire terrier. The teacup kind.”

Terriers notwithstanding, our heroine saves the day—or the night since this is a vampire book. I enjoyed a chance to escape into Scarlett’s stressful world of evil versus good. It makes my life feel a lot less stressful, and I needed that this week.

Thanks to NetGalley and publishers 47North for the opportunity to read the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. The quote above may be different in the final version of the book.