Review – The Dakota del Toro series by Julia DeBarrioz

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is how a great cover works. It pulls you in, and before you know it, you’ve downloaded the next book, and the next just to get these great covers on your Kindle. These books are the first in the Dakota del Toro series, featuring Julia DeBarrioz’ spunky female bounty hunter with a lightning draw and a vampire would-be lover.

Compañera

Review – Book 0 in the series, though I’m not sure what that means. A prequel? It isn’t clear, but what is clear is Dakota is a great character from the get-go, a strong female character who isn’t a bitch, or a saint, or or a mother figure. She’s a normal woman with a not-so normal job, that of hunting down werewolves and errant vampires, as well as trying to find those women who have gone missing, but their families aren’t able to go to the police. (This is based on fact. A lot of young Mexican or Native American women go missing, and a lot of the time their families cannot trust the police for fear of deportation, or the authorities just aren’t interested.) It’s a brilliant way of raising awareness of a real issue, but couched in an exciting tale of bringing the bad guys to justice and having time for a sultry Argentine tango with a handsome vampire.

Dakota is relatable to the max. She loves to dress up and look gorgeous for her date, but she’ll always have a Beretta with silver bullets on hand just in case any werewolves show up. She doesn’t rely on men to get her out of trouble, but she isn’t afraid to ask them for help either. She’s normal, for a bounty hunter, but she takes a punch without going to pieces or angsting about it. She’s plucky and fierce and a great role model for any young women reading this. And Diego is a fine gentleman, despite being a vampire. A lot of men could learn from his restraint and respectful ways. The author weaves a great tale and fills it with characters to care about. Twilight this is not. It’s way more fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

In short, this was a great start, and on the strength of it, I bought the next two books. There is some gore and genuine frights, but that just added spice to an already tasty story.

Marginalized young women have a tendency to disappear in New Mexico. PCT Bounty hunter Dakota del Toro knows the local vampire coven and their pet werewolves are to blame, but the badge she carries means she requires pesky things like admissible evidence and warrants to act—however when a bereaved mother comes to Dakota for help in recovering her daughter from the Lobos Diablos gang this bounty hunter will risk her career, her freedom, and her very life to bring Pilar Guzmán home. 

Diego de Gama seems too good to be true—a handsome, wealthy, gallery owner who can dance and behave like a gentleman? What century is he from, anyway? On a night out on the town with the girls Dakota thinks she’s found a keeper, but Diego has a secret that could turn the archaic power structure of Santa Fe’s vampires on its head. However, he knows he can’t do it alone—and who would make a better compañera than the Cazadora herself? If only he could stop kissing her long enough to ask her…

Bring Them Home (Novella)

Review – A great introduction to the series, although it’s the second book. If you’re not sure and you want a relatively quick read, this is great. Dakota goes on the hunt for some missing women and rescues them, basically. There is an unexpected amorous encounter with one of them, giving Dakota’s character an added dimension I wasn’t expecting, but I loved it! I loved that she was comfortable with her sexuality and interested in experimenting. It made her even more intriguing. And Diego is lush, the devastatingly handsome vampire who won and lost Dakota in Book 0, is back, desperate to woo her. Any normal woman wouldn’t be able to resist his charms, but Dakota is made of stern stuff. I loved her ballsy attitude, her courage and her willingness to use her femininity to get the information she needed. She is a fantastic character, a perfect foil for the charming Diego, who may or may not be one of the good guys. A hugely entertaining and well-written book which twists and turns but flows seamlessly.

When women go missing in New Mexico, bounty hunter Dakota del Toro knows exactly where to find them. The hard part is taking them back.

The powerful vampire alcaldes and the werewolf gang los Lobos Diablos don’t relinquish their captives easily, but when a chance encounter with an irascible bandido turned revolucionario affords an opportunity, Dakota will risk life and limb to bring the missing home—even if it means working with the vampire who broke her heart, and might have designs on her immortal soul. 

Cazadora

Review – A great chunky read which took longer to get through than the others, but that was okay. The author’s writing is superb as she invokes the New Mexico landscape and fills it with the dens of vampires and werewolves, adobe villas and harsh deserts.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and at times it felt a little confusing. I didn’t think it flowed quite as well as the others, and I had to concentrate to keep up. Basically, a rich mob boss’s teen daughter goes missing, and Dakota has no choice but to hunt for her. As she delves deeper, she enters the shadowy world of werewolf wannabes who use bands made of actual animals to turn themselves into temporary were’s. Diego, her would-be lover, is on hand to help her if things get sticky, although she is quite capable of looking after herself, thank you very much.

Poor Diego. I’d be surprised if he hasn’t got blue balls by now. He spends the book trying to seduce Dakota without success, and when the prime opportunity comes, he is the perfect gentlemen and doesn’t take advantage (yay!) This is a novel where the women are kick-ass, the men are respectful (unless they are the bad guys, in which case they are not) and where the underground worlds of witchcraft and werewolf magic are sinister and not for the faint-hearted. And overshadowing everything is the spectre of Juan the Ripper, who made an appearance in Compañera, a truly repellent character who seems to be at the heart of all the disappearances in New Mexico and beyond.

Although the story could have been tighter in places, I loved the world-building and the romance between Diego and Dakota. There were some truly beautiful passages and a looming sense of menace between them. I love this series so far and yes, I do have the next book!

Bounty hunter Dakota del Toro always gets her werewolf. When she’s almost fired from the Preternatural Control Team for bringing in a mark who tests to be human she knows something is rotten in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her 1965 Beetle is stolen, and a werewolf ransacks her house looking for drugs she doesn’t have. Determined to get to the bottom of it, Dakota enlists the help of Diego de Gama, all-too-handsome gallery owner and vampire revolutionary—who may or may not have designs on her immortal soul. 

Somehow, the disappearance of a teenage narco princess seems to tie in to it all. Hot on the trail, Dakota is led into the mysterious world of Changelings, a counterculture who likes to pretend they are were-creatures. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their heart—pulled still beating from their chest. The heat turns up at a Halloween masquerade at Kama Luna, a nightclub for the things that go bump in the night. Ready to face a wicked witch of the Amazon and her whip-wielding consort, Dakota ties on her mask and straps on her guns. She’ll show these beasties how she earned the name la Cazadora, or die trying.

Published by Lady J's Pawsome Readers

As well as reviewing books, I'm a writer of romantic suspense, MM fiction and LGBTQIA sci-fi. One of the original founders of WROTE Podcast, a medium for showcasing queer storytelling in all forms.

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