A Bargain of Blood and Gold Midnight Guardians Book 1 by Kristin Jacques Genre: Paranormal Romance
A novice hunter with a mission. A five-hundred-year-old vampire with a strong sense of irony. A town plagued by creatures in need of saving.
When Johnathan Newman arrives in Cress Haven, the last thing he expects is for his life to be irrevocably changed. Sent by a clandestine league of vampire hunters to investigate a string of murders, signs point to a vampire lurking amid the townsfolk. Johnathan’s attempt to enlist the locals leads him to an unlikely partnership with Vic, the town's most eligible, enigmatic bachelor.
As the pair work to solve the mystery, Vic’s secrets come back to bite him. Revealed, the vampire fights his attraction to a man trained to destroy him, while Johnathan’s emotions land him in the middle of forbidden desires. Even if Vic isn’t the murderer, how can Johnathan yearn for his natural enemy?
As Vic leads Johnathan into encounters with terrifying beings straight from children’s nightmares, Johnathan learns that not only is the world stranger than he knew, but that those he once trusted have far darker intentions that will place hunter and vampire at the center of a conflict between realms.
Cress Haven holds more sinister secrets than its resident vampire, a secret so great, it could unleash Hell itself.
For fans of Gail Carriger’s Supernatural Society, The Charm of Magpies series by KJ Charles, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee.
There was a vampire in Cress Haven, and it was Johnathan’s duty to snuff it out.
“Are you quite certain of this location?” Johnathan peered at his traveling companion as
the coach rolled through the unkempt dirt roads. Wilderness surrounded them, the relentless
forests of backcountry Maine muffling the rattle and buck of the wheels that spat up a cloud of
dust in their wake.
Dr. Evans raised an imperious brow, thick white mustache twitching over his mouth.
“You have my assurances, Prospective Newman,” said the doctor. “The legitimacy of the reports
are thoroughly verified before we assign a man on the case. There is a fiend here, squatting
among the populace. Multiple victims have gone missing. The fiend appears to have a preference
for young ladies. Your task is identification and elimination.”
“Shouldn’t be too difficult.” Johnathan eyed the roll of handwritten instructions, neat pen
scratches detailing all the requisite information he needed for a successful hunt. “The town’s
population was barely a thousand souls all told at last census. It’s somewhat baffling why a
vampire would settle here. One would think a fiend’s peculiarities would quickly pinpoint its
identity among humans.”
“Careful, Johnathan,” said Dr. Evans, catching his attention. The good doctor only used
Johnathan’s first name when he was worried. “A fiend, alone and secluded, possesses a great
deal of cunning and trickery compared to the nests we cleansed in Boston and New York. Be on
your guard and vigilant.”
Johnathan blinked. His gaze strayed to the custom-made crossbows lying on the seat
beside Dr. Evans. Most Hunters preferred melee weapons to pin their fast-moving prey, but his
mentor enjoyed the challenge. He could wield the weapon like no other, a master marksman in
archery, skilled at the art of ambushing fiends despite their extraordinary senses. Johnathan
always felt safe with the doctor, unless what he feared was the doctor himself.
That was a circumstance in which he’d found himself a time or two or twelve. Dr. Evans
was a mentor, a leader. He was also a killer, and he wouldn’t go easy on Johnathan, no matter
how fond he was of his students.
This assignment couldn’t be that dangerous, or the society wouldn’t have sent someone
like Johnathan out here. Would they? The more he thought about it, the more certain he was that
Dr. Evans was about to toss him into a pit of vipers. Trial by fire was the truest method of
ascertaining if one was suited for the life.
“Sir?” The thick wool of Johnathan’s trousers wicked the sweat from his palms.
Dr. Evans’ expression softened. “You’re at the top of your class, dear boy. I have
complete faith you’ll turn in a more than adequate performance.” There was a twinkle of
sentiment in the older man’s eyes. He clapped Johnathan on the shoulder. “We shall return in a
month to retrieve you.”
“A month?” Johnathan sputtered. “What if I require extraction before then? Or I
encounter more than a lone fiend?”
Affability drained out of the doctor’s gaze. “Adapt. Enlist local aide. Consider this your
graduation ceremony. But if you should find the situation beyond your capability, send word
through post. Our agents will be here within a fortnight.”
There was no need for the doctor to clarify further. A call for aid would be considered
Johnathan swallowed hard, the rumble of the coach accentuating the sensation of the
world sinking out from under him. There was nothing outside except trees surrounded by more
trees, but the coach was slowing. The conveyance rolled to a stop in the thick of the forest, the
setting sun swallowed up by the coniferous treetops, brushing the sky like serrated teeth.
“The society has provided you with a generous stipend to cover your expenses,” said the
doctor, “though we suggest you practice frugality. There is a reputable boarding house at the
edge of town for the seasonal woodsmen that should accommodate you.” The coach wobbled to
a standstill. Dr. Evans opened the coach door, gesturing with middling patience for Johnathan to
The young man hesitated. “It’s almost dark, sir.”
“Oh, tosh.” The doctor’s expression darkened. He seized Johnathan’s arm with surprising
strength for a man his size and stature, before tossing him bodily from the coach. Johnathan’s
battered traveling case followed a moment later, bouncing resignedly to a stop on top of his
boots. “The town is two miles down the coach road,” said the doctor. “I suggest you start
walking, lad, before true nightfall.”
Without further fanfare, the coachman steered the horses in a wide circle around
Johnathan, kicking off at a fast trot back in the direction they came.
Dr. Evans could have at least left him with a suitable weapon. Even a vial of dead man’s
blood, which slowed a fiend’s ability to heal, wouldn’t be remiss. But part of his trial was to find
weapons of opportunity in a foreign environment, no matter how sparse that environment.
Johnathan tensed, seized with the acute urge to chase down the coach and cling to the
back all the way to Boston. This wouldn’t do. For one, Dr. Evans would be terribly disappointed
in him. For another, it was likely they’d toss him right back out here, this time tied at the ankles.
He watched the coach until it rumbled out of sight through the trees before he finally
turned toward Cress Haven. It was alarming how much darker the forest seemed in those spare
moments. Shadows slithered out from between the trees, casting the coach road in intermittent
patches of deep darkness. The sun had firmly given up the sky to dusk, the light rapidly fading
with each passing second. He needed to get moving rather than stand in the middle of the road
like a slab of beef fallen off the butcher’s wagon.
Johnathan scooped up his valise. The leather case banged against his thigh in time to his
steps, a comforting thump as he picked his way over the pitted dirt road. Stones skittered out
from under his boots. It would be just his luck to twist an ankle in the dark and fall prey to the
This was to be his final exam? He doubted the assignment would occupy him more than a
fortnight. What would he do for the remaining half of the month? Take up logging, he supposed.
Maybe catch a spot of fishing. He’d heard the fishing in Maine was quite excellent.
That settled it. Hell, in a settlement this small, he would locate the fiend outside of a
week. Yes, this would be his final test, and a vacation to boot.
Caught up in plotting his leisure time, the first howl took him off guard.
Johnathan froze, eyeing the dense forest with unease. He reached for his boot knife as a
second howl split the falling night, an eerie, unnatural sound. Chills rippled under his skin.
What on earth was that? He’d heard the baying of hounds and wolves enough to compare
the two, but this sound matched neither, possessing a quality that spoke to his deep instinct to
flee the hungry dark.
A third howl rose, much closer this time. Something crashed and crackled in the woods a
moment before movement made him jump. Johnathan yelped, covering his head as several
creatures fled the woods right in his path. He didn’t recognize them at first, not until a fox
collided with his legs, panic-blind and snapping at Johnathan’s trousers.
He jumped aside, wide-eyed, as a herd of deer, several foxes, skunks, and a badger fled
past him into the woods on the other side of the coach road. He heard a whisper of sound
overhead and glanced up to find the flight extended to winged creatures as well, an assortment of
daytime birds, startled from their roosts, mixed with the hunters of night.
An owl flapped frantically overhead. That worried him.
Owls were not so easily spooked.
Johnathan shifted his stance, knife out and ready as he scanned the trees. A prickling
sensation crawled along his skin. He had the distinct impression of being watched. By what? Had
the vampire come to meet him? Unlikely. Vampires didn’t scare wild animals. The undead were
beneath their notice. Only cats reacted to fiends, and it wasn’t with fear.
Silence swallowed him up, falling thick and heavy, so that his own breath roared in his
ears. Johnathan stared hard through the trees, trying to pinpoint the source of the disturbance.
A harsh chuffing came from his left, close enough to stir the hair at his collar. Startled, he
whipped around, fear squeezing his lungs. There was nothing there. Panting, he spun in a full
circle, squeezing the hilt of his knife so tight his fingers went numb.
His frantic gaze connected with a glowing set of eyes within the trees. The snarl made his
bladder clench. It was a small miracle he didn’t void his waters as the unseen creature suddenly
bounded away. It made no noise as it took off through the bracken, but Johnathan knew it was
gone as the weighted silence dissipated.
It was still several long minutes before the sounds of wildlife filtered back into the night,
now fully fallen, and several minutes more before Johnathan’s footsteps resumed, albeit at a
much faster pace. He didn’t dare return the knife to his boot until his steps carried him past the
first houses of Cress Haven.
Mother of two, caffeine addict, sleep deprived book eater.
Kristin Jacques writes primarily speculative fiction, dabbling with dark adventures, monsters, mayhem, and the occasional sarcastic zombie.
When not at her computer spinning tales she is generally herding cats or snuggling with her gremlins.
A Multi Award Winning Author of Fantastical YA & Adult Fiction.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hello, I am Kristin Jacques, a perpetually awkward onion from a small town in New England. It was super woodsy and more Stand By Me than Gilmore Girls, complete with questionable adventures in the wilds. Living in the sticks without much in the way of neighbors meant a lot of time wandering in the ‘back yard’ battling invisible armies in the pine trees, and creating worlds in my head. I’ve had the story telling spark since I was young and that only developed deeper over the years.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I very often talk through character scenes out loud. Most of the time, I am conscious enough of how this sounds that I do this home alone, but sometimes I will start talking out load, in the car, in front of the kids. I promise, mommy is just scripting.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I don’t know if this qualifies, but I became a surrogate for a stranger through a penny saver ad. My own mother had a great deal of trouble conceiving and it was something I always wanted to do for someone else. It worked out great and, while its an experience I don’t think I could repeat again, I’m glad I did it.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Purposeful ignorance. We live in an age where information is literally at our fingertips but there are far too many people willing to bury their heads in the sand. Stickers on book covers. The bad reputation of sharks. The part of the egg that doesn’t cook right in sunny side eggs.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in the sticks. My driveaway was a half mile dirt strip that was the only connection to the country road, on a spit of land surrounded by swamps, ponds and a wide winding river. It beautiful and lonely and I spent a lot of time in my own head.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
This one is to answer. I have a deep fear of my own mortality, even though it is something inevitable, that we all experience. I am not quite sure what that knowledge would do to me but I would likely spend the day somewhere in the sun, hugging my kiddos close, soaking up as much time and contact with my loved ones as I could muster.
Who is your hero and why?
My father. My father is someone who has experienced immeasurable loss in his life. He has stumbled but persisted. He was a single parent for several years and sacrificed so much to make sure I would thrive. He supported my dream of being a writer, even with his own misgivings about the stability of an artistic career. He continues to be supportive of my work and accomplishments.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I would probably be very terrible at it. I would do much better as an empathetic counterbalance to someone who could make decisions with their head over their heart. If it came to hard decisions to keep systems balance, I’m a hot mess. I think leadership/ world rulers shouldn’t be a single entity because differing perspectives feel more balanced. I think that is why ruling councils hold such an appeal.
What are you passionate about these days?
My current WIP and refueling my creativity tank.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I read quite a bit, books, comics, manga, anything that catches my eye. I also enjoy unwinding with a game, usually something in the RPG realm. I really enjoy relaxing games like Stardew Valley or Cozy Grove and on the opposite end, a good hack n slash like Grim Dawn or Diablo.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I do a lot of writing while the kids are at school. I do work from home but there is a lot of work, writing, parenting, life balance in play. When they are out of school, it is sneaking it in where I can, which can be a bit creative on a deadline. Usually I sacrifice sleep, either in the morning when they are relatively lethargic and entertain themselves or in the evening when they finally pass out. Both my kiddos are special needs, so I try not to detract too much time from them in general and spend a lot of time making sure they are active and engaged but we make it work.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Anxious. Dreamer. Empathetic. Goofy. Resilient.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I really settled into in around high school. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, and I wrote a lot of shorts, attempted art, singing etc but I veered hard into writing being my passion during those formative teen years.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I don’t have an absolute favorite but I do have a few comfort watches like Willow, Underworld (yes that Underworld) Hudson Hawk, and Dark City.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I imagine all my novels as movies. I am a very visual person so when I write a scene I write it with the intention to drop you in it and try to impart what I see in my mind’s eye onto the page.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I guess Bookcon would be considered a literary pilgrimage for me. You are surrounded by a horde of people who love books. There are dozens of panels, with writers you love and discover. The event hall is brimming with booths, tables of arcs, bookish swag, and indie authors eager to meet and talk and share their passion. The event has such a vibe and even though you are exhausted by the end of the weekend, you don’t want it to end. I went to the last Bookcon in 2019 and it was one of the best experiences. I know the event has effectively been shut down permanently, but I hope to see it revive again someday.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
What inspired you to write this book?
Something to know about me: I love monster boyfriends. I love monster girlfriends. Most of my books have monsters in one form or another. Vampires were one of my first tortured loves. I’ve always wanted to put my own spin on them, and while I have included vampire characters in some of my stories, I really wanted to run with it, building them into my own mythology. Funny enough, A Bargain of Blood & Gold didn’t start as a romance, but the character chemistry tipped it over into romance territory. I am excited to continue exploring the relationship between the characters in the sequel but the two central characters inspired this story. I knew I wanted to write the dynamic between hunter and vampire, how they connected and came together despite being natural enemies.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More books in this series for one. I am currently working to finish up book two in the Midnight Guardians series, and then the third book in my YA trilogy before coming back to this series. I also have another series I would like to put out a second book for by the end of the year.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
This is the beginnings of a side story that may swell into a full-blown spin off, but we shall see. (wink wink)
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in A Bargain of Blood & Gold?
There are three central characters in A Bargain of Blood & Gold. First we meet Johnathan, a man of contradictions, a survivor, an innocent, raised in a world of violence and incredibly awkward with people. Johnathan is our resident Hunter, sent to Cress Haven on a mission to find and end the fiend preying supposedly preying on the populace. Supposedly…
We next meet Vic, who is bright and smarmy. An unapologetic flirt, Vic soon tips Johnathan’s world upside down in more ways than one.
Last there is Alyse, Vic’s closest companion in Cress Haven. Alyse is the daughter of the local pastor, the oldest of six siblings, and absolutely doesn’t fit into the mold made for her. Alyse is fierce and protective, drawn to Vic because he accepts who she is.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Enemies to lovers is a favorite trope and I loved exploring that trope through these two characters. Found family is also a trope I use often. I think family can be both blood and who we chose. These three are beings isolated by their upbringing, by their secrets, and their choices, all desperate to connect. I knew I wanted to set this story at the edge of the wilderness, in a time when the world was a little wilder and it was harder to dismiss our fear of the dark. America is such a young country, our history so short in comparison, but it is bloody and full of darkness. It is full of monsters in the guise of men. It is full of blood spilt, of fearing the other, and the right of might. The world of Bargain starts small, but the subsequent books touch on and mirror the growing unrest of the time, the world of the other courting a violent clash between factions.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Virtual dart board. Not even kidding. I had a cluster of potential names that I tossed in a haphazard mess on screen and I closed my eyes to click. Sometimes it’s better for me not to attach too much meaning to a name because it makes the character feel more natural for me.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The banter! I love writing character banter. Writing flirtations can be super tricky but I really enjoy it.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
I think both Johnathan and Vic are driven by a strong sense of duty. Vic has a surprisingly strong moral compass but not a rigid one where Johnathan’s world view, initially, has become so black and white he can’t live with parts of himself. That sense of duty and the desire to protect drive a great deal of their decisions in the story.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
True story, the first title of this book was An Impression of Teeth, kinda tongue in cheek but in seeking a new title, we went through several iterations before we settled on A Bargain of Blood & Gold which I love. We all start somewhere with book titles and sometimes those titles are a little off the mark. An Impression of Teeth might still make its way into the series but not with this book.
Who designed your book covers?
My publisher City Owl Press made this cover happen! The gold lettering gives me life.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
That path is a dangerous one. I poured so much of myself into this book and yes, there are things I might change. There are things I would change in books I published two years ago. But there is a point where we have to let it lie and let it breath. Each book I write, I grow and, I hope, I improve. There’s a little Dory in my head singing ‘Just keep writing!’
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That I use the word ‘as’ way too many times.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I am so terrible at these questions! I would rather go with two fresh faces. Or be pleasantly surprised by a casting choice. I bet whoever lands the part would absolutely kill it. Rather, I would love to see this made into a limited series over a film.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Here there be monsters.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
To avoid spoilers, I will call it ‘The Forest Scene’ between Vic & Johnathan, where they learn a great deal about each other. It is just a great moment for these two. If you’ve read it, you know.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Vic and we would prank everyone I know.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Sometimes pieces of real people slip into my characters but for the central trio in this book they came straight out of my head.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters hijack the story all the time. I will have a full storyline plotted out and boom, someone gets a whacky idea and suddenly we are off the rails. With most stories, I try to have bare bones plotting, with set points I hope to hit. That way, when my characters slide sideways, there is room for them to breathe and get interesting.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
This book is for the monster lovers. For those who walk on the dark side but still enjoy a little fluff. This is a gothic bloody meet cute with a slow burn romance set against a murder mystery back drop. We are here to have a grim good time.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have two books I am hoping to query by the end of the year. We shall see where the cards fall!
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Funny story, Johnathan does have a themed candle through An Unexpected Apothecary, but it’s a surprise.
What did you edit out of this book?
A lady never tells. For real though, this book underwent a lot of transformation to get where it landed. It wasn’t so much about editing out as properly fleshing out what needed to be and making connections work.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I mean, I would love to pick the brain of any number of my literary heroes. The late great Terry Pratchett for one, he created amazing satire in intricate meaningful stories. I would love to just listen to him talk about his process for hours. Diana Wynne Jones is another. She has a style of story telling I aspire to. I love the way she laces clues and hints through her story lines that all pulls together in the end. I am highly detail oriented when I write so I am very much the sort to drop a seemingly odd little detail that becomes a vital clue for a later reveal. Am I evil enough to include something that doesn’t pay off for several books? Only time will tell, won’t it?