Although I felt the first Jude Magdelyn book, Shades of Grey, had lots wrong with it, I really liked it. I enjoyed Pruitt's strong voice and obvious love of New Orleans, and I liked Jude's brash character. Shades of Desire is perhaps a better book technically, but I'm not sure I liked it quite as much. The pace is much slower - maybe because Jude herself has slowed down due to her pregnancy? - and Pruitt has gone over the top with her dialogue. Everything is a witty one-liner, everyone speaks like they're in a sitcom, and Jude's mantra of "I own sarcasm, nobody else gets to use it," wasn't funny enough the first time to make it worth repeating once a chapter.
The Mary Sueing has been toned down (Jude only performs one or two miraculous feats in this book, as opposed to one per page in the first), and Pruitt is working to expand her world and characters. I did honestly love the relationship between Jude and Theo. They're partners in all things and it shows - the affection and love between them is real and believable, and they back each other up as well as take each other to task when it's needed. Jude doesn't emasculate Theo, and he doesn't smother Jude. That element of the book worked perfectly. The other relationships... not so much. There's a lot of will-they-won't-they between two side characters that added to the unfortunate sitcom atmosphere. And there was The Relationship that pretty much near-ruined the book for me: five-year-old psychic Celia finding her soul mate in one-hundred-year-old vampire Mickael. Um. No.
Pruitt has tried to hint that Celia is probably much more than five-year-old by makign Celia far more mature than most of the adults, as well as prodigiously powerful, but that doesn't justify the relationship to me. And of course, everyone's very much "they have to wait, we have to talk about this," etc, but it's still so damn creepy. SO damn creepy.
Much creepier than the villain of the story, Jack, a sociopathic vampire who mixes virgin blood with wine and is, like the villain of the previous book, related to good-guy vampire Williams. There were some early hints this might be a Jack-The-Ripper-is-a-vampire story, but that turned into a red herring, thank God. Sadly, because the book was so focused on the relationships, the Jack-plot was a little underwhelming. I found his connection to Williams to be a bit eye-rolling - how convenient that Williams has another crazy vampire brother - and would have liked more from him than just weird notes and some hammy dialogue. I did like how Pruitt weaved genuine New Orleans history into the plot, but after all the melodrama and theatrics of Shades of Grey, this book felt a little washed-out.