This book seems to be about trying to understand the psyche of a creature that is not human, in this case a dragon. It has some appeal, although that may mostly be because I like dragons so much. The general conception of dragons seems to be self-consistent and make a certain kind of sense, and part of the point seems to be that the dragons have to be what they are. But there is so much that's unbelievable about the main characters, in the contradictions in how the dragon treats humans as both fellow people and as food, but mainly in how a creature that's so crafty and clever that he's managed to remain unknown to humans in the modern world, and yet can be so blindly stupid to further the plot, really pulls me out of the story. Plus, the plot seems to be a bunch of arbitrary things that just happen so the author can show the characters in them, rather than a story that works.
It's not a complete failure; if it were, I wouldn't actually care about the characters enough to be annoyed. It's disappointing precisely because the seeds of something much better are there. But I think you have to really want to like dragons (who by their nature do horrible things) to even make it through the book. 5 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- SPOILERS ****
Peter DelaSangre is a dragon. Dragons are shapeshifters; they can take on a human form which they mold to their preferences, or be a 25 foot long flying lizard. Peter's father Henri set up shop on an island just off Miami in the 1500s; he was a Caribbean pirate in the classical pirate era, which makes him very old. Dragons eat only meat, generally raw, and prefer humans but apparently can eat other things. Peter goes to a high class steakhouse (he's very rich) and charms his waitress, Maria, who gives him her phone number. A few weeks later, Peter picks up Maria and takes her home. He was originally planning to eat her, but after having sex with her, decides that he really likes her so he's not going to kill her. Then he smells something on the breeze, goes bonkers, and eats her anyway. But he feels guilty about it. It seems he's caught the scent of a female dragon in heat. His father tells him a little bit about it, and then, knowing that his son has found a mate (though he hasn't actually found her yet), decides he's lived a few decades too long already and gives up. Peter makes plans to head into the Caribbean to track her down in her next heat. Peter's enforcer Arturo tells him that his lawyer Jeremy is cheating on him, through his son's company who has stolen from him. Peter orders a hit. Just before he leaves, Maria's brother Jorge starts trying to reach him, but Peter just leaves. He tracks the scent down in an area called the Cockpit Country in Jamaica. (I don't know if this is made up or real, but it's a neat description of an area so geologically unstable that dragons can live there unmolested.) Just as he meets the girl, another male dragon shows up; Peter wins the fight, and he and Elizabeth the female eat the rival and mate. Then he meets the family, which is awkward because Peter's mother died when Peter was a baby, and Henri never taught Peter anything about dragon society. But he ends up taking Elizabeth back to Blood Key. When he gets there, first he is shot by an unknown assassin (it would have killed a human but dragons with their shapeshifting ability are very hard to kill), and Jorge starts being a real pain. Peter doesn't believe that Jorge is behind the assassination and seems to relish having an actual rival, so despite Elizabeth's repeated entreaties to just off Jorge, he allows him to live. Eventually he captures Jorge and girlfriend and makes them slaves. Elizabeth means to have them as food for their son when he's born. Peter feels guilty about it because he's come to like Jorge, but not so much that he doesn't keep him shackled as a slave. Jorge eventually tricks him into drinking Dragon's Tear Wine while in human form. Then Jorge shoots Elizabeth and the goons (from a Chinese general who was upset that his son was collateral damage when the lawyer's son was taken out) show up. They kill Elizabeth, but Peter manages to shake off the wine and kill them. Elizabeth is really dead, but their son was just old enough to be viable. At the end of the book, Peter is planning to move down to Jamaica and take Elizabeth's sister, who is really much better suited to his personality, as soon as she comes into season. There's a biological imperative involved; dragon females have no choice but to be totally bonded to the male that first mates with them.