Dr. Alexandra Keller is a renowned surgeon with the fastest hands of any known surgeon. She is kidnapped to New Orleans to operate on Michael Cyprien, a Darkyn (read: Vampire) who was tortured gruesomely by the Brethren, a secret sect of the Catholic Church whose sole purpose is to destroy the Darkyn. His injuries are to the point that he has no face. Yet his healing abilities are such that Alex can sculpt his face back to what it should be. Unfortunately, Dr. Keller is accidentally turned and, although human generally die if exposed to the rapture and thrall (author's terms for ... something), Alex survives. She comes to the attention of the Brethren, who is recruiting her brother, a Catholic priest, to their order.
As a fantasy, If Angels Burn works very well. It's multi-layered, damaged characters kept me intrigued and wanting more. The multiple storylines were fascinating, and I just waited for the story to unfold, to see what happened next. Viehl's writing style flowed well, although the constant use of specialized terms could be jarring at times (some aren't defined, others are). The bad guys were truly bad - resorting to hideously gruesome torture and rape on their victims. I felt like I was watching the Spanish Inquisition all over again, and indeed, Viehl's characters compare the torture to that.
As a romance.... Well. By the last 10 pages of the book, I was still looking for the romance. Alex, the heroine, spends a lot of time - most of the book - hating Michael and staying away. While this happens in romances, I got the sense that Alex really truly hated Michael. At one point, she refuses to come to New Orleans because, as she says, she swore she'd only return to kill him. There were a few misses in their sexual interludes, and, IMO, the culmination of the sexual tension was rather forced. I don't feel like Alex truly loved or wanted Michael, nor him her. She saw him as the cause of her problems, and he saw her as a possession, something he owned because he made her. Throwing out the words "I love you" in a moment of panic does not make the characters love each other.
OTOH, I did like the heroine, even if she appeared too violent for my tastes. She's intelligent, strong and independent - maybe too much. Not exactly a "soft" female. And definitely not a moron. She has her own mind, but she spent too much of the book being resentful and hateful. OTOH, if I had a hero like Michael Cyprien, who is domineering and controlling (because he can be), I'd be resentful, hateful, and I'd probably haul back and punch him a few times myself.
The book is described as erotic, but I didn't get much of that from this. Maybe if you're heavily into violent BDSM, it would work for you. A male character is raped while drugged, and also rapes in return. The heroine has to be tied down to have sex willingly, and a nurse is raped by another character. Oh yes, the heroine is also strangled and, from my point of view, mind-raped by the hero.
I'm torn about this book, truly. As Fantasy, it works for me. As Romance, it didn't. If the book had been marketed as Fantasy, it would have gotten 5 stars from me. I like it enough that I'll continue to read the series (and hope that I can find the romance in the next book!). But because I can't find a romance to save my life in this book, I'm giving it 3 stars