Desire Unchained by Larissa Ione
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One thing I really love is when a book exceeds my expectations. I didn't really expect to like this story nearly as much as I did. For one, reunited lovers is one of my least favorite themes. I hate the baggage of a broken relationship going into a romantic novel. Also, I wasn't too keen on Shade for his womanizing ways, and how females/women didn't seem to be that important to him. Just objects to be used and abused. This is a major pet peeve of mine.
I am happy to say that I was proven wrong about Shade. He was a very complex character that I grew to love fairly early into the book. He had depth that really appealed to me. At heart, he loved women, as it was part of his nature, from his mother's side and rearing. As a seminus or incubus demon, through his father's side, he was compelled by his nature to take any woman who wanted him, to satisfy her sexual needs, and his in the process. Although it probably sounds like a dream come true at face value, in my mind I can't help but think, what a horrible deal that must be. In some ways like a sex addiction. Probably worse because Shade will die without having sex. As his s'genesis, the last stage of sexual maturity comes, it will only get worse. And if he is not mated, he will become a demon who is crazed by his desire to mate any female he comes in contact with, willing or not. He will wreak havoc on females all around him.
In essence, Shade cannot say no to his nature or what women want from him. And some of those women/females wanted some very dark, awful things. Shade had a gift given to him by his Umber demon mother, the gift to see darkness in a person and to draw it out and heal that person. As a seminus demon, he utilizes this gift during sex. The nasty, ugly kind of torture sex that I certainly want no part of. The females come out of it healed by having their worst emotions and regrets taken way, giving them the ultimate orgasm that last forever, a pure conscience. Thankfully, Ms. Ione does not go into detail, but this fact about Shade's past does play into his future.
Shade does wrong Runa. But he cannot help doing it. It is his nature, but also his fears about the maluncoeur, or curse put on him as a younger demon. If he falls in love, he will suffer a shadow existence of thirst, loneliness, and unslaked sexual desire. As such, falling in love is not on his plate. So when he finds himself falling too deeply for Runa, he pushes her away. When she finds him with two females doing the deed, she breaks it off with him. Only to be attacked by a werewolf minutes later, and left for dead.
They meet again at the beginning of this book. And Runa is very different. Hard where she was once soft. Full of confidence where she was shy and retiring before. Although Wraith was attracted to her softness (as reminders of his mother and sisters who are of a race of demons who are gentle homemakers), he is even more attracted to her now. And it turns out that Runa has become a werewolf.
Their reunion is not under good circumstances, as they have been imprisoned by Ghouls, demons who harvest organs from other demons and sell them on the black market. Things only get worse, as Shade finds out that he has a very personal relationship with the leader, and the leader hates him and wants to kill him and his other two brothers.
Runa and Shade reconnect and have to deal with the ugliness of their pasts, and due the magical machinations of their enemy, they end up mated. For Shade, the timebomb starts ticking down, because he is unable to keep an emotional distance from the female he is mated to.
As the story continues, we see this couple, forced to spend time together due to their mating bond, realize they are soulmates. Both have hidden wounds that have affected their lives and how they relate to others. Runa has a guilt that she cannot rid herself of, and presses Wraith to use his talent to get rid of it. But Wraith hates that ability and would never do that to a woman who is so precious to him. I was really glad that this book doesn't have a lot of bondage/torture stuff going on. I am not a fan of BDSM, so I really don't want to see a lot of that, especially in a mainstream romance. I think Ione handled it very well, because I was afraid that it would go there. Fortunately, the way that the scenes with Shade dealing with his gift and Runa's need to have her darkness extracted were written showed a deft handling that didn't turn my stomach and ruin this book for me. It showed how much Shade loved her, and his determination to sacrifice himself for her out of love.
This is a complex, intense story. Ione's worldbuilding is incredible. I haven't read a book that creates such a multilayered world of demonarchy. These demons aren't the silly demons you can dismiss like some of the ones on Buffy. There is a whole spectrum, some that are good, some that are not so bad, and some that are really, really bad. And there's not only demons in this world, but faery, and other creatures. There's even fallen angels (I love stuff with angels). I appreciated the idea of the Underworld General Hospital that treats demonkind. It's the medical show-lover in me. This book is like Trauma Life in the ER meets Angel. And what a great combination.
I liked the information about the bond between a werewolf and her sire. It's a profound bond that has some pretty serious consequences. And Runa has to deal with some aspects of being a werewolf that make her very dangerous to others, and restrict and affect how she can live her life. Her werewolf nature can overcome her thoughts and conscious desires, and this comes into play as well.
We get to visit with Shade's brother Eidolon, who's now happily mated to Tayla, his other brother Wraith, who is clearly on the path to self-destruction and hanging by a thread, and see the developing relationship between Gemella (Tayla's half-sister and a doctor), and the human ex-Aegis leader, Kynan, who is still heartbroken from his wife's betrayal. I just loved seeing more about Kynan. In the last book, I didn't think I'd be that interested in him and Gemella, but this book has gotten me very interested indeed. Kynan is such a good guy (and you get some inkling as to why he is such a good person that I am sure will unfold further in the forthcoming books). Gemella is externally hardcore goth, but she has a soft heart and is deeply in love with Kynan, although she knows she doesn't have a chance at him, being a demon. Their relationship has some poignant parts that got to this softie.
This book was so enjoyable and involved me emotionally. It was clear from the beginning that Ms. Ione put a lot of thought and effort in this series, and this book really shows it and her talent as an author. That's what I look for in a read, so I was very happy to give it five stars.
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