Private Demon by Lynn Viehl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. I am completely drawn into this series. I read the first book and thought it was excellent, and made a note to read the rest. But now I have to read them.
Very dark, gritty, modern, but with elements of the past deftly woven into the framework, this story stakes its claim on the vampire paranormal romance, giving us a different kind of vampire lore. Although some of the touches are familiar, there are elements in this series that are beautifully unique. The Darkyn are vampires, many of whom were Templars turned during the Crusades in the Holy Lands. I love how each Darkyn puts out his own floral scent. (It's the flower/plant-lover in me).
The men outnumber the women about 50 to 1, and lately, it has been nearly impossible to turn anyone into a vampire. Alexandra Keller, who we met in the first book is the rare exception, but maybe not the only one after all.
That is really just the background of this story. The best part of it was Thierry Durand and Jema Shaw. I loved their relationship. Both lost and lonely, and needing someone special. It's one of my favorite kinds of relationships in romance novels when two tortured characters find each other.
Thierry was betrayed in the worst way possible, by his wife. She had him and their son, and many of his people tortured, and turned them over to the Darkyn's enemies, The Brethren.
At the beginning of this book, Thierry is a fugitive from the Darkyn, who believe he is a loose cannon that probably needs to be eliminated. Thierry knows his time is limited before they find him and probably kill him. Having entrusted the well-being of his son to Michael Cyprien, a high-ranking leader in the Darkyn, he decides he's going to track down the men who tortured and burned a woman to get information about the Darkyn, and make them pay. One source of information is Jema Shaw, who turns out to be the young woman that he takes blood from one night. A connection forms between them then, sensual and emotional, but Thierry doubts he'll ever see the woman he calls 'little cat' again, feeling a deep sense of regret about that. Besides, his mind is on his mission, which is the one thread of purpose he has in his less than sane mind.
Thierry has the ability to enter a person's dreams and interact with that person via dreams.He decides he will do this to get the information he needed. He's surprised to find this woman is the same one he took blood from, but at the same time, pleased to see her again, although nothing can come of it. But in the process of coming to her nightly and entering her dreams, the more transfixed and connected to Jema he becomes. It's only a matter of time before he's in love with her.
Jema Shaw has lead a life that is a ticking timebomb. She was born with severe diabetes and has been told she probably won't live past thirty. Each day is a struggle to keep going and to serve a purpose, to eke out a meaningful life. Not to mention being under the stranglehold of a bitter, critical, wheelchair-bound mother.
She connects with her demon lover in her dreams, and it becomes the highlight of her existence. She lives each day to go to sleep and spend time with him until she starts hoping that her dream love is real.
I lived for the moments when Jema and Thierry connected in Jema's dreams. His devotion to her turned my knees into jelly. I wanted so much for poor Jema to have a true love, because she had such a lousy life, so badly restricted by her physical ailment. When their connection culminates in passionate, sensual encounters, your patience is well-rewarded by the slow buildup in heat between them.
This incredibly romantic story is the mortar in this book. However there are a lot of dark and gritty moments in this storyline. There is a subplot involving neo-Nazi skinheads and their hate crimes, that ties in very neatly with the Darkyn storyline. It was very well-done, and has a message about racial intolerance that hits home without being preachy.
John Keller, the disgraced priest and brother of Alexandra Keller, has a very substantial role in this book, and I felt my connection to him that formed in first book, grow even deeper. I am hoping and praying that this wonderful, but flawed man does get his happy ending.
This complex story also shows the continuing relationship between Alexandra and Michael Cyprien, who faces warring loyalties, struggling to follow his heart in his relationship with Alex, yet be loyal to the Darkyn. And then, there's Valentin Jaus, who is the local Darkyn overlord over Chicago. He's been in love with Jema for her whole life, and unable to say what he feels. His love for Jema is poignant, because I wanted Jema to be with Thierry, but I also wanted Valentin to get his happpy ending. I really liked the connection between Jema and Valentin which turns out to be very crucial for this story.
I loved this book from start to finish for its intensity. It was very well done in every way. There are welcome elements of humor that had me laughing out loud, a needed contrast to the darker elements in this story, as it delves into the lowest aspects of humanity, and also the tortured pasts of Thierry and some of the other Darkyn. As a reader who loves medieval historical romance (with an interest in medieval history), I was happy to see that these elements are strong in this story, because the Darkyn are really very much medieval warriors living in a modern world.
The climax of the book is violent but well-done. Lots of swords clashing and blood flying. Nothing gratuitious, but very fitting for this story.
Highly recommended, Private Demon has made me a steadfast reader of the Darkyn series.
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