Dark Hunger by Sara Reinke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am sitting here trying to deal with the fact that this book ends on a cliffhanger from deepest pit of Hades. Why??? I cry in agony! And why would the publisher end Sara Reinke's contract and leave the third book unpublished? It's evil!
Dark Hunger picks up after Dark Thirst ends. This book is about Brandon's (the hero from Dark Thirst) sister, Tessa. Tessa has ran away from her husband, pregnant with her husband's baby. She wants a better life for her baby than she knows it will have with a mother who is the sixth, and lowest wife of a cruel man, living in a house ran by his evil first wife. Brandon, his love Lina, Lina's ex-partner Rene, and Tessa go on the road to find their way to California, and to escape the Elders, the killing machines that the Brethren send after rogue vampires. Tessa and Rene aren't exactly friends when their trip starts. In fact, they flagrantly dislike each other. Rene sees spoiled princess when he looks at Tessa, and Tessa sees lazy playboy when she looks at Rene. Not exactly what you would expect to turn into a love match. But it does.
This might be a romance, but it's also very dark and gritty. In fact, Reinke's vampires are probably the darkest I've seen yet in vampire romance. They are monsters in human form. I thought I would hate Tessa for the rest of the book after she rips a poor, helpless vagrant man's throat out to feed on his blood. At the time, her bloodlust got the best of her. The Brethen think of humans as lower than cattle. They feel that humans are only useful to do the menial tasks on their Kentucky farm, and for feeding on in their horrible acts of Bloodlust. So in all fairness, Tessa doesn't really know any better. Although I was horrified at first, it didn't take long to begin to see Tessa as a sympathetic character. As for Rene, well I liked him from the first time we met in Dark Thirst. He is a good person. He has done some less than admirable things, and he commits an act in this book that really made me unhappy with him, but he does it for the reasons he believes are right. Sigh.
I loved Rene's tenderness towards Tessa. He's a real gentlemen, even though Tessa has a hard facade that would make her a very annoying person to travel with. Thankfully, he soon comes to realize that Tessa hides her fear and vulnerability behind that facade. As Brandon learned to withdraw into himself to escape from the cruelty of the Brethren, Tessa forms a hard shell around herself for her own survival. Rene breaks through that shell to the sweet girl inside, causing her to fall in love with him. He does this by showing her tender concern (even taking a bullet to protect her) when all she's gotten from people around her was cruelty for years. I really loved their tender moments together, how they seemed to connect physically and emotionally. They were two lost souls who found each other. I guess the fact that Tessa is married when she and Rene get together should bother me. It didn't. Probably because the frame of reference is so different from real life, it's hard to put my moral beliefs into this story. Also Tessa's husband is a low-life creep who treated her like dirt, and he's got five other wives, as well. Still, I feel it fair to post this warning for any reader who doesn't like adultery in her/his romance books. To be honest, there so much other dark stuff going on, you really don't have the time or energy to fixate on that aspect.
I liked seeing Brandon and Tessa reconnect. They are twins who were very close growing up, but grew apart when Tessa was married to Martin Davenant, part of a family who hates and resists the dominant Noble house. The schism that forms between them is due to the heavy emotional burdens that they both carry and try to hide from each other. I was glad that they were able to rekindle their familial connection and closeness in this story.
Dark Hunger is one of those books that simply sucks you in, and you don't want to put it down. The characters are very real and you feel for them. Rene is a man who is tortured by his past and what he lost. He dearly wants to have a future full of hope, and sees that Tessa and her baby could be his future. Tessa feels a longing to love and be loved by a good man like Rene, and to make a home for her beloved baby. How could you not feel for them? Of course, Brandon is as adorable and as sweet as ever. I just want to hug him. I despised Brandon and Tessa's whole family, and most of the Brethen. I think they are soulless monsters, for the most part, even though Reinke's concept of vampires is more realistic than most. You wonder how they could breed such a gentle, loving person like Brandon. Tessa has some of the darker traits of the Brethren, but her love for her unborn child, her devotion to Brandon, and her desire for Rene to think well of her endows her with a humanity that most of the other Brethren lack. As before, I felt like Lina's character doesn't really come to life as well as Rene, Brandon, and Tessa, but I do like her, and I am happy to see that she and Brandon are still together and in love.
I would say this was a really great follow up to Dark Thirst. I fell head over heels for Rene, finding him a hero that stands out in my mind, for and despite his flaws and his good heart. Tessa was a heroine you could grow to like as you realized she did have a good heart, but had to get away from the Brethren to become the woman she was meant to be. But even before that, she had a strength and a fortitude that was admirable when considering the circumstances she faced. I think this book is a very good dark urban fantasy, emphasis on dark. There are some fairly gritty moments and some brutal scenes of violence, but any vampire fan could more than handle the violence, in my opinion. As I said, these vampires are really nasty. It's hard to feel much sympathy for them (other than Brandon, Tessa, and Rene, a half-vampire).
I am pretty upset that this book ended the way it did. It wouldn't bother me if the publishers hadn't pulled the third installment. Just evil! I hope that I can get an electronic copy of the third book, because I have to know how things end from this point. Update: Ms. Reinke contacted me to let me know that this book is available in electronic and print form from Double Dragon Publishing. The link should be in blurb description for this book on Goodreads. I know I'll picking Dark Passion up next to see where Ms. Reinke takes this fascinating series.
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