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Monday, November 11, 2013


Author:  Caris Roane
Series:  MEN IN CHAINS   
Plot Type:  Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)    
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality5; Humor2
Publisher and Titles:  St. Martin's
          Born in Chains (10/2013)
          Chains of Darkness (7/2014)
          Unchained (11/2014) (FINAL)
Savage Chains: This story is set in the MEN IN CHAINS world. In Spring 2014, it was initially launched as a trilogy of novellas: "Captured," "Scarred," and "Shattered." In March 2015, the three novellas were pulled together and published in a single novel entitled Savage Chains.   

This post was revised and updated on 4/22/15 to include a review of Savage Chains. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of all three MEN IN CHAINS novels.  

            Savage Chains             
     Early on, we get a hint that this novel takes place between Born in Chains and Unchained when the hero mentions that Daniel Briggs is a major slaver who is the most powerful vampire on the planet and that he currently heads the Council of Ancestors. Readers of MEN IN CHAINS (MIC) know that Daniel's status changes as MIC moves along. Other than Daniel, only two MIC characters are mentioned: Eve, who appears briefly in two scenes, and Rumy, who is discussed but never appears. 

     Rumy and Eve play major roles in the MIC novels. Rumy owns a sex club in Italy called The Erotic Passage, and is a good friend to the MIC heroes. Eve  (also a MIC friend) owns a sex club called The Ruby Cave and is a leading performer at The Passage.) Brogan Reyes, the hero of Savage Chains, knows both of them well and has entrusted them with his secret
that he plans to take down a huge sex-slave ring called the Starlin Group and its mysterious leader, Scorpion. Although Scorpion's true identity is not revealed until the end of the book, you'll be able to figure it out long before Reyes does. Unfortunately the two primary villains are one-dimensional psycho-monsters, so they are horrible, but not very interesting, characters.

    The plot centers on Reyes, a vampire warrior with latent Ancestral abilities, and Angelica, a super-gorgeous human woman kidnapped into sex slavery in one of Daniel's sex clubs. Here is a summary of the three parts of the story (from Roane's web site): 

     An undercover operative, Reyes is posing as a buyer to bring down an illegal sex-slavery ring operating out of vampire BDSM clubs. His mission—to infiltrate the inner circle and destroy them from the inside out—becomes infinitely more difficult when he recognizes the prize attraction at a slave auction: Angelica, the woman who stole his heart years ago. Against his better judgment, he buys her in order to save her from the club’s brutal customers. But now the woman who holds his heart despises him, believing he’s one of the human traffickers he’s out to destroy. But can he tell his beautiful captive the truth and risk everything? 

     Angelica has a choice: leave the vampire BDSM club where she was held captive and sold as a sex slave, or stay and help Reyes bring down the men who captured her.  But if she stays, she must help Reyes complete his undercover mission by posing as his sex slave…which brings her deeper into the perilous underground world of vampire sex clubs.  What she never expects is to get lost in the sensuality of the clubs…and lose herself in her role as Reyes’ captive. But there’s no disguising the brutality of the sex-slave community, and soon Angela begins to question whether Reyes is really who he says he is…and where she belongs.

     Faced with the scars of his brutal past, Reyes must find a way to complete his mission and defeat an old enemy while keeping Angelica safe. Bringing down the slavery ring is a personal quest for him–even if it requires intense brutality and bloodshed–something he hopes Angelica will understand and accept. But will his search for vengeance cost him the one woman he’s ever truly loved?    

     Basically, what we have here is a piece of erotic fiction with a sex-based plot that includes many, many graphic scenes of both consensual and non-consensual BDSM. Reyes has the same "split personality" as the heroes of the MIC novels, so you can expect some quirky three-way bedroom action. This novel definitely earns its "5" rating in sensuality.

     Although Roane gives us Reyes' tragic history in great detail, we never learn much about Angelica, except that she lives with her sick mother and that her sexual neediness goes into overdrive whenever she is near Reyeswhich is all the time because they both wear blood-chains during most of the story. The blood-chains bond them, so that they share emotions, powers, and strength. The speed at which Angelica accepts her new slave status (within an hour or so of being sold to Reyes) and the instant trust she places in Reyes are completely unbelievable. After all, she has every reason to believe that he is a sadistic slaver. Almost immediately, though, the two fall into insta-lust, constantly moaning about how wonderful and sexy and courageous the other is. Roane has the hero and the heroine use the word "stunned" very frequently, as each is always being "stunned" by the bravery, intelligence, and general bad-assness shown by other. But you're probably not reading this book for characterization, so the one-dimensional hero and heroine might not bother you at all. 

     This is a book for someone who wants to read scenes of hot and heavy foreplay, pleasure-pain sex, and tragic-tinged angst—all tied up with an HEA endingClick HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Savage Chains

     This is a typical (almost stereotypical) paranormal romance series with vampires as both the heroes and the villains, although a few humans occasionally pop up. All of the major villains are sex slavers who kidnap human women and sell them as sex slaves to sleazy vampire clients all over the world. 

     In this world, vampires have, for the most part, kept themselves hidden from humans over the centuries. They live in clans housed in elaborately carved and decorated caverns scattered in isolated locations around the world. The vamps are governed by a Council of the Ancestrals, which is just as corrupt and evil as such councils always seem to be in paranormal fiction.

     The heroes of the series are three brothers—Adrien, Lucian, and Marius—who have spent their lives as vampire law enforcers. Whenever rogue vamps attacked humans, the brothers would step in to punish the wrong-doers. The brothers are committed to keeping their world a secret from mortals because of their fears that the human world would turn on the vamps if they learned of their existence. 

     A year before the series begins, Daniel Briggs, the vampire who has taken control of the Council, imprisoned his three sons, hanging them by chains on the walls of a cave deep within the Himalayan Mountains where they are continually tortured by their bloodthirsty jailers. Daniel is a powerful, arrogant, cruel, greedy vampire who seeks ultimate power and wealth, even if he has to murder innocent humans, blackmail vulnerable women, and kidnap children to achieve his nightmarish dream. In other words, Daniel is a one-note bad guy with no redeeming qualities whatsoever (and that makes him rather uninteresting as a character). His evilness hangs over the story like a noxious fog, but his actual physical presence is predictable and clichéd.

     In this mythology, vampires have the usual traits: super strength, enhanced senses, and the need for blood, although they also require human food. They also have an ability that they call altered flight, which allows them to transport themselves through solid objects (like walls or mountains) and over long distances at great speed—just a few seconds to go from Italy to South Africa. At one point Adrien transports his lady love from Paris to Italy, and he tells her "We'll be moving through the Alps soon…Just wanted you to be prepared." (p. 151) Seconds later, she realizes that he was speaking literally—they are actually moving through the solid rock of the mountains, not over them as she had inferred from his warning words. 

     Each book tells the HEA story of one brother, beginning with Adrien in Born in Chains. The second book tells Lucian's story. Beginning in book 1, each couple will be searching the world for a magical artifact.

             NOVEL 1:  Born in Chains             

     As is the case with the first book in any series, this one includes a fair number of world-building details, but this is not a complicated mythology so the exposition is not overwhelming. In the opening scene, we meet the three brothers and get a graphic view of their horrific, pain-filled existence. The prisoners don't have any hope that their ordeal will end until one day a young human woman shows up to take Adrien away.

     Lily Haven is being blackmailed by Harris Kiernan, a human colleague of Daniel's, to locate an artifact called the extinction weapon. This weapon is part of a research program long abandoned by the Council of Ancestrals, and it has the power to exterminate the vampire race. Two years ago, Lily's family was murdered by rogue vampires, but the body of her son, Josh, was never found. Kiernan claims to have her son—alive and well—but he will kill Josh if Lily doesn't find the weapon for him. Lily apparently has some type of supernatural tracking ability (this point isn't made entirely clear), and in order to amplify that power, Kiernan forces Lily to bind herself to Adrien, who is an extremely powerful vampire. Believing that she has no other options, Lily agrees. To prevent their search from going smoothly, the author throws in a gang of fanatics who keep trying to capture/kill Adrien and Lily. This allows for a series of repetitive battle scenes in which Adrien fights off hordes of fanatics all by himself and always comes out on top. The fanatics are led by Silas, another one-note villain. Adrien does have one unique ability that helps him out during battle scenes: he can split himself into two physical bodies, each with the same powerful warrior abilities. He uses this ability in one non-battle scene, but I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil the story for you.

     The story, which takes place over a three-day period, follows Lily and Adrien as they search for the extinction weapon and fall in lust, then love, almost immediately. This insta-lust/love is always a turn-off for me. Lily despises vampires because of what they did to her family, but as soon as she meets Adrien, she is so physically attracted to him that her hatred melts away in the heat of her passion. Within hours, they have acted on that attraction, and there are many graphic love scenes throughout the book. Two scenes—one involving BDSM and the other featuring a quirky threesome—push this book to a level 5 in sensuality.

     The author adopts a melodramatic story-telling style that includes an overload of angst-filled interior monologues and histrionic declarations of love and devotion between these two people who have known each other for less than a week. Their first bedroom scene is even set during a storm, allowing for numerous thunder-rolling/lightning-flashing references as the lovers reach their climactic peaks. 

     Based on this book, I'd have to say that this series is an average quality paranormal romance series with little that is inventive or fresh, but much that is predictable. The characters of Adrien and Lily have minimal depth, and their quick hook-up is implausible. Adrien is the typical strong, dark, handsome, brave warrior, and Lily is the typical vulnerable-but-somewhat-feisty woman who falls for her sexy sworn enemy as soon as she meets him. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Born in Chains (scroll way down the page to find it). 

             NOVEL 2:  Chains of Darkness             

     As the story opens, Claire Turner rescues Lucian, the second of Daniel Briggs' sons, from his horrific imprisonment at the hands of his vicious father. For a year, Lucian has been chained to a wall deep in a vast system of caves. Claire rescues Lucian by throwing a magical disguise over them both and giving him a blood-chain that bonds them and allows him to regain enough strength to break the chains that bind him. Once they escape, they head to the sex club in Italy that serves as their unofficial headquarters.

     The plot of this novel is pretty much the same as in the previous book. First, the heroine, who has a specific magical talent, rescues the hero. Then, they bond by wearing matching blood chains. Then, the hero accepts his Ancestral abilities, and they both wear the Ancestral chains, thus strengthening their powers. Finally, they search for an ancient artifactthe extinction machine (of which there appear to be threeone for each brother to find and destroy). Of course, the lustful chemistry between the hero and heroine bursts into flame as soon as they set eyes on one another for the first time, and they move swiftly from lustful thoughts to promises of eternal love in about 48 hours. 

     Lucian has the same "splitting" ability as his brother, Adrien. He can divide himself into two separate entitieshis primary self and his secondary selfto double his battle powers (and his bedroom powers). In the first novel, the heroine had enhanced tracking abilities. In this novel, the heroine has the ability to see through even the most complex glamours/disguises and to create her own disguises as well.

     Claire doesn't have the usual tragic back story. She was a social worker in New Mexico when Daniel captured her two years ago and turned her into a nanny for Josh, the son of the first novel's heroine. Lucian, though, has had a very tough life. He and his brothers were constantly tortured by Daniel when they were children. Then when Daniel achieved enough power through his position on the Ancestral Council, he viewed his sons as threats and had all three chained in his cave fortress. Even though Lucian has spent his entire life doing good works, he believes that he harbors a dark side that will eventually overcome himjust like Daniel. Daniel constantly plays upon Lucian's fears, taunting Lucian and predicting that Lucian will inevitably join his evil forces because he is drawn to the darkness rather than to the light. Lucian's friends keep telling how good he is, but he refuses to believe them. 

     The conflict in the romance plot is rather simple. Claire is homesick for her family and thinks that she wants to go back to New Mexico after this whole adventure is over (although the reader is certain from the beginning that is never going to happen). Lucian falls deeply in love with Claire but believes it is better for her to leave him before he turns to the dark side. (Also never going to happen.) In the action plot, the lovers search for the extinction weapon and battle their way through two minor dust-ups and one major showdown with Daniel before their task is completed.

     This is a by-the-numbers paranormal romance with an ultra-fast lust-to-love progression that includes lots of graphic X-rated bedroom scenes featuring a dominant, über-alpha hero and a feisty, but submissive, heroine. One lengthy BDSM scene finds Claire chained to a bondage table while both of Lucian's entities have their way with her—a threesome involving just two people, kinda kinky. 

     The time frame of this series is extremely compressed. Only about a week passes from the beginning of book 1 to the end of book 2, and in that brief period, two different couples meet, fall in lust, and commit to eternal devotion; and two extinction machines are discovered and destroyed. If you are looking for a standard paranormal romance with lots of hard-core eroticism, this one's for you. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Chains of Darkness.  

             NOVEL 3:  Unchained             

     The final novel stars Marius, the youngest of the three vampire sons of the evil Daniel Briggs. Marius' partnerand eventual mateis Shayna Prentiss, a human anthropology graduate student from Seattle. The story line is similar to that of the first two books: Marius and Shayna attempt to find the third extinction weapon, battling Daniel and his troops and falling in love with one another along the way. On their sexual journey, they engage in many graphically described bedroom scenes, including one that features bondage.

     This is the least successful of the novels, mostly because it makes no sense that Marius takes on Daniel's well-trained forces on his own, never contacting his brothers (or anyone else) for combat support until the very last battle. Throughout most of the book, Marius asks for help only when he needs someone to clean up the dead bodies he leaves in his wake and when he needs healers to take care of his battle injuries.

     The love story moves along a relatively smooth path, except that both Marius and Shayna are troubled by feelings of guilt and shame. In Shayna's case, one year ago she ended a 6-month-long affair with a professor who constantly berated her, and she still has flashbacks that affect her judgment and her emotional well-being. It is hard for me to believe that an adult woman could develop such deep emotional distress from some harsh words and one or two disturbing bondage experiences (no pain or torture) at the hands of her weird ex-boyfriendanguish so severe that the only way she can break free is to recreate the bondage experience with Marius (which turns out to be the author's sole point in giving her this background story). Marius' guilt is of a different kind, and it is extremely difficult to believe that he has punished himself for centuries over something that happened when he was a child. 

     The story includes brief but violent battle scenes, lots of erotic sex, and an overload of sappy, clichéd dialogue in which the two lovers praise each other over and over again for being so beautiful/handsome, loving, generous, supportive, courageous, etc., etc., etc. Their conversations are so vapid and so full of platitudes that they triggered dismaying flashbacks to the oh-so-banal  dialogue in the Twilight books. The lead characters and the villain are all one-dimensional stereotypes, which means that they are mostly uninteresting and extremely predictable.

     If you have been reading the series and want to see what happens during the final showdown, you can skip the bulk of the book and read the last few chapters, which is where the ongoing conflict between Daniel and his sons comes to its final resolution. The rest of the book is just an alternating series of nearly identical lust scenes alternating with look-alike battle scenes. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Born in Chains (scroll way down the page—past the photographs—to find it). 

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