Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—3-4; Sensuality—4+; Humor—2-3
Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series.
This is a revised version of the very first entry in the IMMORTALS AFTER DARK SERIES that was first published back in 2006. In honor of the tenth anniversary of the series, Cole includes some extras: an explanation of the origin of the Valkyries as portrayed in this series; several pages of FAQs; a panorama showing the evolution of the cover art for A Hunger Like No Other; and a lengthy text dialogue among the three authors of this anthology. As usual, at the beginning of the novella, she includes excerpts from The Living Book of Lore that include pertinent information about the Lore, the Valkyries, the Vampires, the Horde, the Forbearers, and the Accession.
This is a steamy interspecies love story starring the Valkyrie Myst (aka the Coveted One) and the Forbearer Nikolai Wroth. The story opens with a flashback to five years ago: Myst is imprisoned in the dungeon of Ivo the Cruel. While she is waiting for her sister Valkyries to rescue her, the castle is attacked and overrun by the forces of Kristoff, the rightful Horde king. (Be sure to read the introductory glossary, which explains the Horde, the Forbears, and the Fallen.) Each adult male vampire spends his undead existence in search of his Bride, who will make his heart beat again in a process called blooding (very similar to what happens in Christine Feehan's CARPATHIAN series when her ancient, lonely heroes meet their soulmates).
Nikolai rescues Myst from her cell, but promises to torture her if she doesn't give him information about various factions of the Lore. In retaliation, Myst begins her blooding with Nikolai but doesn't allow him to complete the process (if you know what I mean!). Instead, she escapes with her sisters, leaving Nikolai in a permanent, painful state of tumescence—desperate, all-consuming sexual desire that can never be fulfilled until he can track down Myst and consummate their bonding. As a bonus punishment, Myst allows Nikolai to drink a few drops of her blood, which floods him with her memories—including those of her centuries of sexual escapades—thus making him insanely jealous.
Fast-forward five years: Myst is back in New Orleans at the Valkyries' mansion, but so is Nikolai. He has finally tracked her down, and, as you can well imagine, he's in a very bad mood. With his tracing (aka teleporting) abilities, he soon captures her and manages to magically force her to follow his every order. Naturally, most of those orders are sex-related, so get ready for pages and pages and pages of erotic sex scenes. The remainder of the story follows the two on the bumpy road to their HEA, with many arguments, misunderstandings, and reconciliations that add twists and turns to the plot. This is a nice flashback to the early days of the fascinating mythology on which Cole has built this terrific series. Nikolai is definitely one of Cole's more dominant males, but you can hardly blame him after his Bride consigns him to five long years spent in a constant state of arousal.
2. Larissa Ione: "Forsaken by Night"
Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in the MOONBOUND CLAN VAMPIRES series. Note: This is my favorite of the three novellas. Both Lobo and his true love are terrific characters, with suitably tragic back-stories and plenty of charisma.
Lobo is both a born vampire and a skinwalker. He was raised within the MoonBound Clan after its warriors murdered his parents for being skinwalkers. In this mythology, skinwalkers are feared and are usually killed on sight. Lobo spent his childhood years being treated (literally) like a dog: chained up on a pile of dirt, eating kitchen scraps and garbage, and being whipped and kicked by clan members. After Hunter took over the Clan, Lobo's living conditions improved slightly, but when he took the form of another vampire in order to ferret out a spy, Hunter refused to hear Lobo's side of the story and banished him from the Clan.
For years, Lobo has been living in an isolated cabin on the edge of the Clan's lands with only the company of a female wolf to keep him sane. Lobo found the wolf near death in the forest and nursed her back to health, naming her Tehya, which means "precious." By this time, they have become inseparable, and sometimes when he looks at her he sees a semi-transparent human figure—a gorgeous woman—transposed over Tehya's wolfy form. Soon, Lobo learns that Tehya is much more than a plain old wolf. You can probably guess what's coming, so I won't spoil it for you.
In any case, the story follows Lobo's romance, which includes no problems between him and his mate. All of the chaos and confusion are caused by Hunter and his followers, who believe that Lobo is a traitor to be feared and that Tehya is just as bad. Needless to say, the situation works itself out when Lobo and Tehya save the Clan by putting themselves in harm's way.
As always, Ione provides meaty back-stories for her main characters, although they are similarly grim and Dickensian (in a paranormal sort of way). In this series, most of the heroes and heroines must suffer greatly in their early years in order to be rewarded with true love if they can manage to stay alive long enough to reach adulthood.
The plot is ingenious, just complex enough to be interesting. It's a terrific story that can be read as a standalone, although having the background from the earlier books would enrich your enjoyment. The romance has plenty of steamy love scenes as the lovers discover that they really enjoy the fact that they are fated to be together forever.
As a person who has not read the novels in this series, I felt slightly lost in the mythology of this world. I did manage to make sense of the novella's plot, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the earlier books.
Having said that, here is a brief summary of the plot: A set of female triplets have been created and raised in a laboratory of the Institute of Otherworld Technology (IOT): Lilica, Trinity, and Jade Swan. When the lab is destroyed, the scientists flee and the girls—now young women—are left alone to fend for themselves in a world that is totally unfamiliar to them. Unfortunately for Trinity, the scientists caused her to become infected with a succubus-type illness, a parasitic disease called Schön. A Schön host like Trinity addicts men to her taste. "Those men would then find themselves infected with the Schön disease, faced with a gruesome choice: have sex with others to spread the disease, keeping it from feeding on their own bodies, or rot from the inside out, ultimately succumbing to the desire to eat human flesh." So...yes, Trinity is running around the country spreading Schön and creating sex-zombies. Naturally, she has to be stopped.
The three sisters were created from the DNA of 23 humans and aliens, with each one winding up with a slightly different mix of abilities and each one different in appearance from the others. Frankly, it's difficult to keep all of their abilities straight, particularly since sometimes at least one of them can absorb and use the superhuman abilities of people she touches.
The story follows a convoluted path as Dallas and Lilica stumble their way through a series of erotic sex scenes even though he continues to control her through drug injections right up until the end of the book. Both have had terrible childhoods that they unwillingly share through a transference of memories. Things get very emotional towards the end when it seems that there may be no way to save Trinity, but much of the drama and emotion were lost on me because of the complexity of the plot, specifically the fact that these girls seemed to be able to pull out and use one power after another even though they had no idea that they had these new powers, and they had no training in using them. Sometimes it seemed that Showalter was using the girls' newly discovered powers as deux ex machina just to solve her plot problems. By the end, I was just happy that it was over.
Again, let me repeat that my problems with this story probably stem from the fact that I am unfamiliar with this world. If you have been reading the series, you will probably have a better reaction than I did.