Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flesh and Stone by Vickie Taylor

Connor Rihyad is a gargoyle, one of the offspring of a village in France who made a deal with a priest to become warriors for Christianity in exchange for driving out a dragon named Gargouille. The priest implied that he would drive out the dragon himself, only to get the villagers to change from Pagans to Christians. When he had their agreement, he brought together the beasts of the field and forest and infused the village men with parts of the animal's spirits so that they could kill the Dragon themselves.

He charged the men to multiply and to look out for humans, but after hundreds of years and the honor of having their images watching over cathedrals everywhere, the gargoyles fell out of favor, and although many of them still watch over humans, humans have long forgotten about them.

Connor has been sent to infiltrate a group of Gargoyles that have decided to lord it over humans instead of helping them. With human reaction to Gargoyles more frightened and freaking out rather than thankful or respectful, many Gargoyles have lost their lives helping humans. Even though they are simply reborn, the hurt feelings tend to linger, and this new group of Gargoyles have been kidnapping human women and impregnating them simply to add to their numbers and build an army.

Needless to say, the gargoyles who remain faithful to their mission view this as little better than enslavement, and Connor pretends to be fed up with the old way of doing things to join this new group. But they set him a test- to kill the leader of his old nest, Nathan Cross, and bring them the body. He does, and gains entry to their group, tossing his old leader's body into a frozen river.

That night, he meets Mara Kincaide at the group's residence. Mara has been a captive for a while, but she hates all the men holding her captive equally- she's even convinced the women to escape, while she stays behind to look for information on a friend of hers, Angela, who was also caught and enslaved. But Angela isn't with the women in the house, and she can't find any information on her in the office.

Earlier that night, Connor saved Mara from a beating at the hands of the other Gargoyles, and now he saves her again when she is caught snooping and the other women retrieved from where they fled. Connor drags Mara upstairs to his bedroom and pretends to rape her so that the other gargoyles will leave her in his hands. When he doesn't actually rape her, Mara begins to believe that he's a good guy, but she still doesn't really trust him.

He tells her part of his true mission, that he's there to find out what the men are up to, and he helps her by keeping the men from raping the women, making them pretend to be sick from sleeping in the basement. She finds him handsome and attractive, but she doesn't find out what he really is until she catches a glimpse of the men coming back in gargoyle form one night. Never having seen them before, she is convinced they are monsters. He takes her upstairs and tries to use his mental powers on her to persuade her they were just a herd of deer, but is unable to persuade her because of her strong will. He confesses the truth about what he and the others are, and even transforms to show her.

She's horrified at first, but slowly comes to see his form as wonderful. She caresses him, only to have him tell her to stop, because it's too easy to arouse him in his beast form. Shortly afterwards, they become lovers, first in a dream, and then in real life.

But the Wizenmot, or leader, of the Gargoyle groups of Minnesota calls the group Connor has joined to his home, Connor goes because he wants to find the women that the Minnesota groups have been kidnapping, and figure out what they are up to. But within the home of the Wizenmot lurks not only Angela and the other stolen women, but an age-old foe set to conquer the world at the head of an army of Gargoyles. Can Connor and Mara overcome this deadly foe, and survive to have some sort of relationship afterwards? Can Mara survive the taking of a male baby that the Gargoyle society requires?

I'd read the first Vickie Taylor Gargoyle romance, about Nathan and his love, Rachel, when it first came out almost 5 years ago. I hadn't known that it was going to be a series, nor that another book had been published, so coming across this one was a very nice surprise. I liked this book even better than the first- the characters are in danger from the moment that you meet them, and the danger causes them to grow attatched to each other even more quickly- from the first meeting to the time they become lovers is less than two weeks.

Part of the conflict of the book arises out of Connor's feelings. Connor doesn't agree with Nathan making Rachel part of the Chicago council, even though her powers are strong, arising from being the child of one of the first generation Gargoyles from Rouen. He doesn't think women should have that much power- Gargoyles are only males, so females should only be discarded after they are impregnated- a state of affairs he comes to question after falling for the brave and courageous (maybe even foolhardy) Mara.

Mara was foolish for what she tried to do. From her personal bravery, going into the same situation that swallowed her friend Angela, you'd think she was a policeman or firefighter- something that requires bravery and the ability to take care of oneself in the line of duty. But no, she's a social worker. Admittedly, that takes bravery as well, but going into a situation like that without backup was sheer folly. On the other hand, she always keeps on trying to escape, and never capitulates to her captors, which gains the reader's sympathy and admiration.

I found this to be an interesting a intriguing series, and well worth my money in buying this book. I also liked that this isn't a paranormal romance/urban fantasy about an overdone type of hero like a were, shape-shifter or vampire. Reading how Gargoyles came about is interesting, and the villain harkens back to that origin and those days. I can't wait to find the third book in the series and read it. Recommended.

1 comment:

Vickie Taylor said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed FLESH AND STONE. Connor and Mara will remain in my heart forever. Not only is it part of a series, but the 3d book, LEGACY OF STONE, was released in December.I hope you'll look for it. It is Levi's story, Rachel's long lost little brother. The 4th book, tentatively titled RUNESTONES, will be out late 2010 or early 2011.

Hope you enjoy them all!

Vickie Taylor