Monday, April 26, 2010

Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Amanda Devereaux is tired of her family. Though she grew up in the French Quarter and loves them tremendously, she wants a quiet existence, and they drive away all the men she is interested. You see, most of her family are witches, and her twin, Tabitha, is a vampire hunter. They don't have to do anything weird to drive men away from her- all they have to do is be themselves.

Her family, of course, simply maintains that the men she is dating are all boring stick-in-the-muds, and she should try going for a man that's more exciting and a bit more accepting. This is cold comfort to Amanda, who just lost her boyfriend, Chase, and is mighty steamed over it. But when her sister, Tabitha, asks Amanda to go to her house and let her dog, Terminator, out, she agrees.

Unfortunately, that's not all that's in Tabitha's house that night, and Amanda, who is knocked out, wakes up to find herself handcuffed to a tall, ripped hunk that makes her have second thoughts about having said goodbye to her latest boyfriend. But in short order, this man reveals to her that he is a vampire, and that the people who kidnapped her were probably intending to go after Tabitha instead. However, because the handcuffs on them were made by Hephaestus, they can only be removed by him or another Greek God.

Desiderius, the man who has kidnapped them and handcuffed them together, tells them that he plans to hunt them, and with the two of them unable to be parted, and Tabitha hating vampires (because that's who Desiderius thinks Amanda is), he is sure the two of them will fall to bickering and it will be easy to capture them. But Amanda isn't her sister, and as she finds out more about the man she is chained to, Kyrian, she discovers that her sister's stories of Dark Hunters are real after all.

When they are released, it is daylight, and Kyrian must call a friend of his, Tate, to get them out of the construction area they are in and to the hospital, where they find out that he wasn't lying about the handcuffs. Amanda, on the other hand, knows someone who knows someone who might be able to get them off, and takes Kyrian to see her friend, Grace, and her husband, Julian, who she rescued from imprisonment in a book, where he had been imprisoned for two thousand years. Now, Aphrodite and her husband, Hephaestus are her children's grandparents and though they cannot be around Kyrian, Aphrodite frees them from the cuffs for Amanda's sake.

Amanda has already realized that Kyrian isn't the gruff, nasty warrior he pretends to be, and she's definitely attracted to him physically, but his attitude can still be sort of offputting. But Kyrian and Julian know each other well, and she and Grace listen in on their conversation on the baby monitor, allowing Amanda to learn more about Kyrian's past. She also sees how deeply he cares for Grace's daughter, and while he leaves her there to try and take care of some demon-hunting, she stays the night, and in the morning, finds that Kyrian has sent all of them presents- lovely, thoughtful presents. And she's spent the night mining Julian for all the information she can find out about Dark Hunters, Daimonites, Apollites, and Kyrian's life.

The next day, Kyrian finds he can't stop thinking about Amanda, so he picks her up after work and decides to drive her home, completely confounding Chase, her ex, who has been telling people at work that Amanda went into a funk after what happened at her family's home. But as he is driving her home, she discovers that someone has burned down her house. And not only hers, but Tabitha's too. Kyrian helps her find whether her sister is okay, and takes her into his home so that she will remain safe, where she meets his housekeeper, and his Squire, Nick Gaultier.

After she moves in with him, she gets plenty of more evidence of how loving his heart really is. Nick, he rescued from a bad situation, and he mothers his housekeeper like a mother hen. She shares a dream, more like a nightmare, with him about how his wife sold him out to his enemies, and the month of torture he underwent as his Roman enemy tried to find out where his army and men were. She wakes and runs to find him, and they become lovers. However, doing so wipes him of his Dark Hunter powers- just when he needs them most to fight Desiderius, who is even more powerful than the Dark Hunters themselves.

Worse, Desiderius can only be killed by a Dark-Hunter with a soul, but that's impossible because no Dark Hunters have souls. They are held by Artemis, and the only way to get them back is for a woman of a pure heart to fall in love with the Dark Hunter, drain his powers, stop his heart, and release his soul back into his body- at which point, he would merely be human again. But is this the reason that Kyrian has fallen for Amanda and she for him? Is she pure-hearted enough to free his soul and not betray him into shadehood? And can Amanda find it within herself to give the man she loves his soul back, even if it means killing him to do so?

This was the first Dark Hunter book, and in many ways, it's the best. An ancient man, a human woman who meet, fall in love, fight Daimons together, and end up happily ever after. No spirits, no female demons, no half-gods with little connection to humanity. This is the best part of the original stories. Yes, Kyrian has a sad backstory, but it hasn't yet been Flanderized to "hated by everyone, friend to nobody, smacked, spat on and urinated on by everyone" kind of stories we've been getting lately.

I appreciate that Sherrilyn Kenyon has to make her heroes Dark Hunters for a reason, and that most of them didn't exactly live wonderful lives, but after a certain point, it's like torture porn. And I like having one of the heroes/heroines be human- it grounds the story in reality and makes it easier to identify with the character. I understand being human. What do I know about being a half-god or goddess? It's one (or more) steps removed from reality and thus, less understandable to the reader. Grounding a story in human perceptions makes the story more thrilling, for me.

I enjoyed reading this "back to the beginning" story all the more because lately, all the characters have been getting more and more out there. I suppose it's because there have been so many, and otherwise the stories would get too samey. But on the other hand, perhaps Ms. Kenyon needs to take a break and rediscover what made her original stories so good and the newer ones so... well, blah. They're not really bad, it's just... not the same, and not as good. Highly recommended. Read it and see what made the great series great originally.

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