Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 333 pages
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review compliments of the public library
50 words or less: Ken Norton is disfigured from being tortured; Marigold Smith is a hostage in a mad scientist's breeding program to try to find the recipe for a supersoldier. They need each other way more than either wants to admit, but is a happily ever after even possible?
This was a story that I was eagerly anticipating after meeting Ken in the previous book, and for the most part it didn't disappoint. Drama, intrigue, horror, violence, and chaos are here in spades; through it all, a shy, sweet relationship manages to push its way through the dirt and take root.
The Ken Norton we met in the last book isn't the same one that we meet here. To the rest of the world, he's a carefree, protective, funny individual who doesn't let his horrible scars bother him or keep him from living. We find out here that that's a facade; the real Ken is uber protective, scared of turning into an abusive monster like his father, dominant, bossy, and scared that nobody except his twin is ever going to be able to care about him because he's so ugly. The physical wounds and side effects from his torture are small potatoes compared to the psychological ones, and Ken isn't over his ordeal by a long shot.
It seems like fate (or at least the super-evil Dr. Whitney) is playing a cruel joke, then, when Ken's fated lady turns out to be Marigold Smith, Briony's twin sister who was kept in a laboratory while Briony was adopted out to a family. Ken promised Briony that he'd bring her sister home safely, but nobody was prepared for the horrible, truly horrible conditions that exist in the breeding facility, where Dr. Whitney has apparently decided that it's not important for the women in the facility to consent to having babies, only that the men he's using feel attracted to them; rape is not only condoned but encouraged if the woman is unwilling. Let me be clear; the book is not supporting rape or saying rape is okay- it's used as an example of how, if there was any doubt remaining over whether or not Dr. Whitney was a good guy, that doubt should be gone now. Regardless, that theme is upsetting to some people so I'm giving fair warning and a Scandalous Books designation here. In terms of the story, it becomes immediately apparent that rescuing Mari from the breeding lab isn't enough; all of the women have to be brought to safety.
Ken and Mari have a lot of issues that they have to overcome together; Mari has a traumatic past from the labs and Ken has a lot of physical issues stemming from the torture he experienced- saying these two have issues with physical intimacy would be the understatement of the year, and they have to work together to come up with a solution that works for them. Therein lies the main lesson of this book- that what goes on in the bedroom between two consenting adults is, fundamentally, not any of anyone else's business. Ken especially has a lot of trouble coming to grips with this, and it's hard for him to admit that Mari might love him just the way he is and not secretly be fantasizing about someone less scarred, with less drama, or with a gentler touch.
This book is not for the faint of heart, but I do think it plays an important role in advancing the overall story, if for no other reason than to illustrate just what the Ghostwalkers are up against in their battle to defeat Peter Whitney. At this point, frankly, I don't know how they're going to do that; the author seems to have written a truly unstoppable bad guy. While Ken and Mari didn't get a full on happily ever after with all the bells and whistles, what they got was more fitting for their characters- a commitment from both of them to the relationship and a conscious effort to leave the past behind. I cried at the end, no joke.
Like I've said before, don't start this series in the middle! Start with the beginning and let it unfold from there.
Overall Grade: A-