Title: His Darkest Embrace
Author: Juliana Stone
Page Count: 264 pages (ebook format)
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review obtained via netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review
50 words or less: Battling enemies on all sides and a raging case of PTSD, Jagger Castille is a jaguar shapeshifter with a death wish. Lucky for him, Skye Knightly can match him in the baggage, strength and battle departments, and happens to need his help.
The very first thing you need to know about His Darkest Embrace is that I enjoyed it way, way more than I did its predecessor, His Darkest Hunger. Jagger has his problems and his trust issues and his danger and deception, but there wasn't the feeling of...disrespect...towards Skye that I felt between Jaxon and Libby in the first book. The story also really comes to life and takes on layers and facets that are unusual and unique (in a good way), and the ending, while not a happily ever after per se, felt authentic and fit the characters and their world.
Jagger made a hasty exit at the end of the last book and we join up with him before he learns how the situation in the last book was resolved. He and Skye run into each other, literally, and Jagger takes a serious interest in protecting Skye and keeping her safe, although he doesn't really understand why.
Skye is having none of that, though. Turns out she's the last of a race that's been charged with protecting a portal that could unleash serious ickiness on the world if it's opened, and she's desperate to keep the portal sealed and the disaster at bay. The sparks fly between her and Jagger and their attraction is unwelcome on both sides; it blossoms anyway.
We met Skye at the end of the last book, so the other characters remember her role in that story; Jagger doesn't though, and he feels all betrayed and horrified when he finds out. The Castille family has a remarkable ability to jump to irrational conclusions regardless of any facts or observations which may or may not be present. For a few pages I thought we were going to veer back into the less-than-enticing territory that occupied so much space in the first book, but thankfully, when Jagger is wrong, he admits it and does something different, instead of doing the same wrong thing over and over again, which is definitely refreshing.
Anyway, the story was tight, the romance was believable, the bad guys are creepy, and while there were still a few shaky parts the end result was quite enjoyable. Julian's story is next, and I'd like to remind him of Wheaton's First Law, which is sound advice for anyone:
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