Reviewette: Wild Thing Anthology "Paradise" by Meljean Brook
Four extraordinary talents bring the most uncommon desires to life in a bold new anthology of romance on the edge.
Listen to the secrets of a beautiful animal whisperer who's drawn intimately closer to danger, and to the most suspect of all male animals-man...
Enter the forbidden and recklessly exciting world of the demon horde and their willing victims...
Get swept away by the passions that rise out of the unfathomable depths of the lost city of Atlantis...
Follow the dark shadows that stalk both the living and the undead in a world of restless vampires and guardian angels...
The Guardian Series Book Three
Before the Ascension, whereby thousands of Guardians went on to their respective places in Heaven - or Hell if damned - many Guardians watched over the vampire communities throughout the world, silently protecting those that abided by the Rules and destroying those who broke them. Vampires, unfortunately, withdrew the short end of the stick when it came to strength and power against nosferatu, Guardians and demons. It's for this very reason that Guardians, at least at one point, guarded them against their mutual enemies. But with only fifty Guardians remaining, resources are stretched dangerously tight and the vampires lost what they ultimately never knew they had.
Lucas Marsden, vampire and leader of the Ashland, Oregon vampire community, has been living for a month off animal blood and he's starting to feel its dire affects. Yet despite his "mad cow" symptoms he's determined to hold out in light of his consort's recent murder. For twenty years Lucas had been dutifully shackled to his best friend's wife. Unfortunately, when their beloved David died that long ago night of their transformation, Lucas had no other choice where Olivia was concerned. Now she's dead and guilt grips him over his inability at having once again been unable to protect her.
Lucas isn't necessarily a lost soul but rather an honor bound one. He's never been given the chance to attain what he wants from life, instead his dreams have been crushed by duty and circumstance. Selah, a Guardian and protector of mankind, is also bound by duty but she's only recently become disenchanted with a life that was once fulfilling. For over two centuries, being a Guardian was everything and Selah found great solace in that. But after the Ascension, Selah hasn't come to question her role but rather that she's taken a mocking stance in its defense.
Selah's interest in the Ashland vampire community stems from the fact that a Gate, a passage way from Earth to the Guardian's realm of Caelum, is being tampered with. A putrid smell that clings subtly to its edges can only be caused by the sacrifice of unwilling victims - those victims being vampires like Lucas' Olivia. While the Gates can only be created by human sacrifice, vampires were once human. Plus, the Rules prevent demons from outright killing humans but those same rules don't protect vampires. The only logical explanation is that the sacrifices are being made by a demon with the intent of anchoring the Gate to Hell rather than Caelum. With Lucas' help, Selah is determined to find and slay the demon responsible.
Unfortunately, Lucas isn't in any shape to confront a demon at the moment. Despite the fact that he's nosferatu-born and stronger then the normal vampire, he's still no match for a Guardian's strength, much less a demon's. Selah has already offered to feed Lucas but he adamantly refuses. His hunger has escalated to point of bloodlust which forces Lucas, if his host is willing, to have sex even if he doesn't desire it. The bloodlust only respects the free will of the host, not the vampire. Anyway, he's had enough of feeding within the chafing bounds of duty and finds Selah's offering vaguely insulting. It hasn't taken Lucas long to begin to crave Selah on a deep level. She makes him laugh and has brought much needed light to his dark existence despite their short acquaintance.
Selah, while not reluctant, is experiencing a more difficult time of deciding where and if Lucas fits within her life. With each passing moment, he's becoming more and more integral to her existence and whereas once being a Guardian was everything, now it no longer consumes her whole heart and soul - Lucas does. But they may never get the chance to have all of eternity discovering the meaning of each other for the demon has found Lucas and has every intention of making him its next unwilling sacrifice.
"Paradise" is a beautifully written novella. Brook effortlessly creates vast depth within her characters while also allowing first time readers to easily understand the world and its boundaries. Previously, not much has been explained about the vampires in Brook's world. We've learned at length about nosferatu, Guardians, demons and their respective agendas but vampires still haven't played an integral part in the overreaching plot arch's. I believe that Brook took this opportunity to reveal more about the vampire communities and how they would come into play for future novels.
The romance between Lucas and Selah is subtle yet sultry. They both discover a new facet of their life at the same time allowing each to sift through the miasma of their individual conflicts and decide to work together towards a similar goal. I liked how they both sought to break the bonds of duty yet simultaneously maintaining the integrity of their roles in Brook's world. The answer to their disenchantment was simple yet life altering proving that love not only creates miracles but can enrich the souls of even the most jaded of beings.
Lost? Unable to Read the Series in Order? Check out The Guardian Primer!
Question for Meljean: You've done an amazing job of describing the beauty of Caelum and the terrifying landscapes of Hell and Chaos. Do you have any idea, within the Guardian world, of what Above looks like? Will readers ever know or will that be a realm left purely to our imaginations?
Heaven is a realm that I think is best left to the imagination. I actually wish at times that I could do the same with the Pit -- not all of Hell, because I have too much fun with it, but the actual torture that souls undergo after they've died, because tortures left to a reader's imagination can probably be much, much worse than anything I can write. The same thing for Heaven: it's a much more powerful idea when it's a personal one, and I don't want to take that away from my reader or push MY idea of Heaven onto them.
And there's the question of the unknown. My characters generally accept that Heaven as a GOOD place, but no one really, really knows if it is, or if that is where they'll end up when they die or Ascend. So I like to keep that uncertainty alive for my characters, so that death is NEVER an easy out.
If I ever took my characters into Heaven, that would be different -- I'd be obligated as a writer to describe it. But since I don't intend to have any scenes in that realm, it's best left alone.