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REVIEW: Desire Unchained by Larissa Ione

Dear Ms. Ione,

044640098x01lzzzzzzzI read the first novel in your Demonica paranormal romance series last year but found it didn’t work for me.   Most of that has to do with my on-again, off-again malaise with the urban fantasy genre and the fact that its heroine had several traits that reminded me too much of the urban fantasy leads I’ve developed an aversion to over the years.   But I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the series because I do like the idea of a demon hospital as a setting.   Lucky for me, the hero and heroine of Desire Unchained had a different dynamic that worked much better for me.

Shade is one of three incubus brothers and works as a paramedic for the series’s titular demon hospital.   When Desire Unchained opens, he awakes to find himself handcuffed to a woman.   Under other circumstances, he wouldn’t object to this but there are two problems.   First, he’s imprisoned in a cell by the people responsible for harvesting the organs of demons.   And secondly, he’s handcuffed to his ex-lover, Runa.

Runa was once a quiet, shy woman — that is, until Shade broke her heart.   Unfortunately, the night she fled his apartment after catching him in flagrante delicto (with two other women, no less), she runs across an angry werewolf and is mauled within an inch of her life.   She survives but not without some lasting side effects, like changing into a wolf three days every month.   The military saved her, however, and because of that, she agrees to infiltrate the demon hospital to find a missing operative.   And if it should happen to bring her face to face with the man who broke her heart so she can make him pay, so much the better.   But she never expected to be kidnapped by someone from the incubus brothers’ past who wants revenge.

It’s amazing what a difference hero-heroine dynamics makes.   I’m one of those readers who’s left cold by the enemies to lovers trope, but give me former lovers turned enemies who reunite and must overcome their differences to conquer a problem and I’m there.   What I liked about Shade and Runa’s relationship was that they’re not quite the same people they were when they broke up a year ago.   Shade is sort of a manslutty asshole but he acknowledges that it could have been something more with Runa and that scared him, thus encouraging him to scare her off.   And Runa’s year spent as a werewolf, going on missions for the military, has done her good, giving her the spine and confidence she needs not to be railroaded by Shade.

Another thing I liked was the way Shade and Runa had to work past their trust issues.   Runa has definite reasons for not wanting to trust Shade: she loved him and she walked in on him cheating on her.   She doesn’t want to put him in a position to hurt her like that again.   Understandable since not only did he hurt her emotionally, that very same night she was turned into a werewolf.   One did not cause the other but the two incidents are linked in her mind and with them both being so negative, I can’t say I blame her.

Shade’s trust issues are of a different sort.   He and his brothers come from a species of incubi that goes through maturation cycles.   When they complete their final maturation cycle, they become demons whose sole purpose in life is to impregnate women, whether those women acquiesce or not.   Because of this single-minded focus to breed, their kind often goes mad in this stage.   The only way to avoid this fate is by mating with a female.   The downside of this?   They’d be mated to the same woman for the rest of their life, which is a deterrent for a species whose biological impetus is to impregnate as many different women as possible.   Due to various circumstances, Shade mates with Runa but it’s an incomplete mating.   He’s bound to her, but she’s not bound to him and because of this, he must trust that she won’t leave him, an action that will cause him to die.

The irony is that the one way he could convince her to stay — by falling in love with her — is the same way in which he’d end up destroying himself.   Because of Shade’s philandering ways, he was cursed in the past and the curse activates when he falls in love.   So he’s in a catch-22 — he can’t risk falling in love with Runa but he also can’t risk not falling in love with her either.

I was glad to see the mystery of the organ harvesting ring revealed as well as the motivations behind it.   On the other hand, I wish we could have seen more into the relationship between the perpetrator and the woman he was supposedly doing it all for.   From what I read into it, I admit feeling a little sorry for him despite his role as the crazy, evil antagonist because let’s be honest.   She didn’t seem too impressed by him and I fail to see how all the organ harvesting in the world was going to change that.   So based on what little we did get of them, I would have liked a little more to get a handle on what could have inspired him to go to such lengths for her.

The one aspect that didn’t sit as well with me was the idea of Shade using BDSM as a form of therapy for the women he’s slept with.   In some ways, his ability to see the darkness in people and bring release through BDSM reminds me of   Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel fantasy novels.   But because that darkness is linked to illness and wrongness here, I can’t help but find yet another depiction of BDSM as something people only use and do when they’re unwell.   This is only driven home by the fact that Shade hates what he does.   It just seemed unnecessary.

Oh, and I’d just like to say that I hope Kynan and Gem get their own book someday or I’ll be sorely disappointed.   But for now, I look forward to the next one and hope the story I’m waiting for will come eventually.   B

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers. (Pleasure Unbound is available for $1.00).

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

16 Comments

  1. Janine
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 18:17:19

    I too love the “former lovers turned enemies turned back to lovers” trope. Do you think this book can be read on its own or is it important to read Pleasure Unbound first?

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  2. Jia
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 18:30:21

    I think it stands pretty well on its own. The first book went into more detail about the maturation cycles of this particular species of incubus but I don’t think they’re details that are necessary to understanding this one. The subplot about Kynan and Gem might not make much sense but theirs is the story that arcs over multiple books. I will warn that reading this one first will spoil you for major plot points in Pleasure Unbound.

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  3. Christine M.
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 20:16:33

    Thanks for the review, this looks like a v. interesting series which I’ll undoubtedly add to my TBR box.

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  4. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 05:33:27

    Don’t forget you can get Pleasure Unbound for a dollar during March: http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/02/28/pleasure-unbound-100-from-warner-forever/

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  5. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 05:34:18

    Doh. Which is mentioned at the end of the review. Will go drink more coffee now.

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  6. Jia
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 06:50:18

    No worries, Shannon. I’m personally having one of those days too.

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  7. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 08:26:06

    I find myself stuck on the idea that someone would date an incubus and then be surprised/hurt/upset when said creature cheated on her. What part of HE’S AN INCUBUS was unclear? We’re back to the scorpion and the frog here. Did she not know what he was?

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  8. Joan/SarahF
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 08:49:48

    I’ll just skip it, then. Sigh. Great review, as always.

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  9. Darlynne
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 09:17:09

    I liked Pleasure Unbound very much, particularly that the characters and setting brought something new to UF, and this book is in the leaning TBR pile. Thanks for the review.

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  10. Jia
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 09:23:20

    @Kalen Hughes: Oh, sorry, I didn’t make that clear. No, Runa didn’t know Shade was an incubus. She didn’t find out until after she’d been taken in by the military after she’d been mauled by the werewolf. In fact, the werewolf incident was when she realized there was even a paranormal world.

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  11. Jia
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 09:33:53

    @Joan/SarahF: I thought of you when I came to that part in the book. I immediately thought, “Oh no! This is exactly what Dr. S was talking about!”

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  12. Larissa
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 11:10:46

    Hi Jia!

    I’m glad Desire Unchained worked better for you. I enjoy the former lovers turned enemies and back to lovers dynamic as well, so I had fun writing it! :)

    I’m sorry the BDSM thing came across the way it did to you! I want to make clear that I don’t see BDSM as something only sick/dark people do. I’d hoped it didn’t come across that way…Shade only hates when he HAS to engage, not when he WANTS to. That might not have been clear enough. I certainly didn’t mean to portray BDSM in a negative light.

    Great review, and again, glad you liked the book!

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  13. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 12:44:46

    @Kalen Hughes: Oh, sorry, I didn't make that clear. No, Runa didn't know Shade was an incubus. She didn't find out until after she'd been taken in by the military after she'd been mauled by the werewolf. In fact, the werewolf incident was when she realized there was even a paranormal world.

    Thanks! I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Now it makes much more sense.

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  14. Janine
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 13:10:18

    Thanks, Jia. I might start with Pleasure Unbound since I would like to follow the side storyline also, and since it’s only $1 to buy it this month.

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  15. Jia
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 15:11:45

    You know, I just realized I’d said Runa and Shade were handcuffed together and they absolutely weren’t. They were chained up in the same cell but not together. I have no idea why my brain remembered that as “handcuffed together.”

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  16. Kasey Mackenzie
    Mar 11, 2009 @ 15:59:54

    “by Janine March 10th, 2009 at 6:17 pm
    I too love the “former lovers turned enemies turned back to lovers” trope. Do you think this book can be read on its own or is it important to read Pleasure Unbound first?”

    This trope really works for me, too, one reason that it found its way into my book coming out from Ace/Roc next year. I’m glad to hear that it works so well for others, too! I’m definitely going to have to check this series out. Thanks for the heads up!

    ReplyReply

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