Dear Joanna Wylde,
I’ve really enjoyed the earlier books in this series, even though they have, at times, pushed me right to the edge of my comfort zone. So I was looking forward to Reaper’s Fall. It was very readable but rather than skating right to the edge of my comfort zone, this one took me over it and I found it more difficult to read it as a kind of “urban fantasy” (which is how I’ve read the others in the series).
I liked Melanie (London’s sort-of semi-adopted daughter) and BFF of Jessica (London’s niece), whom readers met in Reaper’s Stand and I had no particular ill will toward Painter, a member of the Reapers MC who went to jail on gun charges in that same book. But I found I couldn’t like him much here. His fantasies about Melanie (when he was in prison and later) were a little too explicit and they kind of rolled my stomach. I hasten to add that he didn’t really act on them and his treatment of Melanie sexually was, for the most part, all about her desires. As he tells her in the book, as long as they get naked, it’s all good for him.
The criminal activity of the Reapers MC was more in my face in this book and much harder for me to push aside and pretend it didn’t exist. Also, there is some semi-graphic torture of an informant which Painter is involved in. While it turned his stomach too, he still was there and he didn’t really batt an eyelash at murder. (Having said that, neither did Hunter in Devil’s Game and that made me pretty uncomfortable too.) By the end of the book, Painter was less of an outlaw and more of an artist and I appreciated his loyalty to his family (Melanie and their daughter, Isabella) so I did like him a little better then. But there was too much that had gone before I couldn’t unsee for me to finish the book with a smile.
In terms of structure, Reaper’s Fall was a little unusual. It began with a graphic scene where Melanie attends a Silver Bastards’ event with a date and Painter beating said date to a pulp before carrying a screaming Melanie out the door. (This bit is actually a fairly standard introduction. You tend to show me the worst and then backtrack to put it in context.) The story then starts off five years earlier and charts the course of Melanie and Painter getting together, making a baby (unintentionally) and splitting up. These basic facts are revealed in the first scene so that’s not a spoiler. Once they split however, things jump forward in stretches of weeks, months or even years, to tell the specific story you want to tell. The opening scene fits in kind of in the middle of those jumps in time. I’ve read books by other authors who use this device (most notably Kristen Ashley) and I often find it disjointed and jarring, even though I understand the reason for it.
I felt that Melanie’s continued grudge against Painter went on a bit long (in terms of story, not reality) and I wasn’t completely buying into their physical chemistry being so combustible it overrode her good sense. I was impressed with how devoted Painter was to Isabella however and, by the end, to Melanie (even though he sometimes had a very strange way of displaying his “devotion”).
Alongside the romance, there is a fairly major subplot involving an allied club in Canada, the Nighthawks. Something is wrong there and it is affecting the Reapers’ “supply chain” so they have an interest in fixing it. Gage and Painter are sent undercover to scope out the problem, though Painter is only in Canada sporadically. There was action in the book which was more about Gage (I assume he’s getting a book of his own) and not related to Painter’s and Melanie’s romance at all and the subplot itself, interspersed among the relationship didn’t make much sense to me until right at the end. I’m glad it did come together at the end, because I was really wondering what those bits were doing in the book at all for much of the story. (For readers who come after me – there is a reason.) That story isn’t entirely done I think …maybe? I’m not sure about that. I think more information will be revealed in Gage’s book? (There is a bonus teaser scene featuing Gage and Tinker after the end of Reaper’s Fall.)
I liked the way you depicted Isabella, which seemed realistic and when Painter and Melanie were together, they were actually quite sweet. It was the stuff when they weren’t together yet or after they’d split which didn’t always sit comfortably with me, as well as the criminal subplot. The story is told in a compelling way which kept me glued to the pages regardless however.
I don’t know if I’m becoming more sensitive as time passes or if this book was just a little to “real” and gritty for me to relax into (perhaps both?), but for whatever reason, while I enjoyed parts of Reaper’s Fall, it wasn’t as successful for me as the earlier books. That said, I’m still on board for the next book, so make of that what you will.
I struggled with the grade. While it was compulsive reading, some of it was done with significant discomfort. I guess it’s somewhere between a B- and a C+.