Berkley Sensation, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-23240-8
Fantasy Erotica, 2010
Jared is part of a series called The Shadow Wranglers. I think this story is set in an alternate historical setting where there are cowboy vampires and werewolves running around the place. I said “think” because this book has no sense of time. Not only do I not have any good idea whether this is an alternate historical setting or some dystopian futuristic setting where everyone lives like cowboys all over again, I also have no clear idea as to how much time has lapsed from one scene to another. I do know that I have read a story just like this before, in Sarah McCarty’s historical romance series for HQN. She just slapped paranormal elements on this one and call it a new book in a new series for Berkley. But I guess when one is writing a billion books a year, one can’t spend too much time working on one book.
So, Jared. As far as I know, we have two types of vampires. Those in the Sanctuary are plotting to take over mortals and use the women for breeding purposes in order to create the ultimate fanged master race. The Renegades are those who believe that, hell no, mortals need to be protected from such nonsense. Either way, both sides are contesting their rights to the few women left in the place, because, you know, women are precious as they have magic wombs that will make many magic babies for everyone. Yes, once again we have a series where women are reduced to vehicles of fecundity, hapless creatures that have to be corralled and kept in protected encampments because those magic ovaries can’t fall into the wrong hands.
Jared Johnson is a Renegade who one days encounters a female vampire, Raisa, on the verge of being raped by Sanctuary vampires. She is very weak even for a woman, Jared instinctively realizes, because in this story, a man knows everything about a woman from reading her aura and smelling her crotch perfume. Who needs conversations anymore? At any rate, because heroes are superhuman types who can take down anything without breaking a sweat, Jared makes short work of Raisa’s attackers and attempts to take her back to his hometown, where she will be protected from all the nasty brutish things in the world as she lays on her back and keeps popping out those babies. Oh, and she’s his mate, of course.
Ah, but this story will end after page 50 if there is no conflict. So Raisa decides to pull off one of the most hideous too-stupid-to-die acts. After Jared saves her from those men who want to rape her, she chides him for wanting to kill them in a “cruel manner”, going as far as to compare his treatment of her attackers to the treatment of those attackers on her. I would have kicked her useless ass down a cliff right there and then if I were Jared. Jared proceeds to quietly suffer her childish temper tantrums and petulant whining as she continues to complain about having to sleep near him in the wilderness, accuses him of “lechery” for no good reason, refusing to follow orders or listen to him even when it comes to simple things like keeping quiet so that the enemies can’t hear her, and on and on. On top of it, she refuses to drink blood despite being a vampire, and raises so much holy hell when Jared makes her feed so that she won’t die. Oh, and she also refuses to go along with Jared. Her excuse is that she needs to save another stupid wench – on her own, of course, when she can barely fend off a single attempted rapist – because it is a horrible idea to try to enlist the help of someone who can mow down villains with a single sneeze and who has treated her like a gentleman all this while.
If that isn’t bad enough, Raisa has no distinct personality. She is just a walking back of pointless sass with zero ability to show appropriate emotions in reaction to various situations. She nearly got raped and killed? Whatever, she’s still sassy! She is so obnoxious and irritating that I could only marvel at how I didn’t experience a stroke while reading this book. Jared is a one-dimensional character too, but at least he’s a gallant kind of cardboard character. Raisa is just too hatefully stupid for words, pointlessly keeping secrets from Jared for so long and for no good reason.
The romance is mate ex machina in action, with Raisa discovering that sharing blood as well as… er, other body fluids with Jared actually makes her feel strong and amazing. Well, of course – we can’t have her useless weak ass giving birth to those future magic babies without a boost of strength courtesy of Jared’s awesome body fluids, after all! Romance and courtship are for sissies – real men just go straight for the mating.
It also doesn’t help that this story comes off like a thinly-veiled euphemism for the pleasures of living in some kind of weird sex/breeding cult. A secondary character actually scolds Jared for letting Raisa walk around freely, because her “uncontained femininity” would drive all the male werewolves in the area into wild frenzy to mate. It’s not like we can wrap her from head to toe in a burqa – they can smell her too, and we all know men can’t be held responsible if they cannot control their libido and attempt to rape a woman. It’s her fault for walking around unaccompanied by that man that owns her! These guys make the most backward village in the Middle-East seem progressive by comparison.
Jared is just too much of a half-baked rehash of the author’s previous efforts, slathered in mediocrity, poor plotting, and a reliance on the heroine’s monstrous stupidity to keep it going. Shame about the pretty cover – it’s completely wasted on a turd like this.