If you're a reader of the series before this (and you should be just for the sake of recognizing the names and history that gets tossed about, though not enough to confuse a new reader), and you miss stories about an incredibly broken man like Jacques (Dark Desire)...well, look no further my friends. Zacarias is the kind of character you never knew you wanted to read about. He is superficially an overbearing, dominant male, but, like all good romance heroes, he is in fact more concerned with the woman he loves and how she feels about him than his own ego or needs.
Well...after a few impressive explosions of vampire-alpha-male behavior that, let's face it, is incredibly attractive from a distance and with the assurance inherent in Feehan's style that he is not, in fact, a crazy abusive misogynist.
A few words about Marguarita: I saw it coming. Marguarita is a character introduced in the previous book who is ultimately silenced by a vampire attack (literally). She's an incredibly interesting character because of her willingness to passively accept Zacarias while still resisting his more dominant tendencies. This is not a case of a "Stand By Your Man" as much as a "let me heal this poor broken vampire." Feehan's best heroes are the ones that are seemingly broken beyond repair.
However, if you're looking for a massive plot advancement in the larger narrative...not quite yet. Though there does seem to be some promising leads to the next book or two or four. Sorry folks, nothing about Demetri and Skylar in this one. Also, there is no big De La Cruz Brother reunion, but you do get a nice little visit with Dominic and Solange.
Now, on to some real problems. As an educated reader, I think it's easy to make the leap from silenced woman and broken alpha male to a metaphor for the majority of relationships where men and women often find themselves navigating old-fashioned narratives they're not even aware they're following. Zacarias is better than some--not particularly violent or enjoying violence beyond his alpha-crazy moments--, but he is still quite broken. Feehan writes Zacarias as a character who has inherited an unending absence of color and emotions without his lifemate's actual physical presence. Whether or not she recognizes the metaphor (I like to think she does as a a woman who is aware enough to craft a world around the idea of the emotional and physical divide between men and women), she's very much creating a story in this book about the Austenian male/female emotion/logic trope. For Feehan, this manifests as a man who cannot feel without his other half and a woman who cannot speak without his blood and voice--really it amounts to the same thing. The problem here is not the message. Well, it's not entirely the problem.
The problem is that most readers can't, don't, or won't perceive the subtlety of this novel or any of her novels. Where her discussion of endagered species is hard to miss (we get relatively beat over the head with lavish and long descriptions of rainforests and disappearing/rare animals), her exploration of gender roles as narratives we follow from our culture and families is easy to be lost in genre. Still, I for one am glad to see the broken man's return. I like a little crazy with my devotion...from the comfort of my couch that is.
(Originally Published on bookswithbenefits.com on May 26, 2012)