Let me start off by saying this is one of THE cheesiest titles EVER. Horrible indeed. I don't go by titles or covers since looks can be deceiving however I've just finished this book and, horrors of horrors, I'm glad it's over. I swear if it wasn't for a few of the characters and their backstory there's no way I could have finished this. Regardless, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
A NOTE: Reviews aren't usually this long but this book involved a heavy backstory that, without knowing it, you'd be pretty much lost if I jumped right into the plot.
This is the second book in Christine's Dark series about the Carpathians.
Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Carpathians are an immortal race that have been in existence for thousands of years. Being immortal has more disadvantages than anything else. For starters, after they hit the 200th birthday, Carpathian males lose their ability to see in color and all of their emotions. They can't feel love, sadness, or anything else and the only way they get their colors and emotions back is when they find their lifemate. Here it gets worse as there is only one lifemate for every male regardless of how long the male lives. The longer the male is without a lifemate the closer he gets to turning evil. After 400 years without emotions they are in real danger as the only other way of feeling anything is by giving into the dark side and becoming a vampire.
Carpathians drink blood to survive but they don't kill their victims (whether human or animal) and they always put them in a trance so the victim isn't scared and doesn't know or recall what happened to them. When a Carpathian chooses to finish off the victim and enjoys their fear he becomes a vampire and he can once again feel, but he becomes a monster since all he feels is evil. This is what the Carpathians male fear the most since, without their lifemate, it's pretty much guaranteed they will go mad in a sense and convert. The only other way out is to kill themselves if they are at their wits end and fear they will turn.
Things go from bad to worse because there is an extreme shortage of Carpathian women. For some unknown reason full blooded Carpathian females have a hard time getting pregnant. Even harder is the chance that it will be a female and harder still that the baby will make it pass their first birthday. At the time this story takes place there hasn't been a female born for over 500 years and there are quite a few males who are on the verge of insanity so to speak because they have been in this agonizing existence for too long.
Mikhail and Gregori are the oldest known Carpathians and they are close to 2000 years old. Mikhail is the leader but he found his lifemate (in the first book of the series), and Gregori is the healer who, being so ancient, has an unbelievable amount of power. In their quest to find an answer to the problem they've realized that a few selected human females can be a lifemate provided they have psychic abilities. Raven, Mikhail's lifemate, is a human turned Carpathian. The trick is that finding a lifemate isn't like finding a wife. Apparently lifemates are born bound together even if it takes them years to find each other. It's not about falling in love but rather the physical compatibility and bond has to be there or else they don't click.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, there's the greater problem that, once the lifemate is found the couple is bound together by an inexplicable bond so strong they cannot part or live without each other. Thus, if one of them dies, the other dies inside as well since their souls had become as one. The one left behind cannot go on living and they choose to kill themselves since there is only one lifemate ever. A few that don't end their lives choose to turn vampire in their bitterness and grief.
This is the story of Jacques Dubrinsky, Mikhail's younger brother who, at the time the book begins, was betrayed by one of his own race and handed over to some pretty diabolical humans. They torture him in every way known to man and then some. Just when he thinks he will finally die they stick a stake (try saying that three times fast) the size of a fist close to his heart, nail him in a coffin then bury him in an underground dwelling in the Carpathian mountains. For seven years he is trapped and cannot even contact his family through telepathy. By the time he is found he is so psychologically scared he doesn't remember his past and only wants revenge, not to mention he is more like an animal than anything else.
His rescuer is his lifemate Shea O’Halloran but of course she doesn't know this since she lives in the US while all this is taking place halfway around the world. Shea is an orphaned half Irish half Carpathian human. She believes herself to be 100% human since a Carpathian, to her, is a person who comes from that part of the world and not another race. All she knows is that she starts getting visions and feeling an incredible amount of pain as if someone is ripping her apart. She is basically experiencing all the pain Jacques feels. One thing leads to another and, after having to flee for her life, she is inexplicably drawn to where he is buried.
This is where the bulk of the story takes place as Shea tries to help Jacques. Initially she thinks Jacques has a blood disorder like her and that superstitious people believed he was a vampire which, according to her and the rest of the civilized world, don't exist. She is a highly skilled surgeon and feels is her duty to help him. As you can expect there are many difficulties since Jacques is all but a beast by now and Shea is pretty much horrified when she learns who and what he is and what she must become.
I strongly believe this story would have worked much better if it was set a century or two back. For starters, the Carpathians are a male dominated society and they make you feel as if you are stuck in the Middle Ages or something. They refer to each other lifemates as "the woman", "your woman" or just woman almost 90% of the time. Mind you I'm no femenist but, while I don't mind this behavior in the appropriate era, it just seems completely out of place especially considering Mikhail's lifemate and Shea are both supposed to be extremely independent, modern women. It really does get on your nerves after the 200th time.
It wouldn't be so bad if the men, at least the ones with lifemates, would learn to be less controling but they don't change. Raven even tells Shea that Mikhail tells her she is "too independent and disrespectful". Don't get me wrong, you do feel the way Mikhail adores Raven and Jacques adores Shea but at the same time they are too controling. Of course the author gives you the excuse that Carpathian males are born with the knowledge that they must protect their women at all cost but still it feels like too much.
Another problem is that there is much emphasis and urgency surrounding the whole they-will-turn-without-a-lifemate issue and, more than once, you get the feeling it's not about caring for the other person but trying to save your own skin. We undertand that the men are bound to protect the women but so many times the way they express this gives you the idea they are more concerned with the race not dying out than with finding their other half.
As far as the characters are concerned Jacques makes a great tortured hero. I must say the author did a great job in portraying him and everything about him feels believable. On the other hand Shea starts off great then gets so annoying you want to throw the book out. She did have a terrible childhood but, supposedly, Jacques has been through much worse and he doesn't have half the issues she does. Her whining, and that is what her issues are reduced to, become extremely annoying. Like I said, she had a great start and potential but somewhere along the way it seems she is a different person and not because her character developed. I prefer Raven over her anytime.
Mikhail and Gregori are excellent as well and, together with Jacques and Raven, made me want to finish the book. This wouldn't be a bad thing if this was strictly a vampire or an action novel however this is supposed to be a romance and I just wasn't feeling it. There is an attraction and Jacques and Shea care but it doesn't feel as if they are trully meant for each other. To me it felt more like they were thrown together because of the whole lifemate issue and, if given a real chance to fall in love or pick who they wanted to be with, they would choose someone else.
The book does have a lot of action revolving around the Carpathian vampire and female issues and that's the only reason I find to want to read this. Mikhail, Gregori, Jacques and Raven make this backstory come alive and I was more intrigued to know if and how they would solve those issues than if Jaqcues and Shea would stay together. Not a good thing for a "romance" novel. I say read it only if you love vampire stories and, even then, treat it more like a regular vampire story than a romance. Maybe if I'd done that I wouldn't be so dissapointed. I will say that I am planning to read both Mikhail's and Gregori's books but sadly this is due to the fact that I am intrigued by the backstory more than anything else.
A 3.0 because I did love Jacques and the whole tortured element he had going.