Rush of Pleasure
HQN, July 26, 2011, $7.99 print, $5.59 digital
Dangerous passion and primal instincts...
With his sinister good looks, Noah Winston is the one man—a human with Casus ties—who Willow Broussard has never been able to resist. Once enemies, then lovers, Noah broke her heart. Yet the powerful witch and paranormal private investigator can’t turn him away when he needs her help in protecting his family, him—and the world— against their enemy…
As Noah and Willow work together, the secrets of their turbulent past are slowly exposed, each startling revelation drawing them closer. But when the enemy finally makes a move, Noah will need more than witchcraft and magic to survive. He’ll need his friends, one hell of a plan…and the undying devotion of a tenacious witch whose love is eternal.
At the conclusion of my Fresh Meat on Rhyannon Byrd’s Rush of Darkness, the seventh in her Primal Instinct series, I wrote about my hope for the series’ end sooner rather than later. Turns out that Rush of Pleasure, the eighth in the series, is also the last...and now I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s true that I missed the middle three books in the series, and that there were problems with Rush of Pleasure. But now that it’s over, I kinda wish for more, and am glad that on Byrd’s website she mentions Deadly Is the Kiss, an April 2012 release from HQN about Ashe Granger, a secondary character in the series. It’s somehow a stand-alone, even though Granger figured in at least three of the series’ installments. After eight books in a relatively short period of time, August through April seems a long time to wait, but I can do it.
As for what worked—and what didn’t—in Rush of Pleasure, I’ll get the bad news over with first. Heroine Willow Broussard, a warrior witch in her late 20s, is a virgin. There happens to be an excellent reason for her virginity, though: a prophecy revealed to her in her teens portended dire consequences that are not explained until the book is nearly complete. She’s 16 when the prophecy is revealed to her, and in love with Noah Winston, three years her senior and from a family in a long-time feud with hers. He’s in love with her too, but after they are caught in a compromising position, he leaves town—and Willow—until the book begins, twelve years later, when he needs information from her to help save the world from Very Bad Escapees from Hell.
Although I was a 17-year-old college freshman and my husband a 23-year-old second year law student when we met, I found it slightly icksome that these two were in love and thisclose to doing it when she was 16 and still in high school, and he was, well, 19 and out of high school. Neither of them ever got over the other, and had the book been set, say, five years hence, their feelings for each other would have read more reasonably. I know it’s more “romantic” the longer a love remains unconsummated and forbidden, but the book itself requires so much suspension of disbelief based on the paranormal premise that it doesn’t need a 12-year separation on top of everything else.
One last thing to point out before moving on to what works: When Willow gives Noah—who is human but grows fangs after being bitten by the underworldly monster chasing him—permission to bite her, he goes for the boob. Byrd must have a predeliction for boob biting because in a Bite of Magick, that’s where the warlock/werewolf hero bites his heroine as well. Biting a neck is one thing, biting boob another altogether, and unpleasantly reminiscent of the scene in Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil, in which the vampire Lestat drinks the menstrual blood of the female protagonist.
So much for the bad...now, onto the good. First, the world-building, which I mentioned in my piece about Rush of Darkness. There’s a little something for everybody. The various “clans” include witches, vampires, and shapeshifters, as well as the Casus, an evil race of beings imprisoned in hell a millennia ago, who have found a way to escape, and are wrecking havoc in their attempts to kill the clans who imprisoned them. They forged a conspiracy between the Consortium, charged with governing the clans, and the Collective Army, those sworn to take out clan members, which in turn forced the “eyes” of the Consortium, the shape-shifting Watchman, to declare allegiance with the clans after the blood-letting began. The Watchmen are no longer the neutral Switzerland of the world Byrd built; they are more like the French Resistance after the Vichy government handed their country over to the Nazis.
As if all this weren’t enough, a few books back a group of zombie-like creatures appeared for those so inclined. I am not a fan of the traditional zombie, and thankfully Byrd’s Death Walkers aren’t rising from the grave, touch a limb and it’ll fall off zombies. No, the Death Walkers are the condemned souls of clansmen/women, sentenced to hell for their crimes, and driven insane as a result, who manage to escape each time the good guys use special artifacts—Dark Markers—against the Casus when trying to send them back to their prison in hell. The Death Walkers seek to create chaos among the living in order to plunge the world into their madness, and are easily controlled by the Casus in their attempt to wipe out the Watchmen and the clans.
In this book a demon named Damon is introduced. He’s a sex demon pal of Willow’s, and he plays an important role, not only in the destruction of the Casus, but in bringing Willow and Noah together. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point in the future, Byrd writes a story just for him. I look forward to it.
The clans, the demons, the Death Walkers, the conspiracy, the Watchmen, Consortium, and Collective Army...all of this is great stuff for those who love a well-crafted world generated from an author’s imagination. None of this may get your joices flowing unless, like me, you’re an urban fantasy geek, but for us geeks, all of this imaginative stuff is like crack, and we totally get off on it.
Not to mention the intense emotionality and sexuality of Byrd’s writing, which I wrote about in that earlier Fresh Meat. Some might find it over the top, but given that she did force Willow and Noah to wait a dozen years to consummate their love, it seemed just about right to me. A favorite moment occurs just before a battle in which Willow, Noah, Damon, and some Watchmen will fend off an attack of Death Walkers in a church using special guns that spray holy water-filled bullets. Yes, that’s right...a gun with holy water ammo...how cool is that? Because of the prophecy Willow put her emotional life on hold, but as she stands in the church, looking at the sun-dappled room in which beginnings and endings occur, she realizes she wants it all...and she wants it with Noah, the man she loves.
Her lips parted on a gasp as the realization slammed through her, making her dizzy. She reached out with her hand, anchoring herself on one of the pews as she tried to calm down and just breathe. But this...it was too huge to simply accept with ease. She’d known she loved him once, with a girl’s heart. And since he’d walked back into her life, she’d known she felt things for him that she’d never felt for any other man. But she’d let her anger and bitterness cloud her mind, until they had masked the truth of her feelings. Until she couldn’t recognize that the crazy, out of control, terrifying emotion he made her feel was so much more than lust.
It was love.
Shortly thereafter, Noah has Damon take Willow to safety. Though she’s an extremely competent fighter under normal circumstances, against normal demons and the like, she’d never been up against the Casus and/or Death Walkers, and she realizes Noah would worry too much about her to take care of the situation, and so allows herself to be moved to safety. Here’s what runs through her mind as she sits in stunned silence, “trapped in layers of fear,” rocking herself for comfort:
That she was on the verge, again, of losing something that mattered to her. Something that mattered more than...well, than anything else. Even more than it had mattered twelve years ago.
If Noah survived the Death Walker attack, was she really going to let her fear of heartbreak keep her from him?
Was she that much of a coward?
As for Noah, his emotions do tend toward the physical, the visceral, the sexual. Again, after a dozen years of pent-up feelings, he can be forgiven for wanting Willow every which way but loose. Well, all save the boob biting thing.
For more about this book, visit www.rhyannonbyrd.com.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.