Heart of Darkness
Berkley Sensation, Nov. 1, 2011, $7.99
Meriel Owen, next in line to control the largest organization of witches in the country, is asked to investigate the owner of a notorious club reportedly siphoning magic from the font of the Clan. It’s a direct violation of the Clan Code of Conduct, but one look at Dominic Bright and Meriel’s willing to make a deal. One taste of the sexually feral outlaw witch, and she’s eager to go further: he’s her bond mate, a legal conduit into the world of Clan witches and their magic.
Playing by the rules isn’t Dominic’s style, but bonding with Meriel—night after explosive night—is. However, Meriel has unwittingly invited someone else into her world: Dominic’s mother, a dangerous and poisonously influential magic addict whose lust for death and power corrupts all she touches. Now her shadow is closing in on Meriel, her Clan, and the man Meriel loves, and it’s casting them all into the inescapable heart of darkness.
Paranormal romance fans are going to like Lauren Dane’s new Bound by Magick series. Fans of shifter romance, oh, you’re going to adore it. Funny thing, though, while there’s a funny, sexy lycan in the periphery, Heart of Darkness is about witches.
Yes, witches. I’m convinced fans of sexy shifter (werewolves, -jaguars, -dragons, etc.) novels will be all over these sexy magick-wielding folk. One of the things so many PNR fans get into about shifters is the animal attraction and the bonding. Alpha males spot their female and it’s game on: She’s the one, they’re fated and there’s a primal need to do the dirty. There’s also a whole lot of that “mine” action alpha males exude so well.
What’s this got to do with witches? The council witches (special, powerful) in Heart of Darkness have bond-mates. This is someone their magic connects with, and upon merging the two, it flourishes, becoming stronger for both. Now, bond-mates aren’t always sexual, but this is a romance novel…
Meriel is next in line to take over the Owen Clan, who run most of the northwest, but can’t take over until she’s ascended with her bond-mate. Her mom, the current leader, is intense and has decided to throw even more tasks upon her daughter in the name of preparation for her takeover. This means that while Meriel is usually the head the legal department, now she’s running out to check into someone tapping into the clan’s communal energy bank (they call it the font, but it works kind of like a repository compounding magical interest).
She comes into a new nightclub that is using Owen magic to partition a section for Others away from the humans. Meriel is assertive and powerful. She demands a meeting with the owner Dominic, and when their magicks interact she feels it: He’s her bond-mate.
A hitch, though; this gorgeous alpha male isn’t a clan witch. He’s avoided this community as much as possible and doesn’t know a thing about bond-mates. He’s drawn to Meriel, sure, but he doesn’t know what it means.
And here’s where Lauren Dane manages to shift the fated, instinctual “mine” of alphas into something else. Meriel knows the bond-mate thing is going to freak Dominic out. They’re attracted to one another and she certainly doesn’t want him to run or to always think the only reason they’re together is because of this bond. She doesn’t hide this from him, but instead unveils it and refuses to have sex with him until they get to know each other better and he’s sure he really likes her and not just the magic + pheromone high.
Dominic likes to be in control, and before Meriel, I’m sure we’d classify him as a very alpha male. He’s possessive of Meriel and very protective. But here’s the thing: She doesn’t need it. She likes it from him, but Meriel isn’t to be messed with. She’s powerful, she’s in charge and is more alpha in most ways than Dominic. And as proof, she lets him be in control. She’ll let things be his idea (all the married women reading this are familiar with this tactic) and lets him get protective and a bit demanding, as those bad alpha men often are. But when he pushes too far or infringes on her leadership of the clan, she puts him in his place.
And he knows it. There’s this beautiful give and take between these two. Strong-willed people taking turns being dominant plays out well in both the plot and the bedroom. And, let’s be honest, two alphas are made to have sex against walls and doorframes a lot—though it does help that Dominic has very strong arms.
You want to see two people fight the need to “claim” one another while falling in love (and, yes, they most certainly end up having some “you’re mine” sex)? Read Heart of Darkness. The romance is addictive, the characters are realistic, and the plot is fun.
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. (Her husband often reminds her that she’s taken.)