Urban fantasy heroes and heroines aren’t known for their stable relationships. I mean, once you get past Cat and Bones, Mercy and Adam, and Charles and Anna, the picture gets ugly, fast. (And two of those three are from the same author, the obviously stable Patricia Briggs.)
Poor Sookie’s slept her way through half of the greater Shreveport area since the early days of bliss with Vampire Bill. Harry Dresden couldn’t find a lasting relationship if a woman were Superglued to his leather duster. And Anita Blake....do we really even want to go there? (And there, and there, and there?)
But maybe the worst love life of all belongs to Rachel Morgan, the “itchy witch” heroine of Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. Rachel wants to find the right guy (she loves vampire Ivy as a friend and not the way Ivy wants), but Rachel has had buzzard’s luck when it comes to romance.
In honor of Ever After, the eleventh book in the series (out of thirteen), which has just been released, let’s have a quick, graded retrospective on Rachel’s love life.
Nick Sparagmos was the first guy to catch Rachel’s eye. She met him midway through the first book of the series, Dead Witch Walking, after Trent Kalamack trapped Rachel while she’d turned herself into a mink. After keeping her in a cage for a while, he decided to throw her into the city rat-fight ring. One of her first opponents was a big, scarred rodent who turned out to be a cursed human named Nick. Thrown together by furry circumstances, Rachel should have known Nick would be trouble. Over the course of the series, he’s been proven a demon-consorting thief, a hopeless liar, and obnoxiously selfish, yet Rachel forgave him again and again. Until, finally, even she’d had enough betrayal.
Grade: S, for Slimeball.
Next, she moved on to Kisten Phelps. Beautiful, blond vampire Kisten, despite the unlikely pairing (he was Piscary’s scion and Ivy’s ex), was good for Rachel, and vice-versa. With Rachel’s help, Kisten overcame an ugly past to become a noble, emotionally rich character. In fact, Rachel and Kisten were such a perfect couple that Kim Harrison, speaking in an interview, said she felt they were in danger of a happily ever after. There’s nothing quite so deadly for an ongoing series than an HEA in book three or four, so Kisten had to go. I mean, GO, permanently and finally. Seven books later, many Hollows fans, perhaps including this one, have never quite gotten over it.
Grade: P, for Perfection (and maybe M, for Martyr).
After having her heart ripped out and stomped on, it was perhaps forgiveable that Rachel next turned to a fellow witch, Marshal. Marshal wasn’t a bad guy at all, and in fact met Rachel while helping her try to fix yet another of Nick’s fiascos. In the end, though, Marshal was way too normal to deal with Rachel’s mess, and there’s nothing to kill a blooming romance like having one’s significant other being shunned. Given a choice between walking away from Rachel or staying with her and being seen as a pariah by the whole witching community, Marshal walked. Even Rachel didn’t blame him. Well, not much. Eventually.
Grade: C, for coward.
As Rachel was drawn more and more into the Ever After and the world of everybody’s favorite demon Algaliarept, aka Al, the next man to try and claim her heart was Gordian Pierce. Is a male ghost-witch still considered a man? Probably, since Pierce—a Civil War-era witch buried alive in Rachel’s cemetery—makes a deal with Al to gain a body and hopes to get Rachel to return his love. But as much as Pierce loves Rachel, she learned the hard way that she couldn’t trust his decisions. He was destructive and Rachel eventually came to consider him as amoral—which is saying something considering he keeps company with Newt the ancient, crazy demon.
Grade: U, for undeserving.
And now, at last, we come to Trent Kalamack, with whom Rachel and most Hollows readers have had a relationship that has gone from hate-hate, to hate-lust, to hate-grudgingly-tolerate, to hate-very grudgingly-like. She’s trying now for hate-like-trust. There was a Kiss (yes, that capital letter was intentional) at the end of Pale Demon that seemed to begin a shift in their contentious relationship that continues through A Perfect Blood (2012) and now Ever After.
Trent’s annoying ex-fiancee Ellasbeth is back in the picture (who also happens to be the soul-sucking elven mother of his child). Yet one can’t help but hope that in the end, when the thirteenth and final Hollows book comes out in 2015, maybe Rachel and Trent find their way together—if they don’t kill each other first.
Grade it C.O., for Cautiously Optimistic.
After all the betrayal and treachery and heartbreak, doesn’t a red-haired itchy witch deserve an HEA?
Suzanne Johnson writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The most recent book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series is River Road. You can learn more about her at her daily book blog, Preternatura.