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When Pleasure Rules by J.K. Beck

November 18, 2010

The Shadow Keepers, Book 2

Publisher: Bantam

Publication Date: September 28, 2010

Format: Mass Market Paperback

Status: Second in the Shadow Keepers Series, preceded by When Blood Craves. Book three, When Wicked Calls is available in bookstores, too. According to Romantic Times Book Review, Beck is already contracted for another three books in the series, but I can’t find any hint of them anywhere.

Source: Purchased by self

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Werewolf

Location: Los Angeles and environs. Briefly, Paris.

Other Info: When Pleasure Rules features the Luke and Sarah from book one and introduces Petra, who features in book three. It also has Nicholas Montague, your friendly resident pretty-boy vampire with a side of his tortured past. Oh, and Sergius, aka, That Vampire Whose Sanity Is Hanging By a Thread.

Description: (From Amazon):

Seven innocents have been brutally murdered in Los Angeles, yet the Shadow Alliance has no suspects and no leads. As the body count mounts, the age-old feud between vampires and werewolves threatens to explode.

Lissa Monroe—a strong-willed, ravishing succubus who entices men to surrender their souls—agrees to go undercover for the Alliance. Her mission: infiltrate the mind of werewolf leader Vincent Rand, a ferociously alluring enemy who exerts a powerful hold over her. As the City of Angels teeters on the brink of apocalypse, these two adversaries must join together in order to survive an even more lethal enemy hidden in plain sight.

I spent a lot of time at the bookstore this past weekend looking longingly at book three of the Shadow Keepers, When Wicked Craves. I really wanted to read it. But my conscience kept piping up to remind me that I had made a vow to read series books in order. It’s a good thing I don’t have a well-developed wild side. I gave in to my conscience and brought When Pleasure Rules to the register with me and I don’t regret it one bit.

My reluctance to read this book was based on the fact that I’m not really into the whole succubus thing. Or incubus thing, for that matter. I had a similar issue with the Seminus Demon thing in Larissa Ione’s Daemonica Series. Anyway. I’m probably just a prude. But I’m glad that I picked up this book because it’s got some good characters. And while I had some problems with the story–I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that Lissa, the heroine, had sex with another man in the beginning of the book (but after she’d met the hero, Rand)–I found myself enjoying the journey anyway.

I didn’t expect to like the heroine of this book. She’s a succubus and there’s the non-hero sex. Unexpectedly, I did. She is, as the back cover blurb tells us, strong-willed. She’s determined to have her freedom and to get it for others like her. And until Rand walks into her life, sex is about sustenance and physical pleasure–not about connecting to another person. Moreover, Lissa is a sympathetic character. She has a past she’s not proud of and she’s done things that have hurt people. Many of those things were in a past life she can only sort of remember, but she feels the guilt of them all the same. Lissa is also haunted by the fact that she has a special ability. Not only does she suck souls for sustenance, when she does so, she takes a bit of that person’s memory. This makes Lissa a valuable commodity, especially for those who are interested in peoples’ secrets. That is, blackmailers and cops. Because of her gift that’s not really a gift, Lissa is forced to do things she doesn’t want to do–which is doubly painful for a woman who has fought and scratched her way into independence.

Rand, whom we met very briefly in When Blood Craves, is also a tortured character. Even before he was turned into a werewolf, he was pretty bad-ass. As in, gang-banger and, later, in Special Ops. He was nine when he made his first kill, and basically, after that, he never stopped. Ironically, it was after he was bitten (and his wife died) that he took a hard look at himself. Rand’s story is the one of a character reformed and it takes Lissa to convince Rand that he has some good in him.

Basically, I felt like these were two characters that deserved each other. Neither is perfect and neither thinks him or herself perfect. I also really appreciated that Beck didn’t draw out the undercover part of the story. I was really afraid we were going to be submitted to a long groveling experience where Lissa was forced to feel really awful and rejected and Rand had vicious I-love-her-but-I-hate-her thoughts. Rand does find out that Lissa was sicced on him by Division, and he does see red and scream: Betrayer! but it all happens pretty swiftly. Though I admit there was a moment there where I thought he was going to entirely and completely blow it–not just with Lissa, but with me. He came pretty darn close.

By far, however, my favorite aspect of the novel was the supporting characters. I’m really hoping that Doyle and Sergius get their own books. I love learning about them piece by piece. Both men will make for some mighty fine tortured heroes some day. I also really liked Petra and I’m chomping at the bit to get to her and Nicholas’ book. This book was worth it for the world-building and for the characters we got to know. There’s a larger arc in the works, I can just tell. It’s a little like the Psy-Changeling books in that way and I’ve just discovered how much I love that sort of thing.

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