As the son of a serial killer, Thomas "Veck" DelVecchio, Jr. has struggled his entire life between the two sides of himself. One side is the good cop, who wants nothing more than to serve justice, but he's keenly aware of an evil side that's always lurking as if waiting to take him down a dark path. As the lead investigator on a serial killer case, he desires retribution against the murderer. When he's found next to the man, who's been viciously attacked, with no memory of how he came to be there or what happened, he's put on probation, working cold cases under the supervision of Sophia Reilly, a beautiful internal affairs officer. Unwilling to let the serial killer case rest, Veck chooses the cold case of a missing young woman that he thinks may be tied to it. As he and Sophia investigate, a red hot sexual chemistry burns between them, making Veck long to make her a permanent part of his life when the investigation is over. Meanwhile the case itself takes them to places where Veck must confront the possibility of a supernatural influence. And tied to it all is the mysterious stranger, Jim Heron, who Veck discovers has been impersonating an FBI agent and who has taken a personal interest in the case. When Sophia finds evidence that makes her believe Veck himself may have murdered the missing girl, will her growing love for him also give her faith in his innocence? And when the ultimate evil comes after Veck, can Jim, the fallen angel, lead him down the right path or will Veck give in to the same depravity that consumed his father?
Envy, the third installment in J. R. Ward's Fallen Angels series is a combination of urban fantasy, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. The urban fantasy element comes in the form of the continuing story arc of Jim Heron, a fallen angel, and his two comrades, Eddie and Adrian, who've come to Earth to battle the demon, Devina, and her horde of minions. Jim is tasked with saving several souls who are at a crossroads in their lives, and the success of his mission will determine the outcome of the war as well as the future of both heaven and Earth. The soul they must save in this book is that of Thomas DelVecchio, Jr., who simply goes by the nickname Veck. He is a cop who brings in the romantic suspense element. The story opens with Veck thinking he's attacked and possibly killed a serial killer named Kroner. He and his heroine/partner, Reilly, also investigate the disappearance of a young woman who Veck thinks may be one of Kroner's victims, but the case also has an unexpected link to Veck's own father, who was a serial killer himself. Then, of course, there's the romance between Veck and Reilly, which was hot and steamy, but IMHO, the weakest link in the story. Even with that slight misstep, it was still a great book that kept me guessing and wondering what might happen next.
Veck was first introduced in Lover Unleashed, the ninth book of Ms. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I wish I'd read Envy closer to Lover Unleashed as there's a lot I don't recall about Veck's appearance in it and I also think that events surrounding him in that story led directly into this one. I do know that he was the new partner of Detective de la Cruz who was Butch's former partner, and he still is when this book opens, but that changes pretty quickly when he's put on probation after the incident with Kroner. All his life Veck has struggled with the knowledge that he's the son of a serial killer, and he's felt that there are two sides to him, good and evil. He has a split shadow, sometimes hears a malevolent voice in his head, and keeps his mirrors covered because he fears what he sometimes sees in them. He desperately wanted to kill Kroner, and when he has no memory of what occurred before he found the murderer torn apart in the woods and called 911, he thinks he may have been the culprit.
It becomes clear pretty quickly that if Veck gives in to this dark side of himself, there'll be no turning back. But then he meets, Reilly, the internal affairs officer who's assigned to his case. She manages to clear him of any potential charges, and they're assigned to work cold cases together for the next month with him staying far away from the Kroner murders. But unwilling to let it rest, he reopens an old case of a missing young woman that he thinks might be connected to the serial killer. As he and Reilly work together a combustible attraction forms between them, leading to some explosive passion. Before Reilly, Veck was an admitted man-whore, who didn't do relationships or commitments, but with Reilly, he feels like he's found someone truly special, and his love for her helps him to overcome the demons of his past. I liked Veck. He's worked hard to overcome the stigma of his serial killer father and become a good cop. Although he's resistant at first to the idea of the supernatural, he does come around and accept Jim's help. I especially liked Veck with Reilly. Even though their romance wasn't quite as strong as I would have liked, he's a generous lover, who manages to find a more tender side when he's with her and he soaks up the familial bonds between her and her parents, something he was sorely missing in his own life.
Sophia Reilly, who simply goes by her last name, is a tough but tender cop. She had a rough start to her own life until her parents adopted her, but with them to raise her, she's become a strong and admirable woman. Just based on her preliminary investigation of the crime scene where Kroner was attacked, she doesn't think Veck did it, and she sticks by her guns for most of the story until there's a little twist near the end. Even still, at that point, her doubts made sense, but she's a smart cookie and a dog with a bone who eventually figures things out. Reilly is a brave, loyal, steadfast partner, who is somewhat surprised by her visceral reaction to Veck's good looks and masculinity, but it's something that she generally embraces. She's every bit as much into their passionate interactions as he is and falls for him quickly. In writing this review, I've realized that Reilly might not have been quite as well-developed as some other romance heroines I've read, but I couldn't help liking her anyway. She was a good character who really stood by Veck and didn't read too much into his background.
I really enjoyed the advancement of the story arc for Jim. He's definitely growing in his angel powers, and I'll look forward to seeing just how strong he becomes. Also the cold case that Veck and Reilly take on is none other than that of Sissy Barten, the young woman Jim lost in the first book of the series and has never forgiven himself for. He's vowed to find a way to free her from Devina's Well of Souls. We also begin getting hints that he may have fallen for the young woman, so I was very pleased to see that their story appears to be told in the last book of the series. There are also some unexpected developments for Jim's sidekicks, Adrian and Eddie. I can't say any more about that without giving away spoilers, but I'll be eagerly waiting to see what happens with them. We also discover something new about Jim's dog, Dog. Devina, as always, is pure, malevolent evil, and I can't wait for her to be taken down. Then there are Nigel and Colin, Jim's archangel overseers up in heaven, who become just a bit more involved in this story, as well as having a little side romance of their own that gets derailed by some conflict.
Overall, Envy was a great book. I very much enjoyed the fantasy elements and can't wait to see what happens with Jim and Sissy, as well as Adrian and Eddie, in the future. The mystery and suspense elements were probably my favorite parts, keeping me guessing, and looking forward to unraveling all of the plot connections. Like I mentioned earlier the romance between Veck and Reilly was good, just not great. They have an awesome steamy connection, but in just a matter of days, they go from sleeping together to the I love yous, and within a couple more weeks, are getting engaged. While I could feel something passing between them, I wasn't quite sure about the whole love thing and how they fell so quickly, but due to the strength of the other story elements, I was willing to mostly give this part a pass. It's the only reason I dropped the half-star. Otherwise, this was an excellent read and I look forward to continuing with the series and hopefully not waiting so long in between books next time.
Note: This book contains a brief MFM menage a trois scene involving secondary characters, which some readers may find offensive.
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