When Ahmare's brother, the only family she has left, is kidnapped and held prisoner in a dungeon by a ruthless drug dealer, she embarks on a journey into an unfamiliar world, where she must do the unthinkable to get him back. Her brother's captor demands that she find and return his "beloved" to him and he offers her a secret weapon to help in her quest, a handsome, alluring prisoner who is equal parts dangerous and vulnerable.
After being raised in an abusive cult and eventually being betrayed by his own father, Duran has spent the past twenty years locked in a madman's dungeon, where he's endured unspeakable torture. The only thing that has kept him going is a thirst for vengeance against the male who put him there. He did not expect his temporary freedom to come at the hands of a beautiful female who needs his help. Left with no other choice, Duran willingly assists Ahmare in gaining her brother's release, but he has no intention of returning to the dungeon when their mission is over.
As they battle through unexpected perils, they must learn to trust each other, which cements a bond between them. But will love be enough to see them through the dangers they face and help them find peace for their battered souls?
Prisoner of Night is a between the books story that takes place in the Black Dagger Brotherhood universe. It's short novel length, about the size of a category romance. The book is populated with characters who, to the best of my recollection, have never been introduced anywhere in the series before. It also takes place entirely in the Appalachian region of the US, far away from Caldwell, the fictional city that's the hub of this universe. While Wrath and the Brotherhood are mentioned, no other BDB characters actually play roles in the story, so this one could probably be read as a stand-alone with little or no problem understanding what's going on.
Ahmare is from Caldwell. It's where she grew up and has spent most of her life. She's one of the working class vampires who lost her parents during the raids, so the only family she has left is her brother, Ahlan, who has gotten himself into a lot of trouble. After getting mixed up with drugs, he now owes a lot of money to an evil, autocratic vampire named Chalen, a madman who trained under the Bloodletter and who basically rules his own little medieval-style castle far off the grid. Chalen is holding Ahlan hostage in his dungeon and torturing him until Ahmare brings him the head of the drug dealer who cheated him. But after she reluctantly does as she's told for her brother's sake, Chalen reneges on the deal. He'll only release Ahlan if Ahmare brings him back his beloved, and he temporarily gives her use of a secret "weapon" to do so. Ahmare is a strong female for whom family means everything. She really would go to any lengths to get her brother back safely, but once she realizes what her "weapon," Duran, has been through, she can't throw him under the bus just to get what she wants. Ahmare is the perfect mix between a fighter who won't give up no matter what and a kind, compassionate female, who gives freely of herself to her emotionally damaged male.
Duran grew up in a cult, where his father abused both him and especially his mother. He loved his mother more than anything in the world and vowed to find a way to escape and get her out. But she died before he could, leaving him devastated. Then his father, recognizing the threat Duran posed, basically dumped him at Chalen's doorstep. Duran has spent the last twenty years in Chalen's dungeon being tortured for information on where the beloved is, but in all that time, he hasn't broken. He merely burns with vengeance, living for the day when he can take his revenge against his father. Then suddenly, Duran finds himself released into the custody of a beautiful female who needs his help to get her brother back. He doesn't have much choice but to assist her, but he has no intention of going back to Chalen's castle after their mission is completed. Duran is a very emotionally damaged hero who rivals some of the most tortured heroes of the BDB series. Aside from his mother's love, he's basically never really known anything but abuse, and yet he still has a gentle side. He's a dichotomous character who ping-pongs between being viciously lethal with those who've harmed him and being tender with Ahmare. Duran is a deeply sympathetic hero who made me want to wrap him up in my arms and love on him.
Overall, I really enjoyed Prisoner of Night. Ahmare and Duran are both awesome characters, and I liked the supporting characters as well. Duran's friend, Nexi, a female Shadow whom he helped escape the cult was a particular stand-out, and it was fun to see her get a happy ending, too. There are two reasons I dropped the half-star, both of which are a product of the story being shorter in length. First is that the romance is insta-love (not one of my favorite tropes), with Ahmare and Duran falling for one another within only twenty-four hours of meeting. The other is that Duran, not surprisingly, has a lot of issues stemming from his time in both the cult and the dungeon. While I wouldn't exactly say that Ms. Ward glossed over these issues and I freely admit that she handled them as well as could be expected in this shorter format, it did leave me slightly unsatisfied that we didn't get to see more of his healing process. Otherwise, though, it's an excellent story with plenty of action to keep me turning the pages, as well as some tender emotions that created a strong romantic connection between the main characters.
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