After nearly being killed in a demon attack, Jillian Cardiff moved to a cabin inherited from her parents in a small mountain town. There she tends her animals and tries to live a quiet life mostly off the grid. One day, while collecting firewood, she comes upon a naked, unconscious man in a snowbank. Jillian takes him back to her cabin and warms him up, but when he awakens, he has no memory of who he is, only that his name is Reseph. He turns out to be a handsome charmer who's impossible to resist even when hints of a shadowy past begin to emerge. Then his memories finally return, revealing a man who is far more dangerous than she ever could have imagined. Jillian still loves him, but forgiving him for the role he played in her attack and in almost destroying the world is another matter. However, she may be the only one who can help him stave off madness and impending doom.
When Reseph awakens in Jillian's cabin, he has no idea who is he or how he came to be naked in the snow. But the closer he gets to her, the more he knows, he'd like to stay. Then some of Jillian's neighbors are brutally murdered and demon hunters show up to investigate, making Reseph wonder if he's somehow connected to it all. When his siblings arrive on their doorstep to take him home, his memories finally come rushing back, exposing the truth that he is also the demon known as Pestilence, the Horseman responsible for the deaths of millions and for nearly destroying the entire planet. The painful memories become too much for him to bear, sending him into a mental breakdown from which only Jillian can save him. Once whole again, he sets out to right as many of Pestilence's wrongs as he possibly can, rousing the ire of some powerful demonic forces who will stop at nothing to turn Reseph back into Pestilence. But Reseph has always been the type to bail when things get tough. Can Jillian give him the reason he needs to find the strength within himself to fight back against his demon side and save them all from destruction?
Rogue Rider is the fourth book in Larissa Ione's Lords of Deliverance, which is a spin-off or sub-series of her Demonica series, so it's the ninth overall in the combined series. The Lords of Deliverance is about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are half-angel and half-demon. This book is Reseph's story, and he's the last of the Four Horsemen. In the first book, his Seal broke, turning him into his demon alter-ego, Pestilence, who's been raining devastation and destruction throughout the Earth ever since, as well as terrorizing his siblings throughout the first three books. In the previous book, Lethal Rider, he was finally defeated and sent to Sheoul-gra to be tormented for an eternity for his crimes. However, there's still the matter of the biblical apocalypse in which the Horsemen are predicted to fight on the side of good, but without Reseph, their chances of victory in the future battle are slim. So, the Horesemen's Watcher, the angel Reaver, took pity on him, wiped his memory, and sent him back into the human realm in hopes that his mind might heal in time to take part in the next apocalypse. That's where Jillian, a human woman, finds him naked in the snow and takes him home. Snugged up in her cozy mountain cabin, they gradually grow closer and fall in love. But when Reseph's siblings find him and he sees them, his memory comes roaring back. Unable to process all the evil things Pestilence did, he goes into a full-on mental breakdown, from which Jillian is the only person who can save him. But once back on even ground, Reseph still has much to atone for, and in the process, he angers some very powerful Sheoulic forces. In order to save them all, he'll be required to fight in a way that he's never fought before.
As I mentioned, Reseph (as Pestilence) was basically the evil villain of the first three Lords of Deliverance books. The things he did throughout those stories were so vile and depraved I had a hard time believing that Larissa Ione could sufficiently redeem him to even make me like him, much less fall for him. However, I'm happy to report that she's a masterful writer who did manage the job quite admirably. When we first meet Reseph again in this book, he's unconscious and naked in a snowbank in the middle of a snowstorm. Of course, Jillian takes him back to her cabin to warm him up, but when he regains consciousness, he has no memory of who he is except for his name. He turns into the charming, devil-may-care playboy his siblings had always described him as before Pestilence took over, and he and Jillian spend several amazing weeks together, getting to know one another and falling in love, while searching for his identity. Then his siblings show up and he turns into a shell of his former self as the horrific memories of the things he did as Pestilence return to him. Nothing his brothers and sister do to help him have any effect, though, so it takes a major sacrifice from Jillian to rescue him from the madness. From there, he sets about trying to right all the wrongs Pestilence committed, riling up some powerful foes. But Reseph has always been the commitment-phobic party-boy who bailed with things got tough, so he must reach deep inside himself to find the will to fight not only the forces who've lined up against them, but also the evil within himself. Even though Reseph didn't end up being my favorite of the Four Horsemen, I can honestly say that no one could have written a better redemption story for him than Larissa Ione did. He spends some time in utter agony, both physical and mental, as the memories of Pestilence's crimes bombard him, and once he's sane again, he unleashes the full holy vengeance and fury of his angelic side to cleanse the world of some very bad people, one in particular that I was very glad to see go. He's also always kind, gentle, and passionate with Jillian, and through his love for her, finds the will to fight to be a better man than he ever was before. So overall, I was very happy with the way things played out for him.
Jillian, herself, is trying to heal from the wounds of the past. Her parents died in a plane crash, she discovered her ex was already married when he proposed to her, and then early in the apocalyptic events that Pestilence unleashed, she found out the hard way that demons are actually real when she was attacked by one and nearly killed. The trauma left her with disfiguring physical scars and emotional ones as well, so she's been trying to stay off the grid by living a quiet life in her parents mountain cabin, tending her menagerie of farm animals. One day, while out in the woods hauling a load of firewood, Jillian encounters Reseph, who appears to be half-frozen. She gets him back to her cabin and warms him up, but when he awakens with no memory of who he is, she's a little uncertain of him even though he's rather charming. But eventually she realizes that she actually likes having him around, and although they agree to a no-strings affair, she can't help falling in love with him. When his memory returns, though, and she finally discovers who he really is, it's a lot for her process, especially when she realizes that the Pestilence side of him was actually responsible for the demon attacking her. Jillian is a loving, giving woman who's had some hard breaks in life, but for the most part, she hasn't allowed them to sour her on living. Ever since the attack, she doesn't feel very confident in herself, but Reseph, the man without his memory, shows her just how strong she really is. Because of that, she's able to stand up to a lot of different people, including some very powerful ones. She's also forgiving and completely believes in Reseph even when he doesn't believe in himself.
Given that Rogue Rider is part of a long-running series, there are a number of common characters. Of course, all of Reseph's siblings and their families-Ares and Cara (Eternal Rider), Limos and Arik (Immortal Rider), and Thanatos and Regan (Lethal Rider)-are a part of the story. Even though they recognize that Reseph wasn't truly responsible for the things Pestilence did, they're still very cautious around him, which I thought was ingenious, because I felt much the same way. Then there are the Horsemen's two Watchers, Reaver and Harvester, who are extremely important to the story. I can't say much about their parts without giving away major spoilers, but some bombshell revelations are made about them that I didn't really see coming. I've known for a while that these two would be paired together in the next book of the series, Reaver, but I'd been skeptical of this upcoming match. After finding out all this new information, I'm now super-excited for their story and think it's probably going to be awesome. Eidolon (Pleasure Unbound) and his siblings show up briefly. We're introduced to the fallen angel, Revenant, who again, I can't say much about without revealing spoilers, but he'll become the hero of Book #12, Revenant. So far, he seems pretty evil and didn't really do anything to endear me, but if Larissa Ione could redeem Reseph, I have faith that she can redeem Revenant, too. Then there's Harvester's Warg slave, Whine, who experiences some major changes in this book. Ever since he made his first appearance in the series, he's drawn my sympathy, and after all he's been through, no one deserves an HEA more. I'm so happy that Ms. Ione is working on his book, Bond of Destiny, that's scheduled for release later this year (2021) in which he'll be paired with Jillian's cop friend, Stacey.
Overall, Rogue Rider was yet another wonderful read in the Demonica/Lords of Deliverance series. It's not my absolute favorite, but it's still a great story. The characterizations were expertly rendered. Although I didn't fall for Reseph quite as hard as I did for some of the other heroes of the series, he's still a well-written character with a believable and satisfying redemption arc. He's perhaps just a bit too cocky and lacking in seriousness for my taste during the first half of the book, but at the same time, I can't deny that it's consistent with how he'd been previously described. I also liked that he treated Jillian very well, but unfortunately, even after he falls for her-the first time he's ever loved a woman in his five thousand years-he still needed a little push to do the right thing. However, I recognize that it was unfamiliar territory for him and that maybe he was somewhat lacking in confidence in that area. He does overcome it all, though, in a pretty spectacular way, so that I didn't come away feeling like he was in any way unworthy or uncommitted. Jillian is the perfect foil for him, someone who understands him and believes in him, although certainly not a pushover. She's definitely a strong woman in her own right. As usual the love scenes are steamy and creative. I think what I loved most about the book, though, was all the major reveals that will carry into the next book and others yet to come. So all in all, this was a great wrap-up to the Lords of Deliverance part of the series. Now I'm extremely eager to pick up Reaver and Harvester's story very soon. I have a feeling I'm going to love it.
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