Lately, Erin McDaniels has been experiencing some very frightening nightmares that make it difficult for her to sleep at night and leave her exhausted in the light of day. She has tried everything to make them go away, but they just won't stop. Erin is always being pursued by a huge dragon beast and in her latest dream, he is joined by some other terrifying creatures who are all fighting over her. Just as she thinks all is lost and she is going to be killed, a handsome knight appears from out of nowhere to rescue her. He battles with the beasts and then whisks her away to a peaceful meadow where he makes passionate love to her.
V'Aidan is a demigod who was born to walk the shrouded mist of the dream world, never to experience emotions or know love, but his moment with Erin changed him in ways he never thought possible. He wants nothing more than to be with her even though he knows it will mean severe punishment and possibly even death. After being rescued in her dreams, Erin no longer fears sleep, and in fact, welcomes it for the opportunity to see V'Aidan again. But V'Aidan is not all that he seems, and when Erin finds out the truth of his identity, she may never be able to love him the same way again.
I thoroughly enjoyed Phantom Lover. It had elements that were reminiscent of both Fantasy Lover and Dance with the Devil, my two favorite Dark-Hunter novels to date, only with its own twists and turns. Phantom Lover was also an introduction of sorts to the Dream-Hunters, as it is the first story in the series to have these beings as main characters. I really liked the uniqueness of Erin and V'aidan's first meeting and early relationship development taking place inside Erin's dreams. The human mind is such a fascinating thing to me and also very powerful, especially in its subconscious state, so it gave their falling in love at first sight and making love at their first meeting more believability than most stories where this happens. I thought it also gave their interactions an enchantingly romantic quality.
V'aidan is another of Sherrilyn Kenyon's tortured male leads. He is the hero who rescues Erin from her nightmares, but isn't all that he seems. I really liked V'aidan's almost childlike wonderment at everything in the human world, but most of all I was taken by his vulnerability and the amazement he exhibits at Erin's trust and love for him, things he has never known before. V'aidan also showed the kind, caring part of his soul by nurturing Erin's creativity which was something she had been neglecting. Erin was a very sweet, gentle heroine with an enormous capacity for forgiveness when she finds out the truth about V'aidan. Ultimately, Phantom Lover was very much about V'aidan's redemption, and when Erin went to him in his non-human form, offering her unconditional love, it brought a tear to my eye.
Another thing I really appreciated about this novella is that the mythology seemed much more concise and easier to follow, and neither it nor the magical elements were overdone like I felt it was in some of the past Dark-Hunter books. In a series that has been rather hit-and-miss for me, this little novella was a definite hit. Perhaps there could have been a bit more character development, especially with V'Aidan's backstory and why he decided to protect Erin, but the emotional level was so sweetly satisfying, I can't help but give Phantom Lover keeper status. There wasn't really anything I disliked about this story, and with two winners in a row, my hope is that Sherrilyn Kenyon is back on track to giving me more good reads in the Dark-Hunter series.
Phantom Lover is found in the Midnight Pleasures anthology. It falls between Night Embrace and Dance with the Devil in the Dark-Hunter chronology. I am not aware of any carry-over characters between this story and others in the series, but V'Aidan's brother, M'Ordant was mentioned by name in Dance with the Devil, and may play a part in future books. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website.
Note: Ms. Kenyon changed the ordering and organization of her Dark-Hunter series twice in 2009. We will endeavor to keep up with any future changes as well, but readers are advised to check her website for the most up-to-date information on the series.
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