Eidolon outwardly appears human, but is a sub-species of incubus known as a Seminus demon. Unless he finds a mate and bonds with her in his 100th year, which is already upon him, he is cursed to lose his humanity and become a mindless creature driven only by the insatiable need for sex. Eidolon feels the change stalking him every day, but so far, has been able to stave it off with blood transfusions. As a doctor who runs the Underworld General Hospital, he wants nothing more than to retain that humanity, so that he can continue his work. There is virtually no one Eidolon would turn away from his hospital, which is why when an injured demon slayer is brought in by paramedics, he is bound by his own code of ethics to treat her. He just didn't expect to become so incredibly attracted to a female who is his sworn enemy.
Tayla Mancuso grew up with a drug-addicted mother, and spent a lot of time in foster homes or on the streets. She learned at a young age how to look out for herself, but her only sense of belonging came from joining The Aegis, a demon-slayer organization, when she was sixteen. She has always thought that demons are evil and deserve to die, but being treated at the demon hospital and later learning from Eidolon that she is part demon herself, challenges everything she has ever believed about these creatures. As Tayla tries to come to terms with the idea that not all demons are bad and decide whether to integrate her demon and human DNA in order to survive, she and Eidolon must try to find out who is cruelly harvesting demon organs for their own personal gain, while also confronting the undeniable passion that burns between them.
Pleasure Unbound was a very good start to what is shaping up to be an exciting and intriguing, new-to-me, dark paranormal series. It has a similar style and tone as J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, but the premise is unique, centering primarily around demons and other creatures of the night who work at Underworld General, the demon hospital. Much like the bumper crop of vampires that now permeate the romance world, the idea here is that not all demons are evil either, and some of them have very respectable jobs and lives. There is also a light mystery sub-plot surrounding the identity of the person or persons responsible for the cruel harvesting of organs from live demons to feed the black market for such things. This is a very unusual story-line to say the least, and one that already has me quite eager for more.
I really liked the idea of Eidolon being a doctor. It's certainly not the kind of profession one might expect for a demon. Although he admits that demons can't be trusted, he does live by a moral code which makes him care for almost any patient who comes through their doors no matter what kind of creature it is, much like a human doctor would do. In spite of his care and concern for others as a doctor, by his very nature as a demon, Eidolon isn't particularly warm and tender, at least not at first. It took until more than halfway into the story before I really started to warm up to him. Two events became the turning point in my opinion of him. One was finding out what Eidolon had been doing for his brother, Wraith, which made me admire and sympathize with him. The other was how kind and loving he was toward Tayla when she finally told him all about her past and how he patiently helped her work through her inability to orgasm. He would also rather die than hurt Tayla, or anyone else, or make her feel obligated to mate him, so he definitely turned out to be a hero I could root for.
Tayla begins the story a bit prickly for my taste, but I suppose it's understandable given her background and her status as an Aegis Guardian. It doesn't really help things when she finds out that she's half-demon on top of it, and that the only way for her to survive is to integrate her human and demon DNA. That and meeting Eidolon challenges everything she's ever been taught to believe about demons and makes her have to rethink her position on whether they are innately evil. Tayla's inability to orgasm was an intriguing element, and while sometimes frustrating to me as a reader, I had a feeling there was a lot more to the story. Once the details of her backstory began to emerge, I was finally able to relate to her a lot better. Tayla is definitely a deeply emotionally damaged character, and while the author does focus on this for a while, Tayla overcomes most of that hurt relatively quickly. I think perhaps I would have liked to see a little more attention given to this part of her life, but overall, she was a good heroine.
Never having been a fan of love/hate relationships, I initially had a little trouble getting into whatever it was that Eidolon and Tayla shared during the first half or so of the book. I hesitated at that point to even call it a romance, because they were mortal enemies who could barely stand each other. I felt that their almost constant bickering, if not outright displays of hatred, put a lot of distance between them and didn't really lend itself to warmer, loving feelings. They did share a couple of passionate interludes, but it felt more like lust than anything else. It wasn't until well over the halfway point that the distance finally began to close, and I really felt like these two had a chance and were truly good for each other. Only having that deep emotional connection for less than half of the book is the main reason why I couldn't quite give it the full five stars.
Pleasure Unbound boasts some intriguing secondary characters. It introduces Eidolon's two brothers, Shade and Wraith, who become the heroes of the next two books, Desire Unchained and Passion Unleashed respectively. As incubi they are both intensely sexual beings. Shade has a devil-may-care personality and a curse upon him which dooms him to a fate worse than death if he ever falls in love. This sounds like it has the potential to become an excellent story, perhaps only slightly surpassed by Wraith's. He was tortured for years when he was younger, and even now, is battling addiction and teetering on the edge of insanity. I've always loved a good tortured hero, and Wraith is certainly shaping up to be a great one. I was also very drawn by Gem, a half-demon doctor and Kynan, the leader of the Aegis Guardian cell. These two definitely have the potential to become a very interesting couple, but since they don't have their own book in the series, I'm guessing that their relationship may play out as a secondary romance throughout the other books. There is also some excitement and mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Gem's parents. Last but not least was Luc, the werewolf paramedic. Once again, he doesn't have his own book, but based on something I saw on Larissa Ione's website, I think he may have a secondary romance as well.
Overall, Pleasure Unbound was a great start to the Demonica series. It ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. Ms. Ione left just enough unsolved mystery to have me clamoring for more, and the two sexy, tormented brothers as upcoming heroes certainly don't hurt either. I'm definitely looking forward to continuing with this series soon.
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