Runa Wagner was an ordinary shy girl with an ordinary life until she fell for Shade, a sexy stranger who seemed to instinctively know how to fulfill all her deepest desires. Brokenhearted when she discovered him in the throes of passion with two other women, she ran blindly into the night, where she was attacked by a werewolf and became one herself. Until then, she had no idea that the things that go bump in the night were real. With the help of her brother, who works for a secret government para-military organization dedicated to fighting supernaturals, she survived her transition and is now intent on seeking revenge on the man, who she now knows was a demon, and make him pay for her unwanted transformation. She just didn't expect to be taken prisoner by Shade's mortal enemy, kept in a dungeon with him, and then find herself falling in love with him all over again.
Shade is a breed of incubus known as a Seminus Demon who is cursed to eternal torment if he ever falls in love. As such, he's compelled to fulfill every female desire without ever truly getting close to one. Even as a human, Runa was strangely compelling to him, which is part of why he betrayed her, but now, as Shade finds himself imprisoned with her, she's nearly irresistible to him in the newfound strength of her werewolf form. Close to his own transition into a fully fertile male of his species, Shade is faced with either mating to stave off potential insanity or staying single to avoid making a love connection that could lead to his ruin. He's already made the choice to risk single life, until the madman holding him and Runa prisoner tricks them into a mating. Now with his desire being for Runa alone, Shade can't seem to stop himself from falling for her, leaving him and his brothers in a race against time to find a way to end the curse before he fades away into eternal oblivion.
For the second time this month, I finally picked up the second book of a series of which I loved the first book, but then took a long absence before continuing with it. Coincidentally, both series were written (or at least co-written) by Larissa Ione. And once again, I was rather appalled by the fact that it's taken me four years to get around to reading Desire Unchained, book #2 of the Demonica series. But I can honestly say that it was worth the wait, even if it was an unintentionally self-imposed wait. This series is very unique and different from most paranormal romances I've read. The types of characters and situations in which they find themselves, in some ways, reminds me of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but Demonica still has it's own flavor. A large part of the story takes place at Underworld General, a demon hospital, which is a very unusual setting. The world-building is quite detailed and engaging with plenty of side characters to make it even more interesting. There's also lots of action and adventure to keep things fast-paced and exciting. The Demonica world is one that I very much enjoyed inhabiting and hope to get back to soon.
Shade is the second of three demon brothers who share a close-knit bond and who either work at or are often seen at Underworld General. Shade happens to be a paramedic. He's a specific breed of incubus known as a Seminus demon. This breed comes into their full maturity and becomes fertile at 100 years of age when they go through s'genesis. If they're bonded to a mate, their desire is for their mate only, but if they're not mated, then they develop a single-minded focus on procreating. Since there are no female Seminus demons, they will try to get their offspring on any female of another demon species by any means necessary, sometimes including rape. This can cause them to lose touch with their emotions until they go mad and become mindless killing machines. Shade is very close to going through s'genesis and has no intention of getting mated before it occurs. Years ago he was cursed by a warlock to a fate worse than death if he ever falls in love. Shade knows that he wouldn't be able to help falling in love if he were mated, so he plans to stay single, but fate has other plans in store for him. Shade was a great hero. He had a soft spot for Runa when he was with her a year earlier in her human form. Because of his incubus nature driving his libido, he rarely had sex with the same female more than once or twice, but he stayed with Runa for about a month. Granted he did cheat on her, which is what broke them up, but it wasn't entirely his fault, and once they get back together, he finds himself slowly but surely falling for the "new and improved" Runa. I love Shade's protectiveness and although he may outwardly fight the falling in love initially, he doesn't really in his heart, even though he knows it will eventually lead to his doom.
I ended up liking Desire Unchained a little better than the first book of the series, and I think that's in large part because I related to Runa better than the heroine of the previous book. In her human life, she was a sweet, but rather unremarkable young woman, who'd been through a lot of difficulties in her life. Then as she was running away from finding Shade in bed with two other females, she was attacked by a werewolf and turned into one herself. With the help of her brother, Arik, who works for a secret branch of the Army known as R-XR that fights supernatural creatures, she got through the transition, was given a special serum that makes it possible for her to shift at will, and started working for the R-XR herself. When she was assigned to find a rogue member of R-XR at Underworld General, she sees it as an opportunity to get revenge on Shade as well, since she holds him responsible for what happened to her. But when they're both captured by Shade's evil older brother, who was presumed dead, and forced to enact the mating bond, Runa quickly realizes that she never stopped loving him. I liked Runa, because she's every bit as protective of Shade as he is of her. She's a kick-butt heroine, whose werewolf side is extremely strong, but she has a somewhat softer side as well that made her easier for me to relate to. I love how she embraces Shade and his life, promising to stay with him and fulfill his sexual needs even though her part of the bond didn't take, which would have left her a loophole to leave him.
Desire Unchained boasts a fairly large cast of secondary characters. Shade's older brother, Eidolon, and his mate, Tayla (Pleasure Unbound) are seen again. Eidolon is a doctor and the head of Underworld General. He's always there for his brothers, doing whatever it takes to keep them together. Tayla is a slayer and a regent with The Aegis, a demon-hunting organization. She comes to the rescue when the brothers are in trouble. Shade's younger brother, Wraith, is an intriguing character. He's a deeply tortured soul, who tries to pretend that he doesn't care about anybody, but his actions speak louder than words. Right now, he's a confirmed bachelor, so I'll be very interested to see what kind of female it takes to bring him to heel in the next book of the series, Passion Unleashed. Then there's Kynan, a human, and Gem, who is Tayla's sister and half-demon. Both are doctors at Underworld General. They share an intense attraction to one another, but Ky fights it for all he's worth. Even though he works in a demon hospital, he harbors prejudices toward demons, because he caught his wife in the arms of one right before the demon killed her. The sexual tension between these two is so thick you could cut it with a knife, and I look forward to seeing what happens next with them, as it appears their story will be unfolding as secondary characters in the novels. Shade's presumed-dead older brother Roag, is evil incarnate and proves to be a very formidable foe. Then there are a whole host of other lesser characters, human, demon and other supernatural creatures that round out an impressive cast.
Overall, Desire Unchained was an excellent read. There were two little things that bothered me just a bit. One was a scene in Shade's playroom involving whipping that made me a little uncomfortable. I more or less understood the why of it, but it just wasn't entirely my cup of tea. The other is that a little more tenderness in at least some of the love scenes wouldn't have gone amiss. They're all pretty intense and sometime a bit rough, but I'll allow that there was enough tender feelings and romanticism outside of the love scenes to make me believe that Shade and Runa were falling in love and would indeed live HEA. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the story. The author gets some extra points for keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout and for writing such a creative world, so I still gave it the full five stars. I very much look forward to Wraith's book, and will have to try harder to get to it sooner than four more years from now.:-)
Note: This book contains some BDSM themes. Shade has a fully outfitted dungeon playroom, where he admits to having brought many females both pleasure and pain. There is one scene involving some light bondage and flogging intended for pleasure and another involving whipping that was more for pain, all of which could make some readers uncomfortable.
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