After being rescued from her ordeal with the serial killer Malcolm, which left her with a craving to feel death that's as powerful as any drug, Samantha Bevins is back with her old team of psychic investigators. She now has all her memories of what happened during the years that she and her husband, Austin, were apart and why their supposed friend, Nixon, separated them and pretended to be her husband for two years. But more bits and pieces of things that feel like memories begin to surface, leaving her wondering if she's actually remembering everything yet.
Because of her addiction, Austin must use his powers to suppress Sam's empath abilities to keep her from trying to feed off the deaths of others. But when they're called upon to work the scene of a terrorist attack, Austin has no choice but to give her free reign. However, in doing so, he's unwittingly opened himself up to Sam's dark obsession, and through their powerful psychic connection, he, too, begins feeding off the euphoria to be found in death. When Austin is later kidnapped by the powers that be and charged with being responsible for the supposed terrorist attack, Sam sets out on a dangerous journey not only to find him and clear his name, but also to find out who is pulling the strings behind their agency. What she discovers is a disturbing series of serial murders that all appear to have been committed by empaths just like Malcolm, and the more she finds out, the more she begins to doubt that she or Austin can ever escape the same fate. Can she find the answers she needs before it's too late? Or are she and Austin fated to descend into the darkness together?
I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Feeling Death, the first book of my author friend, D. T. Dyllin's Death Trilogy. It was the first of her books I'd tried and was certainly different than any other romance I'd ever read, so I have to give her major props for her creativity. That said, it was a pretty dark read, which I already knew was her thing, but now after reading Embracing Death, I can say that it went even darker still, which leaves me wondering what the final book might hold. I did still enjoy the story, but the ending left me with mixed feelings, which I'll address shortly.
At the end of Feeling Death, the heroine and first-person narrator, Samantha, had just reunited with the love of her life, Austin, after being in the clutches of the villain who taught her how to use her empath skills to "feel death." It became an exhilarating sensation for her, so much so that when this book opens, she's essentially addicted to it. Austin is using his own empath skills to block hers in an attempt to keep her in check and help her recover from it. However, it seems like it might be too little, too late. Sam has grown a lot from the first book. She's now pretty much a bad-ass who isn't afraid of hardly anything except losing Austin. Unfortunately that becomes an all-too-real possibility when circumstances require that Austin loosen his hold on Sam's mind so that she can work a case. While doing so, she unintentionally draws him into her warped world of experiencing deaths with her, which leads to him being torn away from her yet again and in danger of either being killed or losing himself completely to the siren song of death. I had to admire Sam for her determination. She knows that Austin would do anything for her, and she's trying to be equally as selfless for him, even though things aren't exactly going her way. She's also intent on finding out the truth about the past and just who is pulling the strings behind the scenes of the operations where she worked with both Austin and Nixon, the other point in their love triangle. That being the case, this is a pretty intense read with almost non-stop action and revelations.
I've loved Sam and Austin together from the start. It's been obvious throughout that they share a deep, unbreakable connection that is explained in more detail in this book. I have to say that the information added to this relationship took it to a whole new level for me. It's almost like they've always been a part of each other and it was only other people toying with their minds to make them forget their respective pasts that have kept them apart. Even when they're separated, they still share a psychic connection that makes it possible for them to communicate over long distances. This being the case, when they're together, their love is almost all-consuming and very emotional. The one thing about them that might weird readers out a bit is that in this book they begin to experience deaths together, and this raises such intense emotions within them that it's a major sexual turn-on. Throughout most of the story, I wasn't overly bothered by this, because I viewed it as similar to the phenomena of some people engaging in sex as an affirmation of life after going through the experience of losing a loved one. It's just that Sam and Austin kind of take this to a whole different level by being inside the minds of those who were dying before making love. It wasn't until the end that I started to feel a bit uncomfortable with it, because things seem to go a little too far at that point. But I shall try to wait until the final book to make a full judgment call on that.
For most of the previous book, Sam had believed herself to be married to Nixon, who was also Austin's best friend. What she didn't know is that he'd engineered the whole thing in an attempt to save her from herself, or so he said, and that it was nothing but a pretend marriage. Once again, Nixon plays a big role in the story, especially after Sam and Austin are separated again. Sam is finally married to Austin, but Nixon is most definitely not giving up. There is no real love triangle anymore except in Nixon's own mind, but he's extremely persistent, particularly once Austin is out of the picture. In the previous book, he was pretty much the consummate nice guy, who seemed to have good intentions even if his actions were a little misguided. Late in this story, however, we get a few short chapters from his first-person POV, which show that his motives aren't entirely pure, and in fact, he might be behind some of the things that are happening. Just how deep his involvement goes, though, I'm not sure yet. I'll just say that I didn't like him as much in this second installment as I had in the first. I'm very intrigued to find out where things go with his character, because he's much more powerful than anyone realizes.
There were a lot of things that I loved about Embracing Death, most especially learning more about Austin's and Sam's past. This added a lot of depth to their characters and their relationship. I also enjoyed that we're finally let in on how the two respective teams of people with powers were formed and given a little background on who the driving forces are behind many of the events in these books so far. There are still things left unknown, though, so I look forward to getting that final piece of the puzzle. Right up until the end, I was planning on giving the book keeper status, but as with the previous book, it left me a little unsatisfied. At least Feeling Death had what I would call a positive HEA, or at least HFN, ending with Sam and Austin reuniting, even though she was completely messed up with her death addiction. But in Embracing Death, we don't even get that. In fact, things are even more messed up than before. In the epilogues of both books, Sam breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the reader, and I have to say that based on what she tells us, I'm starting to doubt whether there will be a positive ending to the series at all. Since I mostly enjoyed both of the first two books, I'm kind of hooked on the series. I also can't stand to leave things unfinished, so I'll definitely be reading the final book, Becoming Death, soon. However, I'll be doing so with a healthy dose of trepidation while keeping my fingers and toes crossed for some kind of happy resolution to the romance that doesn't result in Sam and Austin becoming the serial killers that many of the other empaths in these books so far have become.
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