My Immortal Promise
by Jen Holling, historical/paranormal (2008)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-2586-8


My Immortal Promise can stand alone, but I would recommend that you read the previously related book My Immortal Protector first because the plot in this one is a spillover from the plot in the previous book. The author does a pretty good job in letting the new reader catch up with the plot, however, so reading the previous book is not compulsory. This review, on the other hand, has some vague references to events that happened in the previous story. If you want to read the previous book and remain unspoiled, I'd suggest you stop reading now and go pay your favorite bookstore a visit or something.

In this one, we meet Hannah O'Shea, a baobhan sith. That means she is somewhat like a vampire in that she feeds on blood, but she can move in sunlight. It's just that she loses much of her strength and becomes no weaker or stronger than a mortal woman by day. It is by night that she becomes really powerful. She also has some magical abilities. To keep things simple for the sake of this review, I'd just say here that Drake MacKay, our hero, has already encountered Hannah in the previous book. He doesn't like her. In fact, he blames her for the death of his wife. Hannah can "absorb" disease from the ill, but Hannah at that time had her own reasons for not wanting to "absorb" the disease of Drake's wife. So the poor wife died and Drake blames Hannah for "murdering" his wife.

However, in the previous story, Hannah came to the rescue of the hero and heroine of that story. Drake, therefore, feels that he owes Hannah a debt. Those two also made a big blunder in the previous story: they decided to turn the villain of that story into a baobhan sith to teach that man what it felt like to be a monster. Well, that blunder returns in this story to bite them in the rear end when this villain not only becomes more stronger than a typical baobhan sith, he also marshals an army to destroy Hannah's kind. Drake and Hannah will have to spend this story cleaning the mess they have caused. Oh, and they will also fall in love with the process, although I'm sure you're expecting that to happen, heh.

My Immortal Promise has a very nicely done romance. I must give Ms Holling lots of love for avoiding the usual mate-mate-mate shortcuts typical of romance novels featuring blood-sucking creatures. Here, Hannah and Drake begin to actually talk for the first time, an act that allows them to look beyond their initial animosity to realize that the two of them are actually very lonely people afraid of spending the rest of their lives alone and unloved. Their initial connection is that of two very lonely people desperate for physical and emotional contact with another person, even if such contact is temporary, and the romance blossoms from that point onward. Ms Holling shows me why her main characters will fall in love instead of insisting to me that they are soulmates destined from birth to be together, and she does a good job in that. I really like this.

It is also interesting how for the first half or so of the story, Hannah steps into the role of the person who is in a stronger position of authority than Drake. She knows more than he does, she is stronger than him, and she seems more than capable of carrying the story without Drake tagging along. I'm quite amused by this and am slightly disappointed when the author uses a plot twist to bring back the status quo and have Drake become the person with the stronger power of authority. Still, that doesn't mean Hannah is relegated to a position of subservience or weakness - she can still hold her own pretty well. It's just that the bad guy is much more powerful and the hero, through some convenient twist of the plot, ends up with more power than her when it comes to tackling the villain.

Hannah isn't a typical guilt-ridden, self-depreciating, or selfless martyr heroine, by the way. She has been a baobhan sith and lived long enough to develop a detached kind of ambiguous morality when it comes to humans. I find such portrayal quite in character for someone who has lived as long as Hannah while surrounded by human animosity for so long. Drake is a decent hero, being memorable mostly because he starts out being the weaker fellow in the relationship when it comes to strength and ability. I like that he's a hero, a battle-weary warrior, rather than the most alpha and most powerful superhero of the universe.

My problem here is that the plot develops in such a way that the villain ends up being the most intelligent fellow in the whole story. Okay, so he is insane and deserves a most painful death, but he's also the fellow who marshaled an army and started killing off his enemies while folks like Hannah are still trying to figure out what is going on. I'm actually quite sorry to see the poor guy get defeated in the end because he has been a most worthy villain. I'd go as far as to say that Hannah and Drake are unworthy opponents of this bad guy.

Still, the pacing especially in the later half of the story is excellent and I am actually turning the pages quickly as the author whips up her story into a climatic confrontation between the bad guys and the good guys.

All things considered, My Immortal Promise offers a very refreshingly down to earth and enjoyable romance that, for a paranormal romance, focuses on the relationship development instead of the hero beating his chest and insisting that the heroine is his because his big fat chubby says so. Also, this is a very satisfying story with a villain who is so deliciously hateful yet capable. I really like this one.

Rating: 86


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