by Larissa Ione, fantasy (2009)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-40098-5
Desire Unchained is the second book in Larissa Ione's Demonica series, but it can stand alone very well because the plot is all about the eroticization of the over the top alpha male. It is a testament of the double standards among romance readers that this series is wildly popular and there are readers clamoring for the most insane and damaged male character to get his romance when no female character can get away with the things done by the male characters in this series.
Shade in this story has cheated on our heroine Runa Wagner with two other women (at the same time, in the same bed), he is a complete failure when it comes to protecting the women close to him, but you know, because he treats the heroine like dirt and he is so mean and evil, he is therefore desirable and sexy. Strangely enough, the female demons in this book are pretty predictable. The good one sighs over some guy like a celibate martyr (this guy's girlfriend was conveniently revealed to be a skanky spy in the previous book and disposed of like yesterday's trash - and yes, this skank liked her sex too, that whore), while the female demon that performed oral sex was the skanky evil whore who would get what was coming to her. The male demons are literally whores who would service any woman - the woman's permission is not necessary - but those female demons who do the same are such whores who must be punished.
I'm sorry, I don't mean to single this book out as an example while I get on my soapbox, but Desire Unchained is an easy target because this X-rated take of a mediocre Sherrilyn Kenyon novel celebrates the double standards to such a ridiculous degree. The men literally get away with the worst crimes that usually send romance readers into a whirlwind of teeth gnashing, while the women conform to the Madonna/Whore trope in a manner that is even more obvious than ever due to the leeway granted to the heroes. And yet, seeing these same readers gush and sigh over this book while wondering when Wraith, the most damaged psychopath of the demonic siblings in this book, will get his book... I confess I have to laugh here. A shrink will have a field day analyzing us romance readers, I tell you.
It would have helped if this story is an enjoyable read, but I personally find that it spends too much time eroticizing the Bad Alpha Male trope often at the expense of the story. The plot isn't much - it is a carry over from the plot in the previous book, Pleasure Unbound. Someone is killing and harvesting the body parts of demons and werecreatures alike, and in this book, our hero Shade realizes that the ringleader behind these crimes is Roag, the brother Shade and gang thought to be dead these last three years.
When the story opens, Shade is captured by Roag and shackled into a dungeon alongside his former lover Runa. Runa was human until she discovered Shade enjoying a two-for-one special with two skanks, and when she left his place, she was attacked by a werewolf. She screamed for help, but Shade was too busy enjoying his buffet back in the bedroom. Despite being captured and shackled, these two still get to have spooky sex that results in them being bonded. The rest of the story deals with Shade trying to deal with the bond while he and his siblings figure out what to do with Roag.
In the meantime, I learn that Shade was cursed by an evil warlock just before Shade killed this man after the warlock caught Shade shagging his wife. Yes, the warlock is the evil one here. At any rate, like all villains do in these kinds of stories, the warlock thought it would be a fitting punishment to force Shade to have a permanent erection but never to find relief on his own, and that he would never find love. Poor Shade, being forced to live a life of unbridled promiscuity - what a tragic punishment for an incubus who could do that coercive "you find me hot and you will put out to me" magic thing on women!
It is hard to take the plot seriously because, as Roag himself will say in frustration on page 126, the plot is like that of a bad comic book. The villains are just plain inept, and when a skank is involved, you'd bet she would want a piece of Shade. Throughout the whole thing, Shade just wants to have sex. He's a sex-obsessed asshole. When he's angry, he wants to have sex. When he's emo, he wants to have sex. When he sees an old lady crossing the street, he wants to have sex with her. Sex, sex, sex - it gets to a point where I have to snort when the author insists that poor Shade will be automatically forced to be monogamous after he is bonded because that's just how Ms Ione has decreed things to be. It says a lot about the believability of a romance when the author has to pretty much castrate the hero just to convince me that he will remain faithful to Runa. At any rate, everything in this story revolves around the throbbing crown of Shade's relentless erection. It's ridiculous just how much Shade's wrinkly dangling bits propelled this story to the finish line.
At the end of the day, I try to figure out why any sane woman will want to spend a lifetime with Shade. Shade is always making love to Runa in ways that leaves her bruised all over, which sounds painful in the long run. He has hurt her before, and he shows no sign of being capable of showing tenderness, respect, or honesty. So why would Runa want to marry this twit? The bond, of course, the magic solution to make any relationship with a creepy asshole possible, even if Runa has no say in the matter at all. That and the fact that Runa, like everyone and everything female in this story, is in love with Shade's fifty-inch pee-pee.
All the angst because Shade is having too much skanky sex as a result of his sad childhood, all the focus on sex, and all that bond and mate thing being passed off as a love of a lifetime - yes, Desire Unchained is an X-rated version of one of those paper-thin paranormal stories by Sherrilyn Kenyon.
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