Seriously, this book really frustrated me and it’s hard not to focus on those frustrations to the detriment of the novel. It is however, a perfect example of why I will never claim Ilona Andrews as a favorite author. I often find that their books have a subtle current of misogyny/gender issues which is easily overlooked because in general I like everything that surrounds that current and it’s a small current. That current ebbs and flows depending on the novel and oh boy did high tide hit with this book. There were multiple times my jaw just dropped or I wanted to throw my kindle across the room in frustration. This book contains one of the more disturbing scenes of sexualized violence that I’ve ever read. But it’s TOTES OK because the victim was a trashy bimbo who insulted our heroine (ok, in fairnes to the authors, Nevada strongly protested this woman’s treatment. But it was still gross and really, really disturbing)
Just a quick summary. Nevada Baylor is a PI sent to bring in a dangerous rich boy after he kills someone (so the cops don’t kill him first). It’s a suicide mission, her boss as much tells her this when he assigns it to her. Connor “Mad” Rogan (who is ALWAYS OMG ALWAYS called Mad Rogan like he had no other name, it drove me crazy) is seeking this same rich boy for reasons of his own. They intersect and you know… shit happens. And then I raged for the rest of the book.
Lets get the good out of the way first. I really like Nevada and her family. There were moments where I thought the Andrews were keeping her purposefully obtuse in order to further the plot and it annoyed me, but not so much that I thought she made a terrible investigator and I still really liked reading about her. She’s a capable woman with a couple of flaws and I just really liked reading her. The book was first person POV, which is generally not my favorite POV as it’s rarely well done, but I liked it here. I also liked the world building in the book. It’s an interesting alt-earth setting and while I have my doubts about how well the Andrews thought out the various changes that 100+ years of magic would actually make to society (especially magic that originated in Europe in the 1860s), we see so little of the broad world that it’s not quite as bothersome as it could be.
Basically, the book was typical Andrews fair and I enjoyed it. Except for Mad Rogan, everthing and I do mean EVERYTHING about him was terrible. I enjoyed the novel despite him, and most likely I’m not going to read any more of these books because of him. I hated him so much that he burned through any good will their previous novels have created and I’m honestly cautious about reading any books of theirs in the future. That’s how terrible he is. I understand that they likely have an over-arching plot of redemption planned out for him, my problem is that there are things that you don’t come back from and lines that you don’t cross before you head directly into villain territory. Connor “Mad” Rogan is so far in villain territory that I find it frustrating to see him as any kind of suitable romantic lead. In fact, the only thing separating the hero from the villain in this book is that Nevada couldn’t stop thinking about one of them naked and while she found the other attractive she didn’t want to sleep with him. I thought about doing a list of the two characters and their actions in the book just to show exactly how they parallel, but decided it might be too spoilery.
This was his introduction:
He cut right through the layers of civilization, politeness, and social snobbery to some preternatural female sense that said, “Dominant male. Danger. Power. Sex.”
That’s a ridiculous line and states a sentiment that I very strongly disagree with. But I thought it was going to lead to the more subtle gender issues that I find in the Andrews’ work. But no, it got worse. This is a quote from Rogan to Nevada just before the book ends.
“Fine,” he said. “You had no idea it could be this good. Nobody in your past was ever that good and you know that nobody in your future will ever be this good. You’ve had a taste and you want more. You want sex. Dirty, naked hot sex. It’s floating through your head as we speak. You think you can imagine what it would be like. Trust me, you have no idea. I haven’t even started. So run from it, think it over, pretend it didn’t happen, it doesn’t matter. I’ll allow it for now. The more you fight, the more irresistible it will become, until one day I’ll motion with my hand and you’ll come running.”
Seriously “I’ll allow it for now”? EXCUSE ME? ALLOW IT? Profanity deleted.
The thing is, that honestly isn’t even the worst thing for me. He doesn’t listen to Nevada when she tells him no. There are multiple times in the book where she tells him not to do the thing to her, but he does the thing anyway. THAT IS NOT ROMANTIC, and it sends up ALL THE RED FLAGS EVER. All of them. That’s the line. And again, to the authors credit, Nevada seems to recognize this. Maybe? God I hope so. At least her reasons for saying no to this guy at the end seem to indicate that. However these two getting together is so strongly telegraphed as the end result of the novels, and is even pushed by Nevada’s usually sensible grandmother, that I just can’t give the Andrews all that much credit.
Also, did I mention that the first time these two meet Rogan kidnaps and tortures her? Oh yea, that happened.
And then there’s the scene of sexual violence that really disgusted me.
Nevada and Rogan go to meet a woman in order to wring some information out of her. She’s presented as a fallen socialite, one who will never attain the social status she seeks and so she’s a little desperate. She quickly determines that Nevada fits into the ‘no competition’ slot (because obvs she’s a judge-y whore) and insults her. Rogan starts to magically make out with her and then uses his other power to use her clothing to strangle her, and he would have killed her if Nevada hadn’t stopped him. If that wasn’t gross enough, and believe me that’s plenty gross, not a page later we learn that when he does the magical make-out thing he can feel the emotions of the other person and connects with them. So he wasn’t just groping/sexing/kissing/whatever this woman, he was feeling exactly what she was feeling and then at the peak of arousal he attempts to kill her.
Once again, I don’t care if the overarching story line for this guy is a redemptive one. I don’t think you can come back from any of that and be a reasonable romantic lead.
I’m pissed, because I know this team can do better. I’ve seen them do better. But this book raised all of the red flags, ALL of them, and now I’m not sure I’m willing to check out new series by these authors any more- at least not without some serious, SERIOUS, heavy vetting by people I trust.