Published by Berkley on February 6, 2024
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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A dangerous alliance between a Vampyre bride and an Alpha Werewolf becomes a love deep enough to sink your teeth into in this new paranormal romance from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love, Theoretically and The Love Hypothesis.
Misery Lark, the only daughter of the most powerful Vampyre councilman of the Southwest, is an outcast—again. Her days of living in anonymity among the Humans are over: she has been called upon to uphold a historic peacekeeping alliance between the Vampyres and their mortal enemies, the Weres, and she sees little choice but to surrender herself in the exchange—again...
Weres are ruthless and unpredictable, and their Alpha, Lowe Moreland, is no exception. He rules his pack with absolute authority, but not without justice. And, unlike the Vampyre Council, not without feeling. It’s clear from the way he tracks Misery’s every movement that he doesn’t trust her. If only he knew how right he was….
Because Misery has her own reasons to agree to this marriage of convenience, reasons that have nothing to do with politics or alliances, and everything to do with the only thing she's ever cared about. And she is willing to do whatever it takes to get back what’s hers, even if it means a life alone in Were territory…alone with the wolf.
I question some of the world building but overall I enjoyed the characters and the story.
Misery Lark should be used to being used as a pawn in the politics between Vampyres, Weres and Humans. She spent ten years of her childhood as the Vampyre’s Collateral. In order to keep the peace between Human and Vampyres, they each sent a child of an important family to the other’s territory. That child would be the first collateral damage if things went south between the Humans and Vampyres. Misery’s father is not only on the ruling council but he all but runs it. In a choice between Misery and her twin brother, Owen, Misery was sent off to live among the humans.
It wasn’t all terrible for Misery, at least once another young orphan girl was brought to live with Misery. Serena Paris is the closest thing to a true sister that Misery has ever known, and now Serena has gone missing. That is the only reason Misery has agreed to once again step in as the sacrifice for the Vampyre people, people who–by the way–have never accepted Misery as they said she was tainted by living so long with humans.
The human leader, Governor Davenport, who was Vampyre friendly, has been voted out and is being replaced by Governor-elect Maddie Garcia, who is more Were friendly and has, in fact, refused to meet with Misery’s father on behalf of the Vampyres. Councilman Lark now fears that the Humans and Weres could join forces to obliterate the Vampyres who are lower in numbers than either of the other groups alone. So he has arranged for a marriage between the leader of the Weres and Misery. Misery believes that her new husband-to-be, Lowe Moreland, knows what happened to Serena and Misery will do whatever she needs to to get into Were territory and close to Moreland.
The Weres are no more excited to see Misery in their territory as either the humans once were or her own Vampyre people. In fact, the only friend Misery makes is Lowe’s little sister, Ana, who is the only one not afraid of the big, bad Vampyre.
As Misery and Lowe begin to work together on some of the issues the Weres are facing, fear of Misery turns to begrudging respect and maybe even a little friendship.
I liked the characters, especially the bond between Misery and little Ana. While not extraordinary, this was an enjoyable paranormal romance featuring a sweet, but lonely female lead and an uber-powerful male lead. Misery never felt included in the vampyre world nor the human world. She wasn’t really accepted by the Weres either but Ana’s friendship and a growing bond with Lowe gave her her first taste of home.
I did have issues with the world building, including everyone’s different blood colors: Vampyres have purple, Weres have green and obviously, red for human. Vamps drink blood which they get from the blood bank. Is it red only? Obviously the Weres were not buying her any green but how excited would humans be with being friends with the people who feed off them. Are there any vamps that still partake from the vein? It didn’t seem that way but we really didn’t get into that much and Misery really wasn’t the best vamp, as she didn’t spend most of her childhood with her family. But wouldn’t she have been given vamp lessons for the first 10 years? And wouldn’t families object to losing their kid for so many years. This wasn’t a one or two year exchange. This was a decade long exchange and the adults that come back are now strangers, and apparently unwelcome strangers.
Misery also sleeps in the closet in a “it’s a vamp thing.” While we really don’t see Misery’s residence in the vampyre main-headquarters where her father and brother are, it didn’t seem like the living arrangements were little windowless, coffin-like areas. If they were, wouldn’t Lowe have fixed up the closet for his intended bride with bedding rather than her dragging blankets onto the floor of the closet.
Misery goes into the marriage to get information on her missing friend but since it is only intended to be for one year living among the weres she also tries to blend into the background, just like when she lived among the humans. She knows she isn’t wanted and tries not to start anything but while it might be funny, the only one she seemed rude to was little Ana, who just ignored her attempts to shoo her away. Misery believes that Lowe’s Mate is the woman who is now living with vampyres (another exchange but one that doesn’t require a marriage) but of course, anyone who has ever read a paranormal romance can see the signs that Lowe has recognized Misery as his Mate and is very confused by it. This just acts as a divide between Misery giving into her growing feelings for Lowe.
This certainly wasn’t the best paranormal series that I read but I didn’t hate it either. I really enjoy Ali Hazelwood’s STEM heroines and those stories. Misery is a talented computer coder which puts her in the usual Ali Hazelwood heroine category. I will probably read the next story in the series which was hinted at at the end of Bride, and will keep a wait and see if I will continue on with this series. The world-building might be unique but it is also a bit off-putting in a Really? kind of way.
Later that night the persistent howling that seems to be all over the lakeshore gets to me. When my door opens without warning, I’m much jumpier than usual.
“Ana.” I exhale and set aside my book. It’s about a nosy elderly Were lady who solves murder mysteries in the Northeast pack. I absolutely loathe her, but somehow I’m already at number seven in the series. “Why aren’t you wolfing with…” Oh.
Because she can’t do that.
“Can I come into the closet with you?”
She has been visiting a lot, but usually doesn’t ask for permission–just climbs next to me and plays the little games I code for her on the fly. Tonight seems different. “Fine, but no cover hogging.”
“Okay,” she says. Two minutes later, not only has she stolen my duvet, but she also appropriated my pillow. Pest. “Why don’t you sleep in a bed?”
“Cause I’m a Vampyre.” She accepts the explanation. Probably because she accepts Me. Like Serena used to, and no one else ever. I turn the page, and we’re silent for three more minutes, her breath hot and humid against my cheek.
“Usually Lowe stays human and hangs out with me when they’re all gone,” she said eventually. Her voice is small, and I know why. Alex returned yesterday, but Lowe is still out of town. That’s why Ana sounds like something she rarely is: sad.
I put down the book and turn to her. “Are you saying I’m not as good company as Lowe?”
“You’re not.” I glare, but soften when she asks, “When will I be able to shift, too?”
Shit. “I don’t know.”
“Misha can do it already.”
“I’m sure there are things you can do that Misha can’t.”
She ponders the matter. “I’m really good at braids.”
“There you go.” Pretty trivial skill, but.
“Can I braid your hair?”
“Absolutely fucking no.”
A couple hours later, half a dozen braids pull at my scalp, and Ana is snoring softly with her head in my lap. Her heartbeat is sweet, delicate, a butterfly finding a good landing flower, and fuck children for being little assholes who manipulate people into wanting to protect them. I hate that I curve my body around hers when I hear heavy, hurried steps through the walls. And I hate that when my bedroom door opens, I reach for the knife I stole from the kitchen and stashed under my pillow.
I’m ready to kill to defend her. This is Ana’s fault. Ana is forcing me to fucking kill–
Lowe crouches at the entrance of my closet, his pale green eyes furious in the semidarkness.
“Did you know, my dear wife, that when I came home during a full moon and could not locate my sister, I was ready to destroy my entire pack and torture all the Weres guarding this house for their negligence?” His whisper is pure, ominous threat.
I shrug. “No.”
“I have been looking for her.”
“And this is my fault, why?” I make a show of blinking at him, and he closes his eyes, clearly gathering the strength to not butcher me, and clearly only because his sister is currently on me.
“Is she okay?” he asks.
“Yes. I am the victim here,” I hiss, pointing at the mess on my head.
His eyes travel over the braids, abruptly stopping on the visible tips of my ears. I usually hide them, just to avoid upsetting people with my otherness, and the way Lowe stares at them–first with hypnosis-like intensity, then abruptly glancing away–only reinforces that resolution.
“I think Ana might want to become a hairdresser. You should encourage that.”
“A better job than mine, for sure.”
No arguing that. Especially when I notice the wound on his forearm–four parallel claw marks. It doesn’t seem fresh, but there’s still some green blood encrusted on it, and it smells…
“Was it the Loyals? You were gone for a while.” I don’t even mind admitting that I noticed. I’m sure he’s aware I don’t have a particularly fulfilling routine.
“Regular internal pack business. Then a meeting with Maddie, the Human governor-elect. And several Vampyre councilmembers–your father included.”
His lips nearly curl into a smile, but his expression remains grim. Maybe he went to Vampyre territory and managed to see his mate. Maybe he’s angry that I’m what he comes home to these days. Can’t blame him.
“Do you think…” After having been an instrument of politics for a decade, I’ve done my best to pretend it doesn’t exist. But I find myself wanting to know. “Will they stick? These alliances?”
He doesn’t reply, not even to say that he doesn’t, cannot know. Instead he looks at me for many, many moments, as though the answer might be written on my face, as though I am the key to unlock this.
“If Humans knew of Ana’s existence,” I say, thinking out loud. “That Humans and Weres can…” I let the thought dangle. She could be a powerful symbol of unity after centuries of strife. Or, people could decide she’s an abomination.
“Too unpredictable,” he says, reading my mind and bending to take his sleeping sister from my lap. Lowe’s hands brush mine in the exchange. When he stands, Ana instantly snuggles in his arms, recognizing him by scent even in her slumber. Babbling something that sounds too heartbreakingly close to Mama for comfort.
I want to ask him why I found a jar of creamy peanut butter in my fridge. If he’s the reason the house is now three degrees warmer than when I arrived. But I somehow can’t bring myself to, and then he’s the one to speak.
“By the way, Misery.”
I look at him. “Yeah?”
“We have shaper knives.” He points at mine with his chin. “That one isn’t going to do shit to someone like me.”
“Third draw from the fridge.” I listen to his heavy steps, and once the door to my room clicks closed, I pick up my books and start reading again.
Thanks for the tip, I guess.