Sinful Press, 2016
Kathryn McClusky is an ErGer—a mortal woman with a rare mutation which makes her blood addictive to vampires and predisposes her to bond mentally and sexually with blood drinkers. Since she discovered her nature as an adolescent, she has been a fugitive, fleeing the cruelty of greedy immortals for whom she is both a drug and a political asset. With nothing but her wits and her courage, she has managed to protect her small family over the years— two adopted sisters, a mysterious daughter, and her wastrel older brother Paul. When Paul is captured by the vampire Lord Lucian, Kathryn believes she has no choice but to offer herself to the Lord in order to buy her brother’s freedom.
Lucian Neben has lived for more than six hundred years. With intelligence, patience and raw power, he rules the vampires of London and maintains a balance between the worlds of the humans and the Fey. Yet all his power cannot provide what he most fervently desires—an escape from the lonely isolation that is the immortal’s destiny.
The exhausted and scarred woman who delivers herself into his hands offers him new hope that he might actually experience the joys of companionship and family. Before that can happen, though, he must penetrate the layers of suspicion and bitter resignation that armor her spirit. Given her ErGer nature, he could force her into an unbreakable psychic bond. Indeed, this is the counsel of his closest advisers. However, Lucian understands that this would destroy what he most craves, that he must coax Kathryn to voluntarily surrender her mind and heart to him as she already surrendered her body.
I had very mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, Ms. Blackthorn succeeds brilliantly in bringing Kathryn to life. Abused and hunted for years, Kathryn trusts no one but herself, nothing but her evil destiny. Only her fierce concern for her family keeps her alive. She constantly tests the limits of her bargain with Lucian, allowing him only what she has explicitly promised. Her extremely gradual thaw in the face of Lucian’s patience and physicality struck me as plausible.
Lucian, however, is such a stereotyped vampire romance hero that I wanted to scream. Where are his faults? His weaknesses? He is of course what Kathryn needs, a man of strength and honor, but he’s really too good to be true.
I understand intellectually that vamp heroes have to be strong, magnetically attractive and sexually skilled. But why are they all into S&M? In the case of this book, I felt this did not ring true. The whips, the bonds, the blindfold, and the butt plugs seemed to have been inserted into the story only to satisfy the current craze for kinky erotic romance. Lucian doesn’t need them to coax Kathryn into loving him. Much as I adore BDSM, I honestly feel this story would have been more effective without these trappings. The struggle between Lucian and Kathryn is fundamentally about trust, which is definitely at the heart of a D/s relationship, but the toys Lucian imposes upon his ErGer reduced rather than enhanced the emotional impact of that struggle, at least for me.
It's credible that Lucian would be so entranced by Kathryn. He’s insightful enough to see her remarkable strength, facile mind and tenacious grip on life, in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. Since she is mortal, however, I would assume he cannot keep her as his companion without killing her to make her a vampire. Lucian doesn’t seem to consider this issue at all, which struck me as odd.
I also found the premise of the book a bit silly—in particular the notion that an ErGer will be ripe for bonding only on February 14th.
Set against these somewhat negative observations, I have to praise Ms. Blackthorn’s writing style. Reading the chapters told from Kathryn’s perspective, I truly felt her despair, her anger and her confusion.
I am not sure how to wrap up this review. I had a variety of reactions to A Variety of Chains. I found the relatively slow pace of the book frustrating but at the same time I’m very curious to discover what will happen in the next volume of the series. I really don’t know whether to recommend the book or not.
I guess you’ll have to read it, and decide for yourself.