Here’s a niche for you: a paranormal romance that doubles as a horror thriller, where the protagonists spend over half the book flirting aggressively while also hunting for a horrific murderer.
And here’s the big catch to that romance angle: consent issues out the wazoo.
Let me step back and lay out the premise: in a world that’s been ruled by angels since the beginning of time, somehow it’s still recognizable as our modern era, up to and including country names. Ssh. Don’t examine it, go with it. It’s surprisingly seamless: the President answers to the angels, the angels make sure their vampires don’t murder everyone in the world.
The angels are not religious in the slightest. There’s zero mention of God, or even Christianity – the angels in this world are effectively benevolent superbeings who rule over Earth and politic with each other. They’re immortal, they’re winged, they shed magical angel dust, and they’re hot as hell. Oh, and they make vampires on a regular basis. Fortunately they make hot vampires, who are seductive and almost as hot as the angels. Humans willingly flirt with these vampires to give them their blood, and petition to be Made into vamps themselves.
So – the worldbuilding in this is ludicrous, but pleasantly so. Humans coexist peacefully with vampires and their angelic overlords, and if a vampire ever decides to go a little murderer, the angels have sanctioned the existence of the Guild. The Guild are essentially monster hunters doubling as cops, and yes: our main character is a hunter.
Before I go further, you can guess at the arc of the plot here: hunter meets angel, hunter hunts some monster, hunter bangs angel because it’s a romance novel who are we kidding. There’s not much deviation from this – but wait, it’s fun. It’s interesting.
Let’s talk consent issues.
Our protagonist is Elena, an insanely hot (she has white hair that reaches her butt! she has silver eyes! she wears black bras and black panties! She can kill you with her pinky finger!) hunter who gets tapped by the Archangel of New York (read: the angelic overlord of the North Americas) for a special job.
For this job, she meets him in person. Raphael, the archangel, is both the hottest thing she has ever seen in her life and the most powerful being she’s ever met. He could kill her without blinking and no one could stop or prosecute him. Hot, right?
Their first encounter opens with him doing a little psychic hoo-hah to make her want to worship him. She realizes this. He doesn’t apologize. This sets the tone for their relationship in the first half of the book: he’s hot, dangerous, and aggressively sexual with her. She cannot refuse the job, because if she does he’ll kill her, her friends and their young baby. She can refuse to get into his bed, but that won’t stop his near-constant flirting and groping.
I’ll be blunt: I hated the first half of this book and wanted Elena to kill Raphael, because this escalates into a scene where he nearly does rape her, she kicks him in the face and runs, and we get a chase sequence through NYC as Raphael’s pet vampires try to catch and rape her. Yeah! This is my definition of a hot romance, good job!
Here’s where this becomes something I can give three stars: Raphael hears the rape accusation from and goes “wait what I’m a good person” and essentially wakes up to how much of a giant asshole he’s been. He uses some angel magic to get advice from another archangel, learns that he’s been acting like a sex-starved rapist because there’s something special about Elena that makes him mortal, and…
….and because of the magic business his personality gets shoved to the background and he becomes the angelic terminator. Elena (after her vampire chase) waits to confront him at her home, where he comes in, busts the window, dangles her over a life-threatening drop, and she uses a special gun to blow up half of his wing.
And because there’s something special about her, he doesn’t instantly heal like he’s supposed to. He begins to bleed out, gets his personality back, and the book shifts: Elena realizes she likes this monster and doesn’t want him to die, and he realizes he needs to be more careful with her. No, he never apologizes – but his behavior gets better. There’s less baby-threatening and no more rape attempts.
It’s a very weird dynamic, and frankly – I like how the author handles this? Like, while there are flaws, overall it doesn’t fetishize his awfulness. And his paranormal background helps, too – he’s an immortal monster who’s been treating women like toys because he’ll outlive them and literally no one in his life has been a good influence, so he’s a spoiled brat with way too much power. Elena tells him no, calls his bullshit, and he grows to be – still arrogant and rude, but more acceptable. Less sex criminal, more hot broody magic dude.
Best of all, Elena never goes soft or suddenly goo-goo eyes over him. She realizes she wants him alive, yeah, and she does begin to accept his advances, but it’s definitely more on her terms than his, and once their relationship becomes less about fear/anger/power, it becomes fun.
Which – oh right, plot! This made me laugh while I was reading it – literally over half the book is about Elena and Raphael arguing with each other, sexual harassment, that rape and then chase sequence, and all of that good horror/romance drama. Remember that the very start of the book is about Raphael hiring her to help him catch a killer.
Magically, they have time for this romantic horrorshow because the killer doesn’t start killing people in NYC (and thus revealing his presence) until AFTER Raphael’s wing has healed and Elena’s willing to work with him. If the murderer hadn’t waited around this would have been a very different book because Elena wouldn’t have had time to shoot Raphael in the wing. Instead of a romance plot we’d get horror all the way down as they catch the killer and then Raphael kills Elena for telling him no.
But lo: they have time. They find bodies, they discuss clues and how to track him, they endure the horror of what the killer’s done to his victims (meat sculpture essentially) and have comfort sex in a bathtub. As you do, in a romance novel. Elena gets to sleep with the mattress of Raphael’s gorgeous fluffy wings and wake up to a handsy archangel who will do anything to protect her, and see, this is why the book has three stars.
The finale – I won’t give it away, except to say that Raphael does do anything to protect Elena and it’s an absolutely badass sequence as both Elena and Raphael do their part to take down the killer. Raphael may be powerful, but it takes Elena to get them a win and it’s awesome.
So. I’m clearly the wrong kind of reader for this genre, because boy did all of those consent issues and horror sequences in the first half of this book turn me off. Fortunately pushing through rewarded me with one hell of a fun time and the promise of lots of sequels about them – and I’m down for that. Learning more about this wacky universe and how its angels and vampires work is fun, and when the characters actually get along I love their chemistry.
The writing is snappy and fun (even if it likes to linger on how friggin’ hot Raphael is, did you know he has the world’s most cobalt eyes and he’s shaped like the perfection of male beauty) and just – yeah! I like this book.
Hard to rec though. Maybe to horror fans who would enjoy the pivot to supernatural murder hunting with a heavy side of hot angel sex? Or to romance fans who can endure the awful long enough to get to the delicious second half.
Either way: go in with your eyes open.