He leaned over the drawing. His face was still obscured by his shaggy hair, but a black stone pendant slipped out of his shirt. “Kiss me, and I’ll give it back.”
I grabbed his hand that held the charcoal. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
“So you don’t recognize me?” He looked up and pushed his hair out of his face. His cheeks were pale and hollow, but it was his eyes that made me gasp. The same dark eyes I used to call “mud pies.”
“Daniel?” I let go of his hand. The charcoal pencil plinked onto the table. A million questions slammed against one another in my brain. “Does Jude know you’re here?”
Author: Bree Despain
Synopsis: Pastor’s daughter Grace Divine—yes, that really is her name—was in love with her brother Jude’s best friend, Daniel, three years ago. But three years ago, Jude and Daniel fought, Daniel disappeared, and Jude came home covered in his own blood. When Daniel resurfaces, Grace can’t help still feeling for him, but good-hearted Jude reacts in rage. The strange savagings and disappearances around town seem to justify Jude’s distrust. Caught between the brother she loves and the beloved who was once almost a brother, Grace faces an evil that puts all three of their souls on the line.
Notes: Womanizers. Brooding ‘I’m not good enough for you’ guys. Byronic heroes. Free-living rascals. Angry young men. Whatever form they come in, bad boys have never been my type. But Bree Despain chose her male lead well, because this is a story about grace.
The imagery isn't subtle. The protagonist's name is more than self-explanatory. Daniel means “God is my judge,” an interesting thought considering that the answer offered is Grace Divine. The name Jude comes from a Biblical apostle and derives from Judah, which means “praise God.” I could go further with that one, but it might lead to spoilers.
It’s great to see a character in a mainstream novel allowed to be Christian, innocent and pure of heart. Grace's conflict over right and wrong is natural and well chosen, but the Christian elements are toned down for the mainstream audience. For instance, considering the situations Grace faced, I'd have expected her to pray.
Some Christians may not appreciate the completely extra-biblical monster mythology, which is a few steps beyond throwing a Little Drummer Boy in with the shepherds and magi. That sort of thing has never greatly bothered me, but I’m tempted to see where Despain takes some of her plot threads before I give the themes a wholehearted endorsement.
The use of the Prodigal Son parable gave me chills.
Paranormal romance doesn't often appeal to me, thanks mainly to my distaste for amped-up love triangles and the idea of kissing a monster. This book avoided those issues well enough, but I’m starting to think that rushed writing and editing is a frequent problem for the genre. I got tripped up a number of times by odd tense shifts and wording garble apparently left over from editing processes. The prose itself is a tad choppy, and the mythology could have been developed a little more.
That aside, I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down. I got attached to both Daniel and Jude and loved Grace overall as a protagonist. The ending took me very much by surprise, though early in the book I’d managed to come up with a mild suspicion in the right direction.
Also, as a bit of a nerd, I had to smile—if sadly—at the Star Wars reference at the end. I can remember Yoda saying those words.
Readers must pay attention to the section headers to stay on track with the timeline hopping, but the back story played an important role.
The cover seemed inappropriate to me. Not only is it a revealing picture of legs wrapped with a purple scarf around the crotch (the detail is quite noticeable up close), but it shouts sex instead of the true point of the story. As Grace apparently starts and ends the tale a virgin, the overt sexing of the cover appears to be misguided symbolism at best and a base marketing ploy at worst. Not that I have strong opinions or anything. :)
The sequel just came out, which means I have yet another series to continue.
Recommendation: It’s hard not to recommend a tale focused on the relationships between grace, love, forgiveness, fear, and salvation. Some Christians will appreciate it, and some will not; some non-Christians will hate it, and others will love it. I found enough of value to look to the sequel with hope.