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Review by Jessewave - Unforgiven by S. W. Vaughn
Review Summary: Two unlikely protagonists hook up for one night of sex which turned out to be much more.
After serving four years for a murder he didn’t commit, ex-cop River tries to avoid the human race. He runs street cons to make enough money for the dilapidated room he rents and the booze he drinks to stay numb. But when he tries to scam a gorgeous stranger who’s robbing an ATM, he soon realizes he’s tangled with the wrong man.
Braelan is the prince of the Seelie Fae, just arrived in the human realm to avoid becoming King. He also has unfinished business with his half-brother, who he owes a debt that may be impossible to repay. When a scruffy, unkempt human attempts to take the money he’s stealing, Braelan offers to pay him in exchange for spending the night with him–though he has no idea why he’s attracted to the man.
Despite himself, River agrees to one night only–and after the most incredible sex of his life, he realizes there’ll be no getting over Braelan anytime soon. But River doesn’t want to feel anything, and Braelan feels too much. While neither can deny what might be love, River’s past is coming back to haunt him…and it will drag Braelan down with him.
Unforgiven is the third book in this series. I reviewed Skin Deep here and Jenre reviewed Heartsong. Unforgiven is Braelan’s story, one of the most complex characters of the series, someone I didn’t think I could ever like, but he surprised me.
The story opens with Braelan, the Fae prince, breaking into an ATM machine to get some money for a taxi to the Grotto, his half brother Cobalt’s tattoo parlor. He’s now on earth in New York City, his second visit to the mortal realm where most of this story takes place, having left Arcadia, the Seelie Court and home of the Fae for good (or so he thinks), even though his father the king planned to step down and he was expected to be the new ruler.
Someone was watching him as he broke into the ATM, a former gay cop named River Jarvis who had been living as a street hustler since he was released from jail after serving 4 years for killing his former partner and lover. River was desperate since he, too, had no money. He was gaunt from lack of food, his clothes were rags that hung from his body, and he had been scrabbling and barely existing using scams on defenseless and vulnerable people to get money for food and rent. That evening while he was in the midst of another unproductive scam he saw Braelan robbing an ATM and he devised a plan to get the money he had stolen. However his mark turned out to be unexpected in many ways.
When Braelan noticed River looking at him as he was stealing the money he was attracted to the man. River approached him and tried to get him to hand over some of the money but Braelan proposed that they hook up for one night and he would share the loot with him. River could not believe the proposal and I loved his internal dialogue as he debated with himself the pros and cons of going with Braelan – which was really funny. Eventually they cut a deal but River had one more ace up his sleeve and when Braelan wasn’t looking he tasered him, stole his money and left him to die in an alleyway.
When Braelan regained consciousness and realized what had happened he was determined to track River down and when he arrived at the hell hole River called his home the squalor made the worst dump look like a palace. After River tried unsuccessfully to get rid of Braelan once more he decided to have him spend the night since he had not had sex in a long time and Braelan was an attractive man, but somewhere along the way to getting rid of him River got into a spot of trouble with his emotions.
This is the most complicated story of the series and Braelan changed 180 degrees from the spoiled prince in Heartsong that I met initially; he was so different he was almost unrecognizable. At the end of Heartsong he had rejected the Seelie Court when he saw how corrupt the Fae were, especially his father the king, and he now valued his half brothers Uriskel and Cobalt. The main plot, involving a former as well as a new enemy was well executed, but if you can’t stand violence you might be well advised to stay away from Unforgiven because the last chapters, while exciting, were pretty violent. This book was very dark and the plot was complex and at times I wasn’t sure of its direction. One major flaw was that the author didn’t explain in detail the motive of one of the villains, and since the stories of the three brothers have now been told I guess we’ll never know because this is probably the last book in the series.
Many of the supporting characters were funny, including Jules the crack addicted whore who lived in Rivers’ building and would do anything to get laid. In addition to Uriskel and Cobalt, two of the characters that I liked from the previous books, Nix and Shade, were back and I really enjoyed their relationship.
The world building of New York City’s decaying and crumbling underbelly was well done and I thought that the author captured the despair, poverty and unhappiness of the people who tried to eke out an existence in that part of the city, which was emphasized by the boarded up buildings and general sense of being abandoned. Best of all was the characterization of River who I thought was very well done and overshadowed Braelan at times because he was so gritty and courageous. Braelan was also three dimensional and extremely brave, and the last scenes almost broke my heart even though I knew he was a paranormal and therefore had a higher pain threshold than humans.
If you have read the other stories Unforgiven is not to be missed.
This is not a standalone book and should be read as part of the series.
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