Desert Isle Keeper
Rhapsody is the fifth and penultimate instalment of Ms. London’s The Bellator Saga, which chronicles two powerful politicians, Jack McIntyre and Caroline Gerard, as they try to save America from a despot of a leader named Santos. Told in both present and flashbacks, the story is layered, mature, sumptuous, and sexy as all hell. These are not standalone books, dear reader, but if an adult dystopian saga with Kindle-melting sexytimes, along with meditations on trauma and explorations of patriotism sounds intriguing, I promise you these books are worth your time.
Additionally, I have been promised that, while none of the individual books has a happily ever after, the full series is arcing towards one for Jack and Caroline. Ms. London knows I will come at her with pitchforks if not, and I know I would not be alone.
If you are someone who wants to know nothing about the books they read beyond the premise, then click away now. (Even better idea? Go purchase Dissident, Conscience, and Sojourn, the first three books in the series (7.99 for the trilogy), and get lost in this world.) But in order to tell you why I’ve given Rhapsody an A, I will have to tell you about some bits of previous books, so apologies for minor spoilers.
The basic premise of the series is this: Caroline, a Democrat, has spent her life fighting for the under-resourced citizens of America. A widow with two girls, Caroline has a reputation for being fierce, fair, and kind, a combination not common on Capitol Hill. Jack McIntyre, on the other hand, is a cunning, multi-millionaire Republican with a reputation for being kind of an ass. He’s got aspirations towards presidential glory, and is not used to being poleaxed by anyone. Caroline changes that completely, and their love story is one for the ages.
The series opens with the two of them in the woods somewhere near the Canadian border, and we get the direct impression that they are running for their lives. There’s snatched talk of strategy, but eventually they are separated. The present narrative begins to follow Caroline, with Jack featuring heavily in flashbacks as the readers are let in on how they met, fell in love, rose to power in the national scene, and then find themselves in the woods running from the government they serve.
The book directly previous to this one, Sojourn, is a rough read. Caroline has been physically and mentally tortured, stripped of her sense of self and her understanding of the world. Even though she’s reunited with Jack, she’s convinced she’s too different to really be with him anymore. Her torturers (described in Conscience) convinced her that his love for her was a lie, and that, indeed, her whole sense of who she is was a lie well. Sojourn is a meditation on trauma, and we get PoVs from both Caroline and Jack as we cycle through the stages of grief, pain, distress, and treatment. By the end of that book, Caroline makes the decision to join leadership on the rebel base in which they’re located and comes to some clarity about herself, Jack, and their relationship.
Rhapsody is the examination of healing and the choices required to accomplish it. It’s a breathtaking reminder that trauma is a living entity, one which rarely cedes control over someone’s soul without a fight. For every moment where Jack and Caroline feel “normal”, there are several where they don’t. What’s different than before, however, is that they come out on the other side of it realizing that creating a new normal together is better than creating a new one separately.
I wept and cheered through this book. These people, whom I have come to deeply care for, have finally found the light again; discovered that the voices of torture are not the truth, that all things shall be made new, and that love always wins. There are breathtaking moments in this book where you can feel Caroline wanting to choose to retreat into herself again, but instead chooses to trust Jack. Seconds where Jack has no idea how to love his wife in the way that’s best for her, and then something shifts and he has the perfect moment.
There’s a lot of plot in this book, too; Ms. London is clearly ramping up for the big showdown between these rebel forces and the sitting government and I am so here for that. I love the supporting characters, Nadia in particular, and cannot wait to see how the cliffhanger at the end of Rhapsody is resolved. I’m admittedly less picky about plot details in this story because the characters feel so real, so some readers may be dissatisfied with some of the machinations, but I have confidence they’ll serve the greater story.
To read this series is a commitment for sure, but it’s one I still recommend. This world, these people, these ideas; they’re all worth your time. While you go read, I’ll be trying to distract myself until the finale is published and I get to sigh deeply at that promised happily ever after.