Josephine Doe had a more difficult childhood than most. Her earliest memories are of her adolescence, when she was homeless and trying desperately to take care of her baby brother. When she’s murdered and abruptly turned into some sort of ghoul, then forced out of her brother’s life, Jo allows herself to almost vanish from existence. She’s convinced she is a monster and wanders aimlessly around the U.S., until one late night in Louisiana she bumps into Rune, a half-fey “Baneblood” whose poison blood can kill anyone else from the Lore. Josephine is ecstatic to have found someone who might be able to tell her something about herself, while Rune is incredulous to realize she isn’t poisoned by drinking his blood. Although initially wary of trusting each other, the two end up bound by curiosity and a common goal of defeating Nïx, setting out to travel the world together.
Although Josephine and Rune aren’t my favorite of Ms. Cole’s couples, I had a wonderful time reading about them. They mirror each other with their tough veneers masking serious vulnerabilities. In their own way, they each struggle with a lack of family and poor self-image. Jo’s only family member cried out in fear the last time he saw her, causing her to view herself as an unlovable monster. Rune, raised in a hostile environment and cursed with the knowledge of how lethal he can be to his loved ones, sees himself as basically worthless. These issues made the characters much more interesting and developed, but unfortunately resulted in an ending conflict which was a bit too routine for me. Josephine keeps doubting Rune’s ability to be faithful, while he does his best to live up to her bad opinion of him. Apart from this overused ending conflict, there’s a lot to love about Sweet Ruin.