Sweet Ruin is the sixteenth entry in the venerable Immortals After Dark series. In a market where many paranormal romance series go off the rails or lose steam between books three and five, the IAD series has grown and expanded without losing its focus on romance.
Rune Darklight is part demon, part dark fey and a member of the Møriør, a band of immortals comprised mostly of the primordials of certain species. The Møriør is journeying through space to join the Accession, a species wide war between immortals on earth. Rune is given orders to travel ahead to assassinate the Valkyrie Nix, who is believed to be steering the Accession. When he arrives on Earth, he encounters Josephine, a female of unknown species. Drawn to this sexy stranger, he forges an unlikely alliance with her.
Josephine Doe doesn’t know exactly what she is. She has no memories prior to being eight years old and a foundling. As a preteen, she was shot and killed, only to awaken later as something more than human. Jo becomes sort of a protector of prostitutes, exacting her own brand of vigilante justice on the streets of New Orleans. Believing her brother to be in danger from Nïx and the Valkyries, Jo allies herself with Rune, the maddening fey she can’t seem to get enough of.
This book serves as a sort of turning point in the series. I’m intrigued by the Møriør as a brand new antagonist and interested to see what they have in store for Nïx’s Vertas alliance and the Accession overall. The author introduces several new characters, including the head of the witches, who hints at shaking things up for the coven. And of course Nïx makes several appearances, always delightful in her irreverence. As an added bonus, if you remember the storm demon Deshazior from earlier in the series, he shows up to cause a bit of trouble between Jo and Rune. My heart skips a beat whenever Desh is on the scene.
Jo and Rune make a good pairing. Both characters are well developed with fascinating backstories that have molded them into who they are currently. Both are loners. Rune is a baneblood, an outcast among his own people, while Jo has existed in solitude, no longer fitting into the human world, yet unaware of the Lore. She craves family and connection, while he doesn’t want any ties to anyone. In a fun twist on the fated mates trope, Jo is the first to recognize their bond as Rune resists every step of the way.
Honestly, I had a lot of trouble warming up to each of them individually. Jo is not the warm and fuzzy sort and Rune starts the book as so much of a manwhore it was hard for me to see him as hero material. When their romance finally takes off though, it’s sweet and hot. They have an actual courtship as Nïx leads them on a merry chase around the globe, pushing the pair together and allowing them to get to know one another as they move from location to location.
Even though I enjoyed the romance and the overall advancement of the series, I had trouble believing in Rune’s conversion from manwhore to devoted mate. He insists until nearly the end of the book that he is the way he is and Josephine will have to get used to having an unfaithful lover. He eventually undergoes a change of heart, but for me it was much too little too late. I think Jo will have her work cut out for her to make sure he upholds his promise to her.
Basically, I liked Sweet Ruin, but I didn’t love it. The romance was good, but it was not one that became an instant favorite or one that I’m likely to reread. I’m still along for the IAD ride though, and can’t wait to see what comes next.