Love at Stake, Book 10
Heat Factor: Smoldering, but watch out for Hellfire.
Character Chemistry: Cosmic insta sparks.
Plot: Fallen angel tries to get back into heaven by helping some good vampires defeat an evil vampire. Learns about love in the process. But specific sexual love, not the general anonymous love for humanity that all angels experience.
Overall: A romance novel that is also a meditation on faith and free will.
Our heroine, Marielle, is an interesting character. She’s an angel who has been banished from heaven for disobedience. She provides a lot of the comic relief because as an angel she was never fully corporeal. So she says things like “I have a complete set of female private parts!” and needs to be taught about things like eating and bathrooms and clothing. And chocolate (which she loves more than all other food because she has a vagina). We even get some nice god comedy, like when our hero Connor sees her topless and says “Jesus Christ!” and she’s all like, “Where? Is he here right now?”
But she is not just comic relief. Marielle’s arc also brings up issues of faith and identity in quite serious and sometimes also interesting ways, primarily due to the way Sparks imagines the heavenly realm. As an angel, Marielle is used to being a member of the Heavenly Host, and having constant reassurance in her head from other angels (and maybe also God); now, in her mostly human form, she is cut off from the rest of the angels. So when she says things like “Glory to God in the Highest,” she doesn’t get the response she’s used to. This leads her to reflect on the amazing faith of humanity – that they can still believe in God even without constant reassurance.
Marielle also provides an avenue for the reader to think about free will and fate. She was banished from heaven for disobeying an order for the third time – but each act of disobedience was connected to the community of vampires that this series centers on. So when she decides that her best way back into Heaven is to help the vampires defeat an evil vampire who has been terrorizing normal humans, it seems fated – like she was meant to disobey so that she could offer critical assistance. So does she actually have free will, or is she walking on a path set for her? And if she is walking on a path set for her, how manipulative and messed up is it that her path leads her directly to banishment from her community?
Have I mentioned that Marielle happens to be an Angel of Death? What that means in practical terms is that if she touches a human, they die. She cannot control this; it just happens. Very convenient that she falls in with vampires then, since they are Undead, and therefore only sort of alive, and not subject to her power, amirite?
That brings me to the other half of this equation: the vampires.
So, vampire romances seem to be heavy on guilt, and this one is no exception. Usually, the guilt the vampire carries is because he is an evil bloodsucking monster who is bound for Hell because of all of the innocent lives he took to keep himself alive. Connor talks in a similar vein (unrelieved guilt, bound for Hell, blah blah blah), but he reveals the source of his guilt, it’s much more potent and terrible and heartbreaking than the average vampire sob story. All of which is to say that once his past is revealed, I bought his guilt, so his redemption through love and a return to faith felt well-earned.
You may have noticed that I’ve been talking a lot about faith in this review. This is not marketed as a Christian romance, but there are some serious Christian overtones. (More Catholic than Protestant, though; to be simplistic about it, there’s a focus on redemption through good works, and no discussion of Bible reading whatsoever. Also, 500 year old vampires predate the Protestant Reformation.) The stuff about faith, the emphasis on guilt and overcoming it by returning to god, the questions about free will – all straight from theological debates that have been raging for years. The last scene is also all about “Be fruitful and multiply!” which I could write a whole article about, because the logistics of vampire procreation when their semen is (un)dead is a whole separate thing.
Despite the Christian overtones, it doesn’t feel preachy, and is still sexy. The characters joke about penises and stuff. Connor wears nothing under his kilt, so we have several incidents of him flying through the air and showing his bare arse and/or manly bits.
In terms of the love story, the relationship is angsty, but not annoyingly so. These are cosmic creatures who are considering the states of their immortal souls, so it makes sense that they would have some angst about how their relationship can work. How can a vampire sex up an angel, and literally ruin her innocence? She might not get back into heaven!
This book also don’t do that thing where her blood smells the most delicious therefore they are Fated Mates, which annoys the shit out of me in vampire romances. I call that a win!
Buy Now: Amazon