Sugar & Vice, Book #1
Heat Factor: Yeah, so, we barely even know they like each other at the end of this one
Character Chemistry: I don’t know how Therin managed it, but I wanted them to touch SO BADLY even though 1) it’s dangerous and 2) they mostly snip at each other
Plot: Empaths are a persecuted group, feared for their abilities even though they have to be pacifists (and vegans) by virtue of their extreme empathy, except that there’s a triple homicide that looks suspiciously like Reece’s nightmares, and the man rumored to keep empaths in check suddenly arrives in town.
Overall: It is not actually a romance (yet), but it is SO FREAKING GOOD
The stakes of this book are immediately SUPER high, which is engaging, and keeps the pages turning from the beginning. Reece is minding his business in a diner and gets a call from a mysterious Southerner (he’s a Texan, actually) who knows more than he should about…everything. And he tells Reece to go find his sister at the homicide she’s working because she has no leads…at least no leads without the help of an empath. Before Reece has had a chance to put his phone back in his pocket, we see the waitress irrationally freaking out now that she’s realized that there’s an empath in the diner. In only a few paragraphs, I already had a clear picture of the world we were in, I could buy into the high stakes, and I was dying to know what happened next.
Together, we move through multiple different perspectives (mostly Reece’s though) as many different characters with wildly different fears and motivations try to get to the bottom of an almost unexplainable triple homicide over the course of hours.
There are so many moving parts in this book, and everyone in the book manages to stick to their own agendas. SO MANY TIMES I wanted to scream at the characters for making the wrong choice, but I couldn’t deny that they were staying true to their characterizations. Why should Reece trust the mysterious “empath hunter” who repeatedly reminds him that The Dead Man is not to be trusted? Why should Evan’s sister trust anyone else with her brother’s safety—or mistrust any of her trusted colleagues, for that matter? Why should the FBI agent believe that a solo operator with no checks to his power is actually trustworthy? Why should anyone who actually understands how empaths work believe that empaths can be harmful? But why would people who are terrified of empaths believe that they might not be the bogeymen they’re made out to be? The seemingly all-powerful—and emotionally blank—Evan Grayson is never a POV character, but he is also complex and consistent, alone and driven to be both enforcer and protector where empaths are concerned. But how is anyone who’s only ever heard rumors of him to believe even that?
Okay, but this is a romance blog. I really loved Allie Therin’s debut trilogy, but I usually don’t love trilogies because a love story honestly does not need 700-800 pages to be told. There’s usually unnecessary drama (or not enough drama) for the relationship in the later books, or the external plot takes over and the romance doesn’t matter in the later books. That said, I think I am excited about this one (but I will reserve full judgment until the trilogy’s over). Here’s why: there is a huge amount of world-building here, this story took place over the course of just hours, and the relationship has only just started, which makes a lot of sense when Reece honestly can’t trust Evan without betraying himself until Evan has proved himself by his actions over the course of their time together. It’s not until things really come to a head that Evan can see Reece for who he truly is, and Reece likewise can see that, while every terrible thing Evan has told him is true, Evan is still, er, shall we say romance hero material?
I desperately wanted Reece and Evan to come together, which I think is a great feat on Therin’s part. Reece won’t touch anyone without consent because of his empathic abilities, but on top of that, it’s not clear what would happen to Reece if Evan were to touch him, because Evan is emotionally unreadable. Just hearing Evan’s voice for the first time made Reece vomit. They cannot touch, and that only made me want it more. This was aided by Evan’s constant consideration of and care for Reece as an empath, which we actually get a clue to in their very first conversation during that mysterious phone call in the first pages of the book. Even though we never have Evan’s perspective, it’s very clear that he’s a deeply caring (but deeply lonely) person. And we are mostly in Reece’s perspective, so we also see that it’s very clear that he needs someone he can be himself and let go with. So anyway, I’m very optimistic about this relationship, even with its significant hurdles (I mean, not being able to touch is a big challenge).
And you know what else, now that I think of it? Reece is a whole unwashed mess, and Evan is described as unbelievably hot and superbly coiffed many times, but because Reece inherently cannot be attracted to looks, and because Evan is otherwise fearsome, we really don’t get all that much focus on Evan’s looks being a feature or selling point for him. I could go on, I suppose, as I continue to recall elements, but for now suffice it to say: I loved this book and I’m salty that I don’t know the pub date for book 2 yet.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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