WARNING: This review is on an Erotic Romance that features M/M/F if this is offensive to you, please do not read any further.
One of my favorite series by Emma Holly involves so-called demons so I was extremely pleased when THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER was ready for review. I am going to start with a few background notes since this is the seventh story set in this particular world. It follows three connected novels and three separate short stories. You do not have to read the others first, but they will give you a deeper understanding of the world, and one side character for THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER was introduced in PRINCE OF ICE (Book 3). These demons aren’t — as you might view them — from a religious standpoint but they are a genetically separate, although human based, race called demons by the first Victorian era explorers to encounter them after generations of separation. To themselves and as a more politically correct form of address, they are the Yama. The Yama culture appears to be loosely based on the Japanese culture during their era of Shoguns and samurai. During the Yama current day they also possess a great many modern mechanical and otherwise inventions along with a great skill and interest in genetic engineering. I also really liked how Ms Holly didn’t fall into the sadly overused trope of a genetic match which means HEA. Yes genetic matches are required for procreation in the Yama ruling class, but she never used that as the end all be all. Some of them deal with human and Yama interaction as a primary theme while others focus mainly on internal Yama society. Links to her website regarding her previous stories are included at the bottom of this review. THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER is one that focuses primarily on the Yama.
“In the alternate Victorian earth the Yama live in, secrets are tantamount. This supposedly demonic race doesn’t believe in letting out emotions—or in giving their hearts away.
Assassin-guards Ciran and Hattori were bred to live by that code, until Hattori’s too-moral twin is imprisoned, and Ciran falls in love with the grieving man. Both have illegally altered genes that heighten sexual needs, making those needs a challenge for anyone else to satisfy. Theirs would be a match made in heaven, if only Hattori’s heart could stretch that extra inch toward Ciran.
Katsu Shinobi isn’t your typical demon princess. As tender-hearted as she is lovely, she seems an unlikely match for these dangerous men—until they receive orders to kill her. None of them can forget the erotic interlude they once shared . . . or give up the chance to build a lasting future, together.”
This blurb came from Amazon.com
I enjoyed reading THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER and can’t help but to think that a sequel will be written. I will go into why I think that a little while later. Ms Holly weaves some interesting threads in her latest release including how seemingly isolated events can have a major impact on the future, the lengths a person will go for family loyalty or gain, and that ménages like any other relationship take work to succeed. She also moves back and forth in her timeline which I typically have a hard time following, but she was extremely clear on present and past flashbacks, and then when present moved forward. From the initial meeting and intense yet forbidden connection between Katsu, Hattori and Ciran, throughout the flashbacks of Hattori and Ciran’s earlier relationship and even when they rejoined Katsu, I could see the complexity of the characters and how very human their emotions were underneath their stoicism.
Ciran fell in love with Hattori after Hattori’s twin Haro was imprisoned for refusing to obey an order. Hattori and Haro seemed to be two halves of a whole and had spent their lives guarding each other’s backs. Hattori would do anything possible to either get his brother back or to make his brother’s life in prison easier. Ms Holly includes an assassination assignment for Hattori that I initially thought was just to flesh out his character and to impress how dedicated he was to his brother as well as set the scene for the start of his life with Ciran. Let me tell you, that scene had a much deeper purpose, which was revealed further in the book. Several years later Hattori and Ciran were sent on a guard detail. There they met Katsu, temporarily exiled away from society, and spent the remainder of that summer in an ménage relationship. We only get to see the start of that relationship in real-time the rest is provided in flashbacks primarily from Ciran’s POV. Jumping forward about 15 years Hattori and Ciran are given a new target for assassination who just happens to be Katsu. Their reunion is when the majority of the character growth takes place as the three of them attempt to determine what to do, how to do it and oh by the way we can’t forget about Haro whose quality of life in prison depends on Hattori’s successful assignment completion. I won’t go any further so I don’t spoil this book for you except to say that once they have solved the problems mentioned above their relationship issues aren’t magically gone. They still have to work through communication issues, making sure one person isn’t left out, and dealing with the long term results of their solution.
Remember how I stated in the beginning that I think Ms Holly will write a sequel to THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER? She has one character, Haro, who while not physically present in most of the book proved a driving force for several major events. You could almost say that without this character, Katsu, Ciran and Hattori would have never met. Despite Haro’s importance for this story he is not really fleshed out as a character, which is odd given Ms Holly’s typical writing style. When I look at that and add in the context of how one seemingly minor scene ended up playing a major role I will be looking for a sequel talking about Haro and his life in the near future.
Once again I really enjoyed going back to the world of the Yama and found this book to be surprisingly complex. I look forward to more.
As a side note having reviewed two of Ms Holly’s self published books, I wish more self-pubbed authors would take the obvious time and effort she has put in to release a quality product.
I give THE ASSASSINS’ LOVER an A-