CW/TW: Emotional child abuse, hostage exchanges, kidnapping, child in peril, consensual knotting
I enjoyed Bride so much that I might put it on the keeper shelf. It’s the first book I’ve read by Ali Hazelwood, so I can’t tell you how it compares to her other work. But I can tell you that while Bride isn’t perfect, it’s a fun, though violent, paranormal romance between a mysterious brooding werewolf leader and a deeply sarcastic vampyre.
The narrator of the book is the sarcastic vampyre whose name, I shit you not, is Misery. Misery’s mother died giving birth to her, hence the name. In this world, humans, vampyres, and werewolves live in a delicate state of truce. Humans and vampyres seal this truce by periodically exchanging hostages – one child from each group. Misery’s father is the leader of the Southwest vampyres and he sent her to be the humans’ hostage. So, she grew up among humans, with her only close bond being with her twin brother, Owen, and her foster sister, Serena.
Now that Misery is all grown up, she lives among humans by choice until her father tells her that he needs to send her into a new hostile territory by marrying her off to the Werewolf Alpha, Lowe. The wedding goes great in the sense that no one murders anybody. But Lowe distrusts and avoids Misery, and Misery has her own reasons for consenting to the marriage. As Misery dodges various assassination attempts and tries to solve a mystery, she and Lowe slowly become closer. But can they trust each other? Hmm, I wonder if they will have to have a lot of torrid sexual encounters in order to find out?
This marriage of convenience also includes:
- Super broody hero
- Much deadpan snark
- Quite a lot of violence
- An annoying yet cute child
- A cat named Sparkles
- A lot of sexual tension and actual sex
- A super awful father
- Peanut butter
The format is interesting – the main text is all Misery’s narration but we get a little snippet at the beginning of every chapter that describes Lowe’s emotional state. I’ve seen a lot of romance novels that alternate viewpoints between chapters, and some in which we only get one person’s viewpoint, but not this particular combination. It allows for some mystery while also upping the sexual tension (we are never in doubt about Lowe’s attraction to Misery even though Misery thinks she repulses him).
This is a funny, but not cozy, story. Everyone has a sad past, present, or both. Misery and Lowe both carry a truly staggering amount of emotional baggage. Misery’s life is constantly in danger from humans who don’t know that she’s a vampyre and who would kill her if they found out, from humans who DO know that she’s a vampyre, from werewolves who loathe vampyres and see killing her as a means of settling old scores, and from her own vampyre people who distrust her because she has lived with both humans and werewolves. Most of the actual violence happens offpage, but there is a lot (sometimes a comical amount) of blood.
Overall, this book is fairly predictable, but I enjoyed it. Sometimes it embraces cliches with a wink (Her name is Misery? Really?). Other times it subverts cliches. It is never more hilarious then when Misery taunts poor Alex, one of her guards who believes every single vampire myth and is terrified of her, by suggesting that these myths are true and that she might decide to eat him.
The romance is wonderful assuming you are a fan of deadpan snarkers, intensely hot sexual tension, a marriage of convenience, and a lot of brooding. Picture Twilight BUT with functional and relatively sane adults as the main characters, full consent, mutual respect, and graphic sex and you get the general vibe. It’s sort of a grumpy-grumpy romance, only Misery and Lowe are different varieties of grumpy, and I dug that also. I certainly rooted for them and I really believe in their HEA, which is not always true for me with romances, even ones I enjoy.
I’d happily read a whole series of books about Misery. Her voice carries the book – if you like it, you’ll like the book, if not, then you won’t. The book kicks off thusly:
This war of ours, the one between the Vampyres and the Weres, began several centuries ago with brutal escalations of violence, culminated amid flowing torrents of varicolored blood, and ended in a whimper of buttercream cake on the day I met my husband for the first time. Which, as it happens, was also the day of our wedding.
You really can pretty much tell if you’ll like the book based on this sentence alone, but give it a few more pages, just to be sure.
All in all I loved this book but it’s definitely one that needs the right reader at the right time. It’s full of tropes and just feels very silly and fun to me but at the same time I truly cared about the characters and their fates. I did find the plot to be much too predictable – I don’t recall a moment of surprise despite a lot of chaotic events. However, it was a good story with engaging characters, a lot of excitement, humor combined with tragic backstories and high stakes (no pun intended) and hot sex. If you are in the right mood, you’ll enjoy this book, varicolored blood and all.