Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wild, Tethered, Bound - Stephanie Draven

Nick Leandros is a broken man – literally. His harrowing experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan have split his personality into three separate, wild entities, and now he’s struggling to hold himself together. Dessa is a dryad fighting to save the forest she calls home, and Nick might be the only man who can help her. But can she overcome Nick’s savage nature to bring healing to herself, her forest, and Nick?

I first stumbled across Stephanie Draven’s work via her Nocturne Bite Midnight Medusa, and was immediately captivated. I had to pick up Wild, Tethered, Bound, as soon as it was available. Draven explores much darker territory than you might expect – war being crucial to the plot of this story. Nick, whilst a typical alpha male in some respects, is uniquely presented via his split personalities and the aspects of his psyche they represent. Dessa is a strong, determined heroine who initially pursues Nick for her own ends rather than any real emotional attachment. At first glance, this should make for a rather cold, selfish romance, but Draven neatly and expertly redeems her characters through their interactions with each other. Whilst mutual need might be the starting point for their romance, by the end of the story you’re in no doubt that these two are genuinely in love. And Draven doesn’t use the “fated to mate” trope to accomplish it, which gains bonus points from me.

I found the backdrop for the story fascinating. Whilst it’s not unusual for romances to use exotic locations, this is the first I’ve read set in the Middle East, using war as a catalyst for the plot. It works well, giving an extra depth and realism to the mythology of the story. Nick is a believable war veteran, and Draven offers some poignant memories of the conflict, via her protagonists, that completely sells the location and time period.

Draven also uses mythology expertly. I haven’t come across any other books using nymphs/dryads before, and after finishing Wild, Tethered, Bound, I wasn’t quite sure why. Greek mythology crops up fairly frequently in the paranormal romance genre, and I’d love to see more people using these lesser-known entities. Dessa was lovely – strong, compassionate, and very definitely not human in her thoughts and actions. And I thought Draven’s use of the chimera story, via Nick’s condition, was very fresh – something else I’d like to see more of.

And speaking of Nick’s condition – wow. The sex scene. No, the sex scene. I’ve never read anything quite so risqué in a Harlequin romance, but really? We need more. The possibilities available to a man who can literally split himself in three are hot.
There’s a lot to like about Wild, Tethered, Bound. Our hero and heroine are deftly characterised and convincingly brought together as a couple. The sense of place is strong, and the story is compelling. If I have one complaint about the novella it’s that it was just that – a novella. I can’t wait to see what Draven will do with a full-length novel. And I highly recommend both this story and the first, Midnight Medusa (although they can be read separately). Draven is a writer to watch.

Stephanie Draven's website

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