Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recommendsday Review - The Story of Son

Today's Recommendsday Reading is a short story from the Dead After Dark anthology, JR Ward's The Story of Son.

First of all, I'm an idiot. I don't know why, when I saw Ward's name on the cover, I didn't realize it was likely a Black Dagger Brotherhood story inside. Had I realized, I would have torn through this short LONG ago. But, it didn't even cross my mind. Head, meet desk. Repeat.

Synopsis from the back cover:

Claire Stroughton is a beautiful lawyer who would rather spend the night with a legal brief than the man of her dreams. Then a routine client meeting turns dangerous—and deeply sensual—when she is held captive by a gorgeous man with an unworldly hunger…

This synopsis isn't exactly accurate, though I see why it was used. It cuts to the quick of things, even if the details are a bit skewed.

Claire Stroughton is indeed a beautiful, career-driven woman who has no interest in family or relationships. She's at the top of the legal field and intends to stay there. When she goes to the home of a wealthy elderly client, however, her life changes. The client is actually an aging woman, Ms. Leeds. Upon Claire's arrival, where she's supposed to update Leeds' will from the thousandth time, Leeds has Claire drugged and imprisoned in a basement holding cell. And Claire isn't alone. Leeds has kept her son imprisoned in this same cell for over 50 years. The "why's" quickly become obvious. Leeds' son is an ethereally handsome vampire. Once a year, every year since his imprisonment, Leeds has a woman kidnapped and placed into the cell for him to feed upon for 3 days. This time, his victim is Claire.

What makes this story wonderful, however, is what makes it different. The vampire in the basement isn't the monster, he's every bit as much a victim as Claire. The true monsters are Leeds and her butler. While Ward doesn't typically write gentle men, that's exactly what this vampire is. He blames himself for his captivity, which occurred at age 12. He sees himself as a danger and resents himself for the blood he must take to survive. He is kind and gentle with Claire to the point where she willingly takes on the role of protector, wanting to rescue him from the prison in which his mother has kept him. When Claire meets him, he doesn't even have a name. When he responds that his mother only ever called him son, Claire names him Michael because he has the face of an archangel.

Michael is the embodiment of innocence abused. His mother broke contact with him the day he was locked away. The women who are kidnapped for him understandably resent him and he is forced to erase their memories before they are taken away. This leaves Michael with no human contact and only 2 people in the world who realize he exists. All he has are his books and his loneliness.

While Michael is physically abused and starved, his mental abuse is far worse. Even so, he remains gentle, kind, and caring. He has never violated, or even approached, any of the women he's encountered for anything more than feeding. When Claire tells him that she finds him beautiful and kisses him - his first kiss - he is so grateful just to be seen as something other than a monster, it is truly heartbreaking.

Long term readers of this blog know that I love Ward's Lover Awakened because Zsadist, a vampire who is nearly soulless following years of torture and abuse, is my favorite of all her characters. I see Michael as the inverse of Zsadist. While Zsadist internalized all the rage and hate left as a byproduct of the abuse, striking out to hurt others, Michael went in the opposite direction. Yes, his abuse was less severe, but even so I see him as the yin to Zsadist's yang. They are at the opposite ends of the spectrum for how prolonged abuse can affect a person, and how love may redeem.

I won't give away the ending, because although it is a short story it packs quite a punch. And while it isn't technically a Brotherhood story, it is set in the same location with some of the same universal rules in place. I wouldn't be surprised if Ward eventually brings Michael and Claire into the Brotherhood books. I asked her about that possibility at her May 8th booksigning in Kentucky. She responded that she would like to see more of Michael and Claire in the future.

I hope she does just that.

Rating: 5/5



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