Full disclosure: I proofread this book in the final draft stages, but really, all of the hard work was already done when I got my hands on it. I basicFull disclosure: I proofread this book in the final draft stages, but really, all of the hard work was already done when I got my hands on it. I basically just got to enjoy the ride... and what a ride it was.
This isn't your mama's contemporary romance novel, but it is very much a romance, albeit one with Santino's signature gritty style, which fans of the ICoS series will no doubt recognize. First, we have Michael, an MC who is flawed as hell and all the more real for those flaws. He reminded me of some of my own family members (I'm also Puerto Rican and from an area much like his.) Then there's Nunzio, Michael's best friend, who practically sizzles off the page. This man is hot, and their chemistry is unreal from the very start. Of course their story can't be easy--no one who enjoys this author will expect any different--but it's all the more amazing for that. Because, really, how often is life as simple and sweet as we'd hope? Life and love are complicated and messy and often heartbreaking. Sometimes we get things right. Sometimes we get them horribly wrong. Hopefully we come out stronger and wiser in the end.
Don't go into this book expecting fluff because you won't get it. What you will get is a realistic a portrayal of a man who's nursing a lot of resentment (and pain, though he probably wouldn't admit it) about things that have happened in the past, about his current circumstances, about work issues... and things only get worse as the book goes along. Michael's downward spiral is rather epic, and yet totally believable and true to life. Also, all the side characters are vividly drawn. There are no cardboard cutouts in this book. They live and breathe. You'll want them to have stories too. (Good thing there are more coming, am I right?) I'd almost call it a street romance, in that it has that vibe, with Nunzio and Michael having grown up together in this less than reputable neighborhood, and being the products of that neighborhood. Even though they're grown, the area plays a role. The story feels like a dirty, sexy New York love affair. It feels real. And let me also add how much I appreciate the fact that Santino is bringing more diversity to the world of M/M because I think it needs it.
But, man, these two... when things between them are good, it's like magic. The desire, the sexual tension, it's delicious. But it's the emotions that'll kill you. There are a couple of hard punches straight to the feels in this book. Yet the ending makes every difficult moment worth it. And, believe me, there are definitely some scenes that shred the heartstrings.
My review probably doesn't even do it justice. Let me just say I recommend it.
When I finished "Epitaph (Infected, #8)," I was crying. It wasn’t that the ending was sad. On the contrary, it was hopeful. In fact, it was as happy aWhen I finished "Epitaph (Infected, #8)," I was crying. It wasn’t that the ending was sad. On the contrary, it was hopeful. In fact, it was as happy an ending as I could hope for with this series. So, what made me cry? Relief. As I was finishing the book, I was filled with such an intense feeling of relief, I couldn’t express it any other way but tears.
If you’re as big of a fan of the "Infected" series and as invested in it as I am, you might understand why I was emotionally overwhelmed.
It’s been a hard, long road for Roan. All his life, he’s been told he’s a “dead man walking,” that he’s a freak, that he shouldn’t have survived for very long after his birth, and he certainly shouldn’t have made it into adulthood. Roan is the oldest known virus child in the "Infected" world. He defies all odds and expectations. He’s a pill-popping, self-proclaimed “sarcastic asshole.” If you put Roan through a trial by fire, he might come out a little singed, but he’ll also be stronger—and he’ll be giving you the finger and asking if that’s all you got.
Needless to say, I love him. From the very first book, I’ve been invested in Roan’s story like he was someone I knew in real life. So, when Andrea Speed—who knows what a big fangirl I am—offered me an ARC of "Epitaph" in exchange for an honest review, well, hell, no one could possibly have expected me to refuse, right?
Here we are at book eight. The official end to Roan’s story arc, not counting the prequel coming out in February. These books definitely need to be read in order. I don’t think they can stand alone. There are too many different threads and characters and too much backstory. If you jump into the middle of the story, you might be able to follow along since each book features a new mystery—usually several—but for maximum enjoyment, I’d suggest starting with book one.
How to review this without giving away spoilers, for both this book and the preceding ones, which are currently being rereleased by DSPP? I’m not sure, but I’ll do my best.
In this world, a werecat virus has changed everything. When you’re infected, you’ll turn into whatever big cat strain you were infected with (lion, tiger, cougar, panther, etc). These aren’t your ordinary shifters. They have a monthly cycle, but when they turn, well, they basically become animals. There is no rational thought, no empathy, no humanity. They become hunters, and as such, they need to lock themselves away whenever they enter their cycles so as not to go on a killing spree. Naturally, for a variety of reasons, the infecteds often get loose and start wreaking havoc—and that’s where Roan comes in. He’s strong, a veritable superhero in his own right. He makes other infecteds look like wee, helpless kittens—because he was born with the virus and something happened in utero to make him special. But, see, no one really understands what Roan is or how strong he might become. He’s literally the first of his kind, and so he’s writing the “how-to” guide as he goes along.
Roan is a former cop, current private detective. His sidekick is a former prostitute named Holden, his best friends are a mix of cops, hockey players, and EMTs, and he’s married to an artist/bartender. Over the last few books, Roan’s health has been getting worse and worse, even as he’s gotten freakishly stronger and stronger—even by his own standards. It doesn’t look like it’ll end well. Really, everyone keeps expecting that one day he’s going to either drop dead out of nowhere or go out in a hail of bullets. Because Roan can’t help himself. As sarcastic and cynical as he might be, as shitty of a childhood as he might have had, he still wants to save the world—or at least his part of it.
When tiger strain infections start showing up and killing people around Seattle, Roan is both horrified and furious. Followers of the series will know why. He needs to find out who is intentionally infecting people, in addition to a couple of other cases, but in the meantime, new symptoms are showing up every time Roan shifts, and he can almost hear his own death knell ringing. He knows if something doesn’t give—and soon—he’ll probably die horribly, leaving behind a hell of a lot of grief and anger. But how can he give up what feels like such an intrinsic part of his nature? What will he do with himself if he’s not investigating? But on the flipside, what’ll happen if the extent of his powers become known to the public? Nothing good. So Roan has to figure it out and make some decisions about his future and the life he wants to lead before it’s too late. But as with just about everything in Roan’s life, it won’t be that easy. Good thing Roan is such a stubborn bastard. ;)
I recommend this book for fans of the series, and to those readers who haven’t read it, if you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural or urban fantasy books, I’d suggest trying it out. There are romantic relationships, but these books are predominantly action/adventure mysteries. So, if you like your romance to be an undercurrent, not the primary focus, these might be for you. As always, this book was masterfully written, with Andrea Speed’s signature humor, emotion, and compelling characters. These books pack a punch, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be captivated right from the start, and you’ll fall in love with Roan the way so many of the other characters do. He’s magnetic, even just on the page, and a character who will stick with me for a long time to come....more