Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Wenches Discuss Dark Debt by Chloe Neill

A VERY Spoilery Discussion by Zee the Terrible and Barbara Bones


By our collage expert, Olga.
Readers, it's been nearly a month since the release of the latest Chicagoland Vampires book, which Barb reviewed here, and we are still awed by how fabulous this book was, how fantastic this series still is after eleven installments. It's finally time for us to have a deep, dirty, thorough, and extremely spoilery discussion of the latest book in the series that is already one of our favorite releases this year! Chloe Neill's Dark Debt! Yes, we know. You're so surprised... not.

And for those of you who want to catch up, our spoilery discussion of Blood Games is here

Click through to get to the juicy bits! 

WARNING!



We all sat up gripped our books/kindles/nooks a little tighter when we read that Balthasar was back, and outside Cadogan. His dramatic entrance into Cadogan's lives (and doors) shocked us all. Ethan last saw him captured and almost beheaded, turns out, "almost" was the keyword there. We ended up hating him pretty much from the get go, after his explanation of where and why he was still around, he does the one thing NONE of us would be okay with. He fucks with Merit. And there's nothing she can do to stop him.


"When Mallory had brought Ethan back to life, her power over him had briefly lingered. She'd been able to funnel her magic through him, and he'd detested the violation, her presence inside the sanctity of his mind.

I understood that feeling now, because that's precisely what this was -- a violation. By compelling me forward, he'd stripped me of my right and will, my ability to say no.

{snip}
And with the leviathan came a pulse of passion and arousal so keep it was nearly painful. My body felt suddenly electric, every nerve sensitive and attuned to Balthasar--"

Ethan manages to stop him before he can violate Merit any further and kiss her. And we'll be damned if angry Ethan doesn't make our knees weak. 
"If you touch her again, come near her again, I will tear you apart with my own bare hands, Master or not." 
There is so much to hate about "Balthasar". Not least of which, the fact that we find out he wasn't actually Balthasar, but an impostor striving to be as despicable as the man whose shoes he wanted to fill. Then there's the part where he thinks he deserves everything that Ethan has, simply because he made Ethan vampire. Faulty reasoning at best, delusional at worst. But his mind-fucking with Merit, combined with attempting to rape her just to hurt Ethan puts him in the list with the scummiest of CLV baddies. But we do love to hate a villain. And Ethan doesn't let him think for a second that he owes Balthasar anything.


"They are my people, every one of them, blood and bone, mind and soul. I will warn you once, and only once, to stay away from them I am not the child you once knew. My priorities have changed, as has my willingness to act."
You tell him, Ethan!
This was Ethan at his fiercest. If there'd been any doubts that vampires were alpha predators, the swirling fury in his eyes, the gleaming fangs would have erased them.
Ethan's power continues to stun. He is so fucking badass, so strong and fierce that it often leaves us speechless. And swooning. And pretty much ruins most other men for us! When he kisses Merit after Balthasar glamouring her into an almost kiss. *sigh*


When he pulled back, nipping my lip in a final teases, both of us were breathing heavily.

"Always remember," he said. "Real lust beats old magic any day."

I'm not going to take names, and I try so hard not to compare. But it always bothers me in series when an otherwise awesome, snarky, sassy, amazing alpha with an amazing personality somehow morphs into a boring, tortured, angsty, psycho possessive, cliched, moody, broody, Edward Cullen like DULL Alpha when the heroine is under threat. This happened recently to one of my fave alphas, and I am SO glad Ethan never seems to be in any danger of losing his amazing personality and blending into that spectrum of shirtless, long haired dudes who stare blankly and/or moodily into the distance. While he may be worried, shaken by the events of his past coming back to haunt him, terrified for Merit, and angry at his own helplessness, he's still very much HIM. He's still delightful, still witty, still sexy, and not creepy! What more could a girl ask for? 

SUPER dreamy!
Ethan finding out Mallory and Merit's nickname for him was a GREAT moment. When Merit said "In fairness, we only did because we really, really didn't like you" we cracked up! What was even better, was finding out Ethan had a nickname for her too! And we sort of love how it's still a secret! They have eternity to find out each other's secrets. 

Normally I don't like the lovey dovey stuff when it's SO obvious consistently in books, probably because a lot of it ends up seeming forced and cliched and makes me roll my eyes. Here, it just constantly makes me sigh wistfully. Their relationship flows and progresses at such a great pace, there's a lack of.. smugness when it comes to their relationship that I wish more of my favorite on page couples had. Plus, NO ONE, and I mean no one, does romance like Ethan Sullivan.


There was nothing equivocal in his gaze, in the steadiness of his green eyes. "He was my nightmare, Merit. You are my miracle. He will not touch you again. Yes?"
*sigh*

Merit and Ethan are equals, partners, friends. Frankly, they're both VERY alpha. And that's one thing that makes their relationship pretty unique. Despite the age difference, the rank difference, they exist on a balanced platform relationship-wise. It's refreshing as hell to read.

There are times I may forget just how much I love Merit. I love her sense of humor, her need to learn and improve, her bad assery, her love for food. But one of my favorite things about her, is her silliness. 


"As I'd mentioned to Catcher, Cadogan-style immortality had it's benefits. And because silliness in the face of danger was on of them, I ate a small square of brown bread and what looked like smoked salmon while pretending I was a giant. Wearing Cubs pajamas."  
"How many academic degrees do you have?" Ethan asked {snip}

"Two and a half," I said. "But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy comically tiny foods." 

I will never understand people who don't instantly want to be besties with Merit. Honestly, think of all the perks. Good food, witty banter, hot vamps. It's a no brainer!
"That's it for me tonight," I said, and fell face first into the pillows. "Demure and elegant, as always," Ethan said.


Joshua Merit was his usual, insufferable self in the beginning of Dark Debt, calling up last minute and issuing a summons to Merit and Ethan to attend yet another fancy event. On the plus side, we love it when Merit plays dress up! The dresses are always a treat! We know Merit always complains about them before she actually sees them, but damn! Once she puts the dresses on, even she can't help but appreciate them! And we all know just how well Ethan cleans up. 



“His (Luc) eyes widened appreciatively as he took in my dress, heels, hair. “You look beautiful.”

Ethan beat me to a response. “Thank you. But you should compliment Merit as well. She cleans up nicely.”

Luc snorted, glanced at me. “And you don’t look half-bad yourself, Sentinel.”
“Thank you, Luc. He’s just jealous. He prefers to be the arm candy.” 


Thanks to Merit's dear dad, we get introduced to Adrien Reed, a new player in the CLV world. And of course, the fancy event doesn't go quite as planned when vamps attack, and later turn out to be Navarre vamps. 

Although Joshua did end up surprising us in Dark Debt. We learned that Joshua does actually have a heart and, while he believes that is is his job to make decisions for the Merit clan, he discovers that money and power can't keep his family safe from all threats. He's clearly shaken when he figures out that his business partner and "friend" had no qualms about ordering Merit and Ethan's murder, which leads him to rethink his involvement with Adrien Reed. Joshua never seemed to feel any remorse or regret about pursuing Merit's immortality, but when he told the group that he took a loss on his pet project so the he could clear Navarre's debt...well, we were gobsmacked. Way to go, Joshua Merit! 

And Joshua wasn't the only one baffling us. Jonah was surprisingly difficult in this, and he and Merit spent the book on the outs. His demands were definitely unreasonable, asking her to bug Ethan's office when he would never do that to Scott, RG or not. We do wonder how long Merit is going to be part of the RG, now that the GP has been dissolved, and with her and Jonah still having a strained relationship by the end of Dark Debt.




Morgan is another character that had a few revelations in his corner. Celina has, of course, left a giant, steaming pile of manure for Navarre to deal with. Did we ever expect anything less of her? And Morgan has been breaking under pressure, from the problems inside Navarre and the blackmail demands that he inherited from Celina. We liked this new side of Morgan though--it gave us hope that eventually, he'll come into his own as a Master. And after all the help Cadogan gave with no strings attached, Navarre might be an important ally in the future. One of our favorite lines in the books was a Morgan line. Will wonders never cease?

“There is always light," Morgan said quietly. "The star are always shining, even if we can't see them.” 

Catcher and Mallory's marriage seems sudden, but we have to remember that this is the same couple who was living together just days after they met. They are clearly devoted to one another, and apparently neither has family to speak of, so it seems perfect for them to just go ahead and do it. The ceremony was lovely, Barb teared up a little because she always cries at weddings, but we really REALLY hope that we get to be guests at Methan's wedding, and that it's a much bigger deal than the Carmichael-Bell wedding was.



(I'm sorry, but I still find it hard to care about Mallory and Catcher as a couple. I want to. I love Mallory all over again. I want to not dislike Catcher. But it just doesn't work for me. I didn't find their whole marriage decision very smart, so soon after Mallory's epic breakdown and Catcher totally missing it. It didn't work when they jumped into living together and I don't understand why yet another hasty decision, even if for a seemingly good reason, would work for them. But obviously, this is just me. ~~Zee)

We did wonder where Gabe and the shifters have been lately. We always assumed they'd play a much larger role in the supernatural politics of Chicago, and we're hoping there's something big in store for them (and us) and that Gabe will FINALLY be useful to Cadogan instead of Cadogan being useful to everyone and anyone without ever asking for anything in return.
What would everyone do without Cadogan?! 

It was tough reading about Merit's mind and body being repeatedly violated by "Balthasar" but I knew we adored Ms. Neill more than ever after we read her very accurate depiction of intimacy issues when someone has been violated like Merit has been by "Balthazar". Most authors just throw the heroine right into a love scene after something like that and it's both disrespectful to victims everywhere and unrealistic. Merit needs space, and doesn't feel guilt about it. And Ethan gives her space and distance, because he's perfect as always. As hard as it is for both. It was realistic, it made you understand just how badly something like that can fuck with your trust and security, even around the people you love the most.

Solving two interconnected mysteries in Dark Debt, set us up for more intrigue in the final two installments. The crime syndicate known as The Circle, led by one Adrien Reed, while apparently wholly human, clearly has intentions for Chicago's vampires and Cadogan House in particular. The group clearly fancies themselves above the law, completely untouchable, but they've never dealt with Cadogan House. We're looking forward to our favorite supernatural gang taking care of this problem for Chicago.

MOMENTS WE LOVED :

  • Ethan asking about the Ferrari as soon as his eyes opened after the accident. Barb is still heartbroken at the destruction of yet another sexy car.
  • Ethan escorting Margot to the Investiture ceremony, knowing that it would bother Merit that he brought "my chef"! 
  • We actually really dug Merit teaming up with Helen to dress and train her for her role at Ethan's side: "You walk like a student. Possibly his Sentinel, but not his queen." We LOVE the idea of Merit filling all of those roles!
  • Jeff telling Merit to let Ethan fight: "he fights for his honor," he said, "and for yours. Let him fight it on his own."
  • JFC Ethan letting Merit finish the fight with Julien, "Because Merit gets the final shot. And she's a better fighter than I am." I swear to you, I squealed out loud and did a little dance at that line.
  • Jeff having been ordained for a nymph wedding (!) and being the one to perform the Carmichael-Bell wedding.
  • Catcher's middle name being "Eustice". Anything that knocks his arrogance down a peg. 
  • Merit allowing Ethan to call her. *dreamy sigh* How far we've come since she wasn't called at her Commendation.
  • Finally learning that Morgan was the vampire on Chuck's team at the beginning. We had almost forgotten to wonder in all the drama since.
  • Merit speculating what it would have been like to stand Second of Navarre House. We've not forgotten Catcher's prediction that Merit would be a Master.


"When I'm four hundred, do I get to date a twenty-five-year old?"

Ethan narrowed his gaze. "If you date anyone other than me at any point in your hopefully long and fruitful life, there will be trouble for both of us."
Lets face it, Merit won't be dating anyone else.
I looked up at him. "Are you wooing me?"

"I've been wooing you since the moment our eyes locked on the first floor of this house."

I gave him a flat look. "No, that's when you accused me of being spoiled."
"Details," he said lightly, mouth drawn into a crooked grin.

Which was why Ethan returned to the apartments to find Mallory and me lying on the bed, television on, pooched stomachs taking a much needed breather.

"Oh, this is quite a sight," Ethan said with obvious amusement, then spied the empty box of Mallocakes. "A vampire and sorceress done in by chocolate snack cakes."

"Mallocake 'splosion," Mallory said weakly. "Pew, pew, pew."
"I think there's one left." I moved just enough to skim fingers against the box, tip it up. "Yep. One. You can have it."
"Wait," Mallory said, and put a hand on my arm while she deliberated, as if there was a chance she might be able to squeeze in one more. "No." She waved me off. "I can't. Go ahead."
"This scenario isn't really selling the Mallocake concept to me," Ethan said.
"We're having girl time."
"Not the girl time I prefer to imagine, but so be it."
"Perv," Mallory said with a grin, rolling off the bed and trundling toward the door. "I'm going to roll myself downstairs."
"Take care," Ethan said. "And thank you for the ward."
She burped indelicately.
"And that's our powerful sorceress," Ethan said, locking the door behind her.
Love it when Mallory and Merit have
their own unique brand of girl time!
"I want you," he whispered, before trailing kisses along my neck. "Jesus, but I want you. Stand up."

"What?" I asked, brows lifted.

"Stand up."



“Damn,” Mallory intoned, amazement in her voice. “Are there any ugly vampires?”
I glanced in the direction of her dreamy smile, found Jonah walking toward us, eyes on me. His auburn hair gleamed like bronze, highlighting his blue eyes, and in his dark tux, he looked like an Armani runway model.
“Get out of my dreams,” Lindsey sang into my ear, “and into my car.”
“There’s a lot of male sexualizing going on right now,” Luc said. “And it’s making me uncomfortable.”

"Thank you for standing up to my father."

{snip}

"Sentinel," he said quietly, the words only for me, "I will stand for you as long as I am able."
*sigh*
“Ah. you must not know about executive order two hundred eleven.”

“What’s that?”

“Basically we are required to keep sack lunches ready for you. Ethan thinks you get hangry.“


Who doesn't?! Amiright?!

"You're my future wife and the mother of my future child. I will well protect you against any threat, living, dead, or undead, just as I promised in my oath to this house."

Ethan makes us forget everything else. 



Things We Need To See!


  • Malik's mad knife/dagger throwing skills! HAWT!



"You should have Malik teach you how to use them, he's very skilled. And he knows it."


  • The vamps/shifters/others of Chicago thanking and appreciating Ethan for ALL he does! I mean, really! When does Cadogan NOT help? 



  • We kinda NEED Ethan to propose. We loved how he knew EXACTLY what kind of proposal Merit wants. And that Merit refused to give up her fantasy for cold practicality.
"All right, Sentinel. I'm not going anywhere. Nor, believe, are you. And if you need a proposal with candlelight, and poetry, probably one of the Romantics, so be it.

When my eyes widened at the reference, he smiled.

"I told you that I pay attention, Merit. I always have." 

  • I think we'll all agree we need to see what happens with the ice cream.
"Winner buys ice cream," I said as Ethan and I took the stairs one (careful) step at a time. "Done," Ethan agreed. "And gets to decide what to do with it."

*Readers, if you need some more man (or woman) candy, head over to the Chicagoland Vampires casting post Zee did for Dark Debt release day here! Lots of gifs and pics to drool over! You're welcome.

There you have it, Saucy Readers. All of the down and dirty details about the superb Dark Debt. We have almost a year to wait until book twelve, Midnight Marked, but plenty of awesomeness to revist until then. Have you finished DD? Did you love it as much as we did? Share your thoughts in the comments below!




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