I just finished Dante Valentine: The Complete Series by Lilith Saintcrow and I’ve got to rave about it. That was one damn fine set of books. It was sad and dark and totally kickass and if you haven’t read it, get thee to Amazon or Barnes & Noble immediately. (It’s 10 bucks for the entire series in ebook format! Cha-ching!)
While this series is not a romance by any definition, it got me thinking about paranormal romance in a new way. (Spoilers ahead!)
A lot of the paranormal romances I’ve read have the same basic plot. Immortal being meets mortal. Immortal being falls in love with mortal. Immortal remembers/learns what it is to be mortal and changes his ways.
Except, what if he doesn’t?
The Dante Valentine series isn’t a romance and it isn’t a love story, but it is the story of an immortal love. Dante Valentine is a Necromance, a type of psion that can commune with the dead. She’s the best at what she does and Lucifer decides to give her some contract work – whether she wants it or not. Lucifer dispatches his best assassin, the demon Japhrimel, to guard Dante as she fulfills her duties to him.
This sounds like your basic set up for hot lovins and it’s really just not. Dante is not attracted to Japhrimel; there’s no spark or chemistry. In fact, Dante resents and fears the demon she’s been saddled with but she eventually comes to terms with the fact that he’s just doing his job. She treats Japhrimel like she would a human colleague - she’s professional, fair, and sometimes kind (or what passes for kind with Dante).
It might seem paltry to us, but it’s enough for Japhrimel to bind his existence to Dante’s forever. He becomes one of the Fallen – the meaning of which he never quite explains to Dante.
Again, this sounds like your basic set up for hot lovins, and again it’s not. Japhrimel isn’t human and never has been – nor does he desire to be. What he feels for Dante seems to hover somewhere between murderous obsession and outright ownership of property. After declaring that he has ‘set her as a seal upon his heart,’ he decides to protect her by giving her a piece of his power. By doing so, he turns her into a human-demon hybrid called a hedaira, which drives her dangerously close to insanity.
While their love story isn’t the main story of this series, it strikes me as a fairly realistic take on love between two very different beings. Japhrimel’s idea of truth isn’t even strictly the same as Dante’s, so it’s very difficult for him to be honest with her to her satisfaction. She can’t understand why he doesn’t give her answers to basic questions like what it means for a demon to Fall or even what she actually is now that he’s changed her.
Saintcrow does a masterful job of showing Japhrimel’s motivations without him ever once outright explaining them to Dante. By the end of the series, you have a good sense of why he’s so rabid to protect her, why he values her so much, and that they may forever have the conflict of immortal and mortal, demon and human. They’ve got their ever-after but they’re light on the happily.
Ultimately, this story is about love without understanding and the glaring disconnect between two eternally connected beings. It’s complex and often tragic, and yet it feels like a truer representation than the wish-fulfillment paranormal romances I’ve been reading. It made me terribly sad.
I can’t wait to read it again.