“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Mercy Walker / Kindle Edition / Publication Date: 2012 „
The basic premise for LAST RITES is that Lucy - privileged princess turned poor and unpopular after her attorney father is jailed for tax evasion and immigrant slave trafficking - lines herself up for an arranged marriage into a wealthy family, in exchange for a car and a credit card, plus a cash payout in the future.
Unfortunately, things soon take a turn for the worse. Her fake fiancee Gabriel is a werewolf and the reason that he needs Lucy to pose as his wife in the first place is because his real lover is a 600 year old vampire, and the two races are forbidden to mate. This would be the point that most girls would run away, but Lucy sees her opportunity and just asks for more money to continue with the scheme.
However; spending time with the handsome, charming and rich Gabriel, unsurprisingly leads to Lucy falling for him. But which woman does Gabriel want and how will his real girlfriend react when she finds out that Lucy might not be faking her feelings for her future husband?
So we now have one guy + two girls = at least one of our players is going to end up getting their heart ripped out. You know that this isn't going to end well...
Lets start with the main characters, as they carry the book. The star of the piece is eighteen year old Lucy Hart. Lucy is bitchy, vain, spiteful and materialistic - so I shouldn't like her, but I do. In most other romance lead books we get the same old saint-like heroines, so it was refreshing [and fun] to see someone who is looking out for number one. So if, like me, you preferred Cordelia Chase over Buffy, LAST RITES is a must read.
When you actually scratch beneath the surface you'll discover that she is actually intelligent, self-reliant and honest - she's just not afraid to admit that she's mainly interested in looking after herself. Sure she wants the money for designer clothes and a nice car, but she's also thinking about college tuition and starting her own business after that, so she isn't the airhead that she first appears to be.
Of course, her strong personality does have it's downsides; I wouldn't say that she is necessarily clueless in LAST RITES, but she is so focused on the supposed outcome of the arranged marriage, and how it will help her regain her desired lifestyle, that she doesn't stop to look around and consider the situation she's walking into. And whilst Lucy is tough and can see through other people, I think that, despite of what she thinks, she actually overlooks most of Gabriel's faults and how he is perhaps manipulating her.
A far less likable character for me is Gabriel. Lucy, for all her faults, is a somewhat naive teenager, with no real understanding of what she's getting herself into. However Gabriel is older [I place him in his mid twenties], has more life experience and, oh yeah, is a WEREWOLF, so I find it a bit creepy that he's happy to arrange a marriage with a only-just-turned-legal human girl, who is still in high school and has never had a serious relationship. Then to merrily put that girl into the middle of a werewolf pack AND into the cross-hairs of a slightly psychotic vampire and her family? Marriage material, I don't think.
Maybe if I was actually in the intended age bracket I would see Gabriel in a more favourable light; as the handsome and intelligent hero, helping Lucy rise up from the depths she has sunk to. But, based on the events in this book alone, I just see a creep who knowingly chooses a young, inexperienced girl and puts her in harms way for his own end. I also think that he knows she has developed feelings for him and using that angle to his advantage.
Darla is the third point in this love triangle and I'm still not sure what I think of her; on one hand she has to watch the man she loves play happy families and plan a marriage with another woman, who his family seem to like. So, looking at things from that angle, I have no problem seeing why she feels hurt, betrayed and becomes jealous.
But, on the other hand, the whole arranged marriage scheme is actually her idea in the first place, whilst Gabriel needed a lot of convincing to take part. yet she gets all crazy jealous over the scheme when he agrees to do it and directs most of her anger towards Lucy. I'd understand Darla's view more if she was angry at her actual boyfriend, who is apparently so ashamed of her that he'd rather marry someone else then be seen with her. But she, like Lucy, almost seems blind to Gabriel's faults...
Hmm, am I reading too much into this, or is Gabriel using both women?
LAST RITES mainly focuses on Lucy and Gabriel as they meet and reach an agreement for their upcoming marriage, but we are still introduced to many secondary characters. There are too many to name here, but one of my favourites is Micah - Gabriel's brother. Darla's brother Vin is intriguing too, but we haven't really 'met' him yet, but I'm sure he'll be one to watch in future.
This is the first book in a series and as such a lot of time is spent on Lucy's background and putting the fake-marriage scheme into motion, whereas other people and plot threads aren't shown in much detail. On one hand I do like the depth the author has gone to in order to give the set-up an air of realism, but it means that she has had to speed other parts of the book up, in order to fit everything and everyone else in. I don't want to spoil anything here, but there is one thing that will actually play an enormous part in the series [and is/was mentioned in the blurb] that is barely touched upon in this book.
I can see the multiple love interest plot-line looming, but for once I'm not rolling my eyes and already dreading it, as I personally just can't see the appeal of Gabriel and so I wouldn't mind him getting shoved aside for someone less creepy.
The 'sped-up' feel to parts of the story is my only real issue. LAST RITES is self published, so there are a few grammatical and spelling errors in the edition I have, but I believe the author has now corrected these. Even if she has not yet done so, there was nothing major enough to disrupt anyone from the story.
LAST RITES is a very enjoyable read, but it isn't perfect yet, but the series as a whole does have a lot of potential. I'm very much looking forward to the sequel [Blood Rites], to see where the events that happened here take Lucy next.
Blood Rites will hopefully be realised around Christmas 2012.
LAST RITES is regularly listed for free, so if your not sure about getting it, pop it onto your wishlist to keep your eye on the price.