Parliament of the Profane by Justin Bohardt
The Four Sentence Description: Meta-human Gwen is rescued from execution at the hands of a corrupt U.S. government that is ready to discard her after exploiting her powers. Because they have already faked her death, she can’t return to her grieving parents or reveal that she is alive without endangering people she loves; but she CAN join forces with Nate, the eternally-youthful (but actually quite old) meta-human who saved her, and his motley crew of meta-human vigilantes. Together, they conspire to take down the government and and change the environment for meta-humans, who are either overly- or poorly-controlled. Yet, her unexpected affair with Nate complicates everything, causing both of them to sacrifice a greater justice to protect one another, and their love.
Genre: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Primary Tropes: Crime/Justice, Man/Woman in Peril, Tortured Hero, Superhero
Secondary Tropes: Friendship
What Makes it Stand Out: Sparkling characters who are humorously irreverent, fascinating in their superpowers, heart and allegiances, and skillful in their ambiguity are shining strengths of this book. This book is kind of like a novelized superhero comic book, and as I find in the comic books I love the most, the good guys are deliciously bad. The pièce de résistance was a totally believable threesome. I'll reveal my bias by admitting that I usually find romances written by men to have sex scenes fraught with problematic male fantasies, but this book (and the threesome scene) had amazing emotional connection. There was a REALLY good reason for the threesome to happen—one that didn’t compromise the fundamental hero/heroine love story.
What You’ll Love About It: I cringe to mention the book Twilight, because Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga is greatly inferior to Parliament of the Profane, but it has similarities that must be mentioned. As in Twilight, the hero is an eternally youthful meta-human who is many times older than the meta-human heroine. As in Twilight, he has lived through many ages and never found his mate. As in Twilight, he is willing to sacrifice his principles and everything else to save her and to be with her, despite a future that is unlikely to result in forever. As in Twilight, the heroine is unaware of her own power, and her power makes her the central target of the bad guys. But, again, this is MUCH, MUCH (and I mean a LOT) better than Twilight.
Truisms, Complexities, and Other Themes: The hero, Nate’s, complexity was really well-done, mainly because he was a study in opposites. He was hardened, yet compassionate. Closed off, yet vulnerable. Self-serving, but an amazing friend. Through his unique brand of vigilante justice, he played God with a lot of people’s lives, and though some of his methods could have felt draconian, I as a reader was comfortable with his heavy-handed control. He was a really interesting mix of alpha and beta. For readers who hate overblown alphas, you will love, love, love the hero of this book.
The Standout Side Character: Back to that threesome…the third party, who is outside of the Nate/Gwen pairing, is a meta-human healer whose healing power comes from sex. Nate keeps getting hurt during battles with the bad guys, and this sex healer has to keep inserting herself into the Nate/Gwen relationship so that he can heal, and live. This makes for fascinating tension among all three of them, and the reader gets the sense that the healer is a bit more invested in playing this role (for Nate in particular) than she should be. This tension plays out so skillfully—no watered down jealousy or hair-pulling cat fights. Just scenes that will make you lean in closer and grab some popcorn.
Our Prediction: Judging from his book sale rankings, Justin Bohardt is getting some good traction with this book, though at the time of this blog posting, he hasn’t reached bestseller status. I would love to read anything else by this author. He has single-handedly restored my faith in male authors of romantic suspense stories.