I almost hesitate to review this book, since Janet over at Dear Author did such a phenomenal job:
This is the story of a Witch (Mariketa the Awaited, early 20s and not yet immortal, a rare, collect-em-all-five-types-of-powers witch) and a Werewolf (the depressive and depressing Bowen, who thinks he lost his Mate about 200 years ago) who lose a contest (the Talisman's Hie, won by Sebastian in Book 2) and win each other. Aw. Isn't that sweet.
Most romance novels explain Teh Brokenness of their Physically Perfect But Emotionally Damaged characters by some kind of tragedy or trauma in their past. Bowe, obviously, lost his mate, and then it turns out he _really_ hates witches because his dad wanted to be the strongest of his brothers, and he got his wish from a witch who offed his brothers for him. Not what Dear Old Dad had in mind because he abdicated from the kingship he inherited. Bowen, as a result, is a bit Tetchy when it comes to magick.
Mariketa is unhappy because (a) she can't control her powers and (b) she has to cover up in a glamour and burqa, er, full coverage scarlet cloak with a big hood to keep from being identified by the Big Bad who prophecy says is gonna (try to) get her.
Mariketa, the Woede demon brothers Cade and Rydstrom (who will get their own books later in the series) and some fey, all team up to collect some prizes in the contest from a pyramid in Guatemala that imprisons some incubi who just want to die and (correctly) identify Mariketa as someone who can help them. After a little interaction between Bowen and Mariketa, Bowen locks them all in assuming they can escape, then goes off to get locked up with the Fyre Serpente (and yes, Serpente has an accent mark on it, no less) with no food or water for a couple weeks (where he was left at the end of Book 2). He is rescued from there solely to go rescue Mariketa et al from the pyramid which no one else can figure out where it is, to prevent the outbreak of war among a bunch of factions that desperately need to stay allied for the quickly arriving Accession, aka Big War with the Vampires (well, at least the Horde vampires). Still with me? Yeah, not even halfway through the book. And despite all this plot activity, most of the verbiage centers around Mariketa and Bowen not trusting each other (well, given that she cursed him to not regenerate and that's what cost him the Hie, and given that she's been stuck with creepy crawlies and incubi for 3 weeks, surprise) but still being hugely attracted to each other.
What bothered Janet, at Dear Author, is something that bothers me a lot about supernatural and other romances with One True Love. It bugs me IRL when people think they've found their Soul Mate, largely because every single time I've encountered that kind of starry eyed belief, Snowballing Clusterfuckage ensued. Yes, dear, you are haaaawwwwttt for each other with a hawtness that is Older Than the Stars and Stronger Than WTF. Okay. Fine. And what Cole is up to in this novel is yanking the Soul Mate idea around so much it more or less disintegrates. I'm not sure if that was her intention, but that was the result.
Bowen "senses" Soul-Mate-age with Mariketa. But his Mate died long ago so that can't be. Mariketa being a witch, thus, she has Enchanted him. Evil. Oh, and never mind he's still wearing a medallion given him by his Soul Mate almost two centuries ago. Surprise! That medallion is the enchantment that convinced him Mariah 180 years ago was his Mate when she wasn't. And the whole thing was set up by the Big Bad that is after Mariketa. Mariketa's damage is that her dad died and her mother left her to be raised by other witches; she doesn't realize dad's soul got sucked out by big bad and mom went to go beg for it back. Of course, the HEA delivers big time because, hey, this is Kresley Cole. Me likey.
Mariketa, not unexpectedly, wants Bowen to commit to her, Soul Mate or Not. And Bowen is advised to make a decision and stick to it, because waffling is bad. And I'm sitting here wanting to make parallels to Sanford and women, and desperately trying not to. No wonder I hate the Soul Mate idea. And while I didn't anticipate the details, I figured no way in hell is Fate so screwed up as to match Bowen to Mariah (once we had the details on her, and they match ex/first wife romance novel stereotypes so perfectly) and no way did Mariketa's parents abandon her for frivolous reasons, once we had the details on them (actual, loving, parents. Whoa!). From there, it was a very short step to finding the conniving bitch responsible for all the manipulation. I just wish it had been a conniving man instead of a conniving woman, because that's a misogynistic stereotype I'd be happy to do without.
Surprisingly good, if you can work your way past some of the surface stuff.