Another Wroth brother, this time Conrad. From age 13 until his death at the hands of Russians while protecting the family homestead including plague-ridden and soon to die sisters and father (well, some may have already been dead), Conrad was a member of a Secret Society devoted to killing members of the Horde (evil Russian vampires). You can imagine how he felt when his brother Nicholas converted his other brother Sebastian (of Book 2) and him without consulting them (well, Conrad was mostly dead already, and Nicholas didn't know about the Secret Society thing. I mean, Secret, right?).
With his old brothers-in-staking staking, er, him out (okay, staking doesn't work -- you have to behead in this series) because he is now Teh Enemy, Conrad tries to stay alive, or at least undead, and turns out to be phenomenally good at it. He gets paid for killing people and, in general, it turns out that a lot of the people someone is willing to pay to make dead aren't very nice people. Oh, and he drinks them dry to collect their powers and, as an undesirably side effect, gets their memories. This is not good for the sanity.
When Conrad's brothers finally track him down and, with some assistance from Bowen (see Book #2) and Magick Handcuffs lock him up in a dilapidated old estate, Conrad meets Neomi (there's an accent mark) Laress, daughter of a French burlesque dancer, herself a burlesque dancer and a prima ballerina who used the funds she raised on stage to buy this estate back in the 1920s. Unfortunately, a guy she turned loose turned on her (and then himself) and she wound up haunting the place. She is Conrad's Bride, but he can't be blooded because she is incorporeal.
Because he's hangin' with a nice, funny, sexy lady, and Not Drinking the Blood and Memories of Really Bad Supes, Conrad starts to recover his sanity, thus making this a little like the Only She Can Reach Him Through His Disability subgenre (cf Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale). His brothers think he is hallucinating, which is a little silly. Why balk at ghosts when you are a vampire? Ah, well. In any event, Conrad still has some problems, including a demon mark that won't heal. After some in-person phone sex, Conrad decides that it's just a matter of coming up with a plan and implementing. Unfortunately, his brothers have quit visiting (probably locked up somewhere) so he's unable to get out of the magic handcuffs. OTOH, as we know from Book 1, one solution to the your-limb-is-trapped problem for immortals is removing the limb. After all, it'll regenerate! Off to the woodshed for an ax -- right when Neomi decides its time to come clean about having stolen the key to the cuffs and now being willing to hand it over. Ooops. Big Misunderstanding ensues and harsh words.
Neomi, however, decides enough is enough. Conrad is right. We need a plan. So she finds the cell phone (also stolen), calls the House of Witches and gets Mari to come over and hatch a plan. It has some unpleasant conditions, and Nix is not overly happy, but Neomi gets a body and goes to the Ball, er, Big Party to Plan the Accession and find Conrad. Next, Sexxxorringg!
Conrad really does it up: he's not only cleaned off the blood and shaven, but he's gotten a haircut, nice clothes and started hauling her all over the globe for fancy dinners and moonlit walks on the beach and whatnot. Neomi won't marry him because of the conditions, which also mean she can't tell him about the conditions. Big Misunderstanding ensues and then Demons show up. Third party inadvertently drills Neomi immediately after she clears up the Misunderstanding in an effort to stop Conrad from trading his life for hers, after all, hers isn't worth much since it's gonna be so short. And not just mortal short. As in, at 2 weeks, she's feeling lucky to have lasted this long.
So now Conrad's looking for a witch to fix the body and Mari's under pressure to use the mirrors and Bowe has a Bad Feeling and can you guess where this is going? In a way, this episode is a lot like a nice version of Torchwood's _They Keep Killing Suzy_. Only They Keep Killing (and Bring Back) Neomi.
One of the things I dearly loved about Stargate SG-1 was the incredible frequency with which major characters were killed off and then brought back. And they didn't do it the same way that many times -- oh, sure, the occasional repeat, but in general, new and different ways to die and come back once a week, many weeks of the year for 10 years. Just to keep things interesting, they'd once in a while bring back someone who had been dead for a long time, keep 'em around for a while, and them kill 'em again permanently. And once in a rare while, they permanently offed a major character.
Cole has been okay with killing off main characters in this series (Kaderin, in Book #2, for example). Being dead in this game is not black-and-while. With a time-travel key and witches and a goddess of the impossible, there's no end of deus ex machina available. And the whole help-hero-recover-from-serious-damage isn't limited to this book -- that's a staple of the genre, and a part of Rescue Culture that makes R. and I scream, "Codependency, much?" Once again, Cole fiddles with the Soul Mate idea: in theory, there can be no doubt if a woman is a Vampire's Bride or not. He starts breathing and his heart starts beating and he can get it up. But until Neomi is corporeal, nothing happens, so Cole is stuck wondering is-she or isn't-she.
This entry, tho, really makes a stark point about the amorality of True Love. It apparently Does Not Matter that Conrad is/was a crazed serial murderer for hire. Altho he does have to stop killing except in self-defense going forward. Which raises a whole fascinating series of questions about the purpose of True Love or, at any rate, women, in the Kresley Cole universe. This isn't so much about redemption as redirection.
In case it isn't obvious, I'm still going back for more.