Review: Edge of Temptation by Megan Crane

Review: Edge of Temptation by Megan CraneEdge of Temptation by Megan Crane
on April 5, 2016
Genres: BDSM, Dystopia, Erotica, Romance
Series: The Edge #2
Published by Swerve
Source: NetGalley

Copy for review provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


four-stars

USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane returns with the next book in her dark, forbiddenly sexy Edge series about a brotherhood of men--alpha, dominant, unforgiving warriors who keep what they take...

Gunnar is a ruined man in a desolate world. He might not believe in black magic, but if there’s the chance it might bring back his lost mate from her early death, he’ll try it. All he needs is to capture a virgin - a rare thing in his torn world - to make the doomed spell work. He does not expect the passion he feels for his beautiful captive to wreck him every time he looks at her. But sometimes temptation is just too much...

Maud was promised to the church a long time ago. Yet when she encounters brooding, ruthless Gunnar, the desire that flares between them obliterates any sense of duty. She’s managed to avoid surrender all these holy years—her very soul has depended on it. But Gunnar’s iron control makes her want nothing more than to bare her heart, and submit to him completely...

Edge of Temptation is the second book in the gritty, erotic, dystopian world of The Edge series, first introduced earlier in 2016 with Edge of Obsession. In that book, Gunnar and Maud are introduced as secondary characters late in the second half, where it is clear that Maud is Gunnar’s captive. This novel is the backstory to that relationship, taking place simultaneously with book 1 (until a joining of plot-lines late in the second half), and focuses on Gunnar, blood brother of the raider king Wulf. Gunnar has gone far across the sea from his raider clan home in search of a virgin to sacrifice as part of his plan to bring back his dead mate Audra with a black magic ritual. Virgins are hard to come by in this world where sex and winter marriages are the norm, but the one place sure to have them is a church compound. As luck or fate would have it, Maud, a novice in training, has wandered off from the convent where she’s lived for several years since being sold into religious slavery as a young girl and meets Gunnar in the desert. Going with him seems better than the alternative of returning to the convent where she expects that any day now she will be put out for disobedience. Gunnar makes it clear to Maud that she is his captive and even knowing that his plans for her include death, it still sounds like a better life, if for a short time, than the one she’s had to date. Bringing Maud back to his raider settlement, Gunnar’s growing attraction to her wracks him with guilt, threatening to interfere with his plans to revive the woman he lost. His position in the clan is tenuous, with his constant defiance of his brother the king, and the fact that he’s brought yet another stranger into the fold (especially when the first woman he brought home, his mate Audra, had clearly been inciting a revolt). When the dust settles, who will be left standing?

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Edge of Obsession, which featured the raider war chief Tyr and Helena, a woman holding a potential key to information that could tip the balance of power for those living in this dystopian world. That story featured a complete couple romance but left several plot points unanswered, to be part of a continuing story arc for the whole series. Because this story takes place simultaneously, it can be read as a standalone as the important parts of book 1 are explained succinctly when the plot lines meet up, but I do recommend reading book 1 as it was a great introduction to the overall world building of the series. Though this story also features some short explanations of the general power structures to be found, it expands on the religious aspect. In this religion, young women who become nuns are basically sexual slaves to the priests in charge, serving them in any capacity until they reach a certain age after which they become breeders to produce offspring that will be raised in the church as well. Sold into the church at age 11, it’s the world Maud has grown up in , and one where her natural spirit has been beaten down but not demolished. Being a captive to Gunnar is similar to her previous circumstances except that where her own sexual responses were discouraged in the church, with Gunnar they are encouraged. The result is some highly erotic scenes between them, following a BDSM theme where Gunnar is clearly dominant and Maud fervently submissive. She is used to pain, though here with Gunnar she also gets to experience accompanying pleasure. It makes for some very intense scenes between them.

Some readers may find Gunnar overly harsh, but I felt he was true to his upbringing, having had no caring and affectionate female in his life to give him a positive relationship example. His mother was a camp slave. His mate Audra was a manipulative, power hungry jezebel. Why he’d want to bring her back is somewhat puzzling at first, as she’s portrayed in a mostly unpleasant way (she cheated on him and ultimately betrayed their raider clan which in part caused her death). But what made her important to Gunnar was that she chose him over his brother, something that had never happened with anyone else, such that he feels he owes it to her to do whatever he can to bring her back from the dead. It’s his one mission – and a mission that Maud can bring to fruition or to ruin. His feelings for her become very complex as she willingly submits to all his demands, wearing his collar and clearly comfortable in her role as his slave. He finds himself alternately treating her as a possession and then as a woman to be cared for, and it’s the latter that creates a guilt complex in him as the time for her sacrifice draws near. Maud defends him to his brother, even knowing she is going to die, an unselfish person who has come to the realization that she will do anything for Gunnar if it will make him happy. She’s the opposite of Audra who only did things for her own gain, and worthy of Gunnar’s love if he can only bring himself to give it freely.

I was quite fascinated with the power play between Gunnar, his half brother Wulf and his half-sister Eiryn who is one of Wulf’s bodyguards. They were all brought up in the same raider clan and Wulf got his current position as King by forcibly removing his father – no easy succession here. It’s a violent world where danger and rumors and betrayal constantly swirl. Gunnar struggles with loyalty for the man whom he grew up with but whom he blames for Audra’s death. He knows he walks a fine line by disrespecting his king in public, a line that is held tight only because of their blood relationship. One of the reasons why Gunnar’s disrespect is tolerated by his brother (besides the blood link between them) is that Gunnar is the resident mechanical genius of the clan. He’s the one who has wired up the electricity, designed and built generators, and pretty much anything that requires design and implementation is his forte. The tablet that Helena and Tyr brought back to the clan, and the rumours of the fabled internet being real and accessible via the tablet are too much for Gunnar to resist and while he may have alienated himself from the clan with Audra, it’s different with Maud supporting him. As well, Eiryn is becoming quite an interesting secondary character, holding a position of power as a warrior woman in a world where most women are powerless. I’m really looking forward to her book as she’s definitely not a subservient female and I expect the sexual dynamics will be quite different than what we’ve seen to date. (Though I could be wrong – it could be that because of her need to be in control in public as a bodyguard to the king, she might be submissive in private – I’m dying to find out!) For me, this story was less action-oriented than the first one and more dramatic with the relationship between Gunnar and Maud evolving into a mutually satisfying one, in which the power they have over each other equalizes, despite what it appears like on the outside. It doesn’t advance the plot much further than where the first story in the series left off, so I’m hoping to see more development on that in the next one, which comes out later this summer. 4-4.5 stars for this erotic,intense story.

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four-stars

About Megan Crane

USA Today bestselling, RITA-nominated, and critically-acclaimed author Megan Crane has written more than fifty books since her debut in 2004.  She has been published by a variety of publishers, including each of New York’s Big Five.  She’s won fans with her women’s fiction, chick lit, and work-for-hire young adult novels as well as with the Harlequin Presents she writes as Caitlin Crews. These days her focus is on contemporary romance from small town to international glamor, cowboys to bikers, and beyond. She sometimes teaches creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and at UCLA Extension’s prestigious Writers’ Program, where she finally utilizes the MA and PhD in English Literature she received from the University of York in York, England. She currently lives on the glorious west coast with a husband who draws comics and animation storyboards and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.