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The Bastard by Inez Kelley

Cover46738-mediumI kept changing my mind about this book as I read it. I impulsively requested it on Netgalley after reading some enthusiastic recommendations on twitter. I had previously read one of Inez Kelley’s West Virginia set contemporary romances.  I have a real weakness for bad boys in fiction, preferring Spike to Angel or Riley, and Wolverine over Cyclops for example, so The Bastard and the Baddest Boys in History series seemed like it was made for me.

The Baddest Boys in History is a paranormal series that plays with religious and mythical iconography from most the world’s religions. In the prologue, Inez Kelley introduces us to Sela (known in Heaven as Josiel) and Michael, Archangels in Heaven, Vangelus, servants of the Creator. Ha-Satan led a rebellion in Heaven and has been banished to Earth with a third of the heavenly hosts. That rebellion brought many of the Vangelus to Earth and they are reeling from their experiences in the earthly realm. On Earth the Vangelus were over-whelmed with sexual desire that was absent in Heaven, and it led to also sorts of un-sanctioned sexing, including Human-Angel interactions. Those encounters which get a mention in Genesis, led to the birthing of monsters and giants by human women that the Vangelus then had to track down and corral. Sela and Michael had been sexually involved, but Sela ended their affair when she realized that while she had been exclusive he had not. Since those days the Vangelus have been recalled to Heaven, and now the awkward former lovers have each been entrusted with raising from the dead seventy-seven  champions to face off against Ha-Satan’s forces. Sela and Michael’ s fractious relationship leads them to take opposing approaches in selecting their champions, the Awoken. Michael sought out the most well regarded heroes and the holiest of warriors to make up his Righteous, who guard Heaven and Sela looked for the most depraved, dirtiest of warriors to fight in the Earthly trenches. Sela is a fight fire with fire sort of woman and will use every tool in the arsenal to defeat Ha-Satan.

Fast-forward to the modern day where we meet Erik, one of Sela’s six remaining Forsaken warriors. Erik is a Viking king, whose violent first life was ended by his wife’s betrayal, leaving him battled hardened and bitter.  He has been fighting for Sela and Heaven for hundreds of years. He intervenes when Lacy, the owner of diner in West Virginia he has been frequenting is attacked by Soul-leeches, bottom feeders in Ha-Satan’s evil ranks. Erik is able to rescue Lacy but his good friend and fellow Forsaken Gen is killed. Lacy remembers more of the supernatural nature of the attack than is convenient. Erik, trying to protect his secrets while protecting her from harm  tries to dismiss all her strange memories as confusion due to her concussion. Maintaining that charade becomes even harder when he realizes that she isn’t  simply human but a descendant of the Vangelus, making her a valuable pawn and prize in this supernatural war and she will continue to be the target of attacks. Erik is drawn to Lacy but fears his attachment to her is weakness he cannot afford.  Lacy is  attracted to Erik but fears acknowledging who he might truly be. 

Sign up for this book if you have want real real bad boys. Inez Kelley isn’t lying, she populated her band of Forsaken with  legendary, mythical and historical bad guys. While she does play around a bit with the idea that they might have been misunderstood, products of their time or victims of bad PR, the Forsaken themselves are mostly unapologetic for their bad reputations, even if they have softer underbellies than they let on.

I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the Forsaken, brothers in arms, who are rude, mean and uncouth with each other as you would expect when they have been fighting a secret war for centuries without the respect or affection of those they fight for. I loved how Lacy, at first baffled, frightened and suspicious of them, comes to accept and love them. Lacy is a natural care-giver and can't help but start taking care of them all.

What didn’t work for me as well was the POV chapters Kelley gave over to Ha-Satan’s crew. In those chapters we spent extended periods of time with the seriously disgustingly evil Ha-Satan and his minions. I seriously questioned why I was reading the book whenever I hit one of those chapters, not because they weren’t well written but because events and encounters in these chapters were often so stomach churning. These chapters do effectively make you want to root for Erik and the rest of the Awakened however bad they might have been during their lifetimes.

Although I considered DNFing the book at points due to the evilness of evil characters, I hung on because I admired the writing, and plotting. The book was funny, serious and scary when it needed to be, and while at times the main romance plot was set aside to forward both the main action and a secondary romance plot Inez Kelley never lost the thread of it. The Bastard left me satisfied, and intrigued as to how the overarching conflict will be resolved. I think she gave me enough surprises and twists that on balance I would recommend this to any who like anti-heroes, strong internal and external conflicts and bad boys going mushy for a good woman.

 A copy of The Bastard: The Baddest Boys in History 1 was provided by the author Inez Kelley via NetGalley for review purposes.


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