by Jacquelyn Frank

September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4201-0424-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

The final book of the Shadowdweller's trilogy begins with poison. Penance priest Sagan is poisoned by the traitorous Nicoya during a battle inside Sanctuary. As powerful as he is, Sagan cannot stop the flow of his blood and the poison races throughout his system. He accepts defeat and hopes his life's work will be enough to grant him peace in the afterlife.

Something is out there. Nine years in the Alaskan wilderness has honed Valera's intuition. She can sense a change in the atmosphere around her home. When she comes face to face with two intruders, she relies on her magic to protect her. It all goes horribly wrong, and her would-be attackers are killed. Horrified by her actions, she tries to make amends by caring for their prisoner, a man being held with poison. Since the other men were evil, she hopes that he is not an even greater threat. Only time will tell.

Sagan is surprised to be alive. When he learns that a witch has healed him, he is astounded. The only witches he is familiar with are evil creatures. What if their teachings have been wrong? What if there are good witches who can help Shadowdwellers? This could change everything.

This is a great beginning for Pleasure, but unfortunately Valera and Sagan only appear in about a third of the novel. The rest of the book shifts to the tempestuous relationship between Chancellor Malaya and her guard Guin. As series readers already know, the powerful former assassin is desperately in love with Malaya yet feels completely unworthy of her. Required to be in the same room with her, even as she has taken other men to her bed, Guin has finally reached his breaking point. He cannot stand by and watch her accept the Senate's demand that she submit to a political marriage.

Malaya understands why Guin is upset. She doesn't want to marry this way either. But his reaction is way out of bounds. What is going on? Why won't he talk to her? Why does he want to leave her now when she needs him the most? Malaya must deal with her own emotions and cannot handle his too. Something has to give.

As savvy readers, we knew where this chemistry was going to lead, and are surprised it has taken so long. For a society with a healthy attitude toward physical pleasure, Malaya and Guin are remarkably circumspect. It probably stems from the difference in their social stature, but should have been obvious to even the most casual observer. Once unleashed, passion like this cannot be stopped, only accepted and cherished. Whether they can overcome their own baggage is the true test.

I was a little disappointed in the organization of Pleasure. I really wanted to read more about Sagan and Valera. Especially how she came to Sanctuary and how she assimilated into the Shadowdweller society. I was intensely curious about her feline familiars, too. I felt a little cheated when the story switched so abruptly. I already knew how Guin and Malaya's romance would commence. That was a volcano waiting to erupt from the very first book.

Reviewed in August 2009 by Paula.

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