Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Broken and starving, vampire outcast Troy Raines has returned to Chicago where everything went all so wrong to die the final death. The death of his best friend and former lover Isaac,and their misguided revolution against the Tribunal and the Ancients cost him everything. Now all Troy wants to do is finish the job vampire Daniel Valente started when he threw Troy off a building.
Renart Bellerose has been busy since the ending of the rebellion repairing the damage caused by his young, misguided vampires. Renart has tried to make amends by being the Master he should have been to those he Turned and now he is seeing the results in those around him. But they also serve to remind him of what and who Renart has lost, specifically Troy Raines. From the moment Renart looked upon Troy, he wanted him. And after Turning Troy, Renart gave him everything he thought Troy wanted, power, money, but those weren’t the things Troy craved. Troy wanted Renart’s love and attention and when he didn’t get those, his anger exploded into a rebellion that cost many their lives and has the Tribunal hunting him down for treason.
When Renart finds Troy in Chicago, their reunion erupts into a moment of passion and anger, reinforcing the feelings they had always had for each other. But danger is all around them as the Tribunal closes in on Troy and Renart finds himself a target of the Ancients wrath. Will it be too late for Renart and Troy to find the happiness they always wanted or will the laws of the Ancients cost both of them their lives?
Refined Instincts brings back two of the most confounding characters of this series, ones that the readers will have mixed emotions about, and unites them in a relationship full of regret, guilt, and passion. Throughout the Instincts series, Lord Renart Bellerose has been a sort of prickly, charming and untrustworthy thorn in the side of Lord Titus Antonius and his lover, now Eternal Partner, Andreas Nikandros (Natural Instincts – Instincts, #1) . Even more, his attitude those young men he Turned and the shear number of Turned earned him the scorn of other Ancients as well, such as Lord Ryunosuke Kimura and his Eternal Partner, Sir Daniel Valente (Enduring Instincts – Instincts #2). Renart has always hovered around the edges of the action in the preceding stories, a lively persona that picked at our curiosity each time he appeared on the pages.
Troy Raines also has had a reoccurring role in the series and not a admirable one. As the leader of the rebellion, Troy oversaw the capture and torture of series favorite Daniel Valente as well as the kidnapping of Andreas, lover of Lord Titus. I am sure that there are many readers who still retain some dislike for this character based upon his actions in previous books. All it took was for Daniel to throw Troy off the roof to start his transformation from villain to misguided, tragic reformer. S. J. Frost started Troy on his path to redemption in Enduring Instincts when it becomes evident that the rebellion and the power is Isaac’s, not Troy’s. Then when Troy is injured and unable to care for himself, he becomes an object of pity. Bit by bit, Frost takes this character apart until the reader is left with nothing but compassion for the person he has become.
I found both characters intriguing and loved the manner in which Frost brings them back together. It completes the rebellion aspect of this series and does so by fleshing out two secondary characters in a charming and wholly satisfying way. It is definitely a favorite of mine of the series. I thought that instead of glossing over past issues, Renart’s part as the igniting factor of the rebellion due to his poor treatment of his Turned and Troy’s blindness over Isaac are given equal treatment to help flesh out the characters and past events. Renart’s past history does give the character a much needed foundation for his actions and behavior towards others around him.
I did feel that the arrival of all the other couples from the series, other than Titus and Andreas, was a element that needed a little different treatment. It was if they arrived just so the author could please all the readers who had favorites, not really because the plot absolutely required it. And of course the trial was over very quickly after so much was made of the Tribunal hunting them down. I would have loved to have seen this aspect of the story given more dimension and depth.
Refined Instincts is a wonderful addition to a series many have come to love. I am not sure how many more the author has planned for Instincts, but given the vitality of this story, the series is healthy indeed. I recommend this story to all fans of the series, those readers who love vampire stories as well as fans of S.J. Frost. But if you are new to the series, this is not a stand alone story. It must be read as part of the series so go back to Natural Instincts to see how it all begins.
This is how it all starts:
The silence in the dark alley broke with the shuffle and drag of uneven footsteps. Troy slowly made his way, his keen eyesight picking out trashcans, litter, dips and holes in the pavement. He may bear an eternally broken body, but his other vampiric senses were still sharp, so much stronger than when he’d been human…those three short years ago.
Troy shook his head, wishing the motion would scatter his memories. But like his shadow behind him, they were dark ghosts that forever clung to him, never parting from him. Even when he couldn’t see them, just as a shadow waits for light to show itself, so his memories waited for a moment of weakness to bring him down.
He should’ve known returning to Chicago would strengthen them…and weaken him, but he needed to come back. This was where it all began. This was where he wanted it to end.
And he did want it to end. All of it. The memories, the regrets, the guilt, the pain—physical and emotional. He no longer wanted eternity. He wanted peace.
Books in the Instincts series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that transpire:
Published October 31st 2013 by MLR Press