4 1/2 Stars!
VELVET HAVEN is the Black Dagger Brotherhood meets "The Matrix" and the showdown happens at an erotic fetish club catering to an exclusive clientele that's renowned for satisfying every physical delight known to mortals and immortals alike. Whether you're a naughty school girl, sexed-up metal head, or leather-wearing hulk, all walks of life are welcome. And while mortals think they're the only beings to own the night, immortals emerge from the shadows to partake in their misguided offerings. It's a culmination of leather-clad sin and gothic mysticism tossed with dark sex magic and ancient deities that aren't the least bit chaste. Basically its a chocolate covered erotic fantasy just waiting to be read and I feel like I've been waiting an eternity to enter this mysteriously delicious club known in both worlds as Velvet Haven. Let me give you taste.
It would be the understate of the year to deem the men of Sophie Renwick's VELVET HAVEN as brawny. These guys are huge - larger than life really - each with a magnetism of rhythmically pulsing erotic magical powers, beckoning the enamored like the lulling beauty of a Venus Flytrap. However, in this case, one doesn't mind being devoured. The king of these luscious hunks of man-meat is Bran, King of the Night Sidhe and co-ruler of Annwyn, and he houses a wonderfully dark and festering soul. Over a century ago he sacrificed his eternal happiness for another and in doing so, he became shackled to a goddess he hates and a couple of nasty curses, all of which fan the flames of his hatred for both mortals and immortals alike. Now, with the inability to harness and create the power he was born with, Bran must feed off the energy of the beings he despises most: Humans. Human females to be more exact. To top off his dark existence, Bran has recently been plagued by visions, visions of his own murder by one female mortal that's about to turn his entire world upside down.
But Bran's personal problems aren't the only recent happenings to plague his black existence. Wrapped up his own bleak affairs, Bran has shirked in his duty to protect the world of Annwyn and in doing so, has carelessly allowed dark magic to seep past the veil that separates immortals from the mortals of Earth. Recently, victims have been found gruesomely marked with dark magic and angelic symbols alike. The bodies were meant to be found as a warning and as a billboard, announcing that a new power is growing with alarming force. Its also the catalyst that forces Bran to put aside his own endeavors and protect the world he has neglected. First place to start: Velvet Haven. Residing literally on top of the very gate that opens from the mortal world into Annwyn, its the idyllic location for sinister and deadly magic. Its also the location where Bran meets his delectable murderess.
Mairi MacAuley embodies a piercing intellect, distrusting skepticism and an overall prickly nature that keeps nearly all people at a distance. Conversely, she's fiercely protective of the very few she loves which really only consists of her friend Rowan and one large and lovable Irish wolfhound named Clancy. For these two, Mairi would gladly walk through Hell and back. Its a trait that isn't necessarily mentioned but rather one that's intrinsically felt by the reader. You just know this about Mairi and beyond that, you believe this about Mairi. Sadly, Rowan, Mairi's friend - sister really, is dying and to bring a smile to her face, Mairi agrees to go with her to Velvet Haven despite the fact that she has major reservations about the goth club. Her reluctance isn't unfounded either, especially after a carved up woman landed at the hospital where she works as a nurse mere hours before with possible connections to the mysterious club. Mairi has seen some baffling things pass through the hospital doors in her time, but this particular corpse could ignite a tableau of eternal nightmares if she wasn't made of sterner stuff.
When Bran and Mairi meet, its a moment for females everywhere to rejoice. Immediately taken with Mairi, Bran is frustratingly confused by his effect on her. For the first time in his three centuries, he's unable to melt his human quarry. Instead, he's being grilled on his player antics and it's not until a fallen angel muddles up Mairi's head before he finally gets the chance he's been doggedly trying to capture. Even then, Mairi compels him to talk and it's probably the most words he's spoken to a mortal in his entire lifetime. It's in these moments that Mairi discovers a scintillating mystery in Bran that strangely has her trusting every word falling from his mouth. He's safety personified and while she's never before been the center of some one's universe nor had she thought to be deserving of that type of attention, Mairi finds herself druggingly special in Bran's eyes. On the other hand, Bran sees a surprisingly interesting person in Mairi, one that he's never met or ever thought he would meet. Immediately he's struck by her bravery and her balanced soul but also perplexed by the emotional and physical scars she bears. Such pain she's endured but yet she's also emerged that much stronger for it and it's at this realization that Bran decides that Mairi is too good for him. Too good for his perverse motives which was to have sex with her, restore his energy and leave her as he's done with every other female mortal.
Despite Bran's determination to maintain distance and Mairi's nervous uncertainty, Fate isn't about to let these two go their separate ways. There's a higher plan for them both, one that's being orchestrated by the most unlikely of characters - the fallen angel, Suriel. For the dark plot underfoot doesn't only hope to destroy Annwyn, it wants to crush the mortal world into oblivian as well and there are those that will not allow this to happen. So when dire circumstances and circling enemies force Mairi to face the realization that her instincts had been right along, that magic and immortals do in fact exist, that Bran is her lover and protector, she's finally capable of embracing a previously unknown gift. A gift that will forever link her to Bran, Annwyn and the eventual fall of those those who seek to destroy this magical world and her inhabitants. There's also the pesky business of killing Bran that needs to be dealt with as well...
VELVET HAVEN is a dark and sinfully erotic paranormal romance that has you tumbling head first into a mysterious and complicated world, one that magically stole my reader heart. I do feel compelled to mention, however, that while I very much enjoyed the explicit eroticism, I really would have loved to read more about the world of Annwyn. For how complicated the rules of Annwyn are, Ms. Renwick did an amazing job immersing the reader quickly but there is that want and the tug for more and I happened to feel it.