Very disappointed (warning - major spoilers ahead).
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 April 2015
Ive really liked most of SE Jakes books, especially the Hell and High Water series, but not this one. Im not really into menage stories anyway (I find them pretty unconvincing) so thats a caveat but I read this because I really liked Law and his epic love for Styx from the previous book in the series and - its SEJakes. Given Law's obsession with Styx I was interested to see how she could truly convince the reader that Law could allow another person into their screwed up relationship. I thought if anyone could do it and do it without copping out, it would be Jakes. SO imagine my surprise when I found the whole book felt like a cop out. Far from having to convince Law to let someone else in, given his huge obsession with Styx, she actually decided to have Law be the one who suddenly and against his whole previous characterisation, wants someone else much more than Styx. Just like that. So be warned, this is more of a rant than a review.
Essentially I think the author tried to take the easy way out. She explained a third being introduced into an intense 'I want no one else but you' love by basically trashing and diminishing that relationship and introducing a shameless Gary Stu - St Paolo the Perfect- always saving the day and sacrificing himself at the drop of a hat. Paolo is so saintly he's pretty unbelievable as a hardened cop - he seems more like a dewy, idealistic, vulnerable 22 year old relationship therapist who loves sex, has the requisite abused childhood and does brainless things to be noble. In the last book he was pretty cocky and pushy; in this one he's an 'anything you want is okay by me because I don't matter' kind of guy, which is unusual for Jakes.
Anyway, conveniently, on the very night STyx comes back (having spent years living in hell trying to protect Law incidentally), Law sort of *becomes* totally in love with Paolo, though oddly he's been able to resist him for quite a while and is actually *just* coming around to maybe giving it a go with him to forget Styx. The instant Styx turns up, Paolo magically becomes the only man Law can't live without, though until that, he put his romantic life on hold, waiting for Styx. Right. Even with all the bigging-up of Paolo at that point, having read about the beautiful, mad intensity of Styx/Law in the past book, I found that utterly unbelievable. If Law had been with Paolo for a while and built a solid happy relationship - that might have been believable, even if Law felt torn by the love of his life returning. But we're meant to accept that Law is instantly, genuinely more in love with someone he barely knows, than the guy he's adored all his life and he's not torn at all. Yet that ludicrous premise turns out to be heart of the book and it never lets up - insta-love v/s epic love and insta-love wins by miles.
There's no real confusion - Styx is only allowed by Law to stay in contact because they're (again conveniently) forced to hide out together after an attack in which Paolo (of course) saves lots of lives with his magic reflexes, while trained and seasoned agents stand by and watch. Uh huh.
The story has barely any scenes of just Styx and Law together (2? maybe 3?), arguing or talking things out - the book is about Paolo, how marvellous Paolo is, how much Law loves him, how noble he is, how Styx has to accept that Law belongs to Paolo and how much paolo deserves him and on and on. Paolo dominates every scene. There's barely a scene of intimacy or love between Law and Styx, which makes Law's appearance in the previous book and his devotion to Styx pretty ridiculous. Nearly every single sex/love scene (save a grope at the beginning) involves Paolo. When Law and Styx finally have make up sex which should have been a huge emotional climax to their decades long love - they do the deed, then immediately start talking about their need to get Paolo back in their lives (the only reason Law is with Styx not Paolo is because Paolo of course left to make a noble sacrifice). Paolo/Law and even Paolo/Styx matter in the book, Law/Styx is played down unless it somehow involves Paolo. Naturally, their threesomes are mainly about Paolo and Law, or Styx and Law focussing on Paolo. Law actually ends up not being the centre of the threesome as one would expect - its no exaggeration to say that this should have been titled, "Bound by Paolo". Is this what happens when an author falls too much in love with one of her characters?
In the end I barely believed Law was much bothered if Styx was there. Yes, as Law said, he wants both because he's greedy, but the author made it clear Law would always choose Paolo (who, lets repeat again, he barely knows) and he's prepared to see Styx walk away for good. What made it even worse and made me like Law less and less as the book went on - after all Styx sacrificed, Law refused to let go of his unfair anger until Paolo (who else?) persuaded him to. The Law/Styx relationship is allowed no healing or progress without Paolo giving his blessing. Though Styx was pretty stupid not just to tell Law what was happening over the years, the way he was treated by Law in this book negated any feeling that he deserved any of it. I actually got really upset for poor old Styx through much of the book.
The ending too was facile, which I wasn't expecting from this author. Obviously Law was never going to choose Styx, so to avoid an unhappy ending for Styx, Styx conveniently also falls for Paolo, and Paolo conveniently falls for him too. As always in menages, neither convinced me that this was anything more than add-on convenience - I still believed they both wanted Law more (not surprising given the book's whole energy went into selling both Paolo/Law and Styx's now one-sided continuing adoration of Law). Going by the logic of the characters (as opposed to what the author made them do to tie everything up in a nice bow) it felt to me as if Styx gave in and made himself 'fall in love' with Paolo, so he could stay with Law. Paolo fell in love with Styx because that was the Gary Stu thing to do at that point.
Instead of facing up to any of the issues they should have faced - jealousy, betrayal, feeling left behind, the unevenness of love, the genuineness of insta-love as against life long love - it became a trite 'happy ending' with Law and Paolo getting Styx on the side and all three of them bereft of any normal complex human emotions. Before I read this, I expected the add on to be the third character coming in to the established love story, but it was Styx who ended up written as the lucky intruder to the main happy relationship. Weird.
Im afraid this has put me off buying any more Bound books, or the newer book involving the Law/Paolo/sort of Styx trio. I just can't stand more of St Paolo and worshipful Law. I'm going to stick to 'Hell or High Water' in future - they're pretty flawless and emotionally quite complex.