RAPTURE - J.R. Ward
A Novel of the Fallen Angels
Penguin Books (NAL)
ISBN: 978-0-451-23801-6
September 2012
Paranormal Romance

Caldwell, New York - Present Day

Book four of J.R. Ward's Fallen Angel series introduces Mels Carmichael, a refreshingly tough and gritty underappreciated reporter at the Caldwell Courier who has the bad luck (but you know it's not about luck in this series) to hit a man while driving through a snowstorm in the dead of night. Did I mention she was right by the town cemetery when the accident occurred? And the man is none other than Matthias, the absolutely heinous character showcased at his worst in Ward's second book of the series, CRAVE. (I was hooked on this series almost from the get go.)  By the way, Matthias really got what was coming to him in CRAVE, but you'll recall that he also tried to kill himself, so I was left with the impression that he wasn't all that bad. After all, as in all of J.R. Ward's novels, the pervasive theme of good vs. evil is practically jumping off the pages.

So why is Matthias back? It's all about a second chance for Matthias, but it's way, way more complicated than that. The premise of the Fallen Angel series is, as I mentioned earlier, the battle between good versus evil, or in this case, between Heaven and Hell. Jim Heron, the recurrent character in the series is the angel who is battling the demon Devina, and the grand prize will depend on how many souls they can each claimóbest out of seven. Jim has some help from Eddie and Adrian in the last installments, although Eddie is now a dead angel, which seems like an oxymoron, but hey, who am I to argue with the complexity of the characters? There's another recurring sub-plot in the series regarding Jim and his obsession with another Devina victim, but that isn't going to resolve itself in this latest novel, so I'm sure it will be continued.

But back to Matthias and Mels. This is the romance part of the book, and it is a difficult one to swallow. Matthias has been spit back out of Hell, apparently as the next victim in the crazy contest between Jim and Devina. Devina figures she has it made, since Matthias was nasty when he was alive and spent some quality time in Hell being tortured and all that. Jim can't believe that his old boss is the next candidate for salvation and redemption. Matthias is a physical mess, since he basically blew himself up in a suicide attempt before he died and went to Hell, and to add insult to injury, he now has amnesia. Somehow, Mels is instantly attracted to him. What???? That's what I said, but then I had to put my faith in J.R. Ward's development of the plot and tried to go with it and get back to what appears to be the central theme; that is, who is going to get Matthias' soul, Jim or Devina?

Rapture is not my favorite of the Fallen Angels series, but I still managed to love it. Go figure. The romance wasn't totally convincing, but this is really not just a romance. The characters are, as always, greatócomplex, brutal, torturedóall trademark J.R. Ward characters. Even the evil characters, notably Devina, are perfectly developed. Oddly, I kind of like her, even though she is so twisted I can hardly stand it.  As for the plot(s), there was almost too much going on in Rapture, but that's not a surprise. The surprise was that none of the subplots really moved along. The only resolution in this story was what happens to Matthias and Mels, and I know you want to know. So keep reading because believe me, you won't be disappointed.

Astrid Kinn