Brat Sweet Nothings

Random musings of a romance reader
BEAUTIFUL DEATH by Joely Sue Burkhart
As a reader, two key factors that influence my enjoyment of a book are the author's voice and imagery. It's easy to say that Beautiful Death excels in both but the total is much more than the sum of its individual merits. This novel is so good that I'm not sure I can do justice to it in my review. So I'm going to do something different here and post snippets from the novel to show you just how lush and exciting the prose is.

In this indeterminate future, Earth is overrun by an alien pandemic virus that turn humans into insane blood-sucking monsters. The haven is this dismal setting is New Olympia, a high-tech city that releases vaccinations against new mutations of the virus.

In New Olympia, it is the fashion for residents to adopt Greek names from ancient legends. It is therefore appropriate that the First Marshal of New Olympia names herself Isabella Thanatos. Also known as Beautiful Death, she is ruthlessly efficient when terminating contaminated humans who breach the city's shields. As the aliens brought the virus that took her mother, she hates them with a vengeance, in particular their leader Hades.

Exiled to Earth, Hades yearns to return to his home planet and seek justice for those who've died in exile. Isabella represents his best chance of doing so. For years, Isabella has resisted his unearthly beauty and dark, seductive power but when Isabella finds herself mysteriously infected, the time has come to claim her. This time, nothing will stop Hades from gaining her trust and love. As secrets unfold, Isabella finds herself caught in the centre of a massive power struggle.

Miss Burkhart's confident and bold execution of the story is something I come to appreciate. No chunky paragraphs to introduce the characters or backstory for this author. The plot plays out like a rapidly shuffled deck of cards, with information revealed at exactly the right time.

The beginning is strong, thrusting the reader into an elaborate world where advanced technology and soaring, shimmering cities coexist with terrifying disease and mayhem.

“Damn, Thanatos, who pissed you off this time?” “No one,” Isabella Thanatos replied as her second-in-command fell into step beside her. No matter the hour, the skyways were usually packed with busy citizens heading to MedCorp offices or one of the exclusive shops that crowned Athens the diamond of New Olympia. Today, the pathways circumnavigating their City were deserted.

I love the spectacular entrance of Hades where we immediately sense Isabella's mistrust of him and their underlying sexual tension:

“Ah, but what a sweet surrender that would be.” Stiffening, she tried to whirl and draw the weapon, but it was too late. A hard male body pressed against her, pinning her to the wall. She knew that sinfully low voice, smooth and dark and rich. An alluring scent filled the air, whispering of a decadent, secret world far away...He shuddered against her. “Both. I can’t get you out of my mind.” Silver radiance filled the hallway, sizzling through her clothes, through her mind, stroking deep inside her. His power touched where no hand could reach. Breathing shallow and fast, she fought to remain calm and control her body temperature.

There are plenty of exciting and stunning action scenes. Here's a snippet from when Isabella is pursued by the Erinyes, a class of elite killers, after her contamination:

“Kill me, if you can.” She leaped at the three before the Gate; they were quicker than their two comrades, now bleeding on the ground. The leader’s sword met hers, still glowing an eerie blue in the dank shadows. The elaborate writhing snakes decorating the hilt of his sword tangled with hers, nearly jerking the sword out of her grip.

In particular, I find myself riveted by the breathtaking depiction of alien powers in action, so very like watching a big-budget, special effects movie in my head:

Coiling his power like whips of steel, he lashed into the people, driving them back. The touch of his power quelled the rising beasts, and they cowered away from him. He pulled harder on his internal reserves, blazing an impressive show of raw silver into the night.

The bonding process between Hades and Isabella is at times, sensual and erotic, such as her initial vehement resistance:

Tears spilled from her gleaming eyes and she tried to speak. “You... me...never.”...“Always, Bella,” he whispered against her mouth. He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue inside her mouth. It was a primitive urge, perhaps, but the taste of his own blood on her tongue sent a rush of male satisfaction through him.

and at times heartrending, such as when Hades was worried that Isabella would succumb to the virus:

“Oh, I know,” he growled, releasing some of his frustration. “I know you hate me. I hate myself for this foolish longing for something that can never be mine. Live, and make me hate every day you’re here with me, cold and untouched by my love... A small cry of heart-rending pain escaped her lips. Immediately, he crushed her tightly against his chest. “I love you, Bella. I need you. Fight me every day for the rest of your very long life.”

And then, there's the incredibly tender scene where they admit their mutual love:

She wanted him wanted him to love her. The thought trembled through her mind and the bond. Hades froze, too, breathing hard.

Also noteworthy is that many of the villains have sympathetic, tragic sides to them. As readers will soon realise, few things are black and white in this world. The PDF version of this book contains gorgeous illustrations of the butterfly as it is a recurring motif in the story for metamorphosis and death.

Emotionally rich and action-packed, Beautiful Death holds intriguing surprises at every turn, right up to its explosive climax. Miss Burkhart has four books published to date but if I'm not wrong, this was the first manuscript she completed. If this is representative of her writing, I certainly can't wait to savor her other works.

Available in PDF, MS Reader and Mobipocket at Drollerie Press.

Grade: A+

Joely Sue Burkhart
Drollerie Press (June 20, 2008)
# ISBN-10: 0-9798081-9-7
# ISBN-13: 978-0-9798081-9-7

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