Bitter Sweet Love (The Dark Elements #0.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Purchased by Reviewers
Goodreads • Amazon
In a sizzling prequel novella to her new series The Dark Elements, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout draws readers into the extraordinary, irresistible world of Wardens and demons.
Dez wasn't just Jasmine's crush. A gargoyle Warden like Jas, he helped her come to terms with her destiny—fending off demons and maintaining balance between good and evil. He was her everything...right until the moment he disappeared without a trace. It didn't help that Jas's father had just announced that she and Dez would one day be mated. Hard not to take that personally.
And now he's back, three years older, ten times hotter, ready to pick up exactly where they left off. But Jas isn't taking that risk again. Dez has seven days to meet all her conditions and earn back her trust. Seven days filled with terrifying danger and sweet temptation. Seven days to win her heart—or shatter it all over again...
Novellas are always interesting endeavors. It's hard to fit a well-developed story with multi-dimensional characters into what's usually half the length or less of a regular novel. It's the nature of the novella to feel a little rushed as a result—either the entire story feels like a surface-level retelling of events, or the end is abrupt and generally unsatisfying. Add to this the fact that the premise of this series—gargoyles—was unorthodox and unimaginable to say the least, and I was a little bit apprehensive. But, in JLA we trust, so I still waited on bated breath for the release.
Really I never should have doubted the master. Serving as a prequel to her new Dark Elements series, Bitter Sweet Love is our introduction to a whole new, fantastic world. The Wardens—a version of gargoyles that combines elements of the classic mythology with a whole lot of new intrigue—and their world will pull you in from the start. They're human hybrids that can take on the form of the iconic stone guardians, tasked with fighting demons and protecting unsuspecting humans around the world. It's an involved, awesome concept rounded out by a rich developed history and way of life.
We're also introduced to their rather bizarre mating ritual, made necessary by their dwindling numbers. Since females are frequently targeted by the demons they hunt, the clanswomen are highly protected and kept in confinement in many ways. It's intense and disconcerting, but its crafted into the story in a way that makes you understand the fear the clans have, if not completely condone it. The scenario doesn't improve once the girls come of age—marriages happen young in an effort to boost population, and once a male Warden has chosen a mate, he makes his intentions clear to the entire clan. The weird part? The girl has no say in this declaration. She's given seven days to either accept or decline, but still, the original uncomfortable feeling is there. It's a whole lotta weird, but you can't help but be fascinated.
These are the circumstances in which our heroine, Jasmine, finds herself. Dez, her childhood friend-turned-crush, has returned after an abrupt departure years before to make his intentions known...for Jasmine. And fiercely independent, rebellious Jasmine is less than amused. But Dez is determined to use his seven days to win her over. What ensues is nothing short of magic.
In the typical way of JLA books, Jasmine is a fantastic heroine. She's struggling with the confines of her community and a heavy destiny, trying to find a balance between obligation to her people and what she wants in her life. She's a fighter—and that includes where Dez is concerned. Jasmine is the kind of girl I want not only read about, but be. Her approach to Dez has a healthy level of skepticism and she does an impressive job of resisting the beyond enticing Warden. The voice with which she navigates the adventure and supremely high tension of their courtship is entertaining as anything, filled with the unique and sharp quips that are JLA's staple.
It's this courtship that really is the star of the show. Jasmine's quest for independence, coupled with Dez's willingness to give it to her—to give her the world, really—is touching and empowering all at the same time. And with the romantic and sexual tension abounding, you'll be hard-pressed not to squeal at all the near misses and sweet moments. I certainly lost the battle more than once.
Bitter Sweet Love is, in my opinion, at the top of the novella game. The story felt complete, with enough depth to the characters and story to make you feel the full effective of the story. I don't know how she does it, but JLA once again brings a winner. It's the perfect setup to the world of White Hot Kiss (even introducing you to its main characters!) and an incredible feat for such a small page count. If you have yet to start the series, you should absolutely do so. And if you have but skipped over this prequel, I highly recommend going back to the beginning. This is the beginning of and sets the stage for what has been one of my absolute favorites series this year.
If you're a fan of the young adult genre, this is definitely a winner. JLA is one of the best authors out there, and if you haven't already become acquainted with her awesomeness, I honestly have no idea what you're doing. Seriously, pick this one up!
When series have a prequel novella, I get super excited. I just do. I love the fact there is an expansion of the author's universe; and I find that I am greedy when it comes to extended universe material. I basically hoard this information like a dragon. Let that image sink in: a manic gleam in my eye (maybe even a slight twitch) as I clutch novellas, sneak peaks, and excerpts to my chest. Smaug's got the general idea:
And this photo of Benedict just cracks me up:
But I digress, this is about JLA and her infinite awesomeness! Bitter Sweet Love is a wonderful introduction to her Dark Elements series. It does a fantastic job encapsulating Warden culture in a succinct manner. In my opinion, Bitter Sweet Love augments the series (granted, there is only one out...but I await October with baited breath).
If I hadn't read Bitter Sweet Love first, I probably would have thought all Wardens were immense douchebags. But reading a short story from their perspective, it is easier to sympathize with them. They seem less stoic and stick-up-their-@$%y. And it familiarizes you with the sad truth that they are a dying race.
So while their mating ritual is a little...disconcerting, it is understandable. Females are few in number and aggressively protected. But our heroine is having none of that!
Also, I kind of love Jasmine. JLA has an incredible talent when it comes to constructing her narrating characters (and writing in general).
Here's a short summary:
Jasmine is doing her own thing, sneaking out and asserting her independence, when her childhood friend-crush returns after three years. He claims her. She revolts. He has seven days to win back her trust.
Short. Sweet. Simple.
And so full of sexual-tension. Dez is one sexy gargoyle...which is a sentence I never thought I'd write. But the relationship between Dez and Jasmine is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Also, I'd like to point out that Jasmine is perfectly justified in her refusal to immediately cave in to Dez. I know that the temptation to scream at her, "Just say 'yes,' already!" is at an all time high—trust me, I know—but once I took a step back from it, I realized that I couldn't actually fault her. If I were in her position, I'd be just as reluctant (or possibly more) as her. But that's neither here nor there, I just wanted to give you something to think about as you go through the ten bajillion stages of frustration.
But, in short, this is a good warm-up to White Hot Kiss. I'd definitely encourage people who want, or already have read WHK to try this one out!
# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.
Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.
She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.