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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hyde: an Urban Fantasy by Lauren Stewart


To survive, they must embrace what they most despise . . . in themselves and each other.

Mitch Turner is everything women want most in a man—charismatic, successful, drop-dead gorgeous. Except he’s not a man—he’s a monster.

The only way Mitch can protect others from his monstrous side is to stop them from getting too close…that and a 7x7 foot cage. Isolated by his genetic curse, he spends his life hurting people emotionally, driving them away before Hyde can harm them physically. But, after a night of the best sex Mitch has ever had, he realizes that might be impossible. Except the woman he wakes up with claims she doesn’t remember any of it.

Eden Colfax is everything men want most, men other than Mitch, that is. She’s kind, honest to a fault and sickeningly sweet. To rid herself of the monsters that haunted her broken childhood, Eden doesn’t lie, doesn’t curse, and definitely never wakes up naked in strangers’ beds…until the day she does.

Then the flashbacks start—places she’s never been, people she’s never met, blood she’s never spilled. She discovers she’s split into two parts—the woman she thought she knew and another who is capable of anything. And the only person with any answers is the one man she never wants to see again.

What neither of them know is that someone is watching them both, manipulating them, determined to see just how evil the two of them really are. And when the truth begins to seep through the cracks, leaving them nowhere to turn but each other, they will be forced into a partnership neither had expected.

Because in life, who you trust is as important as who you are. And when you can’t even trust yourself, sometimes the only person you can rely on is the last person on Earth you should be falling for.

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*Warning, contains possible mild spoilers*

I have to admit that I've never read the story of Jekyl and Hyde, though like most I am aware of the basic story. While having read it might have added to the experience of reading this book, it certainly wasn't necessary, for it was perfectly easy to grasp what was going on with Mitch and Eden without that background of the other book. At least, the fact that they change is easy to grasp, the why of it, not so much, for that's a point that remains vague throughout, hopefully to be answered in a sequel at some point.



Eden is a fairly young woman with a rocky past. Her mother was a drug addict who apparently only did the bare minimum of parenting, leaving Eden to raise herself from a very young age one must presume. After she died, Eden was shuffled around through various foster homes and group homes, experiencing various degrees of mental, physical, and sexual abuse along the way (note for the squeamish: the abuse is mainly just hinted at enough to let you know it happened without going into any specifics). Currently she is living with her friend Carter, who she met at that last group home she was in before she turned 18 and finally gained her freedom from the institutions. He has been her best friend, and protector, though never her lover. Then one morning she wakes up naked in Mitch's bed, a man she's never met before, and who she's apparently spent the night with in every sense of the term. Only she doesn't remember how she got there, or what happened (though there is ample evidence of it all around her to give her the basic idea of what happened), or anything after she'd gone to sleep in her own bed the night before. She can only surmise that she was "sleepwalking" again, something that she used to do when she was younger, though wasn't aware of having done for several years. Gradually, however, she's forced to face the fact that she has an alter ego named Chastity, a woman who is much much wilder than the timid and somewhat prudish Eden could ever be. Chastity even has a slightly different form, with red hair instead of brunette like Eden's is, and pale blue eyes in the place of Eden's brown ones. The more that Eden grows to accept Chastity, the more she changes in small ways to become more like her, at least to the extent of learning to be more assertive, and to take charge of her own life instead of continuing to be a victim constantly.

Mitch is a man who also has had a rough past. At fifteen he was witness with his sister to his father killing his mother, and then was forced to kill his father himself to protect his sister and himself from him. He also has a dark secret, for like Eden, he too has an alter ego, a separate form that he changes into once every five weeks, a trait that he inherited from his father. Unlike Chastity however, Hyde isn't simply a party animal, he's pretty much just an animal; a violent, destructive being that has to be caged to keep him from harming those around him. And unlike Eden, Mitch has been aware that he harbors Hyde inside of him for a long time, since he'd grown up seeing his father turn into the beast now and then, and had been aware that he was the same as his father even before the fateful night that he had to kill him. Over the years, he's learned how to cope through a combination of cultivating a rude and crass personality that is verbally abusive to those around him as a way to vent his violent tendencies in relatively harmless ways, and by devoting a room in his house to a 7x7 reinforced steel cage with a bed that sports sturdy arm and leg restraints to literally chain and contain Hyde during the one night a month he has to let him come out. What he hasn't learned, since he's never let himself dare to hope he could have it, is how to love someone and be in a relationship that doesn't include the verbal abuse he dishes out on a regular basis to everyone he encounters. As he gets to know Eden better, and learns that she shares his curse in her own way, he starts to open himself to those emotions bit by bit, and starts to learn how to be the decent person that he really is beneath the gruff persona.

The love story between Eden and Mitch is far from an easy one, for they face hurdles at every point along the way, starting with the ones they've erected for themselves. Eden has to come to terms with Chastity's existence, and the things that Chastity does, before she can even begin to let herself start to consider any sort of relationship with Mitch beyond seeking his help and advice for dealing with the transformations. For Mitch, he has to first decide to unbend a little from the rigid self-discipline and self-denial that he's been practicing and learn to let Eden in a bit instead of continually trying to push her away to keep her from getting too close. And if their own issues weren't enough to make things difficult for them, there are several external influences that strive to keep them apart as well, primarily Carter, Eden's roommate, and Jolie, Mitch's assistant and confidante. The way they navigate all the obstacles in their path and seek to come to a better understanding of their unique natures as well as trying to figure out if or how they could make it work between them is a very gripping story. The action kicks in from page one pretty much and never stops, keeping you in suspense and veering off in unexpected directions just when you think you might have figured out where it's going. Everything builds to a great crescendo that has you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails to see how it's going to play out, and then just when you think they've finally struggled free, the author throws you another curve ball out of nowhere (almost so anyway), drops a bomb on you, and then leaves you there hanging on the edge of the proverbial cliff. At least there is a promise of a sequel and we won't be left hanging forever to find out what happens next.

Overall, a fabulous story that I'd highly recommend to anyone that loves urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and even classic horror stories, for this has hallmarks of all of them with possibly a few other genres thrown in as well. This is very much a 4 ½ star book, possibly close to a 5 star, though for some reason I can't quite give it the full 5 stars. I'm not even entirely sure why, as there's nothing really that I'd point at and say "this is what downgrades it slightly for me" other than, I suppose, personal preferences. If you're a fan of any of the above named genres, I doubt you'll be sorry you read this one.

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