Note: Demand is the second book in the Careless Whispers trilogy. If you have not read the first book in the series, please stop reading this post. Spoilers are ahead and I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you.
Demand by Lisa Renee Jones (2016)
In the second book of her Careless Whispers trilogy, Lisa Renee Jones returns us to Italy and the world of Ella and Kayden at the exact point where she left off at the end of the first book, Denial. In fact, Jones does something at the start of the book that I have never encountered before. She devotes the first pages to a kind of “previously on Careless Whispers” intro that you would expect from your favorite television series, and you know what, it totally works. She follows it with a list of characters, one that reminds me of what I would expect to find in a detective mystery novel, but that works, too. Both reminded me of where I was in the story, of the characters I had met and would meet, and made me ready to take on the second book even though it’s been months since I read Denial. I loved this device, and though there may be people who frown at it, as someone who reads a lot of serial fiction and sometimes installments are several months (or a year or two) apart, this was an excellent way to reacquaint me with the story and the characters. Well played.
Like Denial, Demand is told completely from Ella’s first-person point of view. One of the reasons this continues to be the most effective narrative style is that more and more, Ella is getting her memory back. She remembers more about David, the man who was her fiance, about the mystery man that rescued her after she lost her passport and all of her money but also abused her sexually, and about her life before she travelled to Europe. Having her as our narrator makes everything she is remembering, feeling and experiencing much more immediate, especially since a lot of what is revealed is happening in her own mind (as opposed through spoken dialogue) and also because with the exception of Kayden, there really is no one that she trusts enough to reveal all that she is remembering. The other reason this works is because, at least for me, I like Ella as a character and I’m invested in her story. She is frequently just as clueless about what is happening as we are as readers, and thus we’re in the same boat, trying to navigate the confusing labyrinth together.
Though the story is told through Ella’s first person narrative, Kayden does not feel distant from us or an impenetrable mystery. As this book unfolds, we find him being much more forthright and open with Ella than he was in the first book. Kayden is the prototypical male protagonist you would expect to find in a book firmly placed in the erotic romantic suspense genre, but he’s not a carbon copy. He, too, is likeable even though there is a definite edge to him and it’s clear that he does not always operate on the lawful side of the line dividing the good guys from the bad guys. He isn’t so dark that it is hard to understand why the female protagonist would want to be with him, and if you like alpha male characters he delivers and compels you to want to keep reading and see how the romance between him and Ella will play out.
The plot of the story becomes more intricate in this book even as certain questions are answered. Jones reveals the identity of the man that Ella can remember mistreating her but whose face she has been unable to recall. There is forward progress on the plotline involving Gallo and his relentless pursuit to destroy Kayden, and at the end of the story we are left wondering how that will play out. Niccolo makes an entrance into the story, and there is more revelation about why the butterfly necklace is significant and what Kayden’s relationship to its discovery is. And yet there are new characters that we are not yet sure we can trust, and there’s also the recurring implication that the tower of the castle where Ella and Kayden live is under some kind of surveillance. This feels like it is leading up to a betrayal from someone close to them that neither Ella nor Kayden will see coming.
While the Careless Whispers trilogy is a spin-off of Jones’ Inside Out series, you don’t have to have read the latter to enjoy this trilogy. I would recommend this series to anyone who has enjoys the work of Julie Kenner (the Stark novels), Sylvia Day (the Crossfire novels), Meredith Wild (the Hacker novels), Lorelei James (the Mastered series) and Jones’ Amy Bensen series. Lisa Renee Jones is solidly on my list of authors whose books I will automatically add to my to-read list. I consumed this book in one day and had a hard time putting it down. In my opinion, it’s not easy to find good books in the romantic suspense genre, but this trilogy definitely stands out and shines. I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, Surrender.