i've read some reviews of shadowdance where people weren't in love with this book because of how awful the hero is to his leading lady. i'm not going to make excuses for him (ok, maybe i am), but i'm acknowledging that jack talent is completely awful to mary for a good three-quarters of the book. but he's been a jerk to her for the previous two books too, so this pattern of behavior isn't surprising.
what the book gives us is insight into how messed up jack is. how it actually kills him to be this relentlessly awful to her. that if he didn't feel so unworthy, so broken, so tortured, so guilty, so undeserving of her goodness, he would take her in his arms and never let her go. but it's been ingrained into his psyche that mary is not for him. even when her spirit calls to him. and since she's a gim, you can imagine how strong her spirit is. especially since their souls bonded when she rescued him from torture, and this bond makes it so that they are always aware of one another.
jack has been working alone since joining the sos as a regulator. but he's been charged to track down a killer and has had no luck in the two years the case has been active. when mary gets information that leads her to suspect that jack is the killer she convinces poppy to let her into the field as jack's new partner. you can only imagine how poorly jack takes this news. but there are hints of his kinder nature throughout the novel. yes he does and says terrible things, but when it really matters, when mary is in danger or overcome, jack comes to her rescue every single time. when she really, really needs his kindness he gives it.
mary can't forget the moment she found jack all those years ago. she doesn't understand why, no matter how badly he treats her, why she keeps coming back for more? what is it about jack tallent that makes him so irresistible? their connection pains her. his actions, his words, they all pain her. but she also understands how broken he is. she knows. she knows. so as the case complicates itself around them she finds that she has to trust him.
when they finally start being open with each other, when they finally confess the truths that they've been keeping from each other and bare their bodies and hearts and souls, it's achingly painful. shadowdance isn't a light and easy book. jack and mary are characters who have suffered. even in their love for each other they suffer. and honestly i love a happy love story as much as the next girl, but the ones that stay with me are the ones that overcome the biggest obstacles. what jack and mary share is more than love. it's beyond that. it's forever and it's being together and it's imperfectly, perfectly them.
i had been looking forward to the story between these two characters since they were first introduced in moonglow. and it was totally worth the wait. and i'm aching to get my hands on evernight.