Nights in Canaan, Kendall McKenna
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Atypical Gay Romance
Tags: Paranormal, Historical + Contemporary Elements, Military
Length: 65 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
“Who are you?”
“I am the ancient vampire that always awakens your ancient warrior…I am your balance; your other half.”
ETA: Dec 2016: I still think this is the best book Kendall McKenna has written. It is not a typical “MM” or Gay Romance, it’s hard to define and it doesn’t have a cookie-cutter ending, but I don’t have to have that so I know it to be a wonderful love story. If you’re open to something a little different in the genre, give Nights in Canaan a try.
I loved this book. It ripped a hole in my chest, like the Terminator in his quest for Sarah Connor, and stomped on my heart like a cruel bitch…and I loved every minute of it.
Nights in Canaan is an amazing tale of reoccurring paranormal star crossed lovers. Two beings reborn again and again, both serving a purpose for what they believe in. Both have different interpretations of what life means. The vampire always knows quickly who he is when reborn and senses his nemesis before his nemesis knows what/who he’s looking for. The warrior always goes through change, not knowing why initially – itching in his shoulders becomes pain as wings form, going out instinctually at night to dig in the desert sand for his sword. They are always lovers first, but then memories come back and they must do their dance of words, duty and actions.
One of the main characters is ‘the’ vampire. He drains people or turns them. He’s not an apologist for what he is. One is ‘the’ warrior, pursuing the vampire in the relatively short cycle they have together on every occasion. They are each passionate about their roles, their beliefs, each other. They can’t seem to change. However, as time progresses, it feels like they draw closer. Will things change? Can they afford to?
In Kendall McKenna’s paranormal all of the action between the MC’s is centred around conflict throughout time in the Land of Canaan. A great choice as it has been a source of incredible history and war throughout the ages. Why wouldn’t a vampire be in this region as opposed to, say, Romania? Life was created here, if you believe in Adam and Eve. If you don’t, then it’s a great story with a great backdrop. There are three time periods covered specifically in this book, although you know they have been doing this dance for millennia –
1350 BCE City of Gina Egyptian ruled Land of Canaan – Jesse/Saul – A time of revolt and the Siege of Gina. Saul is reborn and waiting for that fateful day when Jesse remembers and comes for him, so they can do the dance they do so beautifully.
1187 CE Kingdom of Jerusalem Land of Canaan – Imad/Christophe – Emperor Salah El-Din is storming the walls of Yerushalayim. Christophe is taking his opportunity amongst chaos to feed on as many as he can in the time allotted him before Imad comes for him…again.
2004 CE City of Fallujah, Iraq Land of Canaan – Jayden/Kareem – This period is the longest part of the story and where I totally lost my heart to these two souls. It doesn’t matter the name it’s the spirit of both on these three occasions that I fell so deeply for. The body is a vessel. Here you get to see their time lived in more detail and understand the beings involved. The full development of Jayden, and Kareem waiting for him. Bringing this rebirth of his lover, his destiny to him.
I loved the historical setting of each rebirth. I loved getting just a bit more on the characters. I loved that Kendall McKenna could ‘Groundhog Day’ this story, yet give the reader more and make it incredible –
“‘Til next time Jesse,” said Saul, blue eyes boring into Jesse. Without a word, Jesse drove his glowing sword into the join of Saul’s neck and shoulder. As he was overcome with vertigo, his final thought was the hope that next time, things might be different.
“Perhaps next time, we will be blessed to have more time together before we remember,” Imad said as he raised his blade.
“I look forward to it.”
With one powerful swing, Imad brought down the blade.
Nope, not going to Jayden and Kareem.
It could have been boring. It was anything but. The setting was perfect. The eroticism of each period delicious –
“Release him,” Imad said. “You know I cannot allow you and those you’ve turned to leave this city. It is senseless for you to harm this one.”
“Not if it brings you to me one last time.” As he spoke he trailed his fingertips down the exposed flesh of the man’s neck. He nuzzled at his victim’s ear, all the while watching Imad across the space that separated them.
Imad’s heart raced. His fingers ached to touch Christophe, to touch his fangs and feel them as they sank into the man’s vulnerable throat. He longed to savour the blood on Christophe’s lips.
But the period of 2004 was not only telling it was scorching –
“I can’t fucking wait to be inside of you again,” Kareem murmured just before he covered Jayden’s mouth with his own.
Kareem’s fangs penetrated Jayden’s throat at the same moment Jayden’s ass was filled by Kareem’s cock.
Why did this work so much for me? The writing was strong, sexy and sure. The facts good. The character development perfect, I adored Jesse/Imad/Jayden and Saul/Christophe/Kareem. They appealed to me at this visceral, raw, emotional level. They inspired so much passion and they made me think. I cried like a baby. Big tears streaming down my face as I read their words to one another, their actions. Maybe it’s because I’ve had great love in my life and I appreciate sacrifice, knowing who my other half is no matter what. But….What would I do to have that eternally? That presents an interesting conundrum. That’s a huge part of the love I felt for this story. I was hooked on their inexorable moth-to-the-flame attraction. Their acceptance of who they each were. How they come to a mutual conclusion that it’s better one way than an alternative and the reasons why. It’s perfect.
Kendall McKenna has well and truly seated herself on my favourite author’s list after reading Nights in Canaan, my fourth e-book of hers. I highly recommend Nights in Canaan for people who like to think and can appreciate the intensity of these beings, who don’t need cookie-cutter to see the beauty and meaning in (this) love.