Middle books in a series can be hard to write. Ask me how I know. Balfor’s Salvation is the second book in Susan Trombley’s Shadows in Sanctuary series.
In Lilith’s Fall, the first book in the series, Stacia Dornan is part of a human team that joins with a band of umbrose to rescue the umbrose’s Prince Balfor, who’d been captured by the umbrose’s enemies, the adurians, and was being tortured. During the rescue, Stacia is seriously injured but she and Balfor are placed together so that, despite being barely conscious as well as in great pain, they make a tenuous connection by briefly holding hands.
Balfor’s Salvation begins some years later. Humans and umbrose want to expand their commercial ties, thanks largely to Lilith from book one being the concubine of Balfor’s number two, Duke Ranove. Somehow Balfor remembers Stacia from his rescue and wants her to be his primary contact. This slender thread brings them together, and predictably it’s lust at first sight.
Before long they’re engaging in long trysts in her quarters in Sanctuary, the underground umbrose city. Soon after that, without really knowing what she’s getting herself into, Stacia agrees to be Balfor’s concubine. It’s all about the sex, which of course there’s plenty of.
Half-way through the book, Stacia discovers Balfor has other concubines, and goes off, publicly humiliating him. Ordinarily, such behavior would call for her to be punished, but as her protector, Balfor takes the whipping instead, then disappears deep into the tunnels under the city. Instead of healing there, however, his id-like “primal” re-emerges and takes control. In this condition, almost no one can approach him and live, but Stacia is sent to try to recover him, with instructions to be submissive in all things.
The “primal” Balfor finds and rapes her, but slowly a kind of mutual caring relationship forms. It is based, however, primarily on yet more (and more) sex, but her complete dependence on him leads to his “salvation,” the merging of the public Balfor and his primal.
The couple emerges from the tunnels after Stacia is infected by the deadly spores that Sanctuary was supposed to be free of. She is taken back to the human settlement of Dome City for treatment. She is soon betrayed by one of her business associates, who turns out to be an agent for the former rulers of the humans on this unnamed planet, the Diakonos, and their adurian masters. Stacia is kidnapped and another war ensues.
Stacia is freed by spies among the Diakonos’s staff. Balfor names her his princess and she joins the fight with new powers granted her by the goddess of the umbrose. Balfor kills the adurian queen and together they defeat the adurians once and for all. At least for this book. And then there’s more sex.
Through all of this, I never felt that a strong relationship developed between Stacia and Balfor. Great sex, or at least a lot of it, and a few threats—the adurians and Balfor’s primal, mostly—drove the story, and that left this reader disappointed when comparing Balfor’s Salvation to its predecessor.