Butcher & Blackbird Summary, Characters and Themes

Butcher & Blackbird is the first book in the Ruinous Love Trilogy by Brynne Weaver. It’s a dark romance novel where two rival serial killers, Sloane and Rowan, form an unlikely bond and friendship. 

They engage in an annual game of hunting down the most dangerous criminals across the United States. As their connection deepens into something more than friendship, the ghosts of their past actions threaten their newfound love.


The novel opens with Sloane, known as the “Orb Weaver,” trapped in a cage with the corpse of serial killer Albert Briscoe. After three days without food, 

Rowan, the “Boston Butcher,” finds her, frees her, and invites her to lunch. 

Rowan, also a serial killer of serial killers, proposes an annual competition where they race to kill a specific target, with the ultimate prize being the chance to eliminate the elusive “Forest Phantom.”

A year later, Sloane is torturing a child abuser when she receives news about the competition. 

She travels to West Virginia, where she and Rowan are the only guests at an inn. The innkeeper, Francis, warns them about a dangerous trail. Rowan discovers a peeping Francis spying on Sloane and realizes he is their target. Rowan kills Francis, and the two dispose of the evidence. 

Sloane takes Francis’s cat, Winston, home.

As their relationship deepens, Sloane makes an impromptu visit to Rowan’s restaurant in Boston but leaves without meeting him. 

Rowan follows her to Raleigh and delivers groceries to her house, teaching her how to cook over the phone. 

Rowan shares that his first kill was his abusive father, while Sloane reveals that she kills to protect others, stemming from her first murder of an art teacher who abused her friend, Lark.

Months later, Sloane and Rowan target Thorsten Harris, a cannibal. They charm him at a bar and visit his house, where Thorsten drugs Rowan. 

When Rowan awakens, he finds Thorsten tied up, with Sloane methodically torturing him. Sloane kills Thorsten and nurses Rowan back to health, but they fail to realize that Thorsten’s servant, David, is also a serial killer pretending to be lobotomized.

Sloane attends a gala in Boston with Rowan, thinking it’s a date. However, Rowan has to leave due to an emergency at his restaurant, leaving Sloane disappointed. 

Four months later, they meet in Texas to kill Harvey Mead, a chainsaw killer. Harvey injures Sloane and locks her in a cellar. Rowan rescues her, kills Harvey, and takes Sloane to his brother Fionn, a doctor, to treat her injuries.

Sloane and Rowan finally confess their feelings and become intimate.

Sloane moves to Boston, and Rowan names his new restaurant Butcher & Blackbird in her honor. Rowan, stressed by the restaurant’s opening, asks Sloane to work together on their next target. 

Meanwhile, David threatens Rowan at the restaurant. Rowan tries to break up with Sloane to protect her, but she realizes the truth from a past comment and a hidden camera. 

Sloane kills David to save Rowan, although he sustains injuries.

Lark moves to Boston and begins a romance with Rowan’s brother Lachlan. Sloane designs a tattoo to cover Rowan’s scars. 

The couple kills Dr. Stephen Rostis together, and Rowan proposes to Sloane. Sloane, anxious about wedding planning, decides to take a trip to a spa resort with Lark. 

Rowan surprises her by suggesting they get married there, and they do, with Lachlan walking Sloane down the aisle.

Butcher and Blackbird Summary


Sloane Sutherland (Orb Weaver/Blackbird)

Sloane Sutherland, also known by her moniker “Orb Weaver,” is a complex protagonist whose character blends the darkness of her profession with a surprising capacity for emotional growth. 

Sloane’s motivation stems from a deep-seated desire for justice, driven by past trauma involving her best friend Lark’s abuser. Her methodical and artistic approach to killing, symbolized by her creation of webs from her victims’ body parts, indicates a need for control and expression. 

Despite her violent lifestyle, Sloane’s interactions with Rowan gradually reveal her vulnerability and yearning for connection. The nickname “Blackbird,” given by Rowan, signifies a new identity shaped by love and mutual respect. 

Sloane’s evolution is marked by her struggle to reconcile her violent past with her burgeoning emotional intimacy with Rowan, ultimately leading to a transformative journey from solitary vengeance to shared love and purpose.

Rowan Kane (Boston Butcher)

Rowan Kane, known as the “Boston Butcher,” is a fellow vigilante killer who shares Sloane’s mission to eradicate other serial killers. 

His character is marked by a juxtaposition of brutality and tenderness, with his violent actions tempered by a deep sense of protectiveness and care, particularly towards his brothers Lachlan and Fionn. 

Rowan’s past is marred by familial abuse, leading him and Lachlan to kill their father, which profoundly shapes his identity and motivations.

His profession as a restaurateur, with a passion for cooking rooted in his role as a caregiver for his siblings, adds a layer of normalcy and creativity to his life. 

Rowan’s relationship with Sloane progresses from rivalry to deep affection, showcasing his capacity for love and emotional vulnerability. 

His journey reflects a continuous battle between his violent inclinations and his desire for a stable, loving relationship with Sloane.

Lark Montague

Lark Montague is Sloane’s best friend and a significant influence on her life. She is a victim of abuse by an art teacher, an event that catalyzes Sloane’s vigilante path. 

Lark serves as a confidante and source of encouragement, urging Sloane to pursue her feelings for Rowan. Her presence provides emotional support and a semblance of normalcy in Sloane’s chaotic life. 

Lark’s own storyline hints at resilience and recovery, as she begins to explore a romantic connection with Lachlan, Rowan’s brother. Her character represents a bridge between the darkness of the protagonists’ world and the possibility of healing and normalcy.

Lachlan Kane

Lachlan Kane, Rowan’s brother, is a leatherworker and assassin, playing a supporting yet pivotal role in the narrative. 

His skills and involvement in the annual competition are crucial, but his character is primarily defined by his familial loyalty and protective nature. Lachlan’s relationship with Lark introduces a subplot of potential romance and personal growth, highlighting his softer side. 

His interactions with Rowan reflect a deep bond forged through shared trauma and mutual reliance, further enriching the story’s exploration of family dynamics and the impact of past abuse.

Fionn Kane

Fionn Kane, the youngest of the Kane brothers, is a doctor who provides medical assistance to the protagonists when needed. 

His character adds depth to the Kane family’s backstory, showcasing a different response to their shared traumatic past. Fionn’s medical expertise and nurturing demeanor contrast with his brothers’ violent tendencies, emphasizing the varied ways individuals cope with trauma.

His presence in the story underscores themes of healing and protection, offering a counterbalance to the narrative’s darker elements.


Francis is the innkeeper in West Virginia who becomes the target of Sloane and Rowan’s first joint kill. Initially appearing as a benign figure, Francis is later revealed to be a voyeuristic and dangerous serial killer. 

His character serves as a catalyst for Sloane and Rowan’s deepening relationship, as they collaborate to eliminate him and navigate the complexities of their feelings for each other. 

Francis’s role emphasizes the hidden dangers that lurk beneath seemingly ordinary facades, a recurring theme in the novel.

Thorsten Harris

Thorsten Harris is a cannibalistic serial killer whom Sloane and Rowan target in California. His character epitomizes the grotesque and extreme nature of the villains in the novel. 

Thorsten’s sophisticated exterior masks his horrific practices, providing a stark contrast that heightens the novel’s tension. 

His interactions with Sloane and Rowan reveal their differing approaches to dealing with their targets and deepen their bond through shared trauma and survival.


David is initially presented as a nonverbal servant of Thorsten Harris, but he is later revealed to be a serial killer in disguise. 

His character adds an unexpected twist to the narrative, challenging Sloane and Rowan’s perceptions and strategies. David’s eventual threat to Rowan and Sloane’s relationship underscores the constant danger that surrounds them, even from seemingly innocuous figures. 

His role in the story highlights the pervasive and unpredictable nature of evil within the novel’s world.

Harvey Mead

Harvey Mead is a chainsaw-wielding killer in Texas, adding another layer of brutality to the story. 

His encounter with Sloane and Rowan is marked by intense violence and danger, culminating in his death from a heart attack induced by Sloane’s taunting. Harvey’s character serves to further the plot and illustrate the physical and psychological toll of the protagonists’ lifestyle. 

His gruesome methods and ultimate demise reinforce the themes of retribution and the high stakes of vigilante justice.

Dr. Stephen Rostis

Dr. Stephen Rostis is a murderer who targets his patients, representing the corruption and malevolence that the protagonists seek to eradicate. 

His presence at a gala in Boston provides a setting for Rowan and Sloane’s relationship to be tested, as professional obligations conflict with personal desires. 

Dr. Rostis’s character exemplifies the insidious nature of evil, often hidden behind respectable facades, and serves as a pivotal figure in the development of Rowan and Sloane’s partnership.


Winston, the cat Sloane adopts after Francis’s death, symbolizes the possibility of compassion and care amidst a life of violence. 

His presence in Sloane’s life provides comfort and a sense of normalcy, highlighting her capacity for love and nurturing. 

Winston’s character, though minor, adds depth to Sloane’s portrayal, showing her desire for connection and stability.


The Ethics of Vigilante Justice

In “Butcher & Blackbird,” the ethics of vigilante justice are explored through the actions and motivations of Sloane and Rowan. 

Both characters operate outside the law, targeting other serial killers to protect potential victims and exact their personal form of justice. This raises questions about the morality of their actions, as they take it upon themselves to decide who deserves to die. 

The novel challenges the reader to consider the legitimacy and consequences of such extrajudicial actions. While their intentions may be noble—aiming to rid society of dangerous individuals—their methods involve significant violence and brutality, blurring the line between heroism and criminality. 

The protagonists’ complex backgrounds and personal traumas further complicate this theme, as their desire for justice is intertwined with personal vendettas and a need for control. 

By portraying vigilante justice in such a nuanced manner, Weaver forces readers to grapple with the moral ambiguities and potential dangers of taking the law into one’s own hands.

The Nuances of Identity

Identity plays a crucial role in shaping the characters of Sloane and Rowan. Both protagonists adopt alter egos—Sloane as the “Orb Weaver” and Rowan as the “Boston Butcher”—to navigate their dangerous world. 

These identities are not merely masks but extensions of their true selves, shaped by their past traumas and experiences. Sloane, for instance, channels her artistic talents into her gruesome killings, using her skills to create macabre “art” from her victims. 

Her identity is further complicated by her relationship with Lark and the abusive art teacher, which drives her to seek justice for others. 

Rowan, on the other hand, balances his identity as a killer with his role as a restaurateur, where he finds solace and purpose in cooking. 

The development of their relationship also forces them to confront and renegotiate these identities, as they learn to be vulnerable and open with each other. 

The novel delves into how these identities are constructed, maintained, and challenged, highlighting the fluid and multifaceted nature of self-perception and personal growth.

The Complexities of Love in Dark Circumstances

The romance between Sloane and Rowan is central to “Butcher & Blackbird,” unfolding against a backdrop of violence and death. 

Their relationship is a slow burn, evolving from mutual respect and attraction to deep emotional connection. The novel explores how love can flourish even in the darkest of circumstances, requiring the characters to navigate their vulnerabilities and fears. 

Sloane and Rowan’s love is marked by moments of tenderness and genuine care, contrasting sharply with their brutal actions. This juxtaposition emphasizes the duality of their lives—capable of both great violence and profound love. Their romance also necessitates a reevaluation of their violent tendencies, as they must consider the impact of their actions on each other and their future together. 

Through their evolving relationship, Weaver examines the transformative power of love, suggesting that even those who live in the shadows can find light and redemption in each other. 

The complexities of their love story highlight the human capacity for connection and intimacy, even amidst chaos and destruction.