Tag Archives: dark romance

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Book Review: Club Blood, by Sarah James & Cassandra Celia

I accepted an ARC review copy of Club Blood (by Sarah James and Cassandra Celia)  through Pride Book Tours.

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Sin City just got extra bloodthirsty… Welcome to Club Blood.

Vampires no longer hide in the shadows and humans have adjusted, learning to coexist with the Known. But in a city filled with sinful acts and lustful affairs, it’s not uncommon for mistakes to happen.

Cecelia agrees to visit Ambrosia, a notorious nightclub run by vampires, on the night of her birthday. But as Cece stumbles across the murder of one of the Known’s most feared council leaders, she is thrown into terrible danger.

For Mercy, being at the top and conquering her kingdom has always been above all else. It doesn’t bother her when she has to rip the heart out of her boss in order to get what she wants, though she does find it inconvenient that there’s a human witness.

Mercy and her coven hold Cece captive in order to secure Mercy’s quest to reign. Soon, Cece finds it hard to separate fear and attraction, being drawn to the enticing danger of Mercy’s life, and Mercy discovers that there might be just one person she’s willing to protect more than herself.

Just being together is enough to upend both of their lives, hurling them towards a war neither of them ever wanted to start.

Mercy must decide whether having Cece could be worth losing her kingdom, and Cece must endeavor to survive in a world of danger and darkness that was designed to kill her.

Their lust might be worth the bloodshed.

my review

I’ve got to admit. I didn’t resonate with this book. The writing is quite readable, and even though I had an ARC, the editing felt competent. So, any complaints I have are really just of the how well the book did or didn’t gel with me sort. And I’m afraid I leaned more toward didn’t.

I liked the idea of the book. A female vampire, fighting the patriarchal vampire culture to rise to the top of her bloody and cut throat career/society. And I appreciate that James and Celia were playing with gender tropes a little bit. But I also felt the plot and characters was super cliched. I’m afraid making it an F/F romance, but keeping all of the characteristics of a M/F romance isn’t transgressive. It’s lazy.

[Spoiler] Here we had the villainous jealous ex. The jealous ex that is contrasted against the innocent love interest by her aggressively sexual presentation (in her clothing, attitudes, and actions). How many times have readers seen this same thing? Too many. There’s both the sassy (and promiscuous) BFF who tempts the pure main character to leave her safe bounds. Her promiscuity gets her killed, BTW. We’ve seen this a million times too. Then she’s replaced with the sassy gay BFF. This one is male, but still a character we’ve all seen in just this character position many times before. Let’s just stop there. But I could go on. The big shark who smiles to Mercy’s face but really duplicitously seeks to re-subjugate the woman who dared leave her subservient place? Yep, not new or interesting.

Really the cliched characters were more than I could handle. But the real reason this didn’t resonate was that it was inconsistent. Mercy is said to be so merciless, but if that was true she never would have let the events of the book go as far as they did without solving (or even acknowledging) the problem. Her very actions undermined the primary characteristic we’re given for her. Further, the whole reason she breaks character club blood photo(separately than the preceding point) to keep and eventually fall for Cece is a mystery. I mean it’s a mystery in the book. So, again, her supposed ruthlessness is undermined by her actions. Then there is Cece. She has a convenient personality shift that allowed for the happy ending. But it didn’t feel believable. It was too abrupt.

All in all. I had complaints. Several of them. But they are things that bother me. They don’t bother a lot of other people. I suggest reading the book and deciding for yourself.


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a kingdom of flame and fury

Book Review: A Kingdom of Flame and Fury, by Whitney Dean

I accepted a review copy of Whitney Dean‘s A Kingdom of Flame and Fury through R&R Book Tours. The Book was also featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight. So, you can hop over there for an excerpt, author information, tour schedule, and (if you hurry) a chance to win a copy of the book.

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At ten years old, Raven was mysteriously willed to be the next ruler of Seolia, a kingdom nestled within the realm of The Four Kingdoms. Orphaned as a baby, she has spent fifteen years ruling over a kingdom she believes she did not earn all while hiding secrets: she possesses dark magic and she thirsts for blood. Now at almost twenty-five years old and with a sudden addiction to stealing life, Raven must fight through her new procured darkness to save her soul, but when a mysterious stranger arrives in her kingdom, she starts experiencing vivid dreams that detail who she truly is. As she slowly starts to unravel her story, what she uncovers at the end of the spool will change the course of her life and her kingdom forever.


my review

I went into this book with such high hopes. But it honestly just strangled them, one extra page at a time. I’ll give the author that the writing is mechanically competent, editing pretty clean, and the world is interesting. I didn’t even hate the characters. But the book is far, far, far too long for the plot that it contains. The middle just draaaaaaags and then the whole thing finishes on a cliffhanger. So, there’s not even any payoff after sticking with it until the end.

I might have been able to tolerate that if it wasn’t paired with constant whiplash changes in character attitudes and behaviors. “I won’t do this.” Does it. “You can’t do that” Does it. “I’ll do the thing.” Doesn’t do it. “I love this man.” Hates same man. “I don’t sexually love this man.” Has sex with him. Back and forwards, back and forwards, back and forwards, back and forwards. I’m talking a full half of this book is just characters flipping between opposing attitudes/opinion/actions. And I was just completely done with it far before the book was done with me. Yes, I understood that the author was trying to show that the characters were conflicted, but it just felt contradictory and exhausting.

Even the narrative is contradictory. Here’s an example. The reader is told no one ever goes in the woods and there is virtually no crime on the island. Raven walked into the woods and was immediately accosted by a serial rapist. If no one goes in the woods and there’s almost no crime, he’s two rarities at once. He contradicts two pillars of the world as the reader has been told it exists. Exhausting.

Further, this is labeled a dark romance. I don’t think it’s a dark romance. It’s a freaking tragedy. I recognize the elements that Dean was trying to paint as dark romance. But it’s just toxic, abusive behavior without enough shading to make it an actual dark romance. Lastly, and this

a kingdom of flame and fury

              Special edition cover

one was just an annoyance, but it really annoyed me. Nothing about Raven—her situation, her attitude, her demeanor, her kingdom, her training, her history, her interactions with others or them with her—felt queenly. Nothing. The book isn’t even clear on what she rules. Was it a country, an island, a town, or a village? Village is used more often than anything else. So, she’s queen of a village? Linguistically, it doesn’t even make sense.

I think this book will find an audience. Exhausting whiplash aside, most aspects of it aren’t bad. I am just apparently not that audience.


Other Reviews:

Bookworm Bunny Reviews: A Kingdom of FLame and Fury

A Kingdom of Flame and Fury

 

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Book Review: Of Visions & Secrets, by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

I saw Kathryn Ann Kingsley‘s Of Visions & Secrets recommended over on Tiktok. So, I went to drop it on my Amazon wish list and happened to notice it was free that day. So, I nabbed a copy instead.
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The darkness took Emma’s brother. Now it yearns to claim her.

When Emma Mather’s twin brother, Elliot, goes missing from Arnsmouth University, she is determined to stop at nothing to find him. Yet as she follows the clues left behind, she learns that there are far more sinister monstrosities lurking in the shadows of her city than she could have ever imagined.

Elliot’s former teacher, Professor Raphael Saltonstall, may be Emma’s only hope in finding her brother. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Emma to realize Rafe is hiding secrets of his own. Despite the sizzling attraction between them, Emma isn’t entirely sure if Rafe is a friend or foe.

As two opposing cults hunt her down for their own twisted agendas, Emma finds tendrils of darkness closing in from all around. Pulsating Things live in the darkness…wriggling in eager anticipation to take her.

If they have their way, they’ll consume her mind, soul…and body.

This was a surprise winner for me. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I loved how up front and ready Emma was. She put her authentic self right out there for the world to see and I appreciated it. I thought the world Interesting and characters engaging. They’re all so marvelously morally grey. The writing is clean and easy to read and I’m invested in what happens next.

I did wish for a little more certainty on the fate of the brother…and admittedly more tentacle action than we were given. The story really is a little slow to get going and I thought Emma lost a little of her assertive spark as soon as the romance started to build. But I will certainly be continuing the series.

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