Nikolai Wroth, once a ruthless human warlord in the 1700s and now a general in the rebel vampire army, needs to find his Bride, the one woman who can render him truly alive. As a turned human, he doesn’t enjoy a heartbeat or breaths and is consequently weaker than fully blooded vampires. He wants his Bride for the power she will bring him and can hardly believe it when his heart beats for Myst the Coveted, a mad, fey, mythological creature.
Myst is known throughout the world as the most beautiful Valkyrie, part chillingly fierce warrior, part beguiling seductress who can “make you want her even as she’s killing you.” She has devoted her life to protecting an ancient, powerful jewel and to fighting the vampires, and she now sees a way to torment one—for with Wroth’s heartbeat comes consuming sexual desire that can only be slaked by her.
She eludes him for five years, but he has finally chased her to ground and stolen the jewel which commands her, giving him absolute power over her. While he possesses it, he can make her do anything, and he plans to in order for her to experience first hand the agonizing, unending lust she’d purposely subjected him to for half a decade. Yet when Wroth realizes he wants more from her and frees her, will she come back to him?
The first in Cole’s Immortals After Dark series was originally published as one of three novellas in “Playing Easy to Get”. It was also available on its own as a special promotional ebook from Simon & Schuster.
This is suprising to some people, but in addition to YA, fantasy, and sci-fi, I enjoy reading urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I make a distinction between the two, because they are very different genres. Urban fantasy relies more on plot, characters, and is more focused on magic and worldbuilding. Paranormal romance (PNR) focuses on, well, the romance, usually between a shapeshifter and a human or something like that. I really enjoy Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling novels, but the romances in those books (I’m on #8 out of 10) are all starting to bleed together. The men are almost all changeling, which means they’re controlling and dominant and annoying (to me), and the women are almost all Psy, who are like Vulcans. The men teach them to feel. I’m not explaining it well, but the background plot of an evil Psy Council is fascinating. When I found myself skimming the romantic scenes in the last one I read, I knew I needed a new PNR series.
Since I hated the Night Huntress novels, I decided to try out Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. The summary on this one was a little eye-roll inducing, but since it’s only a novella, I figured, why not? I assume this is modern day, since the characters reference movies and have pretty modern turns of phrase, which is weird, because I assumed Wroth was storming a castle or something. The beginning, with all it’s “pretty nipples” and “clutching thighs” is a little more amusing than sexy, but it didn’t bother me. You know what does bother me? The absolute universality of paranormal men and their overprotective streaks. Seriously. In every single Psy-Changeling novel, the woman is made to “feel safe.” Look, I don’t want to feel safe, I want to get out there and fight some assholes! Seriously! It’s like, the men and the women are paranormal, or have paranormal abilities, but the men need to protect the women from whatever even worse supernatural force out there. PNR likes to use the idea of supernatural villains and paranormal men as a way of showing women they need protecting. ”Well, a vampire is trying to kill her! Of course he should lock her in their house and surround it with six of his best dudes, SHE NEEDS IT.” Boring. Give me Kate Daniels any day.
The problem with (most) romance novels is that authors have realized most modern women don’t really want to read about a damsel in distress, rescued by a werewolf or not, so they’ve come up with a new strategy. They start with an unattached woman who is fulfilled in her career, friends, and life in general. She is strong and doesn’t really even consider settling down with a man. Enter hulking, dominant man. He immediately fills a hole in the heroine’s life (that she was unaware existed), and the woman decides to give up her freedoms for love. Oh, she was a badass bounty hunter before she met him? She’ll stop, because he wants her to, because she’s “precious” to him, because he can’t bear the thought of her going out into danger day after day. You know, while he continues to go out. Into danger. Day after day. I hate that. Screw you, dude, I do what I want, love or not. Respect me, my choices, and my abilities and we will be just fine. There is literally a moment in this novel where Myst wonders if she has finally found a man “strong enough to defeat [her]“. What!? Defeat you from what? Being a badass and not conforming to gender roles? I mean, Cole rolls this into “oh, it’s part of her curse for slutting it up with a commoner’s son” WHICH MAKES IT EVEN WORSE, UGH.
And then we find out that Myst is only considered slutty. In fact, she’s only ever slept with three men. She’s been alive THOUSANDS OF YEARS and she’s some immortal goddess fairy elf person, so I don’t believe this little turn of events. Why can’t women sleep with five hundred dudes and still be intelligent, fierce, passionate, and desirable? They can in real life, but not in romance novels. Nikolai, a freaking hundreds of years old vampire warlord, is agonized by the thought that Myst could have possibly had other lovers in the oh, twenty-seven hundred years she has on him. Shut up, Nikolai. Just shut up. I will give Wroth’s brother some credit though for basically telling Wroth he was being a whiny, out of touch asshole. Thanks, Murdoch. Too bad Nikolai blames his weird jealousy on the fact that he just loves Myst so much.
What really saved this for me were the glimpses of other Valkyrie and, honestly, the sex scenes. Those were awesome as long as the characters weren’t talking, and they lived up to my every expectation. I wonder if the next one will have a better plot, as this is just a novella.
This is why I don’t review romance, you guys. I usually enjoy the story, but then I get all caught up in the feminism and the political implications and I can go on for hours! I will read Cole’s A Hunger Like No Other, the second in this series, because her writing style isn’t terrible and I want to see if this damsel-in-distress thing is a theme. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it takes me awhile to warm up when it comes to romance (wink, wink).