Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

9666290Rumor said the powerful Nicolai DeMarco could command the heavens, that the beasts below did his bidding . . . and that he was doomed to destroy the woman he took as wife.

Impoverished aristocrat Isabella Vernaducci would defy death itself to rescue her imprisoned brother. She’d even brave the haunted, accursed lair of the lion—the menacing palace of legendary, lethal Don Nicolai DeMarco.

Then Isabella met a man whose growl was velvet, purring heat, whose eyes held dark, all-consuming desire. And when the don commanded her to become his bride, she went willingly into his muscled arms, praying she’d save his tortured soul . . . not sacrifice her life.

Review:

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings so while I wasn’t an instant fan of Feehan’s Dark series I picked this up with few qualms.

To start, anyway.

The good:

  • The “beast” conceit hangs on a bit of magic I like – most people see Nicolai as a literal lion so they’re understandably scared of him.
  • The first half didn’t turn me off completely.  I wasn’t expecting mastery and just wanted a quick read, so things were on an okay track.  However.

The not-so-good:

  • Isabella is just this side of Too Stupid To Live.  There’s evil lurking about and Nicolai tells her not to leave the castle… upon which she runs outside every chance she gets.  And it gets her into damsel-in-distress trouble every. single. time. GRAH.
  • There’s a fixation with Christianity that made me feel like I was being preached to.  When Isabella first arrives at the castle she’s relieved that some of the servants cross themselves, as this is a sign that they’re ‘good Christians’.  The curse is set up as a good/Christian vs. bad/old/unenlightened/witchcraft divide.  I did not need or want it.
  • In that vein, an older, kindly character warns the hero and heroine not to have sex until after they’re married.  When they do the deed anyway Isabella is almost instantly punished for her indiscretion.  Not Nicolai – he’s the one doing the backhanded punishing.  As a result the heroine doesn’t get a chance to associate sex with happiness and love, only as a forbidden fruit.  Me not happy.
  • Isabella’s characterization is troubling.  We are never given a concrete number but she’s portrayed as being at a tender age.  She’s the “young charge” of an elderly maid, and there’s an undercurrent of, ‘go away, little girl’ to some interactions.  I had trouble imagining her any older than sixteen, which squares with her idiotic decisions but not sex with a guy who seems like he’s in his thirties.  (Again, no age given for him, but still.  He has his shit together, at least.)  She’s also referred to as pure, as never even having thought about sex, and so on.
  • Female friendships are thrown under the bus.  Isabella is introduced to a couple of women who live in? near? the castle so that she can make some friends.  They’re never allowed to be friends, though – there’s jealousy and all of the petty stereotypes of how women supposedly back stab each other at any opportunity.  It even helps fuel the big bad battle.
  • We never learn what the big bad actually is.  It’s an evil force… that is defeated. Yea?
  • Furthermore, it attacks people completely at random, taking away suspense from a who-dun-it Feehan tries to build.

There are quite a few four and five star reviews for this book on Goodreads but oh boy, not for me at all.  One star.

Dark Prince by Christine Feehan (Dark #1)

Synopsis:

10417569Carpathians are an immortal race of beings with animal instincts. Every Carpathian male is drawn to his life mate: a Carpathian or human female able to provide the light to his darkness. Without her, the beast within slowly consumes the man until turning vampire is the only option.

Raven Whitney is a psychic who has used her gift to help the police track down a serial killer. Now she is determined to escape the glare of recent publicity for the peace and quiet of the Carpathian Mountains. Prince Mikhail Dubrinsky is the leader of his people but, as his ancient Carpathian race grows ever closer to extinction, he is close to giving in to the heavy weight of loneliness and despair. From the moment their minds touch, Raven and Mikhail form a connection. But there are those who incorrectly view all Carpathians as vampires, and are determined to give their extinction a helping hand.

Review:

I really looked forward to getting this book – I was on a long wait list at the library for it, and if the series is 30 volumes strong it must be good. Right?

…well.

Some parts were good. I like that the vampires are more “traditional”, needing earth and blood and not daring to go out in the sun. The plot is okay. The characters are okay.

But Feehan keeps taking things up to the stratosphere. Instead of talking about the here and now the story goes on about Love and Loyalty and Duty and Honor and other words that feel like they should be capitalized. Here’s the hero while he has his heroine in bed:

He could feel his body relaxing, and peace stole into him, edging out the terrible tension. The beauty of her inner soul washed over him. How could he fault her need to reach out to someone in pain, when it was her very compassion that had drawn him out of the dark shadows and into a world of joy and light?

Looking at the big picture is okay now and then, but it’s constant. ‘That guy was totally trying to kill us. Let’s talk about how Loyal you are and how we consider ourselves Family while we also recognize our own Needs as we plan how to get back at him.’ Grah.

It’s not only that, though. The excess examination of Feelings makes the story suffer. The plot is fine but it’s stretched out over way more pages than necessary – 300-ish pages would have been ideal, but my “author’s cut” edition was over 500. Even the original edition was 450 pages. In the beginning I read every word in good faith that it would get better (ha) but ended up skimming more and more.

I looked ahead at book two to see if Gregori, the heir apparent, would get his mate but no. They apparently stretch his angst out until book four. Sigh.  I was hoping to find a long series to dig into, but instead I found a corner of paranormal that I can safely ignore.  Onward!