Rumor 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.
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 “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.
- 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.