I’ve given mostly positive reviews so far for this Cannonball, so I’m rubbing my hands together with glee to finally be able to write a “critical” one.
The Dark-Hunter books 1-4 in order are:
- Fantasy Lover
- Night Pleasures
- Night Embrace
- Dance With the Devil
I borrowed these from a friend after we’d discussed how I had started to read romance and romance-adjacent books, namely, the Fever series; then, after enjoying Fever so much, I started perusing Mrs. Julien’s infamous “Shameful Tally” with piqued interest and started with one of her highest recommendations: Courtney Milan.
After finding Milan’s books and novellas to be pretty good as well, I wondered to myself: “Have I been unfairly biased against romance?” Maybe I just am a fan of fromage, after all! Well… now I can say, having mainlined this selection of Dark-Hunter (why the hyphen?) like a fifth-grader pretending Pop Rocks are cocaine, I surely did spoil myself beginning my foray into romance with the likes of Milan, because there is some true crap out there and this is it.
These books are apparently bestsellers and pretty highly rated on Goodreads. The Fifty Shades phenomenon has reminded me to take public opinion with a grain of salt, but I still feel like kind of an ass for shitting on what is obviously a well-loved series. Fortunately, I’ve accepted occasional assholery as one of my charming personality tics awhile ago, so I’m going to move forward with this review. I gave the first two books two stars as opposed to one on Goodreads, but I’m going to retcon myself a bit because frankly, they aren’t really much better than the third and fourth; I just wasn’t bored of the plug-and-play plot yet.
So: this is the plot of all four books (and I’m assuming probably all twenty-four — twenty four!!! — in the series.) The heroine, either by some mishap or lucky accident, encounters the hero, who is an ancient immortal of Greek or Roman ancestry. He is cursed somehow, and despite their smoldering sexual chemistry and his deep, inexplicable feelings for the heroine — feelings he has felt for NO OTHER WOMAN, ever (and really, I can’t emphasize enough how often the “only her” or “never anyone but her” line is used in these books) — he pushes her away because he is CURSED! She finds some way to help him become uncursed, though, and they live happily and sexily ever after.
Aside from the rote plot, there are also a bunch of really silly details in the novels that had me pretty consistently rolling my eyes. One thing that isn’t necessarily too egregious, but still had me giggling, were the technological references that were surely intended to make the book seem very “now.” But of course when “now” is 2002 (when the first book was published) and your character is dutifully punching away on her Palm Pilot, it comes across as very instantly dated to a reader in 2013. The second thing, related to the first, though it seems pretty laughable even by 2002 standards, is the author’s shameless plugging of her website in the text of the books. She spends at least a page in each of the books describing how the characters log onto “the Dark-Hunter.com website”, and in the context of the books it’s supposed to be the totally secret administrative message board for the Dark-Hunters (seriously, that hyphen just kills me,) while obviously in real life it’s the promotional website for the series. So, LOL Sherrilyn Kenyon, I see what you did there!
The other major groaner, for me, is how the characters are all on a first-name basis with the Greek gods, so we’re given HILARIOUS characterization and nicknames for said gods. Like, Aphrodite and Artemis are both self-centered and bitchy (because of course they are,) especially compared to the heroines, who are just not like other women. They’re different! Special! Artemis in particular is portrayed as pretty awful, which is bizarre because I never picked up on that from any of the mythology I’m familiar with, but then again I’m not sure that this series is meant to fit right into the Pantheon canon, so…
Let’s see, what else. The Dark-Hunters themselves are kind of like vampires, except that they don’t drink human blood to survive. They can, but it’s kind of looked down upon. But they definitely have fangs, and die in the sunlight, and they have supernatural strength and special abilities. They’re meant to hunt Daimons, which are a species with a convoluted backstory, but the point is that they kill humans. So the Dark-Hunters are basically vampires who don’t act like vampires and hunt the creatures who do act like vampires. If this sounds confusing and stupid, that’s because it is.
I could go on, and I know I’m reading way too much into what is meant to be a fluffy series, but as a fan of paranormal entertainment, if your paranormal shit doesn’t make sense, I’m not going to give it a pass just because it’s supposed to be mostly romance. The romance itself is fine, I guess, outside of being extremely formulaic. For readers of Pajiba’s caliber, I can’t recommend this series at all, unless you are really into unintentional comedy and want to practice decaying your own grey matter for sport.