Most books have what I would describe as "ordinary washing machine cycles." (A means for the reader to get clean through the book.) First, the writer separates the laundry (helps the reader distinguish it from others in the genre) then pre-soak begins, the wash cycle starts, and there's the rinse cycle. Finally, at the end, the spin.
"A DARKER DREAM"
SEPARATING THE LAUNDRY:
Times are hard in the 1800s. Main character, Rhianna, finds her very delicate self standing on an auction block. Her crusty father is selling her to raise money. That's when Rhianna gets separated from her mother and four sisters. A very strange and brooding (but silky) recluse, who lives in a castle and sits in the shadows, pays for Rhianna's servitude. Yet he already has a man-servant living with him, attending to his every need. He doesn't need a second slave.
THE PRE-SOAK BEGINS
Thus Rhianna is immersed in change. Her feelings for the 400 year old vampire (whom she assumes is just a socially awkward but very romantic man) are confused with a sense of mystery that turns into deep passionate yearning. When Lord Rayven finally kisses Rhianna's hands, wrists, and arms, it's very much like Gomez Addams (of "The Addams Family" fame) might kiss his wife, Morticia. Except Lord Rayven is much more artful, sophisticated, and dangerous!
THE WASH CYCLE
Then Lord Rayven and Rhianna get into an agitated relationship that can only be described as a very prolonged romantic hurricane. This is where the plot becomes rather repetitive and tedious and looks something like this:
• Lord Rayven: "Run for your life" (while he secretly pleads, under his breath, "please don't leave me Rhianna")
• Rhianna says: "Anything you wish M'Lord" and leaves - but then sneaks back: "M'Lord?"
• To which the couple explore each other's mouths passionately, Lord Rayven kisses her hands and wrists and arms (some more) until he cannot bear the passion and commands "Leave!" (again).
• So Rhianna leaves ... only to return ... and the whole cycle happens over and over and over again.
Sample text: (page 164)
"You once begged me to let you stay," he said, his voice moving over her like a dark wind. "Now I am begging you."
She felt the tears dry on her cheeks. "I've changed my mind."
"Too late, Rhianna. Shall I go down on my knees and plead with you, my sweet?"
WASH CYCLE GETS STUCK HERE, ON PAUSE
Amazingly, that wash cycle lasts for more than five of Rhianna's delicate years and, while the relationship takes on a funny smell, the plot never thickens. It's as though a loud mechanical buzzer should go off. Nothing's going anywhere until chapter thirteen when Vampire Rayven finally explains (hear my sigh of relief) to the still unsuspecting Rhianna, "duh!" that he really is a vampyre!
To say more about the story would spoil the ending for anyone whose deeply inspired by prolonged romantic scenarios. The book becomes more passionate ... but a repetitive plea of "have you come to destroy me?" haunts the next few chapters.
I'm giving this book four stars because the writing is just so very polished, compelling, and I really enjoyed the read even if the plot, itself, left much to be desired. Author Ashley conveyed her characters' romantic pursuits in a most poetic and fluid style. She's definitely mastered the gift of writing with rhythm and romantic allure.
Reviewer's Admission: *(I purchased this book and read it as a paperback)
Character Blog: Vamchoir