Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How does she get away with it? A review of Dark Desires

I never really expected Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole to become one of my favorite books of 2008, but it has. (See post below.) Because I loved it!

I alternately devoured it and horded it, a sign of the ultimate crave book. Like the ones before it, Dark Desires is an enthralling tutorial in big plots, big personalities and dizzyingly high stakes.

Miriam over at Rape and Adverbs wrote a pair of posts here and here that I really agree with on this book. This post here echoes and builds on some of her points.

Quick plot rundown:
Basically, Demon Cade has finally hooked up with Holly, his fated mate, the one woman in all the world and all eternity he can find true happiness with. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deliver her to an evil metallurgist in order to win his and his brother’s kingdom back, something he’s quested after for eight centuries (and it was his fault they lost the kingdom in the first place!) See Miriam’s fine rundown of more ways that the stakes are pushed high, and that everything is extreme and huge.

The characters:
Like Miriam, I love how opposite the hero and heroine are. He’s a big slob, and she’s a total OCD clean freak/arrange-things-in-threes gal. He’s a sex maniac and she’s a virgin…make that extra virgin: she doesn’t even watch or think about sexy things.  This extreme balance of personalities makes their interactions crackle. It's just plain old fun.

Also, Cade is wonderfully unheroic in that he tries to get out of making the hard decisions. He wants his kingdom AND he wants his true mate. So he tries to find ways to have both, instead of making a hard choice. For example, he teaches Holly how to fight, vaguely hoping that if he does end up delivering her into the clutches of the metallurgist bent on raping her, maybe she can fight him off. Not a standup guy!

Meriam was slightly annoyed by Cade. I can see it. I’ve had that with Cole heroines—I’m thinking Emmaline in A Hunger Like No Other, where I sort of suspended my annoyance because I was enjoying the book so much. These extreme character pairings make the interaction sizzle, but the flip side is that people can get fed up. I really admire how Cole works this balancing act.

Sometimes I marvel at Kresley Cole books.
So okay, Cade and Holly are on this road trip and, as a non-sexpot girl, Holly has nonsexpot underwear. But not for long, because Nix, who is delivering a few things from Holly’s home, replaces Holly’s normal underwear with thongs and black lace stuff. Because Nix says Valkyries like that sort of thing. And Holly HAS to wear them because they’re her only underwear. I wouldn’t let many books/authors get away with that. On numerous levels.

And hello, the hero Cade is delivering the heroine to freak in a castle who intends to rape her and forcibly impregnate her, and Cade is gleefully happy her comfy underwear has been replaced by racy things and thong stuff. These are just two sort of random examples of the crazy outrages of this book.

I mean, really!
How does Kresley Cole get away with this stuff? I think, for one, she allows the heroines, especially this one, to call attention to the insanity of it all, to sort of inhabit the point of view that many readers probably have deep inside their alpha-hero addled minds:
“I’m going to react,” he said. “Even if you’re not my usual type.”

“Usual type? Oh, let me guess. Swimbos with more breasts than brains?”

He hiked his broad shoulders. “My kind prefers tarts with a little more meat on their bones so they can take a demon’s lusts.”

“Tarts?” Her jaw slackened. “My God, you’re the most misogynistic man I’ve ever met. I bet you also like your tarts barefoot and pregnant.”

”Nah, I like them barefoot, on birth control, and always available in my bed.”

She sputtered.
I would also refer you to Meriam’s choice of excerpt, where Holly rants about another aspect of the setup.

I think there’s another reason Cole gets away with these extremes, and that’s because she does it in a playful way. I always get the sense that this is an author who throws caution to the wind in the name of fun and play, and it reduces the seriousness of everything the way a cartoon can make, say, smashing a guy over the head with a mallet merely wacky (though these books are not cartoon-like at all, and they don't seem like they're trying to be funny, another thing I LOVE about them.) Though at the same time, few romances I read directly call attention to feminist issues of any sort.

It also seems like Cole herself is having a great deal of fun, and that lightens the reader experience, too. Though that authorial fun thing might be deceptive. This writing seems easy and breezy, but I’m guessing it’s the result of careful plotting and hard work. Or not!

Anyway, I can’t wait to read Kiss of the Demon King !!! The whole Immortals After Dark series is an instant auto-buy for me. There's a contest, too! See my sidebar or here.


KT Grant said...

I loved how Cade would lend a helping hand because poor Holly was so sexually frustrated. These two were a hoot to read.

Just wished Holly would have licked his horns rather than just pull on them.

little alys said...

This was by far one of my favs. Mainly because it's just so crazy. As you've posted previously, how everything is just so "huge" in terms of...well, everything.

Hmmm...horn licking. ;)

Nicola O. said...

I didn't have nearly the trouble with this that you and Meriam did. I think by the time I got to Dark Desires, I was thoroughly submerged in Cole's universe, and I loved Cade so much that I was just inhaling this story. I did a series review last July.

BTW, I went to look up the release date for Kiss of a Demon King yesterday, and while it's officially Jan 20, it looks like some people have it already.

Serena said...

I haven't read these books, but they sound like they are ready to make fund of themselves. I like the extreme nature of these characters...looks like a perfect set up for drama.

Great post.

Kati said...

I like Cole's heroines because they generally are totally unafraid to kick ass, either with their physical ability or their smarts. I really appreciate that. Holly and Cade are my favorite couple that Cole has written so far. Although I'm looking forward to Rystrom. Woohoo!

Tracy said...

CJ as usual you have done a wonderful and thought provoking review. I loved this book for so many different reasons. Cade - in all his slovenly-ness was just a great character for me to read and love. Holly - even with her OCD and her other issues was just a wonderful, strong heroine. I could go on and on but I won't. Can't wait for the next book!

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: I always thought of you with those horns.

LA: This was my fave, too!

Nic: I hope you don't think I DIDN'T like this, though! I really loved it. Okay, it's shipping already? Must...

Serena; Thanks. Yes, the setup is so masterful, I think.

Kati: Good point on the ass kicking. So true!

Tracy: Thanks! I can't wait for the next either!

Meriam said...

CJ - it was your previous post that got me to see how how cleverly Cole super-sizes everything. Plot, conflicts, characters. And she does it with off-beat charm and wit, which almost always wins me over.

Good point about the underwear. I tend to get tetchy when the heroine has thongs foisted upon her: as though a preference for comfort and practicality and support indicates some sort of deep-seated frigidity...

It annoyed me when Nix did this to Holly; it didn't feel empowering, it seemed tacky.

But yes, I enjoyed it. Despite my grumpiness, despite my reservations. I'm really looking forward to KoaDK.

meljean brook said...

I loved this one. I love all of them, so that's saying something -- but Cade especially just made this book for me.

I envy Cole's skill like crazy, because you're exactly right -- she just goes full-throttle with her characters and her plots, and in so many ways it shouldn't work ... but because of the sense of humor and fun, it really does.

Dying for Kiss of a Demon King.

Nicola O. said...

CJ, well, clearly you did like it since it made your best of 2008 list.

I'm just saying I didn't have any angst over the stuff that bugged you.

And I totally hooted when the root cause of Holly's OCD was finally revealed. Awesome.

Ladytink_534 said...

I haven't read any of her books before but I'm glad you seem to enjoy them so much!

Bridget Locke said...

CJ-I think you hit the nail on the head. I love the fact that her characters ARE larger than life. It makes it fun to see inside their world. And I cannot wait for Kiss of a Demon King. Whoot!

Anonymous said...

CJ _ I think this is REALLY interesting. I thought Dark Desires was the weakest of the books so far and it is all down to the fact that for me Kresley Cole cannot keep getting away with everything. I think this is especially true because she writes paranormal romance and that for the first three books there was a clear worldbuilding that is starting to fall apart – I found plot holes in the book and the one that bugged me the most was the Womb of Prophecy - that was never hinted at before! If it was so important surely there should have been a mention to it somewhere in the series! no? I think part of me being so critical with regards to this series comes from my reading of other paranormal series out there whose worldbuilding is solid and flawless – there is the Guardian series by Meljean Brook and the Psy/Changeling by Nalini Singh just to mention two.

I also did not like how Holly’s OCD was dealt with . *shrugs*

I will not deny that these books are fun though – they are but more and more Kresley Cole to me, becomes a guilty pleasure.
IN any case, I can’t wait to read for Kiss of a Demon King – which by the way, I am getting in the post TODAY
*is a tease*

Carolyn Crane said...

Meriam: I loved your post, and it was fun to build on it. Ditto on the underwear. Also, your point about the overconsumption!

MJ: Yes, Cade. I'm getting KOADK in 3 days. Supposedly.

Nic: It really made sense!

LT: Thanks

Bridget: Me too!

ANA: Weakest!?! WHAT? LOL. I love when you are contrary. I paid exactly zero attention to the worldbuilding. But it didn't bother me hugely about the vessel (is that the same as the WOP?) went unmentioned, since the baby wouldn't figure in this Ascension. Then again, coming from fantasy, you may have more sense about worldbuilding issues.

Anonymous said...

I know,what is wrong with meeeeee?


Sarai said...

So I suck b/c I've only read book 1 *ducks* I know I know I'm working on it. There's just too much to read and not enough time.

mslizalou said...

I've never read any of Cole's books, but I have one in my tbr pile. Must move it closer to the top.

The Bookworm said...

sounds great!! fun post :)
I need to read Kresley Cole.

Nicola O. said...

Oh, the world-building is weak as hell. Downright stupid in more than one place. But the action and characters are so much fun that I don't care.

samantha.1020 said...

Yikes! I've never read Ms. Cole but it looks like I should check her books out. Great review!