Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shadows of the Night - Lydia Joyce

I snagged this book on a jaunt to the library (still can't believe it's literally around the corner from me, heh) this afternoon. I have read all of Ms. Joyce's previous books and tend to enjoy her writing. She has a nice way with words, often featuring unusual characters and a strong Gothic flavor. I guess this book came out last year, but I missed it. The blurb talks about igniting "insatiable hunger" and "forbidden love", so I was very optimistic. And while I enjoyed a lot of the premise of the book, the last 1/2 or so failed to live up to the promise shown in the beginning.

We start with a basic romance trope - the arranged marriage of convenience. The story opens with the wedding of Fern and Colin. (Actually it literally opens with Colin leaving his mistress' bed to attend his wedding, giving you an idea of how much he's emotionally invested in the marriage). Fern is a gently reared young lady and while she wants the marriage to be a success, she has no idea of how to break out of her and Colin's polite societal personas. Colin, a viscount-to-be who has gone through life on autopilot, sees his new wife with a mixture of mild interest and patronizing politness. The wedding night is pleasant enough for Colin, not so much for Fern. Her reaction to the intimacy involved in the marriage bed is to feel rebellion and a desire to maintain her sense of self.

Fern doesn't feel like Colin even registers how earth-shattering the experience was and neither knows how to communicate effectively with one another. But their honeymoon takes a dramatic turn when Fern lashes out during an argument.

Trapped, trapped forever...She had to get away now. Without thinking, she threw her body weight away from him, but his grip was too tight. She couldn't escape. Fighting down a sob of hysteria, she lashed out blindly, her free hand striking his face with a ringing slap.

Colin felt the pain, sudden and sharp, cutting through layers in his brain that he hadn't known were there. Layers wrapped around his was like a jolt of light to eyes that had always been in darkness, burning into his mind and flooding it with color that he could never have imagined.

Colin released Fern with a shove that knocked her hard against the side of the coach. In the sudden silence, they sat frozen, staring at each other. Fern was incapable of speech, shocked at what she had just done but unable to apologize as fury and rebellion still roiled, choking, inside her. Colin's expression was frozen, the livid lines that her fingers had left already outlined in red. But under the dark slashes of his brows, his eyes flared, and for the first time, Fern felt the presence of a person at the bottom of their dark depths, looking back at her.

Oh yes, precious. We likes the hint of D/s, yes we do! And everything seems to be on track for a really singular romance novel. Both parties realize that Colin has just discovered he has an appetitite for pain and that Fern has an appetite for indulging him. It's fascinating to see these two prim and proper society creatures peel back their layers and not only expose themselves to one another but also to re-invent themselves. Who do they want to be? Not who have they been raised to be.

Colin immediately decides that he can't handle dealing with the ramifications of his newfound desires in the presence of society, and the couple decamps to one of his far flung holdings. It's a property that he's never visited but he knows is isolated...perfect for exploring new boundaries. Except that rather than being a cozy but shabby outpost, it's a completely derelict and creepy deserted estate. Gothic and scary and complete with secrets and crazy old caretakers and whatnot. Unfortunately, the story gets bogged down in overly plotty mystery stuff and while the relationship between Fern and Colin continues to develop, I felt cheated. Finally, there is a plot twist (read Big Secret) thown in at the last minute that I really disliked and just could have lived without.

Overall, this was an interesting book and is worth a look, but it makes me sad to think of how awesome it might have been.



Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I did not care for this book at all. It was cold and dark and the marriage between Fern and Colin could have been so much more. I wondered if Joyce had gone the distance with their fetish for pain, this may have been a really good book. But again, this isn't erotica.
Her last latest, Wicked Intentions was also so disappointing.

Tracy said...

Sounds interesting but I hate when an author moves in a whole subplot to the romance that needn't be there. Bummer.

Tumperkin said...

This review echoes another I read of the same book. I'm still intrigued to read it though as what you've described you enjoyed about it is very appealing to me.

I've only read one Lydia Joyce before (can't remember the name - disfigured girl was the heroine) and it was a DNF for me so I've never been hugely tempted to try another.

Jill Sorenson said...

The beginning was enough to put me off. Excellent writing, flat characters. They had no joy, no verve, no life. I didn't feel as though Colin was capable of any emotion, least of all love.

I'm not usually turned off by cold, masochistic heroes, but he was just...empty.

sula said...

kb, I agree that it would have been much more interesting had she 'gone all the way' so to speak with the fetish. I was so hoping for some light erotica, but alas, no. :(

tracy, I think it's the bane of my existence. The extra plotty bits that leave you going...huh? oh well.

T, there were certainly elements that I think you would enjoy. Particularly the inner journey of each character and how they awake to themselves and one another. But it's just a shame that it couldn't have been a better book overall.

Jill, I agree with you regarding the way the characters come across in the beginning. Particularly Colin. He is very cold and very flat. But I think that was the point and he is supposed to grow and open up over the course of the book. Whether or not the author succeeded in portraying this though could be debated, I'm sure. Did you finish the book or did it turn you off so much that you stopped? Curious. :)

Jill Sorenson said...

Oh, sorry, forgot to check back. I can't remember if I finished it. Probably not. I don't remember any growing, just an instant spark of life when she slapped him. I felt as though that moment had everything to do with him, his unknown sexual desires, and nothing to do with her. Nothing to do with an emotional connection, for sure.

Yeah, I doubt I got very far. But I like dark and disturbing sometimes, so I might try another Joyce. This book and I just didn't "fit."