The Darkest Heart
by Thea Devine, historical/paranormal (2011)
Gallery Books, $15.00, ISBN 978-1-4165-6266-5


Thea Devine is back with The Darkest Heart, and as someone who unapologetically enjoys some of her books in the past, I happily pick this one up. In hindsight, maybe I could have spent $15.00 on nicer things. Perhaps it is not the author's fault, but this book is marketed as an erotic paranormal romance when it is not erotic and it is not even a romance. Yes, you've read that right. The "couple" in this story, Senna Landseth and the emo vampire Nicolai Lazlaric, do not get together officially by the last page of this book, and with the plot threads left dangling in those final pages, it's very likely that this is the first book in a genuine series with an ongoing plot and all.

The problem here is that, even for the first book in a series, the plot of The Darkest Heart is a typical stream of consciousness mess that only the author can come up with in her trademark style of abusing italics and use of haphazard head-hopping. The head hopping can be painful - at one point, I have no idea who is the person being referred to in a stretch of paragraphs because there are two female characters in that scene and the author jumps from one woman's head to another without advance warning. But since I am not sure what this story is about anyway, perhaps it's normal to also have no idea who is doing what in this story.

Anyway, from what I can piece together, we have a family of dysfunctional vampires and humans sulking in Drom Manor. We have the Countess, a serene creature whose insane bloodthirsty nature lurks just beneath the surface. She is desperate to have a pure-blooded heir now that her only living family member is her son Charles, so she's determined to engineer her son's knocking up of a suitable woman ASAP. The suitable woman in question is Senna, who claims to be some orphaned distant relative of the Countess and who needs a place to stay. The Countess also has a son, Nicolai, who now goes by the name Dominick Janou. He hates his mother so, so much because his mother made him a vampire and now he has to drink blood and such. How dare his mother turn him into a monster! He will wipe out the whole family as an act of vengeance. But first, he will thwart his mother's plan by deflowering and impregnating Senna first!

Now, you may be wondering, since Nicolai is also a Lazlaric, does it honestly matter whether it is he or Charles who knocks up Senna? Well, don't look at me. Apparently, by disowning his family, Nicolai is now no longer a Lazlaric, so the Countess only wants Charles to pork Senna. I know, but hey, I didn't write this story, so don't direct your questions to me. Also, I wonder why Nicolai or Dominick or whatever he calls himself don't just kidnap Senna and send her to China or something. It's certainly an easier way to thwart Mommy Dearest, compared to his "plan" in this story, which sees him usually in bat form or mist form, spying on Senna. Speaking of bat forms, I do wonder when the author has Nicolai "stiffening" while observing Senna. How would you feel if you are a heroine who looks up at the ceiling and sees a bat sporting wood and leering at you?

I have no idea of the actual reasons behind the bad blood between Nicolai and his mother, but I can't help thinking that I need to page Dr Freud whenever those two snarl and hiss at each other. I also have no idea what is happening as the plot becomes more and more convoluted, and after a while, it seems like everyone and his grandmother in London is a vampire. Throughout everything, there is hardly any sex scene, and when there are sex scenes, these scenes are short and lacking in graphic description. I don't think there is any danger of this book being mistaken for the author's older books.

Senna is a brood mare in this story, but surprisingly enough, she is one of the author's stronger heroines in that she takes matters into her own hands to take care of herself and even fight for the hero's affections. While for the most part she is as clueless as me when it comes to what the heck is going on in this story, and, like many of the author's heroines, she can be such a dumb bunny so often. But she isn't some passive victim. It is just unfortunate that she is no match for the vampires' ability to wipe out memories and insert thoughts into their victims' heads. Compared to her, the hero is a one-dimensional brooding cliché who spends way too much time sporting bat wood in the shadows. There is not much romance here because there is hardly any tenderness or even decent contact between him and her. The only actual times these two share a scene for long are when he's screwing with her mind and making her unable to resist his sexual advances. But then again, this is not a romance story. It's more of a Gothic tale full of dysfunctional families and seedy secrets. Therefore, it is perhaps to be expected that the "romance" between Senna and Nicolai is just another dark element in this story.

And really, what a story this is. Okay, I have no idea what is going on, but this story is pretty fascinating in a crazy but awesome manner. It's so lurid and over the top, I just have to laugh and go with the flow instead of taking it seriously, and in the process, I have fun. Sometimes the fun is in the form of unintentional humor (bat erection, heh), but hey, fun is fun. There is some chilling atmosphere building here, and some humorous-yet-creepy ones too, such as the "vampire hunting" party at a house that turns out to be the real thing. Therefore, this story is an intense and gripping read even if I have no idea what I'm reading half the time!

Anyway, I can't in good conscience suggest that you run out and buy this book, since it costs too much for a mere campy and silly read, but if you happen to have the opportunity to borrow this book, hey, who knows, maybe you'd get an afternoon of frivolous entertainment out of it.

Rating: 71


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