by Barbara Sheridan and Anne Cain, fantasy (2008)
Noble Romance Publishing, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-60592-001-6
Dark Whispers is the latest installment in the ongoing yaoi soap opera that is The Dragon's Disciple. If you have read any of the previous installments, you know what to expect by now, I'm sure - lots of unrepentant bad boys running around as if the world is their one big party. This one, however, can stand alone very well - I don't believe any readers unfamiliar with the series will get lost while reading this one.
Our hero Daisuke Matsui, despite the attempts by the cop and family friend Ray Watts to keep him on the straight and narrow, often ended up in street brawls and conflicts with his mother's abusive boyfriend. Still, he managed to avoid flushing his life down the drain and instead graduated from high school and moved on up to become a cop like Ray. Then comes Liu Sakurai, the vampire you don't really want to meet in a dark lane at night, and oops, there goes the neighborhood.
Liu, a cold-blooded killer for hire, is currently on a hunt for what seems like a rogue vampire going around giving humans "gifts" that allow these humans to cheat death. Which is to say, when you inflict a wound that would kill an ordinary human, he will still be able to sit up and show you the finger afterwards. The local vampires that control the Chinatown triad gangs are not happy with this rogue vampire because that vampire is messing up their own operations.
Meanwhile, Dai, now a detective, is investigating a series of murder while trying to keep his brother from hooking up with the wrong type of friends. On top of that, the poor fellow is also becoming increasingly sexually frustrated because he's not getting his need to be dominated by a masterful lover met.
Dark Whispers could have been a pretty good read for me since Liu Sakurai is such a bad guy that he's just my type, but I find myself often cringing at some of the scenes here that are not to my liking. I hate to say this because it will no doubt make me come off like a wimp, but some of the scenes here push my hot buttons. For example, there is one scene where Liu licks at a wet spot in Dai's discarded underpants (without Dai's knowledge, naturally). That kind of behavior happens to be one that I don't find sexy at all, I'm afraid. There are other scenes that similarly seem to be geared towards people with specific fetishes. Some people will no doubt find such scenes sexy, but with fetishes being what they are, not everyone will find similar delight in those scenes. As it happens, many of such scenes happen to not tickle my fancy. While I have no objections with the authors pushing the envelope with some scenes here, let's just say that those envelopes aren't meant for me in the first place in this instance.
I have no problems with other hot button scenes of graphic violence and sex scenes of dubious consent, but as with all stories in this series, these scenes would not be everyone's cup of tea.
The story is fine. Under any other circumstances, I would have probably enjoyed myself, with only minor complains like how some of the conversations here feel stilted and how Liu is too similar at times to Dao Kan Shu. There is a smaller cast here compared to previous stories. That and the minimal references to events that took place in previous stories make this one a pretty good standalone story for those who are new to the series. However, because it just happens that there are many elements in this story that do not appeal to me - which to say, I don't find them sexy like they are supposed to be, more like icky - I am sorry to report that Dark Whispers doesn't work too well for me. Some stories just won't work because they push the reddest of the red hot buttons, and this is one such story for me.
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