Sad to say, I’m still kind of a snob about vampire romances. Cuz when they’re bad? They’re just way more extremely bad than any other kind of bad romance. I think so, anyway. “Mwah-ha-hah, I vant to suck your bloooooooood.” Uh huh.
You’d think that after getting hooked on JR Ward, Lynn Viehl, Christine Warren, and Meljean Brook I’d’ve learned. But no. And this cover art didn’t help:
It took quite a bit of nudging for me to give Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series a try. But, finally I did, and..... I LOVED IT. So, to the nudgers out there (you know who you are): thanks. Seriously, THANK YOU.
Fairy Tale + Wacky Humor + HOTT (omg, SO hott) Sex = Kresley Cole.
It also sort of sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m frankly not sure how Ms. Cole managed to make everything work, but she does.
The Immortals After Dark tap a number mythologies for inspiration. The dainty, fragile-looking Valkyries are a particularly unique addition to the crowded paranormal romance shelves, if not especially true to Norse mythology. Fiercer than any other of the Lore kind, they are a sorority of foul-mouthed immortal warriors who enjoy movie nights, X-Box marathons, mani-pedis, and beheading vampires. Their only weakness? They are easily distracted by shiny objects, especially high-quality diamonds. Seriously.
Cole’s heroes so far are vampires, werewolves, and demons – of the three, the vamps actually rank last among my favorites – they’re still good, mind you, but the werewolves and Cadeon the Rage Demon fairly set the pages on fire. And how can you not love a romance where the big bad werewolf is chasing a girl in a red hooded cloak? (Fortunately, there was no mention of grandma or a basket of goodies; that would’ve been taking things a bit to far.)
I mentioned in a previous post that Cole’s paranormal world isn’t high up there on my infamous credibility index. Suspension of disbelief is something of a conscious decision. But the Lore world is such a rockin’ good time, why wouldn’t you want to? These books are pure escapism. Cole goes for the wink and the nod rather than the mysterious, dark, gritty "realism" that’s currently in vogue for paranormal romance, and succeeds brilliantly at sheer entertainment.
Each individual book is a fairly straightforward quest sort of story. In each, there is a prize sought by one or both of the protagonists, and the other poses either the key to the prize, or a barrier to it. Or both. Plotting isn’t a weakness of Cole’s, but it’s not the main attraction, either. Clever, unique characters are a big part of it, but for me, the development of the attraction between the hero and heroine is the real gem here. Setting up a couple whose backgrounds are completely incompatible is certainly not new territory in romance. The journey up over, around, or through these incompatibilities to a believable happily ever after is what either makes or breaks a romance author—whatever the subgenre—and in my not-so-humble opinion, Cole does a stellar job.
I like to keep this blog fairly family friendly, so on the topic of teh hott, let me just say, READ CADE & HOLLY’S STORY. And if you want really steamy, check out Cole’s novella in the anthology “Playing Easy to Get,” which pretty much falls off the edge of romance and into erotica (or “romantica.” Whatever that is.)
Reading a whole series at once is always fun. In this case, I thought Cole’s characters definitely got better and better, especially the female ones. Lachlain, the first hero, is one of my faves, but I didn’t love his halfling mate. By the last book, Dark Desires After Dusk, I felt like the women characters were living up to the men. There’s a scene in DDAD (and by the way, WHO comes up with these titles? ackk) where Holly is struck by lightning and receives her full complement of heretofore-suppressed Valkyrie powers… and it’s STUNNING. A fantastic scene. And I will say this: each of Cole’s heroines are extremely unique. No stereotypes, no archetypes, no recycled characters with different hair color.
I don’t always like teasers, but I have to say that I adored the scene between Cade and his brother Rydstrom at the end of the book. Cade and his brother, the heir to a demon throne, have a rocky history, and Cade’s parting line both cracked me up and left me curious as hell: "Fuckall... does this mean I'm no longer the bad brother??"
So check out the series. As for me, I’m going to look into the MacCarrick brothers, and come February, I’ll be adding Kiss of a Demon King to my Borders’ haul.