Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Darius by Grace Burrowes

Dear Ms. Burrowes:

I chose this book because the titular hero is a man ho. I read and enjoyed Claire Kent’s Escorted, a contemporary whose hero is a gigolo, and thought it would be fun to read a historical with the same premise. It wasn’t. Darius is well-written and has sympathetic leads. But the storyline never pulled me in and my attention wandered every time I sat down and tried to read.

Darius by Grace BurrowesDarius Lindsey is an impoverished second son who makes his living by sexing but not having intercourse with women in the ton. He’s known for his prowess and his discretion. Despite his skill set, he’s slipping into desperate financial straits. He is saved by aged and dying Lord Longstreet. Lord Longstreet offers Darius all the money he needs if Darius will take on the task of impregnating the Lord’s young wife Lady Vivian. The baby will be the heir Longstreet needs and, once the deed is done, Darius is to have nothing more to do with Vivian or her child.

Darius is the third historical I’ve read in the past few years with an impregnation plot. I enjoyed the other two, Cecilia Grant’s superb A Lady Awakened and the well-done Waking up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath, far more than I did Darius.

After Darius hammers out the terms of his service(s), he and Vivian head off to spend a month together at Darius’s estate in Kent. In the beginning of their relationship, they are classic cliché characters. Darius is the whore with a heart of gold who hides said heart because life has treated him cruelly. Vivian is, despite her marriage, a virginal good girl who tells Darius she wishes she could “put a sack over my head, stuff cotton wool in my ears, and hum some good old Handel while you do the going on.” And though, at the beginning of the month, they’ve only known each other a few days, they each sense the other’s true self. It’s as if rather than sharing insta-lust, they share insta-almost love.

When they become lovers–they have to wait a few days because Vivian’s having her period–both find the experience galvanizing. (I am so tired of virginal heroines having fabulous intercourse only-orgasms the first time they make love. I realize this trope is as common to romance as chase scenes are to Bond flicks but I’m weary of both.)

Bliss rippled up from their joining and washed out over his body in long, hot pulses, until he lost the sense of where his skin separated him from Vivian, or any other aspect of creation. He heard himself moan—he never moaned—and felt himself clutching at Vivian more desperately than he sought his next breath. His body gave itself up to drenching spasms of pleasure, until he realized that harsh, grating sound was his breathing, and he was going suffocate Vivian if he didn’t turn loose of her.

“Jesus.” He echoed her earlier prayer. “Holy Jesus.”

She pushed up to peer at him. “Was that how it was supposed to go?”

He smiled at her, loving the earnest concern in her expression, the rosy flush of pleasure on her chest. “It will do for a start.”

“You’re teasing me.” She settled down against his chest, content, and he was content to have her in his arms. More than content, God help him.

Within days of their first coupling, both have developed strong emotions for the other. The month they spend together is well-detailed by Ms. Burrows; we see them sharing not just their bodies but their lives. Despite seeing all this intimacy, though, their love for each other seemed a bit out of blue to me. Yeah, they desire each other and Darius pampers and pleasures Vivian every chance he gets but I struggled to see them as soul mates. However, when it is time to part (at the 50% mark in the novel), the two are deeply in love and Vivian has indeed conceived.

When Vivian and Darius return to town, their story began to slip into tedium. They can’t be together but, by the story’s end, they must–this is a traditional romance. Between leaving Kent and living happily ever after in London, Darius and Vivian face melodrama and menace, none of which I found interesting. Darius’s old clients act very badly. Vivian’s evil psuedo-stepfather threatens her and her child’s futures. People are mean to Daruis’s sister whose story will, I’m sure, be explored in one of the other seven books Ms. Burrowes is publishing in this Lonely Lords series. I perused two hundred very slow pages before I, happy to do so, finished the book.

To be fair to Ms. Burrows, I appear to be in the minority. The book has gotten strong reviews elsewhere and 175 Goodreaders have given it over a four star rating. This is my review, however, and I give Darius a C.

Mulishly,

Dabney

 

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

26 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    May 08, 2013 @ 09:44:46

    Did nobody tell her that Vivian was a man’s name until the 20th century? Several male names made the transition then, like Shirley and Marion. So to me, the scene you posted (which I really loved, btw) reads like an m/m. It would be lovely as an m/m, don’t you think?

  2. SAO
    May 08, 2013 @ 11:09:54

    Vivian needs to conceive?

  3. Dabney
    May 08, 2013 @ 11:22:23

    Yes. Lord Longstreet hasn’t a heir.

  4. leftcoaster
    May 08, 2013 @ 11:48:07

    I really like Grace Burrowes’ style of writing male characters, I enjoy her uber-emo, huggy, caring men. However, the actual story and plot always end up irritating my rational brain so much I can’t enjoy myself. Not enough logos to balance all the pathos for me.

  5. Leigh
    May 08, 2013 @ 12:32:34

    Does the hero mansplain menstruation to the heroine? That’s a recurring theme in the author’s books. It’s always so weird.

  6. Dabney
    May 08, 2013 @ 12:51:29

    @Leigh: No, but she cringes as she discusses her cycle with him at great length.

  7. Isobel Carr
    May 08, 2013 @ 14:34:58

    @Lynne Connolly: If readers can get past the English drinking iced tea and eating glazed apple muffins (like the ones you get Starbucks), and dukes acting as valets to earls because, well, I have no idea, and a host of other glaring mistakes, then I’m sure they can get past Vivian as a girl’s name.

  8. Dabney
    May 08, 2013 @ 14:56:44

    @Isobel Carr: Wait, did I miss something? There was iced tea in this book?

  9. Mary
    May 08, 2013 @ 15:00:19

    I’ve attempted to read two of her books, and each one I felt I would like better if it were a contemporary.

  10. Lynn S.
    May 08, 2013 @ 16:49:37

    Stepping into moderation territory here, but your mulish review has garnered some priceless comments.

    @Lynne Connolly: Or Vivian could have made it clear how pissed she was that her stupid parents gave her a boy’s name. (Dabney, I’m guessing she didn’t do this.)

    @Isobel Carr: Oh please, I need to know the name of the book that has glazed apple muffins. I think the duke/valet is an example of the High Jinks Principle or it could be explained by the Pointless Melodrama Axiom, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them.

  11. Dabney
    May 08, 2013 @ 16:52:16

    @Lynn S.: This conversation makes me sure that somewhere there is a historical novel where the heroine uses tampons.

  12. Charlotte Russell
    May 08, 2013 @ 18:07:38

    If nothing else, I am getting hungry for glazed apple muffins. You say Starbucks has them?

  13. Dabney
    May 08, 2013 @ 19:24:56

    @Charlotte Russell: Ye Olde Starbucks…..

  14. Lynne Connolly
    May 08, 2013 @ 20:34:22

    @Isobel Carr: That is a damn good point. But when I read it, I kept imagining a male/male encounter, and then I thought – what if it was a m/m? Wouldn’t that be something?

  15. Jules C.
    May 08, 2013 @ 20:49:57

    As the first coffee houses appeared in England in the 17th c., there may have been a “Ye Olde Starbucks” :) I’ve read several of Grace Burrowes books, and some of the historical “details” have certainly raised my eyebrows on several occasions. Some of them, like the muffin issue, peaked my curiosity enough to google for more info. Sometimes, the “details” are blatantly incorrect which frustrates me to no end. It’s easy to find links to reputable sources online. Other times, truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The “details” are either true, or at the very least, probable. I couldn’t resist with the muffin so I looked it up.

    Fun Fact of the Day: According to the Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, the first recipes for muffins appeared in the mid-18th c. but were more popular as a tea time food in England during the 19th c.

  16. Lynne Connolly
    May 08, 2013 @ 21:11:05

    @Jules C.: In the UK, then and now, “muffins” aren’t those cakes that Americans have, they’re flat bread rolls that are nice toasted and split. Yes, muffins were heard of, but they weren’t what the modern American thinks of as a muffin.
    Like biscuits. What Americans call biscuits, we call scones and we have them for tea, not breakfast. Biscuits are crisp and flat, and you dunk them in your tea if you’re uncouth, like what I am. I’ve spent just over two weeks in the US now, and oh, I miss my ginger nuts!
    And coffee houses were for men only. They were the precursors of the gentleman’s club.

  17. Susan
    May 08, 2013 @ 21:11:10

    Totally off point, but the covers on these Lonely Lords books are kinda offputting–the guys look strange to me. (Since I read ebooks, I don’t normally pay much attention to covers, but I had to click on the other books in the series to see what they were about and . . . whoa.)

    Off to get my iced tea and muffin now.

  18. Ros Clarke
    May 09, 2013 @ 07:41:50

    @Jules C.: And thus, the maxim that a little learning is a dangerous thing is once again proved true. American-style muffins did not appear in the UK until about twenty years ago. Muffins here are breads that are cooked on top of the stove, then split, toasted and buttered. They have not ever been glazed or apple-flavoured. I am not even sure how they could be.

  19. Ros Clarke
    May 09, 2013 @ 07:43:16

    @Lynne Connolly: Except not quite. American biscuits are not quite the same as plain British scones. Mind you, American scones are nothing like British ones either. Baked goods are a transatlantic minefield.

  20. EGS
    May 09, 2013 @ 08:40:19

    And of course, if you ask a Yankee and a Southerner what a biscuit is, you’ll get two different answers.

  21. Jules C.
    May 09, 2013 @ 10:35:46

    @Ros Clarke: Not one of my British flatmates ate muffins while I was at university so I wasn’t aware of the customary British way to fix muffins. I only know that I enjoy English style muffins (at least the ones sold in the US) with either peanut butter, apple butter, or jam.

    As for American style muffins, those recipes appeared in the 18th c. and the ingredients that made the quick bread style muffins were exported to Europe. With the exchange of ideas and good between Britain and her North American colonies, I do think it is possible that someone could have eaten an American style muffin in Britain in the 19th c. Would they have been sold at a shop for everyone to eat? Probably not. My point with my earlier muffin comment (which I apparently did not express well enough) was that the historical world had a broader cultural, social, and economic connections than we may be aware of.

    That being said, I find it strange that an author wouldn’t keep a reference list of basic food items, clothing, transportation, etc to use while writing. Many of this author’s (and numerous other authors for that matter) incorrect item choices would have been avoided with a basic google search and a spread sheet. However, that’s probably a topic for another thread :)

    As for my comment about “Ye Olde Starbucks,” it was meant to be tongue in cheek. I’m well aware that women did not always have access to public places.

  22. cleo
    May 09, 2013 @ 11:47:20

    Since everyone’s already off topic (and it’s been fun to read), I’ll just chime in that I have trouble buying the male prostitute hero in m/f since reading in a Dan Savage column that exclusively heterosexual male prostitutes are a cultural myth (there’s not enough demand from women, according to Dan at least). Which kind of ties in with @Lynne Connolly‘s m/m comment.

    I would buy a bisexual / heteroflexible male prostitute hero in a m/f romance (erm, so to speak – I’d buy the book, not the prostitute).

  23. leftcoaster
    May 09, 2013 @ 15:37:23

    @cleo… yes! me too… not just because Dan said so, but because it just has never made economic sense to me… all of the sex workers I know make their money from men, male or female. I can’t decide what I think about that.

  24. Lynn S.
    May 09, 2013 @ 16:28:06

    @Dabney: Tampons, wishful thinking.

    The mansplaining of menstruation that Leigh mentioned makes me want to read Burrowes—those crazy authors and their obsessions; I think I have a couple of her earlier books somewhere in the acreage. Funny too, since I just finished reading The Rogue’s Return by Jo Beverly where the couple have an argument about throwing away the heroine’s monthly rags instead of washing them out (making me ever more grateful that I didn’t live in the 19th century). Of course, this conversation was a breeze after being treated to the medicinal usage of maggots earlier in the book.

  25. Lesley-Ann
    May 10, 2013 @ 12:28:34

    I read this and the next book in the series, Nicholas (where Darius’ sister gets her HEA), back to back, and although they ran parallel to each other they felt like one book which had been roughly pulled apart and had lost a few important scenes in the process.

    I found the quick change from business partners (for want of a title) to in-lurv’ to be too sudden for me.

    The biggest problem for me however was the resolution of the baddies (or lack thereof) which both the H & H had in spades. It seemed that one page they were still a big problem and you turned a page and suddenly there was a couple of paragraphs where they are dealt with and it’s over. That didn’t ‘flow’ for me at all, dragged me right out of story with an unsatisfactory jolt. Don’t misunderstand me, I found some redeeming qualities with both the plot/storylines as well as the characters but unfortunately felt that the weren’t brought to proper fruition for me personally.

  26. Lady Wesley
    May 14, 2013 @ 18:12:06

    @cleo: Perhaps it would be more accurate to call Darius a giggolo. At the time of the book, he had only two customers (and it’s hinted that they have their own f/f deal going).

    Historical anomalies aside, I am in the group who loved this book — mostly because Darius turned out to be such a wonderful man. Grace Burrowes is one of those authors who I read for the heroes and not the heroines.

%d bloggers like this: