REVIEW: Stay the Night by Lynn Viehl
Dear Ms. Viehl:
I’ve been a fan of yours ever since I picked up Star Doc about 9 years ago. I haven’t been quite so thrilled by your Darkyn books, but have had some favorites such as 2008’s Evermore. Despite some frustration with the series, I was sad to hear that this was your final novel about the Darkyn and I was eager to see how you would conclude it all.
Stay the Night is Robin’s book. Well . . . sort of. Robin of Locksley-that’s right, I said Locksley- has been stealing from the rich for the last 700 years. With the help of his Darkyn powers of persuasion, he can charm just about anyone into doing almost anything. The FBI has dubbed him The Magician for his most recent larcenous exploits involving the theft of priceless works of art.
Chris Renshaw is a special agent for the FBI. She was recently transferred to the Chicago office amid a scandal involving her partner’s firing and subsequent suicide. Chris (you have a tendency to masculinize your heroines’ names: Alex, Nick, Chris, Jayr and Sam) knows that the Magician is somehow involved and is more determined than ever to bring this thief to justice. She leads the operation to find him and goes undercover as an arts dealer.
Christ meets Robin while conducting surveillance at a local bar. Robin’s attempts at seduction are successful and although we don’t know all that goes on in the bedroom (fade away), apparently "[s]he’d done things with him that weren’t even mentioned in the Kama Sutra." Whatever happened, Robin’s pride is hurt when he wakes up to discover that she has left him with nothing more than a thank you note. He realizes that she was all along resistant to the l’attrait, the seductive power shared by all Darkyn, and starts digging until he finds out her real identity.
The Feds decide to exhibit The Maiden’s Book of Hours in an attempt to draw out The Magician. Robin has been coveting the ancient manuscript for hundreds of years and has every intention of taking it from the federal agents. Unbeknownst to him, someone else wants that book even more and will stop at nothing to get it. When The Maiden’s Book is stolen and humans and Darkyn lives are held hostage, Chris and Robin go to Rome to recover it.
Like all of your Darkyn novels, your story is told in multiple points of view. Besides Chris and Robin, the book shifts to at least 10 other characters including the series protagonists- Alex and Michael Cyprien. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a hero and heroine get a continuing story that goes beyond their HEA . I like Alex and Cyprien and enjoy reading about their romance and seeing their relationship grow in each book. But on the other hand, the romance between the hero and heroine in most of the other books doesn’t get as much attention as it needs. As a result, it is often underdeveloped and flat- especially when compared to Alex and Cyprian’s relationship. This book is no different. Come on, Philippe and his lover had more chemistry in their one scene than Chris and Robin did in the entire book combined.
You try to create some relationship conflict by pairing Robin- the ultimate thief- with an upstanding law abiding federal agent. She blames Robin for her partner’s death. She’s upset with him and his ability to charm random bystanders into handing over whatever he wants- whether it’s a house, a car or a pass through customs. But besides some mild protestations, she never forces the issue and her ethical code and any possible conflict therewith eventually just takes a back seat to the rest of the action.
What is also annoying is your tendency to break up the pacing by switching to another scene just when things are starting to get good. Rather than keeping me in suspense, I grew frustrated with your frequent pov shifts. For example, you cut away from the bedroom scene between Chris and Robin only to switch to Gordon Middleton, customs checker at Heathrow Airport. You cut away from Alex just when she discovers that the Brethren have stepped up their attacks by using a deadly new heretofore undetectable weapon. It happens again and again throughout the novel, stopping the action each time it begins to picks up. Other readers certainly may have no problem with this and instead consider this to be skillful plotting, but basically it made me want to throw your book against the wall. While I admire your ability to take us into various characters’ povs, I did not appreciate the frequency of such shifts or your timing.
I did enjoy this last Darkyn novel more towards the end. We find out the significance of The Maiden’s Book of Hours and realize the true purpose for which it was intended. The book’s purpose is intriguing and it made for some tense moments when we discover just how far a certain character will go to exact his or her revenge.
I know you had decided to conclude this series in part because you were worried about losing reader interest as well as just dragging out the story longer than you should. So while I progressed into Stay the Night, I was very curious as to what we’d see in terms of the war that has been brewing between the Brethren and the Darkyn. The Brethren have been the series antagonists from the beginning. They’ve tortured, killed, genetically altered and physically and emotionally scarred many of the Darkyn. Their attacks continue off page in this book with the introduction of a new threat. In fact, quite a bit of Stay the Night is spent with Richard, Michael and the other Darkyn lords deciding whether to wage war with their enemy. So what kind of resolution do we get?
Stay the Night is not exactly the novel I was hoping it would be. Perhaps I had too high expectations with it being Robin’s story and the final one of the series. You did create several very interesting moments towards the end and while I enjoyed the ongoing story with Alex, Michael and Richard and appreciated the rich and solid world that you created and continued to develop, this book’s weakest links were the underdeveloped Chris and Robin and their tepid romance.