Dear Ms. Dodd:
I reviewed the first in the series, Scent of Darkness, and enjoyed the updated play on the boss/secretary theme. Touch of Darkness uses another standard romance trope turned on its side (as opposed to turned on its head). Touch is an adventure romance between former lovers who must trust each other to reach the end safely. The twist is that it is Tasya, the heroine, who leaves the hero.
I think that which book will be a reader’s favorite will depend largely upon their emotional response to the main characters. I liked Anna and Jasha in Scent over Rurik and Tasya in Touch but Touch is just as well written. It’s the work of a professional writer who knows exactly what makes an appealing story. Tightly plotted, fast paced, with well developed characters, the book hits all the right tones.
Rurik Wilder is a member of the cursed Varinski clan. His ancestor sold his soul to the devil in exchange for power, wealth, and a supernatural gift of shapeshifting. Rurik’s father, Konstantine, fell in love with a gypsy woman and stole her to America where they have lived, hidden from the Varinskis. A prophecy is rendered that the loves of the sons of Konstantine will bring a blessed icon to the family and break the curse. Rurik’s oldest brother, Jasha, had brought home a woman, Anna, and with her came an icon, the first of the needed four. Rurik knows who his love is but she rejected him after one very passionate night together.
While taking a vacation from his archeological dig in the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland, Rurik sees on television a break through find at his dig and he hastens back to Scotland. Rurik believes that one of the icons is there. If his love won’t bring it to him, he is determined to bring it home himself in order to save his family.
Unbeknownst to Rurik, his love, Tasya Hunnicutt is seeking the icon as well. Tasya and Rurik both have secrets from each other but their secrets eventually intersect bringing whatever relationship and feelings that they have for each other to a head. In essence, will the search for the icon, the need for the icon, for vengeance for their families, mean more than their budding love?
I liked the development of the worldbuilding and I appreciated the skill it took to craft a completely new way of presenting the mythology that had been detailed in the previous book. In the old, good days, all the Varinskis shifted into high predators: wolves, bears, hawks. Now, because the Wilders are beginning to break the curse, the Varinskis are falling apart. There is intense infighting and weak leadership. The shapeshifters are starting to turn into lower predators like snakes. As any cornered predator, the Varinskis are more dangerous than ever.
While this book is technically proficient, I think that it tugs on the heartstrings in an obvious and not terribly believable manner toward the end. It’s romance, after all. I guess that is one of the pitfalls of genre expectations. I also felt that the suspense and the world building overshadowed the romance a bit. Still, I would never have guessed you would have made such a good paranormal romance writer. Bring on book 3. I can’t wait to see what well loved trope is reimagined. B