Dark Challenge

Dark Desires

Dark Fire

Dark Legend

Dark Magic

Dark Melody

Dark Prince

Dark Symphony

Hot Blooded

Lair of the Lion

Lover Beware

Wild Rain

Dark Secret by Christine Feehan
(Berkley, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-20641-6
Sorry, but I can’t hide it from myself any more. I’m officially in Dark déjà vu.

Colby Jansen is running herself into the ground, single-handedly trying to keep the family ranch solvent and raise her half-siblings, sixteen-year-old Paul and eleven-year-old Ginny Chevez. The Chevez family disowned Armando, Paul and Ginny’s father, when he married Colby’s mother (they assumed she was Anglo trash because she’d had Colby out of wedlock before she met Armando). To his shame, Armando never adopted Colby, because he was afraid his grandfather would never accept his marriage if he did. The patriarch is now dead, as is Paul and Ginny’s father. Armando’s brothers have decided they want Paul and Ginny to go live with them in Brazil.

Colby is determined that she will not allow Paul and Ginny to be taken from her by these (she assumes) haughty, self-righteous people, but the Chevez brothers have brought their rich and powerful friends, Nicolas and Rafael De La Cruz, to back their claim. They’re certainly an intimidating group, and Nicolas De La Cruz scares Colby. Partly because his cold eyes tell her he “could take a life and never think twice about it” and partly because she senses that he has psychic powers much like her own. Colby can feel him exerting subtle but “relentless” mental pressure to do as he tells her and it terrifies her.

It’s even more disturbing to meet Nicolas’s brother, Rafael. After moments in his company, she realizes that “he would own a woman, make her a sexual slave with no thought but to please him.” No way she’s going to let that happen to her, no matter how sexy he is.

After moments in her company, Rafael is seeing colors and feeling emotions he has not experienced in over a thousand years. And she can block her mind to him.

“The fact maddened him, sent temper drifting through his bloodstream to mingle with the sexual hunger and lust rising so acutely. He would have her. All of her, no matter the cost. He would keep her for his own, make love to her when he chose. Feed his hunger, possess her. Own her. She would obey him and she would never close her mind to his once he unlocked her secrets.”

Etc. etc. etc. In other words, Rafael is the Everycarpathian über-alpha. If anything, he’s even more arrogant and aggressive than usual, possibly on the rebound from Ms. Feehan’s recent attempts to create a kinder, gentler Carpathian. Colby is the usual lifemate, spunky and defiant, with her lips saying ‘no, no’ but her eyes, and other pertinent body parts, saying ‘yes, yes’ as she goes kicking and screaming to her inevitable fate.

There’s the usual solemn Carpathian sidekick, clinging to sanity just long enough to help his friend (or, in this case, brother) win his lifemate and defeat the usual vampire super-villain with whom they have a past. The sidekick usually gets a book of his own.

The heroine, as usual, is in peril – in this case, from someone who’s apparently trying to destroy the ranch – allowing Rafael to convince her of his devotion by working with her to defeat her enemies even though it may not be in his stated interests. Her denial of her situation, as usual, goes on and on and on. I have to admit, in almost every Dark book, this is the spot (about two-thirds of the way in) that I usually start skimming pages while Carpathian and lifemate go round and round in the usual ‘yes you will’ ‘no I won’t’ circles.

There’s the usual battle with the minions of darkness, followed by the battle royal in which somebody nearly gets killed. And so on and so forth.

In other words, it’s Carpathian business as usual. Some people will like this book for that, readers who simply can’t get enough of this lore and actually want the same story over and over. More power to all of you. For myself, after thirteen Dark installments, many of which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly, the formula is losing its usual appeal.

-- Judi McKee

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