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Ok, so romance isn’t usually my thing- a lot of it seems to go against my feminist principles, with its swooning, easily-seduced women and cold but devastatingly handsome men. That said, there have been some romance novels I’ve liked, so I decided to give Abigail Gibbs’ The Dark Heroine a go, as it has had a lot of hype, and is about vampires. Foolishly, I believed this hype. I was hoping for something dark and sensual- a little bit of Anne Rice, a little bit of Angela Carter. Instead I got attempted rape, snarly, one-dimensional characters and page after mind-numbing page of a plot that really didn’t seem to go anywhere (and at over 500 pages, that’s a lot.) What I could wrangle from the plot is this- a young seventeen year old named Violet is standing in Trafalgar Square when she sees a group of men being brutally attacked by another group of mysterious strangers. They turn out to be vampires, who abduct her and keep her their prisoner in their mansion. Not once does Violet scream even really try to run away while the attack is going on. And this is pretty much the whole of her character development- in my opinion, she is woefully passive, content to coast along and wonder why she likes Kaspar Varn, a ‘prince of vampires’ (yes, really) when he is so cruel and an ‘arse’ to her. (I may be paraphrasing, but that’s an actual quote.) Kaspar Varn is apparently meant to be handsome and enigmatic, her love interest and the ‘hero’ of the story, but really, all he is to me is her callous, unrelentingly cold abductor, who whisks her away to his luxurious estate after the attack, and refuses to let her leave. And oh, yeah, he attempts to rape her, in a scene that seems to be glossed over as ‘sexual chemistry.’ It’s not – it’s just one man’s misogyny and the threat of rape. I’d go into the plot in more detail, except that it is largely forgettable in most places, and chock-full of stereotypical charming, snobby, and of course devastating beautiful vampires. I know that may sound extreme, but to be honest, this book really does not agree with me. At times, the ‘romance’ between Violet and Kaspar seems so stilted and forced it practically takes a trip back to the Fifties, with a bit of lacklustre ‘mortal vs. vampire’ politics thrown in for good measure. I thought we’d moved on from the Fifties ‘perfect girlfriend/swooning woman/ cruel male protector’ type of characters, but clearly they’ve all just holed up in the Varnley estate with some blood bags. Most of all, it pains me that Violet is ultimately happy enough to be Krappy Kaspar’s Kaptive in the beautiful prison of the Varnley. Sorry Violet, this isn’t love or romance- this is just Stockholm Syndrome.
Rating: Zero out of ten. Perhaps harsh to some people, but to me, attempted rape isn’t sexy and it shouldn’t be validated as a flimsy attempt at Beauty and the Beast style chemistry. Yuck.
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