Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Darkest Joy, by Marata Eros

Review by: Rachel Gonzales

Marata Eros is the author of over seventy titles, including the New York Times bestseller A Terrible Love and the Token series. Her novels cover a variety of genres, including erotica, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and suspense. The Darkest Joy, published in 2014, tells the story of a young woman who escapes a terrible tragedy only to find solace, happiness, and love in the most unexpected of places.

Official synopsis:
Six months ago, Brooke Starr was one impeccable piano performance away from Juilliard. Now, she is lonely, devastated, orphaned … seeking solace in a place where the sun never sets and trying to make sense of the dark tragedy that clouds her shattered heart.

Deep-sea fisherman Chance Taylor can’t imagine what his life would be if he’d never taken that midnight stroll to the pier. Had never seen the intriguing, raven-haired girl swan dive into the Alaskan sea. Had never plunged into the icy waters to rescue her … and finally felt her electric charge.

As their blazing chemistry consumes them, Chance is determined to save Brooke from her demons. But Brooke knows she must find her own footing. She thinks she’s already lost everything -- until the terror of her past catches up with her and threatens all that she has left: her life, her love, and the freedom to choose between drowning in grief and finding joy in the darkness.

I read a lot of romance novels of the more “traditional” variety (I started my long-term love affair with historical romances in my early adolescence, when I’d sneak my mom’s Kathleen E. Woodiwiss books while she was at work), but there are only so many corsets and petticoats one person can stand, so when I get the chance to check out someone I haven’t heard of, I will always jump at the opportunity.

There was much about this book that I was looking forward to. The story is set primarily in modern-day Alaska, which is a big change from Victorian and Edwardian England. There is not a bustle to be found anywhere. All the characters in this book use email and smartphones and have indoor plumbing. Progress! Underlying the love story at the center of the novel is a mystery -- my second-favorite kind of reading. Plus, even though I consider myself a “modern” and “enlightened” woman, I don’t read as much erotica as maybe I should, but I am always willing to expand my horizons (let’s just forget about the bad experience I had with Fifty Shades of Grey, okay?).

Unfortunately, this novel did not live up to my expectations. To be blunt: the “romance” at the core of this story did not seem, to me, particularly romantic. Brooke, our heroine, leaves Seattle for Alaska, despondent, to try to rebuild her life after a family tragedy. But at only 20, Brooke hasn’t really had a life yet, so her need to “rebuild” seems forced. Brooke going to Alaska for the summer on a whim would have made much more sense than what actually happened. She’s just so young, and not in an inexperienced way, but in a … Kylie Jenner kind of way. Add in a not-so-cute meet-cute with Chance, an “older man” still nursing some heartbreak of his own, and what you have at the end of their inexplicable and unbelievable whirlwind romance is the stuff of bad Lifetime movies. Mutual depression disguised as mutual attraction is not particularly satisfying (and neither, frankly, were any of the “erotic parts”).

Additionally, I didn’t think the mystery was very well-handled; it seemed like the suspense element was an afterthought, something the author’s editor insisted upon, rather than something that came organically in the writing process. The “big reveal” to the mystery came out of nowhere and made little sense -- there are no clues, only red herrings. All of the missed connections, the warning calls, the cryptic messages that were supposed to build suspense only made everyone involved look flighty and silly. I would much have preferred character development in those pages, something to make Brooke and Chance resemble real people and not generic, stereotypical “romance novel characters.” There are a whole lot of immature people acting immaturely in this book.

On the plus side: the descriptions of Alaska and Brooke’s home there were lovely, and I definitely more-than-briefly trying to convince my husband to go there on a cruise sometime and maybe stay in a rustic turn-of-the-century cabin, driving around the countryside in a rented VW Bus. Those parts of the story were wholly believable.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.
{Click here to purchase}

About the reviewer:

Rachel Gonzales is a wife, mom, theatre geek, and substitute high school teacher (not necessarily in that order) from Pennsylvania. She reads anything and everything, including bizarro comic books that she finds on dusty old shelves in the back of the toy store near the mogwai. Her favorite color is purple and her favorite punctuation mark is the Oxford comma.


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