Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Friday, 9 January 2009


In her excellent post, CJ observed the hugeness of Kresley Cole’s plots. Everything is so extreme. The stakes are high, the obstacles to HEA are near insurmountable; everything is larger than life, particularly the heroes.

Take the first sentence of Dark Desires After Dusk:
Cadeon Woede came upon the headless bodies of his foster father and brothers first, the three slain in a desperate defense of their home
Naturally, Cade blames himself for the gruesome death of his foster family, and he blames himself (and is blamed by others) for the loss of his brother’s kingdom, now ruled by an evil sorcerer who - naturally, he's evil - brutally oppresses its people. So Cade is like the guiltiest person in the world.

To top it off, the only way he can win back the kingdom and redeem himself is by grossly betraying his fated female.

Holly the heroine is also The Vessel (see previous post) and she will bear a child of ultimate evil or ultimate good, depending on the father.

The extremes don’t stop there. Cade is a larger-than-life, slobbish, hedonistic, philandering rage demon. Holly is a tightly repressed virgin mathematician with OCD.

Cade is huge, and he has horns. Holly is a tiny, demure blond.

And so on.

But it’s all very compelling: of course it is. Mix in a little self-referential humour and most times even a grumpy reader is disarmed. A little.
Her brows drew together. “Wait. I’m called a Vessel? Could there be a more derogatory term? By its very definition, a vessel is of no importance compared to its contents… Couldn’t these Lorekind have gone with baby maker or bun oven?

“I lobbied for cargo hold, but just lost out.”

Reading the Immortals is like going on an old fashioned adventure: there are quests, and magical swords and maps marked with X; there are talismans and ancient curses and journeys to the outer reaches of the world (okay, Alaska).

In another nod-and-wink moment, Holly likens her predicament to being in a computer game (“Level one, defeat pervert. Level two, engage army of revenants…")

Throw in some wacky side characters, like the soothsayer Valkyrie Nix (or, Nucking Futs Nix), who enters the story with characteristic élan:
Half an hour had dragged by when a red Bentley pulled up behind them, hopping the curb in an alignment-wrecking jounce…. There were dings in the body, mud all over the tires, smoke tendrils rising from the hood, and at least two bullet holes. A Garfield doll was stuck to the rear window.

That Garfield makes the description gold.

What you get is a perfect cupcake* of a story; light and fluffy with a dramatic swirl of icing on top. Just don't think too hard about the ingredients.

A solid B for Dark Desires After Dusk, though all my points in the post below are still there, niggling. I suppose there’s a lot to be said for charm and slapstick, and a personal chemistry with the writing that can make allowances for all kinds of wrong.

*The cupcake analogy might be flawed, but I spent half an hour looking at cupcakes on the internet. Who knew?

Oooh: Alien cupcakes!

Is anyone else hungry?

Thursday, 8 January 2009


Have you ever read a book in a bad tempered sort of way, picking out faults and trying very hard not to be won over?

I’ve been doing that a lot recently, and the latest victim of my reading blues was Kresley Cole. This was particularly sad as I truly enjoyed her Immortals After Dark series last year; I even glommed.

What set me off (other than a generally grumpy disposition)? The Glossary of Terms preceding the story. In it, The Vessel is described thus
At the cusp of each Ascension, a chosen female will beget a child who will become a warrior of either ultimate evil or of ultimate good –

- depending on the father

(Double gah!)

Way to strip the female of even the faintest whiff of autonomy.

Riled, I continued on and sure enough poor Holly the heroine/ vessel is summarily stripped naked and placed on a ceremonial altar by evil demons, so that she might be raped/ impregnated. In the first twenty pages. Later that night, Holly’s bare legs are ogled on by the hero, who admires their smooth, sleek and toned perfection.

(Yeah, I thought sourly. If I were unexpectedly kidnapped by demons and stripped naked, my legs too would be smooth and sleek and worthy of admiration. Except, no, they wouldn’t.)

Cade, the ne’er do well demon hero veers towards the obnoxious. Any guy who ends the majority of his sentences with a ‘yeah?’ would probably drive me nuts, but then he has the temerity to label an amorous lady bar owner ‘a slag’ to dispel Holly’s suspicions, which – hello, if anyone’s a slag, it would be the unrepentantly lecherous and horny Cade, whose reputation as a man-slut precedes him.

But it’s different for boys.

Cade also has the cheek to say:
“For the record, male Lorekind have higher opinions of females than human males do. The playing field’s more equal in our world.”

This coming from a breed of Demon who ‘claims his female’ by turning fully into his demon form and biting her into submission… plus, Vessel, anyone?

The other thing that really irked was all the rampant consumption that goes on between the covers of an Immortals novel. Burbury, million dollar sports cars, Ipods, Wiis, Bentleys, and expensive silk and lace undergarments that are the staple of any self-respecting virgin heroine’s attire.

I found myself hoping Holly and Cade are affected by the global financial crisis in a brutal way. (Also tiring: nauseating articles about how the mega-rich are really glum about losing their money.)

And while I’m on my nit-picking rampage – why does Holly have to be delicate?

What exactly is a ‘masculine jaw’?

What is a ‘feminine scent’?

Grumpy Romance reader will stop there.

In tomorrow’s post: why I loved Dark Desires After Dusk despite everything.