Darius: Lord of Pleasures (Lonely Lords, #1)

Overall Thoughts

I took a long break between this book my last review, The Virtuoso. I wrote in that review that I was not looking forward to rereading Darius because it depends on the use of my absolute least favorite trope in romance. I stopped reading in July 2019. We’re now in the waning days of December 2019, nearly six months later. That’s how much I did not want to read this book.

Having read it again for only the second time, my feelings aren’t entirely improved. Darius is the story of Darius Lindsey and Vivian Longstreet. Darius is a younger son who seems to have a notorious reputation and a need for money. He’s contracted by Vivian’s much older husband to have an affair with her so Vivian can conceive a child to carry on William Longstreet’s barony and ensure Vivian’s welfare after his death.

I hate this trope. I hate it. I know all the reasons it’s around, and I think Grace Burrowes handles it better than most, but I hate it more when it’s the husband that contracts the affair on behalf of the wife. Sure, Vivian had a list and picked Darius, but there’s still a sense of agency that is lacking. I just….ugh. I hate it.

That being said, the trope is not why this is not a good book. I remarked in The Virtuoso that I had forgotten how much of Darius takes place during the span of other books — the entirety of Virtuoso takes place within the second chunk of this story. Nicholas also takes place during Darius. This book takes place during a year, and, wow, does Burrowes make it hard to get to the end of this.

We meet Darius’s other married ladies who pay him so they can spank and whip him. We meet his sister, Leah. There’s a minor subplot with Leah and Nicholas, but it’s so vague and hazy as to keep the best scenes for their book that it’s mostly distracting here.

There’s several villains set up, but all of them fizzle by the end. The romance and friendship itself is sweet, but I think it collapses under the muddiness of the narrative. It’s strange to say that it’s not the trope that bothers me, it’s everything else. We’ll get into it in the weeds, but this book is kneecapped by its place in the universe and the fact that meatiest part of this story is completely missing.

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The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Overall

Every time I reread a new Nora Roberts release, I always go back and start reading some of her older work. I just finished Under Currents which I sort of liked but didn't love. It reminded me of The Obsession without the payoff or follow through. So I returned and reread The Obsession, including the first two parts which I usually skip -- the backstory of Naomi before she shows up in the Cove, basically. It's the same way I skip the first part of The Witness and start the book when Brooks shows up.

It's not because either of these parts are not well-written or important to the story, but when I reread romance novels, I'm usually more interested in rereading the romance part of it and in these stories -- the romance doesn't start until the hero and heroine are on the same page.

I like The Obsession, but it's not my favorite of these kinds of books (that's The Witness, literally my favorite NR book). I think the set up is really interesting -- the daughter of a serial killer grows up and is stalked by someone who is copying her father's crimes. The narrative follow through is decent (everything connects and there’s thematic resonance). I even like the supporting cast a lot.

I read a lot of reviews when this came out and saw some readers complaining about the excess of home restoration detail you get in this book. This is incredibly common in Nora Roberts’ novels. In the In the Garden trilogy and the recent Under Currents, we spent a lot of time with landscaping. In Birthright, we learned about archaeology. In The Witness, there was computer programming. The Inn Boonsboro trilogy was also heavy on construction and the local businesses (though that was partially an advertisement, heh).

It never drives me out of the story, to be honest, because I understand why it’s being written this way. It’s made very clear in the narrative that since the day Naomi graduated college, she’s been on the road. She’s moved around a lot. She arrived at the Cove, saw this house, and bought it. And this is the first home she’s had since her childhood.

So every time we stop to talk about Kevin and the work he’s doing or Lelo and the landscaping — it’s part of the construction of Naomi’s new life and the home she wants. The life she’s building. The life she’s not so quick to run away from when her past follows her there. It’s part of Naomi’s identity, and I’m okay with it. It works for me, but I can understand why it wouldn’t work for other readers.

The central narrative conflict is good and I like the resolution of the mystery. I like the romance, even if Xander isn’t really the most interesting of heroes. He’s fine—there’s nothing wrong with him. But there’s also nothing wrong with him, if that makes sense. He’s just someone who’s incredibly patient with Naomi but doesn’t seem to have any vulnerability of his own. He’s kind of a flat character in that I’m only interested in because I want Naomi to be happy.

This is one of those books that makes me very sad that Nora Roberts doesn’t write connected books in her hardback releases because I love Mason Carson, and I desperately want his HEA. He’s probably my second favorite character and I’m a bit sad we’ll never get more of him.

I like this book. It has almost everything I go to Nora Roberts for, with the exception of a truly dynamic second lead.

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