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.