Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dark Secret, Christine Feehan

This is the 2nd story in Darkest at Dawn, which has Dark Hunger (14) and Dark Secret (15).

We meet another of the De la Cruz brothers, actually we meet 2, but Nicolas is only around for a few pages. The main brother is Rafael, and he is the first Carpathian I really don't like. All Carpathian men are arrogant and domineering to an extent, but Rafael? He's just an ass. Riordan mentions in Dark Hunger that the brothers have always been more Carpathian than other Carpathians. Stronger, smarter, more arrogant and domineering.

He is really all about having everything his own way.

His lifemate is Colby. She's a cowgirl. No shit. A cowgirl. She also has the same last name as Gary from Dark Magic. We don't learn anything about that really, but I feel like it can't be a mistake/coincidence.

They meet because Rafael and Nicolas go to Colby's ranch to convince her to come to Brazil with her brother and sister, Paul and Ginny. See, the De la Cruz family has a human family they're close with. The Chavez family knows they're Carpathian and have been working with the brothers for centuries.

The stories a little complicated...

One Chavez went the US and met Colby's mother, only Colby was already on the way. They fell in love and got married and had 2 more children, Paul and Ginny. When the patriarch found out about Colby, he was not pleased. He disowned the father if he wasn't willing to leave his wife and her child. Then there was a plane crash, leaving Colby's mother dead and her father paralyzed, unable to work the ranch. Colby takes over the work and raising her 2 siblings while she cares for her father. All of this when she's like 16. Her father lives for a while, and in that time he writes a letter to his family begging them to take his children in. They never hear back.

Now his two brothers have come with the De la Cruz brothers to bring them back to Brazil, as they were asked. Only there's a bit of a mix up. See, Colby knows she and her mother were the reason her father was disowned. Her father admitted that he only asked the family to take in Paul and Ginny because he thought they would refuse all the children if he insisted on including Colby. She figures they're just here for Paul and Ginny and refuses to let snobby strangers take her family. But, why after all this time, is the family coming to claim the kids?

Well, that asshole patriarch is now dead, and while going through his things, they find the letter from the father asking for his children - all of them, he added Colby later - to be taken in. So, now they've come, only just finding out about the letter and the children. Of course Colby knows none of that. She just sees the Chavez family trying to steal her siblings away, and toss her out on her ass. And she's too stubborn to even listen. The rich and powerful De la Cruz brothers are just there to buy their way around the rules, in her estimation.

The brothers don't do much to dissuade her from that idea either. Remember the domineering bit? Yeah. They try some mind control. Unsuccessfully. So, she's obviously not thrilled with Rafael's romantic advances. She figures it just another way to get her siblings.

So, I know that's a long winded explanation to say Colby doesn't trust the Brazil delegation, but it is necessary. And don't worry, it doesn't diminish the story to know all that.

But it does help me explain why Rafael is an ass. Now, I've tried to stay away from a feminist perspective for each book. One, I think it'd get boring and repetitive. Two, I wanted to focus on and enjoy the books as they are. However, this one really needs some attention.

Rafael knows he can seduce Colby, and he does. But sometimes, people don't want to be seduced. And just because someones body responds, doesn't mean they want it. Colby even calls Rafael out for his seduction, saying it's not far from rape. Now, intent matters in this story. Rafael wasn't trying to force Colby. In his mind he was showing her what he had to offer. And they are married in his mind. Of course, even a spouse can refuse. He's dominant, but there's a difference between dominant sexually and dominant in life. There's nothing wrong with sexual dominance, if that's what both partners want. He tells Colby she wouldn't want someone who couldn't hold their own with her in life, but is slow figuring out that holding ones own, and owning someone are different things.

He gets there eventually.

One of the biggest issues is that Colby can block people out of her mind. In all the other stories, the couple get to know each other so quickly because they share their minds. Colby doesn't trust Rafael enough to let him in, and he can't get in without her permission...or hurting her. At least to start. So, basically, they have to communicate like humans: talking. It really highlights why the mind meld is so important to Carpathian relationships.

Generally though, he's a really hard character to like. The other Carpathians have been confident, maybe even overly so, and that confidence is often referred to as arrogance, but Rafael is seriously arrogant. Not even close to being the good kind, or an asset at all. He does kind of grow on you by the end, but he has a lot of learning to do before he does.

As has been the pattern lately, we meet a character which will matter later. This time we meet Natalya. She's the woman in the picture Vikirnoff got in Dark Destiny - she even tells Colby she can see an object's history if she touches it. Vikirnoff pops up briefly, still looking for his mystery woman, and helps kill a vampire. They also determine that Colby is Natalya's niece. Unfortunately, her brother is dead, so Colby can't meet her biological father. Colby's not too broken up about it. One reason they figure this out is that they share a birthmark. The mark burns when vampires are near and Natalya has been told the hunters will kill anyone with the mark. Which is weird because Rafael has played with Colby's mark during lovemaking.

See Natalya has been told an entirely different history. It was mentioned in Dark Descent briefly that a Carpathian woman was kidnapped by a mage and her lifemate murdered. That apparently started the war. Natalya has been told that the woman left her husband for "a powerful man," had a son and 2 daughters with him, and then died. Her son was Natalya's father. The birthmark is a mark of that lineage and the Carpathians are sworn to kill anyone with that mark based on this old war. A war based on a spurned husband's pride.

Colby finds this suspect. She remembers Rafael tracing the mark. She also can't see him killing her just because some lady left her husband hundreds of years ago.

And of course she's right. Rafael finally notices the mark consciously and tells her the mark, and the bloodline is revered among Carpathians. It seems she's related to Dominic, who we met briefly in Dark Symphony. It brings his comments about finding his sister and clearing her name into better context.

Anyway, I think all that means Natalya and Vikirnoff are our next story.

Over all I liked this one, I just didn't like Rafael. Being powerful and sexy doesn't mean you can't be a douche-bag.

Dark Secret, Christine Feehan

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