Review: A Dark Kiss of Rapture by Sylvia Day

darkkiss_sylviadayFinal Rating: threeandahalfcupscropped Three and a half cups of tea that were surprisingly good!

OK, I’ll be honest. I started reading this book with low expectations. Can you blame me? Between the overly indulgent name and the silly, Harlequin-esque cover, it seemed a pretty sure bet that this was going to be non-stop rakishness and purple prose.

But as it turns out, I’m not as clever as I thought, and this book is actually pretty damn fun. It’s not perfect–which we’ll get to in a second–but I was surprised by how much genuine enjoyment I got out of it. So much so, that I actually forgot to keep live-tweeting it several times throughout the night.

Let’s start with the male protagonist, Raze. He hits the ground running with the whole “bad boy” thing. He doesn’t make love to women, he fucks them. (And of course, he goes for hours.) There are eviscerated bodies on his porch. He’s friends with people who wear stilettos and leather suits. He straps katanas or daggers to every available inch of his body when he goes out. His pedigree is also fairly confusing–a fallen angel that is also a vampire? Christ, if he gets any more chiseled, you could put him in a museum under “sculptures”.  At first glance, he sounds almost exactly like every single broody, lone-wolf character I used to see in forum RPGs, and I was more than ready to hate him.

But as it turns out, Raze is actually a pretty decent guy. (Especially for a romance novel!) He’s straightforward and unapologetic about his womanizing, but he’s not malicious about it. Unexpectedly, he doesn’t act like women are objects, nor less than him somehow. In fact, in his first meeting with the female protagonist (Kim), he assesses her less in terms of body type, and more in terms of her personality (and what I call her “quiet self”). He also seems genuinely concerned with her needs. Which is why, at first, he believes that he wouldn’t be a good fit for her, something I have yet to see happen in the brain of most guys in romance novels.

By the way, there isn’t any condescension in this decision that he won’t be good for Kim–he’s not trying to martyr himself, gain pity, or proclaim he knows Everything About Women. He legit takes the time to assess her like a human being, gets a feeling that she’s worth more than a quick fuck, and tries to back away. But when she insists, he respects her own description of her boundaries, and reassess. He listens. (Granted, one of the voices he’s listening to resides in his pants, but we’ve all done that a time or two) Again, for a romance novel, this is pretty fuckin’ cool to me.

Downside? Raze and all of his friends are either Mary Sues or Gary Stus. They are all painfully perfect (or deadly, or both) and beautiful in every way. They also seem to be pretty whitewashed, but I guess that’s typical of fallen angel type stuff. They are also a sheer fuckton of them. Seriously, there were so many new characters being introduced so fast I am still not sure who did what or why. This situation was muddied even further by the fact that Day does have a tendency to indulge in what I consider to be too much exposition. There was a lot of history (both personal and political) crammed into each scene, so much so that I wasn’t really allowed the opportunity to organically learn the information, which made it all seem very As You Know, Bob. My brain starts skimming when I hit walls of exposition, and as a result the details of the various subplots are a little hazy.

I was also a little worried that Kim doesn’t really seem to have a life outside of her relationship with Raze. The book does focus on her from time to time, but the central point of her conversations and actions are all him. For example, this book fails the Bechdel Test completely, though I do take heart in the fact that Kim seems to have healthy friendships, strong family ties, and a job she describes passionately. I have my fingers crossed that, in future books, her life away from Raze will take a fuller shape, even as the two of them grow closer.

Now, for the thing that blew me away and made me love this book more than I was anticipating: The sex scenes.

And no, I am not speaking exclusively in terms of how “hot” they were, (even though they totally were) but more in terms of believability. The sex Raze and Kim have is sex I can actually imagine two people having, and more importantly it’s sex real people would want to have. There are none of the cringe-worthy terms I see in most romance novels about fusing lips or hot cores or shattering orgasms. It feels genuine. Yes, Raze still has the typical Incredible Penis of Amazing Bigness, but to be honest that’s about the only flaw I could find. They even watch TV and eat in bed afterwards, like a real couple would.

More than just believable sex, Raze acts like a believable human being (even though he isn’t one) in that he doesn’t force Kim to do anything. There were a few moments that earned him some mild side-eye, but compared to most male protagonists in a romance novel? Holy shit, what a winner. He gave Kim space, let her take the lead, and never did anything without her (enthusiastic) consent. Even though their interactions trade on the traditional “normally aloof character is amazed by how much he is attracted to other character” exchange, it happens in a believable way. Raze wants her, but he doesn’t put his needs above her. Their time together didn’t have that usual, sickening edge to it that I see so often in romance where he just has to get off right now and it doesn’t matter what anyone else wants.

Oh, and did I mention one of the things he likes best about Kim is not the size of her breasts or her ass, but in fact her confidence and efficiency? Yeah.

It’s not a perfect book–there were some things that straight-up made me laugh out loud at how ridiculous they were–but damn, it’s close. Especially for a paranormal romance. And after a day of reading incredibly subpar work, it was precisely the breath of fresh air that I needed. Sylvia Day is absolutely an author I will be returning to.

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