A Darker Dream was the last book I read in 2009. It entertained me well enough for a day (or two), although I felt the the angst in the last quarter of the book to be drawn out longer than necessary.
This book takes place in the early 1900′s where a 15 year old girl (Rhianna) is presented to a gathering of wealthy men to be sold. As the trembling girl is made to disrobe, Rayven takes pity on her, tells her to keep her clothes on, and purchases her on the spot.
Rayven, one of the wealthiest men in town, is considered a recluse, and has been the center of town gossip for years. Rich beyond belief, living in a dark castle on a hill, barely aging and only coming out at night, there are whispers that he is a monster of sorts. Rhianna, terrified that she is going home with him, is quickly surprised when he tells her he has no intention of bedding her, or of having her do anything for him at all.
“I’ve no intention of bedding you, girl.”
The relief in her voice caused a sharp pain in the nether regions of a heart he had thought long past feeling. “No.”
“Then why…” Her cheeks grew redder. “I thought…”
“I bought you for reasons of my own, sweet Rhianna,” he replied, his voice as silky as the gown she wore.
She is to simply “exist” in his home, doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She finds herself catered to by “Bevins” (Rayven’s butler of sorts). She is provided beautiful dresses, fed bountiful meals, and is taught to read, paint and play music. She lives this way for months, asking about Rayven, but barely ever seeing him (although unbeknownst to her, he occasionally visits her while she sleeps to feed from her).
She was so beautiful, this child-woman who wandered through his house by day and sustained him through the night. He knew her thoughts, heard the tears she sometimes shed at night. It pleased him to satisfy her every want, to dress her in fine clothes, to provide the best food and wine that money could buy. He took pride in her ability to learn, and ordered books and music he thought would please her.
It was the least he could do, he thought, for she gave him life, and no matter how he tried, he could never repay her for that.
After some time, Rayven begins to join her while she eats supper, sits with her while she reads to him, and converses with her. As he begins to develop an attachment to her (and her to him), he fears for her safety.
“It is not my wish to hurt you, Rhianna.”
“You weren’t hurting me.” Heat climbed up her neck and into her cheeks. “Quite the opposite, my lord.”
“Ah, child,” Rayven murmured, stroking her cheek. “If you only knew.”
In his past, his dangerous bloodlust has been known to takeover during intimacy, forcing him to live as a recluse with no intention of ever loving again. To keep himself from falling further in love with her, he sends her away to a school in Paris.
Four years later (now an adult) she returns to her hometown for her fathers funeral, and seeks out Rayven. This is where the angst begins. Rayven’s resistance of ever seeing her again, his forceful and even rude dismissal of her…
“And you?” he asked. “have you, in your few short years of life, found love?”
“Aye, my lord, though I fear he does not return my affection.”
“Then he is a fool!”
A faint smile curved Rhianna’s lips. “On that, at least, we are agreed.”
Rayven fought back his anger. The urge to destroy the cur who failed to return her love rose up within him, and with it an all-consuming jealousy. “Who is this man?”
“Can you not guess?” Rhianna replied, her voice hardly more than a whisper.
Rayven closed his eyes, pain ripping through him. If he survived another four hundred years, he would never forget this moment, the love shining bright and clear in her eyes, the wonder of it.
A long shuddering sigh escaped him, and then he opened his eyes.
“Go away from here, Rhianna,” he said, his voice brusque, his eyes as cold as black ice. “Leave my house and never come back.”
She recoiled as if he had slapped her, the hurt in her eyes scorched his soul.
“Be gone,” he said. “Pray I never see you again.”
…and her stubborn insistence that she be allowed back into his life will lure you in. The middle of the book is nicely detailed with their clashing of wills, their undeniable attraction to one another, and his jealousy when another man begins to court her.
I loved reading about the girl getting to know her new life, wondering about the dark stranger that she lives with and their time together as they become friends and she develops a crush on him. I enjoyed the view from his eyes as he realizes he is falling in love with her, albeit to his horror. But most of all I loved when she returns home as an adult and unabashedly chases him with all she’s got. That whole section from his angry outbursts, to her perseverance, their toying with each other, to their eventual union, had me hooked.
Here is one of my favorite, heartbreaking moments, as Ravyn joins her for supper. Her mind wanders as she begins to doubt a life with him, realizing, too late, that Raven was just privy to her wayward thoughts:
This was how it would be when they were married, she thought. They would never share a meal, or walk hand in hand in the gardens in the morning when the dew sparkled on the ground. She would never know the wonder of motherhood. She would change her life to conform to his. The moon would become her sun, the night her day.
She was suddenly aware of the silence in the room. She could feel his gaze burning into her. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to meet his eyes.
Pain. Stark, unrelenting pain. And beneath it all, the loneliness of four hundred years. How did he bear it?
He said nothing, only stared at her, and she knew that he had divined her every thought, that he had felt her revulsion, her pity. She could feel the rage that bubbled beneath the surface, his anger, his bitterness.
She felt her heart skip a beat as he lurched to his feet. For a moment, he stared down at her, and then, his cloak whipping around his ankles, he left the room.
Poor Raven. After insisting that she move on with her life, warning her of his true nature, and finally relinquishing his guarded heart to her, he still manages to have it broken.
While there were some moments of danger to each of them, this is not a book of action/adventure. It is a tale of unconventional love and acceptance. Unfortunately, there was a point, where I felt it was simply running on, trying to find more reasons to delay the end with more of the same fears and apprehensions. You’d think they finally accepted each other and were ready to move into the next phase, and woops, back to the drawing board. At first, it was engaging, fully charged with delicious angst, but then it became longwinded and somewhat eye-rolling…
The ending did have something that I wasn’t expecting (although I might have preferred an alternate ending) but so be it. Overall, it was a decent book to end the year with.
Guess what I get to do now?!! It’s time for J.Kaye’s 100+ Reading Challenge, and I’m gonna start it with a bang! I hear the Fever Series from Karen Marie Moning is to die for, and well, whatdo-yaknow? I received the series for Christmas (thank you hubby!), and it’s patiently awaiting me in my Sony E-Book. Yay for me!!
Off I go to meet this mysterious “Barrons” that has the girls in a frenzy…