|Yet another favorite historical romance author leaps onto the paranormal bandwagon, and lands with a disappointing thud. Scent of Darkness is the first of a series about a family of shapeshifters, and there’s nothing original or entertaining enough here to make me want to go back for more.
A thousand years ago, a Russian warrior named Konstantine made a pact with the devil, pledging his soul and the souls of his descendents in return for a long life and the ability to shapeshift. Oh, and near-miraculous healing abilities. All went along swimmingly, with lots of evil afoot and requisite mayhem on the part of the descendents, until one Konstantine Wilder married a gypsy, left for America, had four children, and turned his back on the pact. The devil commanded that the Wilders be eliminated.
Ann Smith is the administrative assistant to Jasha Wilder, the uber-sexy, uber-wealthy head of a business empire. One day Ann throws sensibility to the winds and decides to seduce her boss. How? She’ll show up at his estate (the guy owns no less than twenty miles of Washington coastline) in her new red Miata, her new Wonderbra, and her new makeup. Surely he’ll take one look at the new and improved Ann Smith and fall for her like a ton of bricks.
Ann makes her dimwitted way to Jasha’s house on the coast, only to surprise him as he’s shifting from a wolf to a man. She runs off in her car, gets in a wreck, and Jasha chases her through the woods, where he runs her to ground and - because, darn it, he’s so sexy and irresistible! - they have sex on the ground. While she was fleeing, Ann uncovered an icon of a Madonna under some leaves, and it seems that this is one of the four missing pieces that Jasha’s family needs to break the curse on them.
So Jasha takes Ann back to his lair, er house, and they have sex. Lots and lots of sex. Jasha also orders Ann around a lot, decides he knows what’s best for her, and generally takes charge. Ann, who is an orphan with A Secret, puts up with his nonsense because she loves him. Loves him! Even though, up until their little forest interlude, he’s barely given her the time of day. And now it seems that Ann has unwittingly led some assassins straight to Jasha, so if they are to survive, they’ll have to work together, if Jasha can ever stop bossing her around.
Let’s face it: this is not a romance, this is infatuation and hot sex. I didn’t believe in this “love story” for one second, and given that Jasha was about as abrasively alpha as they come, I didn’t care if they got together or not. (On second thought, he is a wolf, and I guess there aren’t many beta wolves, so maybe Ms. Dodd felt she had no choice.) The R rating on this review is for the graphic terminology, but since it’s devoid of much emotion other than lust, it soon felt flat. “Insert tab A into slot B”, that sort of mechanical stuff. Just not appealing. Even Ann’s Big Secret was pretty much a non-issue.
All this is soooo disappointing because, darn it, I know how good Dodd can be when she’s in fine form. This just isn’t it. Maybe an editor suggested this (“Hey, paranormals are hot! Readers can’t get enough of them!” Except, a lot of us have) or maybe she wanted to stretch her wings and try something new. I hope it’s the latter. I’d like to think this was her choice and it just didn’t work, rather than some editor forcing it on her. There are flashes of the Christina Dodd I’ve grown to admire in Scent of Darkness, but like an ill-fitting coat, it’s mostly uncomfortable.