I give Christine Feehan props for creating a kinder, gentler vampire. Her Carpathians are powerful nocturnal creatures who feed on blood but don’t kill their victims. But for the life of me, I can’t understand the numerous accolades for her long-running Dark series. Dark Melody, Carpathian saga #9, reads like Dark Shadows crossed with Love Story; it’s more cheesy than romantic, and the imbalance of power between the forceful hero and ailing heroine did not appeal to me at all.
Carpathian males have to find their “lifemates” before they lose their souls, and our hero Dayan is fortunate to meet Corinne Wentworth when she visits the bar where he plays guitar with his band The Dark Troubadours. As is the case with all Carpathian males, Dayan knows immediately that Corinne is The One, and he sets about wooing her in typical Carpathian fashion, which primarily involves uttering lines like “You are mine forever” while brooding in a dangerous yet appealing way. Corinne is fascinated by the darkly handsome Dayan, but there’s a problem that prevents Dayan from claiming her: Corinne’s health. Not only does Corinne have a bad heart, but she is six months pregnant, and she doesn’t expect to live through the birth of her daughter. Fortunately for Dayan, there’s no husband in the picture; he was killed shortly after contacting a research institute about his strong psychic abilities. Since Corinne is also a psychic with telekinetic powers, she worries that she and her best friend/sister-in-law Lisa are in danger from the same forces that killed her husband.
Dayan believes that his fellow Carpathians have the power to heal Corinne’s heart, but he’s reluctant to tell her the full truth about his identity because the shock might literally kill her. And even if Corinne is saved by transforming into a Carpathian, what will happen to her baby? Corinne is willing to sacrifice her life for her daughter, but Dayan has other ideas. Without Corinne, he is doomed, so he must convince her to fight for her life.
I read romance novels to experience a love story between two equal partners whose relationship develops and strengthens through the challenges they face together. Nothing in the Carpathian universe comes close to approaching my ideal romance. On the one hand, we have a larger than life, overbearing hero, Dayan, who can read minds, shape-shift, influence human behavior, erase memories and leap tall buildings in a single bound. On the other hand we have Corinne, who is repeatedly described as small, weak, and vulnerable; in fact she is bedridden for at least half of the novel. Dayan, who naturally knows what’s best for Corinne, frequently controls her behavior by planting suggestions in her mind. That’s not love, that’s manipulation bordering on abuse. Their relationship feels more like one between father/daughter than between lovers, and in one chapter Dayan is even described as carrying Corinne in his arms like a child. Their relationship doesn’t grow or develop, it just exists. There’s no free will involved for either party with the lifemate concept. The problem of Corinne’s weak heart is a very real external conflict, but I need some interesting internal dynamics to make me care about the characters’ fates.
To add to my frustration, numerous Carpathians from previous Dark books clutter up the story. The men are all dark and powerful, the women are all spirited and beautiful…as a novice, I could barely keep them separate in my mind. The villains are faceless and less than one-dimensional so there’s nothing to engage me when Dayan and Corinne aren’t center stage. The issue of who murdered Corinne’s husband is quickly forgotten in favor of more Carpathian posturing and dire proclamations.
Feehan does have a distinctly dramatic writing style, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t caught up in the climactic scene in which Corinne’s heart finally gives out just as her baby is born. Her trademark purple prose is limited because of Corinne’s delicate condition, but fear not, once the baby is born, Feehan packs in as many lovemaking scenes as possible into the book’s last 50 pages.
I’ve visited Feehan’s website, and while I admire the passion with which she approaches her work and the affection she obviously feels for her many fans, Dark Melody did not inspire me to become a new devotee. I’ll stick with kick-ass heroines who give as good as they get and heroes who don’t try to control the women they allegedly love.