Velvet Haven
by Sophie Renwick†
(Berkley, $15, R) †ISBN 978-0-451-22918-2†
Bran, the shape-shifting Sidhe king, awaits his own murder. He knows his killer is out there, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. But Bran is willing to die because he carries the Legacy Curse. His mistake was not marrying Morgan, the Sidhe witch. She cursed him so heíll be brought down by a female mortal. Even worse, an evil and dark magic is killing immortals of his world, close to the Cave of Cruachan.† This is a passageway known as a ďveilĒ that allows Bran to enter into the mortal realm of Earth, hidden under the Victorian Gothic dance club, Velvet Haven. Bran will walk through the veil, not only to find this Black Magick thatís running free, but also to feed his curse. In order to keep his magic alive and strong, Bran must mate and give pleasure to the human females he loathes because their sexual energy allows him to remain powerful.

Mairi MacAuley would rather spend her free time reading old dusty manuscripts than date. She doesnít care if people think of her as a nerd. She works as a nurse and Crisis Worker at St. Michaelís Hospital and has a hard time getting close to people, mainly due to her very tough childhood, but Mairi is ever so thankful for the nuns at Out Lady of Perpetual Sorrow who protected her and her mother from her abusive father. Mairi is in for a shock when someone she knew, a once-troubled teenage girl, is found dead and brought into the ER covered in knife wounds with symbols carved into her skin, Mairi has been having dreams of these same symbols that includes a strange man who oozes sex and awakens her bodyís desires.

Her tarot card-reading friend Rowan produces two tickets to the Velvet Haven. Mairi decides to go with Rowan even though she has some reservations about the Goth club. These two women are very unaware of what lies inside the Velvet Haven and how most of the men working there are immortal. Bram is there that night aching to fill a human female. When he spots Mairi, he tries to introduce her to the sexual delights he can offer her that no other mortal man can. But Bram stops from going too far because he can sense all that is good and innocent in her. He doesnít want to steal Mairiís energy and would love nothing more than to enjoy pleasure just for pleasureís sake.

Fate has decreed that Bram and Mairi are meant for one another. As Bram hunts an immortal killer is on the loose, his most hated enemy tries to bring him down where he must protect Mairi. He will come to her in her dreams and give her the pleasure he longs to give her in the flesh. Bram has become her midnight lover, who plagues her every thought. But there is another who is looking over Mairi and thinking of her well being, as well as trying to separate the two. Mairi has no idea she could be the possible key to Bramís salvation as well as the one who might bring forth his death.

Velvet Haven is a dark and erotic paranormal tale with larger-than-life men who barely have control of their alpha tendencies, especially when it comes to the kindhearted and innocent women they desire. There are many complicated storylines within this book and characters that bring life in the pages. This may sound all well and good, but Velvet Haven is a pale comparison to much better-written dark fantasy erotic romances out there. Sophie Renwick tries to bring forth an atmospheric and angst filled Gothic fantasy. Unfortunately, I couldnít keep my concentration, and at times wanted to roll my eyes because every piece of dialogue and action is just so shocking and tension-filled to the point it all became ridiculous. It felt like Ms. Renwick was just trying too hard to make Velvet Haven larger than life and something more than it is. And because of that, it fell flat.

Itís not enough that the hero Bram is so tortured and his biggest shame is that he must engage in so much hard-core, passionate, mind-numbing sex with human females, making sure they are pleased just because he jilted some crazy witch with incredible magic. Bram is pimping out himself because of his horrible curse that consumes his very being, where death would be more preferable than life. And isnít it ironic that the one woman he desires above all others is a potential sad sack who doesnít have much to recommend her? We are told in great detail how Mairi loves reading old books, and is honest with others, but she comes across more timid and shy than a woman who can stick up for herself. I felt insulted for Mairi because the way she is introduced doesnít really give a good and valid reason why Bram would even look at her, let alone want her as his mate.

Bramís compatriots in arms walk around in all their sulky sexy glory, but also donít bring anything to the overall plot. The sex scenes between Bram and Mairi have some merit, but nothing I havenít read before. They failed to stimulate in any way and if youíre looking for something darker and more explicit, Velvet Haven fails in that aspect.

Velvet Haven has too much telling, not enough showing, and Ms. Renwick has written her characters in such a way where they annoy more than excite. Due to the one-dimensional characters, rehash of a plot Iíve read countless times before, and lack of originality, Iíd say that Velvet Haven deserves a pass.

--Catherine Anne

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