As I mentioned, I decided recently to dip my toe back into the world of paranormals. These used to be my favorite romances back in the day, but when they started flooding the market I became overwhelmed and gave up on them. I read the first three books in Christine Feehan's Carpathian series when they were first published, and while they weren't my favorite vampire romances, I did enjoy them.
I figured a good place to start my reintroduction to paranormal romance would be with Feehan's Dark Lycan, the first book in a new series set in her Carpathian world. No matter how hard I tried, though, I just couldn't get into this book.
I think my issues with this book were primarily on me, not the book itself. Dark Lycan is book number 23 in the Carpathian world. I stopped reading her at Dark Gold which was book three. That's 20 books worth of back story that I hadn't caught up on. Characters that were new to me were continually referenced or made appearances in this book. To fans of the series this was probably awesome; I personally like it when some of my favorite heroes/heroines make guest appearances in books, but since I hadn't met them yet, it didn't mean anything to me.
The real issue I had with Dark Lycan, and the reason I couldn't finish the book, was that I didn't feel there was any real romantic tension. Let me explain.
The book opens with Tatijana of the Dragonseekers, an old Carpathian family, waking up beneath the earth. Tatijana and her sister, Branislava, were held captive by their father, an evil mage, for centuries. They were recently released from their prison and have gone to ground to heal. Tatijana and Branislava are two rare Carpathian females. Carpathians are basically vampires who are not evil; they drink blood, but don't kill. They need to hide from daylight, burrow into the earth to heal, and have all sorts of badass powers like turning into mist, flying, healing or shape-shifting. Tatijana has multiple powers, and she can turn into a blue dragon, which is pretty fucking cool. Because Carpathians almost never have babies and there are few Carpathian women to begin with (turns out Tatijana's mage daddy was partially responsible for the low birth rate), the sisters are extremely valuable and being guarded while they sleep and heal. After spending centuries as a prisoner, Tatijana yearns for freedom and sneaks away from her protectors.
That's where she meets Fenris Dalka. Fen is in town hunting down a pack of rogue werewolves. Just like Carpathians are good vampires, Lycans are good werewolves. Fen passes as a Carpathian, but he's really a Carpathian/Lycan hybrid called a Sange Rau. This makes him incredibly powerful as he basically has the best abilities of both creatures. Sange Rau are forbidden to both Lycans and Carpathians because of their power; Fen is convinced that if he is found out, he'll be killed.
When Fen and Tatijana meet it's love at first sight. That's more or less how Feehan's novels work. Carpathians bond for eternity to their lifemate. Lifemate is not an emergency pendant old people wear in case they fall down, but basically their soulmate. Until they meet their lifemate they can't see color or really feel emotions.
It's pretty obvious who their lifemate is because suddenly the world goes from black and white to Rainbow Brite on ecstasy. They can also communicate with their lifemate telepathically and they share a indelible psychic bond. There are ritual words that bind lifemates together, but once they meet the show is basically over.
This has the potential to really kill romantic tension, though. Once the heroine and hero meet, they know they are destined for each other. If I'm remembering correctly, and forgive me because it's been over a decade, Feehan previously got around this by having a male Carpathian find his lifemate in a human woman. The human woman was like “WTF you're a vampire and you're my soulmate and you have a huge wang? I don't think so, pal.”
Yes, because Carpathians have huge wangs. HUGE. Like a human woman shouldn't be able to handle all that man-meat huge. The huge wang syndrome was not addressed in this book, presumably because Tatijana is a Carpathian female and therefore has a correspondingly large vadge. Go ahead an insert your own hotdog/hallway joke here. I'll wait.
So anyway, Fen and Tatijana meet and it's all disco Kool-Aid colors and wanty pants. Except that Tatijana has been encased in ice by her douchebag father for centuries and she's just now enjoying her freedom, and she doesn't want to be bonded to another person for life yet.
At this point I figured that we had two main conflicts happening here: 1. Tatijana doesn't want to bond to Fen yet and 2. If anyone, especially Tatijana's family, finds out what Fen is, they'll kill him.
But it didn't play out that way.
Some stuff happens. Tatijana and Fen battle the rogue werewolves and another Sange Rau like Fen, but an evil one. The evil Sange Rau has plans to destroy the Carpathians and there's a lot of fighting and transforming into blue dragons and packing dirt into wounds to heal. No really, Carpathians mix spit and dirt and rub it on their ouchies. My mother, a nurse, would have had a heart attack reading that.
By the midpoint of the book there had been a lot of fights, introductions to characters I didn't know, and both main conflicts had been resolved. I mean the “will all the Carpathians be destroyed” conflict was out there yet, but the conflicts pertaining directly to the two main characters were resolved.
Fen's identity is revealed to the other Carpathians, including the prince, and no one kills him or freaks out. Tatijana decides she wants to bind herself to Fen and does it. So by the midpoint, I knew Fen wasn't going to be ostracized and/or eviscerated by Tatijana's family, and I knew that Tatijana and Fen were as a good as married. And I just didn't care after that. Yeah, there's still that fucking Sange Rau running around, messing shit up, but …but where's the angsty, unfulfilled yearning I need in a paranormal romance? Where's the risk that Fen and Tatijana might not wind up happily ever after? The ensuing battles weren't as important to me as the romance which turned out to be a subplot.
Also there was a magic sex flower meadow. Fen and Tatijana get it on in a meadow of flowers reputed to increase fertility in their people:
Tatijana, gaze locked with his, slowly took the sexy blossom [note: actual blossom here, folks, not a euphemism] and stroked her tongue along the bulbous head. Immediately her mouth watered with the addictive taste of spice and forest. Wild. Almost feral. A taste like nothing she'd ever experienced. Fen. Fenris Dalka, her lifemate. It was sex and sin and the ultimate temptation all rolled into one.
She couldn't stop herself from licking along the stigma, determined to get every drop. Clearly the taste had taken on that of her lifemate. She kept her eyes on Fen, hunger for him growing with every passing moment.
She just gave a flower a blowjob. What the actual fuck.
Floral fellatio aside, I think this book was really meant for fans of the series who had been around since the beginning. If I had been 22 books invested here, I'd likely have cared much more about the secondary characters and the potential death of the Carpathians. Since I was just hanging around for Fen and Tatijana, I couldn't get past the halfway mark.