RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Darius by Grace Burrowes

D

Title: Darius
Author: Grace Burrowes
Publication Info: Sourcebooks Casablanca April 2013
ISBN: 978-1402278518
Genre: Historical: European

Book Darius This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Lauralou. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Historical Romance category.

The summary:

Desperate, penniless, and shunned by his wealthy father, Darius Lindsey begins offering himself secretly to jaded society ladies. He hangs onto his last shreds of honor, but he's losing ground financially each month.

That is until the aging Lord William Longstreet makes Darius an offer he can't refuse: get the Lord's pretty young wife-of-convenience, Lady Vivian, pregnant discreetly, and he will earn enough money to never want again. But problems lie ahead when the stunning Vivian captures his heart, and his clients refuse to let him go. Can Darius untangle himself without scandal and offer himself to Vivian heart and soul?

And here is Lauralou's review:

Ack! This is my first review and I’m coming right out of the gate with a D. I’d like to echo an early RITA Reader Challenge reviewer and state that I have the utmost respect and admiration for authors in general and Grace Burrowes in particular. But this book did not work for me.

I will start with what I did like. Burrowes is a technically outstanding writer. Her prose is always pristine and graceful. It’s authoritative, in a way—as a reader, you feel like you’re in very capable hands. This book is no exception, though there were a few small editing foibles (notably, one scene in which intercourse seems to morph into a blowjob—complete with “nibbling”—and then back into intercourse mid-sentence).

The other thing I liked, although I don’t think it was well executed, was Burrowes’ effort to subvert the norm and have the male lead (Darius) sell his body for money. In fact, he sells his body (and his “seed,” to use the appropriate term) to the female lead (Vivian) at the start of their relationship. The two of them then have to navigate feelings of worthlessness on his part and feelings of am-I-more-than-just-a-paycheck-to-him on her part. That’s interesting and worthwhile. But there are major problems!

1. Darius has a rule: he does not “swive” the women. Instead, he allows them to gaze upon his beautiful manhood; permits them to bind, hit, and ride him like pony; and performs oral sex on them. First of all, that’s just weird and improbable. Second of all, it strikes me as a copout on Burrowes' part. He’s not really selling his body or “betraying” Vivian by actually penetrating these ladies. His dingdong is hers and hers alone. For me, this kind of undoes the bravery and complexity of the male prostitute storyline.

2. The women who use Darius’ “services” (Blanche and Lucy) are crazy evil caricatures. They enjoy hurting and humiliating Darius and flaunting their power over him. They are super, super pissed that he won’t “swive” them. When Darius tries to end their arrangement, they stalk him all over town, threaten to ruin him and everyone he cares about, and ultimately drug, kidnap, and attempt to sell his beloved sister. Come on, now. Can’t we see a well-rounded, sympathetic, non-psychotic female character purchasing sex? Again, it kind of ruins all the progressiveness of the male prostitute storyline if the women who purchase sex are nutsos and the man selling sex seems to escape with his bodily purity intact.

3. More on the theme of points 1 and 2: Vivian herself doesn’t actually purchase Darius for sex. Her husband does! It’s all his idea. He pays for it, he persuades Vivian to allow it. Therefore, he absolves her of any taint that might be associated with purchasing sex. Again, copout, annoying. Go for it if you’re gonna go for it.

Which brings me to my next major problem. Vivian is a doormat. Doormat doormat doormat. Maybe not personality-wise, though her personality is pretty bland. But in terms of the plot, everything happens TO her. This woman couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag if there wasn’t a man there to help her do it. To start at the beginning, Vivian’s husband, William, saves her from her evil stepfather by marrying her. Then, as mentioned, William proposes that Vivian should get pregnant by Darius. Darius proceeds to teach the shy untutored Vivian all about sex (yes! she is a married virgin!). He also at one point informs her that maybe she’s feeling upset because of her “menses.” And he tells her what changes to expect in her body when she’s pregnant (her boobs will be sensitive and she will be more emotional).

Gah! Does anyone else want to punch through the screen upon reading this? I can tell you what my reaction would be if a man I’d just met told me that maybe I was sad because I had my period. And it wouldn’t be to passively accept his wisdom and then have sex with him as soon as I’m no longer “untidy.” PLEASE, girl, get a brain!

It sort of proceeds like that from there. For a large portion of the book, Vivian is basically just chillin’ at her house being pregnant while Darius races around town trying to defeat the evil lady sex-buyers (who, incidentally, end up having no actual bearing on the outcome of the story) and thwart Vivian’s villainous stepfather while being the world’s best brother, uncle, and friend. Truly, Darius is the most saintly male prostitute you will ever meet. The resolution of the story, needless to say, does not involve much action from Vivian herself.

To add to the problematic portrayal of women, at one point a minor male character (though a character we are supposed to like) fleetingly has “sympathy for men who beat their wives.” No! No. Not OK. Don’t care if it’s a minor character, don’t care if he doesn’t follow through, don’t care if it’s supposed to be a joke.

Other peeves:

– Everyone is either a complete saint (Darius, Vivian, William) or an absurd villain (Lucy, Blanche, Portia, Thurgood). Even when the saints do something that could be considered problematic (e.g., performing oral sex on horrible people for money), their motives are pure as the driven snow. The characters all start to bleed into each other and it’s really very tedious.

– Nicknames! This is something I’ve noticed in Burrowes’ other books, so I am primed to be irritated. But why would you give a character one name, if you’re just going to call him/her something else? Maybe it would be a charming display of affection if it happened once to one character, but there are SO MANY NICKNAMES. Darius is Dare, Vivian is Viv or Vivvie (uck!), Trenton is Trent, and even the damn stepfather, Thurgood, is Good. Too cute, too confusing.

– Minor characters from other books popping up hither and yon for no reason.

I think that’s all. Burrowes is a lovely writer and I have enjoyed her other books. This one, however, drove me nuts!


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Not to mention Vivian being a man’s name in this period?

  2. 2
    Elinor Aspen says:

    If you want to read an excellent book with a hero who sells his seed, read A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant.

  3. 3
    DonnaMarie says:

    I second Elinor’s selection. Other good books on this theme: Her Ladyship’s Companion by Evangeline Collins and Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day.

    Don’t bemoan reviewing a bad book. Those are so much easier to write and a service to us all.

  4. 4
    kkw says:

    In a bizarre coincidence I read A Lady Awakened and Darius back to back.

    Is there a Grace Burrowes recommendation?

  5. 5
    P. J. Dean says:

    A lot to say about a D graded book. Now I think I’ll have to read it.

  6. 6
    Amy says:

    I really liked Grace Burrowes The Heir, which was the first one in the series. The rest of the series, The Soldier, The Virtuoso, and then the ones with the sisters, I enjoyed as well. The Lost Lords series has been hit or miss for me in general.

  7. 7
    Shannon says:

    The Lost Lord series gets better than Darius, but not every one.  I just could not like Darius.  I don’t know if it’s he’s a saint based on his motives or because like some of the worst female heroines is that he had no agency for large parts of the story.  I mean cannot he buck tradition and actually get a job?  Yeah, he tried to get lose of his paramours but not really.  There was something creepy that in some way he liked being a lonely lord and estranged.  And Vivian was not engaging. 

    Yeah, I hate how characters from her other books pop out during all of the Lonely Lords series, and I cannot recall what their story was.  And I’m not inclined to find and re-read the stories.

    The Heir (also first in one of Burrowes series) was not a favorite of mine.  It seems to take her time to get going in series.  The Soldier I really liked.  The Virtuoso frustrated me that she takes a pianist and he does not play a note during 7/8ths of the story. 

    I’m reading Worth right now.  Part of me likes it, especially the affectionate nature of nearly all of Burrowes characters, but the Lonely Lords theme of family estrangement is beginning to wear on me.  I read Burrowes because I like her writing, and I like some of the relationships she creates.  But the Lonely Lords series has been hit or miss.  I’m thinking that maybe she needs to quit putting out a book every month or two months and take some time to discover new themes and original characters.  Just MHO.

  8. 8
    Teev says:

    I really like Grace Burrowes and have read all her books and Darius was the only one I DNF’ed. In general I’m not as fond of the Lonely Lord books as her other books. I’ve re-read all the Windhams but feel no such compunction to revisit the Lords. She has a lovely style but I agree, Shannon, that she’s just pumping them out too quickly.

    kkw, my very favorite Burrowes book is Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight.  I just love how practical they both are and how there is no big villain (there is a villain but he is small potatoes) and danger of murder but it is just two people who like each other very much working out their marriage of convenience.  I’ve reread it a number of times and love it every time in spite of some very big story discrepancies.

  9. 9
    Mary says:

    I have to say that I am not a Grace Burrowes fan. Her writing is good, but I wish she would just write contemporaries because she has SO many historical inaccuracies. The Heir ended up being a wallbanger to me.
    Historical inaccuracies don’t always bother me (for example, in Eloisa James latest, she took some liberties with the history of rubber in India), but when it’s clear (or at least seems like) the author did minimal research and doesn’t seem to bring any of the flavor of the time to her novels, it drives me bonkers. There is no reason her books COULDN’T happen in the modern day.
    I’m sorry, I don’t want to offend any of her fans, I understand that everyone has different tastes.

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