RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Darius by Grace Burrowes

B-

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 Emily G. 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 Emily G.'s review:

I read this book when it first came out and was of two minds on it; after a reread I still feel this way.  Overall, I like Grace Burrowes’ books.  They aren't necessarily an auto-buy but I do purchase them frequently. Darius exemplifies both the positives and negatives of her books as a whole for me.

The plot is a little different in this book.  Darius is a whore. A cicisbeo who learned his trade in Italy to support a struggling family.  Not for king and country (which is generally the only acceptable reason for a man to accept payment for his favors in Romancelandia), but because his dad sucks at life and is making the lives of everyone in the family super difficult. And they need cash. The first line in the book makes this clear, and is one of my favorite starting lines to a romance in recent memory.

“If one knows precisely where to inquire, one hears you provide favors to a select few ladies in exchange for the next thing to coin.”

And so the novel starts with an elderly man procuring a man who has fallen on hard times to impregnate his young wife and secure the title. If they were able to keep their feelings out of it, there wouldn't be a story, so it's no surprise when they fall in love, and eventually after much anguish and awkward pretense for society's sake, get married and live happily ever after.  The first part of the book focuses on the time they have to get to know and love each other; the second follows their individual stories as both Darius and Vivian sort out life before getting back together. It is almost two different stories, or possibly even more, as there are so many little plots and so many secondary characters in the second half.

There is a benefit to all the secondary characters.  I love the way she writes about and fleshes out familial relationships, with all of the irrational protectiveness, minor irritations, small festering wounds, and simple companionship.  The secondary relationships in this book are full of these moments.  Smirking friends, scolding older sisters, brotherly interventions, etc. I love those because it seems real.  I love the way that, while the primary conflicts of the romance still drive the thoughts and actions of the main couple, they are still constantly thinking about and interacting with their family and friends in a real and healthy way.  And while both Darius and Vivian (the hero and heroine) occasionally offer assistance and advice in dealing with each other's family and friends, they are not always essential to managing the interaction.  It's very well done and always one of my favorite parts of her books.

I also enjoy the little touches about life.  Discussions about the laws and political qualms of the time feel present and important.  Figuring out how to make money from the land requires thought, work and planning.  As a farmer and property owner myself, this resonates a lot, and I enjoy when it's a part of the narrative.  While I can't guarantee that all of her facts are always correct, several times when I've gone to double check whether something was in fashion or available at the time, the detail was historically accurate.

The evolution of the relationship in the first half of the book was very nicely done.  I felt like each sex scene between the main couple moved the story forward well, and I enjoyed the banter, especially as they get to know each other.  The slow slide from mild antagonism to liking to loving was all there for me.  In the first half.  It made some sense for the hero to know a lot about female anatomy and reproductive cycles (it is after all his main career), but I found his frank discussions of Vivian's menses to be a bit jarring.  Perhaps because I'm a pretty frank over-sharer and I rarely discuss bodily functions outside of my close circle of friends and my doctor's office.  I've generally found the men in my life to be more squeamish about that sort of thing, but I guess it was nice that he was there to support her? But that's a pretty minor quibble. 

I liked the heroine herself just fine.  No issues, no dislike.  I wanted her to be happy.  I maybe didn't identify that strongly with her or feel a strong desire to have a girls night with her, but she was perfectly nice and seemed to deal with everything in a very healthy rational way.  She was a bit passive from time to time, but that rang true for her character and for the time period. Overall, I liked her. 

Overall, I liked him as well.  Though I found the details of his relationships with his patrons a little upsetting.  I can't pinpoint why exactly.  Maybe the Isla Vista incident is on my mind, so his clear distaste for the women he is servicing got to me more than usual.  Maybe I disliked that only women who were overtly kinky got to play the villain role.  He didn't seem to be able to make up his mind either.  He was in turmoil and in angst and for a large portion of the second half of the book, he wasn't always the best or nicest person.  But it resolved acceptably for me and I fully bought them making a life as a happy couple.

The biggest problem in Darius, and to some extent in the rest of the Lonely Lords series is that at least three of the Burrowes books are all taking place during this same period of time.  In some cases this directly impacts the plot. If you've read the other books it gives an interesting point of view – Darius seems a bit more mysterious as a character in the other books and it fleshes out all the stories.  If you haven't, I think it might seem a bit disjointed.  It's just that for nine months the main couple barely get to interact, and instead, all of these other storms are gathering, periodically passing, and just when you think they might be a real threat to happiness it is all very quickly, somewhat easily, over. 

So the writing, the relationships and the first half are an A.  The somewhat nebulous second half that drags on a bit had some great moments, but also a wee bit of slut-shaming and was rather unfocused and confusing to me making it closer to a C-.  I averaged the two and gave it a B-.  I don't think it's the first Burrowes book I would recommend to a reader, but I enjoyed rereading it, and would recommend it to any fan of hers.  Also, anyone who is intrigued by a male prostitute storyline. Because those don't come around all that often.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Vasha says:

    only women who were overtly kinky got to play the villain role.

    See TV Tropes on this attitude: Good People Have Good Sex

  2. 2
    jimthered says:

    only women who were overtly kinky got to play the villain role.

    This is also true of many Hollywood movies, whether it’s to show that a villain is truly evil (Sharon Stone’s bondage suggestion in TOTAL RECALL) or for comic over-the-top unexpected kink (Lucy Lawless’ dominatrix in EUROTRIP).  I think a lot of general attitudes about kink have changed—possibly thanks to [shudder] 50 SHADES OF GREY—but the whole kinky=evil assumption is still too easily used for a bad side to a personality or a cheap laugh.

  3. 3
    JennyOH says:

    I read a REALLY good male prostitute book recently.  I can’t quite remember the title and Amazon isn’t helping me – it’s something like “As My Lady Desires”.  It’s a Regency, set in Scotland; a lady is more or less abandoned by her terrible husband in a remote castle for years, and then her saucy cousin convinces her to write to a London upscale brothel requesting the services of a male prostitute.  They have one enchanted week in Scotland before the contract is up, there’s falling in love, there’s the wicked husband returning, etc.  I appreciated a story in which the man was vulnerable, both emotionally and life-wise, rather than the typical Lord Smugford rescuing a damsel in distress from the gutter sort of story.  Ugh, I wish I could remember the title because now I kind of want to reread it!  Maybe this is fodder for a HaBO!

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