The Dark Heroine reads exactly as though it was written by a very talented teenage Twilight fan. That's because it was, in fact, written by a very talented teenaged Twilight fan. As an adult, I found the content to be almost unbearably bad, but the technical quality of the writing was good and my fifteen-year-old self would have snarfed it down quicker than a pan of brownies. Spoilers ahead, but not for anything, including every facet of the ending, that you won't be able to predict from the first page.
Violet is a seventeen-year-old London girl who witnesses a group of pale, fanged men kill a group of tanned, normal-teethed men at Trafalgar Square in the middle of the night. The fanged people kidnap Violet because she is a witness to the attack. Violet has a hard time grasping the concept that a bunch of pale, super-strong, super fast, fanged guys that bite people to death in the dead of night might be vampires, but eventually she manages to comprehend that they are. The vampires are all gorgeous, very rich, and live in an enormous mansion. Even Kaspar, the vampires' leader, cannot say why he kidnapped Violet instead of killing her. She's just special, somehow.
But now the vampires are stuck with her, because her father is the Secretary of Defense. England's rulers know about the vampires and tolerate them, but there are always a lot of tensions. The vampires don't want to kill Violet or force her to turn into a vampire, because that will annoy her Dad, who is already annoyed that his daughter is being held captive. But they also won't release her, because she KNOWS TOO MUCH (even though she seems to know less than everyone else on the planet).
Poor Violet. She has to stay in the mansion, moping around her enormous bedroom and taking showers in the red marble bathroom, provided only with the clothing of a vampire girl who is one size smaller than Violet. This means all Violet's clothes are too skimpy, but it's not her fault, she is totally not a skank like a rival vampire girl who dresses in skimpy clothing on purpose. It turns out that Kaspar is the Vampire Prince, and sometimes he wears contemporary clothing, but sometimes he swoops around in a cloak. There is a cute child vampire who wants to play with Violet all the time and various other mysterious vampires getting together for royal meetings and politely menacing each other while sipping blood out of goblets. My fifteen-year-old self would have totally swooned at this. My friends and I spent many happy hours playing “Vampire: The Masquerade” while sipping red Kool-Aid from wine glasses. We were made of pure class back then.
As I mentioned, Violet was kidnapped by Kaspar, the vampire prince (not to be confused with Caspar, the friendly ghost). He is very sexy and her body is attracted to him but her mind says, “Nope” because he is mean and calls her “Girly” and keeps forcing her up against walls and threatening to bite her. Kaspar has a brother, Fabian, who is also gorgeous. Fabian is nice to Violet but she is not drawn to him with the same magnetic force that she is to Kaspar; also her vamp friend who loans her the too-tight clothing has a thing for Fabian and Violet doesn't want to mess it up. Violet is forced, forced I say, to put on a beautiful dress (it's violet in color, because her name is Violet) and go to the ball with Fabian, and that icky Kaspar makes her dance with him. And everyone stares at her because she is special, and my adult self is outraged by the thought that Kaspar is super rape-tastic but clearly destined to be THE GUY, while my fifteen year old self is all, “Ooooh…look at the dress!” For God's sake, fifteen-year-old self, calm down, you're embarrassing me! I don't care how many sparkles the damn dress has! Get ahold of yourself!
Then she's attacked by another, super-villainous vampire, and she becomes a dhampir, and then both brothers attempt (separately) to “seduce” her, and since by seduce I pretty much mean “rape”, I gave up. I would have given up sooner, but I have to admit that Dark Heroine has a cracktastic appeal that just kept me sneaking back to it. Much like Violet, I kept casting it aside because of my self-respect and then surrendering against my will to its ruthless advances. That lasted until there were three rape attempts in two chapters, only one of which is acknowledged as such. There's a limit to how much I can take, even for you guys.
Honestly, I just can't even cope with trying to convey how utterly and horribly objectionable the sexual politics are in this book. For one thing, the slut-shaming is not to be believed. Plus, the book is all about vampires, and in keeping with the standard vampire tropes all violence has a sexual undertone, and all sex has a violent undertone, and Kaspar is constantly saying things like, “You will give in to me. I will make sure of it” and “C'mon, Girly, just a little drop of blood. I'm so hungry. You'll enjoy it”. There were scenes of such unrelenting sexual violence, involving forced biting, groping, and kissing, that I felt physically ill. I understand that people are capable of separating fantasy from reality, but I also remember how much fifteen-year-old-self confused pressure with love, and I am not amused.
I peeked ahead to the ending, and my fifteen-year-old-self, the one who has not yet learned that guys who pressure you into doing things you don't want to do are not actually nice, is thrilled to discover that Kaspar is actually a REALLY NICE GUY with whom Violet is destined to experience TRUE LOVE as a Heroine in Fulfillment of a Prophecy. I have to admit that the author can certainly keep the reader involved in a story, because I made it much father into the book that I would have expected given its old-school quality. Her use of language is good, and it doesn't surprise me that this book is popular. But anyone who objects to controlling relationships (which, frankly, bloody well ought to be everyone) should give this one a pass. This is the first book in a series, so expect an ending that resolves the Violet/Kaspar relationship but leaves a ton of other plot stuff hanging.