Sunday, May 14, 2017

Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.

Given how my previous encounters with Gena Showalter's books went (spoiler: not well), I'm not sure why I decided to buy this one.

...Oh wait, now I remember. It's about an alien huntress.

Assassins and bounty hunters in books make my ears perk up. Aliens make me come running. If you discovered a bodice ripper about alien assassins, I would probably zoom towards you at a speed that would break the sound barrier. Luckily, AWAKEN ME DARKLY, despite the bodice ripper-like title, is not a bodice ripper, so the sound barrier is safe (for now).

Mia Snow is an agent of A.I.R. (Alien Investigation and Removal). She lives in a world where Earth has already made First Contact and many of the aliens we have encountered have chosen to make their homes on Earth. Most are peaceful, but some attempt to harm or kill humans, and those are the aliens that Mia deals with up close and personal (spoiler: *boink*).

When what looks like an alien serial killer happens on the scene, it's Mia (and her team) who are called in to deal with the situation and nip it in the bud before it causes a panic. Her investigations lead her into the depths of a seedy community, straight into the arms of an alien named Kyrin, an Arcadian alien who just so happens to be of the race of aliens that Mia is investigating.

Coincidence? Maybe. (Spoiler: Obviously, it isn't.)

Reading this book brought back memories of the paranormal romances and urban fantasy novels I plowed through in my early years of college. Good, bad, I didn't care - I read them all. One of my favorites at the time before the series went sour was the Anita Blake vampire series, and in a way, AWAKEN ME DARKLY brought back a lot of those rose-tinted memories of books 1-5. There are a lot of similarities between the two books. Mia, like Anita, is a ball-busting heroine who compensates for her femininity with machismo and showboating. Mia, like Anita, is also a hunter of an immortal species and, like Anita, ends up forging a relationship with a member of the species she's hunting, with Kyrin playing Jean-Claude to Mia's Anita in this case. Kyrin, like Jean-Claude, is also fond of long hair, puffy shirts, and leather pants, and has a condescending paternal air to him that makes the heroine alternate dropping trou with death threats and declarations of her own independence, etc. Even the cover, with its vague hits at kink and taboo, would not be out of place in Anita Blake.

I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did, and for about the first third AWAKEN ME DARKLY was engaging and fun, even if Mia could be a b*tch. It's when the mystery that Mia is investigating comes to light that things get weird (spoiler: WTF), and the abrupt ending did not help matters. Also, the hero's kidnapping of the heroine to his pleasure palace was so eye-roll worthy, it's straight out of a 90s futuristic romance. When she's dressed in gauzy silks, with a beautiful bejeweled armband designed to serve as an electric shock collar, draped in the arms of the blonde alien hunk, I kept picturing Fabio romance covers - especially when he braids his hair. Fabio the pirate alien. YAS.

AWAKEN ME DARKLY has the dubious honor of being the least offensively awful Gena Showalter book I have read. THE NYMPH KING was kill-it-before-it-spawns-sequels bad. AWAKEN, on the other hand, is just cheesy. I think I would have liked it more if it were set in space, like a Linnea Sinclair science-fiction romance. This just felt like a PNR with extraterrestrial window dressing.

1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars

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