I have been buddy-reading these books with my Goodreads pal, Sage. We started with THE DEMON OF DARKLING REACH. It's ever so much fun. Honestly, I picked it up on a whim because the summary sounded good and it was a freebie on Kindle Unlimited, and it ended up becoming a new favorite romance of mine. There's a bit of Beauty and the Beast to it, but it's so much darker, and style-wise, reminiscent of authors like Grace Draven or Tanith Lee.
Isla unwittingly agreed to a betrothal to a demon in order to spare her sister, Rowena. At the time, she did not know he was a demon, but a demon he was. Despite that, the two of them end up forging a bond that's more than just a marriage of convenience, and Rowena, initially vehemently opposed to the idea of marriage to a man she didn't choose herself, becomes bitterly jealous and vengeful over the fact that her sister ended up with the better match, after all.
This book starts off in the past, chronicling Tristan's transformation into demon. We actually get to see him as a human, and find out how he got possessed in the first place. This makes up a pretty huge chunk of the book and I wasn't prepared for it at first, but once I got used to the idea of an extended back story, I was sold and it ended up becoming my favorite part of this book because of how dark it was. After that, the book continues from where the last book ended: with Isla's impending wedding to Tristan in the rocky castle of Darkling Reach. She and her family and the rest of the wedding procession are forced to make the perilous journey alone while Tristan wraps up loose ends, and tension abounds as Isla begins to have misgivings and Rowena's vengefulness gains momentum.
I liked this book a lot but it did suffer somewhat from second book syndrome and ended up feeling a lot like filler. Once Tristan and Isla reunite, I definitely got BREAKING DAWN vibes, especially towards the end, when he begins to remake her in his own image and she becomes extra special. This is not a healthy relationship by any stretch of the imagination, but it helps that it doesn't pretend to be. You never forget for long that Tristan is not a good guy, and if you do forget, the author is quick to remind you exactly what he is. I liked that a lot-- even when the book becomes romantic, Tristan never loses his edge, and the knowledge of that always looms in the back of Isla's mind.
If you like dark romances about villains and brainy heroines, you should pick up this book. It's exceedingly well researched and while it does have a lot of info dumps, you actually learn a lot of stuff about the middle ages while reading this book. Plus, the writing is gorgeous, and the author does a great job with morally grey characters and complex side characters. It's like a Gothic soap opera, and I freaking love it. Definitely going to be checking out book three next, after a breather.
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars