Wednesday, July 8, 2009

To Hate and To Hold by Dakota Rebel

TITLE: To Hate and To Hold
AUTHOR: Dakota Rebel
PUBLISHER: Total-e-bound
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 54k)
GENRE: Gay paranormal erotic romance
COST: £2.99

Vampires Ethan Connor and Jamie McHale have fought nearly all their lives, ever since Jamie’s parents were murdered and Ethan’s took over the royal crown in their clan. Their most recent fight gets interrupted by powerful magic, magic that bonds them together as husbands. For the first few days, the absence of physical contact actually brings them excruciating pain, and the only way to fix it is to consummate their relationship. That’s kind of hard to do when you can’t stand each other…

If I had known one of the primary sources of conflict in this story was going to be, “We have to have sex or we’re going to die,” I never would have bought it. While I appreciate that this particular trope, clichéd as it is, does appeal to some people, it really doesn’t to me. To me, it’s shorthand for any type of actual relationship development, forcing characters into bed for often ridiculous reasons, creating an excuse to have sex as often as possible. If that’s in a blurb, I skip right on by 99% of the time (the only exception would be if an author I trust has done it; then I’d go as far as read the excerpt and judge it on an individual basis). However, this blurb simply said the bonding put their lives in danger, so I bought it on the basis of the humor I found in the excerpt and a chance to read some escapist fun. It wasn’t a wise choice.

The story is told in 1st person from Jamie’s POV. Jamie is a bitter, angry young vampire, with no direction in his life. He’s a silent partner in his sister’s pub, but he spends all his time drinking, mooching off his sister, and brooding over his parents’ murder fifteen years earlier. He loathes Ethan for a variety of reasons – stealing his boyfriends, being the new prince, but most importantly, because he’s always suspected Ethan’s parents had something to do with Jamie’s parents’ deaths. Every time they get together, it ends in a physical altercation. Before the story starts, the last fight had been a year earlier, right before Ethan left town with his mortal boyfriend. It was a fight that nearly killed him. While there’s not a whole lot unique about this set-up, there’s certainly a lot of potential there for natural conflict, especially since there’s a distinct appealing humor in the prose when the story opens. Jamie’s bitter sarcasm suggests there will be an edge to this romance, but any potential is soon lost once the bond hits them in the first chapter. By the second, we know they need to have sex to rid themselves of the pain they’re in. To tell the truth, this is probably the point I should have stopped reading. I knew then that it was a plot device that usually drove me bonkers. But I held out, hoping that the humor from the first chapter would carry through into something I could enjoy. There was always the possibility that the story could go in a different direction than I expected.

Except it didn’t. From that point on, it slowly degenerates into such repetition that I was bored thoroughly out of my mind by the halfway mark. Very little happens except the same patterns of sex, then shower. There are so many scenes of Jamie waking up, then they either have sex, or argue, then go off to the shower, either together or alone, that they blur together. The story isn’t helped that nearly all the crucial plot developments happen via third parties, and many of them off-screen. It makes for passive involvement, which for me, was the death knell. The one time Jamie actually did something about his own situation, his rationale seemed so utterly unfounded that I couldn’t even get behind it. The entire last third of the book hinges on the big misunderstanding plot device, too, another cliché it’s very hard for me to overcome.

While the story isn’t helped by sloppy editing (like extra words that appear for no explicable reason, i.e. Ethan let go of my hand, and I my stomach rolled.), it’s the sheer repetition and lack of believable character development that really cripple it. Jamie and Ethan are vampires, but that seems to be token nomenclature in an attempt to make them sexy. They drink blood, but breed like humans. They sleep at night, but seem to need to breathe. There’s nothing wrong with cherry-picking attributes to try and create something new, but when some standard vampire tropes seem tossed to the wayside, there needs to be some sort of explanation. There isn’t in this, and in the end, it’s just another reason why I really can’t recommend it.


4/10 – Early humor disappears completely in sloppy editing and boring, repetitive scenes

Hero #1

4/10 – Funny to start, but personality gets lost in favor of sex

Hero #2

5/10 – More sympathetic than the narrator

Entertainment value

3/10 – Too much repetition and a preposterous set-up make for a very boring read

World building

4/10 – The vampires are never explained well (like needing to breathe) and any semblance of political exposition is lost amidst all the boring sex



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