Dark Embrace

Brenda Joyce
2008, Paranormal Historical (Present-Day and early 1500s New York City and Scotland)
HQN, $7.99, 376 pages, Amazon ASIN 037377334X
Part of a series

Grade: D+
Sensuality: Hot

I now feel like I’ve read a soap opera. Dark Embrace is part of The Masters of Time series, but is also the first book of a trilogy within the series involving the Rose women. This is the first book by Joyce I’ve read and I don’t think I’ll be reading another. Every single aspect of this book was coated with as much drama as possible and the overabundance of emotion didn’t resonate with me at all.

Aidan is a Master of Time, able to jump between time and space in order to protect innocence. He is also a half-deamhan, having been fathered by an incredibly powerful deamhan who has lived for several thousand years. The Earl of Moray was supposed to be vanquished (probably in a previous book), but apparently his death didn’t stick and he has returned for Aidan. His goal is to turn his son from his noble calling and bring him over to the dark side. Moray uses Aidan’s son, Ian, as a bargaining chip and ends up killing him. This nearly destroys Aidan and in the ensuing years he deserts his calling, focusing only on the acquisition of power and hunting down Moray to exact vengeance for his son’s death. He ignores the Innocents’ cries for help, until one day when he hears the scream of a woman he only met briefly many decades ago and he is pulled through time to give her aid.

Brianna Rose is empathic, able to feel the emotions of others, and she also gets visions. But she has never felt anything like the anguish and despair that wake her one night. She also sees the face of a man she met a year ago, a Master who brought her best friend, Allie, back to New York for a moment. She’s had a crush on him ever since, but why would she suddenly be feeling his emotions so strongly and why is he in such horrible pain? What follows are a couple days of severe pain and anguish for Brie as she experiences what Aidan does. She’s determined to figure out what is happening, but on her way to finding answers she is attacked by some teenage boys. In the midst of the struggle, a large wolf appears and takes care of the boys. Brie realizes that the wolf is Aidan, and that he has a lot more dark power than she remembers.

Aidan ends up bringing Brie back in time with him to 1502. He is about to lead an army of rebels into battle. However, Brie knows from reading a history book that Aidan is going to be hanged for treason soon after they arrive and she believes that it is her duty to redeem him. The problem is that the only thing Aidan wants is revenge and he is willing to do almost anything to achieve it. He has no desire to find redemption in this woman, but he soon realizes that she has too much of an effect on him. He can leave no room for weakness, a belief which is only reinforced when his evil father shows up. So, several battles begin: the rebels versus the loyalists, father versus son, and Aidan versus Brie.

The writing style felt very amateurish to me, which I know shouldn’t be the case as this author is quite experienced. However, there are times when the prose is very choppy and the sentences seem to fall in the wrong order. Also, things are often explained too fully. Plenty of hints and material show what is happening, but then a sentence follows to sum up what you already know - complete with italics to really drive it home. An example is found right at the beginning. Aidan tries to jump back in time and stop his son’s death, it's clear no one can see or hear him, but we get this sentence: “They couldn’t see him or hear him.” This type of thing happened quite a few times and drove me crazy.

Some other aspects of the book drove me crazy. The excessive drama got pretty ridiculous. I can’t count the number of times someone “cried out,” but since it happens every couple of pages it might be close to a hundred. This is just one example of the overwritten nature of the book. In addition, there is almost no sense of reality; not because it is a paranormal, but because I can’t imagine such constant high drama. To go along with the soap opera quality, everyone is absolutely gorgeous, with perfect bodies. Dozens of Masters show up and they’re all as hot as can be. The men constantly cross their arms, so that their bulging muscles are showcased to advantage. Allie (who was the heroine of a previous book) has been living in medieval times for decades, yet still wears super-tight jeans and high-heeled boots. I kind of think that would be a problem in medieval Scotland, what with all the nature, hills, and horses. Part of the reason this world felt so unreal might have been the lack of explanations and world-building. I don’t know why certain men are chosen to protect the Innocent, why Aiden was chosen, how he was chosen, why/how he is also a shapeshifter, the list could go on. Everything just was and we were meant to accept it all.

The overall tone of the book had a hot sensuality rating, because, as our definition states, “There is an expanded focus throughout the book on sexual feelings and desires.” Still, the actual sex scenes were warm. The scenes cut away before much happens between Aidan and Brie. That’s not to say that I wanted more; on the contrary, it was just another overwritten aspect of the story: “He suddenly slid his arm around her waist and hiked her up hard against his raging manhood. Brie became faint with urgency and need.”

Despite my general dislike of Dark Embrace, it did have a certain pull that kept me reading it, even while I was rolling my eyes. I sort of wanted to know how some things would resolve, which explains the plus in my grade. However, I doubt I’ll be picking up anything else by this author and if I did it definitely wouldn’t be from this series.

-- Andi Davis

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