Dark Harmony is the debut novel from Lilly Cain, one of the amazing women from my writers' group, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.
She's been to the writers' retreats I so adore, and at the latest one this past fall we all celebrated along with her when she received confirmation of Dark Harmony's release date.
1 - Dark Harmony is part of Red Sage's Action & Adventure/Contemporary/Vampire categories, and is an erotica eBook romance.
2 - We meet Helena Townsend, who loves to feel the pulsing energy of the club crowd as she dances to live music. One night she's uncharacteristically drawn to a gorgeous man who parts the dance floor like a mist to draw her to him. Twenty years later, Lena has escaped the cruel dominance of that man from the club - no man, but a vampire pack leader who made her life both a living hell and a confusing passionate release.
3 - Richard Heron is a music journalist covering trends for Rolling Stone, still not recovered from the violent death of his sexually-submissive wife at the hands of an unknown dom. Richard is entranced by Lena, a beautiful woman he meets in an Irish bar, her face glowing with the energy and vibe of the band and the crowd, as though she's fed somehow by live musical performance.
4 - Before his wife died, Richard had supplemented his journalism by opening a club where sexual fantasies could be revealed and pursued. His own dominant tendencies initially scare off a once-bitten-twice-shy Lena. The same instincts which led him to open his club in the first place serve him well when he rises to the challenge of re-introducing Lena to the authentic lover inside her.
5 - I found this story's BDSM subplot very touching. What is dominance and submission if not the symbolic surrender to a lover? The very fact that Lena has vampiric strength that could break any bedroom bondage puts her scenes with Richard into a different realm, which Lilly writes with accomplished emotional depth.
6 - Lilly Cain handles the reactions of the human characters to the shock of vampires entering their world with wry realism. Her scenes take us from the contemporary world into the paranormal with the jolt one would expect from such a revelation, and she doesn't shy away from the horror aspects of traditional vampire stories. These characters aren't simply bad boy characters - they are chilling killers. As a lover of traditional vampire stories, I'm very grateful for that.
7 - I really enjoyed the black humor peppered throughout the story. This part made me laugh out loud in the midst of a high-tension vampire attack scene:
Glimpses of the men and women surrounding her flashed in the available light. Gleaming eyes, soft lips, long hair, they were beautiful, and they laughed at her. What the hell was wrong with her? She was being molested by a group of psychotic fashion models, and she should be screaming.
When Richard realizes he's been bitten twice by his vampire lover, he says 'So why are you following me? And does being marked mean that you have some sort of power over me? Will I start eating bugs?' He smiled weakly, but the questions were serious.
8 - Lena has made an interesting decision by the time we meet up with her again, twenty years after her turning. She rejects the truths her maker Darien told her about what it takes to live as a vampire. I enjoyed this original concept toward alternatives to the taking of human life.
9 - In order to survive against the vampire pack she left behind, Lena has become an adept martial arts fighter. As a huge fan of the Kill Bill films, I also relished this aspect of Dark Harmony, which leads to some exciting fight sequences.
10 - Lilly really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
"Her eyes flicked to the other man, one she really, really didn’t want to recognize. Her fear grew, oh, so much worse. He snarled in anger. Darien. He had yet to move in her direction, but the threat he exuded could not be ignored. He could be her death. Sweat drenched her in a quick flood. The noise in the bar faded, and people near her backed away as her terror brushed against them.
Time to run. The sounds of the bar flooded back into her senses. She grabbed her satchel and left the table. Her body swayed in tempo with those around her as she passed through the crowd. Some wouldn’t step aside for her and she shoved them, hard, and headed for the back.
She heard him call, her ex-lover, her ex-master, his voice harsh with anger and, perhaps, longing. Both emotions had her heart pounding. There, a fire door. Forcing it open, she ignored the shrill burst from the fire alarm and fled the area as quickly as possible.
Not quick enough. As she entered the alley, she caught the sickly scent of cooling blood."
11 - As someone who also writes about vampires, I really enjoyed Lilly's scenes involving practical problems such as dealing with the oncoming sunrise. Very nice world-building here.
12 - The three-pronged sai, Lena's weapon of choice, is a good symbol for the flavors of this story. The vampire aspect is the central blade, with action/adventure and dominance/submission running alongside like the two outside blades.
13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!
"He walked to the mirror hanging over the dressing table. Those few steps made him dizzy again. He clutched the panties in his fist. Great sex was one thing, but this weakness, that was another. He looked pale in the mirror, and tired. A soft green bruise bloomed on his inner thigh, and on his wrist a darker mark had formed. He looked at his arm and shuddered. There were two tiny scabs in the middle of the bruise.
'Lena?' he called again.
She had to be in the bathroom. Was she embarrassed by their impulsive night? Or feeling like him, sick as a dog?
He pounded against the bathroom door. 'Lena, are you okay?'
The door was locked.
Despite his screaming skull, he knocked louder.
'Lena! Are you all right? Let me in.'
What if she isn’t okay? He dropped her underwear and threw his weight against the door.
Lena's dream changed. She bared her fangs and hissed a feral warning. The demon threw agonizing beams of light at her. Her eyes streamed as the light pierced them, and she threw up her arm to protect herself.
Then it was gone. All was quiet. She lapsed back into complete unconsciousness. The dark had returned so her slumber deepened. A part of her sighed for the lost dream.
'Holy shit!' Richard panted as he slammed the door between him and the creature in the bathroom.
'Jesus Christ!' He scrambled backward and stared at the door, expecting at any moment to be faced with the spitting cat-creature he’d awoken in the tub. It couldn’t be Lena. It couldn’t. What the fuck was that?
The lights had been off. He’d seen a figure wrapped in blankets lying in the tub. Odd, but perhaps she was shy about sleeping in front of a man who, although they had shared the most intimate of moments, barely knew her.
He’d called her name and flicked on the lights. He’d reached in to shake her shoulder. And then—
Richard shuddered and wiped at the sweat beading on his forehead. The bathroom door remained closed. Everything was quiet. Still, he couldn’t move.
As the bathroom light had flickered on, she changed. It had been Lena, he was sure now. But with the light her face grew furious, and she snarled and hissed at him. And her mouth, her mouth stretched wide to bare those gleaming white fangs, so long—
He checked his wrist. The bruise seemed lighter but the marks were still there. Jesus, she bit me!"
- Lilly Cain, 2010
Join me next week when I review Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell.
Jennifer Leeland says I love the way you break books down like this. I'm going to check this one out.
Lilly Cain says Thank you so much Julia for the wonderful review! I love the way you do these Thursday 13 lists. :)
Shelley Munro says I enjoyed the excerpt at the end.