Romance novels are an interesting bunch. Summaries of such stories make them sound intriguing for the adult female audience they reach out to and the audience also knows that, indeed, there will be steamy sex scenes (the main reason women pick up the books). However, upon reading the books, the love scenes are there, but where is the rest of the actual story? The plots seem to be missing from romance novels, giving just enough detail before jumping right into the passion. This makes the reading experience incredibly unenjoyable and dull just reading about sex, sex, and more sex. Marata Eros’s The Darkest Joy was one such romance novel: what started out with a hopeful summary of an actually intriguing thriller of a romance story turned into the cliché sex story with a predictable thriller twist many will become bored with halfway through reading.
Brooke Starr was a fantastic piano player on her way to playing for Julliard. That dream was shattered when a devastating tragedy made her an orphan within a single night. Inheriting an old cabin in Homer, Alaska from her deceased relative, the young 20 year old is unsure if the isolation from everything she knows is better than the sadness that threatens to drown her. Nearly literally drowning one drunken night, she is rescued by a deep-sea fisherman named Chance Taylor. Known for his harsh demeanor, Chance is immediately drawn to Brooke and wants nothing else but to protect her and save her from the demons of her tragic past. Will Brooke allow Chance to save her or will she allow the water to consume her?
Eros is a talented writer, especially when it comes to introducing a story. She starts her story in a very surprising and suspenseful way, instantly drawing the reader in. Unfortunately, the interest in the story ends after the first chapter. Where to begin with the many things that could be improved on this story… For starters, the incredible amount of references to the water becomes old very fast. Not only does Chance save her from literally drowning and he works around water for a living, but there are always references to Brooke drowning in sorrow or Brooke swimming out of her funk or the FBI agent who is helping her in her case, Marshal Clearwater. These are just a mere handful of the water references Eros uses in her 300 some page book. Along with these references to water, there is an overabundance of various other metaphors and similes. There is a comparison to something in nearly every paragraph. It is great when writers use metaphors and similes, but there is a time to stop.
Another downfall of the story is that all of the events happen way too fast. For the way Eros set her two main characters up, there was a perfect opportunity for a relationship that begins with argument and then turns into love. Brooke is a stubborn young lady trying to hide her past and Chance is a stubborn, hard-working fisherman that works his crew just as hard. It is the perfect setup for an arguing duo. And yet, the opportunity is missed and there is instant chemistry the minute Chance saves Brooke’s life. After the two meet, the relationship blossoms at a rapid pace. Chance becomes a creeper, saying he wants to protect her, but in actuality he just wants to get her into bed while Brooke becomes incredibly oblivious and is too naïve to realize Chance’s true intentions. It would have been better if Eros had made Brooke older and more mature, maybe a 30 year old rather than a 20 year old.
Of course, with every romantic relationship come the intimate love-making scenes. The cover of The Darkest Joy is a dead giveaway of what the book contains within it, though some who pick it up looking for a nice romance novel may have false hope that maybe, just maybe there isn’t too much of… that… in the book. But oh, how wrong one is, for once Brooke and Chance get going, it’s just one love-making session after another. These constant sex scenes become very uncomfortable to read shortly after they begin. Eros’s story also takes a Disney-like turn in the relationship department: Brooke and Chance barely know each other for two weeks and after their first sexual encounter, Brooke says “I love you.” Who says I love you after knowing someone for two weeks and making love to him once?! In the words of Kristoff from Frozen, “You got engaged to someone you just met that day?” Where is the development of the relationship? As aforementioned, where is the story?
Aside from the hasty deliverance of the story, many items are incredibly cliché and predictable. For instance, Chance has a very good friend, best friend even, named Evan who Brooke meets first. Evan develops a crush on Brooke just like Chance and the two begin fighting over her. This immature fighting of two grown men over a young girl is cliché and ridiculous. The killer is even predictable. It is not obvious at first who the killer is, but about halfway through the book, the reader will more than likely figure it out.
The only aspect of the story Eros did well was her dialog between characters. It was even fun and witty at times. However, that does not make up for the poorly planned rest of the story. Brooke needed to be older, there needed to be more girls who could be Brooke’s friend (she only had one girlfriend and there were absolutely no women mentioned living in Homer, Alaska), the relationship between Brooke and Chance escalated way too rapidly, and the events held promise, but lacked in detail and depth. What would have really benefited the story is if Eros had taken the many paragraphs that Brooke and Chance used to think of one another and express how they were feeling and maybe talked more about Brooke’s family and her relationship with them before the terrible tragedy. There were so many things Eros could have done differently to make her story a thriller of a romance, but she missed the opportunity and hopefully future books from her will not meet the same fate.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on September 21, 2015.