Dark Master by Tawny Taylor

Dark Master by Tawny Taylor

Dark Master by Tawny Taylor (Masters of Desire, Book 1)

I wanted to like Dark Master, but just couldn’t. It had all the ingredients—hot, dominant male vampire king needs a passionate human female to secure his power base. Lots of potential there, but even though I knew not to expect Vishous, I was hugely disappointed. And since the aspect of the book that I hated, hated, hated and felt disgusted by was something I think a halfway decent editor should have picked up on, I consider it my duty to warn people off this crappy book.

Regan Roslund was a spoiled rich girl who trusted the wrong financier with her inherited wealth and is suddenly left with no money, no assets and no skills, except for a little bondage store left by a black sheep relative, containing a necklace designed to select the next vampire queen, carelessly left on a display waiting to be tried on by poor unsuspecting subs.

Shadow Sorensen badly needs a queen because the vampire community is on the brink of civil war and having a human for his queen gives him a huge enough boost to his power that he cannot be challenged. When Regan puts on the necklace and meets with its approval, Shadow feels an awareness and goes off to claim his mate. He then manipulates Regan into agreeing to marriage and BDSM sex.

Regan was boring and had no real personality, but I guess that might be explained by having to stand on her own feet for the first time in her life, and I wasn’t attracted to Shadow at all. I found him flat and manipulative, and I thought Tawny Taylor used the special vampire power of being able to share souls during orgasm as a shortcut to an actual connection between the characters. On the very odd occasion that they work together instead of arguing, Taylor says that they make a good team, but I needed to be told because she didn’t show it in the story. Their only compatibility seemed to be in the bedroom.

Regan tried to keep running her business, even though it wasn’t bringing in money, partly to piss Shadow off, and partly because it was all she had left. With people trying to kill the new queen and leave Shadow weak, she should have been protected and stayed put, but no one explained it to her.

Call me crazy, but isn’t “queen” supposed to be a position of power and respect? In Dark Master, Shadow’s personal guards (and brothers) were not only allowed to see their new queen naked, but also to drag her around the castle. Maybe it’s because she’s human and inherently weaker than a vampire, but she was less a queen and more like just the king’s consort with a fancy title.

Where was the editor?

The second worst mistake the book makes is that it can’t make up its mind whether it’s going to have a plot. If it was simply a fuckfest for its own sake, fine, but throw in any semblance of a plot and I’ll expect a properly developed story. I’m just picky like that, especially when I’ve paid for the privilege of reading it. The sex scenes (with one very notable exception) were all right, but forgettable. I read Anita Blake and I’m complaining about the sex and lack of plot in Dark Master, so that’s really saying something.

The biggest mistake was how Shadow chose to punish Regan on one particular occasion. Shadow downplayed attempts on Regan’s life, so she has no idea how serious the situation is, but the castle is under threat from an insultingly obvious source (Taylor could learn how to handle villains better from Stephanie Laurens’s The Taste of Innocence). She’s also new to BDSM and disobeyed an implied order through ignorance (Taylor even italicised “implied”, so even she knew it wasn’t a REAL order), but the punishment escalated beyond anything she’d endured for a real order.

*** SPOILERS ***

Shadow put her in stocks while he had sex with a slave in the same room. I felt that was inappropriate for those reasons—it wasn’t a real order and he hadn’t even punished her like that for direct disobedience. Also, I thought the method of punishment was wrong because it seemed meant to punish her emotionally, but she had to put up with it because she wasn’t prepared to admit to this bully that she cared. Can’t imagine why.

So Regan’s heartbroken, but because she can’t fully see what’s happening from her position in the stocks, she paradoxically enjoys picturing herself in the slave’s role—a huge WTF (I don’t know how or why this scene wasn’t caught by the editor). She never safeworded and even though she cried “divorce” often enough in the past for far less, she shut up for this. Again, WTF?! I think it goes beyond submission to accept your husband doing someone else to teach you a lesson that he hadn’t made clear in the first place. I don’t know, maybe people in the lifestyle would say that she shouldn’t need an explanation because she had her orders, but there was NO CONTEXT for his chosen punishment and her doormat acceptance anywhere else in the book.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, Regan suffers the indignity of being unable to get away when the slave loses her balance in a state of post coital weakness and smooshes her no doubt fragrant arse in Regan’s face. I’m sorry, but proximity to another woman’s naked arse just doesn’t work for me. Not that I’m ever going to put that to the test.

*** END SPOILERS ***

Spoilerish things happen in the “story” leading to Shadow’s realisation that he failed Regan, but that punishment and his infidelity are never discussed, justified or even mentioned ever again.

They “fall in love” at the end, but I wasn’t convinced because I didn’t feel they connected, so it just seemed like a way to wind up the book.

Yay or Nay?

I’m all for cheap thrills, but given that this book was published in trade paperback format and ends up with a piss weak plot as a result of its refusal to commit to even having a plot, it’s neither cheap nor a thrill. Save your money for real toilet paper.

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Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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Decadence's fascination with vampires can be blamed on Anne Rice and although she reads urban fantasy, historical romance, romantica and crime, her first and undying love is paranormal romance. She works in a bookstore and gets no sympathy for the sheer volume of work she brings home, not to mention the TBR mountain that will never be surmounted. Her guilty pleasures include (in no particular order) chocolate, pizza, sleeping in and Alexander Skarsgard and she is a final assessment away from holding a full pistol licence.

7 comments

  1. Lami says:

    This was one of the best reviews I have ever read. Good on you Allison, for your honesty. I am so not buying this book – I can now afford the more pricey and softer toilet paper that way LOL.

  2. Decadence says:

    Thanks, Lami :) I feel better about saving someone else from a horrendous and costly reading experience.

    I should clarify that I wouldn’t even recommend the book for use as toilet paper — the pages are only 1 ply and scrunchers are really going to notice those corners :P

  3. KAT Scratch says:

    I believe that has to be one of the better reviews i’ve read in quite a while.  Not only did you hit them from the point of having no plot, you also managed to point out a “research” issue one which led to major continuity problems.  I have to agree the editor should have at least made sure some “closure” occured relating to scene above, not that it would have saved the book.  I’m able to read a romance with BDSM in it and enjoy it but I have to say, even I found this lacking, if not insulting to a womans intelligence.  I wish that I had read your review beforehand.

  4. Decadence says:

    I have to say that I can’t remember the last time I was so pissed off at a book. I wrote that review about 2 months after I read Dark Master and I still found its flaws to be inexcusable, especially for a professionally published book that readers were expected to pay for. Time does not heal all wounds.
     
    After I’d written my review, I had a look to see what other ppl were saying and most were negative. The few positives said very little at all and made no reference to the scene that I had so much trouble with. Anyone who mentioned the punishment scene had a negative opinion of the book. I think that scene affronted me so much that I had to finish the book just to see how it could be reconciled with some form of HEA. But after having gone to the effort of slogging through it, the whole book just left me with a sense of sheer disbelief that that published product could so much as exist in any form, let alone in that condition. That disbelief was why I read other people’s opinions. It’s not just me.
     
    I’m sorry that you read the book before you found my review. This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid by writing about it. Hope you find something to cleanse your palate.

  5. Tiffany says:

    I bought this book at a salvation army for $3.00 and it wasn’t even worth that much! The cover is what allured me but “Never judge a book by it’s cover” is some real good advice in the case of this book. The ideas in it did have a lot of potential but just weren’t played out with any sense of thoroughness or care. The characters had an odd sort of attraction to each other that was fake and unappealing. As hot as Shadow sounds for a name his character was controlling and unforgiving. This is the first BDSM book I have ever read and I was curious about it but this book turned me off to it. Next time I buy a book for cheap I’ll look for a review first before wasting my time.

  6. Decadence says:

    I think that whoever donated the book in the first place has earned themselves some crappy karma. Mine went into the recycling bin.
     
    Don’t give up on the genre because of this one book. There is some great BDSM stuff out there like Lora Leigh’s Bound Hearts series, Fallon Blake, or Evangeline Anderson’s Ellora’s Cave contributions (I haven’t read what she’s written for other publishers). KB Alan dabbles a bit in Perfect Formation. I’m currently reading Bound by Sunlight, which is a paranormal rather than a contemporary and it’s pretty good. Check out the excerpt.
     
    If you don’t mind m/m, give Ann Somerville a go. Kat, who doesn’t generally read BDSM recommended Remastering Jerna and I really enjoyed Cold Front. They are very meaty reads and deliver more than smut. There’s also the Deviations series by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne.

What do you think?