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Title: Dark Desires After Dusk (Immortals After Dark #5)
Author: Kresley Cole (
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Pocket Books Romance

Basic Plotline: Holly Ashwin is a shy, organized math professor until she is kidnapped by demons and discovers she is half-Valkyrie and destined to be the Vessel, the woman who's child will become either ultimate good or ultimate evil, depending on which way the father leans. To escape those wanting to use her, Holly flees with Cadeon Woede, a demon mercenary and fallen prince who secretly hopes to trade her to an evil sorcerer for a sword to regain his brother's lost kingdom, except that Cade knows that Holly is his female, his one true love. He must decide between the sword to save his kingdom or his true love.

The Positives - This novel occasionally approaches something like charm, and there are some minor, secondary characters who are somewhat amusing. I really did like Nix, Rok, and the various Valkyries. Their sense of humor towards Holly's situation and I loved Regin's sage advice re: Cade:

"Why do you care? Historically, whenever a prick serves me up to a skeezy sorcerer to use as a brood mare, I stop analyzing his motives. Historically. Now, give him a nice New York State bird and get him out of your head."

But these are a few, tiny, glimmering jewels among a sea of things that were wrong, creepy, and otherwise just not very enjoyable.

A lot could have gone right this book, because the plot moved steadily enough and the story had something resembling a compelling conflict (the sword or the true love), but unfortunately all that potential was unrealized.

The Negatives - There are a lot of things that are just wrong with this book, and most of them have to do with the very, very bad gender dynamics that seem to plague a lot of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The thing is? I do tend to like the whole "couple who are destined to be together get off to a rough start because they're complete opposites" thing. I really, do. And when done right, it's fantastic. This? Is not done fantastic. It's not even done competently.

The most prevalent issue in this book is that the author seems not to know the difference between being somewhat rude and being a sexual predator. She also doesn't seem to get that misogyny is not charming, and that having the female lead call out this misogyny but do nothing about it and instead engage in an ever increasingly sexual relationship with this person who's proven that he has little to no respect for her is not the basis for an enjoyable romance. It's the basis for a how-to manual on rape culture. The reader is supposed to like Cade through this book, or at least not hate him so completely that one wishes for him to die in a fire. But to do so, in fact, to enjoy any of the tone of this novel, you have to swallow a very bitter pill.

The heroine of the novel, Holly, is constantly sexually harassed in a way that's never dealt with. At the beginning of the book, her students leave sexually harassing messages on the board for her and yet somehow, we're supposed to feel that she develops some camaraderie with them or that's funny/charming because they're "jocks" in remedial math. The fact that she, as an instructor, puts up with such gems as "I've been a naughty boy, Ms. Ashwin" being scrawled on the board for no reason that's given at her doesn't endear me to the character or the author or the story.

Nor did it help that Holly would occasionally point out Cade's misogyny but moments later was thinking about how strangely attracted to him she was, and that her disgust was always tempered with sexual lust to somehow mitigate just how heinous Cade's misogyny was.

Even worse is that this entire dynamic comes right after a fairly graphic kidnapping and rape scene in which Holly is tied to a table, nearly raped, and has to transform and slaughter twelve demons to save herself. The problem I have with this is that it seems like there's this disrespect for the idea of rape and the consequences of it and the brutal reality that it happens to 1 in 3 women worldwide. 1 in 3. A third of all women. Take three women at random and chances are good that one or more are survivors of sexual assault.

Yet, after this scene, we're supposed to be interested in a hero that thinks this:

She was still in the shower when he returned, which meant she was fair game. He grasped the bathroom door handle, gave a heft to easily break the lock, then swung the door open wide.

"The male's back from the hunt," he called, grinning at her outraged screech.

"Get out! Shut the door!"

Since he could only distinguish a vague shape behind the clouded-glass shower stall, he decided to comply with her request. (Cole, 108)

Then, after he has done this, he proceeds to:

He set the laptop on the table, his attention drifting to her suitcase. Cade was itching to get a look at Nix's letter. Thinking this a fine time to snoop, he crouched beside the bag, dragging it away from the wall so he could open the top wide.

After rooting through her folded skirts and sweater sets he opened the side compartment, raising his brows at the contents. "Hellooo, lingerie," he murmured. (Cole, 110)

What part of this was supposed to be amusing or cute or make me want Cade and Holly to get together? THIS after we witness our heroine traumatized by an attempted gang rape? The minute I read this, I had to put the book down because it literally made me nauseous. I'm not kidding. My stomach hurt. Because basically, in this scene, Cade is invading her space and her privacy, a mere day or so after she's almost been raped and somehow this is okay because he's attracted to her, so it justifies disrespecting her and showing that she can't have anything unless he LETS her have it, like say, a shower in peace.

The reason I slogged through the rest of this book? So that when I did my review of it, no smartass could come up to me and say, "Buuuuut you didn't read the entire thing!". Yes, I read every word and no part of this book justifies this crap.

I don't know if this author (or anyone reading) has ever been on the phone with a good friend while she cried and told you about being raped, and how she blames herself for even being there at the time. I don't know if you've listened as another good friend tells you how her husband revealed that he had constant fantasies about violently hurting her and she had to trick him into leaving for her own safety and well being, maybe her own LIFE. I don't know if you've seen the testimony of female servicepersons in the U.S. military who talk about sexual harassment and how male superiors and fellow soldiers do break into their showers or surprise them while they're getting dressed, all to make sure that they don't feel safe there, to make sure they know that their bodies and their space are forfeit because they're female, and how many of them are raped by those same people later on and it goes unrecognized, unreported, unpunished. I don't know if you've ever been there when your friend tells you how the cops told her not to bother with even filing a report, and how even though she did, nothing was done about it. I don't know if you've read the threads on posts like this one right here where people are talking about their sexual assaults, some anonymously because they're too scared to put their name to their lived trauma online, for fear of those attackers returning to visit more pain on them, and how many of those attackers were friends, relatives, and romantic partners

But I have. Okay. I've been there with those women in my life, and those women that I don't know personally but who's testimony I have listened to. And having heard and experienced all that, I can only say: FUCK. THIS. SHIT. Fuck writing this as if it's funny, as if it's okay, as if we're supposed to carry on with this romance and believe it is a romance, not a tragedy. Fuck people making money off this. Fuck reinforcing rape culture. Fuck spreading the message that a man who invades a woman's intimate space like that and calls her "fair game" (Really, Ms. Cole? Fair game? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, LADY?) in his mind and even goes so far as to break a locked door to barge in on her is supposed to be a hero of any sort and not an abject villain.

This is on top of the fact that Cade is constantly referring to Holly as his "female" in a way that made my skin crawl. I have issues with women being referred to simply as "females" - because you know what else we refer to just as "females"? Livestock and animals. Because it constantly genders the interactions between Holly and Cade and makes it clear what Holly's role and purpose to him is. Not as his "love" or his "partner" or "soulmate" - this would imply some kind of relationship in which Holly is a human being to him and their interactions are about mutual affection and support rather than just their genders (because male automatically goes with female, OF COURSE). No, she's his "female", the way that perhaps an alpha male gorilla has a "female" or "females".

Even the moments when Cade has shed some of that blatant misogyny, there's still a sense of paternalism and patronizing disrespect when he's trying to be charming and care for Holly. He's constantly urging her to have sex with him, because of course, when a woman doesn't want sex and isn't interested in being naked with a man who BARGED IN ON HER IN THE BATHROOM THROUGH A LOCKED DOOR, it's because she's uptight and just needs to unwind through sex she's been pressured into having with the sexual predator of a demon who is the only thing standing between her and other rapists

Furthermore, I was squicked to my limits by the plotline of Holly being "the Vessel". So not only is she sexually harassed, patronized, nearly raped, kidnapped, and deceived - but her entire purpose in life, her one big destiny, the thing that matters MOST about her is her uterus. Because that's her point in life, to have a really special baby. Which tends to imply that after she has the One True Kid, she's sort of served her purpose and is useless. Because, indeed, that's been the framing of this entire novel - all that's really important is that Cade has a penis and Holly has a vagina and that they make those two things come together while mystical shit happens in the background. Sadly, this ultimate culmination, the epic merging of reproductive bits is actually absurd rather than arousing or interesting in any way.

On a slightly less disappointing and depressing but somewhat hilarious point, I would also like to point out that this author uses the "her vagina milked his penis of its semen" description that makes me cringe every time an author uses it in a completely unironic way. If you are out there, contemplating writing a sex scene and you need to describe the climax of a penis-in-vagina interaction, please leave off any comparisons to milking. First, because I will consider this literally and some very disturbing imagery featuring cows being milked and or milkmaids living inside a vagina will pop into my head. Second, because it will make me think of things made out of milk, like cheese. So just don't do it. Leave off the comparisons, yeah?

Because otherwise you, like the author of this book, will have forced me to think the words "semen cheese" and there just isn't enough brain bleach in the world.

CoC Score: 1/10. The sole recognizably non-white person in this book is Holly's colleague Mei, who works in (wait for it)…the math department. The one Asian character in this book and she's in the math department. *facepalm*. I just can't believe that anyone would write that and not realize the awful stereotype they're hitting upon. Unless, of course, they're one of those who thinks a "positive" stereotype (quick clue: there are no positive stereotypes only openly negative ones and secretly negative ones, but they're ALL bad) is all right. There was no reason this character needed to be a fellow math professor. All she does in this book is tell Holly that her boyfriend is stealing her work and help with Holly getting a sub for her classes. She could've at least been in another department, or maybe been an administrator. Not that it would've excused the "blip and you miss it" appearance of the sole CoC in the book, but at least it would've been a slightly less skeezy thing to do.

Gender Score: 1/10. There so much rape culture and gendered fakery in this book that I can't begin to list it. I tried above, but suffice it to say, this book reinforces everything that's wrong with the genre and with humanity in general.

GLBT Score: 0/10. No significant GLBT persons or situations. Inexcusable, and given this book, not at all surprising.

Ablism Score: 3/10. Holly is said to have been diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and for about five seconds, I was hoping we might get to see a heroine with a mental disorder/disability and a relationship in which that disability is dealt with in a compassionate manner. But alas, no. Holly's OCD is cleared up once she lets her hair down and she and Cade have The Only Sex That Counts (Penis-In-Vagina Sex), and it's not clear that she actually has OCD as opposed to a magical symptom of repressing her Valkyrie side. I didn't feel this was anything approaching a well-researched, respectful portrayal of OCD.

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