Let me start by saying that in the past, Lynne Graham has been a guilty pleasure read for me. Yes, her plots are often stunningly similar: her heroes are inevitably some insanely rich tycoon of Mediterranean origin, her heroines virginal working class girls, and the relationship necessarily volatile, and yet I must blushingly admit to having secretly enjoyed many of them. When she’s at her best you can count on a quick entertaining read containing good cathartic angst followed by a satisfying grovel scene where a powerful man is brought down by an honest woman. But sometimes even a book that one expects to follow a formula can be just too formulaic. Sadly, reading Dark Angel was like reading Lynne Graham badly parodying herself.
In this incarnation of the Lynne Graham formula, our hero is Luciano da Valenza, who just happens to be the neglected bastard son of a Greek Tycoon. Five years earlier he was working his way up the corporate ladder at a winery owned by Kerry Linwood’s father. He had recently become engaged to Kerry herself when she broke off the engagement under suspicious pretenses. The very next day he was arrested on charges of embezzlement and sent to jail for a crime he did not commit. Now he’s emerged from his incarceration as heir to his late father’s estate, all charges dropped, and oh yeah, carrying a massive grudge against all things Linwood. Can we say revenge?
Ah, but of course he doesn’t know Kerry’s side of the story. How could he? She never told him. It seems that Kerry’s self-indulgent older stepsister had convinced her that Luciano had been unfaithful (in case you were wondering, there’s always an evil other woman in a Lynne Graham novel). So Kerry does what any woman who deeply loves and trusts her fiance would do – she breaks the engagement, refusing to tell him why or ask for his side of the story.
It just so happens that Luciano holds a lien against Kerry’s grandparents’ old family estate in Ireland. Kerry has worked her fingers to the bone to keep the place up and solvent, and all will all be for naught if he follows his initial plan of booting her family out as part of his scheme of revenge. But he quickly (too quickly) gets the hots for Kerry all over again and decides instead to help rebuild the estate and woo her back so he can have the satisfaction of dumping her instead.
Whatever. All this juvenile posturing got tiresome very fast, and I found my tolerance level for Alpha-jerks, even justifiably angry Alpha-jerks, was very low. It didn’t help matters that the relationship here is even more inexplicable than one between a Greek Tycoon and a poor noble virgin usually is; Graham’s style often features telling rather than showing, but since the entire prior romance is assumed as backstory, we never see how or why these two originally fell in love. The chemistry’s there, alright, but not much else, and though they fall back into lust almost immediately upon being reacquainted, they never treat each other with any trust or belief or anything other than high-schoolish petulance and sulkiness. Apparently they just like to have sex together a lot and that will make everything all right. There’s not much more to the plot than watching them witlessly try to figure out what actually happened in the past and resist saying those three little words to each other for as long as possible. As with any Big Misunderstanding, if these two would just sit down and talk to each other for an hour or so it would probably all get sorted out in no time.
Of course, this book doesn’t really need more plot – it needs more romance. Unfortunately, Graham throws some extra complications into the Big Mis mix instead so that there is not simply one evil woman, there are two, and other evil relations may be floating around. To make matters worse, there’s a last-minute tie-in between this book and the author’s Sister Brides series. These unconvincing and unflattering revelations about Kerry’s mother feel tacked on and add nothing to the story or development of the romance. Those who read Graham now have to look forward to spending more time with the aforementioned sister brides, who were annoying enough in their own books.
This is Lynne Graham’s first single title release in the US after having a lengthy run as a Harlequin Presents author. Why this is a single title when it is no better or different than her other books is a question I can’t answer. It is a quick read, delivers the over-wrought angst you expect from her, but little else. As a reader who’s enjoyed many books by this author, I can say with some authority that she’s done much better than Dark Angel, and if you’re interested in her better titles, let me know.