For a long time my biggest wish for Feehan’s Carpathian romances was a strong heroine that would stand up to the extremely alpha Carpathian male. In Dark Secret, I got too much of what I wished for – the heroine is such a strong character that her relationship with the hero had violent aspects and elements of outright coercion.
For those who know about Feehan’s Carpathians, feel free to skip the next part. For everyone else…Carpathians are a race of near-immortal beings who are dying out. There are very few females born and their males cannot see color and lose the ability to feel emotions after their two hundredth birthday. At that point, some chose to give up their souls and become vampires, or Carpathians who kill their human blood donors. Carpathian males are extremely controlling in nature and once they find their female life mate, will protect her at all costs. Their lifemate allows the males to feel emotions and see colors, and if one of the pair is killed, the other will die as well.
Colby Jansen is holding onto her stepfather’s ranch by the skin of her teeth. She begged for help from Armando Chevez’s rich family during his illness, but since Armando married a woman with a “bastard” daughter, his father disowned him. When Julio Chevez arrives long after Armando’s death with Nicholas De La Cruz and demands to take Colby’s half-brother and sister back to Brazil, Colby believes the Chevez family wants to steal their inheritance. Colby has been responsible for Paul and Ginny since she was 17, and done her best for five hard years. Even though a series of alarming accidents have taken place on the ranch, she refuses to back down in her efforts to preserve her family’s legacy, and tells Nicholas to stay away from her family. When Nicholas cannot persuade Colby by using his mental abilities, he brings in his brother Raphael for back up.
Raphael and Nicholas have fought vampires in South America for centuries and are almost rogue Carpathians in their ways. They actually had discussed the pros and cons of becoming vampires, but eventually dismissed the idea. Their emigration to South America was more like an exile in order to keep other Carpathians safe. Raphael knows immediately that Colby is his lifemate, and like all Carpathians, attempts to force her to acknowledge him and their bond. Instead of discussing anything with her at the beginning, he uses their desire for each other to forge the bond.
However, unlike other previous Carpathian mates, Raphael does not engage Colby’s heart with the sexual relationship, and it’s here that the almost violent overtones of their relationship occur. Colby literally fights against Raphael, and to prevent her rejection and death for both of them, Raphael’s attempts to compel Colby to love him escalate in intensity. As a result, Colby is seriously injured because she fights against her transformation.
Colby is too strong, and Raphael too uncommunicative, and it’s not a pretty mix. Colby has a ranch to run, and ranches are not run in the dark, which means the two spend much more time in the sun than any previous Carpathian couple and are terribly injured as a result. Colby and Raphael spend more time recovering from various injuries than any other couple I’ve seen, which made for a painful read from my end.
Because Colby puts up such a strong fight, the realization that she loves Raphael comes late, which lands them in danger with a powerful vampire. And because she is so very independent and dearly loves her brother and sister, it is only when Ginny and Paul’s lives are threatened that she allows Raphael and Nicholas to help her, to the detriment of everyone.
I normally highly recommend Feehan’s Carpathian series, but this one was nearly too graphic for me to finish. The vampire is worse than any that other Carpathians have fought, and the battle was nearly too much for me. Perhaps I’m becoming squeamish in my old age, but I suggest that only die-hard Carpathian fans attempt this one, and even then I advise caution. For those new to this universe, there are many others in the backlist to try instead. My favorite is Dark Challenge, which also features a strong heroine, but does so without overwhelming violence between lifemates.