Scent of Darkness
Despite the hot sex and the paranormal theme, there is something about Scent of Darkness that seems a bit out of step.
This one feels, to be honest, like an Harlequin Presents paranormal, if such a beast existed. You’ve got a virginal heroine who was actually raised in an orphanage (do they even exist anymore?) by nuns; a cute-sy immigrant family who, despite all their adorably homespun ways, harbors a dark secret; and a totally HP-like setup in which the innocent, repressed heroine (who also harbors a dark secret) gets a makeover and sets out to seduce her hunky boss. Put them all together and Ms. Dodd’s first paranormal simply doesn’t feel very modern.
Ann Smith works as an administrative assistant to sexy vintner Jasha Wilder in Napa, California. Determined to seduce him, the newly made-over Ann travels one dark and stormy night to his Washington state hideaway without telling him she is coming. Problem is, she catches him in the act of turning from a wolf into his handsome self. Which he does. A lot. And therein lies the dark family secret.
Centuries earlier one of Jasha’s ancestors sold the soul of every male of his family to the devil (there are no girls for some reason until this generation – cue creepy woo-woo music). In exchange, they became shapeshifters and the best rapers and pillagers around, resulting in great familial wealth. Jasha’s father fell in love with a sixteen-year old Gypsy maiden (high creep factor here since she was still underage when she became pregnant) and the two escaped both his vengeful family and her angry tribe by immigrating to America. But the family curse – not to even mention the remaining rapers and pillagers back in the Old Country – still haunts the family. To save their souls (literally), the Wilder children must find the four pieces of a Madonna icon reputed to be scattered in the far corners of the earth.
Now, back to that dark and stormy night. Ann is, understandably, freaked at discovering Jasha’s secret and, in the midst of running away through the wind and the rain, somehow finds one of the segments of the icon. To make a long-ish story short, Jasha knows that the Madonna somehow chose Ann and that his formerly mousey assistant is suddenly hot. So they do it. A bit forcefully, if the truth be told.
Soon enough, however, Ann and Jasha realize that Jasha’s cousin problems are getting worse. The rapers and pillagers, it seems, are honing in on the Wilder family in America and, to put it mildly, trouble is brewing.
My gut reaction to this one is that this is a by-the-numbers paranormal romance of the type currently gutting the market, including, of course, the obligatory very obvious series set up. Hero: Big secret. Heroine: Big secret. Bad guys: Suitably bad. It’s all, in a word, very workmanlike, with, ultimately, nothing to pull it out of the increasingly madding crowd. Well, except that odd HP-ness, which for this reader, anyway, is not a positive.
Ms. Dodd certainly has her fans and no doubt that the author will celebrate yet another bestseller with Scent of Darkness. However, readers with a taste for the streetwise sensibility of J.R. Ward and those who prefer modern characters in their contemporary-set romances won’t find that this one hits the mark.