Skye Warren’s dark romance, The Bishop, is the newest standalone novella in the long-running 1001 Dark Nights series. It introduces readers to the wealthy alpha males of the Den, a social club in Tanglewood, Illinois that doubles as an “underground hub for illicit activity.” Even though Warren writes compelling narrative, I couldn’t quite get a foothold in the story. Personally, my threshold for ‘light’ kidnapping and mild Stockholm Syndrome isn’t what it used to be.
The Den’s private on-call doctor Anders Sorenson is a tortured man driven by revenge. His plan to settle an old score is thwarted when a rare bishop chess piece disappears from an auction. Anders’ search for the chessman leads him to Natalie, a mysterious woman who knows the item’s whereabouts. When Anders discovers Natalie lying battered in an alley, he holds her captive at his friends’ mansion while she recovers. As secrets are revealed and desire intensifies, Anders risks losing his heart to a woman whose destiny is tied to his own.
The contrivances and improbabilities in The Bishop detract from the plausibility of the burgeoning romance between Anders and Natalie.
The flimsy plot has holes, and the largely unrelatable characters are only somewhat likeable. Anders is the typical stoic, damaged alpha male who quickly becomes enthralled with the object of his desire, and his obsession with retribution gives off a sociopathic vibe. To Anders’ credit, he does give Natalie an incredibly erotic (and consensual) post-kidnapping bath. Natalie’s intriguing backstory reveals that she has historically lacked agency over her life. She is insanely attracted to Anders’ Nordic good looks and shows minimal resistance. In fact, Natalie calls him “…my captor and my savior.” In context, this line makes a modicum of sense. However, the comment still sounds cringingly deluded. An unexpected turns of events leads Natalie to making an empowered decision, but she falls short of an inspiring character arc.
Anders’ friends, Gabriel and Avery, are secondary characters who I found particularly bothersome. Not only are they complicit in the kidnapping, but their courtship began after Gabriel purchased Avery’s virginity in an auction. Their romance is featured in Warren’s Endgame series. I suppose that an exploitation-turned-love affair might be possible, but I’m not terribly interested in finding out.
Skye Warren’s The Bishop delivers a quick fix for dark romance readers with abduction fantasies. Romance fans might be attracted to the soap-operatic tone and taboo subject matter, but they will find the story otherwise lacking.