by Jaid Black, contemporary (2004)
Berkley, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19526-0
Jaid Black gets her Berkley debut with One Dark Night. This book is written in the same vein as other psychosexual thrillers that try to combine erotic elements with gritty violence, Susannah Moore's In The Cut being an example of this kind of thrillers. Unfortunately, the childish heroine fails to make this book as enjoyable as it should be.
Dr Nikki Adenike is a busy surgeon who loves to play games in the bedroom (she is a submissive). A meeting with a fellow she met over the Internet who promises to do the kinky things she loves to be done on her unfortunately goes horribly wrong but she manages to escape from the serial killer Lucifer. Our hero is Det Thomas Cavanah, a cop who is still suffering from his losing his daughter Amy to Lucifer years ago. He uses Nikki as a bait to capture Lucifer, but alas, he soon falls for the gorgeous surgeon, which complicates matters tremendously.
One thing about this book is that Jaid Black can really deliver in the suspense subplot. One Dark Night is dark and atmospherically chilling, with the standard tormented cop to provide some emotionally baggage. While most romantic suspenses make me yawn and count the pages until the main characters finally stumble upon the villain, One Dark Night has me at the edge of my seat most of the time, especially towards the end.
On the other hand, the heroine really gets on my nerves. She's very childish in that thanks to a background story involving Thomas not believing her friend as a psychic (and can I blame him?), she has him pegged as a jerk and acts like some spoiled little girl denied her Barbie dolls around him. The sex won't be as hot as Ms Black's Ellora's Cave offerings, but the author nonetheless manages to introduce BDSM elements into the plot as a matter-of-fact way without going out of her way to make judgments about these sexual activities or the people that indulge in them. While these love scenes are enjoyable, it is unfortunate that the underdeveloped romance and the contrived antagonistic antics of the main characters fail to allow any decent emotional bond to develop along with the sexual tension.
As a romance, One Dark Night may not be able to deliver the goods completely, but as a thriller, this is one entertaining ride. It is rare to find a well-balanced romantic suspense novel, and even rarer to find one where the suspense is actually, well, suspenseful, so in that aspect, this book has done more than enough for me. The domination/submission angle may provide some novelty value to curious readers as well as please connoisseurs of the manacles and velvet whip who want to see themselves portrayed as people instead of sexual fiends and CSI scapegoats for once, I guess. For what it's worth, One Dark Night is a very entertaining - if uneven - suspenseful debut from Jaid Black, flaws and all.
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