Dark Desires
by Eve Silver, historical (2005)
Zebra, $3.99, ISBN 0-8217-7966-4

Eve Silver's debut Dark Desires is a Gothic romantic tale with Frankenstein overtones, but it is ruined by a heroine who can be ridiculously modern and Mary Sue-like when she's not being the dumbest dingbat around. This story will be better accepted by readers who don't mind heroines that alternate between being a visionary affirmative-action wannabe and a pathetic dingbat-in-distress.

Darcie Finch, our heroine, arrives in East London down on her luck to seek sanctuary with a sister. Darcie is the last person to realize that she is in a brothel and that her sister is a madame. The sister, however, is kind enough to realize that Darcie is not cut out for a life of prostitution so she sends Darcie off to work as a maid at the house of a man people whisper to be a mad scientist. Such a loving sister, I tell you. Fare for Darcie's ride home on the short bus back to whatever asylum this woman broke loose from is probably too expensive, I suppose? Along the way, Darcie manages to sigh sadly at the sight of animals being led to the abbatoir, saying that those animals are "condemned without the benefit of trial" and comparing them to the fates of women like hers who are running around the streets in the middle night screaming and bursting into tears nilly-willy. Is this woman for real? Needless to say, Darcie the future founder of PETA however isn't a vegetarian although I suppose she should be credited for crying for poultry and lifestock when she herself is starving. How Mahatma Ghandi of her, eh?

Even when she ends up sharing a coach with her future employer Dr Damien Cole, the mad scientist in question, and he has a dead body by his side, Darcie is more taken by his handsome face to wonder much about the oddity of her situation. The next day, she will ardently defend Damien to a fellow maid, the fact that he has a dead man by his side when she first meets him conveniently forgotten in the light of how his eyes are so deep and sexy, ooh. And then Darcie will stumble upon Damien's book of anatomy and think of how the proportions in those illustrations are all wrong. So she Mary Sue-ishly draws a more improved illustration beside one, although don't ask me how Ms I Cry For Lifestock here knows the intricate details of anatomy. Darcie is clearly not all together upstairs, if you can't tell by now, so she probably takes a butcher knife to farm animals for fun when no one is watching. And then she starts seeing all those dark hallways and thinking about Damien's weird activities and remembers the dead body. But one look in Damien's eyes and she is convinced that he can't be that bad, really. She knows he's a good man. She can feel it! And she must save him, and we're not just talking about how he ends up making her his illustrator because she is one of those magical heroines who discover magical abilities within themselves when they are confronted by a situation where those abilities would come useful.

And on and on the story goes until I cannot take any more of Darcie's cloyingly saccharine "Am I not an adorably simple dingbat, reader?" antics interspersed by out-of-character moments of visionary soapbox "Animals are cute! People should be happy! Prejudice is bad! Handsome hunks are so hot and I know they are good because they are so-ooo-ooo hot!" moments of "cutesy" sageness. Damien Cole's story could have been interesting but the presence of Darcie and her ragtag cobbled-together threadbare personality of ill-developed "damsel in distress/feisty heroine" stereotypes that are never fully developed or even put together cohesively make me want to throw up all over the pristine pages of this book. Get the heroine a brain and then we'll talk. Until then, she's better off as a test object of Damien Cole's alleged past time. Darcie has the sole point-of-view in this story. Because she is an irritating bipolar feisty/stupid-helpless creature whose actions and thought train seldom make sense, are often erratic, and keep going back-and-forth, this story therefore sinks like a stone.

This book, especially Darcie, is like Frankenstein's monster: clumsily put together from parts of all kind of Gothic stories out there in a misshapen and grotesque manner with no effort to present the end product as a story with consistent characters with consistent motivations.

Rating: 39

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