Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52128-6
Sci-fi Romantic Suspense, 2012 (Reissue)
I’m playing by the rules for once for this month’s TBR Challenge, as the theme is either romantic suspense or paranormal, and look, here’s a sci-fi romantic suspense from Suzanne Brockmann! Born to Darkness is meant to be the first book in a new series called Fighting Destiny, set in the future after another Great Depression that sent the USA is pretty much into an ugly recession, but at the same time, there are labs set up to pull the Charles Xavier act on mutants, er, Greater-Thans. Yes, the mere mortals are called Less-Thans, and I can’t think of anything more elitist than such a name.
Basically, this book brings together three couples, and I am forcibly reminded as to why I have not read the author’s books in years. As we spiraled deeper into Troubleshooters hell, plot and character development seemed to become secondary to setting up long-drawn soap-operatic arcs designed to span across as many books as possible, and guns and patriotism soon were overshadowed by a soaking wet mountain of diapers caused by the characters’ incessant angst and propulsive spurts of masculine tears. Unfortunately for me, instead of some tale of mutants kicking asses – I’d even settle for bad The X-Men fanfiction at this point – I get more of that same sort of soap opera that I was so tired of.
The world building is very light, by the way, and the whole thing could easily be set in present day with some adjustments – another cause for my disappointment. Here, aside from the Greater-Thans, we also have another sort of mutants – people hooked on the drug Destiny, which gives them powers comparable to the Greater-Thans. Incidentally, no two Greater-Thans have the same powers, because everyone is a special snowflake in that world. Unless you are a Lesser-Than, of course, then you can settle for wiping the rear ends of those snowflakes.
Anyway, former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin joins the Obermeyer Institute and everyone is like, “Whoa, awesome dude! You’re the hero so we’re giving you a ticket to the top of the Dean’s lists!” His girlfriend is Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie, whose powers allow her to heal, and she heals especially well when she’s having sex. And she can also charm a guy into believing that he has fallen for her, so that she can get her rocks off – just like she did with her last beau. You know, turn Mac into a man and things will get really creepy – Mac’s powers are something that only a heroine can get away with having. Anyway, Mac and Shane had a one night stand and when they meet again at the Institute, Shane wants to work for an A+ again from her, but she’s like, “Oh, I don’t screw my colleagues, because that will be really unprofessional.” Oh, and everyone has issues.
There is a gay couple here too, but like the author’s previous gay couples, these two dudes are so sickly sweet and saintly that I quickly lose interest in their bland, bland story. I know the author is into the alphabet soup affirmative action, but I feel that she is probably too close to the cause, to the point that she is either incapable or unwilling to create less-than-perfect gay guys in her story, and this really kills those guys’ stories as a result. With such bland characters at the helm, things are a complete snooze in the story. Sure enough, these guys fall in love in what seems like minutes – a secondary character even remarks on that – and the whole thing is like a particular boring sack session with a guy who can’t even last five seconds.
One more couple is the Designated “BUY THE NEXT 300 BOOKS AND SQUEAL IN SUSPENSE EACH TIME, PEOPLE!!!” Couple, and I’d probably care to elaborate if I was reviewing this book in 2012 and I actually thought the next book would be coming out soon.
But it is 2016 now, and the author seems to have only more Troubleshooters and Gay Men of Hallmark Hell stories in the works for the near future. I suppose not enough people bought this book back then, both in hardcover and mass market paperback as well as digital editions, so the author has to keep writing what brings home the bread. That’s the biggest deterrent to reading Born to Darkness in the near future, actually – the series seems to be in permanent hiatus, and if you care about these characters, you would be left stranded high and dry. If you don’t care about them, your only loss is the money you paid for this book (that is, if you didn’t borrow it). Hence, this is one instance where it can hurt more to love this book than to be indifferent to it.
The action scenes and the threat of the villains are mostly overshadowed by the “origins” aspect of the story, which sees the focus on these boring characters – that resemble the author’s past characters – going through the same old angst and issues song and dance. Despite the focus on internal drama, characterization is light and forgettable because the cast is too large to be properly developed in one book. Hence, this one sees the authors using angst as a short cut for character development.
Anyway, don’t bother with this one, at least until the series is revived some time in the future (assuming that it will, that is). It’s pretty much the same stuff you will find in those Troubleshooter books, only with a poorly developed setting and eye-rolling, antiquated “My powers are more awesome when my boyfriend is rogering me!” nonsense, so you won’t be missing much.
Oh, and before I forget, this mass market paperback reissue is bundled with Shane’s Last Stand, previously available as a separate short story. And no, I still can’t be bothered to care about that character. It’s quite hilarious, though, how people who bought the hardcover and the short story separately, and really wanted to read the next book are triple-screwed in this situation. It can be heartbreaking to be a fan sometimes, I tell you.