I'm starting a new series of blogs today called What To Read. I did something similar a few years ago, but I figured it was time to tackle a few other subgenres and to update some recs on older ones. Today, I'm focusing on dark romance--one of my favorites.
Now, the definition of "dark" can vary widely from person to person. A really gritty romantic suspense could be considered dark if you focus on the fact that there is violence or murders or serial killers. But that's not what I'm talking about today. For my purposes, a dark romance is one that has an anti-hero, a villain type as the lead guy, and/or completely mindf*cks you. The usual lines of morality are blurred. These are the guys who you really wouldn't want to mess with in real life, but who are so interesting to read about.
When I read these, I have that thought--wow, I really shouldn't be rooting for these people or liking this hero or wanting this person to get the girl. But I do. And I can't help it, lol. Hence, the mindf*ck. I love when an author can pull that off.
And the key for me that separates this from just reading about really bad people is that even when the main guy is an anti-hero, he always has some seed that keeps you with him. It could be his version of his own moral code, some line he won't cross. Or something happens and he's redeemed on some level(as much as one of these guys can be redeemed.) Or the backstory is so well-crafted that you get it. You understand why he is the way he is. Usually, very bad things have happened to him. So you see the humanity underneath the dangerous, broken parts.
Now, a trigger warning. Some of these books go to really dark places. Uncomfortable places. In many ways, that's the beauty of fiction. You can step in and out of the world and still be safe. However, if you have triggers around rape, violence, or anything in that zone, you may want to steer clear of these.
Okay, so recommendations. And note, none of these authors have asked me to feature their books or given me copies in exchange for promotion. These are my own personal recs of books I've read.
*Click book covers for more info
One of the ones that has stuck with me as of late is Prisoner by Skye Warren and Annika Martin. Skye is one of the first authors I saw doing truly dark romance. Her books pull no punches. They go there. The heroes are often very bad men, but you want to read about them and the heroines. She has a number of books out there, but her collaboration with Annika is probably my favorite. Prisoner is about...a prisoner (surprise!) who kidnaps the heroine when he escapes. I also enjoyed Love the Way You Lie.
This next duet is one that will mind*ck you. You really, really don't want to feel any sympathy for the guy. He's so very villain-y...until you find out why. Captive in the Dark and Seduced in the Dark by CJ Roberts. All the trigger warnings for this one, y'all.
The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith is a little (a lot) left of center from the others. It's Sci-Fi and LOOOOONG. And, uh, the hero is an alien/lizard man. I know, I know. Believe me, if I hadn't seen a lot of people whose opinion I trust recommending it all over when it came out, I never would've picked it up. But it ended up being one of my favorite reads of whichever year I read it. The hero lives by different rules (you know, he's on an alien on a different planet and all) and the heroine is human. But the journey he goes on is truly worth reading.
Like Dexter? Try One Cut Deeper by Joely Sue Burkhart. She does a good job of making the hero sympathetic even though he's about as dangerous a man as one can be. This one has blood play, knife play, and edgy BDSM scenes. You've been warned.
Okay, so what if you're curious about dark romance but you don't want to jump into the deep end quite yet? Here are some suggestions for books that are dark in theme but still have heroes with strong moral codes who you can feel good about.
I recommend Tiffany Reisz's Original Sinners series all over the place. Full disclosure: We share an agent and know each other. But honestly, that has nothing to do with my love for her books. The series is well-written, sexy, and intense. Expect lots of BDSM, a sadist priest who you'll love, and a long list of characters who will stay with you for a long time.
Asking For It by Lilah Pace is one that has a dark theme but likable characters. This and the follow-up book, Begging For It, tackle the issue of rape fantasy. It's a tough topic, but the author handles it with a deft hand.
So I hope that gives you a place to start if you're looking to try out this genre or if you're looking for more reads within it.
For those of you who read Dark Romance, what books would you recommend? I'm always looking for another great read.