Empathy by Ker Dukey
The prologue and blurb
The prologue is freakin’ brilliant and sucked me into this story immediately. The blurb? Just as awesome. The idea of an emotionally impaired anti-hero finding love is like romance reader catnip. Loveable (and redeemable) hitmen are hard for an author to pull off, and the way this story was set up, I was SURE I was going to be in love with Blake by the end of the book.
When Blake meets the heroine, Melody, it’s far from a meet-cute. This isn’t a case of “they met and didn’t hit it off right away.” It was more a case of “she bumps into him by accident, he calls her a fucking idiot, then he pushes her to the ground” kind of meeting. It’s far from romantic. And I find it hard to believe that Melody would feel any kind of attraction to Blake after a meeting like this. But of course, she does. (Because he’s soooooo handsome! It doesn’t matter if a guy treats you like crap if he’s super handsome right? Blech.)
Blake and Melody “fall in love” without ever having any kind of real conversation. She’s knows nothing about him. (Other than the fact that he’s rude, treats her like crap most of the time, and is kind of a possessive, jealous, over-reacting asshat. What’s not to love?) Blake, in turn, falls for Melody very quickly, too. He doesn’t know much about her, either...other than what he’s been able to learn from stalking her. (Yeah, he does that, too.)
She of the magical vagina
Melody has magical genitals. She must. I mean, why else would EVERY straight male in the story be infatuated with her? And how else could she manage to turn a psychopath contract killer into a loving boyfriend just by having sex with him? (I have no tolerance for magical genitals in my romance, folks. It’s a deal-breaker for me.)
Dim much, Melody?
Ryan, Blake’s brother, doesn’t do nearly as good a job at hiding his true nature as he thinks he does. There were some pretty freakin’ clear signs that the boy wasn’t right in the head that Melody completely ignored before adopting Ryan as her “best friend.” (And much like she fell in love with Blake, her BFF status with Ryan happened practically overnight and without much in the way of conversation happening between them.) The whole thing makes me question if Melody is TSTL.
Ryan is a REALLY fascinating character. He’s a true sociopath in every sense of the word. If this was a psychological thriller about Ryan, this would be a 5-star read ALL THE WAY. But, it was a romance about Blake, who was a much less interesting character, and Melody of the magical vagina, so...bummer.
The whole “hitman hired to kill your parents thing” wasn’t a deal-breaker?
Melody is mildly put-out when she finds out about Blake’s side-job. She’s mad at him for a few pages before taking him back. I would think that kind of revelation would create some real relationship problems for these two, but it doesn’t really. So, it’s either totally unbelievable, or Melody really is TSTL. As a reader, both options are offensive to me.
Y’all know I’m not a grammar Nazi, but, damn, there were a lot of errors in this book. Glaring stuff that even I noticed.
This didn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger. Blake and Melody get their HEA. (A totally unbelievable one that once again makes me say dafuq—but it’s a HEA nonetheless.) But at the end, there’s a small set-up for book 2 in the series that leads me to believe the author is going to try and redeem an unredeemable character...by giving him a 17 year-old love interest, who also happens to be his niece. Yikes. I’m going to have to pass on that one, I’m afraid. (No, seriously. I’m afraid. And creeped out.)
So, long-story-short, I feel a little let-down by all the glowy 5-stars review this book has. Did y’all read a different book than I did? Am I alone in this world? Is this a great book and I just don’t understand what real romance is all about? Do penguins have knees? (OK, that last one didn’t have anything to do with the book, but these are the things I think about late at night when I can’t get to sleep. But I digress...)
If you’re a lover of dark, twisty, mind-fuck romances that feature instalove and heroines with magical genitals, this one’s for you. For the rest of you, run—run far, run fast, and don’t look back.
Does this book contribute to or help crush the romance stigma?
It’s pretty stigma-y as a romance. But it’d be pretty spectacular as a psychological thriller about Ryan the sociopath.
Other reading suggestions
For the best romances about hitmen who are believably redeemed by love, check out this list. Also, check out Hostage, by Annika Martin and Skye Warren.
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