Amanda Devereaux comes from a family of witches, vampire hunters, and psychics. Except for her dad, she is the only "normal" one, and wants to keep it that way, so she leads a boring life as an accountant with a boring sub-par boyfriend. Actually, said boyfriend just broke up with her because of her "freaky" family. Then one evening, her identical twin sister, Tabitha, calls to ask Amanda to go let her dog out of the house. In an instant, Amanda is accosted by someone inside Tabitha's house and knocked unconscious. She awakens in a strange room to find herself handcuffed to a gorgeous blond hunk dressed in black leather. Amanda doesn't think that things could get much worse, but when "yummy leather guy" wakes up, it doesn't take long for her to realize that the man she is attached to is not human, but a vampire - or so she thinks. He calls himself a Dark-Hunter. It seems that their assailant, the Daimon, Desiderius, may have been after Tabitha because of her vampire hunting activities. But before they can find out, they will have to escape their prison and find a way to remove the handcuffs which can only be opened by a Greek god. Luckily, Amanda's friend, Grace, just happens to be married to a demigod, who was also Kyrian's best friend eons ago.
Over two thousand years ago, Kyrian was a commander in the Greek army. Just as he was on the cusp of defeating the Romans, he was betrayed in the cruelest of ways by his own wife, who he loved passionately. Her betrayal led to weeks of torture and eventual execution at the hands of the Roman general, Valerius, but the Greek goddess, Artemis, gave Kyrian a chance at vengeance and immortality in exchange for serving her for all eternity as a Dark-Hunter, vampire-like creatures who hunt down the evils of the night to protect humans. While Kyrian is handcuffed to Amanda, he finds himself extremely attracted to her, and more than that, there are stirrings of emotions that he hasn't felt since his "death". He also senses Amanda's suppressed powers and begins to think that Tabitha wasn't Desiderius' intended target after all. It will take all of Kyrian's Dark-Hunter powers to keep Amanda safe, but when the Fates prophesy that only a Dark-Hunter with a soul can defeat Desiderius, it seems all may be lost. Only a woman who loves Kyrian with a pure heart can help him to regain his soul, and Kyrian has vowed never to love or trust another woman again.
Night Pleasures is the first story in the Dark-Hunters series to actually get into the real meat of who the Dark-Hunters are and what they do. As such, it was a pretty good beginning to the overall story arc, but in my opinion, as an individual romance it suffered from a few of the same issues as it's predecessor, Dragonswan. There was plenty of material in this book, in particular Kyrian's tormented past, which should have lent itself to rip-your-heart-out moments, yet I found myself having a difficult time fully engaging my emotions while reading it. I think there were several reasons for this, the first of which was the instant "meeting and mating," of which I am not very fond. While the first love scene did not take place until halfway through the book, only a few days had passed. In fact, the entire book takes place over the course of less than a week. Because of this, I had a very hard time suspending disbelief to accept Kyrian and Amanda's relationship and love for each other. I realize that an instant attraction between supernatural creatures and their mates is a staple of paranormal romance, and most of the time I have no problem with that, but in this case it didn't really work for me. While Ms. Kenyon certainly played up their physical attraction for one another right from the start (in fact almost too much), there was not really any supernatural bonding element to it, which is what has helped me to accept the "love at first sight" angle in other paranormal stories. Without that, there wasn't much else for me to grasp onto that would make their bond believable to me. Kyrian, very understandably, had serious trust issues, and I just couldn't seem to accept that someone would be able to overcome such deep-seated issues that had plagued him for two millennia in a just a few days. I suppose this is really more a matter of personal preference, but it did somewhat diminish my enjoyment of the novel.
A couple of other elements which may have affected my ability to emotionally connect with the story was the humor to drama ratio and having both of the characters possess supernatural abilities. I normally have enjoyed Sherrilyn Kenyon's mixture of humorous and dramatic elements, but in this book I didn't feel like it was quite perfect. Dramatic stories certainly need a little humor from time to time to lighten things up, and of course, without a little drama, a humorous story wouldn't really have a plot. In Night Pleasures though, I felt like there was too much drama to really consider it to be a romantic comedy, but there was too much humor for me to really take the dark, dramatic parts seriously. It seemed that every time I was starting to feel that emotional connection to the characters, they started joking around about something which jolted me out of what I thought should have been a very earnest scene. I think perhaps it would have been better if the comic relief had been left to just a couple of characters instead of all the characters occasionally tossing out the one-liners. As written, it just read a little too much like a funny action movie. Finally, both characters having otherworldly skills was an interesting twist from most other paranormal romances I've read to date, but here I felt like it diluted both characters to some extent. It made the solutions to some of their dangerous and difficult circumstances a little too easy and pat for my taste, when a lot more drama could have been wrung out of those situations. Also, I really like for tormented characters who are coming to terms with their past to do so by relating those events to their mate. I think it can go a long way toward building a poignant and trusting bond between them. In Night Pleasures though, Amanda accidentally finds out about Kyrian's past through her psychic talents, which in my opinion, closed a lot of doors for communication.
Kyrian and Amanda were both very nice, likable characters, but because of the previously cited issues I had with the story, I don't think I ever fully related to them. I love tortured heroes, and Kyrian is without a doubt one of those. I did sympathize with all his torment, both past and present, but I thought the author could have gone a little deeper with the feelings surrounding that. Kyrian was a very alpha male, so readers who enjoy those, should really like his character. While I didn't find him to be excessively alpha, perhaps it was still a little too much for me. I think this may have been why he didn't exhibit very much of the more tender feelings that I like to see from romance heroes. Amanda was an interesting heroine, feisty and spirited, in spite of her claims of being boring, yet even with her special gifts, she didn't really stand out to me that much. I think she would have benefited from a bit more character development. All the reader is really told about her is that she comes from a large family in which all the women have mystical powers, and that she has suppressed those powers because of a tragic incident in her teens. Again, I didn't really feel like this event packed the emotional punch that it should have. There were just many places in the story where I felt like the author was telling me things narratively rather than showing me, which I thought would have given the story a lot more depth. In spite of the lack of connection, I will admit that I enjoyed some of the character interactions between these two, particularly the last major love scene where Amanda helps Kyrian to overcome his deepest fears. I found it to be very sensual and creative.
While it may seem that I have a long list of criticisms of this book, I still thought Night Pleasures was a worthwhile read, and a definite must for Dark-Hunter fans, since it is really the first book in the series to delve into the actual Dark-Hunter world. Although there are a lot of names of species and sub-species bandied about, and I'm still not quite sure that I understand all the differences, I liked the world building that Ms. Kenyon has done, and expect that these things should work themselves out in future installments. Several characters are introduced in Night Pleasures who play important roles in upcoming books. There is Talon, a Celtic Dark-Hunter who becomes the hero of the next book, Night Embrace, and D'Alerian, a Dream-Hunter, who only played a small part, but who I found to be rather fascinating, though I'm not sure if he will be in any of the books yet to come or not. Readers are also given a good introduction to Amanda's identical twin sister, Tabitha, who is a human vampire hunter, and the villainous Valerius, who are paired together as the hero and heroine of book #12, Seize the Night. Valerius is so evil in this story, it will be very interesting to see how Ms. Kenyon manages to redeem him. The real villain of the story though, is Desiderius who creates a very sinister and menacing figure. I also liked Kyrian's squire, Nick, who was probably the most well-rendered secondary character, and the retired squire, Liz. I thought they were a hoot, and could have easily carried the comic relief all on their own. Fans of book #1, Fantasy Lover, also get a visit with Julian and Grace and their growing family, and Grace's best friend, Selena from that book also happens to be Amanda's sister. However, my favorite character at this point is still Acheron, the leader of the Dark-Hunters. I am completely enthralled by his mysterious relationship with Artemis and most of all the selfless sacrifices he makes for the Dark-Hunters. Sadly, it will be a very long time before I get to his story, but I sense a slow building of his character over time that hopefully will make for engaging reading. All in all, the Dark-Hunters series is a fascinating one that I really look forward to continuing. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and quite a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website.
Note: Ms. Kenyon changed the ordering and organization of her Dark-Hunter series twice in 2009. We will endeavor to keep up with any future changes as well, but readers are advised to check her website for the most up-to-date information on the series.
I also thought it worth mentioning that since writing this review, I have discovered that the Valerius who I mentioned being a villain in this story is actually an ancestor of the Valerius who becomes a hero later in the series and not the same character.
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