Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: A Touch of Darkness (Hades & Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

Publish Date: May 23rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Hades chuckled, leaning in so that when he spoke, his breath caressed her lips. ‘Oh, darling. You don’t know what I’m capable of.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

~~~

This was a total mood read, and while there are plenty of things that I thought could’ve been way better about it, it still at least served its purpose and entertained me as a reader. While some aspects were underdeveloped more than I cared for, what this story did give me was an erotic romantic tale with a sprinkling of fantasy elements added on top, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as that’s something that you’re looking for.

I’ve been in the mood for some greek mythology related stories, and I’m usually really drawn into novels that get compared to the retelling of the classic tale of Hades and Persephone, so I’m so incredibly sad to say this wasn’t the best out of the many in that regards. It was still good enough to keep me interested and had me reading late into the night, but the romance factor was the main reason for that along with just having the whole classical mythology aesthetic on top of it all.

The writing was very so-so; It felt a little amateurish and choppy in some parts…not to mention there were a few typos and names mixed up…

This version of Persephone wasn’t the greatest portrayal of her character…

The sex was hot!

The Gods/Goddesses live amongst us!

The worldbuilding was simple, but effective!

Overall it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I have similar feelings to it as I did for Laura Thalassa’s Bargainer series…I’d only read the first book for that, but the story focused mainly on the romance, had a simple world constructed with the possibility of more to explore as you read on, but not enough of the other aspects to make it a greater fantasy-genre book were developed as much as they could’ve been. It felt like I was just reading another version of the 50 Shades millionaire romance stories but the guy’s name just happens to be Hades this time around. At least from my perspective, I can say it felt like this story was less problematic than the franchise by EL James was…

With all that said, I can praise the romance factor that this book offered. I thought the author did a splendid job at it with the sexual tension that was built up between Hades and Persephone! At least, I can say I personally enjoyed it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was still keeping me reading on. Some could argue that some of the lovemaking scenes felt out of place or excessive, but c’mon…..lesbehonest, we all know the smut is one of the main reasons people are drawn to these books to begin with. I certainly did not think this way!

~~~

‘Let me worship you,’ he said.

She remembered the words she had whispered to him in the back of the limo after La Rose. You will worship me, and I won’t even have to order you. His request felt sinful and devious, and she reveled in it.

She answered, ‘Yes.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Building Sexual Tension! The sparks between Hades and Persephone were (of course) a major highlight of the book. The author really did a good job of giving their relationship a slow burn that made the moments whenever they gave into their lust and passion all the more satisfying! Side note, but I was also such a fan of the scene later on in the book when the two of them are freakin’ couples goals when they had a movie night in their sweats and baked cookies…
  2. It’s an Unorthodox Retelling! So not everyone will like this retelling simply because it doesn’t necessarily follow the original story to a T. Things have definitely been switched around, or completely different ideas have been sprung forward to at least make it feel like something completely new. I just know there are certain readers who are really sensitive to that sort of thing, and will strongly dislike something if it doesn’t perfectly match up, kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show and doesn’t follow the book all that much.
  3. The Modern Day Greek Gods Living Amongst Us! The worldbuilding was honestly more on the mediocre side, but it still worked rather well for the sake of the story. In this world, The greek gods and goddesses live among us, and they’re very much still in charge. They’re like the A-list celebrities a lot of us idolize: Hades runs the night-clubs and casinos, Dionysus has the world’s best wine vineyards, and I think you get the picture…There’s a red carpet scene with all the glitz and glamour and paparazzi cameras flashing as they all make their appearances, and it made me think how much more fun even events like the MET Gala would be if we could see deities like Apollo, Aphrodite, and yes even Hades making appearances at these sort of events. Overall, this aspect of the whole book was very fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Grammar/Spelling/Typos…It happens at the very beginning, but there are some noticeable errors along these lines that were a big turn off…I mean, if something is published—traditionally or independently, I’d hope there wouldn’t be something like this in the book itself. I’m not reading someone’s fanfiction on Wattpad, this is an actual published book! I don’t know, it lessened my expectations and made the quality of it go down in my eyes.
  2. The Smut is Overhyped…I’m glad to see how many people like this book, or even this whole series, but I will admit that the actual sex scenes didn’t fully live up to the hype for me. They were good, but I was thinking they’d be better based off so many glowing reviews this book has. I was also maybe hoping for something…darker and more erotic and tantalizing, and maybe with more magical abilities put into play to spice things up a bit…
  3. Not Sure How I Feel About the Villain…This is the first time I’ve seen Demeter set up as the villain in the whole story revolving around Hades and Persephone, and while I say this is a more original take, I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. In the story, Demeter is always known as the caring and doting mother, but this time she’s painted as cold and manipulative and just an all around frigid bitch! I don’t know, I think the idea of having a positive mother/daughter relationship is always a better way to go, but that’s just a personal preference to me. I’ve just seen shitty parents used as the outer conflict for a character in the romance-genre way too many times, and it’s just so cliché for me too.
  4. Very Little Magic…Some other reviewers on Goodreads say this, and I have to agree: there were times this felt like just another millionaire romance, and not really something that has the legendary Greek God as the main character. It did feel almost like a “50 Shades of Grey” + Greek Mythology kind of setup quite a few times. At least this time it’s a little less problematic. There just wasn’t as much magic as I was hoping, it was very underdeveloped, but maybe more will happen in the later books! Fingers crossed…
  5. Persephone Isn’t All That…I wasn’t the biggest fan of Persephone in this particular story. She was headstrong and fierce at times, and more power to her for that, but she was also just pure plot convenience too. She was just way too naive and there was just WAY too much miscommunication with her in order to add conflict into the story for my liking.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked but didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled the need for some Greek Mythology related fiction that I’ve been kind of craving as of late. It focused more on the erotic romance and less on the grandeur of having the powerful and magical gods among us, which is fine, but I want to see more stronger fantasy aspects going forward!

I recommend this book, and possibly this series, to those who really enjoy authors like Sarah J. Maas, Laura Thalassa, and even Jennifer L. Armentrout. This author’s writing isn’t as up to par with these other names, but the overall themes and aesthetics of the story and what is given attention to within the plot will appeal to those who enjoy their books.

The big question I had going forward was which book to read next in the series. Technically, there’s two options: A Touch of Ruin which follows after this book and still follows Persephone’s point of view, or there’s also A Game of Fate, which is actually this book all over again, but this time it’s told from the perspective of Hades! Do you go forward, or see everything from the other side of things? Maybe I’ll try and read the beginning of both and see which one I want to read first? If you’ve read these books already, what do you suggest? Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Publish Date: November 15th, 2016

Number of Pages: 326 Pages

Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing Group

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Having the Bargainer’s full attention is like catching a tiger’s eye. All you wanted to do was pet the creature, but as soon as it turns its gaze on you, you realize it’s simply going to tear you apart.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

If you’re someone who really enjoys the whole romantic dynamic of stories based on the classical Greek Mythology tale of Hades and Persephone, this is a series you may want to look into! It’s the story of a sweet, bright, innocent, pure young woman who finds herself in an unorthodox romantic story with the Lord/Ruler of a Dark Underworld. Opposites attract, and passions ignite when the lines are tested between what is right and wrong and the big questions are usually “Is the love for real? Will she allow this love to corrupt her and taint her?” It’s a romantic concept that I’ve seen in several other works of fiction:

  • Feyre Archeron & Rhysand in Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series
  • Jenny & Julian in L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game series
  • Alina Starkov & The Darkling in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone trilogy
  • Bella Swan & Edward Cullen in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series
  • Isobel & Prince Rook in Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens (standalone)
  • Poppy Balfour & Casteel Da’Neer in Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series

Heck, you could even say Beauty and the Beast is a retelling of Hades and Persephone! It’s a dynamic a lot of readers like myself never get tired of; it may be done quite a bit, but I will never ever really consider it an annoying cliché.

This book was kind of a highly anticipated read for me after plowing through Jennifer Armentrout’s first two books in her From Blood and Ash series (seriously recommend it if you haven’t read it yet!), and this book was constantly being mentioned across the Facebook groups I’m a part of for JLA’s books, and also for a Sarah J. Maas group too. If two groups are telling me to read this book, odds are I better do it!

After completing this book, I can say I enjoyed it for the most part; it wasn’t as spectacular as I was hoping it’d be, but it was still quite enjoyable to say the least! The writing wasn’t the greatest, it felt very amateurish at times to be completely honest, but that didn’t detract from the story too much. I do wish the author gave other plot aspects other than just the romance more attention, like the world-building and the mystery that’s supposed to drive the plot. However, the romance has to be my favorite part of all, and I’d say Desmond Flynn, a.k.a. “The Bargainer,” is a great choice for you to add to your “Book Boyfriend” list.

The romance that built up between the Desmond and our other main character, Callypso Lillis (Callie for short), developed through two timelines that ran parallel most of the first half of the story, one being in present time while the other took place in the past and shows you key moments between them and their developing relationship. Callie isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind when she’s older, and isn’t afraid to use her sexuality to get what she wants. Desmond starts off arrogant, crude, cheeky and sarcastic, but as he reveals more and more to Callie as you read further on, you will definitely fall for him like any other tortured dark ruler character; his admission to Callie was by far the strongest scene in the whole book!

And the mountains may rise and fall, and the sun might wither away, and the sea may claim the land and swallow the sky. But you will always be mine. And the stars might fall from the heavens, and night might cloak the earth, but until darkness dies, I will always be yours.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

(Yes, slight spoiler, but it makes an even bigger impact when it’s read in full context in the story!)

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

What I Liked:

  1. Callie and Des’s Dynamic! Throughout this story, the two main characters/love interests have a really well done relationship that goes through much development in both the scenes in the past and in present time, and it’s very similar to the dynamics of other relationships in literature like Feyre and Rhysand through most of A Court of Mist and Fury and even Poppy and Cas in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. There’s some initial distrust because the male has done wrong to the girl, but as they work together and travel together, they grow closer and eventually give into their feelings for each other, but (yay), there’s plenty of snappy and sexy banter along the way too!
  2. The Whole “Bargain” Concept! I did find this whole concept to be more interesting than a lot of the rest of it. Over time, Callie has an arm long bracelet that has over 300 beads of all the deals she owes The Bargainer at some point. The author could’ve played with the idea more and had more wicked fun with Des teasing her or making her do some pretty risque actions or even confess some more juicy secrets, but I feel like that would also reach into him compelling her against her will, which I bet wouldn’t sit well with a lot of readers, so there’s that…I’m not sure this concept will really carry over as much into the next books based on how this one developed, but we’ll see!
  3. The Romance Development! It’s what got the most attention from the author, so at least it’s safe to say that it was probably the best part of the whole book! It developed with The Bargainer being summoned by her when she’s a teenager, to when she’s a young woman in college, and to now when she’s a PI in Los Angeles. He sees her in all the biggest parts of her life: the young/naive victim, the angsty young woman, and the brash and courageous siren she becomes later on. As they grow closer, the chemistry boils over and they can’t help but act upon their hidden fantasies, and without spoiling it, the scene where they confess their true feelings will definitely tug at your heartstrings!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Writing Style…I’m not gonna lie, the writing felt quite amateurish throughout this book. A lot of adverbs were used that bothered even me, and that was the main thing that stuck out, but it felt like I was reading someone’s ACOTAR fanfic off AO3 that somehow got published.
  2. The Mystery Felt Underdeveloped…The big inciting incident is Callie discovering that in Des’s world, bodies of women are being returned in glass coffins and in comas with a child cuddled up next to them, and that there’s a mysterious, shadowy figure who may or may not be on the hunt for her, but I feel like this whole mystery was really not given all that much attention to the actual plot. The author made it way too easy to figure out and didn’t really excite me all that much or keep me guessing, too much focus was on the romance.
  3. The Worldbuilding Is Also Lacking…During one of Des’s and Callie’s conversations, he talks in detail about the world of the Fae, which to give the author credit, sounds actually pretty intriguing with some more original sounding courts! Unfortunately, That’s about it as far as how much you actually see of it. Take this with a grain of salt though, A Court of Thorns and Roses was the exact same way where there was a LOT more world-building in the second book!
  4. Where Did The Sidekick Go?…Callie has a BFF/business partner named Temper, who’s an incredibly powerful witch. First, she’s the typical POC sidekick we’ve seen so many times before. Second, she’s only in the book, like, twice it feels like and shows up more often in the form of a phone call whenever Callie needs advice or just to vent to someone. Third, the author constantly mentions how powerful and how dangerous she is, but we never actually see her doing anything! Wasted opportunity there, I seriously hope she becomes more prominent in the next books.

Conclusion:

Overall, I by no means think this is a perfect book, but it’s definitely a great addition for anyone to consider adding it to their “To Read” shelf if they love the concept of what I recognize as the Hades/Persephone love story dynamic. It’s seen in a lot of Fantasy and Paranormal Romance stories: my examples once again are Feyre and Rhysand from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Casteel and Poppy from Jennifer L. Armentrout’s newest series, From Blood and Ash, and even a little similar to Mac and Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. If you’re a fan of any of those titles, this book will definitely appeal to you!

The romance is purely the only thing keeping me interested in going on with these books, so my fingers are crossed that the author gives more attention to OTHER aspects of her story that she didn’t this first time around: the world-building, her minor characters, and even adding more to the main conflict.

I for sure plan on reading the next books down the line, but I wouldn’t say I’m salivating over how soon I can get my hands on the next title either, I’d say I’m lukewarm-on-the-verge of being curious. There wasn’t too much of a cliffhanger ending—thank god—so I’ll probably be exploring other stories before I choose to get into the second book of The Bargainer series, but be on the lookout for my review of that to pop up on here soon!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell