NEVER SWEETER: The Sweet Darkness in Charlotte Stein's Dark Obsessions Trilogy
by Madeline Iva
We posted a fun excerpt from Charlotte Stein’s story NEVER BETTER last Sunday. NEVER BETTER is the final book in her Dark Obsession trilogy, so of course, I read it first, and then worked my way backwards, cause I’m perverse like that. I gobbled down NEVER BETTER like a chocolate chip cookie and advise you to do the same. Now I’d like to take you on a journey through the open-mouthed, kindle-clutching, eye-squeezing moments I had while reading NEVER SWEETER, the first book in the series. How to do so without delivering any spoilers is gonna be hard, but here I go…
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE GOES TO THE DARK SIDE
What really keeps a man and a woman apart these days if they want to be together? Not much. After plundering the treasure chest of meet-cutes and other fabulously quirky ways to bring two people together and then keep them apart for two hundred odd pages, contemporary romance has gone to the dark side.
I personally blame paranormal romance. Let’s face it–paranormal romance is just so much easier. Look at the obstacles a heroine faces—Example: “He’s a vampire who’s killed THOUSANDS of people and he’s hundreds of years older than me. How could we ever be together?” it’s a really messed up situation.
CRAZY-WRONG “I’D HAVE TO BE INSANE TO BE WITH SOMEONE AS EVIL AS YOU” SITUATION= STRONG ROMANTIC ROAD BLOCKS = LOTS OF ROMANCE FEELS & GREAT TENSION
After all, 50 Shades was based on a paranormal romance, wasn’t it? E.L. James just fished around for a modern day ‘real’ equivalent for a evil-but-not-really, self-loathing, brooding hero. She came up with a billionaire sadist, around the same time other authors were also plonking down flags into anti-hero territory. Do we want to blame 50 Shades for all the motorcycle clubs, hit-men, crime families, and other anti-hero-ish trappings that are so popular these days? No, but I think the E.L. James phenomenon illustrates a sweeping trend, and Charlotte Stein has taken some steps down the same path.
BUT CHARLOTTE STEIN ISN’T LIKE THAT! SHE’S SO SWEETLY DIRTY…
But maybe sometimes she isn’t. INTRUSION and some of her other works have strayed from abused heroines into more plum-colored territory. Which brings us to NEVER SWEETER. Let’s look at the blurb:
Letty Carmichael can’t believe her eyes when she catches a glimpse of her high school tormenter, wrestling champ Tate Sullivan, on campus. College was supposed to be her escape from Tate’s constant ridicule. Now he’s in her classes again, just waiting for his chance to make her life hell.
skipping, skipping, skipping…
Loving him is impossible. Craving him is beyond all reason. So why can’t she stop?
Falling in love with your high school bully is messed up, people. Kids, don’t try this at home.
However, line by line Stein just sucks you in. Great dialogue, great side-kick friend, very specific descriptions of torments she endured and then Tate — a classic Stein-i-an hero, just takes over.
What do we like about Tate? We like that he’s open, agreeable, and fast on his feet. We like that he’s hotness plus, and can read people–especially the heroine–quickly. We like that he’s a sexual beast wrapped up in a Nice Boy package–but is he really trustworthy? It’s that last part that keeps readers furiously turning the pages and riding all the highs and shocking lows.
Why was he such a monumental dick? This is the big answer we need to know. Stein gives you answers, and then sweeps on by. Do we believe these answers–ah! This is where she’s brilliant, because doubts may linger, and she plays upon these same doubts later.
I just went through such a roller coaster of emotions with this book. It really was so incredibly sweet at points–which is what I do look for from Stein–and so sweetly filthy at others–which is what I relish about Stein–and at other times it was kinda like a horror movie. There’s a Carrie reference and it’s seriously well earned.
I think at one point I shouted “No!” in shock. At another point I kinda cried, almost. The whole time I felt as guilty as the heroine for being so sucked into a kind of situation that I would NEVER EVER EVER!!!! endorse in a million years in ‘real life’.
Meanwhile, I got the skinny from Charlotte Stein about RAW HEAT — her so good it hurts post-apocalyptic romance that’s out of print right now. Talk about bullying! It’s really unfair clobbering my friends and even total strangers over the head for not having read RAW HEAT if it’s not even in print. Stein has said she’s going to re-pub it in a collection with some of her other post-apocalyptic/paranormal stuff. So happy about that. Soon none of you will have any excuse.
Okay, I’ve started going into Charlotte Stein withdrawal, so I’ll sign off for now.
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Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes. Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.