Lara Parker – Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent

The Dark Shadows saga begins with a full measure of eroticism, spellbinding suspense, and gripping storytelling.

The dashing heir of a New England shipping magnate, Barnabas Collins captures the heart of the exquisite, young Angelique amidst the sensual beauty of Martinique, her island home. But Angelique’s brief happiness is doomed when Barnabas deserts her for another. With this one betrayal, Barnabas unleashes an evil that will torment him for all time.

For Angelique is no ordinary woman. Vowing to destroy Barnabas, a vengeful Angelique damns him to eternal life as a vampire-a companion to accompany her forever. Little does Angelique understand the depth of Barnabas’s fury…

When I was approached to review Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent, one of the reasons I accepted was the fact that this was the story on which the new Tim Burton film was based. The other was that this was a book definitely a little outside of my comfort zone and I think it is important to challenge your reading habits at times. Unfortunately, I failed my own challenge. This book was a struggle for me. It wasn’t my cup of tea, turning out to be far more on the romance side than I expected. If I hadn’t promised to read and review it, I might have put it aside. Perhaps I should have done more research beforehand, as I would probably have had different expectations if I’d done so. Dark Shadows, the film, isn’t the first incarnation of this tale, far from it. Dark Shadows originated as a daytime TV soap in the 1960’s and had a short-lived revival in the early 1990’s. Taking these origins into account, the fact that the book is as romancey as it is, shouldn’t have been a surprise. As it was, I was caught by surprise, but my problems with the books weren’t just because of the romance angle.

As I stated above, Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent is very reminiscent of a soap opera, which seeing its genesis isn’t surprising, but did make for an exasperating read. It has the typical soap opera device where people change their minds a gazillion times and keep hanging on to former lovers as if you only have the one shot. Angelique’s obsession with Barnabas drove me insane, by the third or fourth time he rejected her, I just wanted to smack her and tell her to move on already! It also suffers from random plot elements surprising its own characters. For example, Angelique recalls someone from the dead and makes them a zombie, who then drops from the story, but when said zombie turns up at her door at one point she’s completely astonished. There were several of these instances, which are common in soaps, but are strange when they show up in books.

Writing-wise, the book also contained its fair share of purple prose. Again, common in romance books, but not something I look for in books I read. I do have to say that the prose tightened up a lot toward the end of the book and the purplishness wasn’t as jolting in the sections set in the past, which tell Angelique’s story. I found the prose far more of a problem in the sections set in the 1970’s, which are told from Barnabas’ point of view. On the whole, I have to say I did enjoy Angelique’s sections far more, the setting in the Caribbean was interesting and drew me in far more than Barnabas’ Maine.

One thing I found really problematic was the age at which Angelique is described to feel the first stirrings of sexual desire. She’s only eleven or twelve when this is described and I found it highly disturbing. Despite being set in the 18th century and people marrying younger back then, I still find eleven – and a later scene at thirteen – to be too young for my sensibilities and I wonder whether it was really necessary to have her be that young for these scenes to work. If she’d just been a year or three older, it would have been far less disturbing. However, I realise that this might be a personal concern, there might be many people who do not find this problematic.

I find it hard to give a final judgement for Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent, because of the fact that it just wasn’t my cup of tea. There were some things which are bad or disturbing no matter what genre it is, but overall, much of what I found tedious about the book, might just be the thing that makes it work for others. So I can’t say I recommend it, unless you’re a die-hard romance reader who likes a bit of the supernatural mixed in or you have fond memories of the original TV series.

This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. It is an eBook-only publication.