Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers Trilogy – Review

When I find an author I love, I go to some trouble to find everything they’ve done. Often though, an author’s earlier books are not as good as the more current ones—and hey, there’s a good reason for that; we should all get better at what we do as we get more experienced. So I never know exactly what I’m going to get.

Last spring, I discovered and devoured the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole. In a happy coincidence, just as the date approaches for the release of Kiss of a Demon King, my favorite used bookstore just happened to have all three of the MacCarrick Brothers books: If You Dare, If You Desire, and If You Deceive. Yoink! Now they are MINE. And I burned through them this past week.

Are they as good as the Immortals After Dark? Well, it’s a bit of apples and oranges. Aside from a small paranormal plot device element, the “If You...” books are straight-up historicals. The MacCarrick brothers definitely read a bit as the proto-Lykae, minus the whole shape-shifting thing. And like the Lykae and vampires—and demons, come to think of it—the MacCarrick men each stumble upon their one and only, pre-destined true love. So if you love Cole’s alphas and the one-and-only trope, with or without the paranormal trappings, you should definitely check this trilogy out. Cole’s trademark humor is more understated as well, but you’ll still find those snicker-out-loud moments.

I rather like the brogue she uses for the brothers, and it’s consistent, but it was pretty pervasive. So if that kind of thing bugs you, it might be annoying. One thing that kind of jumped out at me was in the second book, where Jane’s upper-crust Brit accent was written in explicitly, instead of just being the “default” language. You really never see that, but it makes a lot of sense, since the books are mostly from the Scotsmen’s point of view. The other two heroines were not English, so they each had a bit of dialect too.

Another thing that sets this trilogy apart from the standard regency historical is that it’s set a few decades later, in Victorian mid-nineteenth century. Most of the action takes place away from high society, so it doesn’t play a huge factor, but the second two books had some interesting scenes in what seems to be the Victorian equivalent of a rave. Cool.

The paranormal element is a curse, which goes beyond mere superstition: the book where the curse is recorded cannot be destroyed and tells the fate of ten generations of MacCarricks, all of which have been accurate. As a result, the men believe that they are cursed to be alone, walk with death, and other unpleasant portentous sorts of things. Their lives have been spent in a self-fulfilling prophecy, avoiding women and falling into soul-damaging (yet heroic, of course) work. Cole works very hard to make these men dark, damaged, and in their own minds, beyond redemption—at times, maybe a bit too hard.

The men are not terribly different from each other, but the heroines, oh my. Awesome. From an outcast Castilian princess with repressed sexuality Issues, to a reckless Victorian libertine (my personal favorite), to a plucky orphaned waif from the Parisian slums (OK, that one sounds a little Dickensian but she’s fun to read, trust me), these are interesting, courageous women who call their men on the bullshit and there’s not a TSTL moment in the bunch. Well – there might be one in the first book, but I rather liked how it was handled. YMMV.

The external plot drivers are not especially memorable—in the case of the last book, there actually isn’t one—and the paranormal loophole by which the brothers escape their presumed fate is facile, but you won’t mind too much, because the *real* story is about developing trust (which I think Cole does fantastically well), and struggling to understand when your desire for someone is selfish, and when it isn’t – another way to put it would be struggling to understand where the needs of the individual end and the needs of the relationship begin.

Usually I get very impatient with the “she’s too good for me, I’m staying away for her own good” damaged-hero mentality, but it’s done well in these books. There’s a pretty compelling reason for the men to feel that way. And the vulnerability they show when they come to understand that their partner loves them in spite of their darker side, and even find some parts of that darkness compelling, attractive, and heroic—it’s moving.

Overall I give it a very solid thumbs up; maybe not the runaway genius of the IAD series, but still an entirely satisfying read.

Now, if you've managed to stay with me all this time, you get a reward: I'm going to ***GIVE AWAY*** this whole trilogy to a random commenter. These copies are well-thumbed so if you care about that, don't enter, but if you are interested in the story inside the slightly battered covers, sign right up. I figure I'll use a flat rate postage box which, who knows, might have room for another book or two, so in your comment, tell me if your favorite subgenre is historical, contemp, or paranormal and there might be an extra goodie for you. If it fits.

I'll announce the winner on Friday sometime after noon Pacific time.


edited to add:

Here are some other reviews around the blogosphere for the MacCarricks:

Pearl's World of Books

The Good, The Bad, and The Unread

Smut N Stuff

13 comments:

Erin said...

Well, I am almost done with the small stack of books I had and need something to take to Disney :) I haven't acutally ventured into any historical stuff (you know me, I mostly read all that fluffy contemp) but since you talked me into the vampire books (darn you - my house is filthy!) I will now read just about anything you tell me to.

I have a huge library fine by the way and I blame you LOL!!!

Chris said...

Wait, "as the date approaches for the release of Kiss of a Demon King"?! I bought it at my local scifi/fantasy store last Thursday and have already devoured it...

Sayuri said...

Gimme those used books!

I love IAD series, and I keep meaning to pick up her historicals but have never gotten round to it.

Plus my e-reader is broken so I am having to stock up on papr books again. *le sigh*

Great review.

Carolyn Jean said...

You found all three of those at a USB??? Happy accident! You know I love my Kresley, and I must read these! It's not a surprise these are great heroines. She really does get the women right!!!

Nicola O. said...

Chris, the official release date is tomorrow (1/20) but yeah, they seemed to have leaked out early (I got mine yesterday, w00t!)

Kara said...

Kresley Cole is a new to me author!! I am devouring her IAD books and would love to have this series as well.

My favorite genre is paranormal romance - love love love it. I started out my reading a looooong time ago on historicals.

Lisa said...

These sound like great books! I love her more recent work, but haven't had a chance to read her earlier books. A friend introduced me to paranormals a few years ago and I've loved them ever since!

Jadesymb said...

They sound interesting!

I Heart Book Gossip said...

My favorite is paranormal romance. I just love love love it.

Z.M. said...

I like historicals but only if they can keep on with teh story and not drag halfway.

Medical Librarian said...

I love the paranormals, and Kresley Cole is one of the best. I would definitely be interested in reading some of her earlier books.

FunKayLynn said...

I'm Random, pick me pick me! Seriously though, just found your site and love it. Thanks for spending your time on my fav topic - the antithesis of me alpha heroes!

Julie said...

I'm so glad I found this post. I've only read one KC book (the first of her Immortals series) and though I liked it enough, I'm not a vampire/paranormal fan, but I do love Scottish highlanders - so I think these books will suit me to a T! Thanks for pointing these out!

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