Katie MacAlister’s Dark Ones: a two-fer review

I wonder, does everyone here remember Nook books? If I recall correctly, Nook books came out before the Amazon Kindle, and everyone had to have one. First, they were in paper white, and then they were color, and then I think they went to the Nook Glow. Anyway, they used to be a thing. Also, you can download the Nook app and buy books from Barnes and Noble without owning a Nook. That’s the situation I’m in.

However, Barnes and Noble has been saying for years they’re losing money, and that the Nook can’t compete with the Kindle, so I’m on a mission to hurry up and read any e-book I bought for the Nook before we get to the possibility that they revoke my license. What does that mean? When you buy an e-book, you’re not buying a physical object; you’re buying a license to read whatever you purchased. If an e-book company goes under, or any number of little legal things happen, your licenses can be revoked.

Years ago, when I realized I was ashamed of a lot of the books I’d read as a young adult because they weren’t very “smart,” I changed my attitude and repurchased all my beloved “trash” books. In the case of Katie MacAlister’s “Dark Ones” books, well . . . I went and bought the whole series. Sound familiar? That’s because I wrote about all of this back in May of 2017. I guess that means I made myself feel better by purchasing books and then not actually reading many of them. LOL.

Today, I’m going to give you two brief reviews of the “Dark Ones” books #6 and #7 by Katie MacAlister. They go together like one novel, meaning the plot picks up in #7 where it left off in #6, and we have the same characters. You don’t need to have read any of the previous novels. In fact, most of them are pretty similar with a few tweaks to give them new life. You may miss some moments that make a devoted reader of the series know what’s up before you do, but that’s fine.

the covers do not match the stories at all

In Zen and the Art of Vampires, we meet Pia, who has signed up for a single’s cruise, where she hopes to meet a man as she travels Europe. We catch up with her in Iceland. She’s befriended one cruise goer named Magda and irritated another named Denise. Just to be mean, while they’ve stopped in Dalkafjordhur (a made-up city in Iceland), Denise dares Pia to go over and speak to two men who are so hot they don’t seem real. We can jump ahead here and say that both men, Kristoff and Alec, are vampires, and Pia ends up having sexual relations with both. But which vampire is she “supposed” to be with according to the rules of the Dark Ones series? There are seven steps a mortal woman and male vampire must take in order to complete the process after which she becomes his Beloved and returns his soul to him. No pressure.

Meanwhile, some cultish group with the power to return lost ghosts to a place like heaven turns Pia into their guide — the one who must ferry the ghosts — which is not according to her plan. Somewhere in this cult’s history, they had a beef with vampires, so now they’re full-time ghost helpers and joined the gig economy by cleansing (that is, killing) vampires. Their opinion? “. . . there is nothing romantic about Dark Ones. They are heartless, soulless fiends who want only their own domination over the mortal world. And they are nearly impossible to kill.” How can Pia help the lovely ghosts but not use her powers for bad and kill vampires? Vampires like Kristoff and Alec? Will they guys ever trust her again?

no, their eyes do not glow purple

Book #7 is Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang. Let me just put this out there — the titles reflect nothing in the book and are more like movie titles from the adult film industry: take a title people already know and change it enough so it reflects the new movie or novel. We’ve learned which vampire Pia chose to bond with, and we’re assured that she’s going to find a way to get rid of these crazy cult powers so the vampires won’t feel threatened anymore. However, the vampire she bonded with, to use a Roddy Doyle phrase, “fucked off” without her. She returns home to Seattle. Very weird and out of character with the Dark Ones novels. Meanwhile, he’s over in Europe, where he has been accused by a council of vampires of embezzlement and possibly murdering another vampire that is missing. Are Pia and her man ever going to work things out with some basic communication? We’ll find out.

My thoughts: Pia is a woman who gets very little description other than she’s 40 and not thin. MacAlister uses a host of euphemisms that make it hard to figure out of she’s a Layne Bryant little fat or a “super fat.” I’m guessing she’s one of those women who despair over something like 10-20 pounds. Anyway, I don’t know her race or hair color or anything, which is a trick of the romance genre: create a truly blank woman so female readers can step in her shoes and get all kissy-kissy with really, really, ridiculously good-looking men who will love her forever and ever. No, literally, a Beloved becomes immortal. Anyway. Because I don’t need or want to insert myself into romance novels, I felt like I didn’t know much about Pia. There’s a brief mention that she works in a no-kill shelter answering the phone, but who is this lady, really?

In her past novels, MacAlister has written some pretty weak-sauce sex scenes, which is disappointing for a series of books that contain probably six sex scenes each. It’s sort of like watching a 1980’s slasher in which teens have about 10 seconds of missionary style relations and then proclaim, “That was amazing.” But I give MacAlister props. She’s gotten bolder with her writing, and so readers are treated to more specific physical acts, clearer locations, and what’s happening throughout. It’s much more immersive, and I appreciate that MacAlister stepped up her game!

On the other hand, she still has this old-fashioned notion that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The vampires constantly say things like, “I thought women liked…,” and Pia and other female characters have their own, “Ugh, all men care about is…” moments. Well, that’s a great way to write a series of books in which all your male and female characters are interchangeable, because they’re all [insert whatever presupposition someone has].

One of the “quirks” that MacAlister introduced for her female characters is from them to choose the most nauseating, infantilizing pet names for their vampire lovers, which the women keep using despite being told repeatedly to stop. “Cabbage,” “pookums,” “boopsie,” “sugar pants,” “boo,” and “love potato” are just a few examples, and I feel mad again just typing those. Every female protagonist throughout the series thus far refers the vampires as “vamps,” and I would like to be told who, in real life, uses the term “vamp.” It’s not funny, and I hate to say that MacAlister might be out of touch with an audience that doesn’t want to see the sexy vampires reduced to baby names. It kinda takes us out of the mood, okay, Katie? And, it just tugs on the part of my conscious that acknowledges, “This lady is ignoring consent and boundaries.”

I’m not sure why MacAlister relies on humiliation as a sign of a good relationship. She is completely capable of writing a running gag that is hilarious the more it develops, such as any new person who meets the vampires describing what a big fan they are of the TV show Angel. One example I particularly enjoyed was when Magda, the friend from the cruise, hooked up with Ray, who enjoys taking pictures on vacation. They get roped into the caper, and at one point, Magda yells, “Ray, do something! . . . Posses don’t just stand around watching!” And then Ray, not knowing what to do because he’s a mediocre man, takes out his camera and snaps a picture. LOL.

Anyway, that’s two more books I can mark off my Nook app. I’m sure I haven’t convinced anyone to jump into this series, but I hope you had fun reading my post!


  1. You’re right I won’t be reading these books but I really enjoyed your post and have a few things to comment on.

    First, re “by purchasing books and then not actually reading many of them. LOL”. How else do most of us get big TBRs. In my decluttering I have books I’ve bought and haven’t read going back to the 70s. My attitude is, if I haven’t read them by now I’m not likely to.

    I don’t really read romance, and YA romance wasn’t around when I was of age. But I was interested in your comment about romance heroines being blank so you can put yourself into them. When I think of Austen’s Pride and prejudice I feel that I want to be Elizabeth because she is so lovely, intelligent but a little bit flawed, as well as attract Mr Darcy. Does that make sense?

    Overall, I loved your analysis of what this author is doing. Enjoyed your discussion of the names, and the “vamp” issue. Good one!


    • Do you ever go through books that you’ve had for decades and get rid of some? I wonder if that is the case especially since you moved, and carrying books is the worst — yet another benefit of e-books, licensing issues aside.

      For me, if I read a character like Elizabeth, I’m likely to enjoy her as her own person instead of putting myself into her shoes. And I like that, that getting to know someone new feeling you can get from fiction. If I’m going to step into someone’s shoes in a novel, I want that someone to be as middle-of-the-road as possible with few to no unique traits, like using the expression “love potato.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • First para …. not often, because I’ve had the space! But I think in future I will be. I will also be reading more eBooks. To now, I’ve been reading non-Aussie books as eBooks but Aussie ones in print, because I think the authors get more from the print ones, but space is going to have me changing my practice and philosophy.

        Second para …. Makes sense!


  2. I did enjoy your reviews! And I chuckled at this comment: Well, that’s a great way to write a series of books in which all your male and female characters are interchangeable, because they’re all [insert whatever presupposition someone has]. I’ve definitely come across this in books before, and you’re right – it’s a very quick way to make the book boring.


    • Something must be working, though, because I see the later novels in the series have loads of reviews on Goodreads, even if the majority are 2-3 stars only. People just keep reading them nonetheless, and I wonder if it is because she does have some examples of great character interactions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope Audible doesn’t go broke or give up any time soon, I have a couple of hundred hours of unread books waiting.
    Early female film stars were vamps, that is they actively attracted men.
    I’ve never read a vampire series except Sookie Stackhouse, and I don’t see those around any more. But I’ve read my share of trash, especially Mills & Boon.


    • I think you’re safe with Audible for now. I mean, I see them advertise on TV, suggesting they get around. I can easily forget Barnes & Noble exists.

      I do love that you’ve read your own trashy vampire series. It’s surprising, and every time you bring it up, I’m happy about it all over again.

      I googled Mills & Boon and the first couple of titles I saw were A Loaded Question and An Insatiable Passion. Oh, myyyyy. Please tell me you read them aloud to one of the wives at some point.


      • Milly and I had stacks of them when we were in our 20s, and even thought about writing them at one stage. Though I’ve seen since that the publisher expects you to stick pretty close to the formula.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I did enjoy reading this review! I’m not a big fan of cutesy nicknames personally (though I really don’t care if others want to use them in their own relationships) but calling a vampire “pookums” seems particularly weird and awkward.


  5. Nope, not gonna ever crack one of these books open, but I did enjoy your post! And I’m going to be sniggering and rolling my eyes over a vampire lover called “love potato” for the rest of the afternoon 😀


    • I don’t even think you would belittle your garden plants by giving them such awful pet names as the ones that appear in this book. Your trees have more dignified names! I’m so glad I could give you some afternoon entertainment, my dear!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I did have fun reading your post! The gross pet names comments made me laugh.

    I’m glad you also read “trash” books LOL… I mean “trash” as anything that’s not highbrow lit fic. Sometimes I feel a little bad that I read so much mystery and romance these days. But that feeling passes quickly, ha ha! My give a damn broke around age 40. 🙂


    • I definitely have some Jenny Holiday books I want to read (they’re romance with some thought behind them) as well as a mini series about Millennial life by S.M. Reine. Once I finish the books I bought that MacAlister wrote, I’m done with her stuff. There are too many other romance writers out there doing a better job.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I did have fun reading your post, especially because I find it so informative when speaking about the romance genre – something I don’t know much about, but would really like to learn more. It’s a fascinating thing, it’s the bestselling genre of book in the world, yet it gets such a bad rap! But it’s getting people reading, which I love, and it’s making people happy. And if the sex scenes are encouraging more couples to have sex, that’s great too! Win win really haha


    • I think one of the better romance novels I’ve read in recent years was Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday. It was super sexy but also had grief and a message about the importance of vaccines. I know it sounds like that doesn’t go together, but it does. If you’re interested in reading more romance, I would say check it out.


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