Let’s talk about an indie erotica book and one I actually gave four stars to! Den of Vipers by K.A. Knight is another book that was entirely a “BookTok made me do it” but it had a pretty average/bad reputation. This is a dark romance, mafia novel, filled with sex scenes. It also deals with a good amount of crime, violence, childhood trauma and abuse, and most importantly–it’s a reverse harem.
Cover from Amazon.
⭐⭐⭐⭐/5: really liked it
This book was one hell of a ride. I must say that I really enjoyed it; I like when an author commits to their style and the tone of the story. I felt on a high most of the time and it was never boring, despite the book being so long for a romance novel.
The beginning of Den of Vipers is really gripping and as weird as it may sound I sure identified a lot with the first character that’s introduced, Diesel. The writing is sharp, violent, and full of personality which really fits the whole ‘mob story’ theme. Early on, the 5 characters are all developed in an original way. They all have their own mannerisms and vocabulary. The female protagonist amazed me in the beginning, she’s incredibly strong but it’s not overdone and fits her background story.
I thought this was going to be just a “smutty” story, with no real plot, but it wasn’t at all. The smut doesn’t start until chapter 20 or something, and there is actually a menace to fight against, which made this book all the more enjoyable. I would say two-thirds of this book are exhilarating and worth your reading time. I like descriptive authors that don’t censor anything, so this was definitely my jam.
By the time I reached the last third of this book, I felt slightly disappointed though and that’s why I’m not giving it 5 stars. It looked like the editing, the plot and the characterization flew out of the window and I’m not sure why.
There were sentences I didn’t understand because of the wording, but the worst part for me was that the logic wasn’t there anymore. Characters went through stabbing and heavy torture and still managed to get up and fight without any big consequence, even post-adrenaline rush. I am thinking of the scene where Roxy is literally missing toenails and she fights in high heels for example, or when she spent God knows how many hours with her body upside down and she didn’t have any heart complication. But on the other hand, one of the guys nearly dies from a blade in his stomach. Nearing the end, the characters are very positive about their lives as well, and open to talk about anything and the whole “dark” setting evaporates in favor of the happy reverse harem thing. It was very out of tune with the rest of the book. One last thing that irked me was Roxy’s evolution. There was too much emphasis on how badass she was without reason. She becomes a businesswoman overnight, and she’s brought to meetings only so she can talk crap in front of rich people and that was presented as “hot” and “a true Viper”. Yeah, no, not really.
Regardless, I do recommend this book to anyone who is into dark romance. Knight’s style fits the genre admirably and her humor is fantastic. Loved the movie references and the characters’ dynamics.”
Kinda too many people… Tricky.
Knight’s writing is very raw and I think it works pretty well for this story because it’s told in first person and present tense, so it really gives you this feeling that you’re in the character’s head. However, I think 5 characters and 5 POVs were a bit too much as I didn’t think Kenzo and Garrett were as developed as Ryder, Roxy or Diesel. Plus, with the book being fairly long for a romance story, it felt like some personalities were too similar (Ryder and Roxy near the end, Garrett and Kenzo too once Garrett dealt with his inner demons).
Again, I enjoyed the humor and the mafia background, but this book needed another round of edits in my opinion.
How do dark romances always have HEA endings?
I still think this book was fun to read. It made me laugh non-stop, and I don’t think this is a novel meant to be taken seriously. Some readers are upset at the way consent is approached and others claim there is no plot but I tend to disagree. I never was under the impression that Roxy didn’t consent to some “events” as she often was the one to take the initiative. What I still dislike was the last third of the book. I am not into plot armor and Mary Sue developments and I didn’t expect this book to end up going in that direction, not to mention the happy-ever-after ending. That’s the last thing I expected from a dark romance book involving a reverse harem. I think human psychology is more complicated than that, especially when you have 5 people who have been so damaged in the past. This is why, again, I don’t think this book was meant to be taken seriously. For the fun escape, it’s a book I’d recommend. But not to the faint of heart.