Sunshine

Sunshine

Sunshine was first published in 2013 and is the debut novel of Nikki Rae. It is a dark paranormal romance that focuses a teenager called Sophie Jean who suffers from a rare allergy to sunlight. Sunshine forms the first part of The Sunshine Series and is followed by Sun Poisoned (2013) and Sun Damage (2014).

Sophie, known occasionally as Sunshine by her friends, has not had the easiest of lives. Her allergy has left her pitied or mocked by many of her classmates, her mother is ashamed of her and a history of abuse has left her scarred both physically and mentally. Despite her trauma, she is working hard to get her life back on track and has no desire whatsoever in starting a relationship with anyone.  That is, until Myles Lott comes into her life.

Although Sophie has no interest in Myles, she soon finds that he seems to be everywhere that she goes and merely grows more persistent when she tries to give him the cold shoulder. Yet there is something about the teenager that draws her back to him and she soon finds that she is beginning to open up to him.

Frightened that he will abandon her if he discovers more about her past, Sophie is torn between starting a relationship with Myles and running away but she quickly begins to discover that she is not the only one with secret. Myles has mysterious powers and harbours a secret that is far more unusual that her own. Suddenly, Sophie discovers that the monsters of her past were just men and that the real monsters stalk the night, hungry for blood…

I think I should start this review by warning you that this is an incredibly dark novel and is clearly aimed towards older teens. It touches on some very serious topics – including rape, self-harm and depression – and so could be distressing for sensitive readers. Please bear that in mind if you choose to purchase this novel.

I don’t really feel as though I’m spoiling the novel by telling you that Myles is a vampire. Although the story is kind of structured in a way that implies that you shouldn’t know this (Sophie does not find out herself until around the novel’s half-way mark), this fact is stated in its Amazon blurb. Because of this, I find it impossible to not measure it against the other vampire romances that I’ve reviewed on this blog lately. How does it compare to these? Actually, rather well.

Sophie is an incredibly strong and capable lead for a romance novel and is certainly a far cry from the likes of Bella Swan and Elena Gilbert. Unlike these protagonists, she does not spend her time trying to impress the vampire of her dreams. Instead the roles are somewhat reversed as she spends most of her time trying to spurn his advances. Rape is often used for its shock value as many authors view it as a horrible thing that happens to women, thus purely using it for sudden emotional impact rather than character development. This is far from the case in Sunshine, as Rae skilfully uses Sophie’s horrific past to shape her character and gives her real room to develop within the story. Though her friendship with Myles, she gradually learns that touch can be pleasant and that all men aren’t monsters.

On a whole, all of the characterisation within the story is incredibly strong. Myles is a truly adorable love interest and for the first time in reading a paranormal romance, I actually could see the appeal in having a vampire lover. While the Edward Cullens and Stefan Salvatores of literature brood and lament their conditions (while systematically reminding their loves about how easily they could kill them), Myles is relatively normal. He is sweet, soft spoken and his vampiric nature is largely downplayed as he is determined that Sophie should never see that side of him. In fact, until the climax of the novel you could largely ignore the fact that he was a vampire as the paranormal aspects did not really seem to affect the story very much.

Sophie’s other friends, twins Boo and Trei, were also very likable and memorable characters but my personal favourites were her brother Jade and his partner Stevie who I think should truly be commended. It is always nice to see a gay couple in a novel that have personality beyond their sexuality. Rae wrote them as you would any couple – developed characters who were in love – which is how I wish that every author approached writing homosexual couples in their novel as this still seems to give many writers trouble.

The only characters that I felt were not so well developed were the villians. Sophie’s mother was, frankly, psychotic. She just seemed to go out of the way to hurt her daughter’s feelings (even resorting to some incredibly childish measures to do so) yet I never fully understood why. I want to assume that she was purely unable to cope with having a daughter who was different but this did not really come across in the story. Similarly, the actual villain of the piece only really appeared in the final fifth of the novel and really came out of nowhere. He was not even mentioned before this point and yet suddenly wanted Sophie dead. I hope that his reasoning will be explained in the next book as he felt as though he was really tacked on to the end of this story.

Although I liked the character development in this novel, the story itself gave me a few issues. Although I liked the general idea of this book, it was very slow burning. Over the first half of the novel, very little happens. The story essentially follows the pattern of something good happens to Sophie, and then immediately something (or someone) manages to ruin it for her. After Myles reveals that he is a vampire, the story does start to pick up pace but it still does not answer many of the questions raised by the first half.

Sophie never discovers what happened to her father (and even stops mentioning him after a while). We also never discover what makes Sophie so special – why Myles can’t read her mind properly and why the aforementioned villain wanted to kill her. My bet is that she’s actually a dhampyr though this wasn’t actually expressed as possibility at all within the story. We don’t even really get any closure with the characters that hurt Sophie as she never confronts her mother or Jack.

I also found that the first person narrative was a little too restrictive, particularly towards the end of the novel. The climax reminded me a lot of Twilight, in that all of the action occurred while the narrative voice was critically injured and losing consciousness. I could tell vaguely what was going on but it was somewhat confusing to read and I’m not overly sure what even became of the villain in the end. I suppose I’ll have to find out when I read Sun Poisoned.

So, to conclude, Sunshine makes an interesting change from some of the better known vampire romances as it certainly is far darker than the likes of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. It contains some very well developed characters and lead that does a lot more than just fawning after her demonic lover. Unfortunately, it was let down in the end by a weak story that was very slow to start and left many questions unanswered.

Although this story was slow burning, I am optimistic that it will only improve as the series progresses. Now that Sophie and Myles have shared their pasts with each other, their secrecy will no longer bog down the plot and I hope this means that Sun Poisoned will run a lot faster and answers some of the many questions that were raised in this story.

Sunshine can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on amazon.co.uk

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Sun Poisoned | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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