Cassandra is a human sensitive who knows when someone around her is not human. She can sense the evil in them and the power. At first her parents saw her as a precocious child but in her teenage years, when the sense became debilitating, she was approached by an earth bound angel named Cain, who tells her that what she has is truly a gift. He disappears from her life for years, only to reappear the night that her two best friends are killed, to drag her from a burning house. Cain seeks vengeance in Cassandra’s name and this separates them again for a few years.
Cassandra could have chosen to hate anything that wasn’t human or otherwordly after suffering such a loss, but instead decides to view each person as an individual and so she sets up dark dates - a service which introduces humans and vampires. Cassandra is happy and comfortable in her life, though she has been unable to re-create any friendships since the horrible day that her best friends died. The closest she has come is Madea, her Indian and Scottish Wiccan assistant. Though they spend everyday together, once it’s quitting time, they go their separate ways.
When Cain blows back into town telling her that something bad is happening and mysterious deaths are appearing in the newspaper, she refuses to leave town because she cannot afford to allow her business to flounder and has to live on a tight budget to make her mortgage payments. A mysterious vampire visits her place of business and threatens her but Cassandra still won’t leave. When her office is broken into and her files stolen, Laclos the head vampire in London demands that she find out who is doing this because all of the young vampires are now being killed thanks to the information in her files. Demons begin attacking and though the mysterious Cain has promised to help, he never seems to be around when she needs saving. To make matters worse, when she finally uses her sense on Cain, she learns that not only is he not human but that he is an angel. Can Cassandra find who is killing off the vampires in London before they kill her or ruin her way of life forever?
Okay, I have to say that Sinclair has turned me into an out and out fanpoodle. I stayed up late reading this book because I simply could not put it down. Even as I write this, my heart is screaming don’t critcise the precious, must protect the precious. One of the things that I loved about this book was the inclusion. Too often in urban fantasy, having a diverse supernatural world is used to cover the fact that there is little real inclusion going on but in Dark Dates, Sinclair managed to have a diverse supernatural and human cast that read as largely authentic.
Madea and her shifter girlfriend Kate clearly have a loving relationship. Though they help Cassandra fight evil, they make it clear that they are doing so only because they have a stake in what is going on, rather than a need to have Cassandra’s back. It would have been so easy to have them become sidekicks and servants but Sinclair skillfully avoids this. Even when Kate examines Cassandra for physical damage, she does it clinically without becoming overwrought.
In terms of GLBT inclusion there is also the bisexual Laclos. Unlike the relationship between Kate and Madea, when this is revealed it is in a predatory manner. When Laclos meets Cain for the first time, he is overcome with attraction and forces himself on Cain. He suggests that because Cain is centuries old that he should be open to sex between the two of them, though Cain is obviously not interested. Laclos touches Cain sexually without permission.
“Laclos leaned in and kissed Cain full on the mouth, his eyes closing as his lips touched Cain’s, his hand closing into a fist, Cain’s t-shirt clenched within it. The kiss only went on for seconds, but it felt like a very very long time, and when Laclos pulled back his expression was transformed. He looked almost stunned - sated and starving all at the same time, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.” (page 195)
Cain has to physically threaten Laclos to get him to stop assaulting him. Cassandra of course is sexually turned on watching this, making this passage read like a cheap m/m slasher book. If that were not enough, her jealousy kicks in because Laclos is no longer devoting his sexual desires to her and is instead fixated on Cain. How dare he forget that she is in the room for even a single moment. This scene is a problem because it plays upon the mythos of the sexually predatory male who is attracted to the same sex, though Cain’s power is used as justification for Lycalos’ actions.