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28 June 2010

The Dead Travel Fast-Deanna Raybourn

Vampire Story That Takes It Back to the Old Country Vampire Roots
The Dead Travel Fast is Deanna Raybourn's current foray into the romance genre. Her story is actually a Gothic romantic mystery, and a good one at that.  She weaves a truly interesting romantic tale between a modern, independent, and Victorian woman named Theodora Lestrange and a vampire named Count Andrei Dragulescu, who lives in the Carpathian mountains in Romania and almost functions as an homage to the granddaddy of all vampire stories, Bram Stoker, and his vampire creation.  Raybourn doesn't use any destiny tricks to bring the two together, such as their blood calling out to each other or their souls being made for one another years or centuries ago.  She creates a narrative that has Theodora leaving her homeland of Scotland and her humdrum but perfectly acceptable boyfriend, Charles Beecroft, and traveling to the land of the vampire to see a friend from school and write her first novel.  When she gets to the Carpathians, which because of Stoker evokes a mystical and sinister, yet seductive feel,  she meets a number of interesting people, including Count Andrei Dragulescu. The story then proceeds to show not only a romance but a murder mystery at the Count's castle.

The story is an interesting one, and for anyone who enjoys their romance subtle, a well crafted one. Theodora is a very likable leading romantic lady, and she's a heroine.  Not all female leads in romance novels are.  She doesn't do those annoying things that make it necessary to rescue her at every turn.  She is characterized by intelligence, not her femininity and weakness.  Count Andrei is also a likable character because he possesses intelligence and strength. But he's dark and strange.

Toward the end of the story, he offers her a life of everything as his mistress and she declines, leaving him.  As this is a romance novel above all else, this certainly cannot be the end of it.  I'm sure I'm not giving away any secrets when I say they marry and live happily ever after.  This seems to be a given in this genre, and if you are to read romances, you must accept this.  But Raybourn handles it well, and the dialogue doesn't make you cringe because it's overly melodramatic.  It should be noted that Raybourn creates an out for herself in this area since the novel takes place in Victorian times, and people spoke far more formally then.  It's perfectly natural that the Count says to Theodora, "Even now you do not know what to make of me, and I will not own what I am" and later as they are parting states, "And when you weep...when you weep, you will taste the salt of my tears upon your lips."  Lines such as these sound stilted today, but in Victorian times would be quite ordinary.  It's when you read lines like these from vampires (or anyone else) of today that they seem over-the-top and ridiculously melodramatic.

If you're looking for a sex fest with everybody letting their freak hair fly, The Dead Travel Fast is not the book for you.  However, if you're interested in a story that combines romance with mystery in a truly Gothic fashion that is reminiscent in some ways of Bram Stoker's Dracula, then take a look at Deanna Raybourn's book.  You may like it just as I do.
-Alexandria

A Vampire Novel...Or Is It?

"The Dead Travel Fast", is a well written, enjoyable novel.  The settings were described well enough to "see" them in the mind's eye without the author going "adjective-crazy", the characters were developed over the course of the book, the suspense nicely drawn out, and the tension amid the happenings and between the Dragulescu family and the heroine, Theodora Lestrange, was tangable, but not overly dramatic.  The mysterious Andrei Dragulescu is seductive and sensual, dark and secretive, as any vampire worth his weight in garlic should be...that is if he is, in fact a vampire.  The best parts of this novel, for me, were that all the eeriness in the book that Theodora must contemplate and attempt to make sense of could actually be explained away according to perspective, and that this heroine isn't "compelled" to stay with her mysterious lover by some supernatural force.  She knows what she wants, and what she isn't willing to settle for.  When she leaves, there are no tears, no drama, no looking back.  This is a sensible woman who makes a choice and then makes the best of it.  Oh, that there were more heroines like her......, but I digress.  In a genre that often goes from batting eyelashes to bedroom bliss quick, fast, and in a hurry it was nice to turn the pages and leisurely "stroll" toward the promise of passion in Raybourn's tale.

Deanna Raybourn wins in this Broad's Blog.
~Moira

21 June 2010

Dark Lover-J.R. Ward

A Man Walks Into a Bar...and 400 Pages Later Doesn't Resemble Himself At All
J.R. Ward is the author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series.  Dark Lover is the first book in the series, and its leading man is a vampire named Wrath.  If you're anything like me, that name works just like a hook should.  The reader quickly learns in the first few pages that Wrath is a character who others fear and respect; Wrath is a mean motherfucking vampire.  You don't get the name Wrath for nothing.  By Chapter Two, the reader gets the gist of the story: another vampire named Darius, who is part of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, wants Wrath to help his half vampire, half human daughter(who doesn't know she is anything but a normal human and hasn't met her father ever in her life) through what the author calls "the change", the time when a vampire becomes a vampire.  Ok.  Are you still with me here?  Some guy named Darius wants some guy named Wrath to handle his beloved daughter's right of passage, a possibly very painful right of passage, into a vampire.

I don't want to paint Darius as a negative character because he dies shortly after asking Wrath to help his daughter (and getting a refusal), and he's actually a good character.  But who the hell wants any guy named Wrath around his daughter?  The key to why he does is that Wrath is the last pure vampire on Earth.  Ah, you say.  Now I get it.  Now I understand why a loving father (even if it's from afar) would want his daughter to be around a 6'9" vampire named Wrath.  He's not only tough, but he's got good blood.

The rest of the story involves Wrath accepting his duty to his fallen brother, meeting Darius' daughter Beth, and promptly falling for her because his body wills it so.  Powerful beings have powerful urges, it seems, and Beth's mojo is just what the doctor ordered for our man Wrath.

The story isn't a bad one.  The reader finds out there are other brothers who have names like Wrath:  Rhage, who is the leading man in the next book in the series; Zsadist; Phury; Tohrment; and Vishous. Why Darius is the only other one to not have a misspelled name indicating pain is never explained.  Why Wrath isn't spelled Wragth or some other way that includes unnecessary letters and possibly changes the way the word should be pronounced from one indicating pain to one not indicating anything (see Zsadist) is never explained either.  What is explained is the romance between Wrath and Beth and the interweaving of their relationship with the other Brothers in addition to their fighting the bad guys, called Lessers, who hunt vampires.

In between killing the bad guys indiscriminately, there is some serious sex.  Wrath knows his stuff in the sex department, and he takes care of business.

It's all very sexy.  Good, that works.  This is a romance novel, after all.  But Wrath ceases to be Mr. Badass Vampire and turns into Beth's lapdog.  At one point, the reader finds out that his daily leather has to be changed into dress clothes so they can go to dinner.  Why?  Then he decides he must marry her.  What? Badasses don't just stop being badasses overnight.

The problem seems to be that the romance novel world is populated by writers who believe females want men who fall madly in love immediately upon meeting a woman; there is one male for one female in this world and when said beings meet, they must marry post haste; and finally, nothing is more enchanting than a bad man becoming a good man in the span of weeks, or even days, for that matter. It is just out of character to say that a vampire named Wrath, who the reader is told has been alone for a long time and by his own choosing, would change into some pansified version of himself who can't be without this one particular woman for any extended period of time (and I mean hours).

Just as bad as the emasculation of Wrath is the dialogue between the brothers about Beth.  It's cringeworthy.  Males of any type simply don't talk the way Ward has them talk about Beth. Lines such as, "That is one fine female, true?" just don't ring true.  They speak about her like they've never met any women other than prostitutes and club girls, which seems unlikely since they have been alive for many years.

The series isn't bad, and for my money, the next Brother to get his story, Rhage, is as good, if not better in some ways, as Gregori, (Dark Magic) who I referred to in an earlier post as the gold standard in romantic heroes.  But the author's tendency to make junkyard dogs toothless in 400 pages is irritating to any reader who enjoys bad boys and wishes each time she reads a romance novel that this one will be the time that the bad boy retains something of his bad boy allure.
-Alexandria

"Dark Lover"....Love, Moira

Hero:  Wrath ~ Okay, I'm digging already on any man/supernatural being with this tag.  The first description of this character is menacing!  As a vampire, he's top notch.  Dark, imposing, and set apart Wrath is different from the common idea of vampires as charmers and seducers.  Dark sensuality with a dollop of danger is right up this blogger's alley.

Heroine:  Beth ~ She is a fairly likable character.  Resistant, but not overly.  Trusting only after evidence is thought out.  However, as is too usual in romances, she succumbs ever so quickly to Wrath in the bedroom, then goes back to defiance commando style as if learning that one is a vampire & hunted, vulnerable & ignorant about what one is can all be overcome in a flash of bold idiocy.  She is better than many others and I'll leave it at that.  I did appreciate her regular job...regular apartment....regular salary.  It was refreshing to have a heroine who isn't a top psychologist, rich, and the absolute best at what she does.

The Story:  The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is new to me.  This is the first I've read in the series.  The story was interesting in its details of Ward's vision of the vampire world.  The Brotherhood members all have potential as heroes, and I will chance a second book in the series.

Ward, however, disappoints this reader when she morphs this leather clad warrior with "skills"(both in combat and in the bed-chamber) into a nervous, insecure man in a suit jacket waiting for his date to arrive and fussing over tableware presentation.  No nancy-boys in my vampire sagas, PLEASE!  Thankfully, it wasn't a total abdication into the realm of sissification.  I will grant Wrath is an A worthy hero sans the above mentioned faux paux and the all too tender schmooshy talk.  I simply am not buying it.  I would also happily recommend it as an above average vampire novel.

20 June 2010

Dark Magic-Christine Feehan

The Gold Standard in Romantic Heroes


Christine Feehan's Dark Series revolves around a group called Carpathians. Carpathians are what most would think of as vampires:  they drink blood, they have hypnotic abilities they use to persuade humans to do what they will, and they live much longer than humans do.  However, Feehan adds her own touch to the vampire genre with the idea of the Carpathians because while they act vampiric, she distinguishes the two species through the idea of the lifemate.  As she has one of the characters explain in Dark Magic, "All vampires were Carpathians at one time.  The vampire is the male of our race who has chosen the madness of false power over the rules of our people.  When a Carpathian exists too long without a lifemate, he loses all emotion."  In Feehan's novels, vampires are evil and Carpathians are incredibly sexy, mainly because of this lifemate concept.  It's hard to argue that a powerful male being physically, mentally, and psychically drawn to a female who he is devoted to for life isn't appealing.

Feehan's leading romantic man in Dark Magic is Gregori, the Dark One.  You can't fail in a romance story with a character who is described as "dark". Gregori is a Carpathian and an ancient one at that.  He's the most powerful Carpathian male, and his lifemate from her birth is a female Carpathian named Savannah Dubrinski, daughter of the Prince of the Carpathians.  Both characters are, of course, incredibly good looking and sexy, because, let's face it, who wants to read about unattractive people stumbling about in the love department.

Gregori is the gold standard in romantic heroes.  He's incredibly handsome, powerful, and sexy, in addition to possessive, domineering, and mystical.  Now many women in these modern times would rage against these traits as undesirable, and for those women I say, avoid this book.  Gregori is not the kind of character who is going to eventually give in to the female and become a lapdog.  He is willing to make changes in his ways to make Savannah happy, but he never bends to her will.  He's old school:  he adores his woman and protects her with his life, but there is no doubt who wears the pants in that family.  She fights him in the beginning because she is a typical modern female, but Feehan kindly doesn't have her female lead do annoying and ridiculous things in a feeble attempt to deny what she feels.  So many romance writers make their female leads do things that continually make life more difficult for the hero, but Savannah doesn't and this makes her as likable as Gregori.  Savannah doesn't become a lapdog either.  Feehan writes a story that describes an evolving relationship between these two characters that is as mature as it is sexy.

The sex is incredible between these two characters.  Feehan knows how to describe a sex scene between a strong man and his woman.  There are no cringeworthy descriptions of body parts as  her rosy part or his turgid manhood, thankfully.  The sex is very much like the romantic hero--powerful, mystical, and dark at times.
The story isn't bad either.  The main story of the book, besides the romance between Gregori and Savannah, is the idea that vampires are dangerous to humans and Carpathians alike, and the action revolves around this theme.  The story begins in San Francisco and moves to New Orleans, where it takes on a wonderful Cajun flavor (no dialect, just great locations and scenery).  As with all romance novels, Dark Magic has melodramatic moments and occasionally painful dialogue (Feehan insists on including the word lifemate in what seems like every response Savannah makes to Gregori, which is a bit of overkill), but what makes this a good romance is the romantic hero.  Other leading men, even those in Feehan's other novels in the Dark Series, would have made this book unreadable because of their youthful bluster and machismo.  Gregori makes this book because as a romantic hero, the character doesn't rely on being cocksure and full of testosterone but exudes a strength that only comes from age, which is incredibly sexy.
-Alexandria

"Dark Magic"......From Moira's Point of View.

Of the Feehan novels in her Carpathian series, this is my favorite to date.  The Carpathians, for those new to the series, are a race with supernatural powers.  They do drink blood, but do not kill their victims.  Carpathian males may wait thousand(s) of years searching for their lifemates.  Once a lifemate has been located the Carpathian sees in color, experiences emotions, and must claim his lifemate to be freed from the lure of vampirism.  In Feehan's world, vampires are Carpathian males who could not endure the encroaching darkness/loneliness and succumb to not only drinking blood, but draining the life from their victims.  This is considered evil amongst the Carpathians.

That history told, I'm not always impressed with the lifemate theme.  I mean sure....I guess it prevents the idea that prince charming will stray toward another female (or even another species in this series)!  Ha!  It can be wonderful to think of one of these powerful, masculine, mysterious demi-gods declaring his overwhelming compulsion to claim his mate physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but it also just takes the guesswork/woo-ing work out of the equation.  I don't like to know from page 1 that hero A must needs mate with/claim heroine B.

All complaining aside, I very much enjoyed this book.  The heroine, Savannah, had a great backstory.  Her magical background fit nicely into her occupation.  Being a Carpathian, Savannah spares us all the trauma drama of resisting/rejecting her life under a domineering Carpathian male with supernatural powers and supreme arrogance.  But, enough about her and the story........let's get to Gregori.....mmmmm.

Gregori, The Dark One, is to date my favorite hero.  Confident, arrogant, and able to take care of business (all kinds) is the alpha male at best.  An added bonus for me personally is his name...that eastern European vibe just gives this reader the tingles.  He just does it for me...well done Feehan.
~Moira

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