Monday, March 8, 2010

Written in Blood by Luisa Prieto

TITLE: Written in Blood
AUTHOR: Luisa Prieto
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Gay historical paranormal erotic romance
COST: $6.00

Reporter Collin Foster wants to turn his London into a better place, ferreting out stories he hopes will save lives. His latest has turned into scandal headlines, as men who frequented male brothels were outed to the public. The matter leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, as it strikes a little too close to home, and when his best friends attempt to take him out to get his mind off it, he slips away, only to find himself sharing a carriage with the enigmatic Eduard de Sonnac. An attraction brings an invitation, but very quickly, Collin discovers Eduard is not what he seems, and his business in London touches Collin’s very life…

For some reason, while I don’t jump to read historicals, I find myself excited when I find paranormal historicals. I can’t figure out why. The elements that often drive me crazy in regular historicals are still likely to be there. But I spy one, and I always, always look twice.

This novella takes the reader to Victorian London, to the world of Dracula and Varney. Collin has no knowledge of vampires outside of his reading, but takes it surprisingly in stride once the truth comes out. The author’s notions of vampirism tend to coincide with Varney as well. For instance, it’s still possible for them to go out in sunlight, though the light hurts their eyes and gives them headaches, and while the notion of a gentler vampire is hardly new to romances, the fact that de Sonnac is in town to avenge an old friend – and is himself a turned Templar Knight – fits neatly into the Varney image. It’s a fun correlation to be drawn, though artfully subtle.

While there is a definite sense of period to the entire story, the lack of a specific year niggles more than once. It detracts only when a detail crops up and I’m left wondering, Is that appropriate to the time? It’s not a lot, but it happened more than once, so merited mentioning. However, the author’s elegant prose smoothes a lot of those rough spots over. It’s actually quite spare, and most definitely technically competent, with a slightly florid touch to help give an even stronger impression of the era. In a contemporary setting, it might be viewed as more purple, but here, it works, and does so effectively well.

While I liked Collin, and appreciated the sensual heat between the two men, I was far more intrigued and interested in the technical aspects of the story than its emotional merits. I like the story, not because I got embroiled in their romance (because I didn’t), but because it offered something different, and did so technically well. It doesn’t shy away from more gruesome details, for instance, another way it typifies the era. It also doesn’t take the easy way out on the ending, which ends up being a potential HFN rather than an HEA. The one part I didn’t buy was the shift in de Sonnac’s decision in the last quarter of the book. I never understood the reasoning, if one was really offered in the first place. It left the last third feeling very underdeveloped, like it needed another 10-15k to fully tell the story.

I do recommend this story, however, to anyone who enjoys the paranormal. The romance might not have leapt off the page for me, but the author’s elegant prose as well as the risks she’s so clearly willing to take made it more than worth it.

Readability

8/10 – A definite elegance in its spareness

Hero #1

7/10 – Oddly na├»ve considering what he’s seen, and his lack of self-awareness grates a little bit

Hero #2

6/10 – I didn’t believe his later shift from, though he was appropriately enigmatic and charming for the seduction

Entertainment value

7/10 – I enjoyed this more for what it did differently, especially the ending, rather than the characters or romance

World building

7/10 – There’s definitely a period feel to it, but it felt difficult to grasp exactly when

TOTAL:

35/50

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