Authors: Hannah Howell, Lynsay Sands,
Sara Blayne, Kate Huntington
Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Gothic Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampire Romance
The first story in this volume, "The Yearning", by Hannah Howell, takes the reader to Scotland, in the year 1435. Sophie Hay, the rather eccentric, witty protagonist, is in search of an old manuscript left by an ancestor, Morvyn Galt. It concerns a 400-year-old curse laid on the MacCordy family by Morvyn's sister, Rona, who had been betrayed in love by a MacCordy, and with a child on the way, to make matters worse.
Ever since she pronounced this curse, all of the firstborn MacCordy men have turned into vampires when they reach adulthood. Ironically, all of the Galt women have been cursed as well, for all their love affairs are doomed to end, with no marriage in sight.
Sophie makes it her mission to save the current MacCordy heir, Alpin. How she eventually manages to accomplish this, falling in love with him, and he with her, makes for some truly enjoyable reading. I only wish this had been an entire novel, instead of a story. That's how "verra" much I loved it! Sparkling with wit and humor, this is a story I will not soon forget!
The second story, "Bitten", by Lynsay Sands, is another great read. It's not typical of her usually very funny writing, as exemplified by her Argenau novels. This story is a more dramatic one, along the lines of the lonely, tortured vampire who believes himself unworthy of love. In other words, this story has the age-old, and very addictive, "Beauty and the Beast" theme. Music to my eyes!
Keeran, the vampire of the tale, lives a solitary existence in a seaside Scottish castle, attended by the elderly MacBains. He can get no other servants to work for him, due to their fear of him. Everything changes, however, when he saves Emily, shipwrecked on her way to an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.
Emily turns Keeran's life upside down. She brings light to his hitherto dismal existence. She turns his gloomy castle into a real home, having convinced the villagers to help her do so with their work of refurbishing and cleaning. He has no choice but to fall in love with her!
Toward the end of the story, I was moved to tears by Emily's creative gift to Keeran, which finally convinces him that he is, indeed, worthy of love...
The incomparable Sands has penned a very sweet, poignant tale that I will most likely read again!
The next tale, "Stranger In The Night", by Sara Blayne, is another beautiful, memorable tale, set in England.
Georgiana Thornberry is a 19th-century nerd. She has neither time nor patience for shallow social pursuits, and no interest in glamour. Her one passion is finding and collecting ancient artifacts. In fact, she is participating in the excavation of a Celtic fort in Surrey when her Uncle Godfrey unexpectedly summons her to Alverstone Manor, a ruined mansion in Charnwood Forest.
It is there that Georgiana comes across a cave, in which she finds an ancient amulet, forged by one Estelle Touissant. In the manor's ruins, she also encounters a most unusual, wildly attractive (of course!) gentleman, Julius Lathrop, whom she discovers to be a vampire. He, too, has been cursed,and the amulet found by Georgiana is vital to the lifting of the curse.
The writing style, dialogues, and characterizations all brought Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters to mind, making me love this story even more. And no wonder, since Blayne is known for her Regency romances!
The fourth and last story, "The Awakening", by Kate Huntington, was an utter disappointment, although it's as well written as the previous three. It has more of a Gothic feel to it than they do, as well. In fact, it comes closer to the horror genre than is comfortable for me to tolerate. It also raises some rather deep philosophical questions, dealing with the meaning of life and death, as well as the creative spirit. Such themes interest me greatly, and I would have loved the story because of them, had it not been for several glaringly immoral elements contained therein.
The tale is about two women artists -- one a sculptor, and the other a painter, living in England, in the year 1814. The sculptor, Cordelia Layton, has been living with her lover, Adrian Lucerne, who is suspected of being a vampire, for many years, scandalizing the society of the time. Their residence is near the wild moors of Lancashire. This is the first objectionable element-- I do not like the idea of people living together for years without benefit of marriage. I know that this view is an unpopular one, but I feel very strongly about this.
Thalia, Cordelia's niece, has come to visit, alarmed by her aunt's failing health. She eventually discovers that this is due to Lucerne, who has regularly drunk from Cordelia during their years together. There are more objectionable elements coming up here -- Lucerne has had a string of lovers throughout the centuries, and he has always drunk from them. They have all died in the end, Lucerne having to quietly bury each one himself. Although he does feel some remorse for these deaths, it is apparently not enough for him to attempt to stop this pattern of attaching himself to human women, feeding on them until they are eventually too weak to go on living. In Cordelia's case, he has also fed on her creative fires. Huntington's vampires cannot create. So they enjoy the creative act vicariously, through the artist they slowly consume.... (Shivers!)
Another objectionable element in this story is the way Cordelia is buried after her inevitable death. It's a pretty grisly scene. I don't know how I could possibly have made myself read it...
Then, incredibly, Thalia's growing feelings for Adrian explode; she and Adrian become lovers, right after her aunt's burial! This was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. There's very little regard for human life and love.
I can only say that I absolutely loathe this tale! I heartily wish it had not been included in this otherwise wonderfully romantic volume!