Author: Amanda Ashley
Mass Market Paperback, 378 pages
(Dorchester Publishing Co.)
Fantasy, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Vampire Romance
Book Synopsis: There are may kinds of embraces -- tender ones, passionate ones, even deadly ones. Amanda Ashley writes of all three in her paranormal romances, in which vampires, cursed creatures of darkness, seek the warmth of
human love. Analisa is young, lovely, innocent...and very alive. The day before she lay at death's door. Now, after an evening visit from a mysterious stranger, she is fully recovered -- and in possession of an invitation from the reclusive Lord Alesandro de Avalone to take up residence at Blackbriar Hall. Alone and penniless, with nowhere else to go, she accepts, little knowing that while her mysterious benefactor saved her life, the cost may yet prove to be terribly high. Midnight Embrace is the story of an ancient vampire, lost in loneliness, and the woman whose freely given love could be a light in the cold shadows of his existence.
This is the second of my two favorite Amanda Ashley novels. The plot and characters are equally mesmerizing, although this book has a different feel. However, the basic conflict is the same: a lonely, tortured vampire falls in love with a young girl who is all innocence and light. One could say that this is already a hackneyed story, but Ashley somehow turns what could merely be a formulaic plot into something fresh and exciting, thus pulling her readers into the tale, inexorably keeping them there, too, until the very end.
It is precisely Ashley's ability to pull readers into her stories that I believe make her books so utterly addictive. The reader readily identifies with the heroine, and so, this somehow becomes the reader's story, as well. I can definitely affirm that this is what happened to me as I read.
Analisa, an orphaned teenage girl, lies dying in a hospital. Then, one night, a mysterious stranger appears next to her bed, and gently orders her to drink something that restores her health. Dr. Martinson, her attending physician, refuses to believe her when she insists that a strange man has visited her hospital room. The good doctor can only marvel at her complete recovery.
Released from the hospital a few days later, Analisa receives a note from someone named Alesandro de Avalone. This mysterious person invites her to spend an extended holiday at his residence, Blackbriar Hall. Analisa is taken completely by surprise at this, since she has never heard of this man.
She makes her way to Blackbriar Hall, which is the typical dark, Gothic mansion. It's even raining as she arrives, accompanied by flashes of lightning followed by rolling thunder. Granted, this sounds quite stereotypical. Nevertheless, the reader is intrigued by the mystery of Alesandro Avalone. What could possibly be his interest in this young orphan girl? Naturally, it turns out that he is the stranger who appeared in Analisa's hospital room.
There are similarities with A Darker Dream at this point in the story; Analisa, like Rhianna, is given a tutor so that she might learn to read. In this book, the tutor turns out to be the housekeeper, Mrs. Thornfield, who has been with Lord de Avalone for years. Her name is obviously a nod to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, for the Gothic house in that novel was named, as any Bronte fan knows (and I count myself among them!), Thornfield Hall.
Alesandro has a mortal enemy-- Rodrigo, another vampire. The struggle between these two vampires -- one saddened by his transformation, and intent on sparing human lives from himself, while the other one vengefully engages in murder -- is one of the things that make this novel so fascinating. Alesandro is as ethical and good as his nature permits him to be. Rodrigo revels in killing, in causing suffering, not only to his hapless victims, but to Alesandro as well. So here we have the eternal battle between good and evil.
The love story between Analisa and Alesandro is sweet, beautiful, and tender. There are, however, some strong resemblances to Jane Eyre; not only in the atmosphere, but in the way the two leads relate to one another, although Analisa is definitely not anywhere as interesting a character as Jane Eyre. The same may be said of Alesandro, who cannot compare to Edward Rochester. Still, I do have a soft spot for him.
I found the pacing perfect, the plotting excellent, and the conflict between the two vampires was very realistically depicted. I do think that Rodrigo was more of a cardboard villain, though.
There is no miraculous ending to this novel, as there is with A Darker Dream. However, the conflicts in the story are resolved in a very satisfactory manner, and I found this to be a very enjoyable read!