Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: Desire After Dark, by Amanda Ashley

Desire After Dark
(Vampire Trilogy, #3)
Amanda Ashley
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
February 1, 2006
Zebra Books
(Kensington Publishing Corp.)
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased from used books bookstore

Book Synopsis:  
Vicki Cavendish knows she should be careful. After all, there's a killer loose in town—one who drains women of blood, women with red hair and green eyes just like her. She knows she should tell police about the dark, gorgeous man who comes into the diner every night, the one who makes her feel a longing she's never felt before. The last thing she should do is invite the beautiful stranger into her house.

Cursed to an eternity of darkness, Antonio Battista has wandered the earth, satisfying his hunger with countless women, letting none find a place in his heart. But Victoria Cavendish is different. Finally, he has found a woman to love, a woman who accepts him for what he is—a woman who wants him as much as he wants her...which is why he should leave. But Antonio is a vampire, not a saint. What is his, he'll fight to keep and protect. And Victoria Cavendish needs protecting...from the remorseless enemy who would make her his prey...and from Antonio's own uncontrollable hunger.

I had high expectations when I started this novel. After all, I've already read several Ashley novels, which I have really enjoyed. I have to honestly say that I didn't like this one as much as some of her other paranormal novels.

The beginning of the book did draw me in, although it was a bit predictable. A mysterious-looking guy enters a restaurant in which an attractive red-headed waitress works, and immediately catches her eye. He, too, seems to be very interested in her. She's excited about their mutual chemistry, until the strange murders begin, and she remembers him walking out of the restaurant with a red-headed female customer one night... 

Antonio Battista is a rather intriguing character, in spite of Vicky's suspicions. He seems genuinely very much taken with her, and she keeps allowing him to get closer, even as she wonders if she should. She can't seem to help it, as Antonio simply exudes sex appeal; in fact, he makes his first move on her not long after their first meeting, and she totally melts....

Vicky, or Victoria, as Antonio prefers to call her, is not a very interesting heroine. First of all, she's a waitress. Not that I have anything against waitresses, or servers, as  they're now called, but this particular occupation doesn't lend itself to creating an interesting character. Now, if Vicky had been a graduate student working on her Master's thesis in Criminal Psychology, or an artist getting ready for her first solo show, while waiting tables to support herself, that would certainly have gotten my interest right away! But no, she's just a waitress. At 22, she certainly could have been  a graduate student, and I was very disappointed to see that she wasn't.

What bothers me the most about her, though, is that she doesn't seem to be too quick on the uptake.

There's a point in the book where Vicky acts in a very decisive, even brave, manner, but then she once again lapses into her usual uninteresting self. This part of the novel was just too contrived, as well. 

As for Antonio, he's very charming and sweet, as well as totally devoted to Vicky. Still, he's not a very complex character, but a rather hackneyed one -- he has been a very lonely vampire for centuries, since he's never found a woman  he can truly love, until he meets Vicky. He's a very wealthy guy, of course, with several homes scattered in different countries, one of them being a haunted castle in Maine. Since he's Italian, he's got Old World manners, which I find very romantic.

The first part of the book builds up suspense very nicely, and I found myself frantically turning pages, wondering who the villain could possibly be. It wasn't obvious right away, and I found myself hoping it wouldn't be Antonio, as I had really begun to like the guy. 

I found the villain to be very realistically drawn. Some readers might disagree, saying that he's a cardboard character, but I still remember  Ted Bundy, and the way he could worm himself into a woman's confidence. The villain in this novel is just as sick as Bundy was, and worse, he's a  vampire....

Halfway through the novel, I found the plot starting to take some rather illogical, totally unreal twists. I want to avoid too many spoilers, so I will simply say that these plot twists seriously damaged my suspension of disbelief, and I began  to lose interest. Still, I managed to finish the book, because, in spite of every improbable event I came across, I did want to  get to the happy ending.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me was the plot centering on the secondary characters -- Tom Duncan, a very wimpy vampire hunter, and Bobbie Sue, a friend and co-worker of Vicky's. These two were nothing more than the requisite secondary romantic couple, and I found their relationship totally forced. Besides, it was totally impossible for me to take Duncan seriously; instead, he seemed to be the comic relief in the novel, although it seemed this was unintentional on the author's part, which is not good.

One character that I did enjoy greatly was Lady Kathryn, the resident ghost in Antonio's castle. She was just wonderful, with her funny remarks and easygoing manner. She immediately set Vicky at ease, and indeed, was more lively than  some of the living characters.

Ashley's writing flowed smoothly, but there were  a few bumps along the way. If she had smoothed these out, the novel would have been more believable, and  the final outcome would have carried more of a punch.

In short, this one had potential, but it just didn't fulfill that, or my expectations. As vampire romances go, Desire After Dark really fell flat for me, for the most part. Ashley is really capable of so much better!

In spite of all of the above,  I will continue to read Ms. Ashley's work, because she uses little to no profanity, and her sex scenes are not overly graphic, being  instead more on the sweet, romantic side. Besides, she has much better characterizations and plots in other novels of hers I've read in the past. It's really too bad that this particular one did not measure up....


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