Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: Bound By Night, by Amanda Ashley

Bound By Night
(Bound, Book 1)
Amanda Ashley
Mass Market Paperback, 340 pages
Zebra Books, Sept. 1, 2011
(Kensington Publishing Co.) 
Dystopian Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Source: Amazon Books

Book Synopsis:
Once featured in a horror movie, the ancient Wolfram estate is said to be haunted by ghosts, witches, and worse. But Elena doesn't believe a word of it - until she spends the night and wakes up in the arms of a compelling stranger...

Tall, dark, and disturbingly enigmatic, Drake is the most beautiful man Elena has ever seen. For centuries he has lived alone, and Elena is the first woman to enter his lair - and survive. And Drake is the first man to touch her heart and soul. By the time she discovers who he really is - and what he craves - it's too late. Blood lust has turned to love, and Elena is deeply under Drake's spell. But forever comes at a price for each of them...


Every writer of vampire romance has her own version of the vampire mythos, and Ashley is no exception. In this novel, the first of a series, she has even taken the bold step of creating a new vampire world, different from her previous ones. For instance, the vampires in this novel are able to have children. Also, humans cannot be turned into vampires, as these undead creatures are simply born that way. In other words, they are a species apart. I found this very interesting!

The story takes place in Romania -- specifically, in the region known as Transylvania, which is, of course, the traditional territory of Dracula. Ashley's vampires -- the good ones --  are of the romantic variety.  They are not like Dracula at all. Instead, Ashley's male vampire heroes are very protective of the women they love. In fact, they often defend them against those vampires who are ruthless predators. 

Drake and Elena are a great couple, even if I do think that Elena is a rather naive heroine. She also needs to stand up for herself more. On the other hand, these are traits that can be blamed on her upbringing, in the household of her abusive, perverted uncle. This man is not her blood relative; he was married to Elena's aunt, who had passed away by the time the story opened.

Elena lives in fear of this man, whose name is Tavian Dinescu. When she discovers that he plans to force her to marry him, she escapes to the only place where she believes he will not follow -- Wolfram Castle. There she meets Drake, the owner of the castle, who puzzles her from the very beginning. She can feel that this man is not like other men, but she is not really frightened of him; instead, she is immediately attracted to him.

Drake is also puzzled, wondering where this young woman came from, how she was able to get into his castle, and what he is to do with her.

The story is somewhat predictable at the very beginning, but there are some surprises later on. The romance between the two main characters blossoms beautifully, and they soon become inseparable. Drake is very tender and sweet toward Elena, and she comes to adore him. I think Ashley developed their relationship in a very believable way, although she based it on a common romantic trope -- the marriage of convenience.

Aside from the romance, what I really liked about this novel was the world-building. The vampires are organized in covens housed in mighty fortresses ruled by Master Vampires, whose word is law in these covens. There are such groups in every country, too, and they make treaties with each other, but at times, the head of one coven might challenge another coven's ruler for leadership of the coven. Certain things are forbidden to the vampires living in each coven, and marriages are arranged, for the purpose of political gain and power.

In the world of this novel, the vampires have well-established, complex societies. Most humans are totally unaware of their existence, which I think is a bit hard to believe. Their relationship with those humans who do know of their existence is a rather disturbing one, too, and I was very happy to see that Drake was totally against it. He is in fact a maverick among his own people, rebelling against his own family, and refusing to perpetuate a system he views as unjust. Drake's defiant attitude is one of the things that made this novel so fascinating to me.

The ruthless politics of these dominant vampires is the background for Drake and Elena's own story, and this fact creates hardship for the two lovers. Together, they struggle against this oppressive society. Ashley has thus made these two characters into heroes whom the reader can immediately relate to. I would also say that the vampire world she has created would qualify this novel as dystopian fiction, with Elena and Drake as the two misfits who challenge the rules and assumptions of this world.

Ashley is not known for writing strong, kick -butt heroines, but in this novel, there are times when Elena does behave in a courageous manner, such as when she insists on standing by Drake in his struggle against his father. At one point, her insistence even places her life in danger.

The secondary characters are very interesting, too, especially Andrei, who is one of Drake's half-brothers, and Katiya, a member of the same coven Drake belongs to. Katiya and Andrei have been in love for a long time, and, with Drake's help, are able to consummate that love, even going against their families' plans. I sure hope that Ashley decides to give them their own book, as I really liked these two!

In spite of the fact that I greatly enjoyed reading this novel, especially with all of its dystopian elements,  and the plot kept me turning the pages, there were some things that struck me as not very believable, which is why I'm giving this book four, instead of five, stars.

I have already mentioned the fact that humans are, for the most part, unaware that vampires do exist, and this does not seem very plausible. I also had a problem with Elena's suggestion of a marriage of convenience, and Drake's quick agreement with it. This happened much too early in their relationship Another quibble is the location of two bodies Elena accidentally discovers; this, too is rather hard to believe. 

In spite of these objections, I very much enjoyed this novel! The well-constructed world had a lot to do with that, as did the sweet romance between Drake and Elena, and the romance between Katiya and Andrei.

Another thing I love about Ashley's novels is that there is no profanity in them, and the love scenes are not overly graphic; instead, they are very romantic, and beautifully described. 

This novel is well worth the read! I can definitely recommend it to all paranormal romance and urban fantasy fans, and I can't wait to read the next installment in the series!



Madeline Baker, whose pen name is Amanda Ashley, is one of those rare birds - a California native. She's lived in Southern California her whole life, and loves it. She married her high school sweetheart, and they have three sons, all handsome enough to be cover models!

Madeline never intended to be a published author. It just happened. She has always loved to read though -- The Black Stallion books, Lad, a Dog, Nancy Drew, Mary Stewart. And then she discovered romance novels. One night, when her husband was at work and her kids were in bed and there was nothing on TV, she sat down and started writing a book of her own. She's been at it ever since. Writing as Madeline Baker and Amanda Ashley, she has published 36 books and 7 short stories. 

Madeline belongs to Romance Writers of America and Novelists, Inc.


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