Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: historical paranormal romance
Series: Scandals with Bite #1
Length: 354 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
England’s “vampire craze” causes much vexation for the Lord Vampire of London, Ian Ashton. To save his reputation, Ian enlists aspiring authoress Angelica Winthrop without realizing she has hidden plans of her own.
Angelica Winthrop’s life goal is to ruin her reputation, avoid marriage, and become a gothic authoress like her idol, Mary Shelley. To find inspiration for her new story, she breaks into the home of Ian Ashton, Duke of Burnrath, not knowing she will be coming up against the Lord Vampire of London. Romance sparks and reputations are at stake. But who knows the real difference between fact and fiction?
I thought that this story was a lot of fun, but at the same time it felt as if it was as much of a send up or spoof of Regency romances as it was a Regency romance with a paranormal twist.
Still, it’s a genuinely light-hearted and fun spoof, if you want to take it that way. And there is a happily ever after that is going to mean a lot more of that “ever after” than is usual.
However, the tension in the story came more from a series of misunderstandammits than I would have preferred. On that other hand, so many of those misunderstandings are the result of a general lack of knowledge and information on the heroine’s part about the nature and preferences of vampires, as well as her more typical lack of knowledge of men and the way the world works.
Young misses of the upper classes were supposed to be innocent of worldly knowledge. Vampire knowledge is kept secret, so of course she hasn’t much clue on that score.
It was terrific to see the interweaving of the real rise in supernatural fiction with Angelica’s introduction into the real life of vampires. This story takes place at the time when Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre (the forerunner of Bram Stoker’s Dracula) were all the rage.
And causing London’s Vampire Lord to gnash his fangs in his search for Polidori, his inspiration, and which one of the London vampires betrayed their kind and exposed them to ridicule and possible discovery.
Because London’s Vampire Lord is also Ian Ashton, the Duke of Burnrath. He has a place in ton society that he doesn’t exercise much but does cause a lot of jealousy and resentment in certain quarters. Also, his eccentric life (no one ever sees him at night) makes him an easy target for anyone who wants to suggest he is a vampire. Which, of course, he is.
In this case we have both an unconventional hero and an unconventional heroine. Ian is a vampire who regularly leaves the country, and returns 50 years later as his own properly documented heir. Being the Vampire Lord of London is sometimes frustrating, but he’s also getting tired and bored. And Polidori’s story has him seething.
Angelica is a headstrong young society miss who does not want to marry and turn into a society drone. She wants to become an author like Mary Shelley or Jane Austen. Of course, she has no idea what she will be getting herself into. Her plan is to “ruin herself” with her behavior so that her parents (especially her overbearing mother), will stop pushing her to get married.
Because Angelica is fascinated with gothic horror stories, she decides to check out Ian’s London house, which is conveniently across the street from her own. She lets herself in during the day and starts hunting for a ghost. She expects to find lots of inspiration in Ian’s dusty estate.
Instead, Ian finds her. According to the rules of the day, simply being alone in his house with him without a chaperone is enough to ruin her. What she doesn’t expect is that Ian will decide that marrying a human woman will throw off the scent of the very real vampire hunters who are after him.
That Angelica had no thought that her parents would fall all over themselves to “leg-shackle” her to the man who ruined her, whoever he might be, is just one of the ways that Angelica’s naivete is so clearly (and frequently) displayed.
Verbally sparring with Angelica, who is well if unconventionally educated, makes Ian feel alive in more ways than just sexually. She is different in ways that make her a challenge as well as a delightful surprise.
But they don’t talk to each other about what is really going on. Not just that Ian is a vampire, but what that will mean. Or even that he truly enjoys her unconventionality, especially including her extreme forthrightness.
That lack of communication nearly wrecks their fledgling marriage. Even more important, it very nearly gets both of them killed.
Escape Rating C: I liked Ian and Angelica, and the premise of the story was good, but there were too many things that drove me bananas.
As much external tension as exists in this story between Polidori’s elusiveness, the vampire hunter, and the continuing speculation on whether or not Ian is a vampire, the author concentrated too much on Angelica’s and Ian’s communication problems, which were legion. Everything that goes wrong in their story comes down to eavesdropping, misunderstandings and a complete unwillingness to talk to each other about anything serious. While this may have been the actual pattern at this point in history, that the entire difficulty in the relationship comes down a giant misunderstandammit almost made me stop in the middle.
Both Angelica’s mother and her grandfather felt like cardboard cutouts instead of real characters. It’s not just that Angelica sees her mother as being stupid, but that she consistently acts that way. Her mother’s desire to get Angelica married off is logical. That she never sees her very unconventional daughter as the person she really is grated on this reader’s nerves. While our time period may have different goals at least some of the time, what her mother wanted was the right thing for that era. That she never figured out that she used the wrong arguments and persuasions every single time made me cringe.
Angelica’s rich grandfather was just a nasty and overbearing bully. And creepy.
With all of the family drama going on, the introduction of a real bloodthirsty vampire hunter into this mix felt over-the-top. That one of Ian’s vampires was able to defy him and deceive him over Polidori also didn’t fit with the descriptions of how much vampires were obedient and beholden to their local lord. That the female vampire in question was as naive as Angelica, if not more so, made no sense.
This story had a lot of interesting ideas that didn’t quite gel for me. Your mileage may vary.