Night Walker by Lisa Kessler is a paranormal romance that combines two very powerful themes in modern PNR, vampires and reincarnation. Either one of those elements would make for a very moving love story. Mix them together and you have one very special romance indeed.
The story begins with our modern heroine facing a very contemporary dilemma. Her fiance is a two-timing snake. Kate’s just caught him with one of his grad students, and their engagement is very definitely over. Now she’s on her way from Reno to San Diego to finish up the other unfinished business in her life, closing up her late parents’ house. After her parents’ death in an accident two years ago, she’s been putting off that closure. Now it’s time. Ending her engagement, cancelling her wedding, and realizing that she’s more embarrassed and angry than emotionally devastated, tells her that it’s finally time to take control over the rest of her life.
Kate and her best girlfriends do the tourist thing in San Diego, visiting the Mission de Alcala on the Day of the Dead for Mass brings her into contact with the darkly handsome and eminently mysterious Calisto Terana as she examines the rare and beautiful flowers placed on a centuries-old grave in the Native cemetery surrounding the Mission. Calisto gives Kate the strangest sense of deja vu, as if they have not merely met, but known each other intimately, before. Kate is certain she’d remember meeting a man as compelling as Calisto before.
Kate is both right and wrong. She’s never met Calisto before. But he remembers her. He’s walked the night for two centuries, waiting for her to return.
When the Mission de Alcala was built, Calisto Terana was Father Gregorio Salvador, and he was part of the Spanish mission that helped to build it. When he fell in love with a native girl he betrayed his vows and decided to leave the church. The church refused to let him go. Someone foolishly thought that if they got the girl out of the way, their errant priest would meekly return to the fold.
Instead, he found an entirely different path. A much, much darker way, but one that allowed him to wait for his lover’s spirit to be born again.
There were only two flaws to Gregorio’s, now Calisto’s plan. In the 21st century, Kate remembered nothing of her previous existence. Calisto had to woo and win her all over again. He loved and wanted her more after two centuries of waiting than he had in the flush of first love. The hunger of a night walker made him even less patient than a normal man.
That other flaw? The church is eternal.
Escape Rating A-: I was surprised at how good this was. Even though the elements of the story have been used before, the combination was different enough that I got sucked right in. One of the particularly neat things is that the historic aspects, the Mission and the history of it, are pretty close to what’s known of the events. It’s one of those points in colonial history where records were lost so there’s a ton of room for speculation, fiction and well, just plain flights of fancy. This story was an especially good way of filling that gap.
I didn’t use the word vampire in the review because, although Calisto is a vampire, he doesn’t think of himself as one or refer to himself as one. He knows what vampires are, and they aren’t him. He thinks they’re flashier, for one thing.
The next book in this series is The Night Demon, and starts out in the Yucatan jungle, sometime later this year. I can hardly wait.