Dark Magic

Christine Feehan
2000, Vampire Romance
LoveSpell, $7.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0505532892
Part of a series

Grade: C-
Sensuality: Hot

In this romance, vampire Gregori "The Dark One" is literally older than Methuselah, and heroine Savannah Dubrinsky is only twenty-three years old. What's more, Gregori has known that he and Savannah were destined to be lifemates ever since he saved her life while she was a fetus. Talk about your May-December romances. Though the writing is crisp and the action is entertaining, the circumstances of this unlikely union lend the book a creepy paternalistic vibe that never quite goes away.

This was my first encounter with Feehan's Carpathian series, which was probably a mistake. Absolutely no quarter is given to the uninitiated for nearly 100 pages. Here's help: Gregori and Savannah are Carpathians, superbeings who drink human blood and avoid the sun. They mate for life. If they don't, they turn into sociopathic vampires. Samantha is a beautiful stage magician and Gregori is a deadly vampire hunter and powerful healer. Gregori is evidently the powerful broody guy who's been teased in the earlier books, like Jo Beverley's Rothgar.

We meet Gregori watching Savannah's magic show and obsessing over her. When a vampire kills Savannah's closest human friend, Gregori kills the vampire and drags Savannah back to his lair. Gregori is desperate because he has waited so long for Savannah that he is in grave danger of turning into what he protects society against. Savannah was supposed to accept her destiny (Gregori) at 18, but since her formerly human mother raised her with modern ideas, she begged Gregori for five years alone. She hopes to postpone Gregori forever, but he has other ideas:

"Savannah?" Gregori's arm drew her tightly, possessively against him. "Do not try to leave me. Fight me, argue, but do not try to leave me. I walk the edge of control. I feel for nothing or no one but you. It would be very dangerous."
I like my alphas as much as the next gal, but Gregori is ludicrous, and Savannah is no better. The first sex scene, very early in the book, is one part forced seduction and 9 parts brutal rape as excitement turns Gregori into a ravaging beast. This is apparently Savannah's fault because she held out for so long, and it's during the near-fatal rape that she accepts her culpability and falls in love. As a romance fan, I have enjoyed all kinds of episodes that might not withstand a feminist critique, but this scenario was a little too much for me.

If you can get past the Carpathian ideology, there are a number of things to like about the book. The author is a good prose stylist, and when the focus is on the action rather than the romance, the story is quite entertaining. Almost halfway through the book we enter the main plot, which centers on a society of humans who hate and fear all Carpathians/vampires, and have developed powerful weapons against them. Not that they have any real chance, because Gregori is a killing machine; still, the action sequences are well-described and brutal. Things also perk up with the introduction of Gary, a human fascinated by vampires. Gary adds a human element that the story otherwise lacks.

As far as I can tell, this romance is geared towards other Carpathians, who may be better able to relate to the main characters. Carpathians presumably quiver at love scenes that culminate with at least one partner taking a big ol' love chomp and sucking away, and are comforted with the thought of making out burrowed under six feet of Carpathian dirt. Alas, the Carpathian market share is necessarily limited, and so I recommend this book to any humans who can appreciate an unrepentant superalpha and a submissive heroine who admits in all sincerity:

If anyone is to blame, it is me for insisting on my freedom. I was thoughtless, not realizing what I was doing to you or even to the unattached males of our kind.
Personally, I couldn't get past the ideology, but other readers may be better able to do so. If you've a soft spot for old-fashioned gothics, or if you've enjoyed the previous entries in the series, this book could be for you.

-- Mary Novak

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