Anna Lee Keaton
2008, Vampire Romance
Cobblestone Press, $5.99, Amazon ASIN 9781600882340
The price and ISBN above are valid at Cobblestone Press
Dante Rainaldi is a suicidal, 300-year-old vampire. He hates the taste of blood, and having given up hope for finding a love to last his lifetime, he’s ready to close his eyes permanently. It’s proved difficult to kill himself however, and his latest attempt - goring his heart with the leg of a coffee table - is intercepted by vampire friend Digger. Dante’s been starving himself as well, but against his suicidal judgment, they head out in search of some blood.
Wendy Schumacher is celebrating her 37th birthday dateless at a singles-themed cooking class called "Dinner and a Date." Dragged there by a friend and then unable to secure an interested partner, she’s headed home to cry herself a river when she bumps into a hot guy. She’s too beside herself to do anything but apologize, then decides to stop at a sidewalk cafe to drown her sorrows in a latte. Once there, someone approaches her table. It’s the hot guy...and, yes, the hot guy is Dante.
Please set aside the concepts of freedom of expression and author autonomy to agree with me when I say that use of the name "Dante" in romance novels as primary descriptor for a vampire or any other European-originated tall-dark-and-handsome should be outlawed well into the 23rd century.
The first half of Dante’s Salvation entertained me enough to overlook the name cliché. Wendy can’t believe someone as young and gorgeous as Dante is interested in her, but it doesn’t stop her from encouraging his attention, and Dante loves her with all the emotion and overwrought drama in his stereotypically Italian heart. I liked it because I’ve got a soft spot for ugly duckling stories and so by virtue of the plot, it held my automatic interest. I liked it so much that it took until chapter eight for my attention to wane. But at that point, once the happy patina of a preferred plot wore off, I realized I wasn’t left with much else.
This is paranormal romance-lite. Apart from a few references on how to kill vampires, a brief history lesson on a century-old civil war, and repeated looks inside what appears to be a popular nightclub, we don’t learn much about Keaton’s version of vampire lore. This in itself is not a bother for me - if the world-building has been sacrificed in the name of character or relationship exploration. However, we learn little about Wendy (meanie sister, cute niece, selfish friend, caring yet distant colleagues) and even less about Dante (suicidal, lovelorn vampire) beyond stereotypes. With respect to their relationship, Dante is the dominant partner. It’s frustrating at first, annoying towards the middle, and an absolute turn-off at the end.
- The night they meet, Wendy dreams of Dante and he enters/takes over her dream so that they’re both left with smiles on their faces. A few weeks later, Dante tells her that he "knows" she dreamt of him. When she probes for more, he says he’ll explain later. She’s been mind-raped and he’ll explain at his convenience? I don’t think so.
- Well before Dante shares his vampire status with Wendy, she misconstrues the situation when she comes across him feeding from the wrist of a pretty clubber. She doesn’t want to hear his excuses and is about to walk out so he decides to physically restrain her and psychologically mess with her mind by saying “you’re making a spectacle of yourself.” Wendy should have really showed him a "spectacle" after that comment. Of course she doesn’t. Even when her friend Candice mentions that he hauled her out of the club as if she "were his property," Wendy doesn’t give it more than a passing thought. He says he loves her - and all is forgiven. Now, I’m not looking to read a "girl power" text, but I shouldn’t be drawn out of the story in disbelief at her complete capitulation to a man she’s only known a few weeks.
- He erases memories from her mind. Without her consent. More than once. Enough said.
- Wendy finds out about Dante’s vampire status when he is forced to save her with super awesome vampiric skill. She feels betrayed and scared, so Dante decides to leave her alone forever. Before he departs, he says "I will always love you," and heads out the door. Wendy’s first reaction is to follow him crying with a "If you love me, why the hell aren’t you fighting a little harder?" speech which, to my mind, is tantamount to saying "You had me at hello." But apart from Dante saving her life (from a situation he forced her into) and giving her some sexy nights to remember, why he has her at hello is not borne out in the novel. I need a reason more nuanced than "hot sex" to explain their love. Wendy starts off a single woman with a positive outlook on life but becomes so weak and needy that Dante is not made to grovel for all his misdeeds. Instead we hear: "Oh Dante...I’m sorry I doubted you. I’ve never made good choices where men were concerned..." I am reading paranormal romance, right? Well, in this much at least, spare me the realism!
My love for the plain girl/hot guy plot knows no bounds, so despite these flaws, much of the time I actually enjoyed reading Dante’s Salvation, which also features very subtle humor that lifts the story at all the right moments. But if Plain Janes and Über Hotties aren't at the top of your list, I doubt you'll fare as well.
-- Abi Bishop
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