Plot Type: SMR, HIS
Each book in the series features the SMR story of one couple (usually Dracule/human), with other Dracules and humans taking supporting roles. The series is set primarily in the early 1800s in the midst of London's high society (the Ton), although there are a few flashbacks to fill in the backgrounds of various characters. The Dracule mingle among the Ton, trying to keep themselves as inconspicuous as possible. In the meantime, a rival Dracule group in Paris is working with Napoleon Bonaparte to take over Europe, including a possible invasion of England. The leader of that group—and the villain for the series—is Cezar Moldavi, a descendant of Vlad Tepes (the original Dracula).
Generally, a series moves forward chronologically with each succeeding book, but this one has a totally different arrangement. It's almost as if the author wrote the series first as one big all-encompassing story and then clipped out bits and pieces to construct separate books for each couple. The series time frame is the same in each book, with the characters in each book replaying the same scenes over and over again. This would have worked if each of the repeated scenes had been freshly written and approached from a different character's point of view, but instead, Gleason inserts the scenes almost verbatim from the previous book(s). Sometimes her reasons for including certain scenes in a given book are impossible to understand. In the most glaring example, books 2 and 3 both include the exact same (word-for-word) scene in an abandoned monastery where Chas leaves Narcise and where Giordan then shows up to confront her about their past. In book 3, this scene makes sense because we have the context to understand each character's words, actions, and feelings, but in book 2, the scene is extremely confusing because we have absolutely no knowledge of what Narcise's relationship is with either man. Plus...book 2 is not Narcise's story, so the scene is jarringly out of place and serves only to confuse the storyline.
In book 1, the dracule Voss Arden (Viscount Dewhurst) has returned to London after many years in the Colonies (aka America). Voss is a hedonistic womanizer and a collector of information, which he sells to the highest bidder, truly a soulless mercenary. Voss has heard that one of Chas Woodmore's sisters has the "Sight," and he hopes to seduce her and learn some facts about the future that he can sell—probably to Moldavi. Unfortunately, Chas has disappeared with Narcisse and Moldavi is after him, so Chas has sent his sisters to Dimitri (Earl of Corvindale) for protection. Now Voss has to overcome Dimitri's intense dislike for him in order to get closer to the Woodmore sisters. As the plot plays out, Voss falls for Angelica (and vice versa), but when she finds out that he is a vampire, she has the usual (sensible) urge to scream loudly and run away as fast as possible—even though she is mightily attracted to him. So...lots of angst on both sides of the romantic equation as the couple battles the bad guys and eventually achieves their HEA. By the end of the book, Voss achieves redemption from Lucifer's hold.
The Vampire Dimitri
In book 2, the lovers are Voss's enemy/friend, Dimitri, and Angelica's sister, Maia. Dimitri has spent his immortal life seeking a way to get rid of Lucifer's curse. He has stopped drinking human blood and has become a recluse, spending all of his time in his library reading ancient texts, searching for the cure. As we saw in book 1, Dimitri's life is totally disrupted when Angelica and Maia show up on his doorstop, and he is forced to become their guardian. Also in the first book we saw that, little by little, an attraction develops between Maia and Dimitri. That attraction comes to full fruition in this book. In the meantime, since this book follows the time line as book 1, both Angelica and Maia are at risk of capture by Cezar's thugs. As the story progresses through the exact same events as book 1, Maia and Dimitri try hard to fight their lustful feelings, but fall hard for each other in the end. As the heroine, Maia falls into the clutches of the enemy more than once, but she is, of course, always rescued by her hero, Dimitri. Just as with Voss, Dimitri earns redemption through love.
The Vampire Narcise
The time line for book 3 begins in 1673, well before book 1, but then skips and jumps through more than a century to finally end in 1804, following the same line of events as books 1 and 2. As the story begins (in the Prologue), Cezar makes the decision to force his sister, Narcise, into becoming his immortal pet. Moving forward 15 years, we find Cezar using Narcise as entertainment for his enemies and his friends. He forces her to fight (with swords) any man he chooses. If she wins, she goes back to her locked room alone, but if she loses, the winner can do whatever he wants to her, including S&M using the various manacles, whips, and knives displayed in her torture chamber. This book is definitely at the high end of both the violence and sensuality range for its many blood lust, torture, and homoerotic scenes. Fast forward to 1793. When Giordan Cale, one of Dimitri’s friends, visits Cezar on business, he immediately falls for Narcise and commits himself to freeing her from Cezar’s grasp. Unfortunately, when Giordan strikes a bargain with Cezar to set her free, Narcise misinterprets his actions as a betrayal, and the two are painfully estranged for ten years (now we're in the early 1800s). Eventually, the vampire hunter, Chas Woodmore, succeeds where Giordan failed, and the two become lovers. By the end of the story, Narcise, Giordan, and Chas must come to terms with their true feelings about one another—kind of a Pride and Prejudice-esque emotional rollercoaster. Once again, redemption figures into the resolution of the plot.
I enjoyed the first book more than the last ones. By the end of book 3, the New Age enlightenment mysticism gets to be a bit strange—anachronistic, really—since these novels take place England in the 1800s. Even vegetarianism rears its herbaceous head. But still, the approach to the vampire mythos is new and inventive, especially the idea that at the time of the “turning,” Lucifer comes to each of his victims in a surreal dream to show each one what a great immortal life he can give them, with just that one little catch—you’ve got to do a lot of really bad things or your black scar will hurt you like the devil—literally.
The biggest problem with this series is the repetition of scenes, which I discussed earlier in this review. If more books are coming, I sincerely hope that they move on in time and that we don't go have to go through an automatic replay of the same events for a fourth or fifth time.