Series: CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—3-4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Zebra/Kensington
Since this is the final novel, Ashley makes sure that every unattached cast member, finds a soul mate, including Edna and Pearl (and their love stories are just as weird as they are). The plot plods along at a very slow pace, and none of the love stories are particularly passionate. In fact, the character who shows the most passion is Mara’s husband, Logan, who is extremely jealous of Mara’s centuries-long relationship with Nick. (Nick and Mara were lovers for several years until she dumped him, but they have a close permanent bond between them because she is his sire.)
Here is a summary of vampire characteristics taken from Night’s Surrender, the final book in the series: “They were practically immortal. They healed rapidly when they were wounded. They drank blood to survive. They could move faster than the human eye could follow. They could turn into mist, change shape, scale tall buildings with a single bound. Holy water burned them. The old ones could only be killed if you drove a wooden stake into their heart, took their head, or burned them to ash. Younger ones could be destroyed by dragging them into sunlight,” which turns them to dust. They can also ignite things on fire at will, hypnotize a person with a look, confuse or control a person’s thoughts, and control the weather. They heal rapidly from even the most severe wounds.
In the early books of this series, a vampire-werewolf war is the focus of the plots, with werewolves generally being the bad guys. Members of the vampiric Cordova family are featured, and several characters (e.g., Mara, oldest of all the vampires) appear in supporting roles in each of the novels.
I won't summarize the first four books, but here is a list of their soul-mate couples:
Four months ago, Mara had an affair with Kyle Bowden, a sexy young human who turned away from her in horror when she confessed to him that she was a vampire. In the early chapters, Mara moons over Kyle, telling herself that she still loves him but that she should get over him because he could never love her. When we finally meet Kyle, it's hard to imagine what she sees in him. But before Kyle turns up, Mara happens to run into Logan Blackwood, a vampire she Turned nine centuries ago and the couple soon falls back into their former romantic relationship. Logan has always loved Mara, and vice versa, only she has never admitted it to herself or to him.
The story follows Mara as she deals with her unexpected pregnancy: finding a vampire doctor, taking her pre-natal vitamins, and losing her svelte figure. Because of her dwindling powers, Mara is now unable to defend herself, so she moves in with Logan, falling head over heels in love with him and enjoying their newly revived sexual relationship. When Kyle shows up, though, Mara convinces herself that since he is her baby daddy, she has to marry him and be a good human wife, even though she hates the loss of her vampire identity and powers—not to mention the fact that a centuries-old vampire doesn't fit easily into the role of a happy, human housewife. When the supernatural community learns that Mara has lost her powers, several old and new enemies attack her, including Mara's old foes, Pearl and Edna, who were unwillingly Turned in a previous book and are still out for revenge against Mara and the Cordovas. The Cordova family members play supporting roles and come to Mara's rescue more than once.
I wish that I could say that Ashley has given Mara her due, but, alas, that just isn't the case. The love triangle plot is unbelievable. How can Mara—a centuries-old sophisticated vampire—behave like a wishy-washy adolescent girl who just can't decide between a vampire-hating human and a hot vampire whom she has loved for centuries (and who has loved her equally)? Even at the church just before the wedding ceremony, Kyle makes an anti-vampire sneer, and Mara still goes through with their marriage. After following the powerful, sexually experienced, mature Mara through the first four books, I didn't buy this story for an instant. And what a shame to allow motherhood to soften her up so much. Couldn't she continue to be a strong, independent woman and a mother at the same time? For me, this book is a great disappointment.
The book is padded with bits and pieces of historical trivia as Mara writes her memoirs as she awaits her baby's birth. We get tips on how to make mummies; we make a stop at a Civil War battlefield; and we revisit Custer's last stand—to name just a few. We also get a mini-anti-abortion lecture. These scenes were just extraneous padding for the ultra-light plot line.
And one last nit-pick (which I have mentioned in other Ashley reviews): Ashley has an annoying authorial tic that has her male characters constantly "grunting softly." This time I counted them, and the total is 12 (although I might have missed one or two). Some of the characters also "snort softly" on occasion. All this grunting and snorting is, for me at least, an annoying distraction. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Night's Mistress.
NOVEL 6: Night's Promise
As the story begins, we meet the young woman who will become Derek's soul mate. Sheree Westerbrooke is a twenty-something wealthy heiress from Philadelphia who moved to California to get away from her controlling family and to indulge in her hobby of trying to find a vampire. As the narrator tells us, "Being rich, single, and bored, Sheree had decided to visit every vampire hangout between California and New York until she found what she was looking for." (p. 4) Sheree LOVES vampires in every form: books, films, posters, comic books—you name it. Currently, though, she is entertaining herself by dressing up in expensive Goth clothing and going to faux vampire clubs in search of a real live (or undead) vampire. Oddly, Sheree doesn't seem to have a single friend. She does mention once that she has a friend named Shirley, but we never meet her. Improbably, Sheree has recently lost her job. As she explains to Derek, "I was laid off three weeks ago. You don't know anyone who wants to hire someone with absolutely no skills, do you?" (p. 18) Hmmm…A rich girl with a Rodeo Drive income getting laid off from a job requiring no skills—not very likely. Why was she employed as an unskilled worker if she is rich enough to go out shopping nearly every day for more expensive clothes to wear on her vampire outings?
The plot is a blenderized version of every other vampire book Ashley has written. Prominent in the first half of the book are a series of attacks on Sheree and/or Derek by several sets of vampire hunters who seem to pop up everywhere—all with connections to Mara's adventures in previous books in the series. Even those whacky senior-citizen vamps Edna Mae Turner and Pearl Jackson turn up and actually play key roles in the story line that deals with Derek's werewolf condition.
For some reason, Derek's werewolf characteristics (e.g., appetite for red meat, extreme aggressiveness, ferocious rage, the need to hunt and kill prey) seem to be coming to a head, and Mara fears that Derek is on the verge of shifting into actual werewolf form. Up until now, Derek has been unaware that he has werewolf blood in his veins, so he thinks that he is going crazy. When he learns of his rare condition, he fears that he will hurt or kill Sheree. Eventually, everyone heads for Mara's remote castle in the wilds of Romania so that the family can keep Derek under control. In yet another plot hole, this "remote" castle is just minutes from a town that has restaurants and grocery stores. So why bother to go all the way to Romania—why not just lock Derek up in a room in one of their California houses?
Once again, Ashley has created an unlikely soul-mate couple: a mid-twenties heroine who is still a virgin, and a noble, if frustrated, hero with inhuman hormonal issues. As Sheree muses, "He might have centuries, but she had only a few years, and she wanted to spend them all in his arms, legally and lawfully." (p. 243) So…about 3/4 of the way into the book, Sheree basically asks Derek to marry her so that they can have sex. In their hilariously improbable wedding scene, Derek is miraculously able to locate a same-day wedding chapel and licensed officiator in Philadelphia in the middle of the night. In this far-fetched and unbelievable scene, the interval between the initial proposal and the completed ceremony is just an hour or two. To balance out the sexual content of the book, the early chapters include a few brief, non-graphic bedroom scenes between Mara and Logan, but here's the downside of those scenes: Even when they involve attractive people, sex scenes between people who have been married for 25 years just aren't sexy.
If paranormal romances were candy, this novel would be a marshmallow: sweet and fluffy, but with little substance and lots of little holes. If you are an Ashley reader, you know what you're in for as soon as you open one of her books, and this one is no exception. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Night's Promise. (Although it is labeled "Chapter 1," this excerpt is actually Chapter 2 in its entirety.)
On Ashley's web site, she states: "I'm currently in negotiations with my publisher for the 7th and final book in the series. At least, I think it's the last book!" Does that mean that Pearl and Edna Mae will be finding their senior-citizen soul mates?