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Friday, June 29, 2012

Amanda Ashley: "His Dark Embrace"

Author:  Amanda Ashley
Title:  His Dark Embrace
Plot Type: SMR
Ratings: V3; S3; H2
Publisher: Zebra, 2012

     This is a typical, but mediocre, vampire romance that pairs a centuries-old vamp with a cute and sassy 21st century human woman. They even have the usualor is it unusualnames that Ashley invents for her characters: Kaiden Thorne and Skylynn McNamara O'Brien. Kaiden has lived across the street from Skylynn's grandfather for decades, but he has always kept his vampire nature a secret from everyone but Grandpa. Over the years, Grandpa created a special potion for Kaiden that allowed him to come into the sun without harm, eat and enjoy regular food, and maintain all of his vampire abilitieslike turning into mist, flying short distances, and having super strength.

     The early part of the book deals with Kaiden's situation after Grandpa dies without telling Kaiden the ingredients in the potion. Although Kaiden has had the potion chemically analyzed, one ingredient can't be identified, so Kaiden is slowly but steadily losing his human traits and reverting back to his old, blood-lusting vampire self. Meanwhile, Skylynn returns to her grandfather's house to settle the estate, but then the romance with Kaiden heats up so she decides to stay. The early chapters follow them through their search for the magic formula and their mundane conversations as they eat lots of lunches together while Kaiden can still enjoy that form of nourishment. Eventually, Skylynn discovers that Kaiden is a vampire, and then we have endless, anguished interior monologues as they both ponder their future. 

     The villain of the story is Girard Desmarais, a vampire hunter who hates Kaiden for killing his wife (also a vampire hunter). Desmarais knew about the potion and had been using it to keep himself young. At first, he is also searching for the magic formula, but then he decides that he might as well become a vampire. This is the first of many illogical points in the plotthat a man who has devoted his life to killing vampires would, on the spur of the moment, decide to become one. Desmarais asks the ancient vampire Cassandra, who is also Kaiden's sire, to change him over, and she does itagain, a spur-of-the-moment decision that makes absolutely no sense. 

     The plot gets even murkier in chapter 20 when, all of a sudden, we are in the desert of Iraq where a gang of fanged men with red-glowing eyes is holding Skylynn's soldier brother, Sam, captive. This is the first time Sam has materialized in the story and his appearance is kind of a shock. There can be only reason for including Sam at all, and that is because he is essential to the latter parts of the plot. So for a couple of chapters, Sam is being carted around the desert by some vampires. Suddenly, he wakes up in a U.S. military hospital with amnesia. Thenand here's another completely illogical plot pointthe doctors release him from the hospital with a severe head injury and with absolutely no memory of who he is, where he lives, etc. That would never happen. We never learn anything more about his vampire captorsthey are not mentioned again. Weirdly, Sam doesn't show up until half way through the book, but then he becomes a major character. Why isn't he introduced earlier? Why are Sam's captors depicted as being vampires when that fact is never made part of the plot line? Who knows

     So...Sam is back; Kaiden and Skylynn are engaged; and Desmarais is a vampire. Desmarais skulks around for awhile and eventually goes after Skylynn and Sam, after which Thorne suitably punishes him. Cue the HEA

     Ashley's earlier vampire stories had stronger plot lines, better-developed characters, and fewer illogical moments than this below-average novel. This time around, the story seems like a puzzle with missing pieces that has been put together wrong. Once againjust as in Ashley's BOUND BY... duology, she loses control of the writer's tic that causes her to make all of the characters "laugh softly" and "chuckle softly." In the BOUND BY.... books, all of the men "grunted softly." Here's my recommendation: Read the earlier Ashley books and skip the later ones.

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