Thinking is bad for you. The heroine of this novel, Rae Blaise or Sunshine, as she is better known, finds this out the hard way after she drives out t...moreThinking is bad for you. The heroine of this novel, Rae Blaise or Sunshine, as she is better known, finds this out the hard way after she drives out to the lake to have a think and avoid arguing with her mum. Because while there, she is kidnapped by a group of vampires, dressed in blood red silk and chained in a room with another vampire, Constantine. But clearly, Sunshine is a bright girl (I am still unsure exactly how old she is supposed to be, early twenties, I'd guess) and learns her lesson quickly and pretty much stops thinking from then on. At least enough for her latent powers to reveal themselves and take over her logical processes.
I am doing this all wrong, aren't I? Because, actually, I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. And even the fact that listening to Sunshine is like talking to someone with a severe case of ADD because she keeps diverting and sidetracking until you lose all sense of what she was talking about to begin with and the fact that the book was like the worst kind of tease, sucking you in, turning you on and dumping you with barely a hint of a resolution, no answers to most of the questions and no sequel in sight wouldn't put me off.
I liked Sunshine. Despite her ADD and obsession with baking (I hate cooking with a passion). She felt real. She was sometimes snarky, sometimes frustrating, sometimes puzzling but always interesting and complex and believable as a character.
I've never read any McKinley before but I new fairy tale retellings were usually her thing but that this wasn't quite her usual thing, being a gritty and dark urban tale about vampires. Yet I am not so sure. This is a dark vampire tale but with a healthy dose of fairy (tale) dust sprinkled all over it, I think, and some sunshine. It is a Beauty and the Beast story, which Sunshine tells to Constantine during their confinement and which, I hear, McKinley is a teeny bit obsessed with but it is not really a romance (damn it!).
Yes, Constantine is definitely the Beast of this piece. He is ugly and alien and he smells. No sparklingly brooding underwear models here. No sighing over anybody's eyes and beautiful chests. Yet Sunshine, and I along with her, grows to love him despite herself and the "resolution" to their relationship at the end, while it is incredibly frustrating in its unclarity, is also incredibly sweet (I did tell you this was a fairy tale, right?).
But back to the unclarity (and the biggest fattest BUT of this book). Questions. Questions, questions everywhere. Where did Sunshine's father and the entire Blaise family disappear to? What are the "bad spots"? Why does Sunshine's mum avoid her all the time and why did she leave her father? What precipitated the Voodoo Wars? Has the presense of supernatural beasties always been the reality of this world or have they just crawled out of the woodwork at some point? What is the Goddess of Pain? What is Mel? And so on and so forth. Answers are not forthcoming.
You know that scene in the middle where naked Sunshine lands on equally naked Constantine but, while he initially appears into this, he soon comes to his senses and won't put out and Sunshine is all frustrated with engorged labia and parts to match. Well, I swear McKinley put this in just to illustrate graphically how she was going to leave her readers at the end of this book. Coitus interruptus, are you bloody kidding me? I need the other two books (at least) in this series, which Mckinley is not writing.
I was going to take a star off for that but then, I know for a fact that I am now going to go read every single other book that McKinley has ever written and come back to this one over and over looking for that something that I have possibly missed but really just to spend some time with Con and Sunshine again, even if they are not doing anything new and Sunshine is mainly blathering on about her cinnamon rolls as big as her head. And if that doesn't make a book five star worthy, I don't know what does. (less)
Woo hoo. Finally, we have a book that proves conclusively that freaky goth boys can be hot too and totally datable. I'm kidding. I was quite surprised...more
Woo hoo. Finally, we have a book that proves conclusively that freaky goth boys can be hot too and totally datable. I'm kidding. I was quite surprised by this book, actually. In a good way. Because I inhaled it, gulped it down and loved every minute of it.
Isobel is a blond and pretty walking cliche. She is a cheerleader, she doesn't read much, she goes out with an extremely hot football player called Brad and is part of a "crew" consisting of other cheerleaders and football players. Her boyfriend and friends are fake and mean and one wonders how she managed to never realise this before the events of the book unfold. Isobel is paired up for a school lit project with Varen Nethers, who may as well have lived in a galaxy far far away for how much he was on Isobel's radar prior to that point, because he looks a bit different and likes to wear black (translation: he is a goth weirdo who talks to himself, practices witchcraft, has an evil eye tattooed on his left shoulder blade, lives in the basement of an abandoned church, sleeps in a coffin and drinks blood, or so the school rumour mill has it).
Isobel is not best pleased about being paired up with the school freak, but when her hot boyfriend reacts in a completely irrational hormonal way to the news, she starts noticing things that she hasn't before. Like the fact that her boyfriend is a bit of a prick, that her friends are a bunch of stuck-up nasty brats and that the freak boy is actually surprisingly attractive. The last part in particular was pretty well done. I mean, I am well past the age of finding teenage goth boys attractive, but hats off to Ms. Creagh, she did manage to make me catch my breath in a few places. The chemistry between Isobel and Varen was amazing and the relationship developed in a realistic believable way, no lame cop outs like the fated to be together instalove crap that seems to be so pervasive in PNR literature.
What really made this book for me though, is the incorporation of Poe's life and works into the story. I have read a lot of Poe as a teenager but I have not known anything about his life, so it managed to educate me. Poe died in very mysterious circumstances. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
"On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism. The actual cause of death remains a mystery; from as early as 1872, cooping was commonly believed to have been the cause, and speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera and rabies."
It is amazing how well this and other details of Poe's life are interwoven into the story (like the fact that he married his 13 year old cousin). In fact, the whole book can probably be described as one big speculation on what happened to Poe. A very imaginative and absorbing speculation.
Other things that I loved include the part where Isobel essentially wonders through Poe's Masque of the Red Death. Gwen is one of the best BFF side-kicks ever. And it looks like the remainder of the series is going to be a story of a princess rescuing her prince from the "ivory tower". How kick-ass is that?!
I do have a couple of criticisms, hence the four stars. I felt the writing was bumpy in a few places. For example, if I am told that a boy looks at the heroine like a complacent cat, that really doesn't scream hot love interest to me. He also glares "past the ridge of his levelled brow" at one point. I don't know about you, but my mind immediately supplies an image of a pithecanthropean or frankensteinesque overhanging monobrow, when faced with that description. On the whole, however, the prose was pretty good. Evocative and haunting without being over-written.
My only other problem is the massive cliffhanger at the end. It was unavoidable, I suppose, but it really doesn't make me feel any better. I can't believe I now have to wait until 2012 to read the next instalment. (less)
As is the tradition, the hero, Michael, is a playboy of galactic proportions and swoon-inducingly handsome. Not fabulously wealthy, but (never fear) M...moreAs is the tradition, the hero, Michael, is a playboy of galactic proportions and swoon-inducingly handsome. Not fabulously wealthy, but (never fear) Michael has a cousin who is rich, titled and with a beautiful wife to boot. Of course, Michael has been secretly and irrevocably in love with said wife from the moment he first clapped eyes on her (not that this stops him from sleeping around quite a bit and being an epic libertine). Unfortunately, the cousin does not have the decency to be a mean and evil old troll and is, in fact, someone whom Michael loves and respects (as does Francesca, the wife and our heroine), so Michael has no choice but to love and suffer quietly while being friends with the happy couple. And the situation would have probably continued so indefinitely had the husband not SUDDENLY and tragically ceased being among the living.
Francesca is suitably devastated by the tragic event and Michael is so guilt-ridden that he runs all the way to India but comes to his senses (partially) after four years and heads back home EXACTLY at the same time as the heroine decides to finally move on after her husband's death and start looking for a replacement (she wants kids, after all).
Our heroes then work through all of their issues and have some mind-blowing sex along the way until they come to their senses COMPLETELY and realise that, OF COURSE, the deceased husband would have wanted them both to be happy and was, in fact, expecting this to happen any minute now when he was alive. The end.
All in all, this was a charming story and is my favourite of the Bridgerton series, despite being more melancholy than the others. It was refreshing to have the hero love the heroine from the start and not have a blushing virgin of a heroine fall into the hero's lap like an over-ripe fruit having barely glanced at his manly profile. Plus, I love a man who can talk dirty. HUGE turn on.
There were a few cons, e.g. the first part of the book (until the hero comes to his wits and decides to go after the heroine) dragged on for longer than is necessary, the letters that preceded each chapter did not work as well as the Lady Whistledown columns in the previous books (though they weren't as bad as the intro's to the chapters in the last two books in the series) and the bit in the end with the dead husband's mother thanking the hero for "letting" him (the husband) love the heroine first was just bizarre. But, all in all, this was a very satisfying (and horn-inducing) read. (less)