Desert Isle Keeper
Excuse me while I gush like a fangirl.
I was so afraid that Beloved Vampire, while starting out with a bang, would eventually fade into mediocrity like so many books. Not at all. As the book progressed, it just got better and better, until it is now officially one of my favorite (if not the favorite) vampire romances. I am so glad I decided to break my paranormal ban and read this book.
For five years, Jessica Tyson is an unwilling second-marked servant to Raithe, a sadistic vampire. He takes advantage of her natural submissive nature and tortures her in grotesque ways. The only way she can survive is by re-reading the diary of Farida, an Arab princess. The diary chronicles her passionate relationship with a mysterious man named Lord Mason. The diary fills Jessica with hope that undying love and happiness actually exist. One day, by a stroke of luck she manages to kill Raithe as he is in the process of giving her the third mark, which would have bound her to him for eternity. As it is, she immediately begins to waste away from a terrible disease the minute he is killed. For months she manages to evade capture by the Vampire Council as she makes her way across the Sahara to die near Farida’s grave.
When she finally arrives and is ready to die, the men who assisted her journey suddenly return to desecrate the tomb. Lord Mason appears from the shadows, and Jessica realizes with bitter irony that he is actually a vampire. She is horribly disappointed that the man who could inspire such devotion in a woman is actually one of the creatures who ruined her life. Mason is somehow drawn to her, and is he forced to give her the third mark himself to override Raithe’s damage. He brings her back to his home in South America, where his servants nurse her back to health.
As Jessica slowly recovers, she has to decide what to do with her newly regained life. She is suspicious of the kindness shown to her by the vampire and his servants, but she hopes against hope that she has finally found home. She must come to terms with her growing relationship with Mason and decide whether to stay in the vampire world or leave and start a new life in the human world, with all vampire-related memories erased.
Mason and Jessica are the most well-written, psychologically coherent characters I’ve read in a long time. Mason is mature and centered, brutal to his enemies yet tender and caring to his loved ones. He is incredibly charming and learned, but it would be a grave mistake to assume that he is a tame vampire. When Farida died, a part of him died with her, and he has been steadily honoring her memory these 300 years. When he begins to fall in love with Jessica, he initially fights it because he is afraid to fully love someone again. I love me some good angst.
These vampires are seriously old school. Vampires are so overdone these days, but the author has managed to maintain their mysterious, sensual nature without making them caricatures of themselves. They don’t sit around posing, baring their fangs, running around and flaunting their need to suck blood. They are wise, but through thousands of years of existence.
This is essentially the erotica of my dreams. It is labeled erotica, but there is more the hint of bdsm than full-blown bondage. While there are explicit scenes, to simply call this book erotica would be severely shortchanging the story. This book is predominantly a story of two hurting souls finding each other and slowly learning to trust the world again. The sex may not be as explicit as some pure-porn books, but the emotion is there full force. Ms. Hill definitely knows how to write an almost-love scene, and the anticipation is sweet.
The few issues I had at the beginning of Beloved Vampire were more than satisfactorily resolved. I usually avoid widow stories because they usually focus on transitioning, reconciling feelings of betraying the spouse, etc. While Jessica initially has a little trouble freely loving a vampire and must think of him as “Farida’s Mason,” there is no doubt that Mason loves her for her, not for her connection to Farida’s memory. After 300 years, Mason still honors Farida, but he doesn’t actively grieve. The only reason he’s hesitant about loving Jessica is because he’s afraid of the pain, not because he’s afraid of betraying Farida. I wanted to give Mason a big high-five for being so damn smart and being able to tell the difference.
This book is natural. It is the highest compliment I can give to a book. It is naturally flowing – the plot, the emotional progression, the dialogue. Read Beloved Vampire, even if you think you’re sick to death of vampires. You won’t regret it. The story is so sensual, so romantic. I’m envious of the fact that I’ll never get that first-time excitement again.