Embrace the Twilight
Embrace the Twilight gets off to such a fascinating, atmospheric and romantic start that it seemed destined for DIK status. Then the introduction of a deeply annoying secondary character sends the book in another direction, where the story begins to unravel.
Colonel Willem Stone is a prisoner of war after being captured by the terrorist cell he and his men were sent to infiltrate. His captors torture him mercilessly in an attempt to get him to reveal who the other Americans are in their ranks. In the middle of this hell, he finds escape by connecting with a Gypsy woman named Sarafina, who he can see in his mind as vividly as if he were there with her. He visits her at several points in her life, watching as she transforms from a naïve but headstrong Gypsy to a powerful vampire. He believes Sarafina is nothing more than a figment of his imagination conjured up to help him through the pain. Then circumstances change that lead him to believe not only in vampires, but in her.
Sarafina has always believed that the man she sensed at different times in her life was a spirit watching over her. She is shocked to learn that he is real, and a mortal human. Bold, ruthless Sarafina has been betrayed by men in the past. She has no interest in any kind of involvement with this human male, no matter how intimately he knows her. But when they are forced together, she may not be able to resist making him hers.
Instantly engrossing with two compelling characters, Embrace the Twilight begins so well that maybe it’s no surprise that it can’t be sustained through the entire book. Willem is a good military hero: strong, resilient, honorable and resourceful. Sarafina is a very complicated character, prone to actions some readers may find questionable but with her own very strict moral code. She’s an interesting blend of strength and vulnerability, merciless at times, yet not unsympathetic.
The concept of these two connected individuals communicating not only across the world, but across time, is a great one. It’s a very romantic idea, that these two people would find themselves linked at their most vulnerable moments. Though the characters don’t physically meet until far into the book, they interact enough that it hardly matters. It also allows Shayne to relate Sarafina’s story arc without resorting to flashbacks or heavy exposition. Even though their formative experiences are taking place centuries apart over far different time spans, the reader sees them happening at once. For the most part it’s not confusing and is a neat way of handling their stories.
I can pinpoint the exact moment the story began to derail: with the introduction of teenage half-human/half-vampire Amber Lily. Fans of the series will recognize her as the child birthed in Born in Twilight, the first child born to a human and a vampire. She has since grown up to be a spoiled brat, one of those teenagers so realistically annoying she helps to explain why I try to avoid books with teens in them. Shayne introduces her in mid-whine and the little princess never stopped grating for a moment after.
Amber Lily wants to go to New York City with her best friend to celebrate her high school graduation. Her parents agree because, as her father rationalizes, she would just run away if they didn’t let her. Her mixed heritage has left her with incredible strength, but apparently the same stupidity that leads her parents to go along with this scheme. Amber Lily and her sidekick go to New York where they are set up in a fancy hotel and proceed to hit all the clubs. However a group of vampire hunters are after her, and Amber Lily is soon in jeopardy, along with everyone she knows. I would have let them have her myself. Naturally her parents feel differently.
The middle of the book is made up of an irritating tangle of misunderstandings, everyone assuming someone else is evil, all set into motion by Amber Lily. This is where Sarafina and Willem’s story really dovetailed into hers, and I strongly disliked the way their relationship began to be manipulated by the motions of Amber Lily and her plot. To be fair, all the trouble she causes is inadvertent. Personally I never understand it when an author bases nearly all of a story’s difficulties on one character without expecting the reader to hate that person.
What initially seemed to be a story about two people, Sarafina and Willem, suddenly acquired a suspense plot. It’s fast-paced and action-packed, but really doesn’t seem any different than several other books in this series, as our heroes engage in a rescue mission/outright battle against vampire hunters who are more evil than those they’re after. The similarity isn’t helped when Shayne floods the story with the cast of regulars from some of the other Wings of the Night books. By the third act, the main couple’s relationship is shoved into the background and they simply become part of the group all working and fighting together to defeat the villain. It’s very telling that the book’s closing moments end not with the romance, but with the suspense plot. Because the love story is so heavily overshadowed by the suspense in the last third of the book, it doesn’t end on a very fulfilling note, and some relevant issues felt unresolved. The same is true of the suspense plot. The book ends with a quasi-cliffhanger that leaves things open for the next book that’s sure to follow instead of offering any kind of closure. Embrace the Twilight left me feeling somewhat cheated. Shayne hooks the reader with a compelling story, then lets her cast of regulars take over and run amok. Having already read about those people, they weren’t the ones I was interested in. I was ready to embrace this book, only to find Shayne lost me the same way she lost track of her main characters.