Embracing Darkness is a book I didn’t intend to buy. Vampire romance heroes are so commonplace these days they’re starting to become the latest romance cliché, and I’m kind of burned out on them. But despite my best intentions, I couldn’t quite resist it when I saw it in the store. Luckily it turned out to be a good read.
Linnet Carroll was concerned when her niece Deanna became involved in a group obsessed with vampire lore. Then Deanna and her boyfriend Anthony were murdered. Linnet has no doubt that the group’s leader, Nola Grant, was involved in their deaths, and she vows to bring the woman to justice. While staking out the woman’s home, she meets Anthony’s brother Maxwell, who is equally convinced of Nola’s guilt. But Max knows something Linnet doesn’t. Nola really is a vampire – and so is Max.
Maxwell Tremayne never shared his brother’s fondness for humans. Anthony even managed to fall in love with one, although that obviously didn’t work out too well. Max has no intention of allowing Linnet to intrude on his quest to avenge his brother’s murder, but he soon finds that it’s not easy to get rid of her. Before he died, Anthony gave Linnet a pendant that makes her impervious to a vampire’s thrall, making it impossible for Max to manipulate her the way he can most humans. Linnet insists on accompanying him on his quest to find Nola Grant, and Max soon agrees. Together they make their way across the country in search of the killer, and it’s not long before Linnet begins to affect Max like no human woman ever has.
Margaret Carter puts her own distinct spin on vampire mythology in this story, and her take is very intriguing. The best parts of the book are the ones that explain the rules of Maxwell’s existence and vampire society. Her universe is well-developed, and the differences between vampires and “ephemerals,” as Max refers to humans, pose some interesting questions about whether a romance between Max and Linnet is even possible.
Max is a fascinating character. Romance vampires seem increasingly watered-down, but he has a kind of matter-of-fact darkness that I appreciated. He’s fairly ruthless in his intentions, never exactly evil but doing things that, by human standards at least, wouldn’t be considered good. For instance, in the second chapter he and Linnet locate the human Nola ordered to commit the murders. Max puts the man under his thrall, and after questioning him about his actions, orders him to kill himself. Of course, Linnet bursts in and starts moralizing about how wrong this is, so he changes the order just to shut her up. Even so, I liked how far the author was willing to go to show that this was a dark hero who really was dark, with a sense of morality that might not conform to human standards, which just emphasized the differences in the two species.
This is a fast-paced and crisply-written tale that strikes a good balance between the action plot and the character interaction. The suspense plot is relatively straightforward with no major twists, but it moves quickly and has some nicely suspenseful moments. There’s a good amount of sexual tension between the hero and heroine, which builds throughout the story to a very interesting and effective consummation scene.
The story’s main weakness is the characterization, which isn’t quite as vivid as it could be. Maxwell remains a little too enigmatic. He’s fascinating enough that I never really minded, even if I felt he was a little too remote to really know him. I also never really warmed up to Linnet. Although she’s a sympathetic character, she never grabbed my interest the way Maxwell did. As a result, the romance is nice and I liked the issues that it raised, but it wasn’t really as effective or emotional as it might have been if I’d been able to connect more to the characters.
Embracing Darkness is a well-told tale that offers a fresh take on increasingly familiar territory. Fans of vampire romances should find it appealing, even those who, like me, may feel burned out on them. With a satisfyingly dark hero and an intriguing mythology, it’s a good read.