If Angels Burn
Even when I don’t love her books, I admire this author. For many authors publishing with a pseudonym just means a different name on the cover and maybe a different setting or genre – the voice remains the same. Lynn Viehl (or Jessica Hall, or Gena Hale, or S. L. Viehl) manages to do something different with each incarnation. And that’s pretty darn impressive. Whether she’s writing Romantic Suspense, Romantic Science Fiction, or her newly created Vampire series, Ms. Viehl grabs my attention and gets me to hang on for better or worse. In the case of If Angels Burn it’s almost all for the better.
Dr. Alexandra Keller is a nationally known plastic surgeon working in Chicago and dividing her time between her paying patients and the pro bono cases she accepts. Her life is busy enough without being complicated by the mysterious M. Cyprien who has offered her four million dollars to make a house call on him in New Orleans. Sure, the money would be great, but Alex simply can’t get away. She can’t leave the patients who are depending on her skills to satisfy the whim of a wealthy man.
Rich as he is, Michael Cyprien can’t afford to take Dr. Keller’s no for an answer. His job and his sanity are hanging in the balance. When Alex turns down his latest offer, Michael has her kidnapped and brought to his estate in New Orleans. Once she performs the surgery, he has every intention of letting her go, even though what she’s about to learn about him can never be revealed. Michael trusts in the pact they form, but his assistant doesn’t. She leaves Alex locked in the room with her now healthy and hungry patient – one who’s a Darkyn. And an out of countrol Darkyn is a very dangerous thing indeed.
Alex isn’t sure what to believe. After nearly dying at Michael’s hands, she wakes in a Chicago hospital, days after she disappeared, with no memory of how she got there. It’s only when Michael seeks her out that the memories of their last encounter come flooding back. Michael’s explanation of being a Vrykolakas or Darkyn seems too impossible to believe. An almost vampire who has infected her with his blood? But the physical changes she’s experiencing convince her that at least some of what Michael says must be true. And though she hates what Michael has done to her, she is forced to join with him if she’s going to figure out where her life goes from here.
Alex and Michael match up perfectly, and their relationship is a strong element in a novel that has a lot going on in a relatively small number of pages. Though this is far from a straight romance – if pressed I’d probably classify it as Horror/Romance – the forced intimacy and the complications that come from that intimacy is powerful stuff.
Equally interesting is the potential antagonist (I won’t say villain, though there are some of those) to Alex and Michael’s budding connection and perhaps their very survival. Alex’s brother John is a Catholic priest with a troubled conscience. His attempts to offer his resignation to the church get him instead recruited by the Brethren of the Light, a secret off-shoot of the church dedicated to the destruction of the Darkyn (who’ve become so zealous they are committing acts of horrendous torture on those they capture). Once he becomes a member of the Brethren, John could be sent to destroy his own sister. It’s a great conflict.
As I’ve discovered in some of the other books I’ve read by Ms. Viehl, she has some very wonderful dramatic ideas. And in some cases – primarily in the continuing series – those fabulous ideas are given plenty of room to play out. Not so here. The denouement was very rushed, a fact I forgave somewhat because I thought there’d be a continuation of Alex and Michael’s story in the next Darkyn book . You can probably imagine my mixed emotions when I read the excerpt for the next book and realized it’d be a whole new romantic pair. There was some definite excitement about another book in the series, but deeper disappointment about the end of this one.
A warning: The dedication reads “For Anne Rice, architect of dreams” and the Rice influence is very evident as Viehl is definitely taking the reader back to the darker side of vampires and the men who hunt them. The violence and descriptions of violence are pretty graphic – necessarily so. Every bit of it is in context and suits the story, but may not be for the faint of heart.