Okay, you tell me. A book features a 500-year-old, beautiful vampire who’s helping the government in a super-secret agency to fight terrorists and assorted other bad guys all while fighting her attraction to the man she recently turned into a vampire. Sound exciting? Sound like it’s a page-turner? Sound like the heroine is intriguing and the romance even more so? Sure it does. But as you may have guessed from the grade, this latest in The Darkwing Chronicles is not. Not exciting. Not a page-turner. Not anything but occasionally annoying.
Though Daphne Urban was coerced into working as a spy for the United States, she has settled in as a member of Team Darkwing. She and her vampire colleagues have been given a new task. Someone is producing a new drug called Susto. Susto is deadly and Daphne’s boss J. worries the drug will spread out of control. Daphne and her team must find the producers of the drug and stop them, even if their search leads them to the highest government levels. Cruising New York’s hot spots causes even more complications for Daphne in the form of two gorgeous men.
First up is St. Julien Fitzmaurice. Fitz is connected to one of the most powerful families in the country and may be Daphne’s entrée into the Susto pipeline. That he’s intelligent, charming and gorgeous only makes Daphne’s job harder. The more she gets to know Fitz (and like him), the closer she comes to the realization that he’s closely connected to the deadly drug. Further stirring the romantic waters is Darius, the man Daphne loved and lost when she saved his life by turning him into a vampire. Darius hasn’t forgiven Daphne for turning him into something he loathes, and his reappearance in her life is no coincidence. Somehow he ties into the drug investigation and it’s left to Daphne to figure out how, while trying to protect her heart.
If you’re going to write a novel about vampires you (the author) run the risk of making your characters unsympathetic and unlikable because of their very nature (they are bloodsuckers, after all). In this case Daphne and Darius are both unsympathetic and unlikable at various times in the book, but it has nothing to do with their being vampires. Daphne has survived for 500 years as a vampire and you’d never know it. In her “investigations” she gets too drunk and is almost staked by vampire hunters multiple times. She wanders around waiting for a clue and spends a lot of time daydreaming about her doomed love affair with Byron (yes, that Byron).
And if Daphne is sometimes a little TSTL, she’s got nothing on Darius. He rages around about the injustice done to him. He’s alternately horrible and horny with Daphne and I could see no reason for Daphne to want to have anything to do with his whining ways. Prior to meeting Darius, Daphne had been celibate for 200 years. Are we to believe that this angry, secretive-for-no-particular-reason man-child is enough to break Daphne’s control? If so, then it doesn’t speak well for either of their characters.
I did like some of the supporting cast in this series. Though they are often drawn too thinly as well, they’re frequently more root-worthy then either of the leads. Daphne’s boss in particular, J, interested me. Whether the author intended it or not, there are definite sparks between Daphne and J and they would make for a far more interesting couple than Daph and Dar.
Ms. Russe has some good ideas for characters and plots but she does nothing with them. At times the writing feels incredibly rushed (cue the melodramatic ending) and at other times the pacing drags. Will I be back for book three? Doubtful. I’ve given books one and two a chance, and I’m just not sure I’ve got it in me to try again.