Sacrament as a book fits right into an unfortunate personal trend I’ve been experiencing which is: I like an author’s earlier work very much, so I request to review the current book and find unhappily, the current book doesn’t thrill me nearly as much as the others have. This has happened with several authors I really enjoy including Jennifer Crusie, Rachel Gibson, Deborah Smith, and now Susan Squires. I can’t win for losing.
Sarah Ashton, Lady Clevancy, has formed a life for herself developing her estate and doing charitable work. One day she gets a notice from her solicitor informing her of a challenge to her ownership of the estate. When she investigates, she finds that the original deed proving her possession has been mislaid, and all the other avenues of proof have been blocked. It looks like she may actually lose her land to the mysterious and scandalous Julien Davinoff. She will do anything to make sure that does not happen.
Julien Davinoff has his own reasons for wanting the land, but when Sarah confronts him, he can’t help but feel for her position. That he feels anything is rather strange in and of itself, because Julien is a vampire and hasn’t felt much of anything for a good, long time. He is bored with life, and Sarah is the most interesting thing to come into his sphere for what feels like forever. She fascinates him. Unfortunately, in getting to know Sarah, Julien is thrust into the company of Sarah’s friend Corina who does not hide the fact that she wants him. So Julien and Sarah must maneuver around Corina’s very specific plans for Julien.
The book has a few inaccuracies that need to be addressed, the first being title errors. Several times a countess friend is addressed as Your Grace, a title reserved only for dukes and duchesses. And Sarah is Lady Clevancy. She is unmarried so this can’t be her husband’s title, which means that she must hold the title in her own right. But what that title is remains unexplained; she is only ever referred to as Lady Clevancy. Another problem is the numerous mentions of the syringe being in use. I could find no evidence of the invention of the syringe prior to the mid-nineteenth century.
The story is interesting and well written, although there are numerous slow spots (which was surprising to me considering the fast pace of Danegeld), and the book was probably fifty pages too long. The vampire angle was somewhat fascinating though. As any connoisseur of vampire books knows, every author makes up her own vampire rules, and they are all different. Squires’s rules for being a vampire are pretty darn entertaining. Also the plot veered off in some unexpected directions, so, just when I was in danger of losing interest in Sarah and Julien’s romance, a plot twist came out of the blue to divert me.
The romance is probably not the book’s strongest point, but it was a fairly good one and better than the one in Danegeld. I could see what Julien and Sarah valued and admired in one another. But I didn’t completely, absolutely feel the couple’s passion for each other. They were passionate, and their actions bore that out, but somehow the depth of feeling they had for each other just didn’t quite come across.
Perhaps the biggest problem was that, unlike the unique Danegeld, Sacrament was not really original. This was particularly true in terms of characterization. We’ve all seen the rich bitch slut like Corina in this book before, and we are certainly familiar with the bored rake, which is essentially what Julien is. Sarah’s personality had some depth, but she was basically the loyal, admiring innocent who tames the depraved man of the world. Also, I never, ever understood why Sarah maintained her friendship with Corina. There was nothing even remotely redeeming in Corina, and Sarah should have cut the connection years ago.
Sacrament isn’t a dull book, but it lacks the vivid vibrancy of Danegeld. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t fantastic. Those readers who especially like vampires might find something to love here, but as for me, I’m waiting for the Danegeld sequel, Danelaw, which I hope will be a return to the page-turning adventure Squires is particularly good at.