by Lucy Blue, historical/fantasy (2005)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6448-6
Lucy Blue is the new pseudonym for the author previously published as Jayel Wylie. My Demon's Kiss is the start of a new medieval series called Bound In Darkness, and unlike the tendency of the books in the paranormal genre to slip towards the typical sex/corn/camp storylines, My Demon's Kiss starts out great. It has a high body count, gripping horror movie atmosphere, and a tortured hero. Then the heroine shows up and the whole story goes straight down the crapper.
True to romantic vampire heroes, our hero Simon the Knight of Lyan is a vampire who prefers whine instead of blood for his meals. But it's hard not to be sympathetic since the prologue details Simon's horrifying Crusade ordeal of being the sole survivor of a vampiric ambush and he survives only to realize that he has been bitten and therefore is now one of those creatures that have killed his lord and the rest of the knightly entourage. Today, Simon has returned from the Holy Land with a dwarven companion named Orlando.
In a castle called Charmot, Isabel the heroine evokes the dark arts that she has foolishly believed she has learned from her late father's books for a real "Black Knight" to come protect her castle and her people from people who want to marry her. (Yes, this is another one of those creatures who will put herself above her people and yet lay claim to being selfless and noble at the same time.) Currently the Black Knight in question is her aging warrior who has to go out there, creaky bones and all, and fight any man who want to come marry Isabel. When Simon and Orlando show up, asking for permission to visit the catacombs under Charmot, little does Isabel know that her Black Knight is finally here.
Simon is looking for the Holy Grail which can cure his vampirism and clues he has learned from his travels suggest that it can very well be located under Charmot. But he will have to deal with Isabel's girlish nonsense before he comes close to finding the Holy Grail.
Simon is a decent character. When he is first introduced, he has the makings of an excellent (if stereotypical) Tortured Monster Hero With The Heart Of Gold archetype. However, for so long in this story he has to humor Isabel so his characterization gets bogged down by tedious babysitting antics and he never achieves his full potential as a character. As for Isabel, oh, she is so wretched that I am actually rooting for Simon to make a bloody meal out of her. Isabel behaves like a simple-minded, reckless sixteen-year old Valley Girl running wild in a story about miserable grown-ups in the medieval era. Never mind the contemporary-sounding dialogs, laden with definitely anachronistically twentieth century jargons here and there, Isabel is more offensive in how she constantly acts on impulse without having to engage her brain even for a second. If she is not being childish and pouting because she doesn't get her way, she is running headlong into danger or throwing the story into unnecessary conflicts because she is really too stupid to make a reasonable judgment or decision. There is a vast gulf in maturity between Isabel and Simon that I feel like I'm watching a painful episode of The Newlyweds where Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey decide to put on period costumes and reenact a particularly bad Gothic melodrama.
Ms Blue tries to have Isabel doing the right thing by standing by Simon's side towards the story's penultimate moments but for too long Isabel has free rein on acting in a wretchedly bimboish and irrational manner. Because of her, Simon spends too much time away from his genuinely pressing quest to dance to her childish needs and wants. It won't be so bad if Isabel shows some brainpower capability but she doesn't even do that. She is either being wrong (and monstrously stupid in the process) or having to be told and shown the obvious by Simon or Orlando.
Even the entire premise of her belief that Simon will help her - because she "summoned" him - is flawed because the author doesn't even try to show me how strong Isabel's faith in the old Celtic druidic arts is. If Ms Blue has allowed Isabel to be a genuine, say, druidess or something confident in her skills, Isabel's belief and faith in Simon will make sense. But perhaps because nobody wants to offend the Bible belt people who read romance novels for romances featuring premarital sex and ridiculously promiscuous heroes, Isabel is portrayed without having any faith or convictions - and therefore completely devoid of depths. All she has is her deep-seated missing of her dead daddy (of course, of course). So what I get is Isabel stumbling over her father's books, memorizing a few spells, and then casting one to summon the Black Knight without even knowing whether she is doing the right thing - and when Simon shows up, quickly lets him in and insists continuously to be alone in closed quarters with this stranger. Isabel comes off like a spoiled sixteen-year old imbecile going on thirteen.
When the heroine ends up being the biggest pest, nuisance, and hindrance in the story and the main reason why this story never fails to achieve its potential - seriously, Isabel, just die already and leave Simon alone! - I think it is fair to call My Demon's Kiss a well-written failure.
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