Before Dawn
by Ann Bruce, vampire (2008)
Ellora's Cave, $4.45, ISBN 978-1-4199-1500-0


She glanced up, deliberating skirting the eyes, and could not stop herself from staring rudely. Count Dracula, the young and romantic version, stood before her. He wasn't tall, perhaps a few scant inches under average, but what he lacked in stature he made up for with drama. Midnight curls gleamed with blue highlights and fell to shoulders draped in a black satin cape with a high, stiff collar that ended in dangerous-looking points. The floor-length garment was open, revealing the brilliant gleam of the crimson inner lining. Startlingly white lace spilled from his throat and tight cuffs, hiding all but long, elegant fingers that were paler and better manicured than her own. A touch of modernity was in the shiny leather pants encasing slim legs. Mercy blinked slowly and felt her eyebrows inch up. She had the absurd urge to ask if he'd had to be stitched into the pants, they were so tight.

Bracing herself for the impact, her eyes traveled back up. The beauty of his face was dazzling, if a touch too feminine for her taste. He looked like he should be the front man of a Japanese boy band. Full lips, aquiline nose, high cheekbones, arching eyebrows and sweeping lashes long enough to make her envious. And he looked like she had a decade on him.

The difference between me and Mercy Jansen is that if it were me who encountered this fellow during a costume party at the museum, I'd be laughing my head off and saying, "Who are you? The love child of Stuart Townsend and Sasuke Uchiha?" To Mercy, however, this joker is truly a stuff of nightmares - a walking Anne Rice cliché out to ravish and then kill her just like she dreamed of all these nights. Fortunately for her, Ryan McGinnis - no relationship with Ted, I'm sure - is a vampire hunter from the Council who will come to her rescue.

Before Dawn makes me laugh in a good way because what Ann Bruce has here is a pretty good joke of sorts: walking vampire clichés straight out of an Anne Rice novel are on the loose and we need to kill them off, like, now. Really, who can disagree with that?

This story also has its share of clichés, such as how being bitten by a vampire turns one into a nymphomaniac who wants it everywhere, but that's okay, because Before Dawn is a pleasant and amusing tale. It's nothing that I haven't read before, but everything comes together pretty nicely. Call me twisted if you must, though, but I have to say that I find the villains more interesting than the still enjoyable hero and the mostly damsel-in-distress heroine. Then again, I always have a fondness of Bonnie and Clyde type of crazy bad guys.

Don't be fooled by the cover and blurb into thinking that Before Dawn is one of those drippy and sweet soulmates-forever stuff - this one is actually an entertaining romp where the vampires are the bad guys. It's on the short and therefore on the rather underdeveloped side, what with it being a novella, but it will do where I am concerned for a quick fun read.

Rating: 82


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