by Thea Devine, historical/paranormal (2003)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0399-3
The Forever Kiss continues the Victorian-era vampire canon Thea Devine set up in Sinful Secrets. Vampires are blood-sucking descendants of Judas Iscariot. Unfortunately, The Forever Kiss is an incoherent mess low on sex and garbled on prose and plot, so much so that I suspect that me translating a Swahili encyclopedia without the aid of any dictionary and guides will be a more illuminating experience. There are two guys looking alike running around the place, and the thing is, half the time I have no idea who is who.
Orphaned Dar St Onge is a soldier who is summoned by his surrogate Dad the Colonel. To his surprise, he finds himself looking at his doppelgänger, Ducas Sangbourne. Ducas is dying, and Dar is charged on a mission to impersonate Ducas and return to Ducas' home to discover the identity of a vaguely-described traitor. Thing is, at Sangbourne Manor, Pappa and Mama Sangbourne are jolly swingers holding sex parties over the weekends. Dar comes home to learn that Ducas has been heavy-petting with gypsy lass Angene. Now Angene, learning that "Ducas" is home, decides to press home her attentions so that she will be Ducas' mistress.
Angene is the bastard of a gypsy woman who marries an English nobleman. I guess her illegitimate status will prevent her from aiming higher than just being a man's mistress... am I right? This book is so skimpy on description, I have no idea why Angene wants to be the mistress of a man whose family she dislikes. I also have no idea what Dar and Ducas see in Angene or she in any of those guys. The few sex scenes here are rough, unromantic, and not even erotic because the set-up to these scenes make no sense. Dar and Angene have the emotional attachment of two tired adult film actors going through the act as quick as possible so that they can all get their paycheck, go home, and pay this month's rent.
Okay, even if I ignore the laughable "romance", the vampire subplot is so confusingly written that it's no compensation for the romance. Ducas isn't dead, he shows up, and he and his mother are evil vampires. (This is not a spoiler, don't worry). Ducas and Dar start whacking at each other, all the while I have no idea who is who. The author refers to both men as "he" and "he" describes the other "he" as the Other he, and I call all these he-he-he's Waldo out of spite. Both Waldos take turn making the moves on poor oblivious Angene, although Dar, the hero, gets to deflower the inexplicably virginal Angene, inexplicably because apparently she and Ducas have done everything else including he splattering his vanilla ice cream all over here. Or something. Like everything else in this story, Angene and Ducas' backstory is never delved into enough to give me a clear picture of what these two mean to each other. Or what the heck is going on in the first place.
Needless to say, Angene is so humiliated at the end of the day.
I don't know what makes Dar and Angene tick. I don't know what is going on, because half the time, the characters seem incapable of completing their sentences - everybody speaks in fragmented sentences, heck, the book seems to be composed of fragmented sentences half the time. The author drops hints, but I'm left to fit the jigsaw puzzle pieces she has given me by myself. I might, if I care to. The thing is, with characters so underwritten in a plot that is so flimsily developed, it's very hard to even work up a minute degree of caring for The Forever Kiss.
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