by Kate Pearce, historical/fantasy (2010)
Signet, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-23094-2
Is it just me or does the guy on the cover look, er, special?
Kiss Of The Rose is the first book in Kate Pearce's The Tudor Vampire Chronicles. This series is a genuine series with the same main characters showing up in each book, by the way.
Yes, there are vampires, sorry, Vampires in this story. Don't groan, it's still a bit different in that it is set in the Tudor era. You know, that time in England when Jonathan Rhys-Meyer was a king. We have Vampires and then we have Druids. These two bunch of people use blood in their rituals, but they hate each other. But since they are all busy immortals, they have humans trained to dust off the enemy for them. Thus, we have Vampire slayers as well as Druid slayers. (Don't ask me why it is "slayers" and not "Slayers" - maybe humans aren't exotic enough to warrant those important capital letters.)
So, when the story opens, King Henry VIII is on the throne. Our heroine Rosalind Llewellyn shows up to pass the King a letter informing him that she is the resident Vampire slayer, trained to dust off fang-faced creatures that want to take a sip of the royal blood. Also in Henry VIII's court is Sir Christopher Ellis, a more experienced slayer - only, he slays Druids instead of Vampires. When dead bodies start showing up, these two realize that they have to work together to figure out who is behind the blood donation drive.
In the meantime, there is a special prophecy telling everybody that Christopher's airplane will land on Rosalind's landing strip. When that happens, we will never have to pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars ever again because Druids and Vampires will embrace each other for they are brothers, best friends forever, singing the songs and the music that we li-iii-iii-ike...
Kiss Of The Rose has an interesting set-up, but the story turns out to be actually pretty dull. It doesn't really grab me. The story itself suffers from a pacing that feels too lackadaisical for its own good. There are dead bodies and the main characters are supposed to feel this urgency to discover and stop the villain from doing more damage, but the narrative fails to make me feel this sense of urgency. A part of this could be due to the by-the-numbers feel of the story. There are too many things here, from the tired use of coercive elements to force our hero and heroine to have sex to the presence of yet another poorly drawn insane female villain, that are already overused. Were not for the setting, this one could have been any other generic romantic urban fantasy romp.
The characters do not have much chemistry because they spend so much time trying to find reasons not to trust each other. It doesn't help that their first sex scene happens under the influence. This won't be so bad if the author had been content to let the characters simmer and the relationship grow over the progression of books - there are, after all, more than one book in this series - but the author rushes her characters into love by the last page of this book when there is very little evidence that they have anything more than lust between them.
Christopher and Rosalind are good examples of characters with informed attributes. They are nowhere as good as they are said to be. Indeed, the author has the characters in this story telling me how awesome they all are, but these characters tell a different story when they have to walk the walk. Rosalind is more headstrong than capable, and her accomplice seems far more capable than she is. The only reason she gets the gig to be the court Slayer, it seems, is because she bears some kind of mark on her body saying that she's - naturally - special. Christopher is supposed to be the older and more experienced fellow, but he isn't much better than his girlfriend in the brainpower department. The sad thing is, the author seems to operate under the delusion that her main characters are awesome. My favorite scene is when the hero, after drinking a spiked drink, exclaims that there is something in his drink once the effects set in. The person responsible praises the hero, without any irony, that the hero is indeed as brilliant as he is reputed to be to come to that deduction. Both characters aren't particularly stupid, mind you, it's just that the author tells me many, many times about how remarkable her characters are and I become tad annoyed when the characters never come close to being that awesome.
The best thing I can say about Kiss Of The Rose is that it is a painless read. At the same time, I don't find anything remarkable about this book to make me want to invest my time and money into following the series. The characters are bland, the plot never comes off as gripping, and there are quite a number of clichéd uses of popular tropes in this kind of stories. Perhaps the party will begin in the next book, but for now, I can't muster any enthusiasm for the colorless adventures of Rosalind and Christopher.
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