Afterimage
by Jaye Roycraft, paranormal (2002)
ImaJinn, $13.75, ISBN 1-893896-74-9


Afterimage is shaping up to be a really good vampire romance until the heroine decides that she's in love with the vampiric hero and then everything sucks. Okay, that is not funny, I know.

The dreaded Anti-God l'enforcer of the vampires, Alek Dragovich, who is introduced in the previous book Double Image, has his story here. Our heroine Marya Jaks is his latest case.

Marya is in a dilemma. Her grandfather was a vampire who kept his relationship with his human wife alive after his turning and the result was Marya's father, a dhampir (half-vampire, half-human hybrid). Dhampirs are unique in that they aren't vampires but they can detect a vampire by sight alone. That makes them very efficient vampire hunters for hire by the enemies of those fanged critters. In fact, Marya's father was a complete nuisance, mowing down vampires like nobody's business, until he slipped up and died. Marya is now one of the rare dhampirs on Earth. Her power is stronger than most. Every two years, vampire enforcers will visit her and after conducting their interview/interrogation, they will recommend whether she will be allowed to remain alive or be killed. After twelve years, it is up to Alek to give the final word on her fate.

Marya resents this and she lashes out at Alek accordingly. He lets her live, more to spite his superior than out of concern for her, and from thereon, Marya has this weird complex where she will keep making excuses that Alek is good for her even when she has very little reason to believe that. Like the heroine in Double Image, Marya is an ornamental character, stuffed away in some other room when Alek has to play with the bad boys, brought out again for the vampire sex moments, and Marya, despite her initial feisty nature, soon morphs into a wide-eyed gullible "Oh, don't tell me you are bad for me because deep down inside I know you are good and you must love me like I love you so make love to me now baby!" twit who is always the last to know about anything important, such as the threats to her life from Alek's enemies seeking to topple him in the Enforcer organization. Besides, she calls Alek "Leksie". I want to scream whenever she uses that disgusting term of endearment.

Alek is an ambiguous character - not good, not evil, just a vampire. But because Marya is a useless anchor around his ankles, I fail to see why she is the one for him. She doesn't give him any reason to love her in this book unless love is the same as having to save her from his enemies 24/7. Alek can be frustrating because he always keeps Marya in the dark even when it comes to matters she must know. This isn't about him being dominant and she being submissive as much as it's a contrived attempt to keep the external conflicts coming. The villains are more talkative though - they take turns to tell Marya everything about the plans in the ridiculous, overlong stand-off in the finale.

Like Double Image, the vampire mythology here is intriguing. I wish I can say the same for the romance.

Rating: 57


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