Silver Dagger
by TL Sinclare, paranormal (2002)
ImaJinn, $13.75, ISBN 1-893896-86-2


TL Sinclare's Silver Dagger is a vampire romance with a nice sort of difference: the vampire hero Stephen Smith is really a vampire in every sense of that word. There is no "only a pint of blood" or "I only feed on bad guys" thingie here - the vampires in this book feed on human beings and the author doesn't come out and declare whether these vampires are "good" or "bad". The heroine Madeleine Bryant is human, which makes her vulnerable to Stephen's mind control. There is no "I can't read her mind so she is my soulmate" thingie here. Which means, the heroine is falling for a vampire that has full intention of killing her, just as she has full intention of killing him.

It all begins when Madeleine is searching for her missing cousin Danielle only fight herself under the thrall of Stephen. When she realizes that she's dealing with a bunch of vampires, she decides to arm herself with crucifixes, garlic cloves, and vampire videos, but Stephen has more control over her than she would like to admit. He even blocks her from saying or writing down "vampire" to other people! Luckily for her, Stephen falls for her despite his intentions to kill her. He keeps delaying his intentions to enjoy her company. At the same time, someone is killing the vampires in the ruling body and Madeleine finds herself caught in the middle of vampire politics.

Because the vampires here aren't the benign broody guys with fangs typical of the vampire romance subgenre, there is a real threat to Madeleine's life and even when Stephen is falling for her, there is a sense of uncertainty where his motives are concerned. Of course, Stephen is the good guy in the sense that the prologue gives away where his allegiance lies (let's just say it's not with the vampires), but he's still a vampire that embraces his nature and views human beings as food. Madeleine never has much control over her relationship with Stephen, but she comes off as a woman who can take care of herself. If she slips up, it's because she is out of her league playing with the vampires.

When the author falters slightly though is in the underlying psychology of the main characters. Why would Stephen fall for Madeleine? Why would Madeleine fall for Stephen? I'm never too sure about the former, although I do understand where he is coming from when he says that Madeleine makes him feel alive. Madeleine may be helpless in fighting off Stephen's charms, but she's a decent heroine in her own right. I'm more doubtful of Madeleine's attraction to Stephen. The author makes it clear that Stephen is not emotionally manipulating Madeleine into falling in love with him but at the same time, Madeleine's capitulation to Stephen feels abrupt.

But what I really have problems with is the author doing a one-eighty where her vampires are concerned in the denouement. While on the most part Stephen has been slowly shown to be less of a monster than Madeleine assumed at first, Ms Sinclare tries a little too hard to turn Stephen into a more conventional vampire romance hero by having the villain take the blame for many of the unsavory incidents in Stephen's past. I like Stephen when he's nasty so all this effort on Ms Sinclare's part is wasted on me. Why can't I be allowed to enjoy Stephen the way he is, fangs, warts, and all?

Silver Dagger may not be that unconventional like I'd have liked, but it's still a refreshing change from same old tales of broody fake fangfaces who just want to invade a virgin's mind and make love to his soulmate when he's not despairing of being what he is. In fact, the word "soulmate" is marvelously absent in this story. There is a genuine sense of danger, that the heroine playing with a dangerous beast as she embarks on a relationship with Stephen, and while the story is actually pretty straightforward, the author manages to keep me intrigued enough to read the book in one setting. Unlike many vampire romances where the vampires come off as self-absorbed whiners with plastic fangs, Silver Dagger really feels like a story where the heroine falls for a real vampire, fangs and all. Readers tired of the same old destiny/psychic/soulmate/forever claptrap may want to give this book a look.

Rating: 85


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