After Midnight
by Carol Finch, Colleen Faulkner, and Karen Ranney; historical/vampire (1998)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6041-6

Ah, vampires. Are vampires ever compatible with the (heterosexual) romance genre? Vampires are generally taken as a metaphor for the gay underground scene in avant garde culture nowadays, and let's face it - vampires suck blood, they are not human, and they are the quissential bad boys.

Most romance authors that write about vampire romances wimp out, of course, choosing to ignore the fact that the first vampires in literatures are often seductive and unrepentantly evil. The vampires of the romance genres are castrated, wimpy, and more often than not, whiny. Ugh.

Thankfully, this anthology has only one out of three vampires that are whiny, and even that, the Whiny One's story is very readable. There's also the Debonair Vampire and the Philosopher Vampire in here.

The Whiny One stars in Carol Finch's Red Moon Rising, It starts off so ugh that it requires great effort on my part to keep reading. The hero, vampire Seth Tremayne, is so guilt-ridden and torn up over his existance that he lives in a cave and bombards me with his woeful tale. He doesn't deserve loving, he doesn't deserve his curse, he is so wretched, oh, how woeful is he! Why he doesn't just kill himself if he is so wretched and miserable is beyond me. Thankfully, heroine Matilda Shaw sweeps into his life, kicks out the bats in his belfry, and makes him see sense.

RMR works because the heroine isn't who she seems, in fact, she is actually more paranormal that Seth assumes. The hero whines like a bleating sheep, but the heroine is charming. The author falters, however, in her meshing of pre-revelation Matilda with the post-revelation Matilda. Both women seem like two different people, making me go Huh?

The Debonair One is Gordon Fraser, a Highland vampire who cleverly manages to control his beast inside so that he only needs to feed once every century. Well, he needs to feed again, so what better way than to kill two birds with one stone by inviting one of the "big as oxen, but wee brains" MacDougal to come over? This E Bruce MacDougal could mend his Gutenberg Bible and be the main course for dinner.

Too bad the E stands for Emily, and this American lass certainly isn't the gullible Jonathan Harker in a Dracula story. She doesn't believe in vampires - rubbish! - and when she does, no problem, she'll find a way to fix the curse so that Gordon can be her one true love!

Gordan is charming and roguish, and Emily is witty and intelligent. Her naughty companion Ruth finds love in a failed fisherman (he gets seasick, alas) who now works as Gordon's manservant. All in all, Highland Blood by Colleen Faulkner is fun and my favorite of the three. The climatic scene is tad bit incoherent though.

Karen Ranney presents the Philosophical One, where Douglas of A Dance In The Dark meets Louisa Patterson, considered ugly by her peers, in the dark. They chit-chat, fall in love, but alas, Doug (who doesn't feed on blood) feeds on life force, and he could kill Louisa if he touches her too much. What to do?

ADITD has trademark soul-baring conversations by this author, and yes, Doug and Louisa just feel right for each other. But the problem is that the epilogue is much more interesting that the chapters before it. The epilogue describes how Doug and Louisa embark on grand adventures during the war times, and heck, I really, really want to read that story! In comparison, what I'm offered seems really lightweight and bland by comparison. Oh well.

This anthology has three very readable, fun stories. The vampires may be a bit toothless at times, but all in all, a very nice anthology to spend Halloween night with. Especially with The Monster Mash playing in the background.

Rating: 85

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