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Fantasy Romance Review: Chasing Midnight (Roaring Twenties series 01) by Susan Krinard

Synopsis:
Allegra Chase was turned into a vampire by her father’s close friend. It was her only chance to live to the full and have some fun. As a teenager she fell ill (something sounding like a progressive muscular dystrophy) and, abandoned by her posh friends, boyfriend and even her mother, she was left to wait for her death in an empty house with only one servant. Small wonder that, being given the second chance, she took it without regrets and never looked back. Small wonder she doesn’t want to swear allegiance to anybody – be it a vampire, a human or a werewolf, even if it means she is an oddball in New York, considered a traitor or a dissenter. Who cares when you can hound Greenwich Village with your bohemian friends in tow, having the time of your life?

Griffin Durant’s parents and siblings, a whole family of werewolves, were killed by a fire when he was just 14. He was able to save only his little sister, Gemma. Then he was drafted and the First World War left his psyche horribly scarred even though he survived. Now Griffin, a wealthy bachelor living in Long Island NY, wants nothing more than forgetting who and what he is. He steers clear of the local pack or, in fact, any supernatural creatures and tries to find his sister a nice, respectable human husband. However a teenage girl during Roaring Twenties is able to stir trouble as efficiently as any of her contemporary peers – Gemma clearly doesn’t share the narrow outlook of her conservative older brother. She doesn’t see a point.

Allegra and Griffin meet and have to cooperate because their friends get into serious trouble. Soon enough it becomes obvious that the disappearance of Margot De Luca, a friend of Allegra and a daughter of a local mafia boss and Malcolm Owen, a poor playwright and her beloved, is a part of a larger scheme of a truly sinister character. What will take to discover who really stands behind it?

What I liked:

At first I thought it was just another vampire novel with a kick-ass heroine but set at the beginning of the 20th century (that’s why the subtitle). After all vampire fiction is as common as muck nowadays. This one was a bit different, though.

Maybe it was because of the period. Roaring Twenties in the USA (but not only of course) were the era of jazz, prohibition and mafia, the time of flappers, a “new breed” of young Western women who wore short skirts, excessive makeup, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, drove automobiles (imagine that!) smoked, had casual sex and generally flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Allegra is such a flapper even if for slightly different reasons – she finds it an excellent way to express her love for freedom. Yes, she frequents speakeasies ( establishments that illegally sells alcoholic beverages), has a bunch of bohemian human friends and seduces men but only in order to drink their blood. This novel proves that a vampiress doesn’t have to wear black leather, wield a catana (or another sharp weapon) to be considered a kick-ass heroine. The strength of Allegra lies in her psychological make-up – she can think and she uses her brain, she is altruistic up to a point, she knows what she wants and she doesn’t hesitate to get it. Overall the vampires and werewolves of New York fit that period perfectly, bootlegging, fighting among themselves for supremacy, not unlike in any good mafia, or dreaming about the ultimate supremacy.

Psychological veracity was another feature I really appreciated. Allegra and Griffin are dynamic characters. They fall in love almost at first sight but it takes time before they are able to overcome their own limitations and prejudices. Griffin is shocked by Allegra’s free manners and independence, not to mention the fact that werewolves despise vampires. Allegra cannot believe Griffin wants to suppress his natural instincts of a predator and expects the same from his sister. It takes them long to see that they are really very much alike, even longer to trust each other at all. They don’t jump to bed instantly, their relationship rings true and is a pleasure to follow – in my opinion it was a real highlight of the story. I liked little Gemma and her clumsy attempts to imitate Allegra as well, it was a good move to make her play a bigger role than that of a supporting damsel in distress.

The world building was ok – perhaps not very original or especially prominent but still interesting enough to add to the story.

What I didn’t like:

I admit the plot had its weaknesses, especially at the end. In my opinion everything is resolved far too slickly during one bloody showdown; then main leads and their friends get their orange blossom- scented HEA, bad people kill each other, summertime and the livin’ is easy…at least in Long Island.

I was especially surprised when the elders of the pack, who had an excellent opportunity to fleece poor Griffin, willingly reduced their claim by half because…they feared too much money might have a degenerative effect on the werewolves. Excuse me? You are a bunch of brutal mafiosos and all of a sudden there are no greedy people among you? Have you had an epiphany of a sort? It would be far better if Griffin, a rich, clever businessman after all, found a legal loophole or drove a really hard bargain and snatched a part of his money back. But he, poor puppy, was too busy being in love or saving his beloved Allegra and the pack had to take pity on him…a bit too good to be true, don’t you think? Especially that he and the pack were hardly on friendly terms…

I am also not a fan of the cover art. Seriously, the book is about Roaring Twenties, such a colourful period, and instead of flappers dancing charleston or mafia boys shooting each other they put just a blue face with amber eyes and a were in the background…I would never pick it up just because of the cover. Look how many nice, period-related pics I was able to find in a matter of minutes! I think each of them would be better than the original cover!

Final verdict:

It was a really nice surprise – I liked this book better than I thought I would. It was far more intelligent than your ordinary vampires-and-werewolves story and the setting won me over. I recommend it to people who like their paranormal romance with historical flavour, some nice backstory and a HEA guaranteed! BTW there are two more books of this series but it seems each of them features a different set of characters so I suppose you can easily read them as stand-alones. I am definitely going to try at least one more!

Fantasy Romance Review: Come The Night (Vampire/Werewolf Trilogy #3) by Susan Krinard

Synopsis:

Gillian Delvaux, nee Maitland, a young widow with a 12-year-old son, belongs to a very exclusive pure blood British werewolf family. Noblesse oblige – she must marry an appropriate candidate even if it is the 20th century and normal people have something to say about it. She doesn’t. The problem is her father, sir Averil Maitland, still treats his children and household as if he was a medieval prince and them – his chattels. It concerns mainly Gillian but also to some extend her younger brother, Hugh. Marrying or in fact doing anything without their father’s consent is out of question. Sir Averil plans to organize a Convocation of all pure blood werewolves from Britain and abroad and he wants to choose Gillian a new husband (of course without consulting anybody, let alone his own daughter).

Still there was that Great War not so long ago (the novel is set in the Roaring Twenties) during which Gillian worked as a nurse in London and met a very nice young American soldier, Ross Kavanaugh. Ross was only ¼ of a werewolf but somehow it didn’t bother her. In spite of the fact her dad would disapprove (to put it mildly) she decided to have a child with him (and didn’t inform him about it – are you seeing a pattern?). Then she married promptly a Belgian werewolf who, very conveniently, went to war one week after his marriage and died. The boy, named Toby, has been raised at Snowfell, the manor his grandfather, and, being a bright boy, found out about his real father and decided to visit America and meet with Ross. All alone and without as much as by your leave of course. Like mother like son…

Meantime Ross Kavanaugh, a disgraced ex-police officer, is having a lot of free time as a down-at-heel unemployed without any hopes for a new career and hardly any money. What’s more the New York police force, his former buddies, are almost sure he has been corrupted by a mafia and has killed a woman. When young Toby shows up as a stow-away and declares he is his son it seems that it is just another stroke of bad luck, especially that his mother and uncle are close behind. Who needs a son when he hardly has two dollars to rub together? Who needs a former aristocratic lover who abandoned you once for no reason at all and haven’t contacted you ever since? Who needs more problems? Or maybe it is actually a chance to start anew?

What I liked:


First of all the plot is interesting and rather original as it tells not the ordinary a-boy-meets-a-girl-and-they-fall-in-love-but- there-is-complication story but something a bit more real and twisted. Both main characters are mature with their issues and responsibilities. Additionally Gillian must fight her father’s prejudice against ‘mongrels’ (so mixed blood werewolves) and humans – secretly she doesn’t share his rabid opinions but, being dependent on him and completely dominated, she hides it most of the time. I must admit I had hard time getting to like our Gillian – her love for Toby seemed to be her one single redeeming quality. True, she treated the servants well and, while on her own, she behaved like a normal sensible and almost human being but in the presence of her father she became a puppet repeating stupid things and hoping that this time she wouldn’t be punished that badly. Or if she did, nobody would find out.

When it comes to the relationship between Gillian and Ross it was indeed all barbs and thorns, almost no roses– but I wouldn’t expect less. Krinard explores the relationship between two people from two different worlds that fit the “opposites attract” adage. In fact till the very end you are not sure whether they will reunite at all, even for their son’s sake.

The main baddie, Ethan Warbrick was nicely constructed – I mean here the psychological basis of his undeniable insanity. It is always a pleasure to encounter a complicated baddie. I also liked the mentioning of Hitler and the fact that pure blood, snobby German werewolves wanted to support a human only because he shared their stupid ideas – the hypocrisy pure and simple!

What I didn’t like:


Reading this one I asked myself more than once: where are the Roaring Twenties? They even disappeared from the official title of this series (according to Goodreads; my library copy still features them). Maybe it was the right move because you get here just a description of an amusement park in Coney Island. I mean, there is no indication whatsoever what colourful era we are dealing with – no balls, no clubs, no jazz, nothing. It seems as if the author got bored of the original idea and decided to get rid of it. The characters are staying at Snowfell for most of the novel and Snowfell is like a medieval stronghold – completely isolated – but even when Gillian was with her son in New York she hardly ever went out. Pity.

Apart from that I must tell you that in my humble opinion Ross and Gillian didn’t work well as a couple, even a quarreling one. Gillian was too rigid and cold and also maybe a tad too selfish. I found her a female character difficult to like or relate. I could understand her but, after the umpteen argument about past and a lot of icy stares and upturned noses, it made me wonder what the appeal was for Ross. She got her HEA in the end but it was almost a kind of surprise. She deserved to stay alone and think her priorities over.

Finally the fact that Ross, a complete underdog, penniless, hunted by the police, werewolves and lovely Ethan, managed to solve ALL mysteries and ALL his and his friends’ problems seemed a bit over the top. It reminded me of these silly Hollywood movies in which the protagonist saves single-handedly his girlfriend, his country and the whole planet. And then he has a beer and a burger with his best buddies.

Final verdict:
This novel was neither outstanding nor exceptionally bad – better than your average werewolf tale, I grant you, mainly because a dash of interesting psychology, but featuring several flaws which spoiled my reading a bit. Still I don’t regret borrowing it from the library.

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