A Whisper of Rosemary

 
The Rest Falls Away
by Colleen Gleason
(Signet Eclipse, 6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-22007-3
****
The Rest Falls Away by debut author Colleen Gleason is chock-full of tasty surprises. While one can hardly say that certain aspects are expected of a historical vampire-huntress novel set in England’s Regency period, because there have been so few of the genre, this book is refreshingly readable because so much of the UN-expected occurs.

Lady Victoria Grantworth, at age seventeen, is having two debuts. The first is her come-out in London society, the second is to join the ranks of the vampire executioners called Venators. She is called to her destiny by dark dreams that send her to her aunt for advice, where Victoria is told that she is the last of the line of the Gardella women, one of whom is prophesied to unite the Venators and dispose of the most powerful vampire, Lilith.

By day, Victoria is a typical debutante, visiting friends, shopping, thinking about what to wear and how to fix her hair. Her days are often interrupted by visits to her aunt, where Victoria receives training and instruction in her new vocation. At night she attends entertainments with the knowledge that vampires have infiltrated the ton and that she may encounter one anywhere. Victoria’s search for a husband is complicated by her pre-occupation whenever a vampire comes near, as indicated by a cold feeling on the back of her neck. She and her maid also have to design clothing and creative hairstyles that can hide Victoria’s stakes and the occasional bite mark on her neck.

Victoria and the other venators are kept very busy by the many vampires that Lilith has brought to London to help her search for the Book of Antwartha, a tome that will allow her to enslave all humans. Despite these challenges, Victoria is reintroduced to a childhood friend, Phillip, the Marquess of Rockley, with whom she falls madly in love. The feeling is reciprocated and Phillip and Victoria marry.

Phillip is a worthy match for Victoria, strong and protective, but his bravery often puts him in positions usually reserved for feminine characters. While in no way TSTL, Phillip blunders into situations for which he is unprepared, putting himself in danger and threatening Victoria’s anonymity, all in the effort to “rescue” Victoria.

An argument with Phillip and later events in the book send Victoria out into the London streets at night, where she hunts vampires with viciousness and joy in an attempt to ease her frustrations. The pleasure that Victoria feels during these hunts is one of the unexpected elements that makes this book so interesting. A frightened little Regency miss or a debutante that resents her duties wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable to read as Victoria’s bloodthirstiness.

This book, which definitely has a split personality, is very easy to read. The pace is fast and the plot is action packed. The secondary characters are well fleshed and important to the story, but are never overwhelming. One character in particular, Sebastian, a fellow denizen of London’s nightlife, absolutely must appear in later books in the series. Is he a villain? I was left unsure, but the character is very engaging and unforgettable.

Skeptical readers will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised by how well the author ties the disparate elements of the plot to one another. The Rest Falls Away is both a Regency romance and a heart pounding paranormal thriller, a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Victoria is both a corseted society matron and a brave, intelligent, ass-kicking warrior. This first installment of Victoria’s story is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time, but is also definitely one of the most enjoyable I’ve encountered so far this year.

--Wendy Livingston


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