Jane's Warlord

The Forever Kiss by Angela Knight
(Red Sage, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-9648942-3-8
Normally when I walk into a bookstore I have a shopping list, but alas I’ve discovered a new bookstore where one of the clerks loves to hand-sell. So when she flashed a copy of The Forever Kiss and said the magic word (“cowboy”), I snapped it up. I enjoyed Knight’s debut for Berkley, Jane’s Warlord, so I was curious about this novel - technically Knight’s first, and the first novel published by small press Red Sage.

Valerie Chase keeps having chronic dreams featuring a man she only knows as Cowboy. As a young girl, Valerie watched in horror as vampires murdered her parents. Traumatized by this experience, she creates a psychic link with Cowboy. As a young girl he was her father figure, but now as an adult woman, Cowboy has become her dream lover.

Cowboy is actually Cade McKinnon, and he too is a vampire. In fact, he was there the night her parents were murdered by the man who “changed” him. A former Texas Ranger, Cade is nothing but honorable, and his psychic link with Valerie has only made him more determined to protect her. Now the evil and powerful Edward Ridgemont has set his sights on Valerie – and Cade has to find a way to kill the 800-year-old vampire in order to protect the woman he has grown to love.

There’s just one small catch though – Valerie doesn’t know that Cowboy is even real, let alone a vampire.

While I feel The Forever Kiss lacks some of the polish of Jane’s Warlord – it’s still an exciting, well-done read. Knight has taken the ever-intriguing Good vs. Evil theme and run with it. Valerie is a smart woman who finds her life turned upside down due to Ridgemont’s mechanizations. Stunned to discover that the Cowboy of her dreams is a real man and a vampire, she reacts believably. She puts up a fight, but knows when to quit when she realizes that her only chance for survival is to trust him.

I like well-written villains, and Knight gives the reader two for the price of one. Ridgement is 800 years old, so that makes him very powerful. Then there’s the former SS officer that Ridgemont “changed” during World War II. The author also drops in the ghost of Cade’s younger sister, who serves her purpose nicely by filling in Valerie and the reader on some of Cade’s back-story. Our boy has a lot of baggage he’s been carting around, but unlike some wounded heroes, he doesn’t dwell on it. If anything it just sharpens his resolve to see Ridgemont dead.

The love story here takes an unconventional turn towards the end, when Valerie must make a sacrifice in order to help Cade defeat Ridgemont. It’s an interesting twist, and one that not every reader will likely embrace. Still, it shows a certain amount of risk on the part of the author and it keeps the story humming along until the final showdown. It’s also commendable that the author doesn’t whitewash her vampire characters. They are vampires after all, so readers should expect some blood and guts.

However The Forever Kiss truly succeeds as an action packed read. It’s exciting, it’s compelling, and the sex scenes are like an added bonus. While there are a few instances of what I like to call “debut authorisms,” Knight’s first novel shows the promise that was realized with her second book, Jane’s Warlord. While it will likely be too dark for some, for those readers who enjoy grit as well as action, The Forever Kiss is well worth hunting for – or better yet, special ordering.

--Wendy Crutcher

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