The Remarkable Miss Frankenstein

 
The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing
by Minda Webber
(Love Spell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52638-7
****
"A vampire a day is the Van Helsing way." For squeamish Jane Van Helsing (yes, those Van Helsings) one vampire is too many, especially when the vamp in question is Neil Asher. She's the quiet sort, content with her bird watching and bon-bons. Only everyone else has other plans for plain Jane. As a member of the most renowned vampire hunting family in Europe, she has a reputation to uphold. It doesn't matter that the sight of blood makes her faint and her only victims are her lovely dresses. Nope, a Van Helsing has to do what a Van Helsing has to do. So at her father's insistence, she picks up her trusty Model #3 and prepares to slay the most vicious vamp of all - Count Dracul, allegedly going by the name of Count Asher and hiding in plain sight amongst the nobility of 1828 London.

Neil Asher has no time for Miss Jane "Paine." She's too common, too freckled and, frankly too tipsy for his tastes. No, a refined Master Vampire like himself is much more suited to that charming Frankenstein girl - if only she weren't married to the werewolf of London! Too bad for Asher that the only marriage designs Clair has upon him are for her friend. And as readers of The Remarkable Miss Frankenstein will remember, what Clair wants, she gets, in her own convoluted way.

Asher's gaze makes Jane's heart race in a terrifying manner. Half the time she isn't sure if he's leaning in to kiss her or bite her. And, truthfully neither is he. All he knows is that "Calamity Jane" has a penchant for leaving disaster in her wake. First, it was his good suit (whatever will his manservant Renfield say?) and now it's his reputation! After being caught in a sticky situation, Jane's virtue is in question and the two are about to be the cause of a supernatural war. The only solution is a quickie marriage, which hopefully at least one of them will survive.

Once again, Webber has written a delightful farce with laugh out loud moments. Character traits such as Asher's over the top arrogance pitted against Jane's total lack of deference make for hilarious marital spats. Webber is a fantastic humorist and a master at wordplay.

But Webber doesn't let comedy overtake her story. She also develops strong characterizations and a likable heroine. Like Clair before her, Jane is a fascinating mixture of intellect and innocence. Readers will sympathize with this strong willed woman who is forced into a mold she doesn't fit.

Having lost her mother at a young age, Jane is constantly seeking her father's approval and failing miserably. For Jane, the marriage isn't just a quick fix, it's a way to start over, and start living for herself.

If Jane is the perfect heroine, then Asher has to be the least perfect hero. When we first meet Asher, he's your typical centuries old vampire. He's seen it all, done it all and done with it all. His only loves in life are himself and Clair. He's vain, shallow and rude. He spouts poetry at Jane to flaunt his breeding and education, only to be amazed when she corrects him. He reminds his wife time and again that's she no great beauty, and is amazed when she simply tells him that despite her looks, she's still too good for him. The intriguing thing about Asher is that despite his faults, we slowly start to see his appeal. And no, it isn't just the vampire mojo.

Asher is loyal, willing to lay down his un-life for those he loves and slowly wins over the reader's heart. It is this Asher, the man humbled by love who becomes the ideal hero. And really, don't we all just love a bad boy who reforms by the close of the tale?

Webber once again presents a zany, clever and captivating tale. This tongue in cheek look at supernatural love will leave readers wanting more.

--Amanda Waters


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