A guest review by Jenre
Loneliness. A concept with which Raphael Laurent is very familiar. He’s lived a solitary life for thirty-six years, shunning the excesses of the local vampire clan—until he spots Lord Aleric Vane, the handsome and dissolute third son of a duke. For three years Raphael has watched from a distance, for only when he is near Aleric does the hollow, empty ache in his chest ease.
Cut off from his family for refusing to follow his father’s dictates, Aleric’s nights are filled with vice. But after three years in London, the city has lost all appeal. Desolate and penniless, his future appears bleak. Until a mysterious man drops from the shadows to drive off a trio of murderous thieves.
When Aleric awakens, he finds himself forever changed. The itch for more that drove him to London is gone. In its place is the feeling that he’s known the beautiful Raphael all his life.
But to save Aleric, Raphael had to break the rules, giving him a chance to love the one man he never thought he could have—a chance that could be ripped away by Aleric himself…
This novella begins with vampire Raphael standing in the boughs of an oak tree spying on a man with a female prostitute. The man is Lord Aleric, third son of a duke, and someone who has captured Raphael’s heart. Raphael secretly follows Aleric wherever he goes, as his unrequited love for the man eases his painful loneliness. After leaving the brothel, Aleric is attacked by footpads and Raphael saves him, and in the process he has a chance of happiness with the one man whose love he has craved for years.
As I mentioned above the first scene of the book is a voyeurism scene where Raphael watches Aleric with a female prostitute. This does mean that the book contains some m/f sex. However, we see the scene from Raphael’s point of view so the focus is solely on Aleric and the descriptions are of his body, his reactions and his actions with very little focus on the female character. What worked well about this scene was that it gave me an understanding of Raphael’s extreme loneliness and in some ways makes his a slightly pathetic figure as he gets his rather unsatisfactory sexual kicks from watching the man he loves. This made it easier for me to accept the way that the love between the two men grows quickly. Whereas in other stories the ‘insta-love’ sometimes feels forced, here I understood that Raphael’s yearning for Aleric quickly became love once the pair got to know each other.
The strength of the book is in the development of the relationship between Raphael and Aleric. I liked that for all that Raphael follows Aleric around, he actually knows very little about him or his life. During the first scene I was given all sorts of false impressions of Aleric through Raphael’s eyes, and I was surprised and delighted that he turned out to be so much more that the spoiled rich man about town. When the two men finally come together, the sex scenes are pretty scorching, but it’s not long before feelings of dependence and love begin to grow and I found myself immersed in the romance part of the plot.
Another part which worked well was in the historical setting. The setting of London at night – from the affluent areas to the seedier side – was described in vivid detail and added greatly to the overall atmosphere of the book.
The parts that didn’t work as well were mainly to do with the sub-plot between Raphael and the vampire clan. The reader is introduced to several characters and yet nothing was really developed from that. I was expecting something more dramatic from this part of the story but it all just fizzled out, leaving me with too many questions and loose ends by the end of the story.
Overall, this novella is definitely worth reading, especially for the romantic relationship and historical setting. I’ve not read an Ava March book before but I shall certainly be reading more of her books in future.