8/20/07

The Vampire Queen's Servant (2007)

By Joey W. Hill

From the author's website: "Lady Elyssa is a centuries old vampire who finds herself in desperate need of a new human servant. Jacob Green has been a wanderer all his life, trying to stumble into his destiny. Nothing can prepare him for everything that Lyssa demands of her human servant. Besieged by her enemies, guarding secrets that could result in the loss of her ability to protect her territory and those who inhabit it, she needs a man who can stand by her no matter what she asks of him."

I was very much looking forward to this book, despite my general loathing of vampire stories. Glut! But it was Joey Hill. Yay! Natural Law was a strange and unique BDSM (why is it I'm only reading these books lately??), and I wanted to see what she'd do with a big ole' Bantam release. More storyline, better editing, bigger plot--because Natural Law delivered on the awesome sexual tension but fell down with regard to the law enforcement arc.

However, nothing lives up to hype. This was a really entertaining and thoughtful portrayal of two mostly psychotic folks. The banter and sexual shenanigans kept me reading at a fast clip, happily diverted.

And you know there's a "but" coming. Several, actually.

I never felt a real sense of heart danger, you know? Hill did a great job of making Elyssa a non-human. She does not process information or emotions as would a regular woman, whereas many writers dress up ordinary, whiny females in fangs and call them vampires. Not so with Lyssa. But I never felt the weight of her choice, the consequences should she fall in love.

Her relationship with Rex--her late, abusive vampire husband--seemed almost clinical in the way she analyzed its aftershocks. Repeatedly, she emphasised that the violence and detachment were just part of her life as a vampire. Fine. But that never left much room to see her growth, her vulnerability to Jacob. And because the consequences have to do with her illness and the big showdown with other vamps who covet her territory and authority, all of which has been saved for the sequel, we have to take the fallout on faith.

As for Jacob, Hill has this fated-through-the-years style subplot with regard to his connection to Lyssa. I never felt the danger for him either. He was already in love, lust, subservience to her before they met, the details of which remain a secret for the next book. Ok, so he's not in danger of falling in love. That's already done. The only remaining danger was to his physical person. She was stronger and more violent, and she repeatedly said that if she refused him, the penalty would be death. Not heartbreak--death.

But this is, beneath it all, a romance. The hero isn't going to die, especially not with another book coming up. She's not going to refuse him the third mark, etc. All that remained was the motions of lots o' boinking, an obligatory public domination scene, and some random hints about the next chapter of their saga.

Granted, many would claim that with the guaranteed happy ending in romance novels, the whole genre is just going through the motions to a foregone conclusion. But no no! That's not the case. The surprises along the way keep readers coming back for more. In Natural Law, I was dying to know when Mac would ask for water. Dude! And when Violet gave him the silver cuff bracelets.... that was great! It fit the BDSM lifestyle AND gave it heart, romance, danger, vulnerability. Most of that was missing for me with the Vampire Queen.

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