Dear Ms. Hill:
I remember when I received a copy of this book, I meant to just casually flip through it but from the very beginning I was riveted. I remember thinking that I resented having to put the book down to cook dinner and do my daily ablutions.
Jessica Tyson was a servant to Lord Raithe, a cruel vampire master. “Once or twice, she made the mistake of believing he could do no worse to her, but evil was bottomless.” She managed to kill him one day but her bond with him meant that she was dying as well. Her sole desire is to find the tomb of Farida and her lover and rest herself in peace with them. Where to die is the only choice left for her and free of her master, Jess clasps that close.
The love story of Farida and her lover, Lord Mason, was one that rivaled Romeo and Juliet only it appeared to be a true account. Jess had found a journal of Farida’s in her master’s rare book library. Before her abduction, Jess was a research assistant for the archeology and history departments in Rome. Her love of the arcane knowledge of the past was one thing that managed to sustain her over the long years of captivity and abuse.
She was able to piece together through cross referencing historical texts that Sheikh Asim, Farida’s father, had indeed lived at one time and that during his life, he was assisted in a desert battle for power by one Prince Haytham who was accompanied by a British soldier, Lord Mason. With some luck and fortitude, she was introduced to a descendant of Prince Haytham’s who had researched his only family history and had a few letters from Prince Haytham about Farida and Lord Mason.
Sheikh Asim would not allow Farida to join Lord Mason and so they fled together. One day, the Sheikh’s forces captured Lord Mason and through him, Farida. They killed Farida in a cruel manner for bringing dishonor to their family. Lord Mason escaped alive but not in time to save his love but he stole her body away. Prince Haytham writes to his family:
Lord Mason cannot be found when he does not wish to be. Which means he is seeking their blood as much as they are seeking his. I expect they will not be dissuaded from this now, but from my experience, they would be wise to leave him alone and let the desert absorb his rage and grief. They will not find her grave-‘it will be only where a desert tiger can find it.
Close to the end of her life, Jess makes a painful journey in the Sahara led by three guides she has no doubt will rob her blind once she arrives at her destination but she is hopeful that the exorbitant amount of money she pays them will be enough to see her to the end.
Lord Mason was no ordinary British soldier but a vampire, one of the oldest and most powerful, but in the day of Farida, even his power could not keep her alive. For an immortal, the death of a beloved is a type of a killing. He has suffered everyday, inflicted by his loss. Lord Mason knows of Jessica Tyson. Every vampire does. She committed an unforgivable sin, that of killing her master. A slight like that is met with death. Despite this, Jess’s shortened tale of abuse moves Lord Mason and irrationally, he decides to help her.
This story is an erotic romance wherein the sexual nature of the characters play an important part of the conflict. Jess, like Farida before her, is a natural submissive. Part of her nature is to please and submit. Lord Raithe recognized that in Jess and it is why he killed her fiance and threatened her family, all to take possession of this true prize. Lord Raithe perverted what could be a true bond between a Master and a human servant whereas Farida described it so beautifully:
A lifetime of never voicing my angers, and I could not stop myself from speaking sharply to him tonight. I feared I might be beaten, but he simply shouted back, and in time we were so amazed with ourselves, we laughed. When I asked him why he had not punished me, he told me that I would be, but he needed time to devise the proper rebuke. And Allah be merciful, he found one, such that I became determined to defy him at every possible opportunity . . .
I thought the juxtaposition of the relationship that Farida had with Lord Mason and the joy she found in submission and pain was brilliant against the humiliation experience by Jess. It was through Farida’s words that we can see what a gift Jess’ nature could be under the right circumstances. It provides the basis upon which we believe that Jess and Lord Mason can belong together.
In order for them to be together, though, Lord Mason must overcome his fear of losing another beloved, Jess must come to grips with being a natural submissive, the two must find a cure for a vampire wasting illness, and convince the council that Jess should not be terminated.
In the end, the most serious complaint I had was that I was expecting the story to go farther and to some extent was a bit disappointed. One of the particular elements I enjoyed about the first book in the Vampire series was how hard core these vampires were, dark, hungry for blood, and a not a little inhuman. The love story, though, between Jess and Lord Mason, was beautifully done. I couldn’t help but cheer for the happy ending for both characters who had suffered so much but found solace in each other. B+