Dear Ms. Gleason,
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer religiously when it was still on the air. So when I heard your Gardella Chronicles described as Buffy in Regency England, I knew I had to read it. I think that’s one of this series’s strengths, as well as a weakness. If you loved Buffy, there’s a good chance you’ll like this book. But if you hated Buffy, there’s a good chance you won’t.
The other thing that works against it is the paranormal romance label on the spine. I know authors don’t control marketing, that it’s a publisher’s decision, but I can’t help but wonder how that’s worked out for the Gardella Chronicles. The first book, The Rest Falls Away, ended with a decidedly not-HEA and while I believe Victoria will find her HEA at the end of the fifth, and final, book, we’re not even getting HFNs at the end of each installment. I can see how that would annoy some romance readers. But I’ve said in the past that I take marketing labels with a grain of salt, and I do love cross-genre stories. This third installment in the Gardella Chronicles does not disappoint.
The Bleeding Dusk picks up where Rises the Night left off, with Victoria Gardella assuming the mantle as leader of the Gardella vampire hunters. Having defeated Lilith’s son, Nevas, in the last book, things have been quiet on the streets of Rome. Or they are until Victoria discovers the would-be successor to Nevas’s throne has allied himself with demons in order to unlock a legendary alchemist’s secrets. Now Victoria has to find the alchemist’s scrolls before the vampires do while eluding an ancient vampire’s unwanted attentions, coping with her frustrating relationship with the mysterious Sebastian Vioget, and dealing with the return of fellow vampire hunter Max Pesaro.
What I like about the Gardella Chronicles is that the storylines unfold over multiple books. (This is also a quality that will frustrate some readers, depending on your preferences.) Victoria’s character arc is not truncated or rushed for the sake fitting within a single book. Here, we see how the losses she’s suffered over the past two years have affected her and her grief is a palpable thing at times. She’s come a long way from being the Regency miss we first met in The Rest Falls Away, and in some ways she suffers for it because she hasn’t yet learned how to cope. Victoria’s become the kind of person who’s lost people, doesn’t want to lose anyone else, but knows she will have to because it is her destiny as the vampire hunters’ leader. That kind of desperation and griefstricken anger leads to costly mistakes, and I think we start seeing that here.
I might be alone in this opinion but I’ve never liked Sebastian. After what he did to Victoria in Rises the Night, I truly can’t understand why Victoria considers having a relationship with him. A man who has sex with you and then immediately hands you over to the enemies who want to suck your blood and kill you? That’s quality boyfriend material right there. It frustrates me that Victoria’s aware of Sebastian’s untrustworthiness and yet succumbs to him time and time again. Maybe I just don’t get the overwhelming attraction.
One thing I am glad for is Max’s increased role in this book. I missed his presence in the last one, so his interactions with Victoria were more than welcome. What I find interesting is that we’re set up for a love triangle, and as readers I think we can see it, but as far as I can tell, Victoria has yet to acknowledge Max as a potential partner. Or vice versa, for that matter. I do think, however, that in terms of Victoria’s ultimate HEA, her inexplicable attraction to Sebastian nonwithstanding, Max is the one to watch. But whether I’ll be right remains to be seen.
And that brings us back to where we started. The Gardella Chronicles is structured like the best seasons of Buffy. Each book has a complete plot but storylines and character arcs carry over from one novel to the next. And it’s those continuations that keep me reading because I want to know what happens. I need to know what happens. It’s the same pull that keeps me reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood series despite all its flaws. Things take a darker tone in The Bleeding Dusk, with Sebastian finally accepting his birthright, and bad things befalling both Victoria and Max. And I can’t wait to read what happens next. B+