Reviewed by Katie
This was my first vampire story, ever. My generation was all about aliens, within and from beyond; facsimiles that became sentient and boldly exploring the unknown. I think the current fascination with immortality at a dreadful price is the economy version of much the same thing. It is infinitely more plausible to create fiction in our backyard. Classical elements of myth and mystery framed by popular culture create an enticing reflection of what life could be. Couple this with being part of a secret world, select and elite among the masses trudging through an uncertain life, how can it not appeal?
So yes, I came to my first vampire story with a bit of a condescending attitude. I do not apologize for this any more than first time readers of historical romance should. We all have our pre-conceived notions and if we occasionally branch out to see what the rest of the world is reading and thinking about, I say: Good for you!
The Grave Ajar was an interesting first step to take. Gioia Di Terzi is working in England. She is Italian, away from home for the first time, intellectually gifted, mid-twenties, and paying her dues in a civil service job. Bored where she expected to be wrapped up in a fascinating other-life, she walks back and forth to work, weaving an internal spell of something better by studying the gothic Guildhall building along her route. The day she decides to take the tour is a mistake, or so she claims, but really, the reader knows better. Roydon Thamesian is the Guildhall Guardian, Master of the local underworld, supernatural not criminal. Of course, it takes her a while to figure this out because she’s quite distracted by his gorgeousness and compelling physique. Did I already say, of course … oh, well.
Roydon is equally fascinated by her beauty and mind, of course. On the other hand, there’s a crisis brewing and he doesn’t have time to get distracted, or was that attracted; did I mention she was enchantingly enticing? Roydon thinks about that, a great deal, while the crisis builds. Gioia has her own internal dialogs even as she forces her way beyond a mental erasure and his defenses to offer her assistance. The crisis grows, the attraction grows, the secondary characters waltz through with quirky confusions and obvious amusement over Roydon’s falling for a chick with a good mind inside a delightful package. Before you know it they are a Team and the worst has happened and the reader is left with a hanging resolution. You could stop there, or nag for the sequel. I plan to nag.
I probably sound irreverent regarding the author’s work. I’m not. I spent hours enjoying this book, though not, I suspect, as intended. I can make no comment on the accuracy of vampire details or the current London scene. I took facts as given and suspended reality without a qualm. The pacing, characters and tone were well done; I could believe what I read, with the caveats I’ve mentioned. Because I frequently blame conversion technology for misspellings and grammatical malfunctions, I willfully ignore them when reviewing, especially when the kindle is involved. However, in this case, a pdf I did not convert, they were, for me, the charm of this book. I *must* point them out.
I was halfway through the first chapter when I decided that obviously, the author was deliberately using the wrong words and grammatical manipulation to emphasize Gioia’s otherness in the humdrum environment. She would, of course, struggle with the language and the use of the word “stales” for “stalls” was quirky - especially considering how much time she spent hiding in them. The use of single and two sentence paragraph was vaguely Robin Shonesque and since I can appreciate the staccato tones of a well drafted paragraph, I enjoyed that too. Further, it was possible the voice of Roydon was also challenged with grammar, punctuation and spelling issues as a means to emphasize the fact he’s been around since 1430 and though times have changed, his thought processes haven’t bothered to keep up with the modern tongue. I could pretty much sell myself on this until about halfway through the book.
“He was bloody playing through and through. Playing with his own limitations. Playing up the attraction. Downplaying the risks.
Gioia outed him from his usual comfort zone. To be closer to her he acted out of character and out of the his personal sense of propierty.
She was addictive.”
After this passage, I fully embraced the language quirks and who cares about the vampires being sold as relics, the danger to Gioia or the conflicted emotions of Roydon? The story was a treasure of laughing out loud moments on a dreary Saturday morning. And ironically, at least for me, the story advanced with my interest held. I *did* care what happened. I have no idea whether this author intentionally played with my mind or just didn’t give a flying fig. Perhaps the author doesn’t believe in beta readers, spell checkers, rules of grammar or punctuation, only vampires and hybrids. But, I WILL be reading the second book, and not only to find out what happens, but to dig in to the mystery of was I fooled with intention, or just so eager to give meaning to something, I fooled myself.