"Vamps Vie over lovely Lady"
When Marisa Richards attended the Roskovich Carnival she
was unaware that her whole life was about to change. She
had approached one of the tents, intrigued by a sign which
reads: COUNT ALEXI KRISTOV OLDEST VAMPIRE IN EXISTANCE. In
a coffin she saw a man, bound in silver chains. He appeared
to be long dead, but the barker had assured the crowd that
this was not so. Curious, Marissa had touched the figure,
believing it to be made of wax. It was not wax, but cold
papery skin, which suddenly warmed at her touch.
Frightened, she'd fled, cutting her ankle in the process.
The fresh blood had awakened the slumbering vampire to pain
When Marissa returned home she tried to convince herself it
had all been a dream but she is soon plagued by nightmares
and is compelled to return to the scene. She finds the
carnival being dismantled, the barker murdered, the vampire
gone. Turning to leave she is confronted by Grigori
Chiavari, a magician who claims he is in town seeking an
old friend. She does not yet know is that Grigori too is a
vampire, and had become one by choice. He had vowed to
avenge the death of his family, to end the existence of
Alexi Kristov. The only way he could obtain the power and
the longevity to achieve his goal had been to accept the
dark gift. He had done so gladly.
Signature deaths begin to occur around town, the work of
Alexi's. The murders draw the attention of Edward Ramsey,
vampire hunter, who appears on Marissa's doorstep to warn
her of the danger. His family too had pursued Kristov
through the ages, seeking his destruction. Marisa mentions
Grigori's name, thinking that's he'd sent Edward. She
insist she doesn't believe in vampires and asks Ramsey to
leave. Before he goes he warns them that Grigori is one
There is a mutual attraction between Grigori and Marissa.
When he calls upon her she demands the truth. He confides
in her, assuring her that she has nothing to fear from
him. He believes that he and Ramsey share a common goal,
to destroy Alexi Kristov. They have an uneasy truce, for
once Kristov is disposed of Ramsey intends to destroy
Grigori as well. Ramsey is certain all vampires are evil.
Grigori intends to prove otherwise at least to Marisa.
The romance is complicated, Marisa feels extreme guilt
about precipitating the murders; she also suspects that
she's in love with Grigori, but she can't accept what he
is. Grigori's need to feed repels her and she can't help
wondering whether Alexi is responsible for ALL the
killings. Ramsey also has feelings for. This would be the
perfect solution to her dilemma, but try as she might she
can only stir up a friendly affection for him. Still
Marisa would like a family someday; Grigori can't give it
Grigori had had a family once. He had been a poor Italian
farmer in a long ago age. His only riches had been his
loving wife, his tiny son and daughter. He was flattered
by the friendship the well to do Count Kristov had
cultivated with him. But it was Grigori's wife's company
that Alexi had truly desired. When she refused to leave
her beloved husband and children, Alexi slaughtered the
children in signature vampire style, and made her a zombie
who would forever do his bidding. She would not recognize
Grigori as her husband, would even kill him if commanded.
Grigori, had never wanted another family. As a vampire he
cannot give Marisa what she desires at any rate. He is
content with what they have together and wishes she could
be so. Somehow Grigori must convince her that not all of
the undead are monsters, that somewhere between the
darkness and the light there are many shades of gray.
The tale concludes in a final showdown with Marisa and all
three of the men who wish to possess her. Who will be
triumphant? In an ironic twist, Ms. Ashley throws us a
curve which will forever change one of them. This would
indeed make an interesting story. I hope Ms. Ashley will
choose to write it someday.
The story takes many turns on its way to a relatively HEA
ending which was undoubtedly more realistic than that
of most vampire romances. My only comment is that Marisa's
inability to quell her doubts throughout the entire story
did take away from the romance to some extent. Otherwise I
found it a very enjoyable read.
Copyright © 1999 for PNR Reviews
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted February 8, 2002