"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 and hunger.

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 of "them".

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 to her.

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.

October 1999
Copyright 1999 for PNR Reviews

Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted February 8, 2002



Bound by chains, the vampire had slept for 100 years, locked in pain and hunger, until the scent of one woman's blood recalled him to life.


Unnerved by the sight of the carnival's captive "vampire," she stumbled from the tent - into the arms of the most striking man she'd ever seen. Mesmerized by his supernatural embrace, she belived him when he swore all he desired to drink were her kisses.


Lost in darkness, Grigori finds new sustenance in the light of Marisa's love, and new purpose in his life. Only he can protect her from the evil that stalks the night. Grigori vows to show Marisa that not all the undead are monsters, and that somewhere between the black and white of damnation and desire lay infinite SHADES OF GRAY.

Read an Excerpt


Shades of Gray
by Amanda Ashley

Love Spell
January 1, 1998
Available: January 1, 1998
ISBN #0505522438
EAN #9780505522436
400 pages
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Other Books by
Amanda Ashley

Bound By Blood
Everlasting Desire
Everlasting Kiss
Immortal Sins
Night's Pleasure
Night's Master
Dead Perfect
Night's Touch
Dead Sexy
Desire After Dark
Night's Kiss
Stroke of Midnight
A Whisper of Eternity
Midnight Pleasures
After Sundown
Midnight Embrace
After Twilight
A Darker Dream
Deeper Than The Night
Embrace the Night

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