Susan Squires has really never written romance. If you look hard at her backlist, while sold as romances, her books really aren't. They are so much more. She writes complex character studies, and since romance is a part of the make up of the human condition, it will play a strong thread through the stories. But foremost, she is a writer who like to go where most romance writers fear to tread - or is permitted by their editors! She like to challenge the reader, provoke them, make them think, so up front this is not your typical romance book. For those seeking a richer story, told in the fashion you don't have see in romances today, then you will want to snatch up Susan Squires newest book. Squires has been off the market for a year. Changed publishers. This switch gives her elbow room with the word count and the ability to tell her story as she wanted.
And wow what a story!!
As with most Squires' book, the hero is the grabber. Ian Rufford is an English, living in the early 1800s. He is sailing when pirates attack his ship. He is taken prisoner, carried to Africa where he is sold into slavery to the very beautiful, but extremely heartless Asharti. Ian is forced to trek across the desert while being cruelly punished by the vicious Asharti. He comes to realize that Asharti is not just an evil woman, but a creature of the night, a vampire. He thinks his nightmare is at end when he escapes. Only there is no escaping Asharti and now Ian is that which he hates. He is trying to make his way back to England and hopes there is and end to what he now is.
Elizabeth Rochewell has worked with her father an eminent archaeologist. They are on a dig when a ancient pillar falls and kills her father. So Elizabeth is returning to England. On the ship, Ian and Beth meet. They find kindred spirits in the other, a commonality in their love of adventure and foreign places, both abhorring their return to England and the strict dictates of Regency society. They fall in love, with Ian resisting leading Beth into the life of what he has become.
Ian and Beth are strong characters in Squires vivid fashion. They compel you to travel the emotional tangle of their lives as they seek the answer to what possesses Ian. People looking for a vamp tale with fangs and all, should be warned the vampirism is handled in a very understated, compelling drama that takes you from Africa to Spain and England and then back.
Squires delivers on all levels. Let's just hope it's not such a long wait until her next book!!
on 8 January 2007
I love vampire books and I love Regency historical novels but my only experience so far of these two genres combined was not a success. Still, I thought I'd give "The Companion" a go as it had so many positive reviews on Amazon. And I'm very glad I did!
"The Companion" is not your average novel in either genre. Within the vampire genre it is different as the main character, the vampire Ian Rufford, doesn't actually know that's what he is for ages and spends a lot of the book trying to get himself cured as well as trying suicide. He is a tortured hero - in both senses of the word; tortured physically before he became a vampire, tortured mentally by the understanding of the dark side of his nature. His story slowly unfolds through flashbacks as we learn how he became a vampire and why he fears them so much.
Within the Regency genre this book is different as very little of it is set in the drawing rooms of London - most of it takes place in Casablanca and the desert as Beth, our heroine, carries out her archaeological work. Beth is an unusual heroine - short, not particularly attractive, with an English father and an Egyptian mother (both now dead); a woman who doesn't fit into either world. Another portion of the book is set on a sailing boat returning to England where Ian and Beth meet - I loved reading the details about sailing 200 years ago.
What was particularly enjoyable about this book was its new take on an old theme - that of vampires, in this case vampirism being a parasite in the blood called "The Companion" - and how it might affect someone mentally to know that they now have to take other humans' blood for sustenance. Susan Squires' writing style is excellent, she is able to build interest and pace the novel well and we care about and understand the main characters. There is another book in this series, "The Hunger", and I have already ordered it and am very much looking forward to it. If that book is as good as this then I shall be a very happy reader!