Sarafina is a vampiress nearly 200 years old, of Gypsy decent. She is a dark and reclusive character, refusing to allow herself to get close to anyone, as her past has taught her that this leads only to pain. She hunts the city of New York feeding her hunger for blood. The only company she allows herself is that of the mortal slaves, who serve her mindlessly, addicted to her blood. She will never again allow anyone to touch her heart. Though she had not counted on meeting Willem Stone, a mortal war hero with a strange and unexplainable connection to Sarafina. Will he be able to get past the walls she has built up around herself? This is the eighth story in Maggie Shayne's 'Wings in the night' series, though it is not necessary for you to have read the other seven stories, as sufficient information is given about the history of the characters, and past plots. This is done very well however, and fans of the series will not feel like they are constantly getting recaps on things they have already read. This book flows well, and those who have read the last book in the series 'Twilight Hunger', and felt it jumped around a bit too much will be much happier with the consistency of this one. The story itself is addictive from the very beginning, and the descriptions of the Gypsy camp and way of life will have the reader whisked back into the past right along with Willem. Along with the romance in the book, those who would continue the work of the evil DPI are back, and doing there worst. So there is plenty of action, thrills, and a body count, to keep you pulse racing. Those who are fans of the series, like myself, will see how the books have developed, from the first book 'Twilight Phantasies' to this one. The books are now much darker, with more gore and much more swearing. The vampires themselves are not as sedate as they appeared in the first book, and some of the descriptions of the way they kill the DPI men are quite revolting. All in all though I personally am a big fan of the series, and loved the book. I think the way the books have progressed to become darker is a bonus, and doesn't take anything away from the main plot, which is always the romance between the main characters. I do recommend though that if you want to really appreciate this book, read the rest of the series first: 'Wings in the Night' (contains books 1, 2 and 3), 'At Twilight' (contains book 4 and 5), 'Twilight Hunger' (book 7) and 'Two by Twilight' (... contains book 6 and 9)....
Embrace The Twilight is the first book that I have read by Maggie Shayne and although a reasonable read it didn't quite hit the spot for me.
The story started a little slowly with Sarafina, a Gypsy woman, struggling to deal with problems within her group. Her sister Katarina dislikes her and although Andre, her boyfriend, takes care of her she knows that others in her group think there's something odd about her (apart from her being a seer, that is). Sarafina knows that there is a helpful Spirit sometimes with her who talks to her and keeps her company occasionally - and she loves this friendly Spirit. Unfortunately there's also a demon out there who is draining blood from people and Sarafina is concerned as she can hear this demon's voice in her head sometimes, as well as the friendly Spirit's.
Willem Stone is an American soldier who has been taken hostage and is being tortured. When the pain gets too bad he passes out and finds himself dreaming about a gypsy girl Sarafina, watching as she tries to build bridges with her sister, but he knows that Andre and Katarina are actually plotting against Sarafina. And then one night he watches as Sarafina is turned into a vampire... his vision ends and he eventually escapes from his captors and returns to America a hero as he hadn't given away anything under torture.
But Willem can't quite settle back into his normal life - partly because his foot is seriously injured but mostly because he wants to know what happened to Sarafina in his dreams and isn't able to get back to them. And then he manages, with a lot of pain, to revisit her and finds that a great deal of time has past and she is now a vampire. When Willem bumps into a vampire in a hospital one evening he starts to wonder if his dreams might have some basis in reality.
All this that I have given as an introduction takes place in the first half of the book and from that point onward the story rather changes. We are introduced to new characters that Willem is hired to protect, he runs into Sarafina who's somewhat different from the young gypsy girl he knew and some vampire hunters manage to kidnap a very important girl. Can she be rescued, and why has she been kidnapped? Perhaps Willem can help with some of these problems.
The romance between Willem and Sarafina isn't actually all that significant a part of the story - in fact, I didn't find it romantic at all. Rather the opposite. There was much more interest in the relationship between some of the vampires in this story - a family relationship rather than a romantic one. The world that Maggie Shayne has built (where vampires can communicate by telepathy and can addict humans to their blood) is nothing new and I felt that the story never really got going. The preamble of Sarafina's life as a gypsy was too long and the rest of the story felt rushed. The ending also left rather a lot of open threads (although I can guess a couple) but I didn't find the book enough of a draw to find the next one and see how it continued. It's not a badly written story (the information about Willem's time as a prisoner and how he deals with that, and the subsequent fame, was very good) but for a romantic book this one fell rather short of the mark for me.