Secrets in the Shadows

Publisher : Tor Books

Before launching into this review, I feel it necessary to make a confession. I'm prejudiced. Not against opera, soccer, other races, reality television or other likely candidates for a confession when you're talking about prejudice. No, mine is a much more subtle prejudice but it's one I think many readers share and might not admit.

I tend to bypass, put down, shun and generally not have much to do with any novel that is openly adorned anywhere with the "Romance" label. I know that millions upon millions of readers, American women particularly, will find that sentiment unbelievable, but it's true.

It's not that I feel in any way superior to those who down romance novels by the handful. Everybody has their own likes and dislikes and Lord knows romance fans are strong enough and numerous enough to almost overwhelm the rest of the publishing world.

And it's not that I don't like romances. I'm as likely as any other male when no one is watching to sit through a boy meets girl comedy movie or film of modern hip singles meeting and mingling. But romance on the printed page? Somehow those novels seem curiously empty or flat or two-dimensional for lack of a better word, to me.

It's something that everybody does, sometimes in a serial fashion all through their life, it occupies a good portion of most people's waking lives for most of their lives, but taken out of context with a person's life, or made the most important element of a novel, and to me it's not satisfying fiction. That's just me.

Which is why I was surprised to find that a book labeled a paranormal romance and part of an on-going fantasy series of romances, held my attention and actually left me looking forward to reading the next novel in the series. (Confession time: I only started reading it because I didn't notice the little romance label at the top of the cover page.)

SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS, TOR BOOKS, $6.99, 305 pgs., by Jenna Black, is labeled a romance. It features a perky heroine and darkly handsome hero, smoldering attractions that the lead characters strive to tamp down until they're unleashed in a torrent of lust. See, you can't even write a review without slipping into romance-speak.

But, and this is the almost important qualifier, while it obviously works for the reader who wants their romance jolt, it also works quite well for a reader like myself who isn't. And it works because while it qualifies as a romance, it is more and the MORE is what makes it an interesting novel.

It's the same reason why "Casablanca" which is the ultimate in film romance works as a movie, and why "Gone With The Wind", which is at it's heart nothing more than a novel of star-crossed lovers, is a classic novel for anyone who loves historical, war or southern fiction.

"Secrets" is the story of the growing love between vampire Jules Gerard and all-too-human female private eye Hannah Moore, two characters who as is required in romance novels loath or at least dislike each other intensely before falling in love.

But more than that, it is a novel that looks at a secret society of vampires existing in the modern world, gathered into nests or groups in major cities, each headed by a very old, very powerful vampire who is the Lord and Master of their little un-dead family.

Jules is a vampire who loathes his own kind and is a member of a group of vampires living in Philadelphia called Guardians of the Night, who repress their desires to kill humans and sate their blood lust with animal blood or other substitutes. And they hunt and destroy those wild vampires living in Philadelphia who do prey on humans.

But Jules has learned that the vampire who created him, a former friend, is alive and killing in Baltimore and despite the orders of the leader of the Guardians, he's determined to go to Baltimore, find his former friend and tormentor, and put an end to his unnatural life.

Which causes problems because the Lord of the Guardians, Eli, has an unusual arrangement with the blood-thirsty female Lord of the Baltimore vampires, and Eli definitely doesn't want Jules causing all kinds of trouble in another Vampire Lord's playground.

Hannah Moore, friend of another mortal woman who has fallen in love with a vampire member of the Guardians, is asked as a favor to tag along with Jules who is hellbent on getting to Baltimore, to guard his back when he's helpless during the day in his coffin.

As a favor to her friend, Hannah attaches herself to Jules and won't be shaken. She travels with him to Baltimore where they find themselves embroiled in a pit of intrigue and plots among characters that make the killers in the Sopranos look like choir boys.

For fantasy and horror fans, there is nothing really ground breaking here, but it's a well done story and Black does a good job in building a fictional world in which very old, powerful and smart vampires could live in hiding among normal humans.

This is the second book in the series. I'd like to read the first and I'm definitely planning on getting the third which builds on the events of this novel. If you're into fantasy or horror, ignore the "Paranormal Romance" label and enjoy.

Fanged Films

Spain, 1968
Hell's Creatures / Frankenstein's Bloody Terror / The Mark of the Wolfman / The Vampire of Dr. Dracula / The Werewolf's Mark / The Wolfman of Count Dracula / Die Vampire des Dr. Dracula
USA, 2006
Mrs. Amworth

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 2 No. 5
Vampirella V.2 N.5 November 1993
No. 13
Vampire Queen of the Horror Kraal!