Bite Me, Your Grace by Brooklyn Ann is the beginning of an exciting new vampire series set in Victorian London, with a headstrong protagonist and a vampire on a collision course for a high profile romance.
Angelica Winthrop is a strong-willed, young woman who is suffering under the tyrannical rule of her matriarchal mother and the pressures of high society. She is expected to act appropriately at social functions and to find herself a respectable husband, which will help her mother repair bridges with her grandfather. However, Angelica can think of nothing worse, and seeks to ruin herself in order to remain in control of her own life and pursue her passion of writing.
Her mother lectured her for the entire ride to the Wentworth ball. No dancing more than twice with the same man, else she’d be ruined. If she forgot herself and drank too much champagne, she’d be ruined. Ruined… ruined. The word grew more tantalizing every time she heard it.
Elsewhere, Ian Ashton, the Lord Vampire of London and Duke of Burnrath is in pursuit of the writer, John Polidori, who has recently published his poem ‘The Vampyre’ and has thus created a public love of vampire fiction. However, the public believe his poem to be based on real life vampires, not about Lord Byron, which has brought scrutiny onto Ian. There are wagers as to whether he is a vampire, with constant gossip circulating and causing an inconvenience. Ian himself is unaware of Polidori’s original source, wanting to ask the man about his knowledge of vampires.
Angelica is enthralled with the tale, as she is with other horror writers such as Mary Shelley, and longs to create her own ghost story. Believing the Duke’s mansion to be haunted since he never opens it for balls, she disguises herself as a servant and sneaks in. However, she is discovered by the Duke and he can’t resist taking a bite of his intruder’s neck, confirming the vampire rumours once and for all.
Angelica is seen leaving the Duke’s dwelling, prompting further gossip about the connection between the two, with Ian suggesting that their only option is to marry. This should both remove the vampire rumours and the stain on Angelica’s honour, but she is resistant to the match. All she wants is to write peacefully, without being dominated by a man, but despite her attempts to put him off marrying her with unsociable conversation he becomes more enamoured.
So far this may seem fairly straightforward, but there is the added tension of the Duke being unwilling to Change Angelica, originally intending to reside with her for a while before departing for fifty years. Both are also unwilling to admit that they are falling in love with each other, despite the enjoyment they find in each other’s company and the obvious chemistry between them. The Duke has never married a human before, so is wary of his emotions and also worried that she might expose him in her writings.
I enjoyed the variety of tensions which arose throughout the course of their romance, and I thought that the characters were a brilliant match for one another. They were likeable and both had obstacles to overcome before a conclusion could be reached, with these individual problems helping to make the couple stronger. However, I did think that towards the end of the novel they were pushed together rather abruptly, with the problems being resolved almost instantaneously.
For a heroine, Angelica was definitely the sort that I love reading about as she knew her own mind and had her own dreams and ambitions. She longs to be a writer, and when a publisher refuses to take her on as a woman she disguises herself as a man to achieve her dream. I liked how passionate she was about writing, which was one of the main driving forces of the novel along with the pursuit of Polidori. However, after the wedding I did feel that she was losing some of her strength and submitting to her husband, although she is still very much her own person.
As for Ian, I thought he was incredibly accepting of Angelica’s wilfulness at first and liked how his views differed from the rest of high society. We get to see his emotional barriers break down around his bride and to see how his vampire nature has controlled his life. He is determined to protect not just his bride, but all the vampires under his care in London, not fearing anything, even vampire hunters.
The novel uses multiple perspectives so we can see both Angelica and Ian’s side of the story, but also enlightens us on some secondary characters such as vampire hunter, Ben, who is in pursuit of the Duke. There is also Rosetta, a young vampire who has fallen in love with John Polidori and is desperate to protect him against the Duke’s wrath, despite breaking her loyalty to the vampire Lord. These multiple plot elements were weaved together really well by the author, although I did feel that there was more that could have been done with the vampire hunter, and that his plotline is resolved too suddenly.
Overall, this was a good book and a great start to a new series. I particularly enjoyed the historical context as it was clear that a lot of research had been done as to the literary history of John Polidori. This book put an interesting spin on that history and it felt like it was actually a part of the timeline, instead of being distinctly fictional. The epilogue introduces the beginnings of a plotline for book two, and I’m interested to find out how the dynamic relationship of Duke and Duchess Vampire continues.
This book surprised me, and is a case where you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The romance is well-developed to begin with, although does fluctuate in the middle, and I loved the uniqueness of the heroine. I also liked the integration of history, with the book having a firm basis in important literary events and the birth of the vampire genre.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Bite Me, Your Grace
- One Bite Per Night
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