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The Dark Heroine Dinner with a Vampire
by Abigail Gibbs
William Morrow; $14.99; 554pp
Release Date: March 5, 2013
For all those lamenting the end of the “Twilight” saga; take a deep breath and pick up this novel. This will really satisfy your craving.

Author Abigail Gibbs is a seventeen-year-old student who has just begun to read English at Oxford University . This is her first novel. Lord knows when she’ll get her studying in since this appears to be the start of a lengthy series.

Violet Lee, waiting for a friend in London ’s Trafalgar Square late one night to go clubbing, is the unwilling witness to a vampire massacre of thirty slayers. The vampires kill the slayers willy-nilly and leave the bodies all over the square, not bothering to clean up their mess.

Unfortunately, the vampire leader (and heir to the vampire kingdom) sees her. Can’t have that. But instead of killing her, he kidnaps her and takes her to the outrageously gorgeous estate of the ruling family out in the Kent countryside.

These are not nice vampires. They can feed from animals but much prefer humans. When they are on a tear, as it were, they rip throats out. Rarely do they daintily sip from willing humans.

The young prince (only 197 years old!), Kaspar Varn finds himself attracted to Violet who is almost eighteen. But he constantly keeps her off balance: one moment being friendly and the next minute being nasty, monstrous, and other. Luckily, Violet is no brooding loner; no matter that she is terrified, she gives as good as she gets.

Violet is also the daughter of the Secretary of State for Defense Michael Lee. He knows all about vampires as it’s his job to maintain the Terra Treaties between vampires and the Government. So Violet, much as the vampires surrounding her might want, can’t be killed outright. Things need to be negotiated.

Violet spends her days pretty much in fear of her hosts—the Varn family consists of six children and the King. The Queen was murdered a few years previously. There are all sorts of other vampires in residence as well.

There is a little bit of the Edmund, Jacob and Bella triangle here at the beginning since - though it is Kaspar that kidnaps her and dominates her time - another young vampire named Fabian (only 201 years old) is nicer to Violet (and just as devastatingly handsome). But it doesn’t last long because Fabian and Violet have a rather nasty disagreement and their budding friendship is destroyed.

No one at the estate of Varnley is fond of humans or Violet, though two of Kaspar’s sisters, Lyla and Thyme make an effort. Lyla even gives Violet clothes from her wardrobe.

Gibbs gives us an interesting take on vampires. They, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampires, can go out in the daytime, as long as it’s foggy and/or cloudy. These vampires, however, can eat—usually very rare meat and will drink blood mixed with alcohol. They can reproduce. Vampires can make other vampires; but they are usually made by being born and not by turning. They are immortal—but Gibbs compares them to stone, eventually time and tide will wear them away. The oldest vampires in her world are hundreds of thousands of years old! The vampires are just a different species from humans. Garlic doesn’t affect them; neither does holy water or crosses. They can cross running water and do not turn into bats. And when asked if they can enter a home uninvited the response was “no—because that would be rude!” A stake through the heart, a broken neck—these things will kill them.

So, the tale is: Violet is held prisoner for three months and she gradually succumbs to what appears to be a version of Stockholm syndrome: she accepts the world of the vampires. As a vegetarian she’s not really  happy about killing anything living for a meal…but even that disgust fades away some.

And of course, despite their sniping, she and Kaspar find they are very attracted to the other. And just so you know, they even have sex. But, not constantly. Actually, other than a lot of foreplay when they can sneak off, they only consummate their attraction once.

Their affair is a matter of Fate as well as lust. But, trust me, the King is not amused.

To keep this “dimension” from dissolving into an all-out blood fest between humans and vampires---nine heroines need to set things back in balance. In this novel, two of them have made an appearance…a creature from another dimension called Autumn Rose—she sounds rather weirdly elvish---and of course our heroine, Violet Lee. (Nine heroines! Ms. Gibbs has quite an opus ahead of her!) I am not sure how many dimensions/alternate worlds there are but apparently they all contain humans and other creatures.

So the major conflict here is Violet Lee, the daughter of a highly visible anti-vampire government official, and the vampire world at large. Will it be an all-out bloodbath or not?

Will Violet Lee succumb to her Fate to save the world which requires her to turn into a vampire? Will she and Kaspar be allowed to be together? Can they deal with a huge betrayal from the human world?

Oh, you must read this book. I couldn’t put it down. It zipped along, full of great characters, interesting situations, tense confrontations, amazingly gothic and ornate balls, and lots of teen angst. Even some magic.

The title is a bit of a mystery to me. Did the editor decide “The Dark Heroine” was too generic and so added “Dinner with a Vampire?” Or did Gibbs insist on one or the other so they kept both? Because the “Dinner with a Vampire” title really doesn’t reflect the novel at all. Violet and Kaspar don’t have their first meeting at a dinner, nor do they discuss incredibly revealing matters over a special meal. The two have all kinds of meals together; formal dinners, picnics and snacks in the kitchen. There isn’t one crucial dinner that is central to the story, so I don’t understand the addition of the subtitle.

Regardless, I can’t imagine this not being a HUGE hit with those who loved “Twilight.” It’s different and fresh and still has a great love story in the center with many hills for the young couple to conquer before their path is smooth. ~~ Sue Martin

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