Under the Blood Red Moon
by Mina Hepsen
(Avon, $13.95, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0061373251
****
One of those rare historical paranormal romances, Under the Blood Red Moon is a rather stellar combination of the two genres, which is unusual in books of this nature – it's not just a paranormal book set in a different century, nor is it a historical about people who just happen to be vampires. Mina Hepsen has managed to submerge readers into both fictional worlds, outlining her vision of the vampire world as well as paying attention to the human culture of the late 1800s.

That's not to say clichés from both genres haven't been observed. Naturally, our hero, Alexander Kourakin, is an old vampire in love with a young human with some psychic ability. And of course, both Alexander and Angelica are titled (Russian royalty — he's technically a prince and she a princess) and make the nonstop rounds of London's high society. Equally as predictable is Angelica's need to find a husband — make that yesterday — to avoid the certain pennilessness soon to be brought on by a sudden loss of the Belanov family's heretofore substantial resources.

Most people like a little repetition in the romance, a certain formula that just settles well with them, and the aforementioned clichés have grown into clichés for a reason. To throw something different into the mix, Hepsen's heroine doesn't exactly follow societal norms, and frequently uses anachronistic phrases (for instance, that modern teenage favorite, "Whatever"). That may alarm or annoy die-hard historical fans; I found it a little too hypocritical to enjoy a book about vampires falling in love while complaining that the historical details aren't perfect.

Likewise, Alexander, being a somewhat aged individual himself and above such things as social customs, is just as charmed by Angelica's lack of inhibitions and her waywardness as he is by her sweetness. However, Alexander Kourakin is a leader of one of the four European vampire clans, and he abides very strongly to the rules of the vampire world. That's what has brought him to England, after all.

Centuries before, Alexander had been a key figure in the removal (read: slaughter) of vampire slayers from the world. Now, in 19th century London, it seems there is a new one at work, perhaps even working with a rogue vampire who has gone on a human killing spree. Alexander balances vampire detective work seemingly well, but when Angelica walks in on a ritual, he insists that she be moved into his home, under his watchful eye.

Angelica was immediately drawn to Alexander, but what sealed the deal for her was that not only had she found another telepath, she had found somebody who could teach her how to block other's voices as well as control her own abilities.

Angelica, until the very (slightly rushed) end, is not involved with Alexander's vampire issues, aside from the fact that he won't marry her because he needs to insure the continuance of his line. Another cliché for the reader: men leaving the "little woman" in the dark. This keeps the characters separated a lot, and doesn't ever really allow for a lot of chemistry; in fact, there is considerable more chemistry between Angelica and the man who will become her fiancé. It also keeps the plot simpler than it would have been should the characters and their respective problems had interracted more.

Under a Blood Red Moon is certainly no brain teaser, but it serves its purpose, and well. It must be mentioned that an extremely strong and fascinating beginning leads to an average plot and relationship, which then culminates into a premature ending a bit strangled by the dangling threads of storylines. The premise of the story itself is imaginative enough to intrigue, but the basics of the novel are generic enough to please readers of both the historical and paranormal genres.

--Sarrah Knight


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