At first, it seemed as though this book would be nothing if not substantial - there is a large cast of characters and two complex and intertwining plotlines, one of which takes place partially in flashbacks. Ultimately, though, I found reading it a bit like eating a sandwich made with two great-looking pieces of bread - and nothing really satisfying in the middle.
Morgan De Silva is running from the tabloids following the deaths of her film director father and actress mother in a cocaine-induced car wreck. Orphaned and penniless, she’s hiding out in Maine, using a house owned by an old family friend. Morgan is determined to become a screenwriter, but is completely blocked until she finds a box of enthralling old journals written by someone named Dante. Someone who believed he was a vampire. Suddenly, she has all the material she needs.
Morgan becomes a very successful screenwriter using the contents of Dante’s journals, but she is so obsessed she can barely bring herself to be parted from them or even leave the house in which she found them. The situation is made worse by the fact that she is weakened by a rare blood disorder - people who have the mysterious Belladonna Antigen in their systems rarely live past thirty.
The other plotline centers on conspiracy theorist Maxine Stuart. Max is sure something fishy is going on in the government “research lab” she and her friends call “Spook Central.” When the place goes up in flames one night, Max and her pals go out to have a look and she sees a badly burned man ransacking the smoldering wreckage. Max picks up the name badge and a CD-ROM he drops. Both seem to be evidence that the research was on vampires, and one of the names on the CD is “Dante.”
There’s a lot going on, and this information - and quite a bit more - is rapidly divulged to the reader. Unfortunately, the story then loses momentum as the middle is taken up with the characters acting out fairly predictable situations and discovering information we already (mostly) know. Because there wasn’t much new happening for the reader, it felt repetitive and much less interesting.
In honesty, I also have to say that I didn’t find the primary relationship exactly romantic. Morgan is obsessed with a man she thinks is a long-dead lunatic and she knows him only from his journals and her recurring dreams. It was difficult for me to see this as “love” any more than I’d think someone was truly in love with a character they read about in a book or saw in a movie. This was, at best, a crush, and not a terribly healthy one.
When Dante returns to his house to find Morgan in residence, he just watches her at first, even sneaking in to look around when she’s asleep. Their first real encounter comes when he accidentally wakes her. Believing that she’s dreaming of him again, she begs him to make love to her. Dante does, although he manipulates her mentally rather than physically, then takes some of her blood when she’s unconscious. In fact, there seemed to be some kind of psychic or physical violence involved almost every time Dante has sex - including the time Morgan was too ill and weak to move. This may be the honest product of his vampirism and her fixation, but I can’t say I found it seductive.
There is also a secondary romance - Maxine’s - which was more enjoyable if ultimately unfulfilling.
With lots to resolve, the final third of the book heads for the end at a breakneck pace as all the plot threads and loose ends are tied together. I think I would have found this more convincing if I’d been more invested in the characters. Unfortunately, since I found Morgan and Dante so unsympathetic, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat cheering for a satisfying conclusion.
I don’t know if this book will satisfy fans of Ms. Shayne’s vampire series. I can say it did not leave me wanting more.