|Don't listen to the back copy for Kathryn Smith's Taken by the Night. It is nothing close to what Kathryn Smith fans have come to expect. Instead of "a strong, sexy woman," we get an indecisive young twit who thinks being headstrong and independent is putting herself and others in danger. Instead of a "darkly dangerous hero," we have a bleating old goat who doesn't know how to get over himself. Genuine fans would be better off praying that Smith's next book is more true to her reputation.
Many, many years ago in Victorian London, the centuries-old vampire Saint rescued a woman who had been abandoned by her aristocratic lover. The woman was about to give birth. Saint helped her through her labor and then found a place where she and the young child could live. The woman becomes the madam of the notorious Maison Rouge brothel, and her daughter Ivy Dearing grows up with the ladies of the night and their clients.
More than twenty years later, at the turn of the century, two prostitutes are murdered in a manner that is reminiscent of Jack the Ripper's infamous crimes. Ivy is determined to get justice for her friends. She would like Saint to help her, and after some prodding, he agrees. Their investigation reveals that the murders are related to Ivy's and Saint's pasts. It also becomes clear that they are personally important to an arcane society whose members are in pursuit of eternal life.
Saint is attracted to the young woman. Now, a couple of centuries isn't that big a difference in age when it comes to a vampire-human couple. But this guy delivered her! 'Scuse me, if I'm a little squeamish!
This isn't what bothers Saint, though. He has already loved and lost one time too many in his vampire existence; he doesn't want to face any more pain. I guess a hundred years as a super-powered nightwalker didn't do much to build a backbone because he is very quick to let Ivy have her wicked way with him.
Ivy is no more heroic. Her father abandoned her when she was a child, and she has vowed no man will treat her like that again. She doesn't do love, but she does do sex. And she really wants sex with Saint. She eventually gets it. I suppose this is why she's labeled "strong" and "sexy." I think walking cliché would be closer. This same "strong" woman goes alone to a mysterious appointment because she doesn't want to be treated like a fragile flower. Hello? Murderers, serial killers and rapists ahoy.
What partially saves this book is the serial killer investigation. The villains, whose point of view is provided occasionally, are more multi-dimensional than I would have expected. While there are no real surprises to the who-done-it, their motives were interesting enough to keep the pages turning. All of this feeds into a larger story about the Brotherhood of Blood that will be pursued in the next installment. My biggest wish is that the romance and the lead characters of that book will be more enthralling than the cardboard cut-outs of this one.