Body Electric

Danegeld

No More Lies

 
The Companion by Susan Squires
(St. Martin’s, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-99853-8
****
Elizabeth Rochewell is a young lady stuck between two worlds. Having followed her archeologist father throughout Egypt, she’s too Egyptian for Britain and too British for Egypt. So when her father dies, she finds herself completely adrift. With no options, she reluctantly decides to travel back to England and her only remaining relative – her father’s sister.

Ian Rufford is a haunted man. A former sailor, he is sold into slavery after pirates take his ship. He wanders the desert for two years as part of a caravan. He is treated worse than an animal, and is subject to the whims of a beautiful woman hiding a dark secret. At the hands of this monster Ian will suffer most cruelly. However it is not until he is found baking in the desert that he realizes that he too is a monster. Suicide is not an option, as he heals very quickly. He cannot tolerate sunlight, and worse still, he thirsts for human blood. Ian believes if he can get home to England, an English doctor just might know what is wrong with him and offer up a cure.

Ian and Elizabeth meet on an England-bound ship, and she is immediately intrigued by the mystery of him. In turn, Ian is fascinating by Elizabeth, who acts, thinks and talks like no other British lady he’s ever known. However, it will not be easy for these two – not only because Ian is a vampire, but also because his former master will soon have to be dealt with.

Squires has written the quintessential dark vampire novel. There are no shiny happy vampires here, and readers who like their vampire heroes to accept their blood-drinking state will be disappointed. Ian is quite literally a tortured man. Sure, Romance Novel Land is littered with tortured heroes – but they are all mere pretenders to the throne compared to Ian. Squires utilizes flashbacks to flesh out his captivity, and none of it is pretty. He’s a man who has walked through Hell and partially come out the other side. He spends the majority of this book disgusted with what he has become, and longing for answers.

Elizabeth is a fascinating heroine, as she is not a typical Regency miss. While she is intelligent and capable aiding her father’s archeological work, she’s completely out of sorts in England – a society that values its women to be pretty, empty-headed twits. Given that her mother was Egyptian, Elizabeth’s exotic looks are also out of vogue in London where the whispers suggest she’s “ugly” and “too brown.”

While Regency-set, The Companion features a variety of locales, perhaps trying to dispel the myth that people only lived in England during that time period. The majority of the story takes place on the ship bound for England, but North Africa also plays a prominent role. Our characters find themselves in such exotic locales and Casablanca and Tripoli.

The Companion is the first in a new series by Squires, and is perhaps one of the meatier stories this reviewer has read in ages. It is a slower read, not because it is boring or poorly written, but because of the lush depictions of characters and settings. It is a book to be savored, not torn through at breakneck speed. Squires is certainly a talented author and The Companion offers the promise of more beautifully, dark vampire novels to follow.

--Wendy Crutcher


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