|Bond of Blood-A Novel of Texas Vampires by Diane Whiteside is a tale told in two parts, and I found I had to read it twice to truly appreciate it. The story centers around Rafael Perez, the vampire hero, with most of the book set in the present. But when the heroine, Grania O’Malley, sleeps, she dreams of Rafael’s past. The sensuality and action of the current story made me rush through the flashbacks, and I almost missed a poignant tale of heroism and undying love.
When the book opens the reader is given quick insight into the kind of world in which Rafael lives. He’s extremely wealthy and powerful, owning huge chunks of Texas and claiming a large part of Texas and Oklahoma as his territory. In the first chapter he and his men battle back an assassination attempt by the supposedly friendly head vampire form Colorado, and war is declared by the female vampire leader of Louisiana. She wants Rafael as her mate and his rejection of her stings so badly that she employs a famous vampire assassin to have Rafael murdered. That the assassin is an ancient enemy of Rafael’s makes her revenge sweeter.
Into the midst of this turmoil comes Grania, a veterinarian and ornithologist who studies large raptors. She accepts a position with a bird sanctuary funded by Rafael’s trust, and meets Rafael at a fundraiser. Their attraction is instantaneous, as Grania recognizes Rafael as the hero of dreams she’s been having since childhood, and Rafael finds Grania devastating and somehow familiar. Things heat up a few nights later when Grania inadvertently spies on Rafael seducing and then feeding from another woman. Grania finds the scenario incredibly arousing and can’t stop watching, so she also witnesses Rafael changing into an owl and flying away. The scientist in her can’t let such a phenomenon go unstudied, and Grania determines to learn as much as she can about vampires and Rafael in particular. Rafael agrees to allow her studies for reasons of his own, although he knows that he should kill her before she can share her knowledge.
Grania and Rafael’s romance has a bittersweet quality. Its wartime setting (albeit non-traditional war) adds a measure of poignancy to the already difficult love between a vampire and a vulnerable human who’ll die too soon. Grania’s flashback dreams add to this impression, giving the reader insight into Rafael’s former life. He was a Castilian knight named Rodrigo, young, honorable, very religious, and very much in love with his wife and children. When Rodrigo is captured by infidels and seems to disappear from the face of the earth, his idealistic wife refuses to marry again and remains devoted to Rodrigo until she dies. She has no way of knowing that Rodrigo is still alive, being tortured and forced to become vampire.
Rafael’s a great character. He’s a big ol’ warrior-type vampire, handsome, wealthy, powerful and sexy, everything that has become cliché in vampire romance heroes, but he’s also a dancer and a musician with a squishy romantic heart. Grania is an excellent heroine, smart, strong and committed. The portions of the book about their relationship are entertaining and hot.
What’s not hot is the contrived feel that the reader gets from some of the scenes that are supposed to be sensual. For instance, during the scene where Rafael seduces the local woman in front of Grania, the woman is very vocal about her opinion of what Rafael’s doing. Her language is ugly and jarring, lessening the impact of Grania’s discovery. That scene and several others had the feel of someone ticking items off a recipe entitled “successful sensual romance book”. Dirty language during sex – tick. Self gratification – tick.
The amount of Spanish words the book used in regard to the vampires and their society was also a little awkward. There are a lot of words to describe the vampires themselves and their relationships to each other and mortal humans, and they are all used frequently and are always italicized. It’s distracting.
Those sour notes aside, Bond of Blood is a fresh twist on a genre that is becoming somewhat stale. Rafael and two other vampires from this book were featured in a previous book of short stories. Hopefully the other two will receive full length novels of their own.