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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dance Macabre by Susanne Saville

Dance Macabre by Susanne Saville
Publisher: Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (74 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

London, 1897

Caught in a web of poverty and injustice, Lily Rafferty takes employment in a dancehall. Though she loathes being viewed as a pretty piece of meat wrapped in silk for the enjoyment of the West End gentlemen out for a bit of slumming, she can't help but feel her luck is about to change.

Rhys Trevan Morgan, Viscount Talfryn is a vampire with a mission. Another supernatural creature prowls the night leaving a trail of blood and gore in its wake that eventually leads him to London's East End and to the Barbary Coast dancehall. He doesn't need the distraction of coming to the aid of a young woman forced to strip and parade herself on stage for the voyeuristic pleasure of the club's wealthy patrons.

Soon, the momentary distraction becomes a craving Rhys can't resist and he wonders if the fair Lily will be the end of his frightful curse or the vehicle of his destruction.

This was a cute little story filled with light drama, an interesting twist and a heroine not afraid of what she needs to do to survive. Well, okay, she was a little skittish until a hero with an icy demeanor stepped in to even the odds. The by-play between the secondary characters was like a tennis-match and it kept the pages flipping.

Lily is the heroine. She’s not a typical heroine for the period romances I usually read. She’s not a governess, nor part of the ton. No, the leading lady is an orphan down on her luck and, way back then, a woman without a family or protector had little option for decent employment. The emphasis is on decent. The author’s set up of the environment that this little tale takes place in was well done. The despondent atmosphere came through loud and clear as well as Lily’s eventual acceptance of what she’d need to do if she wanted to eat. What I liked about her character was her feistiness. Even though she was trying to give herself a mental pep-talk about doing what she had to, her inherent goodness and sense of right and wrong still battled within her. She wasn’t broken yet and I liked that. The best thing about this story is that she didn’t have to completely let go of her principles, only her inhibitions. I found out that there’s a lot more chutzpah in Lily’s backbone than I at first believed. And, she has one heck of kick.

The man with the stiff and noble bearing is Talfryn. He’s an exercise in contradiction. At first he’s harsh, then there’s a hint of a thaw and then he gets all growly and intense. Well, more intense. He’s fighting a literal internal battle and the author came up with an awesome explanation of his condition. It made this tale all the more interesting because it means that perhaps there might be another story out there with an even bigger battle in the offing. As it was, in Dance Macabre the exploding conflict came at a time I least expected it. It sure made me sit up and take notice and I really enjoyed that. It was an unpleasant surprise for the protagonists but it sure made for some great reading for me.

The most romantic element was Lily’s eventual reaction and sacrifice on Talfryn’s behalf. That was very interesting, even if it was a bit bloody. I also liked how it ended as it was filled with a combination of impressions: sweet, saucy, pragmatic, hopeful, a touch of shy and eventually a healthy dose of joy.

The editing was good, the pace brisk, and watching the hero and heroine come together was a delight. The villain wasn’t who I thought it would be but there was a point in the first altercation that makes made me question something that Talfryn revealed to Lily later in the story. Did the clothing protect him? Why didn’t it affect him earlier? These questions are being deliberately obtuse because I realize that if I ask what I really want to ask, it’d be a spoiler and I don’t want readers to miss out on the surprise. But there is something that seems amiss and I wonder if other readers will catch it too. No matter whether the answer is yes or no, the action and light drama really worked and I had a great time.

Dance Macabre is a compact book of action, surprise and spicy romance. The author’s descriptions provided a real feel for the ambiance of the dance house – depressing and resigned with a coating of false bravdo. Lily stuck out like a fish out of water and I was so happy to have Talfryn rescue her even if it was a bit unconventional in manner. I had fun, was entertained and enjoyed the hero’s fight with himself. Happily for both Lily and me, he lost and the rest was delicious reading. I’d recommend this short novella to paranormal romance readers in a heartbeat -– it has a little bit of the best of everything and is time well spent.