Harbaugh, Karen - The Vampire Viscount

>> Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nope, The Vampire Viscount, by Karen Harbaugh isn't about a Trad Regency author getting on the vampire bandwagon. This is a 1995 book, from long before having paranormal elements became de rigueur.

Being a vampire is okay--you get to stay up all night, women find you irresistable, you're strong, fast, and magic is yours for the taking.

But Nicholas, Viscount St. Vire finds all of that means little in the face of impending insanity and the eventual deterioration of his senses. Only the the willing embrace of a virginal young woman can reverse his condition. Who better for his wife-to-be than the impoverished Leonore Farleigh, whose abusive father sells her to St. Vire to pay off gaming debts?

Leonore agrees to marry him--how else is she going to save her sister and her mother from their poverty and pain? But she soon finds she's stepped into a marriage of inconvenience… and possible death.
Disappointing, disappointing, disappointing. That seems to be the word of the week. TVV started out very well, but things first fizzled and then plunged down a cliff. A C.

Nicholas, Viscount St. Vire is sick of being a vampire, so when in his studies he comes across a method to reverse his vampirism, he's willing to go to some lengths to pull it off. The spell requires a virgin's blood, freely given in the marriage bed on the summer solstice, so he needs to find himself a virgin bride willing to marry him fast.

Nicholas doesn't have the time or inclination to do his courting the traditional way, so he simply researches possible candidates, and on his first night out, succeeds. The father of the most likely candidate is as inveterate a gambler as reported, and on his first try, Nicholas manages to make him lose more than he can afford. When Nicholas proposes that the man give him his daughter hand in marriage to cancel the debt, his offer is accepted.

Leonore Farleigh is shocked when her father announces that he's practically sold her off, but when she meets Nicholas and sees he's not the old, depraved lecher she feared, she begins to see the positive side of the situation. Things at home aren't good (to say the least), and marrying this guy is a good way to escape. And things begin to look up even more when she spends some time with him and realizes that they might even manage to build a good marriage between them. But after a while, it becomes clear that Nicholas has some secrets he isn't telling her about...

The first parts, with the proposal and marriage, and the first weeks of their marriage, were really, really, really good. For some strange reason, there's something about the won-in-a-card-game plot that intrigues me, and I liked the clear-headed way in which Leonore accepted the marriage, realizing it was her best way of escaping her father's control and quickly understanding that she and Nicholas could rub along quite well. I also enjoyed the sort of courting period they had, and how they started getting to know each other even before the wedding, getting a good start in building a good, solid marriage.

After a while, however, the book did lose a bit of the momentum that had made me wonder, at first, if I might not have a keeper in my hands. I just wasn't getting the emotional depths I was hoping for, so when we were told these two were in love, I just didn't feel it. Plus, the whole thing about the virgin blood requirement and all that made me roll my eyes. Magic hymen to the max! But all right, I was liking the book well enough.

But then, disaster. We needed external conflict, apparently, so we got an evil other (vampire) woman determined to wreak havoc. This didn't just completely change the tone of the story, it was also very boring. I especially disliked how monumentally stupid Nicholas' way of dealing with things was. The only thing his actions achieved was hurting and humiliating Leonore, and he should have known better. As I neared the end, it became harder and harder to resist the temptation to start skimming (and yeah, I did give in to the temptation for some stretches).

Still, even if in the end, TVV wasn't a success, it was interesting to take a look at one of the precursors of one of today's trendiest trends. Main difference? No twists here; Nicholas is a very old-school vampire. I guess all the twists we get today are authors attempts (sometimes successful, sometimes not so much) to make their stories feel fresh. 12 years ago that just wasn't necessary. Having a vampire hero was twist enough on its own, I guess.


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