Demon Night, by Meljean Brook

>> Tuesday, February 05, 2008

TITLE: Demon Night (excerpt at Sybil's)
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook

COPYRIGHT: 2008 (comes out today!)
PAGES: 448

SETTING: Contemporary US West Coast.
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: # 5 in the Guardians series (you can see the reading order here).

REASON FOR READING: Ditto what I said about Nalini Singh's latest: this is one of my favourite ongoing series.

Explore the seductive corners of the dark, as a forbidden attraction tempts danger under the canopy of the demon night...

Charlie Newcomb worked hard to get her life back together. But all that is shaken when she's set upon by three vampires desperate to transform her beauty into something evil. Because Charlie is the vital link to something they want-and need. It's Charlie's flesh and blood sister, a medical scientist whose knowledge could be invaluable to the predators.

But to get to her, they must first get to Charlie, now under the intimate protection of Ethan McCabe. As her Guardian, Ethan is attracted to her vulnerabilities-as well as her strengths. The closer he gets, the more protecting her becomes not just his duty, but his desire. But will it be enough to save Charlie when the demon night falls?
THE PLOT: Well, the story is about one of the Guardians, Drifter, who's charged with protecting a woman and has to convince her to become a vampire. Sorry, sorry, just kidding! *g* It's just that the Harriet Klausner thing was too hilarious!

Ok, seriously now, a very basic outline of the setup, because the summary quoted above is really just fine: vampires have been attacking and forcefully changing the people close to the scientists working at a certain research lab. Drifter (real name: Ethan, one of the Guardians), who made a huge impression on me when he first showed up in Demon Moon (IIRC), is given the task of keeping an eye on Charlie Newcomb, sister of one of those scientists.

MY THOUGHTS: I was lucky enough to get this as an ARC, and I read it as my first book of the year. Well, 2008 really started with a bang! Demon Night clearly shows how Meljean Brook keeps growing as an author. It's got all the elements I loved in her earlier books (the complex, fully-realized characters, the heart-stopping romance, the fascinating world and plot), but this time there wasn't even one second when I was confused in the slightest about what was going on. The plotting is still intrincate, but not overintrincate, if this makes any sense. And although you do appreciate everything more if you've read the whole series, I'd even say things were clear enough here that a reader could conceivably start here and not be lost.

Ethan was a lovely hero. At the risk of having Wendy and Sybil come after me with rotten tomatos, I confess not to be the biggest fan of Westerns. Cowboys, sheriffs, outlaws... eh. Boring, and usually not attractive in the least. But for some strange reason, I actually really liked how Ethan's past and personality gave the novel an almost-Western-in-the-present-day feel. I even found his Western-flavoured way of speaking unbearably sexy.

And on a less shallow note, what I found most amazing about this character was the complexity in what he feels and needs from Charlie. It was excellent how Brook managed to convey things like first his ambivalence about getting involved with someone like Charlie (remember this is a Guardian we're talking about, so he had some insights about Charlie's internal make-up that a regular man wouldn't have had), and then his need to be needed by her, but not in a "mine, mine, mine" way.

This ties in to a very intriguing issue which is explored in their relationship, which is that of what kinds of needing and wanting are healthy and which are not. It's an issue that's given the space and attention it deserves, and the conclusions are entirely satisfying. It's not just Ethan who has to deal with this. Charlie is a woman who in the past gave in to the neediness and weakness in her and as a result, pretty much destroyed her whole life. As the book starts, things are starting to come together again for her, after a lot of hard work, both internal and external. When she and Ethan get involved, Charlie must get over her very understandable reluctance to do anything that even looks like neediness again.

Charlie's a phenomenal heroine. She's not actually my favourite MB heroine, but that's because this is the author who wrote Lilith, and no one can beat Lilith! I thought she was fantastic, and admired her enormous strength. It's quite different from the more evident brand of kickassery that, say, Lilith and Savi displayed, but once I got to really understand her, it was just as impressive. And I most loved that, that there was so much more to her than was evident at first sight, and that as a reader I had a very similar reaction to Ethan's. She was very definitely not perfect and very, very flawed, but that's what made her all the stronger.

What goes on outside of the Ethan/ Charlie romance, is fantastic, too. As I said above, the plot is interesting and easily graspable, and the secondary characters are great. Characters from previous books play important roles (these are not just drop-ins to show how deliriously and smugly happy they are, as too many romance authors are so keen on), and the new ones are great, too. I was especially interested in Charlie's sister, Jane. Their relationship was a very believable rendering of sisterly love, with no idealization. I was also intrigued by Jane's own romance. The other day I was chatting with a friend about opening lines and she mentioned one from (I think) a Marcela Serrano book which went something like this: "Aunt Clara fell in love how all intelligent women do: like an utter idiot". That would SO be Jane here. I hope we see more of her later on in the series.



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