Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Ruby Tear

THE RUBY TEAR (1997), by “Rebecca Brand,” was actually written under a pen name by Suzy McKee Charnas, author of THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY. Here she creates a unique variation on the vampire romance subgenre, already well established by then. THE RUBY TEAR stars a much more traditional vampire than Weyland, the top-of-the-food-chain, naturally evolved predator in her more famous novel. A cursed jewel and a family feud rooted in medieval Eastern Europe complicate an unusual vampire-human love triangle. Baron Ivo von Cragga, about to die in battle, prays for the restoration of the Ruby Tear, his family’s chief treasure, and punishment for the enemy who stole it. Transformed into a vampire by the vengeful goddess of his war-torn homeland, Ivo devotes his centuries-long existence to the quest for the Tear, now possessed by Nicolas Griffin, journalist and playwright. Jess, an actress, Nic's former lover, baffled by his avoidance of her since the near-fatal accident in which they were both injured, agrees to star in a play written by him in which she will wear the ill-fated jewel. This event draws Ivo to her so that she becomes the vampire's target as he pursues his revenge against Nic. Aside from his origin (cursed rather than bitten), Ivo has most of the traits of the familiar supernatural vampire.

Ivo is generally a “good guy vampire,” although prepared to behave ruthlessly in devotion to his quest. The few love scenes between him and Jess are sensual yet spiced with a tinge of self-aware irony. Charnas's familiarity with New York and the world of the theater lends realistic detail to the story. She injects notes of humor amid the suspense and manages to make both the lonely, magnetic vampire and his human rival complex, sympathetic characters. The climax of their conflict and the resolution of Jess's attraction to both men are surprising as well as satisfying. It’s unusual to read a romance in which we can’t tell from the beginning which hero the heroine will choose. The denouement includes an unexpected twist that underscores the futility of devoting a lifetime (mortal or immortal) to ancient enmities.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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