Some books, like JR Ward’s Lover Awakened, are eagerly anticipated with pre-orders numbers that one would expect from a New York Times best seller veteran. Other books, the sort in a superstar stratosphere unto themselves, like the Harry Potter books, are obsessively waited for: countdown clocks are made, lines form, the devoted sleep on sidewalks for the chance to be the first with the book in their hands. And then, there are books like Teresa Medeiros’ The Vampire Who Loved Me, a book, like the others, awaited, but with sanity and patience. A book fans of After Midnight (Merdeiros’ first look at the Cabot sisters) are certainly interested in, but one unlikely to inspire camping out for. As it turns out, The Vampire Who Loved Me isn’t a book to sit nicely on the to-be-read pile, but demands to be read immediately and without interruption.
Readers familiar with After Midnight will well remember Portia Cabot. At seventeen she was the youngest Cabot sister, in love with gothic literature, hoping against hope that werewolves, fairies and vampires existed. While her sister Caroline was busying falling in love with Adrian Kane, Portia developed a heart-wrenching, world-ending crush on Adrian’s younger brother Julian. Even as Julian affected the role of parlor vampire, reciting Byron to dewy eyed girls, he was a very real vampire in search of his soul. His feelings for Portia evolved from indulgence to interest, but as a soulless vampire he had nothing to offer her. Things culminated between the two when Duvalier (the vampire then in possession of Julian’s soul) locked Portia and Julian together in a crypt hoping that Julian would finally kill a human, and finally give up the last of his humanity. Medeiros kept the details of the crypt scene to herself, giving the reader only Julian’s retelling of events as he explained the puncture wounds on Portia’s neck: “I only took what I need to survive.”
What was stingily held back from the reader, are the heart-pounding details readers of romance love. What exactly happened? It’s on this primed stage, where familiar characters are balanced on the precipice of romance, that Medeiros revisits Julian and Portia. It’s been five years since Julian left home, and family, and Portia on the continuing quest for his soul and in those five years Portia has grown into a woman. Her schoolgirl crush has matured into an emotion that hovers somewhere between a woman’s love, worry for Julian’s unknown safety, and seething anger over Julian’s decampment. When Julian returns to London – at the same time women begin to turn up dead and drained of blood – Portia needs to know if Julian lost his humanity in the search for his soul.
The Vampire Who Loved Me is infectious, forcing the giddy turn of every page as Julian and Portia reunite and Medeiros moves them through a plot that doesn’t break ground, but is none the worse for it. Initially, Portia fears Julian is behind the string of dead women and wants to prove his innocence, only to suddenly suspect him of the crimes. Things become complicated when Portia learns who is really behind the murders, a Parisian woman, Valentine, who turns out to be Julian’s obsessed lover and the vampire who now holds Julian’s soul.
What keeps this couple compelling – even through a series of stock romance scenes: Julian and Portia hold tight and pretend to be married to ward off the advances of other men; Julian and Portia whirl around a dance floor pretending to be vampire and eternal bride to enrage and draw out a jealous Valentine; Julian and Portia seeking shelter for the night in a place where they can be alone and uninterrupted – is that this couple is tortured by their love for one another. Portia learns that she’s had Julian’s heart all along, but that’s meaningless because he’d allowed Valentine to keep what stands between him and being human. For his part, Julian loves Portia enough to want something better for her than himself. This pair has to fight themselves, one another, and Valentine for their happily ever after.
Where After Midnight read like a crossbreeding of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Jane Austen, The Vampire Who Loved Me is a regency paranormal that stays tightly focused on the love story, with little-to-no time devoted to the inner workings of society or subplots. It is unlike other paranormals in that’s it more quaint than dark. Medeiros never takes the possibility of redemption from Julian. Vampirism need not be permanent or final. There is always hope that he could be human again. While Julian and Portia’s story lacks the complexity and nuance of After Midnight’s plot – all the same characters are present, but Portia’s sisters and their now husbands exit the stage for their siblings’ starring roles – in all, the reading experience for The Vampire Who Loved Me stands apart from its predecessor, but not to a lesser degree.
The Vampire Who Loved Me is a delightful read. It’s a traditional romance that never feels staid, it’s familiar without feeling retread. Medeiros crafts a story that succeeds with compelling characters, a well laid back story, and pacing that keeps the pages turning. The only down side is that after reading, the anticipation is over.
You can visit Teresa here and purchase this book here or here.