Avon A, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-06-137325-1
Historical Paranormal Fiction, 2008
Mina Hepsen’s Under the Blood Red Moon has most of the clichés associated with vampires in the romance genre and not much of the fun. We have vampires who view their dietary habits as a curse and make sad faces constantly over it. If these vampires are real, I’d wager that they make up about 80% of Livejournal users (another 10% are people who use Livejournal make fun of these people). We have our very special human heroine who is also a psychic as well as the most intelligent and sensitive person ever. And of course, let’s not forget that prophecy where a very special mate of a vampire will one day pop out a baby vampire that won’t drink blood – a Goth brat, in other words. A Goth brat called the Blessed, hallelujah!
I feel as if I’m trapped in the Mary Sue fantasies of a Goth girl.
So, meet Angelica Belanov, our special heroine. She lives in the quiet English countryside like all good heroines do, shunning the idea of marriage and reading books non-stop because she’s so special that way. Alas, our half-Russian heroine realizes that she will have to sacrifice her bluestocking cred to the altar of matrimony when her family fortune sank without trace on its way from Russia to them. Of course, I can ask why these fools need to send so much money in one single trip or why they waited this long to collect their money, but if these questions have easy answers, there won’t be a story and Angelica will never know what it means to be bedded by hot vampire studs.
Prince Alexander is a vampire but he can walk in the sun without suffering from the mother of all sunburn. In other words, he’s like that basement-dwelling Goth kid who wears fake fangs and has all his Anne Rice books memorized, only this Goth kid also happens to be virile, muscular, and what-not. Whatever. He is in London to investigate and eradicate the problem of a slayer as well as a bad vampire running around. Of course, he can’t resist the very special allure of Angelica. But Angelica realizes that it is her duty to get hitched to a rich bloke, so oh, can this romance ever be?
Angelica likes to quote. She has a special quote for every occasion, her mind-reading capability apparently never registering the ire of those unfortunate people at the receiving end of her “wit”. Then again, in this story everyone but the vilest villains loves Angelica, so of course she is much beloved and celebrated. It’s too bad that Ms Hepsen feels this need to hammer home how intelligent and unique Angelica is until Angelica comes off like someone’s idea of a parody of a bluestocking heroine. Angelica is just too much here to be believable. She also pulls off a few stupid stunts here, as Mary Sue heroines tend to do, sigh. Compared to her, Alexander’s boring and predictable personality comes off much better.
The story is a pretty poorly paced one, with last moment revelations coming out of the blue to tie up loose ends in a most contrived manner. Also, the author writes in what she hopes to be a more literary style. Hence, there are annoying scenes where characters do little apart from getting lost in their long-drawn inner monologues or just standing there and calling each other’s name as if those names convey a wealth of secret and deeper meanings to the mysteries of life.
Under the Blood Red Moon reads like a Mary Sue romance written in a highbrow manner. The vampires aren’t really vampires apart from that diet of theirs (which becomes only an excuse for them to brood), the heroine is written as really special, and the literary/high-brow elements, like the constant quoting of authors and what not, in the writing end up coming off as pretentious and tiresome devices. I’ve read better. I want better.