Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-084836-7
Fantasy Romance, 2006
Kathryn Smith’s Be Mine Tonight features a vampire hero and a heroine who’s about to croak from a kind of ovarian cancer. It’s 1899. Prudence Ryland, our heroine, believes that the only thing that can save her is a sip from the Holy Grail so she’s thrown herself into a frenzy of searching for it during the little time she has left in this world. The folks that are guarding the Holy Grail are afraid that she may accidentally discover the whereabouts of the relic so they send two people to check up on her.
One of these two men is Chapel. Chapel was once Severian de Fonce, one of six sequel-friendly band-of-brothers type of buddies who drank from what they believed to be the Holy Grail only to be turned into clones of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s heroes. That was six hundred years ago, so Chapel has had plenty of time practicing to look as broody as possible so that he will finally vanquish a Sherrilyn Kenyon hero in a loincloth mud-wrestling tournament. Chapel and Pru have this chemistry between them but oh, both characters are so determined to be blue and whiny in what Ms Smith believes to be the Byronesque (or is that Kenyon-esque?) key to our hearts and the ticket to her own superstardom on the author hot lists.
We have a vampire. We have a dying heroine who wants to live longer. Drinking from the Blood Grail, as the relic in question turns out to be, will turn Pru into a walking fanged cheese and whine factory anyway. I suppose it will be most reasonable and practical for Chapel and Pru to have wild monkey sex for about two hundred pages with Chapel happily making Pru his paramour right at the moment when fireworks explode in the skies and Satan’s choirboys sing hallelujah – or hellelujah, maybe – and I can close this book, tell myself that I’ve just had it really good, and light up a cigarette in contentment. Who knows, Ms Smith could have then sold that book to Aphrodisia or something and become that line’s Lori Foster.
Instead, alas, Chapel is blue. He is so blue that he doesn’t really do anything other than to mope about how blue he is. He’s a vampire. He’s so sad. He’s so miserable. Boo-hoo-hoo. I have no idea why anybody would enjoy being in the presence of such a wet blanket. Ms Smith is aware of how ridiculously self-pitying Chapel is because several characters in this book call him on his behavior, yet Chapel still remains a wet blanket pretty much all the way until the story is nearly over. He is a very stereotypical whiny vampire hero. As for Pru, she’s dying, yes, but as the story soon becomes nothing more than everybody rushing forward to make Pru as happy as possible like it’s a birthday party for Mary Sue, I fear that Pru may expire prematurely from sugar shock as this story morphs into a Hallmark disease-of-the-week period piece.
There is a subplot about an order of mages called the Silver Palm looking for the Grail as well, but Be Mine Tonight is slow-moving because the main characters pretty much just spend their time indulging in interminable and even repetitious bouts of self-pity or self-introspection. There is really no sense of the setting other than it’s set in 1899 and there is really not much canon development here regarding the vampires or the Blood Grail. The premise is interesting and has much promise, especially since the involvement of the Church in the main story arc gives an opportunity for some interesting take by the author on the concepts of good and evil, but too much of this particular story consists of the main characters trying too hard to be tortured, pathetic, desperate, or self-deprecatory to the point that they come off like really wet blankets soaked in liquefied Prozac.
The other five vampires are also involved in various guardianship roles of the Grail and it’s a given that their books are coming out soon. I hope at least one of them has a personal philosophy that is more Lestat the Rock Star machismo and less of a crybaby pity-party for one. The potential for the premise to be interesting and thought-provoking is there. Now if only Ms Smith will not hesitate to gag her main characters more often, I think we will all be good to go.