The Trelayne Inheritance
by Colleen Shannon, historical/dark fantasy (2002)
LoveSpell (Candleglow), $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52493-7

The Trelayne Inheritance is Colleen Shannon's golden goose, but that silly woman kills it soon enough. This is an interesting tale of vampiric power struggle and lycanthropes joining in the fray, and if this author plays her cards right, she could have created a franchise out of her premise. There are two powerful male vampires and two equally powerful female lycanthropes, but guess who's the heroine?

That's right - a stupid, pathetic, hapless, useless, overly-emotional human woman.

Uhm, Ms Shannon? Innocence doesn't cut it anymore. See Laurell K Hamilton? See Kelly Armstrong? There are many romance readers who lap these sort of stuff up, and were the heroine in The Trelayne Inheritance the ruthless semi-heroic Shelly Holmes, the reporter and Fox Mulder of Victorian England, this book would have been pure magic.

But no. We have Angelina "Angel" Corbett - oh, don't make it so easy for me to call Angel the Angel Dingbat, Ms Shannon - instead, the usual pure, usefree virgin coming to rustic Oxford to seek out her roots. When the introductory scene of her sees her running stupidly into a darkened graveyard - alone, unarmed - because she just has to see what causes an inhuman scream, she's automatically committed character hara-kiri where I'm concerned. She's not as bad as some of the more lachrymose heroines I've encountered, but she doesn't make it easy on me by generally acting helpless, passive, wide-eyed stupid, and a hopeless mess when it comes to trusting people discriminately or making rational decisions. In short, she's a truely awful romance heroine.

The hero is a powerful vampire, Maximillian Briton (good grief), the Earl of Trelayne, who is like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the vampire Spike - before that wimp got chipped, souled, and earned my hatred forever, that is, when Spike is still snarky and fun - who also actually drinks blood and shows some nice vampiric behavior. No sissy stuff like wandering too often in dark halls moaning about his curse here, although he does have a distressing fetish for brain-free virgins like the Angel Dingbat. He has a thing for Angel's late mother too. Incest has never been this cool.

But since this is a Gothic story, quasi-incest element's okay with me. I read Laurell K Hamilton not expecting a tract on family values - in fact, I'd see red if the author does that - and I love it that Colleen Shannon doesn't go whiny or fake pretty on me when it comes to her creations.

Into the mix comes a serial murderer called the Beefsteak Killer - alright, Ms Shannon, no more for you, go to bed now, lady - and Shelly Holmes from London who is here to investigate the murder. Shelly, Max, Alexander (the man Angel Dingbat is staying with), and Sarina (Alex's wife) initiate a power struggle between all four of them, and poor clueless Angel will be trapped in the middle, the weakest link of the Shannonic Pentagram.

The Trelayne Inheritance actually has a pretty good story here, and Angel Dingbat becomes a little bit smarter and proactive - think Season Two Smallville's Lana "Kristen Kreuk only has one facial expression - Robot Glaze" Lang - but this is only to set her up for one final Angel's Folly thing that make me gnash my teeth in irritation.

Just think, if it's Shelly and Max who ended up a couple, the author will have the chance to create a paranormal Mulder and Scully franchise, and I'd actually buy, I think. But with Angel effectively castrating Max and pushing Shelly out of any chances of shining and the story increasingly conforming to the "Vampires are romantic so let's kill all traces of vampirism at the end by making him wimp out by the last page with an inane virgin!" formula, Ms Shannon has effectively killed her own golden goose before it even lay her one single egg. Other authors are jumping on the Anita Blake bandwagon, but Ms Shannon prefers to jump onto the Virgin Dingbats one instead. Talk about a boo-boo.

There's a reason why Laurell K Hamilton and Kelly Armstrong get the accolades and the vampire subgenre sinks like a stone, and it sure isn't for the lack of trying, that's for sure. One only has to take a look at The Trelayne Inheritance and weep at the inane overromanticization of innocence, virginity, and the contradictory romanticization of vampirism even as it is portrayed as something we should all disapprove of, and too many lost potentials and possibilities. Like erotic romances seemingly written to cater to puritannical readers, vampire romances seem to cater to readers who disapprove of the concept of vampirism and all the sexually charged imageries behind it. It's like selling jockstraps to old biddies in hospices. Maybe one day these authors will figure it out, but I won't be holding my breath. I'll be placing an advanced order for Kelly Armstrong's new one instead.

Rating: 76

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