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Monday, May 31, 2010

From Afar by Ava March

From Afar by Ava March
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Other: M/M, Voyeurism, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Some rules are destined to be broken.

Loneliness. A concept with which Raphael Laurent is very familiar. He’s lived a solitary life for thirty-six years, shunning the excesses of the local vampire clan—until he spots Lord Aleric Vane, the handsome and dissolute third son of a duke. For three years Raphael has watched from a distance, for only when he is near Aleric does the hollow, empty ache in his chest ease.

Cut off from his family for refusing to follow his father’s dictates, Aleric’s nights are filled with vice. But after three years in London, the city has lost all appeal. Desolate and penniless, his future appears bleak. Until a mysterious man drops from the shadows to drive off a trio of murderous thieves.

When Aleric awakens, he finds himself forever changed. The itch for more that drove him to London is gone. In its place is the feeling that he’s known the beautiful Raphael all his life.

But to save Aleric, Raphael had to break the rules, giving him a chance to love the one man he never thought he could have—a chance that could be ripped away by Aleric himself…

Only Ava March could have pulled this off with such flair: a M/M Regency Vampire Romance. Talk about your sub genres. I went in with skeptical eyebrow raised – how could these elements work together? The eyebrow forgot to be skeptical halfway through the first page. From the first scene, with Raphael’s desperate, lonely voyeurism, to the last, the reader is sucked into this dual world Ms. March has created for us.

In order for the story to work convincingly, there are two parallel societies existing side by side. The strictly controlled manners and mores of Regency England stifle Aleric and keep Raphael isolated, while the libertine, violent nature of London’s vampire society leaves Raphael feeling hollow and empty, and threatens them both. On the surface, neither one of our heroes are upright citizens, both of them guilty of debauched behavior and self-indulgence. But their failings are more a product of frustration and loneliness, of needing what society tells them is unthinkable.

This is told in deep third person POV, with only Raphael and Aleric’s thoughts, thus limiting distractions as is necessary in such a short piece. There are fragments and bits of sentences, but in such a deeply embedded viewpoint, these lend a natural, conversational flow to the piece. If I have one nit to pick on this one, it is, indeed, the length. The emotions, the detailed world of the other London, unfold so carefully. When the end comes, it feels rushed and abrupt. We do reach resolution but the release of dramatic tension, the feeling of at least temporary safety one wants for characters to which one feels so attached, was missing.

Ending aside, my heart went out to Raphael, so convinced he is cold and soulless, (he is anything but) and to Aleric, so abruptly thrust into a life where he feels out of control and constantly off balance. I did fear for my hard drive during the sex scenes, expecting smoke at any moment, and the stripped-down, character-driven plot moves along at a nice gallop. My hope is that the feeling of incompletion at the end means we will see more of these two. Please don’t make us beg, Ms. March.

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