I enjoyed the first two book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, which I discovered last year through Chris and Carl V.'s book reviews (thanks, guys - and I got a kick out of seeing your names in the Acknowledgments section!). Now seemed the perfect time of year to read the third book in the series, as part of my fun, creepy Halloween season reads. Some spoilers to the other two books may follow - I highly recommend starting with the first book if you are interested in this series. Gleason does a marvelous job of filling readers in on earlier events, but there's a much greater payoff if you start at the beginning.
This book begins with Victoria, now the leader of the vampire-slaying Venators, trying to shoulder her new responsibilities while continuing to grieve for the loss she suffered at the end of the second book. Her duties as Venator continually take her away from the typical life of an upper-class Regency-era woman, while also stripping her of the people around her she loves most. Victoria has learned a great deal so far, not only about herself, but about her duties, which she agreed to perform when she accepted her life as a Venator. Young as she was, she had no real idea what she was agreeing to, but there is no doubt of the importance of her role as the Gardella, and she soldiers forward as best she can.
This installment in the chronicles is set in 19th-century Rome and involves a mysterious locked door to an alchemist's abandoned workroom, a demon who is gathering an army of supporters, and a plot to take take away from Victoria that which she holds most dear. Max is back, as taciturn and arrogant as ever, yet with a new vulnerability that leaves Victoria unsure how to handle their relationship. Sebastian returns as well, as does Victoria's irresistible attraction to him, and an interesting secret about him is revealed. Sebastian's grandfather, a powerful and attractive vampire, shows a keen interest in Victoria, and Sebastian's loyalties appear to be neatly divided between the two.
Colleen Gleason has definitely hit her stride with this book. It begins with a slow build-up that establishes an evocative setting, complex characters, and complicated motives. Then everything is set in motion, and a whirlwind ride ensues, careening on to an action-packed, twisting, turning finish. What I enjoy most about these books is the combination of dark suspense, romance, and humor. I go from biting my nails to laughing out loud and right back again - it's a lot of fun. I also enjoy the fact that it is always eminently clear exactly what is at stake: no one is safe, and likable characters can - and do - suffer and die. I'm pleased that the fourth book has already been published, and I look forward to returning to the dark world of the Venators.
Books in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles:
1. The Rest Falls Away
2. Rises the Night
3. The Bleeding Dusk
4. When Twilight Burns
5. As Shadows Fade
The Bleeding Dusk (#3 in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles) by Colleen Gleason (Signet Eclipse, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Stainless Steel Droppings: "Heavens above, the last 100 or so pages of this novel felt like riding on a roller coaster with a never-ending plummet!"
Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic: "I enjoyed the first two books in this series....a lot. But Colleen Gleason kicked it up a notch with The Bleeding Dusk."
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: "The finale of this book is every bit as heart pounding as “that scene” in Rises the Night. Just wait."