Reader’s Edyn

I always felt like I could do something more than just read. Finally, I have found both a creative outlet and a chance to do something meaningful with my reading. This blog was created in appreciation of and tribute to all of the authors who have brought me joy through their books. These reviews are my way of giving back to authors and providing recognition for the hard work that each one completes every day!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: Eleanor's Heart by Misa Buckley

       Title: Eleanor’s Heart
       Author: Misa Buckley
       Release Date: June 30, 2012
       Publisher: Champagne Books
       Category: Steampunk/Paranormal Romance
       Type: Kindle

Dying of a rare blood disease, Eleanor Franklin needs laudanum to ease the pain, often driven to steal in order to buy more. But when she steals a ruby she has no idea that the gem will tip her into the midst of a deadly species war.

Saved by Jefferson Park, she discovers a man with an even darker past than her own—he is one of the last true Vampires fighting to stop the eradication of his kind.

But the Sanguine aren't the only problem as Eleanor finds herself falling in love with Jefferson. It is a relationship she cannot commit to, as she knows her time is limited, and she will not risk breaking his heart.

Ahead of me, a man stood in the center of the alley. I skidded to a halt. He regarded me with a steady gaze, unperturbed by my sudden appearance. In fact, I thought that he seemed ready for it, even though he was dressed for a night at the opera. His dress suit was dark and immaculate, expensively styled, while his polished shoes reflected the scant light.
He wasn’t a large man, and there was plenty of room to pass by him, yet despite that I knew instinctively he represented a greater danger than the thing chasing me. A passing breeze confirmed this notion; billowing his red-lined cloak to reveal how the long fingers of his right hand toyed with the silver grip of a pistol. His eyes shifted from my face to the soft scuttling behind me. The wry amusement that had marked his expression up to then fell away.
“You might care to move out of the way,” he told me, his tone light but with a slight undercurrent of tension. I decided to heed his warning and moved to the side of the alley. Cold leeched from the bricks through my thin blouse as I pressed against the wall. Ice sank straight into my marrow and caused the pain to multiply a hundred-fold. My eyes blurred with tears.
In that moment, a soft whump echoed off the alley walls. Static prickled over my skin, and the tang of ionized æther filled my mouth and nostrils. Something fell with a heavy, wet sort of sound. I dared to open my eyes and saw the creature dead on the ground, the dark stranger standing over it. As I stared at the scene, the creature’s form rippled and fell in on itself, turning into a puddle of black ichor.
Gagging at the stench of long-dead flesh, I turned and retched. My stomach twisted in knots and the acrid bile burnt my throat. Tears stung my eyes. A hand on my shoulder jolted me. My spine snapped as I straightened too quickly. My startled gaze met a pair of gray eyes, narrowed in contemplation.
His face was lean and clean-shaven, his pale skin stark in the darkness. His cheeks were hollow, bisected by sharp bones. Thin lips were pressed into a flat line. The slight breeze ruffled his already unruly hair, lending him a somewhat manic look. This was echoed by the pistol he still held. My jaw dropped at the tell-tale white-blue glow of the crystal chamber: I’d heard about æther weapons, but this was the first one I’d laid eyes on. What did it mean that this man had such a device?
Unease gripped me as I realized that he not only knew the weapon was effective against the creature that had stalked me, but had gone out fully prepared to encounter one. Who was he? And what on Earth had attacked me? Glancing towards it, I saw that the thing was now a still puddle, a black stain on the cobblestones. I shuddered.
“Ah, th-thank you.” I forced the words out, not quite managing to hold his curious gaze. “For saving my life. I-I’m afraid that I have little with which to reward you.”
“Don’t you, now?” His voice carried a silken threat as he stepped towards me. With my back to the wall, I had nowhere to go, not that I had any energy left--I was beyond fighting, beyond running. Fearing that he would kill me for what I had witnessed, I closed my eyes and prayed that he would dispatch me as swiftly and mercifully as he had the demon.
He raided my coat, startling my eyelids open. I watched in consternation as he discovered the ruby. He held it up between his thumb and first two fingers, turning it slowly so that its sides sparkled in the thin light. The expression on his face was one of fierce triumph. His gaze slid to mine.
“This will do nicely,” he said, tossing the ruby up into the air and then snatching it in a tight fist. He looked round, eyes narrowed as they swept over me. “You have awoken something that should have remained slumbering. If you think it is over, you are sorely mistaken. More Sanguisuge will come and they have your scent now.”
I blinked. “Why? What do they want from me?”
The man shrugged his shoulders. “Your blood, for starters--they will track you like the hounds of hell that they are, and then you shall die a most agonizing death.”
What did he know of agony? Righteous indignation gave me new strength. I pushed off the wall and tossed me head. “You cannot scare me with children’s stories, Lord Park. While I thank you, sir, for your timely assistance, I am in need of nothing further. Therefore I bid you good night and pray that you do not try to follow me. You have what you want, and I shall be fine.”
“I doubt that,” he said. I huffed and walked away. Or at least, I tried to: in actuality, my body betrayed me and my knees buckled. I was saved from an ungainly sprawl on the cobbles by a firm hand on my elbow. “You smell... wrong.” Hard gray eyes scanned my face. “Your pupils are dilated and you are sweating. This is not shock; it’s something else, something worse. No, my dear; I believe that you are far from fine.”
“It’s nothing that you should concern yourself about,” I grated. “Please let me go.”
“If I do that, you shall tumble. I might not be much of a gentleman, but even I cannot just let you fall. Also--” He stared into my face, his expression somewhere between curious and repulsed. “I wonder how you found the Heart when I have searched for years. You are nothing special, nothing outstanding. Worse, you are human.”
I bristled at that condemnation. “And you aren’t?”
He gave a soft laugh. My blood ran cold. What I had come across? Had I been better off facing the monster from the alley? Taking a quick breath, I stepped away but he caught me: his grip on my elbow like steel. Agony flared down the length of my arm, the pain almost sending me to my knees.
“Let me go!” I gasped. “Please, it hurts.”
His eyes widened in consternation, then narrowed once more, his forehead beetling as his lips twisted. Not that I cared about his disregard: all I wanted was to get away from him, this alley, and the waking nightmare that I’d found myself in.

Dialogue Highlight:
During the meal, I stole several glances at Jefferson. He held his cutlery in his long fingers, every cut of his food a delicate motion. I had noticed the quiet grace the previous night, but had been too wracked with pain and worry to register it properly. Considering what he claimed to be, I struggled to balance what I knew about vampires with the very human picture he created.
“I didn’t realize that vampires ate,” I ventured, hoping that he would not be offended by that statement. “Not human food, at any rate.”
He paused with his fork halfway to his mouth, which quirked into a lopsided smile. “Would you be happier if I was sitting down to a heart?”
I shuddered. “Not really.”
“I don’t do that, by the way. Eat hearts, I mean. I don’t even drink blood very often.”
“But you do sometimes?”
His eyes gleamed mischief. “Sometimes,” he agreed with a soft chuckle. “Do not be concerned—I try not to make a habit of biting necks.”
I stared at my plate. “Well, that’s good to hear.”
He laughed again. “I suspect that question isn’t the one most pressing. What is it that you truly wish to know, Eleanor?”
“The truth,” I said quietly, looking at him again. “About what you are, about what that thing in the alleyway was. And what I have become involved in.”
Jefferson smiled slightly, then put his cutlery down and folded his hands. “The Vampire race is as old as humanity. For many of those years, we lived side by side, tolerant of the other if not always in complete accord. Then, as our culture’s development began to outstrip that of humankind, we literally went underground. Though we are physically stronger and longer lived than you, the differences are narrower than legend would have you believe. We are not the dead reanimated, no matter that fiction claims otherwise. Our hearts beat just the same as yours, and we require oxygen and food just as you do.”
“But you do drink blood.”
“We did. We are--were--a predator race, Eleanor. But we outgrew that need just as humanity outgrew the need to hunt with spears. Admittedly, until recently there were a few... rituals that carried over, but--” He waved a hand with a sigh. “There are too few of us left. The once mighty Vampire race is reduced to perhaps a handful, scattered over the globe, trying to keep the last vestiges alive.”
Looking at him, I found myself saddened by this. “Is there no hope?”
He nodded. “There is a chance now that the Heart was been returned.”
“Why?” I did not see how a simple gem could help. “What is it supposed to do?”
“To be honest, I am not entirely sure.” Jefferson’s mouth twisted in a wry smirk. “It was lost before I was born, and much of its past is legend. I have grown to distrust such tales, what with my race being persecuted to the point of extinction due to the Sanguisuge.”
Ah, yes, the thing that had perused me. I put down my fork and took a sip of tea. It was hot and sweet. Just what I needed when I contemplated things of myth and legend as being a real and present danger.
“What is the true story there? If these...” I remembered the word he’d used. “Sanguisuge are the source of the vampire legend, then why has your race been so persecuted?”
“Because they were once more like us than we are like humans. I have not looked at the history records all that closely, but from what I understand the Sanguisuge race occurred when there was a continental shift. Rather like the history of humanity diverges between Neanderthal and Heidelberg.”
“So you’re like cousins?”
Jefferson snorted and glared at me. “Only if a monkey is your uncle.”
I choked on my tea. Grabbing a napkin, I wiped my mouth dry and then shook my head. “Never. I’ll consider myself corrected.”
“You do that.” His tone was severe, but humor returned to his expression. “Though, perhaps once--they are like how we were, to a degree. We were never so cruel, but we did drink blood and behaved like pack animals. Those days are very long gone, however.”
“What about nowadays? How many are responsible for the murders?”
“I’m unsure, but it’s doubtful that there’s more than three on the streets. They hunt in small numbers in order to evade detection--a scheme that has worked so far. I hunt them, putting those that I find down, but unfortunately there are always more.”
“That’s why you have the æther pistol,” I guessed.
“That’s why I invented the æther pistol.”

Well, this was an interesting read to be sure. Not anything like I expected and entertaining still. I knew this was a Steampunk book to begin with, but having very little experience with said genre, I guess it could be argued that I really didn’t have any idea what to expect. I knew the genre was a mixture of historical meets contemporary with all sorts of treats thrown in and that is pretty much what I got. If this is Steampunk, I’m in.
Eleanor is dying. Suffering from a type of blood cancer and unable to work due to the unbearable pain of her disease, she has turned to a life of crime. Crime that only pays in the form of laudanum; the only temporary relief she can get from her pain at this point. She knows she doesn’t have much time left but still seeks a respite from the crippling disease. Unbeknownst to her, her latest bout of thieving will launch her head first into a world she never could have fathomed existed. Horrified at first, she slowly comes around to accept her surroundings and the “people” within.
Jefferson is one of the last remaining vampires. Gone to ground to escape extinction, the remaining handful of his kind are somewhere in hiding. Only one thing can save his species from the eradication brought on by the vampire “cousin” race, the Sanguine, the gem that Eleanor has just procured. With a Sanguine hot on her tail, Jefferson quickly rescues Eleanor and ends up offering her a place to stay after recognizing that she is afflicted by illness. Jefferson senses something special about this human thrust upon him and before too long desires flare. But Eleanor hides the awful truth of her disease, confusing Jefferson, denying him the answer as to why she rejects him. Luckily, ain’t nothing more determined to obtain something he really wants than a vampire.
This story took a bit of getting used to because it is written from Eleanor’s perspective. I haven’t come across too many first person point of view stories in the numerous romance books I read so I always find myself having to adjust a bit when the pieces of the puzzle change. My review copy was about 50 pages, but each page easily accounts for about two pages with content. Still a novella, Ms. Buckley packs a lot into this entertaining read. It started out with action and ended with action. *wink* And although there was a bit of intimacy included, I would almost call this story a Sweet Steampunk Novella. No raunchy sex here, this story is full of a blossoming romance, the realization that vampires really do walk among us, an interesting take on the vampire society and the Sanguine, and the quest to stop the eradication of an entire species. Sounds like a lot. And it is. But it is very nicely put together and presented in a way that does not overwhelm the senses.
I really enjoyed my time spent getting to know Jefferson and Eleanor. My only complaint is that I would have liked to know more about Eleanor and Jefferson’s backgrounds. More so Jefferson with the hints at a long and troubled past, but both seemed like they would have had an interesting story to tell. The spark between both characters is undeniable. And I liked that it was a spark. Romance does not always have to come in the form of unquenchable lust. *nods* Wait. Did I just say that? *gasp* But really, it doesn’t.
Some of it was predictable. I guessed at the entendre in the title and pretty much predicted the ending. I had no idea it would happen the way it did which was nice. But even knowing it would happen the way that it did, I still love a good HEA and this book definitely gives the reader that. For those of you who like a quick read, but can still get pulled into an engrossing story that included paranormal elements, this book is for you. And if you are new to Steampunk and enjoy paranormal, why not give it a try. You will be glad you did.
(eBook copy provided by author/tour company in exchange for an honest review.)

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