I still have readers come up to me and say, “Seriously, you write mermen?” And I guess for a former opera singer who likes to write contemporary romances about classical musicians, it’s a fair question. Since I contracted Blood and Rain, the first book in my Blood vampire trilogy, I’ve heard similar comments. And I’ve also heard, “I’m not really into vampires, but I guess if you wrote it, I’ll give it a try.”
I love hearing that. Frankly, I love hearing anyone question a trope (vamps, in this case). Because there are so many different vampire tropes out there, it’s easy to make the trope your own. And I can’t wait to hear what readers think of the universe my vampires live in, and how it does, or even doesn’t stack up to other vampire stories.
I’ll admit it up front: I’m not a huge “Twilight” fan. I did go to the movies with my daughter, and I enjoyed them. But my love of vampires doesn’t come from those books, it comes from the darker universe of Anne Rice’s vampires and supernatural beings. I recently read Rice’s The Wolf’s Gift, a book about werewolves, and I loved it. Dark and angsty, it’s more a book about exploring the meaning of life and happiness than it is about werewolves. So when I started writing the Blood series, I was thinking about those concepts. And Blood and Rain took on dimensions I hadn’t initially considered.
So why vampires? Because writing a series that brings into play not only the superhuman powers of vampires, but also the issues surrounding love and life in the context of immortality, was just too much fun to ignore! Sure, there’s adventure and cool powers at the center of the series, but there’s also what I love to write most: intriguing characters dealing with real, human, emotions.
Although the Blood series features 3 male/male pairings, at its center is the love between Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire) vampire, and Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of the Gilbert vampire hunter clan. Adrien never wanted to travel the world–he was happy reading his books and tending to his family’s vineyard. But when his older brother, a powerful hunter, is killed by Charles Duvalier, the Council of Hunters calls upon Adrien to execute Charles. And so begins Adrien’s adventure that will span more than a hundred years.
Adrien soon learns that things are not as he’d imagined, and he has a difficult time accepting the reality of the relationship between hunters and vampires. We follow Adrien as he becomes a man (in the spiritual sense, since he’s already come of age at the beginning of the story) in the late 1900s. We see how his eyes are opened and how he comes to terms with his feelings about the creatures who killed his mother when he was a young boy. And when Adrien is tossed into the center of a political firestorm that pits hunters against vampires and hunters against hunters, Adrien steps up to the plate and fights for what is right.
Next time, I’ll tell you a bit more about the second book in the series, Blood and Ghosts, which takes up where the first book left off in true sequel form. In it, Adrien faces a bleak future without the man (vampire?) he loves. And, since Adrien is now an immortal, that future looms an eternity before him.
I’ll leave you all with a little taste of the first book. I hope you enjoy the excerpt! -Shira
Blood Series: Book 1
Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.
After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.
Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.
Tentative Publication Date: December 15, 2014
Excerpt from Chapter Five:
The setup: Vampire hunter Adrien Lambert kills his first vampire after having been given his orders (the “carte”) from the Council of Hunters. It’s what he’s trained most of his life to do, but the reality of the work isn’t exactly what he expected….
His first few weeks away from the vineyard, he’d kept to himself except when making inquiries into Charles’s location. He’d spent his evenings reading the books he’d brought with him from home, and later, those he’d purchased with the earnings he hadn’t sent home to his father and sister. The third week he’d received his second carte—orders to execute a vampire who’d been discovered lingering over the body of a young woman in a confessional of a church in Bellevue-la-Montagne.
He’d met with the town’s mayor to discuss the circumstances surrounding the murder. The mayor, a balding man whose gaze flitted nervously around as he shook Adrien’s hand, ushered him quickly inside his office, as if he were uncomfortable to be seen with Adrien. Adrien had expected this—François had often told of his own experiences.
“They don’t hate us,” François had said. “Not exactly. But they fear us.” Adrien guessed this was as much a result of the secrecy surrounding the Council as it was because the Council wished to instill fear in humans as well as vampires.
“Please, monsieur,” Michel Albin said as he motioned Adrien to have a seat, “make yourself comfortable. May I get you something to drink? Something to eat?”
Adrien politely refused the mayor’s offer. The Council disapproved of any form of remuneration for its work except for monies collected in the form of annual tithes. He’d asked the mayor for details surrounding the woman’s murder and the vampire, Yves Deniel, whom Adrien learned had lived in the small town for nearly a year before the incident at the church.
“We didn’t know Deniel was… one of them,” Albin said in an undertone with a nervous glance at Adrien’s sheathed sword. “If we’d known, we’d never have permitted him to remain here.”
And whereas François might have protested and reminded the man that vampires were not forbidden from living amongst humans, Adrien remained silent. He would make no excuses for the creatures who’d taken both his mother and brother from him.
Adrien was surprised to find Yves Deniel at his home, a tumbledown farmhouse on the outskirts of town. Deniel had clearly been expecting him—another surprise.
“I know why you’re here,” Deniel said as he opened the door to let Adrien in.
Adrien rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, unsure if Deniel would attack him. He’d been taught to be vigilant, to act quickly to dispatch his target, but he hesitated, unwilling to attack without provocation even though it was his right.
“You admit you killed Mademoiselle Faucher?” Adrien asked.
Deniel would not meet his gaze, his eyes focused firmly on the floor. “I tried…,” he began after a long pause. “I thought sheep’s blood would satisfy my thirst. I hoped… I tried to stop before she….” His shoulders slumped in obvious resignation.
Adrien swallowed hard. He’d spent hours learning to fight. He knew the angle needed to dislocate a skull from a neck, the spot where his blade would meet the least resistance. He knew how to kill, but he’d never taken a life. He reached into his jacket, retrieved the carte, and tossed it at the vampire’s feet. What life? The life of a creature who kills to survive?
“Yves Deniel, you are sentenced to die by the authority of the Council of Hunters. Will you respect the Council’s will, or will you challenge me?”
“I was a farmer,” Deniel said in a soft voice that quavered slightly as he spoke. “We lived a good life here, my wife and I… before I became what I am.” He paused, glanced up at Adrien, then looked away again. “I went to the city…. We’d had a good harvest that year, and I had a few more francs to show for it. I only meant to buy a few tools… I stopped for a drink.” He shook his head. “I’m ashamed. The woman at the bar… She was so beautiful … She spoke kindly to me and told me I was handsome. But when I awoke, she had changed me. God has punished me for my infidelity. I am what I am—a beast—because of my own selfish desires.
“Kill me,” Deniel whispered. “I’m pathetic. I deserve to die for what I’ve done. I can’t stop myself. I won’t challenge you.”
Tears streamed down Deniel’s face. He gripped his sword tighter, but he didn’t draw his weapon. He’s right. He deserves to die.
“She wasn’t the first,” Deniel continued. He began to shake in earnest now, sniffling and sobbing like a child. “My wife… I thought I could transform her as I’d been transformed. I didn’t know… I didn’t realize I was too young, too weak….” He dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands. “Please,” he begged. “End this before I kill again. You must… you’re a hunter… you must end this!”
Adrien drew his sword with a trembling hand. He would do this. Do his duty. He touched the blade to Deniel’s neck.
“Please. End it for me.”
Adrien’s eyes burned. He should feel nothing but hatred. Pity at best for having fallen prey to the female vampire who’d lured him from the bar. Why did he hesitate? Why should he care that in his weakness, this pathetic man had given in to his baser urges? And yet few humans could resist a vampire’s alluring scent.
It isn’t for you to judge. Your duty is absolute.
He gritted his teeth and inhaled long and deep. He must do this. He set his left hand over his right to steady the blade, then drew it back and swung. He did not miss.
He stood, numb and unmoving, after it was done. Something on the ground caught his eye: the carte, splattered with blood. The smell of copper permeated the air and wound its way to his nostrils, sweet and slightly nauseating. He picked up the carte. He held it between his thumb and forefinger, smearing the blood. He stared at it for a moment, then allowed it to fall from his hand. It fluttered onto the vampire’s lifeless body.
Two hours later Adrien sat in a small restaurant in the center of town, drinking absinthe and staring at the array of bottles against the mirrored backdrop of the bar. He allowed his focus to drift, and the colors of the glass blurred into an abstract rainbow.
He still smelled the blood, even though he’d washed his hands several times and changed his clothes. The mayor had praised Adrien to the point that Adrien had felt both unworthy and uncomfortable. He’d left with the man with little more than a grunted de rien, sickened that he should be praised for what he’d done.
He’d been more than pleased when one of the whores who looked for business at the bar approached him. He’d never paid to fuck before, but the woman was attractive enough. They spent several hours in his room, but even the smell of sex did nothing to erase the blood that stubbornly remained in his thoughts.
Yves Deniel was the first executions Adrien carried out, and although he never again hesitated to follow the Council’s orders, he never could forget Deniel’s pleas. And what if Charles doesn’t deserve to die? The question burned in his thoughts.