This is Twilight as historical fiction by an author who can actually write.

A taste of blood wine by Freda Warrington

World War Two has only recently ended. Life in England goes on.

Charlotte is a painfully shy girl. She finds it hard to even be frank with her family. It doesn’t help that her sisters appear to be the type of society belle who only ever think of themselves. They have already decided Charlotte is a hopeless wallflower.

Certainly, Charlotte would rather be at home with her scientist father than fishing for a husband in London during the height of the season. She’s looking forward to coming home when her sister meets Karl von Wultondorf. As he’s a vampire he is, of course, literally deathly handsome.

Charlotte feels uneasy around him. Which shows good sense, as he lives off other peoples’ blood. Her sister Maddy is so besotted, however, that she orchestrates a meeting between Karl and her father. Karl is interested in her father’s science; He wants to investigate the scientific impossibility of his existence.

The introduction leads to a working relationship, throwing him into Charlotte’s life and leading unsurprisingly to the start of a love story.

The nice thing about this book is that it doesn’t try to make vampirism attractive – unlike Twilight there is no drinking of animal blood. It’s kill humans or starve. It also doesn’t try and make families accept their blood-sucking relatives. It doesn’t try and prove that the hero has perfect self control. He lusts for Charlotte’s blood like any other human’s. The book feels more realistic this way and also makes less forced the endless self examination endemic to this type of novel.

Where I think it goes wrong is there is absolutely no reason really why Karl should have chosen Charlotte. She is just as affected by his glamour as everyone else. He could have her any time he wanted, as he could numerous other women. We are told there is “something” special about her. I couldn’t see it. She seemed deathly boring to me.

I don’t think I’ll read any more in this series – I didn’t like either of the main characters enough. Both of them agonise about themselves too much, and although they are intrinsically evil because of their propensity to drink blood, they are otherwise goody two shoes.

Looking back, the thing I enjoyed the most was Warrington’s language. She has a wonderful flair for describing scenes in a way that (at least for me) escapes the usual clichés. Here are a few examples:

“She could see the wind, and it was solid: a hill of liquid glass that turned slowly over on itself like a wave.”

“Now she found the truth that lay at the heart of everything: all the fears, veiled warnings, knowing smiles, restrictions; the blood-red stamen at the centre of society’s tightly folded flower. The paradox of an ecstasy that was fretted with danger.”

If I’m going to give it a 3/5.

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