Rating: 4 stars
by Anne Carlisle
THAT SCOUNDREL ÉMILE DUBOIS (by Lucinda Elliot)
I don't often read vampire novels, though I was a fan of Anne Rice. However, from the get-go, I loved THAT SCOUNDREL EMILE DUBOIS, A historical Gothic romance by a Wales writer, Lucinda Elliot, who is immensely talented.
Immediately we know we are in the hands of a capable, well-read writer with a flair for language when the opening image is of "the candle guttering on the mantelpiece". The word "guttering" is picture-perfect; we can see the candle dripping and the channels forming in the hot wax.
And, from the first show of Emile's talons and Sophie's jealousy, we know we are in for a fast-paced and exhilarating read. "Inhuman Chuckling" and "Mischievous Experiments" accompany a vampire's saga of brutal assaults. The paranormal and sexual elements are blended in subtly and craftily, and with humor.
Ms. Elliot has done her homework. The dialogue, the furniture, the dress, and the aura all take us back to the 18th century, a period when reason was a deity and masked vampires passed for royalty in drawing rooms. However, it's not all fustian. There is an appealing mixture of "upstairs/downstairs" folk in the novel. The characters, no matter if they are human or paranormal, upper-class or servants, are loveable and believable.
Simple, elegant reminders of the phantasmagoric--"Emile's form wavered"-- are a relief, for this reader at least, in a genre that is, generally speaking, over-stated. The intelligence of her readers is never insulted as Elliot's weaves together elegant aristocrats, fairy-tale realism, 18th century European history, and Tarot cards into a Gothic horror tale/novel of manners.
The story always captivates and delights while occasionally creating chills down the spine. Each character (Sophie's young maid is a case in point) brings something fresh and new to the gory banquet table. The narrative is action driven and the dialogue is always apt. One of many compelling vignettes is when Kenrick bites Morwenna's neck, and she discerns in his cold eyes a human secret, an image of a lover's welcoming arms.
I heartily recommend this book to readers on both sides of the pond who like sly humor and artifice mixed in with their vampire fix.