There usually has to be some sort of romance involved for me to pick up a book. Anything with a strong emotional undercurrent is bound to get my attention. Contemporary, PNR, H/C & M/M are my favorites.
There's a belief in Asian literature about the red string of fate. Where regardless of the time, place or circumstance, people are destined to find each other, belong to each other. They are magically connected by this red thread, often thought to be tied around their ankles or little fingers by the gods. It stretches and tangles, but never breaks.
We know it in western culture simply as soulmates. That's what Nicholas and Ban are.
This was much better than I expected. In fact, it wasn't at all what I expected. And given that it was a historical romance, I wasn't expecting much. (That's just a personal thing, it has nothing to with the author. I generally don't like them.) So yeah, color me surprised. The main characters, even the side characters, had depth and layers that were revealed slowly as the book progressed.
I decided to give this one a shot because I love m/m vampire stories, hoping that aspect would override my hatred for the historical one. And it did, so credit to the author for being able to hold my attention throughout. I will admit that the first 1/3 or so seemed a little slow to me, but after that it picked up and I had a hard time putting it down.
Nicholas is a scientist crippled by a terrible accident, and as a result is left embittered and ashamed. His only joys throughout his days are his experiments and teaching his only student, Martha, to eventually carry out his work. At night, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol.
Ban is a three hundred year old vampire enslaved by a sadistic master. While we initially see him as the villain, his backstory transforms him into a very sympathetic character. One can't help but be moved at the cruelty he endures under Sebastian's hands.
"What surrounds us, permeates us. At least when there is no alternative. [...] I was surrounded by brutality. Only since meeting you, have I begun to remember I was not always that way."
After meeting Nicholas, Ban becomes fascinated with him and can't give him up (or kill him, which is often the norm and the rule set by Sebastian), yet can't understand why. He begins to reflect on his life before Sebastian, remembering past loves and the simple, but few joys he used to know. Particularly, his first true love, Serafino.
The scientist in Nicholas is intrigued after an act of generosity partially heals his crippled leg. His inquisitive nature propels him to seek out more from Ban, and eventually they start a very forbidden relationship – one that, if caught, will end in death. After Ban's misguided rage gets the best of him, Nicholas discovers that he too, once knew a man like Ban.
It's hard to sum up this book, because in addition to the romance, there is also a subplot regarding Sebastian and the Old Ones, the first vampires and how they originated. This transformed this historical romance into almost a sci-fi in some regards, yet I found it original and refreshing. There is also quite a bit of darkness and violence in this as well. Sebastian is indeed every bit a sadistic monster, and the torture he inflicts upon Ban is not for the faint of heart.
All in all, a good read.
Trigger warnings: Torture and Rape (one scene is particularly brutal, and while it is not terribly graphic, it still may be too much for some readers.)