Jessica Packwood was a normal teenager living in a small American town when one day, a good-looking, extremely well dressed and also slightly odd foreign exchange student shows up. His name is Lucius Vladescu and he claims to be Jessica’s fiance, in a pact made at their births to unite two powerful Romanian clans. He also claims to be a vampire – and so is Jessica.
While Jessica has always known she was Romanian by birth and adopted by her parents as a baby after her biological parents were killed, she’s never known anything about vampires and she’s not going to start believing that now. Firmly convinced Lucius is out of his mind, she refuses to have anything to do with this pact and tries to go about living her normal life, hanging out with her best friend, fending off mean kids at school and starting a shy romance with a local boy who lives on a farm. Lucius is nothing but persistent though and when he falls foul of an accident, Jessica sees what it takes to cure him and she knows then without question that what he claims is true – Lucius is a vampire and therefore everything else he claims is true too. They are betrothed and she is a Romanian vampire princess, destined to rule by his side.
But just as Jessica starts to come around to the idea, it seems that Lucius violently rejects it. Experiencing for the first time in his life, a taste of freedom and lack of duty and expectation from his elder relatives, he suddenly sees what such a restrictive life might do to Jessica, especially now as he suspects he may not have been told everything about the real reason he is supposed to marry Jessica. He spurns her, leaving her desolate.
But having just decided she wants her vampire fiance, Jessica’s not going to let him go that easily. Lucius may be fighting duty and his dark side but Jessica is about to come into her own as a princess and prove that she’s more than a match for him.
The lovely people at Penguin Australia sent me a review copy of the sequel to this one, Jessica Rules The Dark Side so I thought I’d better check out this one and get myself familiar with the characters. Jessica is refreshingly normal, despite some eccentric-type parents and her narration was easy to settle into and enjoy. Her reaction to finding out Lucius was a vampire and also seeing him ‘treated’ after an injury were both believable, which is something that I don’t often find with paranormal romance. I liked the fact that although she thought Lucius was intriguing, she also thought he was deluded and weird and she didn’t just trip over herself to be with him immediately, nor did she turn into some sort of dependent hopeless heroine whenever he as around. Basically Lucius does come across as deluded and weird, his old world manners and mannerisms very out of place in America.
But he’s also funny. Although the narrative is all Jessica’s, we’re also treated to letters from Lucius to his uncle, who raised him and who is waiting impatiently in Romania for him to fulfill his duty here in America and bring his bride back to Romania. Through these letters we get Lucius’ thoughts and feelings on the country he’s visiting and his observations of pop culture and it’s also how he stumbles upon what the plans really were for Jessica by the elders after the marriage. It’s what leads to his decision to break the pact, no matter the consequences to himself, setting Jessica free although interestingly enough when he sets her free she no longer wishes to be so.
Fantaskey tones down some of the usual vampire traits – for instance, Lucius has no problem with sunlight, nor does he feel the need to drink from the human population. They keep a ‘blood cellar’ with ‘excellent vintages’ which was amusing when described. Jessica also won’t become a vampire until Lucius bites her and they still eat and drink regular human food. The romance is perhaps, a bit lacking – Jessica does go from finding Lucius uptight and weird to fairly desirable rather swiftly and Lucius goes from wanting to fulfill the pact to not wanting to because he realises he cannot put Jessica in that position. They don’t exactly spend too much time together but at the same time there’s also a recognition that they were both born to do this, which sort of neatly sidesteps a lot of the ‘getting to know you’ issues that are relevant in non-vampire teen society!
Overall I enjoyed the book, I found Jessica quite normal and although she was passive towards people, she wasn’t annoyingly so, it was more that she was just nice and not willing to get involved in conflicts or bullying. She grows and changes over the course of the book as the unbelievable becomes the truth to her which means she has to face her destiny both as a princess and as the betrothed to a vampire of Lucius’ calibre and avert a war that will wipe out her biological family. She suddenly becomes determined and strong, knows what she wants and what she needs and goes to get it. I like that. I can’t wait to see how Jessica is fairing as a ruler in the sequel.
Book #15 of 2012