All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Jessica Rules The Dark Side – Beth Fantaskey

on February 8, 2012

Jessica Rules The Dark Side
Beth Fantaskey
Penguin AU
2012, 309p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Jessica Packwood is now really Antanasia Dragomir Vladescu, newly married to Lucius and ruling by his side as a Princess in Romania. But life as a new Princess is proving to be anything but easy for Jessica. She’s struggling to fit in in her new home – being raised by vegan pacifists hasn’t exactly prepared her for ruling vampires, a role that also includes passing judgement in charges against vampires who commit crimes (for want of a better term). The judgement can often be declaring that  guilty vampires be destroyed (staked) and Jessica finds it hard to even sit in on these proceedings, let alone face the fact that one day she will not only have to hand down these judgements but also carry out the punishments herself as well. And it’s not only that part of life that Jessica is not coping with – the politics are taking their toll on her, causing her high levels of stress. She’s also struggling to even learn the language and the cook doesn’t speak English. She can’t even get a decent meal and that combined with the stress is making her lose weight.

Then things take a turn for the worse when Lucius is accused of destroying one of the Elder vampires. He is incarcerated without blood and Jessica finds herself alone, trying to rule and prove her worth as the vote to elevate them to King and Queen is also coming up and if the vampires have no confidence in her, they will vote no. She also has to prove Lucius innocent, which is not proving to be at all easy when she can’t speak eloquent Romanian, nor can she see Lucius.

Thankfully her friend from high school, Mindy Sue is in Romania to help support her and before he was imprisoned, Lucius called back to Romania his surfing cousin Raniero Lovatu. Raniero has a dark past but there’s a deep bond between him and Lucius and Lucius is sure that he can trust Raniero to protect and look after Jessica, should she need it. Jessica, unsure of whether or not she can trust him as much as her husband does but she wants to because she needs all the help she can get.

Mindy and Raniero have their own issues – they had chemistry at Lucius and Jessica’s wedding and were together back in the States but ultimately it didn’t work out. Mindy Sue was looking forward to a trip to Romania to get over him, only to have him turn up there. Mindy knows that Jessica is her first priority – she needs Mindy’s support to help her buckle down, get some confidence and get through this. And Mindy is getting very suspicious about just who Jessica can trust in Romania!

There’s no time wasted in Jessica Rules The Dark Side. Her and Lucius are married (which takes place in a short novella that you can read online at the author’s website) and ruling as Prince and Princess. Before they can undergo a coronation as King and Queen, there must be a vote of confidence on their rule and Jessica stresses and worries that because of her, the vote won’t go in the affirmative. Jessica is really a mess for quite a lot of this book, but I really liked that. She was a normal, seventeen year old girl who was raised in rural America by people who are basically the antithesis of vampires. The culture shock of moving to a Romanian castle and suddenly being thrust into a ruling spotlight was immense for Jessica. She struggled enormously with even day to day living, unable to speak the language and having difficulty learning it. She relied far too much on Lucius to get her through, or to let her off the hook because he loves her and wants her to be happy. And at first she doesn’t see how her weak behaviour and trouble adjusting is stressing out her husband, who worries for her. He knows she has to be strong and confident because there will always be the possibility she will need to outsmart someone, either intelligence wise, or possibly even physically. Their union is ending a long war and Lucius is aware that it’s a war not everyone actually wants ended.

When Lucius is imprisoned, Jessica retreats even more, her confidence further sapped before she realises that if anyone is going to save her husband, it’s going to have to be her and she’s going to have to make the Elders listen to her and also respect her. It’s not something that comes easily to her, it’s something she has to muddle through and work towards but with the help of Mindy and also Raniero (who she is slightly dubious about, but accepts an alliance with him) she starts to stand on her own two feet. She relies on the counsel of her uncle Dorin, who readers will remember from the first book and also her cousin Ylenia, two people that she perceives to be on her side and that she clings to. But ultimately it’s her desire to both save Lucius and be seen as a worthy match for him that inspires her to take control. She doesn’t want to worry him with doubts as to her coping ability anymore.

I enjoyed this one just as much as the first one, or even perhaps a little more – I liked the evolution of Jessica’s character a lot here. At first you do just want to shake her a bit and say “You’re a Princess! Act like one!” but then you also appreciate the fact that it’s not just that easy for someone who isn’t born to, or been raised to embrace, that lifestyle. She has to find her own way, do it herself. Her finding her feet and also her interactions with Mindy Sue, were my favourite parts of the book. We’re treated to Mindy Sue’s voice here as well which is handy for telling us things that Jessica can’t and also with presenting the reader with another look at the mysterious Raniero. Like in the first novel, we also get points of view from Lucius in the way of his letters, this time written to Raniero as he languishes in prison awaiting his trial. This works too as he helps present how difficult Jessica was finding her newfound status.


Book #20 of 2012

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