Raybourn skillfully exploits female fantasies of unbridled passion and true love in her novels, her beautiful protagonists noble and courageous, emboldened by circumstances rather than shrinking violets who cringe in fear from the unknown. That she does so with such panache has earned this author the appreciation of her fans.
This particular romantic adventure begins in 1858 Scotland with Theodora Lestrange. When her grandfather dies, the young woman eschews life with her sisterís dour husband at a local vicarage for a visit to a schoolyard friend awaiting her betrothal and marriage in Transylvania. Cosmina has offered Theodora the perfect escape from a dreary future and the perfect opportunity for writing her novels.
After a long trek, Theodora arrives at the Carpathian castle to embark upon an adventure that will thrust her into s feudal world of strigoi (vampires) and the legends that haunt this strange and brutal part of Rumania. This place is unlike any other, and therein is the crux of this protagonistís dilemma: Theodora falls prey to her imagination, to visions of the dead who walk the night, the smoldering eyes of a beloved, the romance of the forbidden: ďI see you for what you are. You are a monster.Ē
When the anticipated marriage fails to occur, Theodora finds herself seduced by the darkly handsome Count Andrei Dragulescu, Cosminaís former intended, a man who is at once frightening, enigmatic, irresistible. As is her way, the author sets the perfect trap: a genteel young woman, a mysterious man, a burning passion that neither can deny. This is the stuff of myth, where villagers quake in the face of vampires that roam beneath the moon and drink the blood of their victims.
A perfect resource for the novels Theodora hopes to write, the castle lies in the heart of Transylvania, the dark superstitions of generations passed by word of mouth, with even a local Dr. Frankopan tending to the countís ailing mother. Theodora may not be an appropriate match for her son, but the spark is ignited from the first encounter, Theodora demanding an account from Dragulescu on behalf of the villagers, refusing to heed his warnings as she rushes headlong into his arms. A price will be exacted.
This is Raybournís territory, a dramatic, romantic encounter with a dangerous man, the torturous seduction, fulfillment, conflict and resolution. The master of guilty pleasures, Raybourn cloaks her stories in mystery and the particular eccentricities of Victorian repression. All the more satisfying, then, to give in to such a tale, willing victims to a few hours of rapture and the forbidden.