What if you believed you had made a huge mistake in your life but had a chance to travel back in time and rectify it? Perhaps this is not a completely novel theme for a book, but in One with the Darkness, Susan Squires adds an extra layer of interest - her heroine, Donnatella Luchella di Poliziano, is a vampire. Donnatella has lived for nearly two and a half thousand years and spent the last eighteen hundred mourning the death of her human lover, Jergan. Donnatella has been friends with the great and the good of the Renaissance, and when she discovers a 300-year-old message from Leonardo da
Vinci to her, follows his instructions and finds a time machine, she is given
the opportunity to go back in time and change the future. There was a point when
she seriously considered turining Jergan into a vampire when he was seriously injured; at the time, she obeyed the vampire Rules and didn't change him, but now she has the opportunity to return through time and behave differently at that point.
When Donnatella travels back through time to A.D. 40, she finds herself assimilated into
her own body of the time rather than being a separate spectator. Thus starts a fascinating story as we follow events through the eyes of Donnatella back then, known as Livia Quintus Lucellus, living in Rome and mingling with the great and the good. She buys the slave Jergan from the marketplace to serve as a bodyguard, often feeling strange pricks of memory or having dreams about him, the only opportunities that the time-travelling Donnatella has to influence Livia. Jergan discovers fairly quickly that Livia is unlike other slave owners,
caring for her people and aiming to free them as soon as possible. He also discovers that she's heavily involved in plotting against the Emperor Caligula, and that her small band of plotters is under suspicion.
There are some excellent scenes in this book as Livia tries to navigate the treacherous waters of Roman politics.
We are shown the worst of the excesses of high-class Roman society, and as Jergan, apparently a barbarian, shows he has more honor than the supposedly honorable Romans. Unfortunately for the time-travelling Donnatella, she is barely able to communicate with Livia, and it becomes clear that history is changing. Will she be able to save Jergan? Might their plot against Caligula fail this time, although it was successful last time? Whom can she trust?
One with the Darkness is always interesting, the Roman setting adding a great deal to the overall story. The inclusion of genuine historical characters, and Squires' addition of Livia's part in history, is
quite enjoyable. This book contains far less of the sexual violence/rape which
have spoiled previous books a little for this reader. Instead, it includes a gentle love story about two very different people who recognize strengths in
and accept each other. It's yet another triumph from the creative pen of Susan Squires.