I have read a lot of romance novels - hundreds, possibly, all throughout my childhood and adolescence. My mom would pick up one or two a week from the grocery store or the thrift store, and I don't think she ever really threw them out. There were just piles of them here and there around the house, and as a book crazy kid, of course I would appropriate them.
I really want to make a pun about the verb appropriate, which means to take possession of something, versus the noun appropriate, which means suitable, in relation to an eight year old stealing and reading what turned out to be some fairly racy romance novels, but I think I trust you guys to take the pieces and put them together for me.
Romance novels were an odd addition to my education. On the one hand, I knew what a signet ring was before I was in the 5th grade. I was fairly well acquainted with the various levels of British nobility, I knew that "stuff" was a sort of fabric, and as far as Scots were concerned, English people were freaking awful. I also learned some really strange stuff about sex, though, so on balance I don't know if a broad array of historical romances should make it onto the recommended reading list at your local elementary school any time soon.
One set of books that really stuck with me was the Black Rose series by Linda Lael Miller. It was a series of four vampire novels that were released in the mid-90s. I remembered them being rather thrilling and romantic - the vampire's powers sounded so cool and dramatic, and I am still a sucker for an overwrought tale of undying devotion, quite possibly because I read so many romance novels where people fall in love with the worst possible person and then fight for it because LOVE IS WORTH IT, DAMN IT. I mean, if you've read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series, which I love despite rolling my eyes incessantly at the breathless declarations of eternal love that pop up approximately once every other page, you understand the kind of tone that I'm talking about. And if you haven't, you haven't really lived.
But hey, I digress.
Forever and the Night is the first book in the series, and happily, they had it at my local library. Granted, the only copy in the system was one of those large font books for elderly ladies who want to get their jollies without using their reading glasses, but still.
Aidan Tremayne is a 200 year old vampire, and he's super sad about it. He spends most of his time moping around his Connecticut mansion and time traveling to the 19th century to feed on the child molesters, thugs, and pimps who conveniently happen to be doing something terrible literally right in front of him literally every time he appears. When he's not doing that, he's telling his other vampire friends, whom he hates, how much he dislikes being a vampire.
Neely Wallace was a senator's aide who discovered that the senator she was working for was taking money from drug dealers. She is now in hiding (in literally the first place anyone with half a brain would look), and is trying to expose his wrong-doing, although not very hard.
When Neely takes her nephew trick-or-treating to Aidan's house (oh, the irony! Trick-or-treating with a vampire), they immediately fall in love for... well, no discernible reason. Seriously. It's even commented on in the book itself. She's all like "who is this man? I don't even know. But... I think I might be in love with him!" after seeing him for 30 seconds while he gives her nephew candy. He points out that she's not that pretty (although she's described as "gamine" and "cute," just so everyone knows that she's not totes uggo), but that "her soul shone like gold."
Can you tell that this book is not as good as I remembered it being? It's hilariously bad, actually. I'd totally forgotten that the first several sex scenes involve Aidan standing at a distance while mind-banging Neely, with delightful euphemisms like "the silken delta between her legs" and "the very core of her femininity" being used to describe her vagina and clitoris. I don't recommend thinking too hard about the use of the word "delta," because if you do you'll end up googling it to remind yourself of exactly what a delta is, and then you'll find yourself constantly referring to your own vagina as a delta because there's a weird accuracy in that description that I'm pretty sure Ms. Miller did not think through. Apparently the mind-banging is pretty awesome, though - he can stimulate everything at once, if you know what I mean (*wink wink, nudge nudge*).
Aidan is very much a 90s romance novel dude - moody and brooding and tortured, just waiting to be redeemed by the right woman. He was changed into a vampire against his will by a powerful, beautiful vampire named Lisette, who is from - wait for it - Atlantis. Yes, that Atlantis! He really, really wants to be human again, but apparently he never thought to ask if it was actually possible until he met Neely because I guess missing things like breathing is not the same as worrying that you'll kill the person you love by sexing them too hard. It turns out that yeah, there's totally a way to be human again! But since he asked, a bunch of other Atlantean vampires that know how to do it are all like, "maybe we'll just kill you instead, because reasons." They don't really say why they're so torn between running science experiments on Aidan to try and make him human again or just offing him, except that Aidan vaguely threatened to give information about vampires to an angel named Nemesis (never mind that Nemesis is actually a character from Greek mythology), which breaks some kind of vampire code that is never actually explained or discussed outside of this one context.
Aidan spends a lot of time yelling at his vampire pal Valerian, who is totally in love with him, about how much he hates himself and all other vampires. Actually, there is one vampire that he doesn't hate - his twin sister, Maeve, who begged Valerian to change her when she found out her brother had become a vampire because that's not creepy at all. Don't get me wrong, I can see being sad that your brother's a living dead man and you're not, but they keep talking about how she followed him into eternity, and she's super jealous that Neely's taking him away from her, and all in all the level of familial affection here is just slightly on the wrong side of appropriate.
Neely's biggest flaw is mostly that she's really dumb. She finds out the guy that she works for has been helping a cartel smuggle drugs across the border from Mexico. She gets a bunch of proof, then confronts the dude about it and tells him to come clean. He's not into the idea, so she goes to the FBI, and somehow the agents that she gives the documents to are not only in the pay of the cartels, they're the only two agents there who are. I mean, did she just have really terrible luck, or did she go through Mr. Senator's Roladex and look under "FBI agents that I'm totally not paying to help me cover up my drug smuggling ring *wink*"? So then, she goes into hiding... at her brother's house. Not her secret brother that no one knows about, just her regular brother whose number you can look up in the phone book. Luckily, the senator and his drug smuggling partners are even dumber than she is, because she's been hiding there for months when the book opens without running into any issues. Then they get weirdly good at finding her, tracking her down at an old friend's abandoned summer cabin and in a hotel room that she paid for in cash and checked into using an assumed name. After Aidan rescues her both times, she's like "I'm going to hide in plain sight!", which turns out to mean going to the senator's house to confront him after giving another copy of the incriminating documents to a reporter. Of course the bad guys are waiting there, because why not? They kidnap her, Aidan rescues her, the reporter breaks the story, and Neely's plot is wrapped up with a pretty bow.
Then Aidan gets attacked by Lisette (from Atlantis!), then he gets rescued, and then he dies and Neely becomes a sad, broken shell of a woman because no other vampire is all that interested in mind-banging her. Just kidding! Aidan is rescued by the other Atlantean vampires, who decide to make him into a real boy. They live happily ever after and have a bunch of babies.
Despite that fact that this book was terrible - actually, let's be honest, because this book was terrible - I'm really looking forward to tracking down the next book in the series, For All Eternity. This one's about Maeve lusting over someone other than her brother. I wonder if it'll stand up a little bit better to my memory than this one did.