Vespers by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt
Publisher: Prescourt Books
Tags: Gay Paranormal/Urban Fantasy – Vampire & Demons, Romance, Religious Overtones, Clandestine Monks, Series, Contemporary Setting
Length: 295 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…
The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.
Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…
The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky. On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.
Falling in love is hard at any age…
The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice. Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.
The synopsis of Vespers gives any prospective reader a very good idea of the bones of the story. Lately I’ve found a few to be somewhat misleading about what the book offers, but if you like what you read above, chances are you’ll enjoy this book. However, what the blurb can’t come close to doing is to give a reader an idea of just how good this book actually is. As someone who likes paranormal romance, especially vampires, I was so glad to have been pointed in its direction. I haven’t read either of the authors before but that doesn’t mater as this is a great co-write. I’m also adding that it’s a series, one I’m excited to follow – hallelujah! Freaking Amen. Hail Mary and another hallelujah! just for good measure.
Sarasija Mishra is a last minute online hire to be a new assistant to one rather mysterious Thaddeus Dupont in New Orleans. It’s a one year contract and it pays $80,000, good money for an undergrad in molecular botany. Sara takes the job, leaving Seattle and his family behind, because he wants to help his mother out financially. He also comes from a family of high achievers and while they all get along, they tend to make him feel a bit lacking. So moving away is not necessarily a bad thing, he can find his way, make a decent income and gain some independence.
Sarasija, or Sara as everyone calls him, is male and gender is one mammoth problem for his new boss. There was a mix up with the name when Nohea Alves, Mr. Dupont’s permanent assistant, hired him; Sara, assumptions could easily be made at a glance that it’s a female’s name, right? They only contract female trainees for a year. Thaddeus Dupont cannot have a male assistant. It’s very easy for the reader to work out why that’s the case. Sara, however, doesn’t get it for a while. He’s ticked off that everyone seems certain he’ll fail at the job; and when Nohea Alves finally turns up after having been delayed by some paranormal activity, she’s also apologising to Mr. Dupont about the error in choosing Sara. It just seems to compound his family’s worries about him and his frustration at seemingly everyone thinking he can’t do what is required – if someone would actually give him a job description.
Things start out interestingly for Sara. Ms. Alves’ absence makes everything complicated when Sara turns up at the house for work – boats, stores in the middle of nowhere, alligators and bayou included. It becomes really bizarre when his new boss starts firing a crossbow at someone in the dark. More weird when Sara’s told there are demons about – which seems to correspond somehow with an eerie quiet in the swamp. Mr. Dupont makes it known they have to get the hell out of there. Clearly, Sara is in for some interesting and irregular working conditions.
Once they do leave the original house and move to Thaddeus’ city home in New Orleans, once Nohea is back in the picture again, things heat up. Sara needs to wrap his mind around the circumstances of his new job. It’s clear Mr. Dupont is a vampire and his boss’s job means dealing with quite a few demons, which means Sara is now involved. As for the demons, they normally just travel in one pair and they aren’t particularly sentient. They’re more zombie-like, reanimated corpses that don’t scheme or plot or use weapons. Now, suddenly, they are organised, efficient, and packing guns. They’re also in groups, and they seem to be taking a planful and personal interest in Thaddeus Dupont and using people he cares about in the process, something that worries the loyal, empathetic vampire.
Meanwhile, when Thaddeus orders Sara to (not) do something, even with a mental push, more often than not Sara can resist the vampire mind whammy, although things do seem a bit foggy. Nevertheless, Sara shouldn’t be able to do that.
The alternating POV are perfect, they lend both MCs a clear and distinct voice and an opportunity for us to hear the individual. They are different characters, with vastly different personalities, and the authors never once deviate in who they are throughout the book.
Thaddeus. Thaddeus. Thaddeus Dupont. What to say… what to say…Oh, how I love you. You are my one of my favourite new characters. A vampire to remember. Full of brooding. Devotion. Loyalty. Such torture. Such Catholic guilt. Such self-flagellation. Religion and the monks have done a number on you, in conjunction with being a man (a vampire) of a certain vintage and religious upbringing who is gay. One hundred and fifteen, looks like he’s in his early twenties, but is old school. Thaddeus also answers to Brother George, his contact at the White Monks, who makes it known he barely tolerates Thaddeus for his sexual orientation and because he is a creature of the night. Brother George, while clearly judgemental, appears hypocritically delighted when Sara is contracted to Thaddeus, and that Thaddeus can’t break that contract either, so it will be a test of moral fibre for Thaddeus to remain celibate or, perhaps, face the Order’s consequences.
Sara may be from an Indian Hindu family, but he is an atheist. He doesn’t understand how Thaddeus can have beautiful things in his home but his own room is austere, like a cell. How he can punish himself for a religion and before his God when he is nothing but kind, does good work and puts himself at risk to save others. To Sara, once he gets over his issues with his boss being a vampire, fighting demons, able to use a vampire mind whammy, and the whole ‘I don’t want to be food’ thing, he sees Thaddeus as a hero. It’s actually quite sweet to see his mindset change, and I really liked that he was out and proud and challenged Thaddeus’ thinking on homosexuality. More challenging. Keep going, Sara.
The slow burn is fantastic and appreciated. The book definitely isn’t filled with sex but it’s there and when it occurs it’s steamy and emotionally connective. There is biting with the sex, my favourite, not used nearly enough in gay romance paranormal books but used to perfection here. Vespers is the Goldilocks of my reading world – just right.
While this book is not overly dark, it’s also not fluffy. It has an intensity and atmosphere that keeps you reading, waiting, and the action gives you plenty of meat to gnaw on because of the solid, well written urban fantasy storyline. The monks who run their clandestine demon slaying operation would make any covert, secret society proud. As Dupont’s main sidekick, Nohea Alves is a snarky and kickass female, I loved her. The reasons behind the demons working in a more organised manner has to be sorted out and there may be a connection to something similar in California. Sara coming into their lives means a more tech savvy operation now.
There are some interesting secondary characters and situations to move forward with into the next book(s) in the series, and I look forward to where the authors takes these characters. As for Thaddeus and Sara, there is plenty of room to further build their relationship and backstories. I can’t wait.
There’s a great feel about the world in this book. At first I thought it would be more gothic: the swap, the humidity, the night, the house, the religion, but then it quickly and seamlessly transitioned into a very good urban fantasy book – the city, vampires, demons, one kick-arse female assistant – thank you for women who rock – and a newbie trainee who has a strange connection to a one hundred and fifteen year old man turned vampire. A connection that is both bewildering to and revered by Thaddeus.
The humour is well written. Nohea and Sara are both young and funny when they banter. Being in Sara’s head also provides comic relief as he comes to grips with his new, uh, workplace. Thaddeus fits in the middle well. It’s a great team.
No going back now. He was an accomplice. Dupont had said he worked for the Church. Maybe they had a pass, like James Bond or something.
“Mr. Dupont?” Sara’s voice was rough, quavering. The glint of a silver blade shone from his hand. “If you’re out there, I’ve got the one with the bad haircut.”
Merde alors. Which bad haircut? They all looked awful.
I won’t write anymore about the book because then I spoil it and I highly recommend anyone who likes (gay) paranormal romance to read Vespers.
Oh, one more thing. That cover is perfection. Seriously, Kanaxa is the best cover artist.
I was looking for this book, I really was, I just didn’t know its name. Now I do –Vespers. It’s been ages since I’ve read a good vampire story, and Vespers is so very good. I kept chanting throughout –‘don’t let me down, don’t let me down, don’t let me down’. I wanted this to work and I wanted to have a series that I look forward to, and like I mentioned in the beginning of the review, I’m so excited for future books. The same MCs too, I rarely want that but I’m so in!
Overall, the writing is strong, the story engages you – the religion and how it’s entwined with the main relationship between Thaddeus and Sara and their world and the plot is inspired. I enjoy religious themes in my reading. If that worries you, know it is well written and doesn’t weigh the book down at all. The slow burn between the MCs, the pull, is just plain awesome. I loved that aspect because I became deeply invested in this pair – they are wonderful. There is also room for them to grow and build momentum and further depth in future instalments. Apart from their burgeoning relationship, there’s interesting secondary characters and good urban fantasy and paranormal elements to keep it moving along nicely. I love vampires, and well written fiction and storytelling allows you to be a believer, or maybe it just enables you to be able to suspend reality in the best possible way. No matter which, Vespers is totally believable. And New Orleans, I could immerse myself in it, it provided a living, breathing backdrop and atmosphere.
With its purposeful religion – it’s called Vespers – the Catholic guilt, the brooding and the self flagellation, the two disparate in personality main characters who gel so interestingly, this book has so much going for it. Everything is well balanced, the pacing on point throughout, and I value good characterisation above almost anything… and it delivered. Highly recommended reading. I loved this book. 5 Stars all the way.