Product Review (submitted on March 31, 2014):
We’re all born with something within us that is ours and ours alone, and our experience of life teaches us how to express and strengthen that mysterious and elusive thing inside that makes us who we are. Leaving us with indelible impressions about ourselves, the world, and how the relationship between the two works – or doesn’t.
It’s hard enough to find happiness in life, even when you do know what it looks like. Claire’s never had any good examples of home or happiness to work from, and we find early on that it puts her at a serious disadvantage. She has tried, in the few ways she can understand, to find happiness for herself, only to end up in the same old familiar traps. Life seems to repeat itself, despite her efforts to escape the same outcomes. Deliberately isolated and blinded by the manipulations of people who are supposed to love her, who instead hurt her – first an abusive, alcoholic mother; later an abusive heroin addict boyfriend – she has trouble properly recognizing a chance for true happiness when presented with one. That is, she sees potential in the wrong aspects of it.
Having escaped first her mother and then the addict boyfriend when he ODs, six months after she arrives in London she is chosen to join a group of vampires when Oliver, their Circle Master, spots her working in a bar and sees something of value in her no one else in her life thus far ever has. This is the second chance she’s been searching for. When she is Turned, she will be made strong, invulnerable, and all her financial needs will be provided for – basically, all the external things she lacked before that made her powerless and dependent will go away. And, best of all, she will be given to Parker -- a gorgeous, perfect guide of a Master who appreciates her for who she is, who is given the sacred duty of guiding her first thirty years of vampiric existence. She will finally have all the things she needs to find happiness. And best of all, she will have an eternity in which to experience it. What could go wrong?
Only – it’s not nearly that simple because becoming a vampire doesn’t make any of the distorted impressions about who she is and how the world works go away. Parker sees these weaknesses and exploits them, and the past seems about to repeat itself…or will it?
Though Claire finds herself at the mercy of another lying, controlling, power-tripper who manages to cut her off from everything, giving her – as usual -- no options, she discovers being Turned has given her special psychic abilities none of the other Circle members have. She can read minds and control people, but Parker tells her that if any of the other vampires of the Circle discover her abilities and the advantages over them they give her, she will be staked. He also tells her to stay away from Andre – his archrival in the Circle – at all costs. According to Parker, Andre wants nothing more than to destroy him, and in the complicated political game-playing arena of the Circle, she will be used, she will be played – just like she’s always been.
Things aren’t what they seem, though, and Claire has a powerful, irresistible attraction to Andre which she acts on – one of the first real acts of rebellion in her life, and one that sets up a powerfully compelling chain of events that put a life that has been made invulnerable on the line. Will it be enough to break the things inside her that keep her shackled to her past? Will what she learns be enough for her to save herself?
I fell in love with the lush portrayal of the characters and their unique, very focused, very intense world --- particularly how they as vampires experience each other -- and in turn the world -- emotionally through blood and sex – the two being inseparable for them. There are too many other fascinating things about this story for me to detail here. You need to experience them for yourself. This is a paranormal romance, but it is also so much more than that. And I guarantee that if you accept Amy Lee Burgess’ invitation to follow her vampires into their world you will find a story that will reel you in with the simple yet crucial questions it poses, and immerse you totally within the depths of exploring with the protagonist as she tries to find the answers for herself.