Thursday, January 3, 2008

Review: Red Death (Jonathan Barrett #1)

Jonathan Barrett didn't expect to fall in love with a woman whose transcendent beauty and unearthly abilities held his heart--and his memories--in the palm of her hand. And he certainly never expected to return home a changed man, with a talent for escaping death, an aversion to sunlight and a constant craving for blood...

Red Death, by P.N. Elrod, is the first book of the Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire Series. Set during the American Revolutionary War and Georgian England period (late 18th Century) in Long Island, New York, we are introduced to Jonathan, a smart and compassionate brother at the age eligible to attend college. He loves his dear older sister, Elizabeth, a strong-willed woman who is old enough for marriage. Their father, Mr. Barrett, is a well-known judge who sees his mistress, Ms. Montagu, during his leisure time. Their strict and serious mother, Marie Fonteyn, who comes from a wealthy and noble family name, holds sole responsibility over the family fortune and the future direction of the children. She returns from Philadelphia with companions to escape the devastation of the war. Although Jonathan prefers to attend Harvard to be near his family, his mother insists he should continue his studies at Cambridge in England. He has no choice but to accept his fate.

When he arrives in England, he meets his cousin, Oliver, who shows Jonathan around the city and countryside. They meet Tony Warburton, who will also attend Cambridge with them. Tony insists the two to attend a ball with him where he met the most beautiful woman before his eyes. Jonathan had no idea that the mysterious woman had set her eyes on him, not Tony. With a bond so close, Jonathan and the woman shared life as one. With the war worsening abroad in the colonies, Jonathan had no idea he would return home a changed man. He would have new abilities as well as wonder what role he has in society now.

Elrod brings the audience to witness the life of a young man in Revolutionary-era America. Originally published in 1993, this second edition includes more than forty pages of new material. She introduces readers to new vocabulary words common in that era as well as the typical middle-class household in New England. The audience should recognize terms like 'sedition' and 'Tory' but will less likely recognize "toady" (one who flatters or defers to others for self-serving reasons). It was common for families with titles and wealth to have servants (or slaves). Women and men held very gendered roles: women learned household duties whereas men studied a profession (ex. law, medicine). Etiquette and societal rankings were extremey important durinig this era.

I never thought the 18th century social life could be so interesting. Furthermore, Jonathan is developing into a character that I will surely enjoy as well as his family members. Elrod certainly did her research because the details and imagery were were richly thorough. His feelings and fears will grow on you. I highly recommend this book if you have the patience to learn a new time period and learn the importance of family with a little humor on the side.

Stay tuned for the next book, Death and the Maiden.

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