fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSyrie James NocturneNocturne by Syrie James

When it’s snowy and blustery out, there are two kinds of books I really love to read: books that whisk me away to a balmy paradise, and books that are set in a snowstorm so that the real weather enhances the mood of the novel. Nocturne is one of the latter, taking place in the Colorado Rockies during a blizzard.

Twenty-nine-year-old Nicole is driving back from a friend’s wedding when she crashes her rental car in the aforementioned snowstorm. She is rescued by Michael, a reclusive man who lives alone in his palatial mountain home. The weather prevents either of them from leaving for several days. Michael is strangely brusque at times, and at first Nicole thinks he is angry about her presence, but before long they establish a connection.

Syrie James invokes classic fairytale tropes to draw readers into a state of enchantment. There’s a room Nicole is forbidden to enter, for example, and a mysterious rose. One plot twist, I think, may be a homage to an old favorite book of mine, L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, which itself draws heavily on fairytale themes. Yet James doesn’t let the fairytales constrain her story; events don’t always happen as you might expect. That forbidden door swings open with surprising alacrity, revealing one of Michael’s secrets, and another revelation about him follows shortly. The closed doors within Nicole’s mind — hiding nightmares and dreams she’s suppressed for years — take longer to open.

With a tiny cast (two characters, plus a few animals) and a single setting, James spins a story with plenty of drama and character development. Much of the plot unfolds through dialogue. I do have mixed feelings about some of the dialogue. Sometimes, when Nicole and Michael talk, their speech seems a little too expository. For example, when they discuss books, they can sound like they are teaching a class or maybe writing a book review rather than speaking casually. (This worked better, I think, in Dracula, My Love, with its intentionally old-fashioned writing style.) On the other hand, it’s so refreshing to see a paranormal hero and heroine whose relationship is based in large part on conversations about their shared interests. It makes Nocturne more satisfying than books in which the romance is based solely on great sex or on a magical soulmate bond imposed by an external force.

It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that this is a vampire novel. James raises questions about how a vampire and an ordinary woman fit into each other’s lives, and rejects the easy answers.

A bittersweet love story set against a beautiful wintry background, Nocturne is a curl-up-on-a-cold-night book par excellence. Once you’ve read the ending, you’ll want to read the author’s note that follows. I hope James will revisit Nicole and Michael one day.

Nocturne — (2011) Publisher: When Nicole Walker runs off the road in a blinding snowstorm after attending a friend’s wedding at a Colorado ski resort, she wakes up to find herself stranded at the remote mountain house of a handsome, enigmatic stranger. She lives and works in a fast-paced, high tech world; he is cultured and modern yet lives a quiet life in self-imposed exile. They are both powerfully attracted to each other, but there are things about him that mystify her and fill her with apprehension — and Nicole can’t shake the feeling that he really doesn’t want her there. She soon discovers that he’s a famous, reclusive author, renowned for his highly detailed and authentic historical fiction, and fiercely protective of his privacy. No wonder he was so reluctant to take her in, Nicole thinks. But he hides a far darker secret. As the sexual tension between them builds, the clues mount up. When Nicole realizes that her host is an ages-old vampire who thirsts for her blood, there’s nowhere for her to run but the blizzard raging outside, and he’s the only one who can save her life. By now there is no turning back; they have both fallen deeply in love, and share several passionate days together while waiting out the storm — a deep, meaningful, and dangerously seductive experience that will change them both forever.


  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.