So here we are. On the verge of a plot.
Diana has just encountered a vampire lurking in the library. She’s turned to face him. She’s mentally reviewed about 5000 random facts and details about her life, but now she’s ready to describe something actually happening in front of her.
This one was tall–well over six feet even accounting for the problems of perspective associated with looking down on him from the gallery.
Imagine spilling this much ink to say, “I dunno, 6’2″, 6’3″?”
And he was definitely not slight. Broad shoulders narrowed into slender hips, which flowed into lean, muscular legs. His hands were strikingly long and agile, a mark of physiological delicacy that made your eyes drift back to them to figure out how they could belong to such a large man.
This is a personal pet peeve, and I own it, but I do not understand why authors are obsessed with giving their male characters long, thin fingers. It never sounds sexy. It just makes them sound like Doug Jones in that one episode of Buffy. You know the one.
Anyway, Diana continues to describe him at length:
From across the room and down a flight of stairs, she says his eyes “look black” (you can’t see shit from there!) and that he has thick black eyebrows, one of which is “lifted in a curve that suggest[s] a question mark” which feels like another unnecessarily long way of saying “he looked intrigued”.
He also has high cheekbones, because of course he does, and a wide mouth “which, like, his long hands, didn’t seem to make sense.”
It’s your garden variety Cullen Family Vampire — beautiful, chiseled, Godlike features that don’t fully make sense, etc. At least nobody has bronze hair or butterscotch eyes or caramel nipples.
And then there’s this whopper:
But the most unnerving thing about him was not his physical perfection. It was his feral combination of strength, agility, and keen intelligence that was palpable across the room.
This is PEAK telling and not showing. The book hasn’t even let him talk yet. Don’t pre-empt THIS much about a character before you introduce them. A guy lounging against a pillar reading a book about handwriting, half in shadow, down a flight of stairs and across a room is not giving you this much to work with. Especially not when we then move on to this description:
In his black trousers and soft gray sweater, with a shock of black hair swept back from his forehead and cropped close to the nape of his neck, he looked like a panther that could strike at any moment but was in no rush to do so.
“Watch out, everyone. This guy’s packing cashmere.”
We simply have to move this recap along, so she tells us that he finally smiles at her, and his teeth are NOT fangs but they are straight and sharp and his lips are pale (of course, of course).
Suddenly, Diana is a-feared for her life. Even though she’s just sat around for 5 minutes staring at him and he’s done literally nothing in response other than smile.
But okay. She’s worried, because he’s a were-panther or something.
She runs to the stairs, races down to the bottom floor and somehow…
pitched straight into the vampire’s waiting arms.
We’re told that his fingers are cool (obviously), his arms feel like steel (naturally), and he smells of “cinnamon and clove” (which is the exact scent that greets you in the front entrance of Michael’s and I’m rolling at the idea of this graceful sexy vampire smelling like a cheap autumn candle).
And then the threatening were-panther helps her to her feet, picks up the book she dropped, and gives her a small bow.
He also knows her name, because he addresses her with this oddly colonial greeting:
“Dr. Bishop, I presume?”
This, I presume, is how we’re supposed to know he’s super crazy old.
He then dips his “long, pale fingers” (gross) into his pocket and hands her a business card with his name on it, but also says his name out loud, which is “Matthew Clairmont”.
She quickly scans his card, notes that he’s a member of the Royal Society and — oh wow look what a surprise — a scientist. He also looks about 37, but she imagines he’s “at least ten times that” because, you know, vampire.
This must be an absolutely massive business card, because here’s everything Diana is able to tell us from it:
As for his research specialty, it came as no surprise that the vampire was a professor of biochemistry and affiliated with the Oxford Neuroscience at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Blood and anatomy — two vampire favorites. The card bore three different laboratory numbers in addition to an office number and an e-mail address.
I… this guy doesn’t have a cell phone? It’s 2011. Who’s bothering to list three separate land lines? Feel free to yell at me if I’m just not understanding how fancy labs work, of course.
After this interaction, she tells us she’s resisting the urge to “run screaming toward the exit”. Which… apart from the fact that she really hasn’t met many vampires, and the one vampire she met was just kind of horny, I’m not at all sure why she’s having this reaction.
His voice is softly-accented, but mostly English, and she discovers that his eyes are actually not dark but rather “gray-green” and she finds herself “unable to look away”.
Blah, blah, he’s sexy. You get it. We all get it. This wouldn’t be a female-centric vampire book if he wasn’t sexy.
He then tells her that he’s a “great admirer of [her] work” which ROCKS her.
My eyes widened. It was not impossible that a professor of biochemistry would be interested in seventeenth-century alchemy, but it seemed highly unlikely.
– p. 19
I mean, maybe he also… lived through the 17th century? But no matter.
He rattles off some details about a paper she did, to prove he’s read her work, and says he’s halfway through one of her books right now.
Then he asks her out to dinner.
Hot vampire action?
No. She turns him down.
She doesn’t give an excuse, he doesn’t ask for one. Then he says he knows she’s in Oxford for the rest of the year (so, to be fair, it is clear hat he’s probably stalking her, hence the book-reading and name-knowing), and she simply nods in response to his questions because his cheap candle scent is too intoxicating.
There’s a long sequence of her standing, frozen, as he walks away but it’s not particularly thrilling or foreshadowy. Needless to say, she’s been rattled. So she packs up for the day, and heads out of the library.
What will next recap bring?
Hot vampire action?
Even MORE thrilling library scenes?
You’ll just have to wait and see.