Velkan Danesti and Esperetta Dracul's romance mirrored that of Romeo and Juliet. The pair fell deeply in love 500 years ago, and married against the wishes of their families who were sworn enemies. Velkan's plan to keep Retta safe went awry, leaving both of them dead and his soul crying out to Artemis for vengeance. Unbeknownst to Retta, Velkan had used his sorcery to tie their life-forces together, so when Artemis resurrected him as a Dark-Hunter, Retta too came back to life. Misunderstanding what had happened, Retta believed Velkan had murdered her father in cold blood and ran from him never to return, until she thinks that he intends to put her father's mummified remains on display in a museum. Little does she know it's just a ruse to protect her from an ancient order that is out to kill her. When Retta is brought face-to-face with her husband for the first time in half a millennium, she realizes that she is still in love with him, and his actions to save her life tell her that he feels the same. But will Velkan ever be able to forgive her for distrusting him and walking out on him all those centuries ago?
Considering that the heroine of Until Death We Do Part is supposed to be the daughter of Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula, I thought this novella had some promise, but sadly, it didn't end up drawing me in as much as I believe it could have if there had been more depth in the plot and characters. I felt like the story was overburdened with mysticism and mythology. In addition to all the usual Dark-Hunter/Were-Hunter/Dream-Hunter mythology, the hero is also a sorcerer and shape-shifter (not a Were-Hunter). While it might seem that this would add a new and interesting dimension to the mythos, I found that it tended to muddy the waters more than anything by making it possible for the characters to do pretty much whatever they wanted. I think that if this had been a stand-alone novella without the Dark-Hunter elements or a Dark-Hunter novella without the other stuff, it would have been a tighter and clearer story. I also felt like the author waited a little too long to explain what precisely had separated Velkan and Esperetta all those years ago. Right up until the end, I was only able to speculate through inference as to why they even considered taking the sleeping potion. Unfortunately, this only added to my confusion. Additionally, the author just about drove me batty with her overuse of the word “it'd” which in my opinion is a clunky contraction, and the editing in general left something to be desired with lots of clumsily worded sentences and confusing passages that even after re-reading, still felt like something was missing.
As for the characters, I liked Velkan, but there weren't enough details about him to make him a true stand-out hero. He was kind of the typical Dark-Hunter who'd been wronged, tortured and killed in his human life and then sold his soul to Artemis for his act of vengeance. I felt sorry for everything he'd been through, especially since he'd done it all for Esperetta only to have her completely turn her back on him for 500 years. I could understand how she might have gotten the wrong idea about Velkan's actions, considering all that she had been through herself and with her having been raised in a very sheltered environment, she was probably rather naïve. However, by all accounts Velkan had been an amazing husband, treating her with the utmost kindness and respect in spite of being a hardened medieval warrior, and she supposedly had loved him as deeply as he had loved her. With that in mind, I found it hard to believe that she would run away without at least giving him a chance to explain. Also, since stories abounded about the cruelty of her father, it was even more difficult to fathom that in all those centuries, she hadn't even considered that she might have been wrong about Velkan. In my opinion, 500 years was taking the dreaded “big misunderstanding” a little too far. Not to mention, when Retta's current venomous sarcasm was added to the mix, it all made her seem very childish and shrewish to me. Even when she finally realized she had terribly misjudged Velkan, it was just too little too late. I could completely understand why he was so angry with Retta and felt that he forgave her far too easily. I think she needed to do a lot more groveling for what she put the poor man through, especially since he had done nothing but look out for her well-being all those years too. I just didn't end up sensing a deep emotional connection between Velkan and Retta as a couple. About the only good thing I can say about them is that it was a unique element to have a hero and heroine who were already married before he was turned into a Dark-Hunter, and that as a result of having their life-forces tied together, she came back to life too. The other troublesome thing is that much like the previous full-length novel of the series, Dark Side of the Moon, there was no resolution to Velkan's Dark-Hunter status at the end of the story.
Although Until Death We Do Part is part of the Dark-Hunter series, there is no specific connecting plot and no carry-over characters that I'm aware of. Readers do get a glimpse of the first Were-Hunter/Dream-Hunter hybrid which might be an important piece of information that I could see possibly popping up again later in the series. It could easily be read as a stand-alone, but for those people who prefer reading series in order like I do, it falls between Dark Side of the Moon and The Dream-Hunter in the Dark-Hunter chronology. Until Death We Do Part had a few unique elements, but it felt like it was rather hurriedly thrown together and didn't entirely live up to its promise, ultimately, becoming a rather ho-hum read for me. Although I'm a bit skeptical of the chances based on other fans reviews, I am hoping that the next few stories improve on the relationship development and overall storytelling, as my interest in the series is sadly beginning to wane. Until Death We Do Part can be found in the anthology, Love at First Bite.
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