Callan Kilkenny spent a great deal of time in captivity as another of the evil villainess, Asharti's victims. When the cruel vampire queen was finally killed, he returned to England with hopes of founding a colony where made vampires could have a peaceful home. Unfortunately, his efforts branded him a traitor to both human and vampire kind. Haunted by memories and nightmares of Ashati's abuse and with nothing or no one to really live for, Callan seeks out a doctor who is rumored to be working on a cure for vampirism. If only he can get the cure, Callan thinks he might be able to go back to the life he once led before being turned vampire, and if not, then at least he could finally commit suicide without his companion preventing him from finding the peace death would afford him. He just didn't expect feelings he thought long buried to resurface when he meets the beautiful, intelligent daughter of his would-be savior.
Jane Blundell was accidentally turned vampire when she was infected by a blood sample from her father's lab. Ever since, her father has been tirelessly working to find a cure for her "disease." When Callan shows up at their door seeking the cure too, Jane feels an intense sexual connection with him like nothing she has ever experienced before, and Callan seems to feel it too. As they spend time alone together at night gathering herbs and plants for her father's potions, they cannot resist the urge to explore their desire, but the scientist in Jane believes it is nothing more than their companions driving them together. Past hurts also interfere with their growing attraction, but the biggest threat comes from two vampire factions, one of whom doesn't want a cure to be found and one who wants it for selfish reasons. One of their members will stop at nothing to have Callan all to herself, satiating her own narcissistic appetites, and none of them have any intention of leaving Callan and Jane alive if and when the cure is found. When Jane realizes her love for Callan is real and not just a product of her condition and she discovers the truth of his relationship with the other woman, the couple must make a risky bid for escape before it's too late for them both.
One with the Night was another great read in Susan Squire's Companion series. Once again, I'm rather shocked by the somewhat lower ratings for this series. Then again, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she has a penchant for seriously torturing her heroes, sexually and physically. Said heroes are also typically more docile and submissive than most vampire heroes, though I hesitate to call some of them betas. However, for the most part, none of this bothers me. Overall, I enjoy the juxtaposition of the heroine essentially saving the hero. I also love how Ms. Squires takes her characters on an emotional and psychological journey that always culminates in them not only finding true and lasting love, but also finding some peace with their companion which up to that point has usually tormented them. I thoroughly enjoy watching them learn about themselves and each other and grow throughout the story to a place where I can believe in their rightness for one another and the power of their love.
Like nearly all of the heroes in this series to date, Callan is a deeply tortured man who was another of the evil Asharti's victims. She put him through hell as her own personal plaything, repeatedly raping and physically tormenting him throughout his time with her. At first it was via compulsion, but eventually, he submitted to her tortures which only left him further psychologically confused about whether he was a warped man who truly enjoyed her "attentions." She coerced him into committing other atrocities for her as well, and when she was finally dead, he tried to create a vampire haven where others of his kind could find solace. Unfortunately, that plan backfired to the point that he became known as a traitor both to humans and vampires. Because of all this, he believes himself evil and unredeemable, but it doesn't stop the good in him from coming out in small ways. I loved how his part of the story opened with him "cleaning house" in a brothel and throwing the cruel manager and customers out while offering a new life to the prostitutes. Little good deeds like this are his way of trying to atone for the wrongs he committed in the past, but in reality, he doesn't believe he's doing much good. Callan is so tormented, he has tried several times to kill himself, but his companion won't allow it. Therefore, when he hears of a possible cure for vampirism, he's all too eager to find the doctor who is trying to discover it. Callan thinks that if he can become human again, he might finally be able to return to a normal life, and if not, then at least he'd be able to commit suicide. He just didn't expect to find love in the process. Not surprisingly, since escaping Asharti, Callan has chosen a celibate life for the past two years and doesn't really want to have anything to do with women or sex, but he can't resist the way Jane draws him. She's innocent, good, generous, and shockingly positive even in the face of her own vampirism. Although he desires her deeply, he believes it's only his companion driving him to the call of life, and he also believes himself not even close to good enough for her. Callan loathes himself so much for the things Asharti made him do that he eventually allows Jane to believe some things about himself that, while technically true, have more nuance to them than he's willing to admit. He even lets her think he's willingly having sex with the villainess, Elyta, when in reality she is compelling him in one way or another. Poor Callan has been raped so many times, first by Asharti and then Elyta, that he has trouble differentiating between a loving, healthy sexual relationship and abuse, but luckily through Jane's gentleness and their love for one another, he is finally able to experience and recognize the distinction.
Jane has always lived in the shadow of her father but is a very talented scientist and healer in her own right. She learned a great deal about doctoring by simply watching her father and reading anatomy books. In fact, she's a very bookish young lady in general, which was something I loved about her. She also taught herself midwifery by lying to her father about where she was and going into the slums to help pregnant woman. Despite all this, her father has little faith in her abilities, mainly because she's a woman, which has left her with some psychological scars of her own to overcome. Because of how she was turned vampire in a laboratory accident, Jane is still innocently unaware of the full extent of her condition and powers. She only knows what she and her father have been able to deduce scientifically. Because his only child has this "disease," her father is working tirelessly to find a cure. It's very cute how Jane tries to comport herself like a proper lady, drinking her blood from a teacup, not allowing her "affliction" to turn her into a beast. This measure of control she exhibits over her companion definitely comes in handy in convincing Callan that not every vampire is a slave to the creature that shares their blood. She's definitely a scientist through and through. The fact that she treated her one and only sexual experience years ago as a science experiment was amusing, yet it was sad that she thought of herself as not attractive enough and too much of a bluestocking to be marriageable. This is what led to her wanting to experience sex outside of marriage, but her experiment definitely didn't produce the results she was looking for. She'd been told it would be a transforming experience, but hers was anything but until she meets Callan. However, Jane leans so far toward being a liberated woman that her first love-making experience with Callan leaves her feeling frightened that she might lose herself and her ambitions in her feelings for him. She also thinks it's just her companion producing a heightened sexual response, and that makes her feel warped for wanting sex with him so badly. Luckily, she finally comes to terms with all of this and eventually embraces every part of her new self. I also couldn't have been prouder of her when she showed her intelligence by deducing (with a little help) what was actually going on between Callan and Elyta and putting stop to it.
This is the first book in the series in which both characters begin the story as vampires, so the dynamic between them is a little different. Because of the companion in their blood, they experience an intense, raw sexual attraction from the moment they meet. It even provokes a sexual response when Callan is gravely wounded and unconscious. Events that occur later in the story change this dynamic, as they experience their attraction for each other in a different way. Always though, Callan is thinking of Jane first and foremost in everything he does which I found very romantic. They each also see things in the other that they can't see in themselves. Callan recognizes Jane's talents, creativity and femininity all of which she tries to hide or deny, because of how her father treated her as the son he never had. Jane intuitively senses the pain in Callan's past, because she can see it mirrored in his eyes. She also sees the goodness in him when he thinks of himself as nothing but evil. Both of them admit their love for one another to themselves, but each think the other can't love them back, which delays their verbal declarations until the very end. A part of me wished that they could have had a little more faith in each other and their ability to love, but it all ended well anyway.
For the first time in this series, I have to admit that the sexual abuse of the hero was a little harder for me to take. I think it was because a large part of it was happening in real time with Elyta, interspersed with some flashbacks to his time with Asharti as well, which made it all a little too overwhelming. It got to the point that Callan was spending so much time engaged in torturous sex acts with the villainess that I felt it was taking something away from his and Jane's burgeoning love. Of course, none of this is his fault, because Elyta first compelled him with her vampire powers, and later, by hanging Jane's safety over his head. At the time, he had little else with which to bargain except his body, so I did admire him for putting himself on the line like that to protect Jane. It was just difficult to read about him being abused over and over when he was already deeply damaged from his time with Asharti. It also didn't allow for a lot of time for Callan and Jane to develop a healthy sexual relationship, so that part seemed slightly rushed. Having Callan and Jane finally rekindle their intimacy right on the heels of the abuse seemed a little too soon as well. However, I will admit though, that their interactions were very sweet and romantic, and the author did a great job of differentiating between the two experiences for Callan.
There were a few common characters from past books who appear in One with the Night. Jane's father was first seen in The Companion as the doctor who Ian turned to, looking for a cure, and it is through his blood sample that Jane was infected. Stephan Sincai's mentor, the monk, Brother Flavio, arrives with Elyta and her maid, Clara. Although Flavio seems to have a guilty conscience for not doing more to help Stephan and is obviously not evil like Elyta, he is largely passive throughout the story. I thought it was sweet that Clara had been in love with Flavio for a long time and unable to express her feelings inside the confines of Mirso Monastery. She finally finds her voice, but sadly, we don't get to see much of what happens between these two. Perhaps they will appear again as supporting characters in future books of the series. There is also the vampire, Khalenberg, who is out to prevent anyone from discovering a cure. Although I don't distinctly recall him from the previous books, he may have appeared before, because he seemed to have knowledge of the other now-happy couples. I also thought the inclusion of the Loch Ness monster was clever.
Overall, I enjoyed reading One with the Night and thought that it was another worthy effort in the Companion series. The only reason I marked off the half-star was for the somewhat excessive sexual abuse, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take too much away from the rest of the story for me. I liked the journey to finding a cure and how that all turned out. I also admire the author for her talent with character studies and how she was able to bring Callan and Jane full-circle in both their relationship with each other and their individual relationships with their companions. Although the main characters for the next book of the series look like they are going to be brand new, I look forward to meeting them when I continue the series soon.
Note: The sexual tension and love scenes between the hero and heroine are fairly steamy but not really what I would term erotic. However, there are multiple scenes of the hero being raped both in the present and in flashbacks that are pretty intense and contain some BDSM style interactions (including a D/S "relationship", bondage, flogging, and intimate piercing) between him and his female abusers, which are not for the faint of heart.
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