Saturday, August 30, 2008

“The Bride of Casa Dracula” by Marta Acosta

Milagro De Los Santos is having serious problems planning her wedding to fabulous Oswald Grant, M.D. Her future in-laws loathe her, her dog just died, and Oswald's family has a genetic anomaly that makes them crave blood. Then her extravagant best friend hijacks the role of wedding coordinator, and the secretive Vampire Council assigns conniving Cornelia Ducharme to guide the couple through the ancient vampire marriage rituals.

To top it all off, Milagro's career is on the skids. She's reduced to ghost-writing the memoirs of a loony little man who claims to be a shapeshifter. And why does Cornelia's decadent, way too attractive brother, Ian, always show up whenever Milagro is away from Oswald? When a series of accidents interferes with wedding plans, Oswald worries that Milagro is cracking under the pressure. Is she just paranoid, or is a hidden enemy trying to make sure Milagro doesn't wed the undead?
The Bride of Casa Dracula is the third book in the Casa Dracula series after Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (2006) and Midnight Brunch (2007) and the best of the series to date. This is the novel in which Milagro De Los Santos our vampire heroine comes into her own and blossoms as a fully realized, complex and courageous character.

Milagro has never been under so much pressure, planning for her wedding, kowtowing to the Councils’ contract demands and oaths of loyalty to become a full member of the secret vampire society as well as living up to the expectations of her fiancé Oswald and his family. Further there is a string of events making Milagro believe someone is out to get her, but making everyone else think she is becoming unhinged. Because we view events from Milagro’s perspective, we know she is being persecuted and share her frustration that everyone thinks she is crying wolf. And to top it all off, Milagro is thrown together with ex-lover and mystery bad-boy Ian Ducharme at inopportune moments. Having shared blood with Ian she is not unaware of a special chemistry that exists between them – this challenges her resolve and in a small way makes her question her choices.

Acosta beautifully weaves all of these elements and more into the central mystery with a deft touch. While we may guess at the outcome we are never certain.

Milagro life has been driven by a desire for family and acceptance which has been in conflict with her need to be herself without compromising her own ideals and identity. The Bride of Casa Dracula subtly allows Milagro to confront the path she is taking and reassess. In a scene with her new friend Joseph while discussing an unusual plant at his garden nursery, he says –
“Things are always best in climates that suit their nature. You can keep something alive, but you can’t force it to thrive.”
Clearly this observation is meant for Milagro and she has tough decisions to make—accepting the status quo versus taking the chance on a less certain future without fully comprehending her own nature and motivations. What does Milagro truly need to make her life fulfilling.

Among the many pleasures of the series are the touches of humour that lighten the mood. Milagro’s character has a bit of a smartass or sarcastic edge but it is appropriate to her character and never over the top. There are other nice light moments such as this witty banter between Milagro and her wedding planner friend Nancy.
“Have I not taught you anything! Honeydew is never ripe enough. Escrew honeydew.”
“Eschew,” I said.
Gesundheit.” She dropped into an armchair and swung her legs over the side.
Acosta’s world building continues to excel. While her vampires are often simply described as “people with a special genetic disorder” they are definitely not your traditional vampires. The series is sprinkled with enticing tidbits about her vampire culture, the origins and function of the council, their strange ancient language, and the mystery of Milago’s own special abilities resulting from drinking from two different lines of vampire blood. Particularly engaging is the custom of imbibing and describing the bouquet and taste of different types of animal blood, as if they were vintages of fine wine. This time around, shapeshifters are introduced, but as you might expect of Ms. Acosta there is nothing traditional about them.

This is the most emotionally satisfying of the series with a truly bittersweet ending. Milagro is an increasingly complex and compelling character and she is ready and waiting, as am I, for whatever adventures the future holds for her. If you only read one paranormal fantasy this season pick up The Bride of Casa Dracula, but better yet pick up the earlier books and read them in sequence. You’ll be glad you did.

Book Release Date: September 18, 2008

Read the first chapter.

View the book trailer…

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