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Roman Dusk: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain    by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro order for
Roman Dusk
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Count Saint-Germain has delighted readers since 1978, when Yarbro's first vampire novel, Hotel Transylvania, hit the shelves. In this 19th installment, Yarbro returns to ancient Rome, a period in time that seems particularly suited to her lush, sensual storytelling style.

Although Ragoczy Germainus Sanct-Franciscus (known to legions of fans simply as Saint-Germain) is a foreigner in good standing in third-century Rome, the decadence and corruption of the time begins to catch up with him. He falls under suspicion quickly, as all foreigners tend to draw attention to themselves in a city ripe with exploitation and constant mistrust. Despite the cynicism of the period, Saint-Germain attempts to keep to himself and continue going about life the only way he knows how: as a member in good standing of society at large.

Being a vampire has never greatly interfered with his day-to-day activities. Unlike typical vampires, he doesn't look upon humans as a next meal, but instead attempts to involve himself with them on a personal level. So when he takes in a battered courtesan and befriends the virginal daughter of a dying woman, his enemies need no further fodder for gossip and speculation. He is quickly accused of corrupting Ignatia's innocent soul even as her mother lies dying, and he draws the unwelcome attention of both an imperious bureaucrat and a young Christian zealot, both of whom relish the idea of ending Saint-Germain's time in Rome ... or perhaps even his very life.

Like all of Yarbro's Saint-Germain novels, Roman Dusk is steeped in historical narrative. Lyrical descriptions of the ancient world bring Rome to life, vividly summoning to mind the sights, smells and sounds of a long-ago time. So much so, in fact, that this same strength slows down the pace of the story, especially in the first half of the novel as the players are introduced and the setting is described in painstaking detail.

Readers who persevere, however, will be richly rewarded. Saint-Germain is his usual noble, honorable self, fighting against injustice and helping the less fortunate. As he once again finds himself a target of those who would like nothing better than to see him destroyed for eternity, the reader knows that he will make it through this latest ordeal unscathed - or at least, alive. After all, a number of Yarbro's Saint-Germain books take place in later centuries, ensuring Saint-Germain's longevity. This takes away some of the suspense of the novel, but doesn't dim the luxurious enjoyment of the lush prose, or the fact that for a vampire, Saint-Germain is really a pretty nice guy.

Fans of previous books in this series will find Roman Dusk to their liking, but readers not familiar with Saint-Germain would be better advised to start elsewhere. I recommend Hotel Transylvania, Blood Games or Midnight Harvest as excellent starting points.

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