Susan Squires has one of the richest voices in vampire romance and has rapidly become one of my favorite authors in the genre.

One With The Shadows by Susan SquiresIn One With The Shadows, the fifth book in her Companion series, she tells the story of Kate, a charlatan wowing the Italian aristocracy with her tarot-reading and on-the-fly creative “writing” skills, and Gian Urbano, a tall, dark and handsome aristocrat and vampire who was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David.

Their paths first cross at a parlor room where Kate is performing in hopes of earning enough money to fulfill her dream of buying a cottage and retiring to the English countryside. They take an immediate dislike to each other as he sets out to expose her a fraud. But something unusual happens. The cards tell true for the first time and Kate receives a vision of Gian being tortured by a woman holding a green jewel — a jewel that will forever alter the course of their lives.

Ms. Squires’ Kate and Gian are as much alike as they are different. Both are strong-willed. Both have been hurt and taken advantage of. Both are warriors — he a soldier who fought against the evil vampiress Ashtiri’s uprising in Africa, while she has been fighting all her life for a place in a world that would offer her none. But where, in a twist on Beauty and the Beast, he is the epitome of the physical beauty of his gender she is marred, one side of her face marked with a spiderweb of scars. Where he is a child of privilege, she is a child of the streets. Where he is duty and honor bound, she employs avarice as a means of survival.

Strangely enough, though, their lives are without purpose. He is without hope for what to do in a long life that has already seen him robbed of his manhood in many ways while Kate’s financial goals and dreams of an idealistic retirement in pastoral England ring hollow. Something is conspicuously missing for both of them — passion, which they unexpectedly and blessedly find, along with love, in each other during a harrowing adventure that takes them from the streets of Florence to the high seas and deep into the deserts of Africa.

It is a joy to watch Gian and Kate discover within each other things they never thought to find — beauty inside as well as out, generosity of heart, courage in the face of danger, innocence despite worldly experience, and sincerity and keen intelligence in defiance of their respective aristocratic and coarse upbringings.

As in the previous Companion series books, the writing in One With The Shadows, which is due out in December, is top notch. Descriptions are lush and the characters veritably leap off the page, which are the primary reasons I honestly love this series, even with the unsettling, not-for-the-faint-hearted content.

That said, for those concerned that they’ll find more of the “compelled” sexual encounters of Ashtiri’s liking, you’ll be pleased to know there is much less of that in this installment as Ms. Squires focuses on the gentler tone needed for our scarred hero and heroine as they discover a passion for life, and each other.

Have you read One With The Shadows? If so, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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