Review: Ink by Isabelle Rowan @dsp_mm_romance

by Isabelle RowanEditions: paperback, ebook
Published December 12th 2011 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 1st 2011)
Source: NetGalley
Roman centurion Dominic drew his last human breath during the time of Hadrian. In the centuries since, he’s seen much of the world change around him, but the vampire finds himself held captive in Melbourne, Australia, by his fascination with young, passionate, fun-loving, and alive tattoo artist Michael Chapman. Unable to resist the lure of Michael’s beauty, Dominic finds himself entering the parlor to get a tattoo he knows will fade.
The attraction he feels only grows, and despite Dominic’s extreme reluctance to get involved with a human, he and Michael form a bond—a connection that all too soon attracts the attention of a dark specter from Dominic’s bloody past. Soon, a dangerous game of cat and mouse threatens not only the budding romance, but also their humanity.
This is an expanded novel based on the novella Ink originally published in the Desire Beyond Death anthology by Dreamspinner Press.~ Goodreads Blurb

I will start off by saying this was a ‘clean’ romance story, so the one on one was safely skipped. For once, we’re talking about romance revolving around romance, and not bodily sparks (that are fun, don’t get me wrong!). I highly appreciated that, just because I’m all for diversity, and when something becomes a trend I’ll always appreciate more the parts that stand out sort of against the current rather then the ones following it. That’s just me, the rebel reader. 🙂

The plot itself wasn’t necessarily a new angle; vampire meets love interest, vampire hates self and tortures love interest, you know that line of action. You’ve seen it, you’ve read it, you’ve loved it. You’re most likely going to love it in this novel as well as in many others, because it’s a story that captures your heart. It always captures mine. In our particular case, I really like Michael, spunky, tattoo-artist Michael. Me being a very big fan of tattoos, I was completely taken with the Ink shop, Abby, the whole crew.
While reading, however, I felt the novel was somehow composed of two different parts, connected no doubt, but not interwoven. The first part of the novel was very slow on rhythm, very focused on emotion and less centered on action. Though I didn’t much like Dominic’s attitude and behavior (rare occurrence, since he’s the vampire of this part of the story), I liked the focus on emotion and emotional reaction that this part of the read held. I found myself wishing something would happen already, there was this tension and frustration that just escalated into me snorting and gaaah-ing until the something I was itching for finally did happen. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t frustrated with the novel, I was frustrated with Dominic as a person, let’s say, not as a character.
And then came the second part of the read, the active, dynamic one, that lingered on the emotional part of things little and followed all sorts of exciting events more. I really liked the fact the plot followed the Dominic/Michael relationship beyond the point of turning, many stories somehow stop then, as if that would be the final resolve of all possible issues. In this case, it was the trigger to the real issues, fact that puts in perspective all the emotional turmoil when comparing it with some more palpable danger.
I wished I would have felt the passing between one orientation and the next smoother, that the rhythm of the plot would have been a bit more balanced, giving the impression of the tightly knit whole instead of two slightly different parts.

As far as characters go, they were fun, Michael being my favorite, spunky, and more charismatic then the vampires, something of a first if you ask me. It’s the vampires that always end up being the charismatic ones, and not because of their beauty or their innate mystery necessarily. Ok, it has a lot to do with those two things, lol, but the vampire is often the one written as the magnet, shall we say. Here Dominic was more of a repellent while Michael was the charismatic one, and I enjoyed the change of roles. In fact, considering how their relationship goes, Michael is making all the major decisions and moves, Dominic is more of the evade&flee type. As I’ve said before, I didn’t agree with his behavior, including when Galen showed up, but it was consistent with his persona. I was feeling very Lestat a lot of the time, itching to just snort at Dominic and say something like “Would you stop it already with all the whining??”.
The most intriguing character for me was Galen, after all was said and done. I found his conflict with himself, his human life, his vampire life, and the world around him very interesting.
On the whole, I felt the vampires of Isabelle Rowan were much more Anne Rice style then the modern vampires, and I appreciated the reference (also textual, somewhere in the novel), since Anne Rice’s vampires are the ones I personally fell in love with all those years ago.

I enjoyed the writing overall, though I felt the strongest point in this particular case was building tension more then description/observation or action-centered; appealing to you emotionally was the strongest part. It did well on all other accounts, but through this it stood out to me.

All in all, I say you should give this a try. It’s ‘clean’ (ie not graphical) romance, an emotional story with interesting characters and a happy ending. If you loved Anne Rice’s vampire and miss that type of character, like I did, you should definitely try this out.


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