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A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all
With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh?and a disappointed suitor?far behind. She is bound for Rumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the ...
A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all
With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh—and a disappointed suitor—far behind. She is bound for Rumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians, replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.
Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute—Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.
Before her sojourn is ended—or her novel completed—Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.
"I am afraid we must settle the problem of what to do with Theodora," my brother-in-law said with a weary sigh. He looked past me to where my sister sat stitching placidly on a tiny gown. It had been worn four times already and wanted a bit of freshening.
Anna glanced up from her work to give me a fond look. "I rather think Theodora ought to have a say in that, William."
To his credit, he coloured slightly. "Of course she must." He sketched a tiny bow in my direction. "She is a woman grown, after all. But now that Professor Lestrange has been properly laid to rest, there is no one here to care for her. Something must be decided."
At the mention of my grandfather, I turned back to the bookshelf whose contents I had been sorting. His library had been an extensive one, and, to my anguish, his debts demanded it be sold along with anything else of value in the house. Indeed, the house itself would have to be sold, although William had hopes that the pretty little property in Picardy Place would fetch enough to settle the debts and leave me a tiny sum for my keep. I wiped the books carefully with a cloth sprinkled with neat's-foot oil and placed them aside, bidding farewell to old friends.
Just then the housekeeper, Mrs. Muldoon, bustled in. "The post, Miss Lestrange."
I sorted through the letters swiftly, passing the business correspondence to William. I kept only three for myself, two formal notes of condolence and the last, an odd, old-fashioned-looking letter written on thick, heavy paper and embellished with such exotic stamps and weighty wax seals that I knew at once who must have sent it. I hesitated to open it, savouring the pleasure of anticipation.
William showed no such restraint. He dashed a paper knife through the others, casting a quick eye over the contents.
"More debts," he said with a sigh. He reached for the ledger, entering the numbers with a careful hand. It was good of him to settle my grandfather's affairs so diligently, but at the moment I wanted nothing more than to be rid of him with his ledgers and his close questions about how best to dispose of a spinster sister-in-law of twenty-three.
Catching my mood, Anna smiled at her husband. "I find I am a little unwell. Perhaps some of Mrs. Muldoon's excellent ginger tea might help."
To his credit, William sprang up, all thoughts of me forgotten. "Of course." Naturally, neither of them alluded to the happy source of her sickness, and I wondered wickedly how happy the news had been. A fifth little mouth to feed on his modest living in a small parish. Anna for her part looked tired, her mouth drawn.
"Thank you," I told her when he had gone. I thrust my duster into my pocket and took up the paper knife. It seemed an act of sacrilege to destroy the seal, but I was wildly curious as to the contents.
Anna continued to stitch. "You must not be too impatient with William," she advised me as I began to read. "He does care for you, and he means well. He only wants to see you properly settled."
I mumbled a reply as I skimmed the letter, phrases catching my eye. My dearest friend, how I have missed you…at last he is coming to take up his inheritance… so much to be decided…
Anna chattered on for a few moments, trying to convince me of her husband's better qualities, I think. I scarce listened. Instead I began to read the letter a second time, more slowly, turning each word of the hasty scrawl over in my head.
"Deliverance," I breathed, sinking onto a hassock as my eyes lingered upon the last sentence. You must come to me.
"Theodora, what is it? Your colour has risen. Is it distressing news?"
After a moment, I found my voice. "Quite the opposite. Do you remember my school friend, Cosmina?"
Anna furrowed her brow. "Was she the girl who stayed behind during holidays with you?"
I had forgot that. After Anna had met and promptly married William at sixteen, I had been bereft. She had left us for his living in Derbyshire, and our little household never entirely recovered from the loss. She was but two years my senior, and we had been orphaned together in childhood. We had been each other's bulwark against the loneliness of growing up in an elderly scholar's household, and I had felt the loss of her keenly.
I had pined so deeply in fact, that my grandfather had feared for my health. Thinking it a cure, he sent me to a school for young ladies in Bavaria, and there I had met Cosmina. Like me, she did not make friends easily, and so we had clung to each other, both of us strangers in that land. We were serious, or so we thought ourselves, scorning the silliness of the other girls who talked only of beaux and debut balls. We had formed a fast friendship, forged stronger by the holidays spent at school when the other pupils who had fewer miles to travel had been collected by their families. Only a few of the mistresses remained to keep charge of us and a lively atmosphere always prevailed. We were taken on picnics and permitted to sit with them in the teachers' sitting room. We feasted on pastries and fat, crisp sausages, and were allowed to put aside our interminable needlework for once. No, we had not minded our exile, and many an evening we whiled away the hours telling tales of our homelands, for the mistresses had travelled little and were curious. They teased me fondly about hairy-kneed Highlanders and oat porridge while Cosmina made them shiver with stories of the vampires and werewolves that stalked her native Transylvania.
I collected myself from my reverie. "Yes, she was. She always spoke so bewitchingly of her home. She lives in a castle in the Carpathians, you know. She is kin to a noble family there." I brandished the letter. "She is to be married, and she begs me to come and stay through Christmas."
"Christmas! That is months away. What will you do with yourself for so long in…goodness, I do not even know what country it is!"
I shrugged. "It is its own country, a principality or some such. Part of the Austrian Empire, if I remember rightly."
"But what will you do?" Anna persisted.
I folded the letter carefully and slipped it into my pocket. I could feel it through my petticoats and crinoline, a talisman against the worries that had assailed me since my grandfather had fallen ill.
"I shall write," I said stoutly.
Anna primmed her lips and returned to her needlework.
I went and knelt before her, taking her hands in mine, heedless of the prick of the needle. "I know you do not approve, but I have had some success. It wants only a proper novel for me to be established in a career where I can make my own way. I need be dependent upon no one."
She shook her head. "My darling girl, you must know this is not necessary. You will always have a home with us."
I opened my mouth to retort, then bit the words off sharply. I might have wounded her with them. How could I express to her the horror such a prospect raised within me? The thought of living in her small house with four—now five!—children underfoot, too little money to speak to the expenses, and always William, kindly but disapproving. He had already made his feelings towards women writers quite clear. They were unyielding as stone; he would permit no flexibility upon the point. Writing aroused the passions and was not a suitable occupation for a lady. He would not even allow my sister to read any novel he had not vetted first, reading it carefully and marking out offending passages. The Brontës were forbidden entirely on the grounds that they were "unfettered." Was this to be my future then? Quiet domesticity with a man who would deny me the intellectual freedoms I had nurtured for so long in favour of sewing sheets and wiping moist noses?
No, it was not to be borne. There was no possibility of earning my own keep if I lived with them, and the little money I should have from my grandfather's estate would not sustain me long. I needed only a bit of time and some quiet place to write a full-length novel and build upon the modest success I had already enjoyed as a writer of suspenseful stories.
I drew in a calming breath. "I am grateful to you and to William for your generous offer," I began, "but it cannot be. We are different creatures, Anna, as different as chalk and cheese, and what suits you should stifle me just as my dreams would shock and frighten you."
To my surprise, she merely smiled. "I am not so easily shocked as all that. I know you better than you credit me. I know you long to have adventures, to explore, to meet interesting people and tell thrilling tales. You were always so, even from an infant. I remember you well, walking up to people and thrusting out your hand by way of introduction. You never knew a stranger, and you spent all your time quizzing everyone. Why did Mama give away her cherry frock after wearing it only twice? Why could we not have a monkey to call for tea?" She shook her head, her expression one of sweet indulgence. "You only stopped chattering when you were asleep. It was quite exhausting."
"I do not remember, but I am glad you told me." It had been a long time since Anna and I had shared sisterly confidences. I had seen her so seldom since her marriage. But sometimes, very occasionally, it felt like old times again and I could forget William and the children and the little vicarage that all had better claims upon my sister.
"You would not remember. You were very small. But then you changed after Papa died, became so quiet and close. You lost the trick of making friends. But I still recall the child you were, your clever antics. Papa used to laugh and say he ought to have called you Theodore, for you were fearless as any boy."
"Did he? I scarce remember him anymore. Or Mama. It's been just us for so long."
"And Grandfather," she said with a smile of gentle affection. "Tell me about the funeral. I was very sorry to have been left behind."
William had not thought it fit for a lady in her interesting condition to appear at the funeral, although her stays had not even been loosened. But as ever, she was obedient to his wishes, and I had gone as the last remaining Lestrange to bid farewell to the kindly old gentleman who had taken us in, two tiny children left friendless in a cold world.
Keeping my hands entwined with hers, I told her about the funeral, recounting the eulogium and the remarks of the clergyman on Grandfather's excellent temper, his scholarly reputation, his liberality.
Anna smothered a soft laugh. "Poor Grandfather. His liberality is why your prospects are so diminished," she said ruefully.
I could not dispute it. Had he been a little less willing to lend money to an impecunious friend or purchase a book from a scholar fallen upon hard times, there would have been a great deal left in his own coffers. But there was not a man in Edinburgh who did not know to apply to Professor Mungo Lestrange if he was a man of both letters and privation.
"Was Mr. Beecroft there?" she asked carefully. She withdrew her hands from mine and took up her needlework again.
I looked for something to do with my own hands and found the fire wanted poking up. I busied myself with poker and shovel while I replied.
"It was very kind of him to come."
"He is my publisher, and his firm published Grandfather's work. It was a professional courtesy," I replied coolly.
"Rather more a personal one, I should think," she said, her voice perfectly even. But we had not been sisters so long for nothing. I detected the tiny note of hope in her tone, and I determined to squash it.
"He has asked me to marry him," I told her. "I have refused him."
She jumped and gave a little exclamation as she pricked herself. She thrust a finger into her mouth and sucked at it, then wrapped it in a handkerchief.
"Theodora, why? He is a kind man, an excellent match. And if any husband ought to be sympathetic to a wifely pen it is a publisher!"
I stirred up the coals slowly, watching the warm pink embers glow hotly red under my ministrations. "He is indeed a kind man, and an excellent publisher. He is prosperous and well-read, and with a liberal bent of mind that I should scarce find once in a thousand men."
"Then why refuse him?"
I replaced the poker and turned to face her. "Because I do not love him. I like him. I am fond of him. I esteem him greatly. But I do not love him, and that is an argument you cannot rise to, for you did not marry without love and you can hardly expect it of me."
Her expression softened. "Of course I understand. But is it not possible that with a man of such temperament, of such possibility, that love may grow? It has all it needs to flourish—soil, seed and water. It requires only time and a more intimate acquaintance."
"And if it does not grow?" I demanded. "Would you have me hazard my future happiness on 'might'? No, it is not sound. I admit that with time a closer attachment might form, but what if it does not? I have never craved domesticity, Anna. I have never longed for home and hearth and children of my own, and yet that must be my lot if I marry. Why then would I take up those burdens unless I had the compensation of love? Of passion?"
She raised a warning finger. "Do not collect passion into the equation. It is a dangerous foe, Theodora, like keeping a lion in the garden. It might seem safe enough, but it might well destroy you. No, do not yearn for passion. Ask instead for contentment, happiness. Those are to be wished for."
"They are your wishes," I reminded her. "I want very different things. And if I am to find them, I cannot tread your path."
We exchanged glances for a long moment, both of us conscious that though we were sisters, born of the same blood and bone, it was as if we spoke different dialects of the same language, hardly able to take each other's meaning properly. There was no perfect understanding between us, and I think it grieved her as deeply as it did me.
Posted April 4, 2010
A typical Harlequin romance. No plot to speak of. Characters were one dimensional and the ending was telegraphed by the second chapter. Have read the Lady Julia Grey books and enjoyed them for their sizzle, fast pace, and good characterizations. This book falls flat in all areas.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2010
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I am not a huge fan of the vampire genre, but I thought Deanna Raybourne's twist on a Dracula-esque story was very enjoyable. It kept my interest, and in fact I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! There was a little romance in this book, but it wasn't written cheaply or without feeling. I love trying to figure out her puzzles. The characters were fun and made the story more interesting. Very enjoyable and spooky.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
You're not going to get that time back, either. It should have been a fun spin on the Dracula story with a young woman travelling to Transylvania and coming into contact with vampire legends - and maybe reality? I read the book because I have enjoyed Deanna Raybourn's other books, but this just didn't work for me. It seemed like Raybourn was slumming it a little; I bet it was fun to write, and easy, but probably because it ended up being pretty paint-by-numbers. I actually didn't remember what this book was about until I saw the cover again a couple weeks later. Not a good sign. Her "Lady Julia Grey" series, which starts with "Silent in the Grave" is even more escapist-y fun, but smarter.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 6, 2010
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I, like many others that have read this book, are big fans of the Lady Julia Grey series. Of course, we will all compare it to the series and I did at first. I was a little disappointed because I felt it didn't quite stand up to the excellence we had come to expect from Lady Grey. After I stopped comparing and let myself be swept away in the story, I found it rather enjoyable. It's a dark gothic tale in a very interesting setting. This sort of reminded me of Julia Grey meets Jane Eyre. The dark castle, the master who can't be understood or tamed, the girl not sure if she will have her happy ending all mixed with murder & mystery. It was an easy read with a surprising ending. As long as you don't go into it expecting to find the same quality as the Grey series, I think you will find it enjoyable.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2012
Not up to the author's usual standards....I love her Lady Julia series, but I started just skimming this one to finish it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 2, 2011
Since I love and have read her Lady Grey novels, I deided to purchase this Deanna Raybourn book. I have not quite finished, but am intrigued by it. I would highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 6, 2011
I just finished it.....always sad to come to the end of one of her stories. This was as eloquently written as everything else she has published, and i am excited to read the next one she publishes!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2011
I could not put this book down. The author really knows how to write sensually without being smutty. I felt like a kid eating a piece of cake, quick to finish because it tastes so good but sad once the cake was devoured. I anticipate the next book I read from this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I know I know, a weird combo. A pretty good read about a writer name Theodora who goes to Transylvania to visit her friend Cosmina who's getting married. All the while hoping to start on her novel, if the right moment of inspiration intervenes. That's when Theodora meets Cosmina's fiance, the Count Andrei. While there, she soon learns of the local legends involving vampires and werewolves. The setting was interesting as the same can be said for the characters who helped keep the story interesting. There were some creepy and weird moments. Didn't expect some of the twists and turns that happened throughout the story. I don't why why but while the ending was good, it seemed like something was missing. Maybe it's just me? Liked how Tycho the dog had a role in the story instead of just being in the background. Don't see more of that in other books. Recommend Dead Travel Fast if you like stories with vampires and or a good mystery.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2010
Posted September 18, 2010
I just finished reading this book and truly loved it. It had all the chills, thrills, and romance. Can't wait for her next book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Taking a break from the Lady Julia series, Deanna Raybourn offers us a new character, different but similar is some ways as Lady Julia. The setting is Transylvania, the castle is gothic, and the characters there are anything but usual. I found this tale very enjoyable, reminiscent of Jane Eyre. Until the end, the true characters are not revealed. And, is it really vampires and legends come to pass or human nature? While I prefer Lady Julia, this was another Deanna Raybourn novel I just could not wait to get back to reading. Well done.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2010
I am a big fan of the Lady Julia Gray series. So while I'm waiting for the 4th book in that series, I thought I'd give The Dead Travel Fast a shot.
This was a book I could read a few pages at a time and then go do some housework. I enjoyed it . . but it wasn't a "can't set this book down" type of book.
I love Ms Raybourn's stories. I first read the Lady Grey Series, enjoyed them all and am anxiously waiting for the fourth in the series (Nov 2010). Lady Grey's intelligent, pert, honesty is the perfect match for the dark, mysterious Bisbane. In The Dead Travel Fast, we have a new heroine, who is different than Lady Grey, but still a strong, intelligent woman, who knows her own mind. The superstitions and legends of the Romanian people added an interesting twist to the mystery. I love that Ms. Raybourne's heros are dark, mysterious and romantic and her heroines are intelligent and strong (not fall in love at first sight and will do anything to win you romances). Her books are well-written adventures, with a touch of romance, that never disappoint.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Deanna Raybourn once again takes us back in time. She has left Lady Julia Gray behind and brought us a new heroine in Theodora Lestrange.
Theodora is left homeless and lost when her beloved grandfather passes. She longs to be self sufficient and seeks out a way in which to do just that. Her best school chum invites her to her wedding in Transylvania and she jumps at the opportunity.
Ms. Raybourn takes Romanian folk lore and our own personal fears and intertwines them with romance and intrigue. She had me sleeping with the light on in fear of the strigoi.
While I did not enjoy this book as much as the Silent series I certainly hope she publishes again and soon. Beach reading season is coming and this book is just the thing for an afternoon on the sand wher you are safe and warm. Vampires don't like the sun right?
Posted April 1, 2010
With her Lady Julia Grey novels, Deanna Raybourn has proved herself a master at creating evocative, atmospheric settings and her decision to set her latest Gothic novel, The Dead Travel Fast, in a mysterious and darkly exotic, feudal Transylvania castle can only be labeled as perfectly brilliant.
The death of Miss Theodora LeStrange's grandfather and guardian has left her at a impasse. Never one to desire marriage and motherhood she can either move in with her sister - and her many children - or marry a man she likes but does not love. Neither option is particularly appealing to Theodora when her rescue from domesticity arrives in the form of a letter from her school-friend Cosmina, inviting her to come to Castle Dragulescu in Transylvania prior to her upcoming marriage. Convinced this is the opportunity she has been waiting for to write her long-dreamed of novel, Theodora convinces friends and family to let her travel halfway around the world to a place steeped in tradition and superstition. Upon her arrival at Castle Dragulescu, Theodora is delighted to discover more than enough inspiration for her novel - the crumbling, yet majestic castle, the superstitious villagers, howling wind and dangerous wolves, not to mention the enigmatic Count Andrei Dragulescu himself. A figure cut for the most dashing adventures surely. But when a strange, horrifying murder strikes at the castle and rumors of supernatural involvement begin to swirl round, Theodora finds her pragmatic intellectual ideals sorely tested as the chilling and diabolical sequence of events unfold.
It is with a heavy heart to say that I truly struggled with this novel - I must have picked it up only to set it down again about twenty different times in the course of a couple of weeks; each time succumbing to the temptation of other, more shiny books. And it makes it even harder to admit when I say I have truly, truly been looking forward to reading it. That's not to say I wasn't impressed with Ms. Raybourn's latest offering - oh no, I was quite enthralled in fact. Perhaps I just wasn't in the proper frame of mind for such a dramatic and chilling Gothic novel. Over the course of Theodora's narrative I seemed to come across each and every ingredient necessary in crafting a traditional Gothic tale as if I was reading with a checklist in hand: the dark, creepy castle; the mysterious and handsome feudal lord with a libertine past and hidden depths; superstitious townsfolk; the first person, diary-style narrative; the introduction of supernatural elements all combined to create a truly haunting narrative -- just not anything particularly unique. Except for the added twist of Theodora's sleuthing - very much reminiscent of Lady Julia's adventures in that just when you think you've got it all figured out, another shocking revelation comes to light. Still, Ms. Raybourn is one of those authors who I have come to trust implicitly and although I didn't *love* The Dead Travel Fast, I very much liked it. And if I say I'm seriously anticipating the next Julia and Brisbane adventure -- Dark Road to Darjeeling -- like wow and boy howdy, would you even hold that against me?
Posted March 29, 2010
Evocative of both Shelley's Frankenstein and Stoker's Dracula, this engrossing tale kept me bewitched from start to finish. Exquisitely drawn characters and tight plotting kept the story moving forward. I too, along with Theodora, fell under the spell of Count Dragelescu. Best read on a dark and stormy night! I expect nothing but the best from this author. If you haven't read her backlist, do so today. Loved all the Julia Grey titles as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
As I fan of her Julia Grey series, I was excited to see a new entry from Raybourn. But, I was also a little apprehensive that she was writing something new and that I might not like it. However, I enjoyed the book very much and was glad I picked it up. I like that her books come out in paperback, since hardcovers take up so much space. Raybourn is a good writer, but for those looking for a straight mystery, this is not the book for you. It's definitely a romance, thriller, mystery hybrid, that may not please everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2010
In 1858, writer Theodora Lestrange hates her life in Scotland as everyone she knows wonders why she remains a spinster though she enjoys writing spirited books under the pseudonym T. Lestrange. Needing to escape the misery, she heads to Transylvania to attend her best friend Cosmina's wedding in Hermannstdat, Transylvania.
Theodora is put up in a dilapidated castle that the locals whisper about in fearful ominous tones. She finds herself feeling different about the castle; perhaps because she is attracted to the owner Count Andrei Dragulescu. However, though he reciprocates her deep feelings, he has a secret that if she learns he will have to leave her dead.
This is a terrific gothic romance starring a wonderful courageous heroine who while in seeming danger reflects back to her last comment in Edinburgh: "What could possibly happen to me in Transylvania?", obviously everything. The story line is fast-paced as Theodora and readers unravel the truth behind the local legend of the vampire and of her enigmatic host. Although Andrei never seems quite worthy of Theodora, fans will root for the brave woman as she learns that The Dead Travel Fast when the heart is involved.
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