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Review by
Garrett Peck
by Dicksie Dudeney

The Fiction Works
$5.95 download: ISBN 1-58124-5904
$6.95 Paperback: ISBN 1-58124-672-2


What has come to be called "paranormal romance" is a type of horror fiction that often flies under the radar of many horror fans. One might even argue that romance fiction is the diametric opposite of horror. The two are not mutually exclusive, however. A strong romantic subplot often enlivens the best horror fiction. Think of how often Dean Koontz has used this device to make us care more about his characters, as well as give the characters themselves the courage to fight against whatever evil is stalking them.

Which brings me to Dicksie Dudeney's first novel, BLOOD ROSE. This e-book is being marketed as straight horror, but the romantic elements are as important as the horrific ones.

The spunky protagonist, Detective Lucky Lawrence, is investigating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of skeletal remains found beneath a gazebo on land that used to be the Montoya Land & Cattle Company. The only clue she has to go on is hand-drawn picture of a rose medallion found on the scene. She finds that very medallion around the neck of Dr. Navarrone Drago, the land's new owner. When asked about the medallion, Drago proceeds to tell her of the history of the Montoya family and the pact made between his ancestor Miguel and a winged beast known as the Guardian of the Gargouille. This creature, to whom the sacred blood rose belongs, has the power to grant life to the dearly departed, but only at a high price.

In Dudeney's vividly rendered Florida, the past and present revolve around each other. The events of the past are recreated in the present. She knows exactly when to break off one timeline and return to the next, keeping up the suspense in both. The beginning reads more like a police procedural, then transforms into a historical romance. The horror elements begin to kick in about half way through, but they're worth the wait. Dudeney certainly keeps things entertaining until they do, so that when the horror comes to bear it enlivens an already interesting story. The plot requires a good deal of exposition, but Dudeney proves exposition can be quite fascinating when handled correctly.

There's plenty to admire here. As a resident of North Florida, I can attest to the evocativeness of her descriptions of the land. She definitely did her homework. I learned some things about Florida history I hadn't previously known. For instance, I've often traveled over the Fuller Warren Bridge in Jacksonville, but didn't know Fuller Warren was a former governor of Florida before reading this. For all her well rendered background, however, this is a character driven piece. She brings us into their hearts and makes their motivations very understandable. She also shows amazing skill at writing non-explicit erotica. Her sex scenes are very hot, but concentrate more on the emotional and spiritual components of lovemaking than the biological aspects. For a while I suspected the ending might be predictable, but she managed to pull off a surprising twist that defied my expectations.

With electronic publishing experiencing rapid growth, it is inevitable that we're going to see some substandard work being released. Don't let that blind you to the fact that it's also going to bring us some fine works by writers who are knocking down the traditional boundaries between genres. Major New York houses are uncomfortable with material they can't easily pigeonhole for a single audience. Blood Rose is a novel that should satisfy fans of mystery, horror and romance equally. This can only be a good thing, as the blending of different styles enlivens all genres, keeping them from becoming stale through too much inbreeding. As the audience for this kind of book in electronic format increases, perhaps the big boys will take notice and their resistance to genre-benders will be worn down. This could lead to a revitalization of all forms of popular fiction. Viva la revolución!

I'm stressing the electronic version of this book because it is nominated for the Frankfurt eBook Award, but if you want to read it in good old fashioned book form, it will soon be available as a paperback. And if you'd rather not go to the trouble of doing your own reading, Dudeney has also signed a contract for an audio version that should be available next year. Take your choice of format, but give BLOOD ROSE a try.

Three Book Wyrms


This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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