There were times when she glided past a mirror only to see her face, and have it startle her. Those were the times when she felt that her beauty had betrayed her somehow, or that the face in the mirror no longer represented the woman she was.
If Time had been allowed to take its course, she should have been sitting in an armchair by now, wearing a moth-balled cardigan and slippers. Her face should have sunk into the comfortable crevices and lines of old age, her hair turned white and coarse, her eyes gummy and misty with memories. She did a quick tot-up of her years. The resulting sum came out at over a hundred.
If she hadn’t been Turned, she’d probably be already dead. The thought chilled her, and yet Violet still couldn’t help thinking of the old woman she might have become.
Instead, staring back at her was the face of a sixteen-year old, charmed with an unusual, ethereal beauty, her skin as pale as candle wax beneath her dark eyeshadow and cherry-purple lipstick. Eternally beautiful, eternally cursed, she thought.
– Excerpt from The Breathing Ghosts, copyright Eleanor Keane 2013.
Violet Valvayne is a vampire of conscience and contradictions. Turned into a vampire when she was just sixteen, Violet retains the willowy, coat hanger-thin body and open heart of a teenager, but struggles against her craving for human blood, and has a world-weariness that doesn’t show in the smooth lines of her lovely face. On the surface, Violet has everything she could wish for- she is a breathtakingly beautiful, rich, upper-class, finely cut specimen of girlhood. She is cosseted, spoiled and indulged by her twin brother Virgil- also a vampire- and is used to having her every whim catered to, no matter how frivolous.
Yet beneath that glittering surface, cracks have already grown deep and long, rendering asunder everything which Violet has taken for granted for so many, many years. ‘Turned’ in 1924 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, Violet has never truly left that era behind. She wanders aimlessly around the monochromatic Art Deco hulk of Valvayne Manor, unsure of what to do or who to be in her endless array of beautiful, bejewelled black flapper dresses. Her older brother Edgar taunted and insulted her over her sexuality, and while Virgil adores her, he adores her most when she is meek and obedient, trapped in a golden cage of his making. He sees no reason to modernise the Manor or to change their flapper-era appearance: a conveyer belt of tuxedos, evening jackets, immaculately cut suits and dresses and neatly oiled hair. Violet’s pleas to experience the outside world often fall on deaf ears, and she is left to roam the Gothic halls of her home and her prison, helpless, and naïve, but ultimately not as vulnerable as her brother would like to believe.
Virgil and Violet possess an uncanny bond, and as twins they are eerily similar in appearance: the same height and elegant build, with the same pale, translucent skin, handsome features and glossy black hair. Even stranger is their ability to feel each other’s pain at the same time- and Virgil shows no hesitation in using this ability to punish his beloved sister when she has misbehaved.
Eventually, Virgil’s manic possessiveness and complete disregard of her wish for autonomy threatens to pull apart what is left of their relationship. Virgil tries his best to subdue the spirit of his sister, and mould Violet into something meek and mild and manageable, but a flicker of dark fire still remains within Violet, and her independent will is not so easily crushed. Brother and sister are pitted against each other as Edgar’s death throws into relief the aching rift between them.
Into this already fraught atmosphere stumbles the character of Rowan Oakwood- outsider, misfit, vampire hunter, teenage lesbian and riot of unabashed colour. Running around in an array of bright orange, blue, green, purple and mustard yellow hippy clothes, with vigour and personality to match, Rowan is the perfect antidote to the coolly sociopathic, endlessly monochrome world of the Valvaynes.
As Violet becomes more and more intrigued by Rowan, and keen to explore her side of the rainbow, Virgil becomes equally as intent to bring Rowan down and destroy her. Faced between the only family she has ever known, and the only love she has ever experienced, Violet must make a choice that has devastating consequences: Brother or lover? Vampire or hunter? The Twenties or the twenty-first century?
As Violet desperately tries to figure out a way to realize her dreams, she soon becomes all too aware that she may have to fight herself out of a waking nightmare.
Image is Creative-Commons licensed for reproduction, from Flickr