Vampire huntress (Dhampir) Emma Andrews is back stalking and staking the undead in Jacqueline Lepore's second tale of gothic horror, "Immortal with a Kiss" (William Morrow, 346 pages).
She takes refuge in a monastery following her first harrowing confrontation with revenants or vampires as recorded in the first novel, "Descent into Dust."
Emma receives a message from her foppish cousin Sebastian pleading for her assistance in investigating some suspicious deaths at the Blackbriar School for girls. Emma is convinced the mysterious deaths bear the mark of a vampire on the loose.
With Sebastian's help, Emma secures a teaching position at Blackbriar which enables her to seek out the fiend who preys on girls. The two are joined by their old friend Father Luke, whose disillusionment with the corruption in the ecclesiastical hierarchy has reduced him to fighting a heroin addiction and Valerian Fox, who has his own obsession to fight - namely, the vampire Marius, who has left his evil mark on Mr. Fox.
Emma has her own personal demons to confront, as she delves into the nature of her gift as a Dhampir or vampire hunter and the fate of her "undead" mother while her relationship with Valerian deepens.
The vampire story is, at its roots, a tale of bloodlust or, more simply, forbidden lust - which leads to dissipation and self-destruction as opposed to true love which is fruitful and life-giving.
Vampires recruit, they cannot reproduce. (This has a familiar ring to it.)
At the Blackbriar School, she encounters an androgynous fiend strengthened with the elusive powers of the forbidden flower, the orchid, symbol of passion, who is capable of adopting the form of a handsome Prince or beautiful Aphrodite, goddess of desire, known in poetry as the "Cyprian Queen."
This evil menace entices young innocents to a most hideous end.
In her latest work, she introduces her readers to a very young Abraham Stoker, better known as "Bram" Stoker, the author of "Dracula" which, one suspects, is a sign of more wicked tales of the Transylvanian Count and his minions.