So now... Julie and the guy just,... stare at each other. Wow, this really is like Twilight.
he visibly and undeniably shaken that I had caught him unawares. My heart stopped.
"I wasn't going through your uncle's porn collection! I totally wasn't doing that!"
No, he rushes over and grabs her, and she promptly shrieks like a banshee.
I saw Richard rising from the chair. I was alone.
"Dammit, now I only have my brother to creepily obsess on!"
She goes tottering to the garden and briefly sees the guy, only to have him vanish. He might have vanished partly because I could not stop screaming, which can be a little off-putting when you've been trying to talk to somebody. She sits there crying and shrieking while her brother tries to make her stop.
And I was still crying when Mrs. Blessington finally came.
She slapped me several times and poured ice water over my head.
She got a glass of cordial for me at once,
AGAIN.... she is blind. How can she locate shit so quickly?
"But you know who it was!" I said to Richard almost hysterically. "It was he, the young man from the train. Only he wore a frockcoat years out of fashion and his silk tie was open at his throat. Richard, he was reading your papers, turning them over, reading them in the pitch dark."
- Why are his clothes out of fashion? I thought insufferably posh immortals all had lots of money.
- I'm not exactly sure why he keeps going through the papers of the person who has the house.
- And like Bella, Julie has absolutely no doubt that the weird stuff she sees is completely true.
- I mean, she's only been drifting around acting like a crazy person and obsessing on a guy. If she sees that guy, it can't possibly be a hallucination caused by her loopy brain finally frying out.
Julie immediately deduces that the vampire found Richard's letters about tearing down the house... because somehow he knew that the papers would have something important like that. This news nearly gives Mrs. Blessington a heart attack, since they very considerately did not explain the whole "destroying your home" thing to the elderly lady.
"Surely you don't believe it was the same man, Julie, after all these years. . ."
"But he had not changed, Richard, not in the smallest detail. There is no mistake, Richard, it was he, I tell you, the very same."
Again, a person has been acting mentally off, and obsessing on a guy whom she ALREADY THOUGHT looked exactly the same as he did several years ago. Occam's razor.
"Oh, dear, dear. . ." Mrs. Blessington whispered, "What will he do if you try to tear it down? What will he do now?"
"He might have to get a new house instead of leeching off someone else for centuries! Oh noes!"
Yes, Mrs. Blessington knows all about this, and she conveniently blurts out confirmation just in time for Richard to hear it.
"So you know who he is!" I whispered.
"Julie, stop it!" Richard said.
Dude, you've already entertained the idea by asking the housekeeper who the hell she's talking about. Julie demands that Mrs. Blessington explain to them, but Mrs. Blessington just says vague things about how nothing in the house will hurt anybody.
You know, this scene COULD have been eerie. It does involve an unaging immortal breaking in and discovering what the people there are about to do with his place. It could hint that he'll get terrible revenge on them, or find some way of stopping them.
But Rice screwed it up.
This isn't eerie or shocking because we've already been told that he is a vampire, that he creeps around the place, and that he goes through the owner's papers. So... this was totally expected. And it's not spooky because Rice KEEPS TELLING US that it's not scary. How am I supposed to be surprise OR spooked?!
"And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself."
"You've no need of me here any longer," she said softly, "and if you should tear down this house built by your forefathers, then you should do it without need of me."
I don't think they needed a blind elderly housekeeper to demo a house.
Mrs. Blessington immediately runs off, and Julie insists that they need to stop her... but not because the housekeeper is distraught and planning to leave.
"Go after her, Richard. You heard what she said. She knows who he is."
"I need a youthful immortal to hump on, and she knows where he is!"
"But he should be told, shouldn't he?" I demanded.
"Told what? Of whom do you speak!"
"Told that we will not tear down this house!" I said clearly, loudly, listening to the echo of my own voice.
- That statement is actually so stupid that Richard doesn't respond to it.
- I like to think he stomps off to bed and locks the door while Julie sits in the hallway crying.
- Well, proto-Bella, you could have told him yourself if you hadn't responded to his presence by shrieking in his face.
It took the better part of the morning to convince Mrs. Blessington that we had no intention of tearing down Rampling Gate.
... and replacing it with luxury condos.
Richard posted his letters and resolved that we should do nothing until help came.
... wait, I thought they claimed they had no intention of tearing it down, but now he's decided they'll only not do anything until someone helps?
So did they lie to the housekeeper, or is Richard just going to sit in his chair and sulk?
They also search the entire house, which has gone from "palatial" to "comically huge." Reigning royalty doesn't live in houses this big and convoluted. They literally spend all day searching the rooms, and not only do they only manage the main part of the house and one wing... and they STILL manage to lose track of what they've checked and what they haven't.
But it was also quite clear by supper time that Richard was in a state of strain and exasperation, and that he did not believe that I had seen anyone in the study at all.
This is news? He seemed both exasperated and skeptical before!
He also doesn't think Uncle Baxter saw anyone, and that he was cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But being the heroine, Julie knows she totally didn't imagine anything or hallucinate anything, despite acting like a loon for several weeks now. And the fact that she wants to fuck the vampire has absolutely no bearing on believing he totally exists.
Yet what obsessed me more than anything else was the gentle countenance of the mysterious man I had glimpsed, the dark, almost innocent, eyes that had fixed on me for one moment before I had screamed.
"Strange that Mrs. Blessington is not afraid of him," I said in a low distracted voice, no longer caring if Richard heard me. "And that no one here seems in fear of him at all. . ."
I'm sorry to keep bringing this up, but the lack of suspense really kills this story for me. I get that Rice was writing something more romantic than horrific/frightening. But she keeps bringing in horror tropes, and then ripping out their teeth almost immediately. We never have a chance to be spooked, so that the romantic angle can come as a twist or a surprise.
So the whole "he's not dangerous! He's super-perfect and nice!" thing just makes all the gothic horror elements feel really hollow and pointless. It's like bringing furniture into a house with no roof.
"You would be wise to do one very important thing before you retire," I said. "Leave out in writing a note to the effect that you do not intend to tear down the house."
Yes, keep nagging your brother. That will totally make him believe you.
And here's an idea, alleged protagonist: why don't YOU leave a note? Or would that be too much activity?
"Julie, you have created an impossible dilemma," Richard demanded. "You insist we reassure this apparition that the house will not be destroyed, when in fact you verify the existence of the very creature that drove our father to say what he did."
... so? That doesn't mean you have to destroy the house. Or is there some kind of legal clause that the presence of vampires means you have to demo your house?
Julie immediately bursts into a fit of whining, and declares that "I could never go without knowing. . . 'his secrets'. . . 'the demon wretch.' I could never go on living without knowing now!" Well, that's easy. Just go on down to the high school and nag him until he admits he's a vampire. Then he can introduce you to his creepy family.
And that is the sign for Julie to put on her big-girl panties and finally do something!
And by that... I mean that she sits in her room half the night, waiting for everyone else to go to bed. And when they do... she continues sitting there. You know, even Bella "I'll sit in my room listening to Linkin Park and using dial-up" Swan managed to do SOMETHING... eventually... even if it was passive and filled with whining.
Twelve, the witching hour.
Anne Rice just LOVES certain words and phrases, doesn't she?
My heart was beating too fast at the thought of it, and dreamily I recollected the face I had seen, the voice that had said my name.
Ah, why did it seem in retrospect so intimate, that we had known each other, spoken together, that it was someone I recognized in the pit of my soul?
Because this is a really bad, bad, BAD romance, and character development is for writers who don't throw temper tantrums over constructive criticism.
Wouldn't it be hilarious if she spent her whole life obsessing on this vampire, and he revealed he was already in a committed relationship? Or gay? Or just totally disinterested in shallow, mentally-unbalanced teen girls who think horniness = true lurv? Now THAT would be a fun ending.
And then a spasm of fear startled me. Would I have the courage to go in search of him, to open the door to him? Was I losing my mind?
Nope. Nope. Nope.
You don't get to do that, Rice. You don't get to pretend that this is scary or that the heroine is losing her mind. You have spent literally the entire story assuring us that there is NOTHING scary here, and that the vampire is utterly harmless. So now pulling a U-turn and pretending he's scary in some way instead of a wilting doe-eyed bishie who cares about the heroine's feewings is NOT PERMITTED.
And also, you don't get to pull the "ooo, maybe I was just imagining it or going crazy!" card after spending the last DAY tormenting us with her creepy certainty that she totally saw someone.
And if you're wondering if this is some belated attempt at suspense... it isn't. Because a couple paragraphs later, the vampire is literally standing next to her. So her being afraid and questioning her sanity? TOTALLY POINTLESS.
And yes, that means our heroine didn't even need to stand up and walk out of the room to locate her Twoo Wuv. She just sits there daydreaming until he decides to pop into her room. Wow. I'd make another Bella Swan joke, but Bella occasionally actually MOVED. This girl makes Bella look like Captain Marvel.
What was more empty than this rural night? What was more sweet?
And he was standing there, dressed exactly as he had been the night before,
With clown shoes and a fez.
and his dark eyes were riveted on me with that same obvious curiosity, his mouth just a little slack like that of a school boy,
And with utmost elegance, he said, "Durrrrrrrrr..."
Why, he was lost in contemplating me.
"She's been sitting there drooling and mumbling for SIX HOURS. What the hell is wrong with her?"
But we had been talking to each other, hadn't we, I had been asking him questions, no, telling him things. And I felt suddenly I was losing my equilibrium or slipping back into a dream.
Again... this doesn't scream "totally sane" to me.
And then she immediately starts hallucinating that she was talking to the vampire, while her dad dashed around trying to stop her. I... really don't know if she's supposed to be remembering something from the past, or just being crazy. Hell, she isn't even sure if she's talking out loud - that is how crazy she's acting.
I mean I heard our voices for an instant, almost in argument, and I saw Father in his top hat and black overcoat rushing alone through the streets of the West End, peering into one door after another, and then, rising from the marble-top table in the dim smoky music hall you. . . your face.
.... is she talking to the reader?
And why in hell would she have been in a music hall in the West End? I thought she was a shy nerdy upper-crust girl in one of the most prudishly misogynistic eras of western history.
". . . to penetrate the soul of it," I insisted, picking up the lost thread. But did my lips move? "To understand what it is that frightened him, enraged him. He said, 'Tear it down!'"
". . . you must never, never, can't do that." His face was stricken, like that of a schoolboy about to cry.
I didn't think Rice could make this vampire less intimidating than Edward "I Got My Ass Beaten By A Preteen Girl" Cullen... but she managed it. God help me, she managed it.
"No, absolutely, we don't want to, either of us, you know it. . . and you are not a spirit!"
... why did she say that? Where did that comment come from?
"A spirit?" he asked almost mournfully, almost bitterly. "Would that I were."
- Ah, it was a lead-in to THAT stupid line.
- It wouldn't be an Anne Rice story unless the purty immortal was just wangsty enough to be a woobie, but not so self-loathing that he actually might do something about it.
- "I'm an angsty sad immortal who can only be made happy by having sex with a shallow teenage girl who is obviously my soulmate! I'm so lonely and tormented!"
And then... I'm not sure where we are right now, because Rice hasn't explained if this is reality or more fantasies from Julie's diseased mind. And once again, she's surpassed Bella because not only can she not control her own physical movements and speech... but she seems to be barely aware that she's doing anything.
Dear God, I was talking to him! He was in my room and I was talking to him! And I was in his arms.
"And he was taking off his pants. And he had an enormous throbbing erection that pulsated like my heart beating. And I was screaming 'Fuck me while I'm tight.'"
"Real, absolutely real!" I whispered, and a low zinging sensation coursed through me
"Zinging sensation"? That's the best you can come up with? That's the sensation you get with a mildly spicy salad dressing.
He was peering at me as if trying to comprehend something terribly important to him,
... Is he really nearsighted, or is he just as dim as her.
His lips did have a ruddy look to them, a soft look for all his handsomeness, as if he had never been kissed.
... so his lips were red with not being kissed. Does Rice not know what "ruddy" means?!
"Oh, but I am," he said softly. I felt his breath against my cheek, and it was almost sweet. "I am here, and you are with me, Julie. . ."
Behold! The birth of the vampiric superhero, Captain Obvious!
You know, this is not making me impressed by this vampire. He is literally perplexed by the sight of a woman, and he tells her that they are both in the place they are in.
She briefly hallucinates her father and uncle again... which is making me wonder if this whole story is actually just a dream. The dream of a crazy woman. And she's being thrown in some nightmarish Victorian insane asylum and hallucinating that the doctor examining her is actually a very dumb vampire.
"Love me, Julie," came that voice in my ear. I felt his lips against my neck. "Only a little kiss, Julie, no harm. . ." And the core of my being, that secret place where all desires and all commandments are nurtured, opened to him without a struggle or a sound. I would have fallen if he had not held me. My arms closed about him, my hands slipping into the soft silken mass of his hair.
May I point out that these people have seen each other exactly three times in their lives, and exchanged maybe twenty words? This is the first conversation they have had.
And yet, he's already all "LOVE MEEEEE!" and about to bite her neck.
Congratulations, Anne Rice. You have managed to literally create a romance shallower than Twilight's. A romance between a derpy lipsticked vampire and a girl who is literally insane.
I was floating, and there was as there had always been at Rampling Gate an endless peace. It was Rampling Gate I felt around me, it was that timeless and impenetrable soul that had opened itself at last. . . A power within me of enormous ken. . . To see as a god sees, and take the depth of things as nimbly as the outward eyes can size and shape pervade. . .
Seriously, she is hallucinating. And there is no in-story explanation for this to be happening, like a spiked drink or being half-asleep.
So let's recap:
- She talks to inanimate objects and expects them to answer.
- She expects random men she saw over a decade ago to appear out of the blue, without having aged a day. With no reason to think it will happen.
- She literally shows signs of a psychotic break when the man shows up, hallucinating people and past events and seeing things like a god...
- ... which seriously makes me wonder if he's there at all, or whether she just lost what was left of her sanity and is hallucinating HIM as well.
This is not romantic. I'm just envisioning a frothing-mouthed madwoman masturbating... which means I feel like I'm watching New Moon.
In a violent instant we had parted, he drawing back as surely as I.
"No! I mustn't! I'm a monster, and you are a pure and delicate maiden with virginal ladyparts! That's the cliched trope, and God forbid we ever deviate from it!"
So he literally pushes her across the room, which is definitely romantic and not something that could have killed her. She just kind of wilts against the window, thinking about how much she loves the feeling of teeth marks in her neck. No, I'm not kidding. She loves the way it feels.
"What have they done to me?" he whispered. "Have they played the cruelest trick of all?"
"Something of menace, unspeakable menace," I whispered.
"Something ancient, Julie, something that defies understanding, something that can and will go on."
"But why, what are you?" I touched that pulsing pain with the tips of my fingers and, looking down at them, gasped. "And you suffer so, and you are so seemingly innocent, and it is as if you can love!"
- This is not dialogue. Dialogue is a series of lines that naturally follow each other.
- What in fuck does "Something of menace, unspeakable menace" mean? What does it have to do with his question about "they"?
- A normal response would be to ask who "they" are, or to question what he's talking about.
- And why does she ask "why?" when he natters about "something ancient." That is not a natural response.
- What about him or the things he's said or done makes her think that he SHOULDN'T be capable of love? She makes it sound like it's SURPRISING to think he could love, even though she doesn't even know what he is or why he wouldn't be?
- Or did she hallucinate that?
- WHY ARE MY EYES BLEEDING?
He goes all "I'm a monster, o woe!" emo, and starts to leave. And because she doesn't want him to go... she stands there and does nothing. Again, making Bella Swan look like fucking Black Widow. And because she's done absolutely nothing to keep him from leaving... he changes his mind.
He drew me to him ever so gently, and slipping his arm around me guided me to the door.
"We'll need lime-scented lube, a jumbo-sized inflatable sheep and the first season of Thundercats!"