I thought I was sick unto death of vampire novels until I read this one. The Stress of Her Regard reminds me of Anne Rice at her best, some years ago, except with more action and less description of the carpeting.
The story centers around the nephelim, Lilith’s brood. Seductive, serpentine, and deadly, they are succubi and vampires, draining blood and vitality from their hosts even as they inspire them to creativity. One of these beings attaches itself to Byron and Shelley’s circle of expatriate poets, and the drama begins.
We see this through the eyes of gynecologist Michael Crawford, who gets drunk and puts his wedding ring on a statue’s hand at the bachelor party — and finds his wife murdered the morning after the wedding, in a scene reminiscent, probably intentionally, of Dr. Frankenstein’s wedding night. Suspected of the murder, he flees to the Continent, where he becomes Byron’s personal doctor. Traveling with the controversial lord, he will become entangled with poets, wannabe poets, fetishists who want to be vampire victims, and the mentally ill sister of his dead wife, who wants to see him dead. Along the way, he learns more about the creature to whom he is “married,” and tries to break his ties to it, as mysterious deaths begin to occur.
This is a creepy and atmospheric novel that I could not put down. I read at night until I couldn’t stay awake any longer, then got up and read in the morning. This is an enthralling novel of ancient evil, troubled love, birth, and death, which will stay with you.