Danger Gal Friday: Elise Chase

This week’s Danger Gal profile is on Elise Chase from Lara Adrian’s third book in the Breed series, MIDNIGHT AWAKENING.

Midnight Awakening, Lara AdrianI picked up the Breed series after Dear Author’s Jane reviewed it in November. Like Jane, I pretty much inhaled this story, reading all three books (about 900 pages total) in seven days. I loved all three of them, but I enjoyed MIDNIGHT AWAKENING the best. The heroines in each novel were strong, independent, and had their own gifts to offer in the quest against the Rogues. Alert: This article contains spoilers.

Briefly, Adrian’s vampires came to Earth from another planet eons ago, but their physiologies could not digest any plant or animal, and so for sustenance they turned to human blood. Threat of the Bloodlust madness is always present, however, and those who have given into it are feral vampires called Rogues. The Brotherhood is determined to eradicate the Rogue threat, even though the civilized vampire communities, called Darkhavens, regard them as vigilantes and have unsuccessfully tried rehabilitation. All of Adrian’s vampires are male, and while they can sustain themselves on any human blood, the blood of a Breedmate is special. Partaking of it creates a lifelong bond, and near immortality for the human lovers. It is only with Breedmates that vampires can procreate. (The consistency of the Breedmate birthmark makes me think that it must be due to either genetic manipulation or some so far unknown shared heritage. Maybe an explanation will show up in future books.)

Both Elise Chase and Tegan have been deeply hurt by death and loss. Unlike Tegan, who has masked his emotions with apathy, Elise turns to revenge. With “a dagger in her hand and vengeance on her mind,” Elise hunts Rogues in the Boston streets using her empathic abilities to track them. Without help, neither Elise or Tegan can continue as they have been, but together they awaken to a life both thought dead to them, and work together to fight the Rogue threat.

Elise defies feminine conventions in her own Darkhaven society as well as in the human one. For years she sat in mourning for her husband, existing in self-inflicted near seclusion from vampires and total seclusion from non-Breedmate humans. It is the death of her son that spurs Elise into action. The notion that only danger to her children will elicit violence from a woman is a bit cliché, but Adrian sets up Elise’s motivations so well that it works: It’s not her femininity that causes Elise to initially withdraw, it’s her Breedmate gift of empathy. If not for the pain she experiences from this gift, I think Elise would have been more engaged from the beginning in the hunt for her missing son, and if not for her gift she would not have felt so helpless. It’s this sense of helplessness that prompts Elise to take matters in the opposite extreme and become a vigilante herself.

Many people have compared Adrian’s vampire brotherhood to J.R. Ward’s, and there are similarities. One of these parallels is the notion of the vampire males being legally allowed to control the women in their lives with a forced seclusion, a kind of house arrest approved by their societies as inflicted for the females’ own protection. Several characters in both vampire worlds consider this option to be not only outdated, but offensive. Elise’s brother-in-law realizes that he legally can stop her from hunting by enforcing seclusion, but can’t bring himself to enact it. Tegan never thinks about it, but it would seem very out of character for him to even consider it. It’s really the only thing that squicks me out about both vampire worlds, and I’d love to see these secret societies abolish it. That does seem to be happening in the Ward vampire-verse with Marissa discovering her Feminist sensibilities, fighting her personal experience with it, and setting up the society’s first women’s shelter. In Adrian’s vampire-verse, the friction between the levels of civilization and ferity — as represented in degrees by the Darkhavens, the Brotherhood and the Rogues — could lead to a focus on this issue from the standpoint of personal freedom. Regardless, I have enjoyed both vampire series and the motif has the potential to add another dimension to these stories.

In closing, when Elise and Tegan meet, both are living austerely, barely existing as real people from one hunt to the next. It was a pleasure to watch these two people help each other put themselves back together again.