Bringing Together the Casts of Tantalize and Eternal
When I started the Tantalize series in late 2001, early 2002, my inspiration novel was Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). I’m fascinated, not only by the book itself but how it’s endured, how it’s been reinvented over the generations and in prose, on the stage, on radio and screen, and in graphic format.
Behind the Scenes:
My thought was that Dracula had lived and been undead and died forever—maybe. That most modern vampires hailed from a different supernatural strain than the Count, but their royals honored his memory by carrying on his name as a title. Inmy universe, “the Dracula” is synonymous with the ruling king or queen.
In re-reading Stoker’s novel, I made note of the Count’s shape-shifting abilities and decided to write a murder mystery in which the central external question was whether the murderer was a vampire in wolf for or a werewolf.
Digging deeper, I discovered that in cultures around the world, the shape-shifter was often linked to the predator that competed most effectively with humans for food and territory. So, people demonized them and often hunted them to (near) extinction. That didn’t seem eco-friendly. So, I decided instead to make my werewolves naturally born creatures with the free will to choose their fates.
If they were natural, I thought, why would there only be Wolves? So I built back the mythology to Ice-Age ancestors from the time of giant beasts. And I added werecats, werebears, wereopossum, and yes, even the dreaded werearmadillo.
Beyond that, if demonic forces were in play, it seemed only right to have angels to counter them—a universe in balance, a fighting chance for the good guys (and gals).
On the Page:
Each book—Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed—inches closer to Dracula and his origins. But you don’t have to know thing one about the Count to enjoy my stories.
In Tantalize, we meet Quincie P. Morris, a teenage girl struggling to save her family’s struggling Italian restaurant by re-launching it with a vampire theme. It’s supposed to be all in fun, but then some real vampires show up.
When the beloved chef is murdered, Quincie’s best friend Kieren is the main suspect. As a werewolf, he’s already expected to leave town for the training pack at age 18.
Will the investigation move up his departure? Does Quincie suspect he’s guilty? The conflict (and kitchen) heats up even more when a new chef arrives on the scene.
The characters in Tantalize are folks we encounter in our ownworld—high school students, preschoolers, moms and dads, teachers and administrators, police officers, a homeless guy with creative signs….
In Eternal, we shift focus to the upper hierarchy of the underworld, the vampire leadership and the guardian angels who seek to protect mortals from them. It’s a love story but also one of castle intrigue and battles royal.
The guardian angel Zachary has fallen in love with Miranda, the teenage girl assigned to his care. When the shadow of death falls upon her, Zachary becomes desperate to protect her and breaks heaven’s rules by showing himself—in full glory—to warn her of danger.
Ironically, this inspires the vampire king to whisk Miranda away, curse her with his unholy blood, and name her his eternal princess.
Zachary is earthbound, his wings and powers stripped, as punishment until a mission comes down from heaven above. He’s asked to destroy a vampire of tremendous significance, and in attempting to do so, he’s reunited with Miranda, now undead.
Tantalize was released first, but Eternal takes place first. However, those books can be read in either order. They’re both set in the same world, and careful readers have caught a cameo by a Tantalize character in the early chapters of Eternal.
Likewise, you don’t have to have read either Tantalize or Eternal before reading Blessed (though you may want to). I made sure to add just enough back-story that new readers won’t get lost.
In Blessed, heroes from Eternal may be found in Sanguini’s, the vampire-themed restaurant in Tantalize. Likewise, Quincie steps fully, for the first time, into the underworld.
Blessed picks up in the next breath after Tantalize leaves off. She’s tossed Bradley (the vampire chef who made her undead) out of Sanguini’s, and now Kieren must leave too as the police are chasing his wolfish tail for murders he didn’t commit.
Quincie has never been so wholly alone or uncertain about who she is, what she’s become. But just as all seems lost, it turns out that heaven is on her side.
Quincie is sent Zachary, a guardian angel of her very own and she sets her mind to clearing Kieren, keeping Sanguini’s afloat, and battling back Brad, who’s physically left town but whose presence…lingers.
Blessed is jam-packed with passion, humor, fury, ferocity, and heart. It’s by far the most horrific, romantic, sexy, and heartfelt book so far in the series.
You can also meet Cynthia in person at one of her many tour stops!
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED, all Gothic fantasies from Candlewick Press. She also has written several YA short stories as well as books for younger readers.
TANTALIZE was a Borders Original Voices selection, honored at the 2007 National Book Festival, and The Horn Book called it "an intoxicating romantic thriller." A graphic novel adaptation of TANTALIZE is in the works.
ETERNAL was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee, featured at the Texas Book Festival, and Publishers Weekly said, ".readers should be hooked by this fully formed world, up through the action-packed finale." It debuted at #5 on the New York Times best-seller list and #13 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list.
BLESSED crossed over the two casts. The Horn Book cheered: "Quincie has a zest for life that shines through as she balances supernatural duties with schoolwork and running her family restaurant, the vampire-themed Sanguini's. Romance blossom
s, too, as she and her beloved werewolf, Kieren, prove their devotion to each other under deadly duress. A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader." And Kirkus Reviews said the novel was "wild and ultimately fascinating.the pages fairly sm
older in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction to one another."
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