Many people love Charlaine Harris' books but they just don't appeal to me. I'm a die-hard romance reader and I rarely, if ever, stray from the genre (unless I'm researching something, of course) plus, I despise first-person POV.
However, Ms. Harris has written one story that I adore. It was a one-shot deal with Harlequin and, I believe, her only foray into the romance genre called Dancers in the Dark and it's part of the Night’s Edge anthology.
I'm not normally a huge fan of anthologies because shorter stories often seem to be missing something but I picked this one up because it was only $1 on the clearance rack and I sometimes enjoy Maggie Shayne who was one of the other authors in the anthology.
I absolutely LOVED Dancers in the Dark. The only reason this book even made it to my keeper-shelf was because of that story - not that the others were bad, just not good enough to rate a spot on my shelf.
Rue (Layla) is working hard trying to make her way through college and keep a low profile to escape her past. She joins a dance company that needs vampire/human dance teams and meets Sean, a 300 year-old vampire. Rue chooses Sean as a dance partner mainly because he appears indifferent to her looks and doesn't give off any overtly sexual vibes, which her past has made her wary of. They develop a friendship in addition to a partnership which then morphs into love. When a man from her past becomes a threat, Sean is determined to protect her.
Rue and Sean were great characters. Both outside of the 'norm' for a vampire/human love story. Rue is not the typical 'tragic figure'. She is strong, realistic, and a bit stubborn. She does not fold under pressure nor act like a total wilting flower when danger stalks her. She reacts much like you or I might. Her violent past experiences impact her relationship with Sean but it doesn't overload the story with fearful prose.
Sean is not the typical vampire either. For one thing, he has bright red hair and freckles. Yep, FRECKLES! Also, he is not a powerful, massively wealthy vamp (although, I do enjoy those kinds of vampires!). Sean was a valet before his 'master' turned him and while not really poor, he is humble enough to work for a dance company. To give you an example of his character (and because I love this part) when Sean tells Rue that he loves her, he does not turn all theatrical. He simply says "I'm yours" but the intensity of his declaration isn't dimmed by its simplicity.
Dancers in the Dark has a great balance between the main element of romance and the secondary suspense element. It flows very well, I didn't feel like I missed anything or like it moved too fast (which sometimes happens in shorter stories), the pace was great. I DO wish it had been a full-length book, because I loved the characters so much though.
Layla (Rue) and Sean have a cameo in All Together Dead -for those of you that read Charlaine Harris books- and according to FAQ on her website, she would like to write more about the characters of the dance company but current series obligations make that a far off event. I'm willing to beg though: Ms. Harris, Please PLEASE write more romance! Judging by this book, you have an AMAZING talent in the genre!