It's been two months since I read this (why, yes, I am terribly behind on my reviews), so I'm resorting to Goodreads for the summary:
Beneath the glitter of nineteenth century London society lurks a bloodthirsty evil...
Vampires have always lived among them, quietly attacking unsuspecting debutantes and dandified lords as well as hackney drivers and Bond Street milliners. If not for the vampire slayers of the Gardella family, these immortal creatures would long ago have taken control of the world.
In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her dark, dangerous duty.
And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make a choice between duty and love.
Earlier this year, I read The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, which was being pitched a bit as Buffy in the Regency era (A teenage girl is the Chosen One and has to battle creatures of evil).The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, of which The Rest Falls Away is the first in a series of five books, was published back in 2007 (I read them in 2008-2009) and it also takes a young woman and pits her in the battle against vampires. Miss Victoria Gardella Grantworth has had her debut delayed due to a prolonged period of mourning and at the very same time as her mother and her two best friends, all highly placed in society, get ready to launch Victoria and find her a rich and influential husband, Victoria is told by her great-aunt Eustacia about the family legacy and has to make a choice about whether she wants to take up a clandestine career as a monster hunter. Because the Gardellas in the two generations separating Victoria and Eustacia chose not to accept their family duty (and was thus glamoured to forget there was ever such a choice), the powers have been building and Victoria will be unusually powerful for a Gardella.
She chooses to accept the family legacy, and is surprised to realise that her ladies' maid not only knows about vampires, but has all sorts of innovative ideas for how to conceal stakes and holy water receptacles about her person. She starts training martial arts with her great-aunt's manservant and tries in vain to convince fellow vampire slayer, the Italian Maximillian Pesaro that she really is very committed to slaying vampires, but she can manage it and enjoying herself at balls in the evenings, nonetheless. Their mutual animosity is not helped by the fact that Victoria mistakes him for a vampire and nearly stakes him the first time they meet. He's convinced she's a frivolous airhead who's taking their sacred duty lightly and grimly goes about trying to outdo her at every turn to prove his theories, to Eustacia's annoyance. She needs them working together, not sniping at each other.
While vampires have always existed in the world, the vampires of London are getting a lot more aggressive, due to the fact that the vampire queen, the ancient Lilith, is about to arrive, seeking an ancient book that can grant her unbelievable powers. Eustacia is too old to go out hunting anymore and needs Max and Victoria to do what they can to prevent Lilith's minions from getting the book. Meanwhile, Victoria is still going to society events, and has caught the eye of the Marquess of Rockley. Victoria's mother and her other two sponsors are beyond delighted, and do what they can to throw them together at every possible ball or gathering. Rockley is puzzled why Victoria keeps disappearing with flimsy pretexts, but seems determined to make her his bride. Can Victoria really combine married life and vampire slaying, though? How would Rockley react if she told him the truth about her family legacy?
As I remembered, the first book does a decent job of setting up the world-building and introducing most of the major players in the series, but it's not as exciting or engaging as the later books in the series, when the overarching plot really gets going. While I found Goodman's book a bit too long and meticulously researched to the point of slowing down the story for all the historical detail that was thrown in, this book is maybe a bit too short on detail and very action-orientated. Some of the characters seem almost like caricatures (they get more fleshed out as the series goes on), but I still enjoyed my re-read of the book.
Judging a book by its cover: Not a huge fan of the cover, mainly because I'm pretty sure no one would choose to wear a corset like that without some sort of undergarment, like a chemise, between the skin and the coarser fabric of the stays. I'm also pretty sure that's not an accurate corset for the time, when they wore mostly empire-waisted dresses and really didn't need the tiny, tiny waists. The red colour choice is quite dramatic, though (each book in the series has a different cover colour) and I guess it catches your eye. The book was given a cover design when the books were launched as e-books. On that, the cover model is holding a stake in one hand and a great big sword in the other, plus her clothing choices are even more anachronistic. So I guess if I have to choose one over the other, I'll pick this one.