The Stress of Her Regard

Tim Powers
The Stress of Her Regard Cover

Excellent Secret History...


I originally read this book when it was first released in paperback in the early 1990's. I just finished a re-read and liked it even more the 2nd time around. Five stars and a ♥!

But how to review this book? It's a romantic vampire story that is the absolute antithesis of Twilight and its ilk. It also bears little resemblance to Dracula or The Historian.

The Stress of Her Regard is a wonderfully written "secret history" period piece set in the early 1800's. Several of the characters are known historical figures, (Lord Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, John Keats, Ed Trelawney). The creative works of these people are enhanced... elevated to genius level by the influence of their muses, the vampires. But these elemental patrons are jealous beings! This is immediately brought to our attention near the beginning of the story when our protagonist, Michael Crawford, (after accidentally marrying a disappearing statue), awakens on the morning after his wedding night. To avoid spoilers, let's just say it's not a happy day for anyone in the little village of Bexhill-on-Sea.

Powers threads together a plethora of historical events into a cohesive fictional storyline that seems more real than reality itself. It's almost as if you are getting the true story behind the official historical one. I have not personally studied this particular time period in detail. However, in reading this book, I get the distinct feeling that, if I did delve into it, I would find not a crack in the timeline Powers presents, nor in the details of these peoples' lives and deaths. For example, the drowning death of Percy Shelley during a sailing accident, and the subsequent identification and cremation of his exhumed body on an Italian beach by Ed Trelawney, is incorporated seamlessly.

To sum up: this is one of my favorite Tim Powers books and falls squarely amongst the best fictional novels I have read. The sequel, Hide Me Among the Graves is a worthy follow-up as well.