States of Grace by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is one of more than twenty novels about the vampire St. Germain. Even though he is a vampire, Yarbro makes it clear that St. Germain is not the monster.
I started with Blood Games which is somewhere towards the middle of the books. The events in the books are not in chronological order. One book will be set in Rome at the time of Nero and then next will be in Russia with Rasputin.
Grace takes place in the in the early 16th century a time of religious upheaval. St. Germain (called San Germano) lives in Venice. He is a book publisher at a time when books are becoming suspect and the Church is all too eager to burn books and people.
If you like historical fiction you will love Yarbro's St. Germain books. There is a lot of detail in every book. The politics and society of each period is explained through conversations and letters. I have learned more about fashion through the ages than I ever wanted to know. It occurred to me while reading that clothing is often described when it is going on (St. Germain) and coming off (his lovers.)
Yarbro uses St. Germain to discuss some important issues: the place of women in society, the treatment of foreigners, corruption and religious fanaticism. The main plot of Grace revolves around book publishing in different countries at a time when the Church feels its hold on people is slipping as Christianity breaks up into rival factions. The subplot concerns two women who want non-traditional lives, one as a musician and the other as an author. St. Germain is rich so he becomes the patron of both women.
St. Germain is forever at the mercy of those in power. He is always the foreigner. He is permitted in society with a lot of restrictions. He pays more tax. Storekeepers charge him twice the normal rate. He is looked on with suspicion, not because he is a vampire, but because he is foreign. St. Germain could easily be thrown in prison or into the inquisitive hands of the Church. Many times he has to flee because he is not a citizen of the city or country he is in.
I find it amusing that almost no one figures out that St. Germain is a vampire. He always gets in trouble by being the outsider. His undoing is always through some corrupt politician after his money or a fanatical clergyman after his soul.
The other thing I've learned from reading these novels is that the more things change the more things stay the same.
Buy States of Grace: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain (St. Germain)