I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book when I started, but I figured I couldn’t go too wrong with vampires and Joel Leslie narration, and I was right because I really liked it!
This was an interesting take on vampirism, what with the vampirism being a virus. I’m not even sure I should call this book paranormal since it was more sci-fi. But anyway, it was actually a lot like our current pandemic situation, with people using gloves and masks and antiviral wipes. It took me some time to get an understanding of things, but what was most interesting was seeing how it impacted society. There was an aisle at the grocery store with vampire products, like food-flavored water, synthetic blood, and special shakes that contained the nutrients and calories they needed. Any V+ and V- in a relationship had to take precautions and find ways to make it work so the V- didn’t get infected. Hospitals had separate wings. It was fascinating world-building and also added an element of difficulty to the plot and relationship.
Speaking of the relationship, it was a slow burn in the sense that they both already had strong feelings but had never admitted them, and then, even when they did, they still had to overcome the issue of one of them being V+ and the other V-. And it wasn’t as simple as just turning someone because most people died from the virus, rather than turning. It made things a bit angsty, but in a very believable way. I do so like a good slow burn with a bit of angst.
I liked the characters too. Mark was kind of judgmental, but not so much as to be unlikeable, and usually not particularly mean. He was interesting, and his growth over the book was subtle but good. The whole ordeal they went through made him kinda realize what was important to him. Jonathan was interesting too, kind of quirky at first, but in a believable way. A bit of a brooding love interest, but again, in a way that was realistic.
I also liked that the main character was… 40, I think? And the love interest was early to mid 40s. Which is a bit older than you normally find in books with romance.
There was one very small sex scene, depending even on your definition of sex, since it was a handjob. But I thought it was plenty hot and fitting for the book and characters.
There was a thriller-esque plot about the two men kind of going on the run and hiding and being in danger and whatnot. It got maybe a little slow at times, but I didn’t mind because during those parts I enjoyed the character development and interaction.
This is highly specific, but I thought the painting thing was a cool idea. *MILD SPOILER* All black paintings with different shades of black paint on black canvas that were discernible to vampire eyes, but not human ones. *END SPOILER*
There’s a novelette included in the second edition of the book (and the audiobook), and “Sweet” was a very accurate title because sweet it was! It made me tear up with happiness for the characters.
The author’s note at the end was also surprisingly relevant to the time in which I’m writing this review even though the book was republished in 2017. But as I said, the virus in the book changed society in ways that are very similar to how things have changed during this Covid-19 pandemic. It also touched upon LGBT+ rights.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and the narration by Joel Leslie was great. He always puts a good performance into the books he narrates. The voices and accents (Hungarian for Jonathan) seemed to fit the characters, it was easy to tell characters apart, and it all sounded natural.
Overall, I liked the characters, the slightly angsty slow burn romance, the unique take on vampires and how it affected society, and the thriller-esque story, and I thought this was a great book!
Trigger/Content Warnings: Emetophobia.
*Rating: 4 Stars // Read Date: 2020 // Format: Audiobook*
Anyone who likes unique takes on vampires, interesting contemporary world-building, thriller-esque plots, and a bit of angsty slow-burn romance.
Mark Hansen thought working as artist’s assistant would be glamorous, especially if that artist was a vampire. Black tie events, witty repartee, gracing the pages of the local style section…. Didn’t happen. Not even once.
Jonathan Varga is an enigma. True, he’s quiet, generous, and scrupulously polite. But he has zero social life, refuses to be interviewed or photographed, and insists he can only consume feline blood.
Why supermarket blood won’t suffice, Mark hasn’t asked. He’s rarely at a loss for words—he can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang.” But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.
So he endures the perpetual grind of their routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, swiping black paint onto black canvases. Mark hurling insults while he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes. Each of them avoiding the other in a careful choreography…until a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of harrowing events neither of them could foresee.
As secrets from Jonathan’s past are brought to light, it becomes clear that all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
(First edition originally published in 2009. Second expanded edition includes the bonus novelette, Sweet.)