I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was drawn to this book because it’s a supernatural m/m novel with a beautiful cover, but in the end it mostly just left me feeling uneasy.
Note: this is not a spoiler-free review.
First, the whole premise of the story is that in this world, vampires are kept by nobles as Pets – basically slaves. The main romance is between the main character, Aubrey and his Pet, which is already sketchy. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been (there weren’t any instances of Aubrey taking advantage of Ruthven, and as it gets gradually revealed, Ruthven is much more in control than you’d think), but their relationship still seemed unhealthy to me, although in a completely different way than expected. Namely, Ruthven keeps making advances on Aubrey despite Aubrey telling him to stop, and while it’s not entirely non-consensual, it gives an unhealthy message that you can ignore someone saying no because they don’t really mean it. (This shit isn’t any better because Aubrey isn’t a girl, guys.)
While it’s not clear from the blurb, this book actually has two POVs – the other is the physician and good friend of Aubrey’s family, Stregoni. The first Stregoni POV chapter (and the third chapter in the book overall) is immediately an out-of-context, explicit sex scene between Stregoni, Gilles (Aubrey’s cousin) and Francois (Gilles’s vampire Pet). It is then revealed that they’ve had this kind of sexual relationship for years, even though Gilles and Francois are always cold to Stregoni afterwards and he hates what they’re doing to him emotionally. Overall, it is not at all a healthy relationship.
Later it gets revealed that Gilles has a reason for acting cold with Stregoni and shutting him out, and surprise – the reason is that he, a queer man, has been abused by his father his entire life. The situation is more complicated, but part of the abuse is that Gilles’s father told him that if Gilles ever loved anyone, his father would kill his lover. Now, George isn’t motivated by homophobia in this, and I’m sure he would act the same if Gilles’s lover was a woman, but it’s not. It’s two other queer men.
Moreover, there are like, two female characters in the story who both have names and are alive, and they are both minor.
One of these things might be okay, but all of them together kind of just painted a perfect picture of why I’m uneasy about women writing m/m fiction. Unhealthy m/m relationships, vaguely fetishistic sexual scenes, abused queer men, lack of female characters – this book has it all.
I do admit that the book got better during the second half when the characters finally decided to communicate with each other. (Gasp!) Both relationships involving the two main characters got healthier by the end, but that doesn’t erase the start (and in Stregoni’s case, several years of unhealthy bullshit).
I also appreciated that this book had two polyamorous relationships, but as I detailed above one of them is pretty unhealthy, and the other (m/f/f ship that is actually supportive and healthy) is in the past because the two women die in the prologue.
(There was also this one point where a character called Jack was mentioned a few times and I genuinely have no idea who that was supposed to be? Maybe it was somebody’s first name who was usually mentioned by his last name and I just missed it? Idk man.)
tldr; There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed (I loved the connection between the titles and the cover for example), but overall I wouldn’t really recommend it.
My rating: ★★★☆☆ (more like 2.5?)
What is your favourite story with vampires? Bonus points if it’s queer and not creepy.