This was a fun take on vampires—mixing both fantasy with its AU setting and also reality, as our newly-bitten MC plods through the bureaucratic requirements he has to go through to “prove” that he can handle his new “orientation” enough to return to his job in law enforcement. Along the way, he meets a sympathetic psychiatrist who draws more of him than he was expecting.
What I liked: This is a fantasy AU world, one were “drinkers” (aka vampires) exist, and are a minority that are monitored by the government. The setting feels “Victorian-ish”, with a mix of carriages and electricity, but also modernisms like pills, blood centers, and tranquilizer guns. (It did take me a while to figure out the setting since it seemed more modern at first, but everyone rides around in carriages, but I got used to it. Overall, I liked the mix of Victorian dress and more modern science.)
I really liked the “realism” of how someone transitioning to being a vampire would have to deal with a lot of governmental systems and approval processes. That “vampire realism” reminded me a little of Hemovore and Spirit Sanguine, both which also deal with some of the “real life” quirks of the vampire lifestyle. Here, MC Laurence is going through the process to get his classification that says he’s fit to go back to work, so in between his regular visits to the blood center, he also has to participate in mandatory psychiatric visits, which is where he meets Ira, who gives Laurence the benefit of not treating his new life as something fragile or fearful.
The romance is a slow burn, and that Victorian propriety means that everyone is very classy as they try to figure out how best to ask someone out without being too pushy or forward. I do have a soft spot for when romance is built around bureaucracy, and like Laurence, I too was looking forward to his weekly meetings with Ira, since their slow build and back-and-forth was fun to read.
As a heads-up, this is a non-explicit romance (and thus, very safe to read on crowded public transit.) There are some kisses, etc, but overall, it’s a very light romance in that department. I didn’t miss it, personally, but just a heads-up for those who are looking for sexy, clothes-tearing vampires. (There was some clothes-tearing, but not what you think.) :-)
This is the second work I've read by Miller, after the enjoyable freebie short The Novelty Maker. I do like her style--it's straightforward and very readable while also still imaginative.
What was harder: Overall, I liked the story a lot. It ends on a nice HFN. Where it ends, it feels like another whole story could start, so in that way, I do miss not being able to see what would happen next, but the ending is nice. (Although I found the climactic sequence a little muted since Ira wasn’t witness to some of the parts.)
I did have some floating questions also, some from the story, and some from the world, and what Ira and Laurence should expect next.
So I was left wondering some things.
Overall, it’s fun light fantasy read, although with tension in the second half as things get a little dire for our heroes. It’s also a pretty fast read, at 45,000 words, but I did appreciate that it’s closer to novel-length since I love longer works.
Recommended for those who don’t want a same-old-same-old vampire story, are good with fantasy-ish settings, and are also good with a light, non-explicit romance. If there was a sequel, I would definitely check it out.