Tour’s Books Blog

September 16, 2009

Book Review: Beloved Vampire by Joey W. Hill

  • Title:  Beloved Vampire
  • Author: Joey W. Hill
  • Type: Paranormal Romance
  • Genre: Angsty vampire erotic romance
  • Sub-genre: BDSM; I-suffer-because-I-failed-in-the-past
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: X for sex and violence, including gang rape
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

There are some books that I can honestly say are good, but I would never want to read again.  Beloved Vampire is one of them.  If there is one heroine I dislike more than the vapid  fashionista in so many chick-lit books, it’s the submissive masochist that has become the all to common centerpiece of many erotic romance novels.  The “hero” is one of those vampires who sincerely believes humans are lesser creatures.  In fact, the whole vampire culture is built on the absolute superiority of vampires over any human, even one that’s was not a willing ‘servant’ and badly abused.  Those things alone made me want to go sharpen some stakes.  That said, the story that Ms Hill weaves in Beloved Vampire is intricate, nuanced and, unlike most novels with a strong D/s theme, a worthwhile read for those who don’t mind dark, grim paranormal romance.  Jane at Dear Author did a review of Beloved Vampire last month. I’ll just hit some high spots that matter to my view of this.

By using the ‘true story’ of Farida, a woman from a tightly knit Muslim tribal society, and Lord Mason, a vampire, supposedly written by Farida herself (though exactly how Farida learned to write is another issue), Jessica Tyson, a modern woman, killed the master vampire that had made her his unwilling servant/slave for years, but his death meant she was now slowly dying herself.  Vampire servants cannot last long without their masters.  The bond is a physical one, changing human cell structure and making them reliant on their masters for their very lives.  At its best, this is a kind of symbiotic relationship that gives a human extended life within the limits of of a BDSM relationship.  At its worst, you have monsters like Lord Raithe who relish inflicting every form of degradation he can.

After killing Lord Raithe, Jess just wants is to find the place where Lord Mason laid his beloved Farida’s body to rest in hopes of finding some peace for her own wounded soul.  Ms. Hill tells not one, but two loves stories involving Lord Mason.  Though I use the word ‘love’ advisedly given the vast cultural/species divide between human and vampire in the context of the story.

My problems here are several.  First, Jessica being a ‘natural submissive’ aside, there is no way a woman can survive that much physical and mental abuse and become anything approaching ‘normal’ within such a short time span.  That whole key plot element threw what followed into the “I just can’t buy this” territory for me.  The second problem is the fundamental imbalance this symbiotic relationship between a master vampire and his/her servants.  The imbalance goes well beyond that present in a D/s relationship and is rooted far more firmly in what seems to be ‘racial’ issues.  Vampires and humans are never equals in the eyes of other vampires.  Humans are little more walking victims.  Even those treated well are still under the constant risk of being used in a way they don’t want to be – usually sexually.  Unlike the classic D/s relationship, the ability of a vampire to read the minds of servants at will, their superior strength and longevity combined with a culture that treats humans, regardless of their ‘status’, creates a divide that makes a true EQUAL symbiotic relationship impossible.  They human gives more and gets less – and more importantly – even at the highest levels humans remain lesser beings and are never accorded the same treatment as vampires.  There is my real problem.  The societal norms for vampires are based on strength and position and are somewhat feudal in nature.  They really are soulless and as such, they contribute nothing of real value to themselves or humans on whom they rely and have little in the way of ethics or morality.  Lord Mason is very much an anomaly.

Lord Mason has tortured himself for centuries for having failed Farida by not being able to save her from the horrible fate she suffered at the hands of her family and tribe.  The fear of failing Jess in the same way keeps him pushing her away while at the same time pulling her into their relationship.   Jess has been enthralled by the story of Farida and Lord Mason to the point where he became a hero and touchstone for her fragile sanity during her years of torment with Lord Raithe.  The dominant/submissive relation governed by the love of Lord Mason for Farida is the complete opposite of the pain and degradation that Lord Raithe systematically subjected Jess to.

Even with these conflicts, the déjà vu element vis à vis Farida and Jess was a bit much as a plot device for me, but it does work nicely to to show the two opposing outcomes of a D/s relationship.  Still, despite the bond between a vampire and his servant, there is never any question of equality.   The fact that regardless of what Lord Raithe did to Jess, she deserved to die in the judgment of most vampires just infuriated me.  It was by slimmest of margins the most powerful of the vampires sided with Lord Mason and allowed her to live.  In short, I found nothing positive or admirable in their society.  They are the self adsorbed and self indulgent creatures who care not at all for humans, even servants, and regard each other only as predators.  Step away from Lord Mason and they are rather contemptible beings.  Regardless of any emotional bond, the lives of servants are at the sufferance of their masters.  They offer nothing for all they take from the world of humans, yet they hold themselves as ‘superior’.   Lord Mason has many admirable characteristics, but as much as Ms Hill makes him a sympathetic, he still flashes the intrinsic sense of vampire superiority.

Jess’s recovery from Lord Raithes treatment with surprisingly minimal treatment and zero psychological counseling, just doesn’t ring true for me.  I do realize that victms of prolonged sexual abuse tend to repeat that pattern, so her developing a relationship with a vampire she came to love through Farida’s story isn’t much of a stretch. Like Sweet Seduction by Maya Banks, Beloved Vampire was not a book I’d keep or reread, but I thought overall, despite my personal issues with the story, it was a much better book.  The characters were better defined, the story richer and deeper, and the weaving of Farida’s story into that of Jess and Lord Mason made it just that much better.  Did I enjoy it?  No, and I make no apology for that.  Beloved Vampire just isn’t my kind of book.  But neither did I come away loathing the characters as I have with other D/s based stories, which says a great deal about the quality of the story.  If you enjoyed Ms Hill’s earlier vampire books, then this one will be a treat.

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