Deadly Beauty by M.K. Eliot
Warwick House Press
Jill Sorenson is back to guest review.
I’m going to start with a rant. I’ve complained about the lack of quality f/f romance before so skip ahead if you’ve heard this already. Hardly anyone I know reads it. Established authors don’t write it. Most publishers don’t offer it.
How am I supposed to find good stuff? I follow LVLM’s blog but our tastes don’t always mesh. I’ve spent hours doing random searches (and wading through porn) on Amazon. Kindle samples are my new best friend. I like being able to download excerpts. If the sample doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy.
I also use NetGalley. They have a sparse selection of lesbian titles, mostly from Bold Strokes Books. I like this publisher, but they delay the digital release date and price their ebooks high. I’d rather review books that are available and affordable.
In case anyone is wondering, my main purpose in reviewing is to show support for this little-known subgenre. I realize that writing negative reviews (or positive reviews for expensive print books) doesn’t encourage new readers. I’m frustrated by this! But I hope to continue because I enjoy reviewing. It makes me feel like I’m making a real contribution to Romanceland.
I will try to find better books for you people.
Anyway, I stumbled across Deadly Beauty during one of my Amazon searches. I’m not a big fan of vampires but the sample intrigued me. I also thought the story might be f/f/m ménage, which I’m always on the lookout for.
Nadine is a beautiful exotic dancer in a seedy part of London. She gets attacked in an alley after work. An alluring female stranger comes to her aid, but it’s too late. Nadine is dying. The stranger offers to save her. When Nadine says yes, the woman bites her neck.
Nadine wakes up in an unfamiliar bed, starving. She feeds from her savior—and captor?—Adrienne, a 400 year old vampire. All of her senses are heightened and they have erotic sex. Later, Adrienne explains that Nadine must make her first kill in order to change completely. Nadine is hungry, confused, and desperate to please her mistress, so she takes a man’s life, draining him of blood. The experience disturbs her and she doesn’t want to repeat it.
Adrienne tells her that a new vampire must feed every night for years. Nadine is horrified by the idea of murdering thousands of innocent people, but Adrienne dismisses her concerns. Adrienne treats humans like food and uses mind control to take their money. According to her, Nadine shouldn’t criticize because she strips for men:
“And did you ever let them slip a finger inside you? Did you ever suck their cocks? Did you ever fuck them?”
“No,” she said, furious now. “I’m a dancer, not a whore. Sometimes the guy would get a bit carried away and take things too far, but I’ve never slept with a man for money.”
Adrienne’s gaze softened. “Okay, but you must not judge me for how I choose to live, if you do not expect to be judged yourself.”
She was right. Nadine was the last person who should judge.
Okay, wait. Nadine can’t find fault with Adrienne for killing and stealing? Stripping is just as bad? WTF?
The next evening, Adrienne and Nadine pick up a sexy young lady at a bar. They take her home and kill her. Nadine flees the scene in disgust, only to return to the strip club. Unable to control her hunger, she seduces a customer in the back room. Adrienne interrupts her before she can feed from him. Adrienne says that Nadine is free to sleep with men, as long as she can kill them after, but hunting at work is a no-no.
Adrienne continues to guide Nadine through her transition as a vampire. She teaches her which victims to target, how to act, and what to wear. They meet others like them, including a handsome male named River.
River is a coldblooded killer, just like Adrienne, but he’s so dreamy! After some soul-searching, Nadine decides to leave Adrienne for him. They have amazing sex and he says he cares about her. Then he rapes her anally. Ugh.
Nadine has an orgasm during the rape (why?), but she doesn’t forgive him. She saves a child from the bad vampires and reunites with Adrienne.
There are so many unappealing elements to this story I don’t know where to begin. I won’t go on about the casual disregard for human life, which I found unnecessary. The worldbuilding is derivative and uneven. It’s almost like Anne Rice fanfic with a female Lestat. Vampires can use mind control when it suits the story. They have cold mouths and bodies, but only sometimes.
The main problem is that both “love interests” are evil and manipulative. River’s loathsome behavior didn’t make Adrienne seem sweet in comparison.
On the plus side, Nadine is a sympathetic character, if a bit of a doormat. The story is fast-paced, sex-filled, and oddly compelling. Readers who enjoy anti-heroes and anti-heroines might like this better than I did.
Do you think that the lack of quality f/f stories is due to the lack of a market? Since no one is reading them why bother? And also, if no one reads them the logic conclusion is that no one writes them, right? I’m not so sure if any of this is true. Based on the series of posts that Katiebabs did about f/f and lesbian romance (was it last year?) I would say there is a market. And I bet there are tons of talented authors. So maybe the problem is the lack of good publishers? I know m/m romance became really popular not that long ago, so maybe the same will happen to f/f. I don’t read f/f but I feel your frustration and I’m sure you’re not alone in that.
Re. The casual disregard for human life: I haven’t read the book, but judging by the review it’s poorly handled, however I think that having a 400-year-old vampire treating humans as animals is realistic, or as realistic as a vampire story can get. If you have spent more time as vampire than as human, and humans are food, disregarding their lives and feelings would be the natural progression, right? I like the idea of a book about monsters where the monster behaves like one.
Jill Sorenson says
A comment!! I’m so excited!!
I think the problem is that f/f romance doesn’t sell as well as other subgenres, so authors who want to make money don’t bother. F/f porn is another story. There is a market for that (men), and a market for lesbian romance (lesbians). F/f romance is like m/m, sort of targeted at straight people, but of course straight women prefer reading about men.
F/f authors are doing the best they can and readers will read what they like, so my frustration is more with myself. I feel like my reviews are turning people off to the subgenre instead of encouraging them to try it.
As far as the vampires behaving like monsters. Yes, it’s realistic, but not sympathetic or romantic. At least, not for me in this story.
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Karelia Stetz-Waters says
I’m always in search of well written lesbian romance. I love the genre but I’m an English professor so poor writing bugs me. (I’m not saying I need my romance novels to be Shakespeare…I just want good, solid prose.) Thank you for discussing the issue of poorly written f/f romance and for confirming my sense that there isn’t enough good writing out there. Sometimes I think I must be too picky or too critical. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one in search of something a little better. I’ll be faithfully looking for your reviews. If you find something you like, I want to read it!