Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JPC Books
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Length: 302 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Jenre
Can art imitate death? Oh no, girlfriend. Don’t even go there…
Ten years ago, the Human Hemovore Virus blazed through the world, and left the few victims who survived unable to eat, allergic to sunlight and craving the taste of blood.
Mark Hansen used to think V-positives were incredibly sexy with their pale, flawless skin and taut, lean bodies. Not anymore. Not since he’s been stuck procuring under-the-counter feline blood for his control-freak boss, Jonathan Varga. Why cat blood? Mark has never dared to ask.
It’s not as if he’s usually 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 their strange, endless routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, painting solid black canvases. Mark hurling insults as he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes and maps out the mysterious “routes” he’s required to drive.
Then a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of events neither of them saw coming. As secrets of Jonathan’s past come to light, it becomes clear all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
Aside from the fact that Jordan Castillo Price is an autobuy author for me, I was attracted to Hemovore by the unusual premise. Vampirism as a virus which can be passed on via bodily fluids seemed just such an unusual idea and lent itself to creating a world where people affected by the virus (V-positives) have to live alongside those who don’t have the virus. In fact, it was the theme of living and coping with the virus, for those who had it and their loved ones which I found the most interesting and moving part of this book.
I found Hemovore to be a bit of a slow starter. At the beginning we are introduced to Mark who works for V positive artist Jonathan. Jonathan paints art for vampires, which looks like a plain black canvass to those who do not have the virus. This concept itself was one of a number of nice touches added throughout the book to the world building. Mark’s job is like a PA: He organises the selling and distribution of Jonathan’s paintings and keeps up his diary, just like a normal secretary would, but he is also in charge of collecting blood for Jonathan. Jonathan is very picky and won’t drink anything other than cat blood as he refuses to drink human blood and claims that cow’s blood slows him down and makes him docile. He has a point because another one of those nice world building touches is that V positive people do start to take on the characteristics of the animal blood they imbibe. Dealing with the cat blood dealer is one of the less pleasant aspects of Mark’s responsibilities.
Most of the first part of the story is taken up with Mark’s day to day dealings as Jonathan’s secretary. Mark is one of life’s moaners. He spends quite a lot of time bemoaning the fact that he has to do all the rubbish jobs for Jonathan, being excessively cautious with his use of antiseptic wipes in fear of catching the virus from Jonathan, and inwardly ridiculing the way that Jonathan insists that he drives a complex route to wherever he needs to go.
I could have taken numerous routes—and I’m not talking about normal-person routes, such as, “Should I stay on Halsted, or would it be faster if I turned down Clark?” No, I mean Jonathan-routes, dozens of maze-like paths designed to thwart a would-be pursuer. Not that I ever actually believed someone was following me. It was more that I suspected Jonathan might be checking the odometer to make sure I had followed his instructions to the letter.
All the time Mark is grumbling away in his internal monologue he is also lusting after Jonathan, even though he knows they can never touch one another, never mind kiss or more. This theme is taken up and explored in more detail later in the book when Mark meets a group of people called V-Luvv, who are a support group for those who have loved ones with the virus. The precautions that V-neg people have to take to avoid the virus and the way that they try to conduct normal relationships with their V-pos partners was quite affecting.
Then the story starts to pick up the pace as Mark and Jonathan come under attack. They are forced to flee together and go into hiding when a V-pos man from Jonathan’s past, who has a grudge against Jonathan, finds him. Mark is completely bewildered at first but manages, with the help of the V-luvv group, to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. Then there is another twist to the plot and I was glued, unable to put the book down until I’d finished it.
Although the book is quite high on drama, it still retains a fairly light tone. This is due mainly to Mark’s self effacing, dry internal humour and also because the story moves around a lot from place to place. There are many different characters who move in and out of the story, but the focus is mainly on Mark and Jonathan and their growing attachment and companionship. There are also many quirky funny moments which help to keep the tone from being too heavy and these were interspersed with periods of high tension and action. The scene where Mark is waiting in line to collect some money is an example of this as the pace moved from quite slow and a bit funny, to a sudden horrific realisation and all action car chase which shows a mastery of form and pacing that I’ve come to expect from Jordan Castillo Price.
Despite the slow beginning, this book grew into a compelling read with excellent world building and believable characters. Mark may have been a bit of a whiner at the beginning but he grew and matured as the book progressed so that I liked him a great deal by the end. If you’ve never read a book by Jordan Castillo Price then this would be a good one to start with as the horror aspects found in her other novels are toned down in Hemovore. To those who have read her books and love them as I do, this will be another one for the keeper shelf.