Title: Natural Instincts
Author: S.J. Frost
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Art: Winterheart Design
Buy Link: Buy Link Natural Instincts
Genre: Paranormal/ Fantasy/ Vampire
Length: Novel (252 pages, 72 000 words)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: An entertaining vampire story with lots of steaming hot sex and original worldbuilding.
The Blurb: Andreas Nikandros has one focus, to kill the vampire he believes murdered his sister, and he knows with their greater strength, the surest way to kill a vampire is to become one. As a zoologist, he’s used to looking at the world from a natural standpoint, but when he sets out on a quest to find a vampire to Turn him, what he finds in Titus Antonius Calidus is the last thing he expected.
Titus has lived for over a thousand years, and in that time has only ever given his heart to one man. As they follow their natural instincts, they discover something truly worth living forever for, each other.
The Review: Andreas Nikandros is a zookeeper with big cats. The only family he’s still left is his beloved sister Adrienne, who had become involved with a vampire, Renart Bellerose. When Andreas learns that Bellerose killed his sister, his only thought is taking revenge. Knowing full well that he, a human, stands no chance against a vampire, Andreas sets his sights on becoming a vampire himself. But for that, he needs a vampire to Turn him, and the only place he can think of finding one is Bellerose’s restaurant. He goes there nevertheless, only to find himself laughed at by his enemy and thrown at Bellerose’s minions as a plaything. Just when Andreas is about to become dinner for a bunch of randy vampires, a strange vampire steps in and claims Andreas as his prey. Yet, the stranger seems not particularly interested in Andreas once he’s got him. Instead of running, though, Andreas decides to seize the chance by seducing the vampire. But after a night in Titus’s bed, Andreas isn’t so sure anymore that seeking revenge for his sister is the only reason he wants to be Turned.
Titus Antonius Calidus began his life, way back when, as a Roman miles, a soldier who loved a fellow soldier. A violent incident tore the lovers apart, leaving one dead and Titus, a vampire. Titus has walked the earth for centuries, taking many lovers but never loving again. But this human, Andreas, is different. For one, Andreas is fearless, the first one in ages to talk back to Titus. Andreas knows what he wants, and makes Titus work for his pleasure, which is again something Titus isn’t used to. It doesn’t hurt that Andreas resembles Titus’s dead lover physically. Slowly, but inistently Andreas worms his way past Titus’s defenses, which Titus fully realizes when his old lover, Daniel, shows up.
In view of his first real competition for Titus’s affection, Daniel does his best to drive a wedge between the lovers. When he realizes he’s bound to fail, though, he turns into an ally. His help is most welcome when Titus suddenly faces a hearing with the Committee, the powerful vampire government. But this is not the direst threat. Far worse is that a group of young vampires seem intended on turning the table on the vampire society, and their leader apparently has taken it into his head that the surest way to reach his goal is by killing Andreas.
This was a totally romantic story, despite all the blood, the darkness and the fighting. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a dark prince sweeping in just in time to be saved from death or a fate worse than? Andreas even has two of them right away, or three, if you count Ryu, another friend of Titus’s who comes into play later in the story. Of course, this was totally fantasy too, but with a logical, inherently consistent universe which worked fine within its completely incredulous confines, so this is what counts. The worldbuilding was done in a very clever way, too, making Andreas into some kind of natural scientist with an inquiring mind. It just fits his personality to ask questions about the vampire world, and it fits Titus’s personality to go into teacher mode at times. Also, the fact that Andreas was used to work with big cats added credibility to his fearlessness in dealing with the vampires, who in this world, are some kind of warm-blooded, particularly long-living predators, not the usual undeads. (They reminded me more of J.R. Ward’s Black-Dagger-Brothers than of Dracula). I’m into detailed explanations, so I liked this part a lot, but I can see how others might find the educational passages a bit dragging and viscous to read.
The characters were well – crafted and believable, again in the confines of the fantasy setting. I loved Titus’s arrogance and possessiveness, and the fact that he wasn’t above looking a the world differently when proven wrong. Andreas was far from being a damsel in distress; even though he was physically weak and powerless compared to the vampires he stood his ground against them, stubborn and determined but not too stubborn to listen to reason. Daniel and Ryu were really persons in their own right; the way they were built up I can see a sequel coming – and I’d be glad to see them find happiness of their own. The rest of the secondary cast remained a bit flat, although a few stood out, particularly Andreas’s human friend and fellow zookeeper Carl.
There were a few niggles, too. Mainly with the way Renard, the arch – baddie, turned out more pathetic than anything – he’s been given so much hate that it was too hard to believe, even in fantasy. Some issues are solved a bit too conveniently, like Ryu showing up out of the blue just when he’s needed, and the oh – so – powerful Committee, as well-portrayed as they are, appear just a bit meek for all the apprehension that has been put up for them.
Is there a thing as too much sex? Maybe there is, particularly vampire sex; a little fade to black might have kept things more interesting here. Then again, the sex scenes were hot, so I won’t complain too hard.
All in all, this was an intelligently drawn and very entertaining read, original enough to stand out among “generic” vampire stories. I can recommend it.