Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered.
To be fair, the percentage of people actually asking to be murdered is probably small enough to be safely ignored, but he felt it was worth stating regardless. His life might have been ordinary, but it was his life and he wasn’t done with it yet.
Quin didn’t care.
A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.
Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city.
Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle is a hilarious book overflowing with dry humour and acidic one liners. It had me constantly bursting out into laughter in the middle of Costa (and causing half of the other customers to edge slowly away from this crazy hyena) while I read this.I think the best way to illustrate how good this book is, is to go through it and quote its best lines. But if I did I would just be quoting half the book and this is supposed to be a review and there are other things to discuss. Instead, I’ll just quote a few examples of the nuggets I found in this goldmine:
“I know there’s nothing wrong with being with gay,” Matheus said loudly, as though more volume equalled more truth.
“That’s English you’re speaking,” Mattheus said.” The language that sidles up to other languages in dark alleys, mugs them, then rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. It’s the bitch-whore of languages and it owns the world. Suck on that, Rome boy.”
Quin stalked beside him, his anger a physical presence between them. Matheus named it Bob, and addressed imaginary questions to it to distract himself.
Now, onto the plot. Too often paranormal romance stories don’t have a lot going on, and as a result seem direction-less. Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle actually avoided that pitfall and had a decent plot and a good climax.
The story focused on Mattheus’ journey in learning how to survive as a vampire, and his relationship with his maker, Quin. However, Mattheus’ past played a key role, and the way it was gradually fed through the story was well done and provided some real emotional stakes at the end. His relationship with Fletcher, a tragic figure and an important person from his past, was touching and brought some real sadness at the end. It had a good and convincing villain as well.
In spite of the fact that it’s fairly funny and light hearted, Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle doesn’t shy away from portraying the brutality of life as a vampire. It does a good job of illustrating how tough it can be operating on such a necessarily cold moral code, and Mattheus is forced to do some dark things in the name of survival. It also addresses a number of clichés found in the vampire genre that are usually glossed over; for example, Quin discusses the need to teach Mattheus how to deal with passports and create a constant supply of money that will last an eternity. This is in a genre where we are used to seeing supernaturals being extremely rich because they inherited a castle full of gold from a mysterious vampire who conveniently killed himself (looking at you The Vampire Lestat , who started all this).
However, you don’t really care much about the world when you’re reading it; you’re in it for the characters and the banter between them and it was amazing.
There are two lead two characters in this book: acid tongued, socially awkward Mattheus, and the man who made him a vampire, immortal Roman Quinn. The story is a same-sex romance, though nothing’s explicit at this stage; it’s a love/ hate relationship where Mattheus is slowly dealing with the fact that Quinn turned him into a vampire against his will- and the fact that he is finding himself attracted to a man . A great thing about their relationship is that there is no coercion or dubious consent like in a lot of male/ male romancers written by and for women (or paranormal romance for that matter). In fact, Mattheus even directly brings up the trope:
“Stop following me. They give out pamphlets about that kind of behaviour. Showing up in a pamphlet is never good, Quin.”
One problem I had, however, was that although Mattheus’ bitingly sarcastic comments were hilarious, sometimes he crossed the line where his comments were so profoundly unmerited and nasty that it made him seem profoundly unlike-able. Sometimes it would have been nice if Fecteau could have just resisted the funny put down and just allowed Mattheus to act like a normal human being for a second and share a moment with another character rather than just going for the scathing out-down. This doesn’t ruin the book too much, but it does make Mattheus a weary character to deal with in spite of his humour.
The other characters, however, are great ; Milo, the only major black character,is a dry, no nonsense brilliant computer geek who doesn’t take any crap from Mattheus. Bianca is the main female lead and is funny and quirky and has a likeable relationship with Mattheus. Alaistair is Quinn’s self-absorbed ex and is the pretty boy Dorian Gray archetype who is not developed much here but will be in later books.
The one thing to note is that although the ending is complete, it does end very, very abruptly. Usually after the climax there’s a few pages to wind down, illustrate the aftermath and allow the reader to digest what’s just happened . Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle just cuts out as soon as the main conflict ends. This is because this series was originally published as an ongoing serial on Fecteau’s website, and the novel ends when the first story arch on the website ends. The ending isn’t exactly a let down, but it does not feel quite complete.
Overall, Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle was an amazing read. Even if gay or paranormal romance is not your cup of tea, I would still strongly recommend reading this for its sense of humour alone.
RATING: 5 Bitingly sarcastic put downs from a socially awkward vampire/ 5