Professor Adin Tredeger specializes in tracking down historical erotica, and he has just managed to acquire an amazing Renaissance-era journal filled with unbelievable illustrations. He is on the way to deliver the journal to his university when a handsome stranger follows him into the airplane bathroom and seduces him, leaving Adin groggy and vulnerable. Fortunately, Adin managed to protect the journal, called Notturno, and is intent on making this amazing find public.
Donte Fedelta is determined to recover Notturno for himself. For Donte, it is personal. The journal belonged to him, until it was stolen some time back, and chronicles his affair 500 years ago with his true love, Auselmo. The men lived in a time when it was impossible to be together, and Donte’s horrific wife made things even worse. And so he opened his heart in the journal where he shares all his intense love for Auselmo, along with erotic illustrations. For long years, ever since he was was made into a vampire, the only thing that can touch Donte’s heart has been memories of his beloved Auselmo. As much as Adin is determined that an amazing artifact like Notturno should be shared with the world, Donte just wants to recover it and keep it for himself.
The two men are at odds from the start, both wanting to claim the journal. But when a third party manages to get hold of it, the two men find they have a new enemy who is out to get both of them. As Adin learns more about Donte’s world, he finds himself both terrified and drawn to the man. Donte warns him that his heart is long closed, not to mention that he lives in a dangerous world. But Adin can’t stop the feelings that are growing towards Donte, and it turns out Donte feels a connection to Adin as well. But they are playing a dangerous game, both wanting the journal, facing men who want to harm them, and trying to figure out their feelings for one another at the same time.
Deep Desire has a really interesting set up that drew me into the story right away. Donte and Adin are immediately on opposing camps, both men determined to have the journal no matter what it takes. Each man believes strongly in his position and is willing to risk almost anything to get the journal. At the same time, there are clearly feelings between them. At first it is mostly an attraction that is drawing them, but soon the men have a real connection, even if they can’t quite pin down how they feel or what they want from each other. So they are set at odds in a way that is really not reconcilable, bringing them together and drawing them apart at the same time.
Maxfield builds an interesting world here, a world of dark and dangerous vampires that Adin slowly uncovers. As he gets deeper in, he learns more about the vampires and their world. At first he is kind of oblivious to the danger, but soon it becomes clear how dark and violent things really are. There is a nice balance between Adin’s strength and confidence, and the realization of the very real danger that he faces. This is an intense world and I think Maxfield does a nice job here with the tone.
One of the major elements of the story is Donte’s love affair with Auselmo. It is clear Auselmo was his epic love, someone to whom he still feels an intense bond even to this day. Donte is very clear his heart will alway belong to Auselmo, and though by the end there appears to be some room for Adin as well, their relationship does pale by comparison. I think Maxfield may have taken this too far, to be honest. I mean, this original relationship is held up as so beautiful, so pure and intense and moving. Even Adin feels it, determined to bring this relationship into the light by sharing the journal. So it was hard to ever feel like the relationship between Donte and Adin was in the same ballpark. Maybe as the series continues we will see their relationship grow, and I did feel a connection between them, but it was just nothing like what we are told Donte feels for his first love.
We get to see many excerpts from the journal as Adin reads it, and he pretty much thinks it is the most romantic thing in the world. Honestly, I found the writing kind of florid and purple, though maybe it fits the era, so I had a hard time warming to them. Here is just a quick example:
As I write this you sleep beside me, still damp and sated from our endeavors. I am breathless with joy and cannot sleep, so I will draw you as you lie beside me, and I will record your blotchy, well-marked skin for all eternity. What we shared felt sacred, my love, superhuman almost, divine. That I asked you to fill me with your body and your seed distressed you, I could see, but when you loved me passion glistened in your eyes, and I know you felt it too.
We are something new. Something powerful and eternal. There is nothing and no one who has been as we are, and none shall ever know what we know. I am yours, as completely as if you bought me for a slave, and you, my love, are my prize, won by what magic I do not claim to understand. I cherish you completely, amore, with the certain knowledge before all the gods that ever were, that I would gamble all except for you, and they may reward me for it or not.
On top of that, the journal is basically used as exposition to explain what is going on in Donte’s life at the time. So we get a lot of “as you know” kind of stuff here, like “I am thinking about how today we did this…” It felt heavy handed and kind of hard to read. I also never felt I understood Auselmo’s feelings because we get nothing of him at all. We presume he feels the same, but we get only a one sided sense of their relationship.
Just as one last aside, the blurb mentions Adin as “the Indiana Jones of historical erotica,” which I think suggests a level of adventure not really present in the book. We don’t see him acquire artifacts, he is not digging through tombs or being chased by boulders or whatever. I think the tone of this story works well, and I am not saying the book needs that at all. But if you are coming to this story based on that element of the blurb, I don’t think you are going to find it here.
In the end, I did find I enjoyed this story and really think Maxfield has created a really interesting world and a really clever dynamic between these men. It is something that has a lot of room to build over the series and I am looking forward to seeing how things continue to develop. So overall this is an enjoyable vampire tale with kind of a dark feel that has some really nice potential.
P.S. Deep Desire is a revised and updated version of Notturno, a book previously released by another publisher.