At nearly two hundred years old, Taviano has seen a lot of Christmases. Each season makes him wistful for 1840 Naples and his family and once true love. He stays constantly on the move and the only thing he can do is hide in the shadows watching the holiday go by around him.
After being disowned from his family, Paul had to drop out of college and now barely makes ends meet as a short order cook. He still wants to give back and has his arms filled with presents for LGBTQ kids. When Paul is almost mugged, Taviano steps in and an attraction and friendship blooms. Taviano knows he must make Paul forget he ever met him, but maybe he can enjoy the holiday spirit just a little while longer and just maybe he will actually find a place to call home.
I have read almost all of the books that Robert Winter has put out and his debut book remains my favorite of his published works. Each new book I have liked less and this book really didn’t work out for me at all.
All books do not have to be full length novels for me, but they have to paint a complete story and the right words have to be chosen. Neither character was of interest to me here. Sure, Taviano started out interesting, being an older vampire from Italy from a time long ago, but his character never intrigued me the way it should have. He was forced to become a vampire and held against his will, but he’s incredibly lonely and depressed. He still longs for his childhood friend and love and the only companion he has is the demon, called a bloodbeast, that lives inside him.
The lack of explanation for this bloodbeast didn’t work out for me. At first, it’s not clear whether all vampires have this demon inside them or if it’s just Taviano or a select few. We get a little more information in a roundabout way, but overall this dynamic was not played well.
Then there is Paul. Paul is twenty-three and lives in a dangerous part of town and Taviano is there to help him at just the right time. Paul is immediately attracted to Taviano, who still looks in his early 20s himself. When Paul finds out that Taviano is a vampire, he’s okay with it with barely a thought and is ready to spend the night with him.
The biggest detractor for me here was the way Paul spoke. Taviano is intrigued with Paul’s current and “modern” way of speaking, but in my experience, Paul’s choice of words was not current for someone in their early 20s. Paul used words such as “gangsta” and “bruh” and “awesome sauce.” He tells Taviano, “Oh man. You got game.” He greets him with, “Sup, bae!”, and tells him, “I’m hundo-p down with this narrative.” It made him sound juvenile and awkward, almost as if he was the one trying to figure out modern language. Then, when Taviano started to try out the language himself, it further became a bit cringe worthy for me.
While there’s a fight for territory and a link to Taviano’s past, none of it elevated the story for me. Taviano also has some revelations about being a vampire, but then it opened up a lot more questions instead of tying the story up. There is lust in the air around Taviano and Paul, but I hard time buying it and an even harder time buying their happily ever after as it was presented.