Arrigo Giancarlo is old. Not the grey-hair and whiskers old, but the sort of old that comes with having been born in the early days of the Roman Empire. He’s a vampire over two thousand years old who is currently making a ‘living’ as a ghost hunter in Las Vegas. Just because he’s an ancient creature of the night, doesn’t mean Arrigo doesn’t want a bit of companionship, and he has his sights set on Luc, the beautiful young bartender at the Alibi.
Luc hates his life. His father beats him, his brother beats him, and he’s sick and tired of having to lie about everything. He’s trying to get his GED — his da pulled he and his brother out of school when they were kids — he’s trying to save up money, he’s trying to figure out how to get away from them while also figuring out how he feels about Arrigo. The church (and Da) tell him being gay is a sin. It’s not just wrong, it’s evil. But Arrigo isn’t evil, and the way he makes him feel, safe and protected, can’t be evil …
Arrigo has lived long enough that he knows not to rush things. He’s more than willing to take the time he and Luc need to figure out what’s going on, and to help Luc deal with his family. But time is no longer on his side. Eleni has followed Arrigo to Vegas; having never forgiven him for killing her lover several century ago, she’s done her best to hurt Arrigo. In previous centuries she killed his wife, she’s killed his friends, and now she has her eyes set on Luc.
Blood Red Roulette involves physical abuse, mentions of child abuse back in Arrigo’s ancient past, and — despite the title — no roulette. It does have slot machines, though. When I first started this book, I wondered if I was in the second or third book of a series as characters are brought together in such a way as to imply a long-standing relationship and previous adventures. However, as far as I can tell, this is a standalone.
Luc and his family lost everything to Katrina and had to leave their home and come to Vegas. Luc refers to himself as being like the people in the reality show “Swamp People,” and often longs to return back to the world he is familiar with. Here, in Vegas, he’s at the mercy of his brother and father, both of whom are quick with their fists. They suspect Luc of being gay, which he denies, since the beating they’d give him for that would kill him. He’s attracted to Arrigo, though, and curious about starting a relationship with him. He’s also proud, and despite Arrigo’s obvious wealth, has no desire to just let Arrigo get him things. While Arrigo takes him on their first date to feed the sharks and for dinner, Luc is determined to pay for the second date, even if it will just be a meal at McDonald’s. He won’t hide who he is; Arrigo can either take him or leave him, but Luc’s tired of hiding. Arrigo brings out an inner strength in Luc even he didn’t know he had.
Arrigo is not tired of living. He likes living. He’s got a facebook account, a Netflix account, and is a skilled enough vampire that he can even take a little sunlight, though it’s not his favorite time of the day. And he likes Luc. Something in the young man makes him protective. He wants to show Luc the potential he has inside him, and while Arrigo doesn’t believe in either soul mate or love at first sight, he certainly believes in both lust at first sight, and liking. And he both likes and lusts after Luc.
Their relationship is a slow burn. A very slow burn. Even though there’s a pair of blowjobs fairly early on, that’s not a relationship and they’re both aware of it. Arrigo respects Luc and Luc respects himself, which makes their growing closeness feel all the more real and all the more earned. I don’t quite buy them as friends — they’re a little too disimilar in their interests and experiences for that — but, having read their story, I completely believe they’re going to make great lovers.
The plot, too, takes its time with Eleni building up the tension as she strikes at Arrigo’s friends and hints at more attacks to come. However, while there’s quite a fuss about the Chiaroscuro, the supernatural council that keeps the lid tight on the magical world, and mentions about rules and laws, none of it actually comes to anything. It’s there in the background, but never really dealt with. Likewise ghosts, which we’re told are as much a part of this world as vampires, witches, psychics, and werewolves.
While the supernatural world in this book is criminally underdeveloped — I really wanted to learn more about Denardo’s vampires and other supernatural creatures — Luc’s world is very well done. The psychological impact of constant abuse, his self doubts and insecurities, and even how he both shies away from help and yet still clings to Arrigo as a protector. The characters felt real and honest, and so did their relationships. I just wanted to know more about the world Arrigo lived in.
The book seems to be written as though there may be a sequel, or at least other books in this same world, so I have hopes the author will grant my wish and give us a bit more Arrigo, Chiaroscuro, and even witches, ghosts, and werewolves. This was a good book, and a good addition to your vampire romance library.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.