Years ago, police officer Otto’s sister was found murdered, drained of all blood. Otto spent his life convinced only one being could be to blame: so-called drainers, vampires who can not process synthetic blood and have to drink fresh, human blood. Failure to properly feed pushes drainers to into bloodlust and, well, they will drink every last drop during a feed. In addition to his dim view of drainers, the detective assigned to Otto’s sister’s case was a vampire and as lazy as they come by Otto’s standards. Put together, Otto has zero trust for a race he considers sub-human.
That is until he comes across a half-human, half-vampire crossling named Jessamine. The attraction Otto feels for Jessa is as inexplicable as it is through the roof. Nevermind that Jessa is both a vampire and a drainer—not to mention betrothed to a cold man—Otto feels possessive towards the willowly crossling. Yet when young Jessa realizes Otto may just be the spark of passion he so desperately wants, Otto doubles down on his no-vampire rule.
As Jessa and Otto dance around their mutual lust, the murder of a local vampire draws all kinds of attention—and sends Jessa and Otto on a whirlwind journey to solve the murder. For Jessa, this represents a chance at freedom. For Otto, it is a shot at redemption for his long-since deceased sister. But when the pieces of the puzzle finally start to fall into place, both men realize this is not just a simple case of murder.
Vampire’s Heart does one thing very well: draws out a slow burn between Otto and Jessa, while consistently maintaining monologues from both characters about how they want each other and why they can’t have each other. For Otto, this set up has a strong flavor of “enemies to lovers,” except there is the caveat that he seems to instinctually recognize Jessa is his one true love. By way of example, even as Otto is narrating all the reasons why having anything to do with Jessa is a bad idea and trying to convince himself Jessa’s not worth his time, thoughts like “he’s mine!” ping through Otto’s narrative. This is repeated for Jessa as well.
Outside the love story, Sky has attempted to weave a high-octane thriller/mystery. To be honest, the pacing of the action here felt a bit slow. I struggled a bit to follow the flow of the story and how/why Jessa and Otto ended up in the situations they ended up in. This is somewhat exacerbated by the post-apocalyptic setting. I was fairly deep into the story before I realized that things like the internet and computers were not universally available for the characters. Otto even comments how the lack of internet means the vast majority of crime goes unsolved….yet there are security cameras available at vampire establishments.
The worldbuilding was interesting. I was able to pick up that there was a great conflict between humans and vampires that culminated in wars. During the book’s time period, both humans and vampires live mostly in harmony—perhaps aligned with their mutual hate of “drainers.” For some reason, there are copious earthquakes in the area, though why this is important and why the earthquakes happen at all wasn’t clear. Nevertheless, Sky makes consistent reference to them and peppers the text with a few tremblers—it was enough to help me suspend my disbelief and accept that the American midwest is now a hot-zone for earthquakes.
The ending was fairly exciting. Throughout the whole book, Otto is driven to action by the desire to catch his sister’s murderer. Sky sets this up pretty well, keeping the “case” shrouded in mystery…then, when the big reveal happens, I like that I was thrown for a bit of a loop to learn who was responsible for all the current human versus vampire strife.
On the whole, this was a pretty satisfying vampire read. The vampire lore figures prominently in almost every aspect of the story—but so does the Otto/Jessa forbidden love thread. There are several scenes were we are treated to Otto/Jessa consummating their physical relationship, as well. If either of these things hit your hot buttons, you’d probably enjoy this story.