Cheong Jin-woo has had a crush on his idol, Jung Ki-tae of the group Bam Kiseu (Night Kiss), since forever and now he’s going to see them in concert! While wandering about in the lower levels of the stadium, Jin-woo comes across Ki-tae with a woman in his arms. Only, they’re not kissing. Ki-tae, with his silver eyes and oh-so-sharp teeth is feeding from the technician. Ki-tae is a vampire! Jin-woo isn’t fast enough and soon gets lost in the hallways as he tries to run away, only to find himself caught up in those same arms, staring into those same silver eyes.
Ki-tae knows better than to drink from a human’s neck, but something about the young man trembling in his embrace makes him throw caution to the wind. Jin-woo’s blood, straight from his heart, is as sweet and intoxicating as any liquor and Ki-tae can’t get enough. But now Ki-tae’s bound once again, his life ensnared and held captive by someone else. The very thought makes him panic, lashing out at his brothers in a rage. Somehow this has to be undone.
Ki-tae’s Abeoji, Soon-joon — the vampire who cares for Ki-tae and his fellow vampires (and fellow bandmates, Cheongul and HanYin), and who Ki-tae and his brothers look to as a father — manages to find an answer. Ki-tae must either kill the human to sever the bond, or change Jin-woo into a vampire. Ki-tae will never bestow this curse upon another person, but he can’t quite bring himself to kill Jin-woo, either. He dreams of the young man, longs for the touch of his hand and the taste of his blood …
Night Kiss takes place in Korea and uses naming conventions and titles that may be a little unfamiliar to a western audience. The author does explain the basics in a preface to the story and has a glossary of terms at the front of the book. The vampires here may be somewhat familiar but, like the shifters and other spiritual forces in this world, are viewed through a different lens than many other paranormal stories. It was very interesting to see a familiar story told in such a different way.
Jin-woo has the usual traits of a romantic protagonist. He’s shy and modest, but ridiculously talented. He’s passionate, loyal, friendly to a fault, and plucky. This is the sort of character that, in the wrong hands, can be either boring or insulting, however the author manages to make Jin-woo more than a little charming, even though he had some moments where I wondered if he wasn’t a bit too precious. He calls himself a stan, but honestly, I think it’s just a crush. He doesn’t seem obsessive or crazed when he’s in Ki-tae’s life; he’s just happy to be with the person he loves.
Ki-tae had a traumatic and horrific childhood. He was not made a vampire by choice, and the man who forced it upon him was a monster. Fortunately for Ki-tae, Soon-joon found him and rescued him (as well as killing his ‘maker’). Ki-tae has overcome his past, but he’s still sensitive and defensive about certain portions. Jin-woo manages to sneak in through Ki-tae’s defenses. He’s not attracted to the trauma. He doesn’t want to heal Ki-tae or fix him, he just wants to love him as he is, as the person he is now, having overcome his past.
The two of them together can be overly cute and I had a few eye-rolls at some of the more saccharine moments, but the first time they have a sexual encounter (Ki-tae is feeding on Jin and the two of them are rubbing against each other), Jin screams and passes out. I’ll be honest, I snickered. In another scene where Ki-tae is getting a blowjob, he has to fight back a roar. It does get better as the book goes on, but I did find myself snorting through some of the sex scenes and romantic dialogue. Not in a bad way, just an amused one.
The first third of the book reads very much like fanfiction, to me. Not bad fanfiction, but the wealth and variety of adverbs, the conversations, and the overly long descriptive passages stood out for me. The writing smoothed out, though, and improved for the most part. Malinowski has clearly spent time as a Kpop fan and enjoys the culture because she brings a believability and a respect to the world that made the story engaging, even when I was having some issues connecting to the writing.
There are a wealth of plots, sub plots, and world building here that I don’t want to give away. Looking at the world through a different culture’s eyes was interesting and the author made it enjoyable. To be honest, while I didn’t connect with any of the characters — though I did love ChenBao — I was caught up in their stories. Drawing from Korean, Chinese, and Japanese mythology, the familiar vampire story had a new flavor and, as this is book one in a series, I’m hopeful to see more stories set in this same world.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.