Jesse Madding has had a giant crush on his best friend, the vampire Gideon, for almost as long as they’ve known one another. One problem is that Gideon is his boss, which makes things all sorts of complicated; another is that Jesse doesn’t want to risk their friendship by asking more of Gideon than he’s willing to give. Gideon is aware of Jesse’s infatuation, but it isn’t until a mysterious substance causes him to lose all inhibitions and take advantage of his human sidekick in a dark alley that Gideon is finally forced to admit to himself that the attraction Jesse feels isn’t one-sided; Gideon, too, is harboring a bit of a crush.
The two men are hired to look into the death of a young man torn apart by what looks to be a wild animal — but which Gideon and Jesse know to be a vampire attack. Finding themselves lured ever deeper into the vampiric underworld, the two friends enter into a dark and twisted landscape as violent and dangerous as Gideon’s past. Between blood and blackmail, pleasure and pain, they will redefine their relationship even as they work to keep the new drug called “obsidian” from hitting the streets, a drug that unleashes the inner demonic force lurking inside even the most rational vampire. If they want to keep the streets of Chicago from running red with blood, Jesse will have to submit to his own desires, and to Gideon’s will.
This book has all the charm and atmosphere of the late ‘90s, when vampires were all the rage. Think of Buffy and Angel, shows where brooding vampire heroes walked the line between monster and man, kept sane by their only connections to humanity, their friends. However, while the story takes place in that comfortable world, this book offers a darker look with scenes of sadomasochistic sex, blood play, master/slave dynamics, and one character participating in both group and public sex. This is not a book for the squeamish.
Jesse is described as brilliant and beautiful; Gideon considers him the brains of their operation and takes great delight in watching him work. Whether it’s Jesse lost in a book or working on the computer, there’s a sense that the vampire respects Jesse’s abilities. While Jesse fantasizes about Gideon, he’s not blind to the fact that Gideon is a vampire and that he’s had a long and violent past that involves sleeping with, feeding from, and killing other people. But that doesn’t bother him. When the drug, obsidian, causes Gideon to lose control and fuck Jesse against an alley wall, Jesse is all for it. More, he’s not willing to pretend it didn’t happen; he wants to move forward and at least give a relationship a try.
Gideon is a creature of many facets. He can be a blood-thirsty monster one moment, or a lazy, self-indulgent man sprawling on the couch the next. But underneath every polite social mask, he’s a dominant and domineering man who keeps a fully stocked playroom in his house and gets off on causing pain, owning his pets, and watching as other people enjoy what his pet has to offer. He never thought Jesse would be the sort able to kneel at Gideon’s feet, but when he realizes that Jesse is not only offering his submission, but is sincere in his wants, Gideon is more than willing to take everything Jesse has to offer and more.
This book didn’t really give me much more than the barest sketch of a back story for the two characters, and all of that was telling rather than showing. In the first chapter, there are mentions of how Jesse isn’t willing to push Gideon into a relationship, and the next sentence (practically) had the two of them going at it hard and fast. There’s more sex than characterization in this book, and more characterization than plot. The plot shows up briefly in the beginning, and then at the end, leaving a lot of sex scenes in between where Gideon is angsting over what he’s done — or allowed to be done — to Jesse, and Jesse making it clear he enjoyed it, and wants to continue to enjoy it.
This book doesn’t really offer me anything memorable, and while it isn’t a bad book, it just left me a little lukewarm. The world building is so very thin, and it feels like it’s relying a lot on my familiarity with pop culture vampires and vampire lore to fill in all the gaps. The main focus was the sex, with rich, raw, and sometimes garish sex scenes and the occasional glance at the characters to see how they felt about it all. For what it is, it’s a decent read, but there’s not much depth to the story.