Christmas is a time for family, for colorful lights and treats and toys, and for Jesse Truelove, it’s his chance to spend some time with his much loved nephew, Oliver. It’s also a chance to sneak a peek at the city’s newest attraction, the haemophile Emory Von Magnusson, the Undying Baron, who is hosting this year’s lighting of the Christmas lights. The man’s handsome enough, certainly, but Jesse is too busy with Oli to do more than stare for a few minutes.
While wandering the festive streets, Jesse and Oli run across a lost child, a girl not much older than Oli who can’t find her daddy. Once that’s seen to and Oli returned to his father — who’s not entirely thrilled with his ex-con brother, who has yet to get a job — Jesse is free to go play. At the bar, he meets Trixy, a friend and fellow ne’er do well who wants him to help her break into the Von Magnusson house so she can get that YouTube cloud and film a vampire in daylight.
Needless to say, that doesn’t go well. Now, Jesse has to explain himself to the giant mountain of a man — er, haemophile — as to why he broke in, and what he can do to make up for it.
This first book in the Blood and Bonds series does an admirable job of throwing readers into the deep end. A lot of lore is sprinkled through the book regarding haemophiles, politics, and personalities — such as Terje Kristiansen and his human lover, Lord Aviemore, who are mentioned but never explained — and the clear delineation between how very not-human the haemophiles are. It beautifully sets up future books without pulling the focus away from the main couple in this one.
Jesse, because of his ex-con past — yet more burglary — is having a hard time finding a job, which means no money, which means having to face down his brother and his brother’s disappointment in him. But that’s something that’s been between the two of them forever, made worse recently with the death of their father. Jesse, though, loves his brother and adores his nephew. He’d do anything to keep his family in his life, and when given the chance for a job that pays actual good money doing work he likes and is good at (mostly breaking and entering; Jesse has simple hobbies), he’s eager for the chance to prove himself. And for the chance to spend more time around Emory.
Emory is old. Turned in the early days of European colonization of North America, he’s lost much of his humanity and almost every trace of who he was before he was turned. One thing he clings to with a passion is his family — what’s left of it. Emory had a sister who had children, whose children had children, so on and so forth, until now, when only one descendant remains. He’s supportive of his people, knowing love is a stronger collar than obedience, and endlessly patient. When he learns Jesse wants and needs submission and pain in his sex life, Emory is more than willing to dominate him, but refuses flat out to cause him even a moment of harm. He’d far rather Jesse melt into endless pleasure than suffer even a moment’s pain.
While it seems as though Emory falls hard and fast, I think it’s more that, with a life so long, having endured so much loss, Emory simply doesn’t see the need to draw things out. He sees Jesse, feels attraction, and acts on it. Why drag it out for a few weeks with dating when they can simply move to the part where they both enjoy one another? Jesse is just as quick to enter into the physical side of their relationship, but slower on the emotional end. When Emory offers him something — say, a very large gift or a declaration — Jesse is hesitant, needing time to consider his answer, and Emory is fine with that. He knows they’re not on the exact same page and is willing to wait until Jesse either catches up to where he is, or draws his own line as to what he wants and what he’ll accept.
I loved the subtle world building, the relationships between Jesse and his brother, Jesse and his co-workers, and yes, Jesse and Emory. (I also appreciate that they’re both switches, at least in bed). No one is painted as a true villain, and even those who work to keep Emory apart from his daughter are treated like people and not simply plot devices. This is a good entry into a new series, and I’m looking forward to book two!