Guest Review: Blood Embrace Anthology

Vampires have become the ultimate erotic figure in paranormal literature, but the creatures in "Blood Embrace" are more than just pretty immortals who suck the blood from their victims or companions. This anthology showcases M/M short stories that have unique ideas in the vampire genre, taking them beyond their traditional settings and extravagance. No angst-ridden "sparklepires" or caped Transylvanians who "never drink... wine" here! These tales show off the new and wonderful things that can be done with this tried and true erotic theme.

Bryan is living a normal, suburban life, worried about his cholesterol and whether eating shredded cardboard cereal for breakfast is worth the trouble. Then came the visions. Horrific, bloody scenes pound his mind, and Bryan's life begins to crumble around him as he loses his grip on reality. Only when he has sunk nearly as low as a man can go does the demon, Jonathan, appear to him to tell Bryan that he has been the source of his ruined life, all in preparation for this moment. Now he must "Choose", become Jonathan's loyal sex slave and blood slut, or be sunk forever into the madness. Then, when the vampires rose to ascendancy, some humans fled into the wild, called Freemen among their communities and "Feral" by the vampires and those who stayed to serve them. Mouse is a feral, and when he breaks into house in the woods, he thinks he's getting nothing more than food to keep him going. What he finds instead is Orrin, a vampire whose seductive grace and unexpected kindness make Mouse want to be caught.

Mike is a starving artist whose popular fantasy art keeps him alive while he strives for his true goal: placement in a prominent gallery. And when he uses red lamps to create his "Red Filter" series, he knows he's more inspired than he's ever been. Unfortunately, he's also suffering, and as his art comes together, his health falls apart. It's all the fault of the creature who stalks his dreams and haunts the edges of his vision while he paints, and once Mike realizes it, he finds a way to pull David, a psychic vampire, into his own reality... and under his power. Finally, for years, Hyde has had one unassailable mission: find the demon that lured his twin and fellow Catholic priest, Samuel, away from God. But when the monster is finally within his grasp, even the power of God and His holy symbols may not be enough to save Hyde from the vampire's wicked words and seductive secrets "Of The Flesh".

Choose by Kelly Wyre - 2 Hearts
This started off strange and got no less strange as it went on. I wish I could give a comprehensive review of this story, but to be quite frank, I have no idea what happened or what I just read.

There are some small moments of great writing, and in general the writing isn't bad, it was just completely and utterly confusing. Toss in misspelling the MC's name early on and the fact that it left me without any impression, and that's unfortunately why I can't give this story in particular a higher rating.

Feral by Katya Harris - 4 Hearts
Mouse's hunger drives him to do some unthinkable things, like sneak into the house of a vampire lord not long before sunset. For years he's being trying to avoid being caught, but when it's Orrin who catches him, that all changes.

I actually really enjoyed this one. The story starts off with some great detailed writing and I felt a sense of place that is so important to me when reading. I also love the idea of the setting - a future where the world is ruled by vampires and there are humans who are still rebelling. My kind of storyline.

The one thing I was unsure about was Alex. As an individual character, I did enjoy him, but when put with Mouse... yeah, no. He bothered me then. But overall, a great read that I'd actually read more of.

Red Filter by D.K. Jernigan - 3 Hearts
Mike is a starving artist (sometimes literally) who has worked hard to get his art in a gallery and finally gets his big break. But lately he's been drained, exhausted and ill. Between seizures and startling dreams, there's more to what is eating his energy than meets the eye.

So this started off quite good. I love the idea of a vampire that feeds off of energy, and I thought it had a lot of potential. I also adored the description of Mike painting. It really gave a bit of insight into the tortured process of creating art. And there was a nice little dash of humor.

But, the ending lost me. Between David referring to Mike as his Maestro and the strange reaction David has to drinking coffee and such... I was just a bit lost. Also, I felt that the dream sequence was a bit too much like the one we had in the first story and it felt repetitive.

In general this was a good start, but it stumbled a bit toward the end.

Of the Flesh by S.L. Armstrong & K. Piet - 3 Hearts
Hyde's been desperately seeking his twin brothers corrupter for years, following the vampire from city to city. When he finally finds what he's been looking for, it may just be more than he planned for.

This is more of what I expected when I thought of an anthology of vampire stories. This was dark in some areas, much more of a horror theme than all the others. Unfortunately, it really was just pretty much one scene in a story that could grow into something so much more.

The writing was pretty good, but where this faltered for me was with the copious amount of scripture. It's not that I have a problem with it, but there was truly so much of it that I was just overwhelmed. I ended up skimming much of those sections, were quite a bit. Again, this was a good start, but it left something to be desired, which I think is just a common symptom of many short stories.

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