Review: Vampire Claus by Robert Winter

’Twas the night before Christmas, but what’s stirring is a little more dangerous than a mouse.

Taviano is nearly two hundred years old and never wakes in the same place twice. Weary and jaded, the vampire still indulges in memories of childhood Christmases in Naples. He lingers in shadow, spying on mortals as they enjoy the holiday.

When Taviano spots a handsome young man in Boston loaded down with presents and about to be mugged, he can’t help but intervene. Soon he’s talking to joyous, naïve, strong-willed and funny Paul, a short-order cook who raised funds to buy Christmas presents for LGBTQ children. Before he knows what’s happened, Taviano is wrapped up in Paul’s arms and then in his scheme to get the presents delivered by Christmas morning.

A vampire turned into a Christmas elf… What could go wrong?

Vampire Claus is a 30,000-word standalone gay romance about a lonely vampire and a fearless mortal with no instinct for self-preservation. A heartwarming ending, no cliffhanger, and a young man who discovers he has a thing for fangs. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

I love Christmas. I don’t love the commercialization of the holiday but I love the traditions that I have kept with me from a young girl to the traditions I make as an adult. Growing up Catholic, Christmas had a mystical and almost mythical feeling to it with the rituals we had at home as well as at church. So you can see, finding a Christmas story that deals with Catholicism fondly was a blessing for me. Oh, there is also an Italian Vampire who misses mass, has a heartbreaking back story and finds the most perfect human for him on a night perched up on a Catholic church… yeah, this story was made for me.
I have written this review at least four different times and still can’t find the right words to say how much I fell in love with this story.
We meet our resident one hundred ninety- four year old vampire Taviano as he watches mass as close as he dares above the streets of Boston. Taviano is a lone vampire, making his way through the world a day at a time to avoid territorial creatures of the night and not wanting to claim anything for himself. Safe up on his church to perch, Taviano hears the beginning of a mugging that draws his attention. Not only are three men about to mug a young man dressed in red with his hands full of bagged gifts, but Taviano feels something different pull at him he hasn’t felt in years.
His demon’s hunger for blood drove him for such long years. He’d all but forgotten what it was like to hunger for touch.
From the first meeting with Paul as Taviano saves him, I was in love. Not only does Taviano find Paul attractive but finds him innocent, humble and shockingly his bloodbeast doesn’t want to eat him. Paul is observant during his rescue, with how Taviano dealt with the men. The exchange about Taviano being a ninja was adorable, but when they get back to Paul’s place to clean up his wound, he finds out what Taviano really is.
Goodness but I loved the heck out of Paul. He is similar to Taviano in ways of their heritage, both coming from Italian families and both being ostracized from the family for being gay. Paul knows what it’s like to wake up on a Christmas morning alone and doesn’t want the LGBTQ kids at the shelter to suffer the same disappointment so he raised funds to buy them gifts. Those are the same gifts the men try to mug him for when Taviano rescues him and those same gifts get delivered to the shelter in the best way.
Taviano of course owns my heart. He’s this amazing creature, a man turned vampire who has to fight the bloodbeast living inside him and find a way to balance what it wants and what he’s become. He lives from location to location, always on the move to survive and not cause conflict with others. He feeds on those he deems deplorable and does everything he can not to kill, to only feed and to erase the memory of what he’s done. He’s lonely. OMG is he every lonely and his isolation from physical contact and what he loved as a human hurt my romantic heart. I loved how honest he was with Paul about everything and his decisions at the end had me hugging my Nook.
Paul flashed him a grin and it was the sweetest thing Taviano had seen in a very long time. He wanted to see it again. Besides, he might actually have started to remember how to talk normally. How to banter.
Or at least, not act like a monstrous recluse who ate everyone he met.
The take on vampirism in this was refreshing. Taviano’s sire was hell bent on teaching him the ways of living as a vamp but he was deceitful and garish with what he let Taviano believe he could and couldn’t do. Thank goodness Paul likes the vampire enough to challenge what he’s believed for over a hundred years.  I liked that that Taviano considered himself a host to the demon, that he thought them to be separate beings and he tried to control the demon’s blood lust. I liked the inclusion of Ichor flowing through Taviano’s body to keep him “alive” and how the mythology of his vampirism blended with that of Greek gods.
I know. I am being kinda vague about this and trust me, I don’t want to be. I want to tell you about the emotional moments that had me in tears – both happy and bittersweet – of the humor Taviano possess and the way he treats the “language barrier” between he and Paul. I want to tell you how utterly romantic this story is. How the lyrical writing is so breathtaking and beautiful that it flows off the page and wraps around you until you are part of the story. I want to tell you about my heart breaking when Taviano tells Paul how he became a vampire, when he tells Paul about the boy he loved and what happens when he gives his past lover a name. I want to tell you how amazing the action is within this story and about the supernatural beings within. I want to tell you how hot Ichor can be during sex, what it does once inside you and I want to tell you that this ends so damn perfectly that really, I just want to tell you to read this because you won’t regret a single word.
I don’t know what else to say. I am still stuck in the story with Taviano and Paul right now. I went over my notes and highlights and instead of pulling from them for this review, I read the story again. It was that good, that romantic and that special.

An ARC was provided by the author.

Trivia Question: Name the series where a cocky bisexual lawyer falls for a straight bartender. 5 pts

Random winner will be chosen around Noon EST 11/18.

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