I want to start by saying that I really wanted to like this book. I’ve read another of Jenny Frame’s novels, A Royal Romance and I really enjoyed it. Sure, it had its more…mature moments, but by and large the book was plot driven, the characters well put-together and the story an enjoyable one to read. So I was excited to read another of her books, and to review it for you guys.
Do you want to know the thing that most annoys me about the LGBT+ fiction section in any website/library/shop? Fiction is a pretty big label, and you never know what you’re going to get. It could be romance, science fiction, horror, teen fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy…in this case it was pure, unfiltered smut. The first third of the book at least was essentially pornography before the plot even tried to start. I know, look at the title, look at the cover, I should have known. But it was about VAMPIRES so I thought maybe it was just unfortunately named. I was wrong.
I was so very wrong.
Books contain sex, I know this, you know this, your local librarian knows this (I worked as a librarian and yes, we do notice you borrowing those books discreetly and no, we do not judge you for it) and that is by no means a bad thing, but there comes a point where it gets excessive. Hunger For You approached this point at a sprint and then vaulted over it, before disappearing into the sunset on the other side. The sheer amount of smut made reading it a bit of a chore. Is it too much to ask, just once, for a lesbian fiction story that isn’t pornographic? I wanted vampires, not vagina.
One lesson that has stuck with me through years of creative writing lectures, informative books and editing of my own work is this: show, don’t tell. Unfortunately, I was only a few pages in when I encountered this line:
“…her many family secrets, the most important of which was that the Debreks were a royal family of immortal vampires, running an international banking and business group.”
Now, any fan of vampire lore will agree that banking is probably a very good career for a vampire to go into. There’s relative anonymity, and historically they have always been fans of counting (mwa ha ha) but to outright tell me the biggest family secret right out of the gate took some of the excitement out of it. Of course, I know the book is about vampires, it’s right there in the description. But instead of just telling me this, SHOW ME vampires, show me how they hide in plain sight, show me those moments where the façade slips and you see them for what they are. In addition to this, vampires in this book blend in and sate their hunger by drinking chilled blood disguised as red wine. Now I’m just putting it out there, red wine and blood have different viscosities and I’m pretty sure blood coagulates when chilled. If I saw someone drinking thick, gloopy red wine I’d probably run for the hills. Alas, Amelia is just dim enough to not notice.
There are interesting elements to Byron’s backstory, she lived as a man for years when living both as a lesbian and as a woman in professional business were impossible – I wanted to see more of this potential for a rich, queer history and for a positive representation of a butch, masculine lesbian in today’s society. To her credit, Frame does write lesbian relationships with more masculine women – something I’ve often found lacking in lesbian representation, and Byron is certainly masculine. Instead I got page upon page of Byron’s increasingly bloodthirsty sexual encounters with a blissfully oblivious Amelia (and I mean oblivious, she had the two pin-prick marks of a vampire bite on her neck for SIX MONTHS and didn’t bat an eyelid. There’s not wanting to see the worst in your partner and then there’s actively ignoring that they might want to drink your blood). Honestly, it was constant, dating this woman must be exhausting. I was exhausted just reading it. Additionally, if the majority of your dates are spent trying not to kill your partner, I hate to say it but that isn’t a healthy relationship.
The world-building is a little sloppy too, other species are introduced – witches, shifters, fae, shifter-fae-vampire-bird-women, but the majority are glossed over very briefly and never mentioned again. Where we could have had urban fantasy, secret communities of preternatural beings living alongside humanity, we got smut and an attempt at the politics of the vampire court that I wanted more of, but never got. I feel like this is the running theme for this book, as a fan of fantasy, horror and lesbians I wanted so much more then I got from this book. Overall, this one just wasn’t for me. I wanted so much for it to be good, to be able to go ‘look! Lesbian fiction can be great! Go read this it’s fantastic!’ but instead I got porn with an attempt at plot, and the phrase ‘firm buttocks’ inexplicably stuck in my head.
Overall rating: 📖📖 2 book out of 5
A copy of Hunger for You was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.