I’m taking a break from my Noir series for a book review of Poison Apology by Lillian Mackenzie Rhine. Before I start reviewing, I have to bring out a disclaimer. Poison Apology is vampire erotica, with tons of explicit vampire sex scenes. My knowledge of vampire erotica is limited to a season or two of True Blood, so I’m definitely not an authority in the genre. Also, I’m about 100% sure that I am far from this book’s intended audience. I can’t speak to whether or not the sex scenes are arousing or effective, so I’ll focus on other elements instead. How did I get this book to review, you may ask? Well, the author gave me the description that it was about Caribbean Vampires and I said ‘sign me up!’ without any further research. That said, Poison Apology ended up being quite an interesting read.
The story follows Ivy Naido, a South African model with an abusive father and a sleazebag manager. She’s from an impoverished part of Johannesburg and is forced to please her manager in order to get a job and survive. Ivy goes to do a modeling shoot in beautiful St. Thomas Island in the Caribbean. She hangs out on the island a little and bumps into Jeremiah Gaitlin, who owns a local garage. Before she knows it, Jeremiah is revealed to be an island-dwelling vampire and he turns her into a vampire as well. He becomes her guide to the vampire life and they hit it off and begin a very passionate, blood-sucking relationship.
Jeremiah and Ivy’s relationship was definitely the highlight of the book. Ivy starts out being used by everyone – even by Jeremiah, who uses some vampire mind control charm to seduce her. But after getting some fangs of her own, Ivy becomes an equal to Jeremiah in every way. They become a vampire partnership that’s more Bonnie and Clyde than Bella and Edward, and it’s heartening to see Ivy gain independence through undead power. She and Jeremiah even use their vampire powers to get revenge on her manager and father. Later, a tourist named Cay Winter shows up, and she’s got some significance and power that makes all the vampires want to use her – which sort of damaged Jeremiah and Ivy’s own relationship. It was pretty sad to see their partnership getting messed up by a third party and it led to a surprisingly poignant ending.
However, I did think there were a few things that Rhine could work on. The prose, I felt, was fairly lacking. It seemed to be either very standard and boilerplate or overwrought and crazy. I think a happy medium would have greatly benefitted the story. Also missing? A sense of humor or self-awareness that would have really helped the grim proceedings. My favorite vampire movie of all time, 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, has a lots of sex and a great sense of humor too — and even works in some social commentary. Ivy seems to know what vampires are (just like everybody), but she never compares her situation to the brides of Dracula or anything like that. It seems that vampire romance is so overdone and common that some tongue-in-cheek humor is necessary. Amorous bloodsuckers are a lot harder to take seriously when they take themselves too seriously, after all.
That Caribbean setting which first attracted me to the story also ended up as a disappointment. Poison Apology features no pirates, no vampire pirates, no soucouyants (skin-shedding Caribbean vampires that travel around as balls of flame), no Rolling Calves (monstrous creatures wrapped in chains), no duppies (Jamaican ghosts), no zombies, no Voodoo, and no Lagahoos (Caribbean werewolves). Let me repeat that earlier bit. This is a book about Caribbean vampires that features no vampire pirates. If that’s not a missed opportunity, I don’t know what is. But seriously, the Caribbean has its own awesome folklore and populating it with dull and overused European-style vampires feels unnecessary. Besides, can you imagine the sexual escapades of a Rolling Calf with all those chains? Or a soucouyant turning into a fireball in the bedroom? That stuff pretty much writes itself.
Anyway, as I’m probably not qualified to review Poison Apology, I can only give it some sort of hazy approval. But if you like this sort of thing, I got a feeling that Poison Apology is the kind of vampire book you can really sink your fangs into.