Of Flesh And Blood
by Darragha Foster, Tina Holland, and Celine Chatillon; paranormal (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-384-4

Of Flesh And Blood is an anthology of three stories featuring vampires. This is an... interesting read indeed.

Darragha Foster gets things going with Polishing Saber.

You know, I'm always sure the author is just making things up, but I always realize after a few Google searches that even her most outlandish concepts tend to have some realism to them. I was sure that she made up the name "mooncusser", for example, but no, it's supposedly true and there were mooncussers back in those days.

Here, we have the Nábrók, a pair of trousers made from the flayed flesh from the lower body of a man's corpse which could bestow upon its wearer great powers. The wearer however will have to feed on blood to keep the magic of the Nábrók going. The Old Ones of Iceland - the original vampires - had a war with the witches or draugur who wore the Nábrók a long, long time ago. The last of the Nábrók was safely hidden away... until it was discovered by accident recently. It has since gone missing and whoever stole it must have become a draugur since many sheep are showing up dead recently drained of blood.

Then we have our heroine Saber Evangelista - no, she's not an adult film actress, in case you're wondering - is an IT guru of sorts who is in Iceland to shag hot eighteen-year old boys and hot vampires who happen to be embroiled in the mystery of the stolen Nábrók.

This story is interesting and the Nábrók thing doesn't end up being as tawdry as I feared it would be at first. However, like the author's previous much longer effort Mooncusser Cove, here the scenery and the legend of the Nábrók are far more interesting than the characters populating the story. In fact, the author's prose here can be so vague when it comes to actual details that I am not sure why Saber is in Iceland. She's looking for a good time, I am told at places, so maybe that's the reason. There are times when I feel that the author is so into her story that she sometimes forgets that the reader may not be privy to some of the details in her head.

I'm not saying that Ms Foster needs to spell everything out, of course, because that may lead to too much telling instead of showing. However, I get the impression here that the legend and the geographical backdrop are far more important than the main characters as they are more well-developed than the characters. The characters' motivations, thought processes, and emotions are often glossed over. The romance is all but buried under the Nábrók. In a way, the strongest aspect of the story - the Nábrók - makes the story one to remember but it also overshadows everything else about the story.

Tina Holland is next with Dealing With The Dead. This one is set in 3024 AD. It's a post-apocalyptic world out there as humans now find themselves sharing living space with shifters and vampires who view humans as nothing more than prey. Humans are now living in clans and resorting to either magic or science to help them survive the new world. A recent war also gave rise to zombies which are humans that contracted some radioactive bio-virus (don't ask) and turned into ravenous creatures that eat everything in their path. Our heroine Melissa can see and communicate with ghosts, which fortunately is a very useful skill when it comes to dealing with hungry predators, as any reader will discover as the story progresses.

When Melissa infiltrates Le Cage, a club that caters to shifters and vampires where humans rarely come out alive, to save her brother, she finds herself crossing paths with Drake Vermillion, a vampire who is looking for his next meal.

Dealing With The Dead is a fabulous read in a way because of the horror overtones of this story. Really, the vampires and shifters kill and eat people, so there is a wonderful atmosphere of claustrophobic terror in this story, especially when our heroine eventually needs the help of a potential predator to get out of Le Cage alive.

And yet, I feel that the romance spoils everything. The romance is not believable at all. The conventional storybook resolution to the relationship between Drake and Melissa is a horrible cop-out given what Drake is. This is one story that I feel could have been much better if it were a one-woman show without that wretched romance which ruins everything.

Celine Chatillon closes the anthology with Blood Betrayal, which seems to be linked to the author's previous book Help! I'm Falling For The Vampire Next Door as Vladimir Drakul first appeared in that book. This story is a prologue of sorts as it is an expansion of an event mentioned in that book.

Vlad and Leo Van Helsing find themselves waging a war with each other with poor Sofia Martinelli being caught in the middle as a pawn. Both men were really sadistic and twisted in their own right so this one is a deliciously disturbing story that appeals greatly to my enjoyment of ghoulish and macabre elements.

That is, until the author cops out like Ms Holland and gives the story a last-moment happy ending of sorts that makes me roll up my eyes. I have the same issue with this story as I have with Ms Holland's - I love this story right up to the moment when the author decides to tack on some conventional storybook romance elements that really do not fit with the rest of the story. This is a cop-out if you ask me. This story would have been so much stronger without that ending.

Of Flesh And Blood is an anthology that is far more enjoyably creepy than it is romantic. Still, it is a most interesting read that I suspect will go down well with readers who like erotic horror. All three stories are fundamentally flawed in one way or the other, but they are certainly memorable in their own right. All in all, I believe I am pretty pleased with this one.

Rating: 84

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