The best thing in the world is when you find an author who really resonates with you. For me, Jennifer Armintrout is that author. It's like she peered into my mind, saw the checklist detailing everything I love to see in fiction, and then immediately set out to write a fleet of books that have every single one of those delicious tropes that I love so much.
I kickedstarted my Jenny Trout Experience with THE TURNING, which is a dark vampire erotica with an evil villain, vampires who actually behave like vampires, and enough horror to put the romance elements in their place. QUEENE OF LIGHT is a fantasy story about faeries and court intrigue, with high stakes coups and betrayals and yes, also doomed romance. How could the author write two totally different styles of books and have them both be so different, and yet so good? I have no idea, and yet she did it again with AMERICAN VAMPIRE.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE is a totally different book from her two other series done under this name. For starters, it is a standalone, which will come as a relief to those of you who want to read a good book without committing to a long-term relationship. This book is the perfect one-night stand for the impatient reader. The tone is also different. It's got a small town horror vibe reminding me of American Gothic, and it's really creepy.
Graf is a vampire who's on his way to a racy orgy party at the home of his sire. He gets lost en route, and finds himself in a small town that looks to be abandoned. When he goes into a gas station, however, he ends up finding a cowering girl and a monster. The girl is our heroine, Jessa, and the monster is this powerful and evil entity that's been holding the town in thrall for five years. Nobody's been able to get in or out in all that time, and the townsfolk have started to get kind of, well, crazy.
One thing I really liked about this book is how imperfect the narrators are. Graf is not a nice man and is a bit of a psychotic playboy who's used to getting his way. Jessa is also morally grey. She's an adulteress and has a slew of emotional issues and personal baggage. That said, neither of them are truly Bad People, and they have some pretty intense character arcs that transform them over the course of the novel as they slowly start to fall for each other despite knowing that they shouldn't.
The backdrop of horror is also really well done. It reminds me of Stephen King's older stories, the ones that took place in a small town hiding a big evil, like NEEDFUL THINGS or IT. In fact, the monster in this book is actually called "It" by the townsfolk (although nothing like Stephen King's IT), which made me wonder if that was maybe done in homage to the King of Horror himself. The way the townsfolk - and Jess and Graf - were trapped in the town gave this book a desperate, claustrophobic vibe that had me frantically turning pages, and Armintrout doesn't skimp on the gore.
If you're into horror novels with romance (or romance novels with horror), and want to read a vampire story that has an unusual plot and an even more unusual romance, you should definitely read AMERICAN VAMPIRE. I went in not expecting much and ended up being totally surprised.
3.5 out of 5 stars