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REVIEW: Vampire Instinct by Joey W. Hill

Dear Ms. Hill,

When I want something darkly paranormal, erotic, and edgy, you are my go-to author.  I’ve been listless about paranormals lately, and when I realized you were coming out with a new vampire book, I immediately wanted to read it. If anyone can get me back on the paranormal wagon, it’s you. And while this book was just as well-written and compelling as anything else I’ve read by you, I had some problems with it.

Vampire Instinct by Joey W. HillI’m not one of those reviewers that gives a really long recap of the plot line, so here’s my attempt at a cohesive summary. In A Vampire’s Claim, we met Lady Danny and Dev. Danny had a servant – a cute, roly-poly little serving girl who was brutally raped by a vampire fledgling and left for dead. This serving girl also had to watch helplessly as the man she loved was murdered in front of her by the same vampire fledgling.

Vampire Instinct starts out about a month or so after that book ended. Elisa, the cute serving girl, is in traumatic shock from the attack, and Lady Danny doesn’t know what to do with her to snap her out of it. Compounding the problem is that Elisa is attached to the remaining vampire fledglings that were captured. She feels they are children that need reforming, not animals to be put down, as most vampires think of them. Lady Danny reaches out to Malachi, a Native American vampire that runs a big cat rescue preserve on a remote island, and asks him to help both Elisa and the fledgling vampires, as he’s good with rehabilitating wild/abused animals.

It’s been a few years since I read A Vampire’s Claim, and I have to admit, for the first 50 pages of Instinct, I was totally clueless as to what was going on. As an author, I think you have a weakness when it comes to the beginning of the book and pulling the reader into your story. With the exception of Beloved Vampire (which I loved), I find all of your books a little tricky to get into. I know once I get past that initial hump, I’m going to enjoy myself. It’s just getting past it.

The hero in this book is Malachi. He doesn’t act like the regular vampires in your series. He’s a made vampire, so isn’t at home with the aristocracy. He’s very in touch with the wild animals in his home and prefers to hide out on his island, away from the world. He thinks the fledglings need to be put down, but he knows that if he destroys them, it will in turn destroy Elisa, and he doesn’t want that to happen.

As you can guess, Elisa and Malachi are attracted to each other. Part of Mal’s job is to bring Elisa back from the brink after she’d been raped, and so he’s trying to make her feel things again. As heroes go, he’s perfectly fine – alpha when he needs to be, patient with the heroine’s occasional shenanigans, and in control of all he surveys. I didn’t feel a real connection to him throughout most of the story, however, so I never felt that it was his story.

The story itself is Elisa’s – her learning to live again, love again, and then be a dutiful vampire servant and all it entails. Honestly, she is my main problem with the entire book.  I am not a fan of wallowing books. Elisa? She wallows. First she’s wallowing in the aftermath of her rape, which I understand. But then she’s wallowing in pain, thinking her ‘children’ (the vampire fledglings) will be destroyed. Then she’s wallowing because she’s not sure Mal loves her. Then she’s wallowing over yet another plot point, and another. And through the whole book, while falling for Mal, she wallows in pain over the man that she loved that murdered, and she thinks of him every time the hero touches her. This annoyed me, a lot. I want the heroine to be in love with the hero, not constantly thinking about another man that was taken from her. About halfway through, I started to get annoyed. I looked down at the percent-read on my kindle and was actually dismayed to find out that I was only 50% through. Surely Elisa wouldn’t wallow for another 200 pages? I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude for that.

Luckily for me (and poor suffering Mal), the second half of the book picks up quite a bit, after Elisa becomes Mal’s full fledged servant in all ways. The sex picks up, the vampire politics picks up, and the story becomes about a lot more than just Poor Elisa. One of the things I like best about your vampire books are that the vampires are truly scary at times. They are not just your average gangsta thug hero with fangs who is a teddy bear when the heroine flashes him a little pink. They are cold, merciless creatures that live in a political and social world that is cruel. The servants that obey them exist only to please them, and nothing is off the table. There’s something a little alarming as well as fascinating in that aspect. For me, the first half of the book didn’t play up to the strengths of the series like the other books do. Mal fights hard not to be like those other vampires. When they are finally pulled into the vampire world in the second half of the book, my interest perked quite a bit.

There were still a few sour notes, though. I didn’t feel like Elisa was at home with Malachi in the vampire world, and that was jarring to read. When he instructs her to do things that other servants do, she agrees but is utterly sick at the thought. How are they going to be a couple if she cannot function in the vampire world? Granted, he asks her to do some pretty intense things (which I won’t spoil, but if you have read the other books in the series, you know what I am talking about) and then afterward she is sick. It made me troubled for their HEA for a while, though I think eventually those fears are mostly soothed away. Mostly.

As always, the sex is hot, the characters are raw and the world is fascinating. However, I don’t feel that this is your best book or showcases your talent or imagination as well as it should. I couldn’t put it down when I was reading it, but now that I am done with it, I’m glad I don’t have to spend more time with Elisa, the heroine. I think I missed the books you put out last year (a two-parter, and I avoided them specifically because of that) but reading this makes me want to go back and see if those are closer to the dark, erotic stories that I was hoping for.  This one is close, but not quite what I wanted.

C+

~ January

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January Janes

January likes a little bit of everything. She's partial to unique paranormals, erotic romances, contemporary, and YA. She has a fondness for novellas and trying self-published works, though more of those are misses than hits. She still refuses to read anything that smells like literary fiction. January also changes this bio on a regular basis depending on her reading mood.

17 Comments

  1. HelenB
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 12:58:13

    If you want dark and erotic then Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trinity is it in spades. Vampire Instinct is a quieter almost sweet book in comparison. Elisa is a character true to herself ie a moderately educated catholic maid in 1950′s Australia. She has been through horrific trauma that even Buffy could not just shrug off and go merrily on her way. Patience is said to be a virtue and patience is needed at the start of Joey’s books. Is that a bad thing?

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  2. Angela
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 14:08:29

    I’ve actually only ever read one Joey Hill book, and it was actually a novella (the Knights of the Boardroom novella in the Unlaced anthology). I didn’t find it hard to get into at all, and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to pick up more of hers for a while. What would you recommend as her best?

    @HelenB: I do actually think it’s a bad thing though if I am lost in the beginning of a book. A mild feeling of discomfort I can handle, even a vague feeling of disorientation, but being absolutely lost? No, thank you. But that’s my personal feeling.

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  3. Lindsey
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:55:13

    The only Hill book I’ve read is Beloved Vampire (which also seems to be the most popular, which is likely how it ended up on my radar), which I enjoyed, but it was a bit darker than I tend to like my romance, and was actually a slow-starter for me, which means I’m somewhat reluctant to pick up any of her other books.

    @HelenB Similar to what Angela said, I also find it a problem if a book is unable to hold my attention in the first 25-50 pages. You may be willing to stick it out if you think the author consistently delivers, but you should also understand that it’s off-putting for a lot of readers whoa re new to the author, because not everyone is willing to slog through a rough or confusing beginning on the off-change that it might get better.

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  4. Mandi
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:55:45

    I really, really loved the two previous books (Vampire Mistress and Vampire Trilogy) in this series – but those are the only two I have read. I tried to get into this one but it just didn’t grab me. I was a bit disappointed – but I really do love how she writes. So dark and edgy. Maybe the next one :)

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  5. Ridley
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 16:22:26

    I read the first two in this series and hated them. All the kinky public sex just made me uncomfortable since the players were only doing it because they were commanded to. What’s the appeal of duty sex?

    Everyone loves Beloved Vampire, but I’m afraid to try it. I’d never read such cold, mechanical, pervy sex. At least not in something I’d paid for. From what you say in this review, that element seems to remain a part of her world.

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  6. Laura
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 17:34:15

    I really, really miss Joey Hill writing contemporary bdsm.

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  7. Edie
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 19:57:11

    I must admit I have shied away from this series, despite lapping up every other book/novella that she has published.
    I think it just may be out of my comfort zone.
    But I have the first two books here, so may give them a shot.

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  8. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:40:02

    @Edie
    Edie, I liked the first book but thought the second was extremely slow and I put it down. The first is unique and interesting, however.

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  9. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:42:01

    @Ridley

    I think Beloved Vampire is my favorite of her books, but the situations the heroine is placed in are extremely uncomfortable and hard to read, at times. The public sex is an aspect of the vampire ‘lifestyle’, so I think you probably would not like any of the vampire series. I found the angel/mermaid books to be a completely different tone and would not recommend those unless you like very innocent heroines.

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  10. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:43:41

    @Mandi

    If you are having trouble with her books, I find that my favorites are the ones that are not as heavily tied to the storyline of Lady Lyssa. I enjoyed Beloved Vampire and A Vampire’s Claim very much, and thought they stood alone tolerably well.

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  11. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:44:52

    @Lindsey

    I do find her books to be slow starters. I’ve noticed this with all her books except Beloved Vampire. I find myself ready to put the book down when it suddenly picks up.

    If you find the vampire books too dark (and they are very dark) you might like her mermaid/angel ones.

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  12. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:45:39

    @Angela

    I have only read her paranormals. My favorites were A Vampire’s Claim and Beloved Vampire. The others register somewhere lower on the charts.

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  13. DA_January
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:49:04

    @HelenB

    I am reading those two right now and will review them for DA at a later date. I did feel Vampire Instinct was a sweeter romance, but I also feel that is not one of Joey Hill’s strengths. I like her books because they explore dark and startling things, not because I want to see a sweet romance. As for Elisa’s character, while her reaction may be ‘appropriate’ due to the trauma, I felt it wasn’t solely her reaction to the trauma. Her endless angst followed every plot point to the point it interfered with my enjoyment of the book.

    As for patience and virtue, I have neither and won’t waste my time with a book that cannot get the ball rolling within a hundred pages. Sorry. We all have our quirks – slow plot is mine.

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  14. K. Z. Snow
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:36:47

    Is that Michael Jackson’s secret twin on the cover?

    ReplyReply

  15. TRV
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 14:11:42

    I like most of her books, but have to say that they are not for every taste. I found the parts about the cats more interesting in some places than the couple in Vampire Instinct and that is a first with her books. I also did not like how some of the fledglings ended up. She is great at writing emotional things, but that was just too disturbing for me. As for the main characters I also found that as formidable as Elisa was, she wallowed in misery 200 pages too long.
    I would NOT recommend her angel/mermaid books as an easier read as suggested above, the last book especially is really dark. Before reading her books I suggest looking for the previous reviews, especially the lower rating ones. They usually point out the bad sides of the books and then I know if it might be a good read to me or not. Also, when reading strong BDSM theme seems too out there I would pick some other author. I still think the best is her Nature of Desire series, but to each her own.

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  16. Book Review: Vampire Instinct by Joey W. Hill | Story Treasury
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 14:40:51

    [...]  REVIEW: Vampire Instinct by Joey W. Hill (dearauthor.com) [...]

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