Thursday, 22 November 2012

Blood Lust, Jessica Degarmo


An enjoyable darker paranormal with psychological depth.

-Review by Kazza K


Blood LustThis book is dark and it contains some graphic, violent, and nasty themes. If you aren't keen on darker, violent paranormals then perhaps you should think twice about Blood Lust. I think it is done well, and I think the context of the violence, paranormal themes, language, psychology, and situations perfectly suited the book. They were well written, and added to the book, not detracted.

Blood Lust is written in the first person POVof the female lead, which served the book well. It gave the reader a clear viewpoint of Nexess/Elizabeth and what she felt, was experiencing at all times. Why she reacted or behaved as she did. Without the first person perspective it would have been too easy to not like Nexess. However while she is an anti-hero, of sorts, I liked her indominatable spirit, I liked her darkness and the shading, as well. The book does move between four years prior and current day, but it does it well. Everything is well signposted and there aren't a lot of flashbacks, just enough to connect the dots on who Nexess was before the vampire she is now. It is a contemporary paranormal/psychological read set in Chicago amongst gang members. While the actual book starts in the present, with Nexess having already been turned, waiting to kill someone that has stolen from her master -
"I withdraw a knife from my coat and slice into him, making it look as though he bled out due to multiple stab wounds. It wouldn’t do for them to cite vampire bite as cause of death. When I am finished, he has more holes than a sieve.
And I smile.
...the saga actually started four years prior. Elizabeth, is a teenager coming home from school. On her way home she is nearly shot by a gang member, she runs to her family home only to find her family, her mother and her sister, dead. It appears she is going to be next as she is suddenly set upon by someone or something big and strong; she is in great pain, and then...nothing. When she comes to she is disoriented, craving blood, chained to a wall, and has a new 'master,' Antonio. Antonio says he has saved her from her attacker, a Feral .45 vampire gang member. He also feeds her his blood and renames her Nexess. Antonio is the leader of the gang Nuove Leve, and their sworn enemies are Rico and his gang, the Feral .45. Antonio baits and fuels Nexess, just like an attack dog, using her as his secret weapon as she can't be hurt by standard knives, guns, and, as a vampire, is physically much stronger than any human.
I went into Blood Lust with the view that this was strictly a parnormal read, and, yes, it sure is paranormal. A good one. What I also got out of Blood Lust was a deeply psychological book about domestic violence as well. Let's be honest DV is more of an inhuman act than human, and it blended so very well with the paranormal aspects of the book. I don't want to turn this into psych 101, but there is a powerful dynamic in DV that a lot of people do not understand - "why do they go back? "Why do they put up with it?" Those questions are generally followed by a lot of judgement, and I understand the questions, the's complicated. However this book, witten by Jessica Degarmo, gives some great insight, if you read it thoughtfully. Antonio picked his target, he was brutal, but he was smart, he would use words of affection - cara, bellisima - to Nexess to make her feel loved, telling her he saved her, whilst peppering violence in amongst it all. Such a neat psychological trick to confuse, to make someone think the tender moments are worth it, that the person truly loves them. Antonio also sets himself up as Nexess' saviour, her master, that he is benevolent and looks out for her. He isn't, but he's made sure that Nexess believes he is the singular source of her life and desire. He has brought about a Pavlovian response in her when she was vulnerable and scared - through indoctrination, chains, a titanium cage, withholding blood - until she feels and acts like little more than an instinctual, raw, hungry animal; then he uses that to his best advantage -

You want to feed?” he asked coldly, yanking at the chain around my neck viciously to get my attention. “Then you’ll listen to me. Who is responsible for what you’ve become?”
“Feral .45,” I shouted out, straining against the chains he held me captive with. God, I needed to feed, had to have blood, but Antonio refused. He said I needed to learn a lesson first.

"That’s right. And what do we do to them?”
“Fight them, fuck them, finish them!” I shouted, repeating the mantra he’d taught me earlier. We’d been doing this for hours and I was close to my breaking point.

“That’s right. We finish them. You know they killed your family. They have a vampire they use to control people, to kill innocent people, like your family. And they would have killed you if it wasn’t for me.”
 “Fuck them!” I shouted, twisting my body wildly. The hallucinations had started that day. He hadn’t fed me in days, and he chained me to the wall so he could instruct me and control me at the same time. It was physically painful.

Let's look at the paranormal side. There are times when I want my paranormals dark. I want my vampires being pure creatures of the night. It had everything I want in my darker paranormal reads - a tough, non-fluffy, violent, drink-to the-death, aggressive female vampire as the main character.

"It is night again, always night when I prowl. I am a  nocturnal hunter, a bump in the night, a shadow on the  bedroom wall, the monster under the bed. I am what children fear and what adults deny exists.  But I do exist and I am on another mission.....They can’t hurt me. I am already dead."

He fucked like a stallion and tasted like filet mignon. I wish I could have kept him longer, but by the time I was done, his own mother wouldn’t have recognized him.
Although Nexess is your worst nightmare, if she's looking for you, if she needs to feed, she also has redeeming qualities, which were well developed by the writer by taking the reader back to her time before 'Nexess.' Plus little things would occur that brought out her humanity when Antonio wasn't around or she had some rare freedom. You know there are better qualities there, they have just been psychologically manipulated by Antonio Bianchi. It was easier to sympathise with Nexess as a character knowing her treatment by Antonio, when you saw what was meted out to her.

Antonio is into every kind of illegal activity, making money off all manner of contraband - drugs, weapons, illegal casinos/gambling - and rave parties, where age is no problem, as long as you have the cash to buy what he's selling. He has his henchmen but Nexess is the ace up his sleeve when he wants someone scared witless or dead; as she is fast, guns, standard knives and ordinary strength are no match for her. In terms of world building there are some standards, some I mentioned above, plus - no sleeping, no sun, speed to burn, stealth, an increased desirability and libido, especially after drinking blood,  Ms Degarmo also opts for - no reflection in mirrors, venom that is deadly if it touches a person, and hallucinations if blood is withheld for her vampires.

Life is pretty much the same for Nexess, kill, be fucked, torutured, be submissive to Antonio. Which is not much of a life. Then, on one mission where there is a battle, Nexess smells something unusual, another vampire. She has never seen one before and this vampire calls to her physically and at a visceral level. We learn his name is Jace, and he is an interesting character. He works for Feral .45, so he is a sworn enemy right off the bat. Or is he? I was so glad to see another vampire come onto the scene for Nexess, because I wasn't sure where her miserable existence was going to go with Antonio before he came along. They have some very snarky dialogue and soon Nexess can't stop thinking about Jace -

“You’ve got a fucking bad attitude,” he says with a smile. It looks as though he’s going to back off and I fall for his bluff. I relax for a moment and it’s all he needs. I’m on the floor underneath him, and his teeth are on my throat. He’s growling again, and I can feel it welling up from inside him. It’s hot. His cock is hard and it’s pressing against me and without thinking, I purr sensually and move against him. We’re struggling against each other now, half fighting and half engaging in the weirdest foreplay I’ve ever had. My hands are frantically roaming around on his back, trying simultaneously to rip into his skin with my claw-like nails and trying to pull him closer to me. My hips are bucking and I don’t know whether I’m trying to get him off of me or trying to get him inside me. My mouth is pinned to his neck, my fangs sinking into him, but it’s more a sexual act than a violent one.

But then I catch his scent and I turn sharply toward it. It’s a scent unique to him and I hone in on it and follow, like a child running toward the smell of fresh-baked cookies. I can’t stop. I have to find him. I can’t be out here and not be with him. He’s suddenly the center of my existence, my reason for
being out on these dark streets. And I’ve found him.

A relationship of sorts develops between Nexess and Jace, but Nexess finds it hard to believe anyone other than Antonio, she's so deeply indoctrinated. Jace is a catalyst for revised thinking. Slowly he attempts to chip away at Nexess to let her know she doesn't have to be chained, she doesn't have to be a slave, she can have freedoms like he has. Will she accept Jace, though, or will she continue to bow to Antonio and all that he has stamped on her psyche? This is probably the hardest part of the book, watching what she does and hearing Nexess' inner conundrum.

Overall -

I really liked Blood Lust. I didn't like putting it down until the next day. I wanted to see where it would go. I knew how it would play out with Antonio, but I didn't mind that. I liked the duality, this two parts within the framework of paranormal. There was some delicious dialogue. There's an erotcism to the book, however most of the sex scenes were not sexy more driving home a point. Nexess and Jace only get together physically on one ocassion and it's not explicit but it is intimate and passionate. There is a romantic nature to the book, if you call sharing a bag lady as a snack together romantic, and of course Jace helps Nexess understand her nature; I appreciated the fact that it wasn't made out to be other than who the characters were. The book finishes too soon for me. I wanted more, there was an epilogue, and it does end well, but, still..... I liked the book enough to want to keep reading. Luckily for this reader there appears to be a sequel in the pipeline for 2013, Wanderlust. I hope this is so, because I'm not finished with Nexess or Jace. If you like a darker paranormal, psychological read, and good writing of those themes, it's all here in Blood Lust. Highly recommended reading.

This book was supplied to me by the publisher Taylor Street Publishing for an honest review.


  1. I knew by reading your status updates on GR that this would be something I might want to read. After reading your review, I KNOW I want to. Great review.

  2. Thanks, Cindi. I really enjoyed it. I wanted a non-sparkly vampire, and a some blood and violence. There could be something wrong with me, lol. It is an interesting read and I really hope there is a sequel.