Thirst came out in 2017, and it’s the first book in Jacquelyn Frank’s Energy Vampires series. One of my best friends offline is a huge fan of the author, so I thought I’d give her books a try. If you like vampire stories, this one feature more originality than the average in the worldbuilding. I’m not sure it’s quite as hot as the cover suggests, but the romance was definitely cooking.
Near the beginning of the book, New York detective Renee Holden is heading home from a long shift at work. A chance meeting with a mysterious Portuguese stranger in a market sets her life on a completely different course. Renee finds herself drawn to the handsome man and even as she repeatedly observes that she would normally never do such a thing, she finds herself agreeing to go out with him. Renee enjoys a fabulous evening with Rafe da Silva, and returns home quite happy.
Unknown to Renee, Rafe is an energy vampire. Instead of sucking blood, these vampires feed on the energy of their hosts. In addition, they cannot feed on just anyone. They need humans who are strong and who keep themselves clean. The very fit, nutrition-obsessed Renee is perfect for Rafe.The other hitch with energy vampires? The humans upon whom they feed don’t have memories of it happening. It supposedly feels amazing at the time, but the human has his/her memory wiped so the only hint of the vampire encounter is a lingering tiredness for some time afterward.
On the one hand, Rafe and Renee so obviously care for one another and build an alliance (of the sort both will remember) very quickly and treat one another as equals, so I could find their story romantic. However, the memory-wiping still bothered me. It’s one thing to consent to let a vampire you love feed off your energy, but if one’s memory gets wiped of the vampire’s, well, vampirishness, then it starts to feel more than a little bit creepy.
Rafe and Renee’s romance unfolds against a tapestry of intrigue as we see Rafe, a diplomat among the energy vampires, taking active part in negotiations among the various rulers that make up the group. The stakes are high, particularly for the humans who have no idea what is going on. While energy vampires generally have high standards regarding how they feed and require that subjects not be harmed or killed, there is a related group called the sycophants. The sycophants will feed on the weak, the sick, those who abuse drugs or alcohol, and so on. In addition to this, they will also sometimes kill their victims. Not surprisingly, the work of sycophants starts to play into Renee’s work as a detective.
As you can see, quite a lot goes on in what is a relatively short, category length romance. We see a romance build between Renee and Rafe, but there’s also quite a bit of worldbuilding. As is common in many new series, the author uses this first book to lay the groundwork for her world. It’s an interesting world, but the narration does slow down the action a tad.
And then there’s my main issue with the book. As much as I enjoyed the worldbuilding, the unique features of the energy vampires, and the romance itself, I cringed almost every time the characters started to talk. The dialogue in this book tends toward the wooden. Readers who read mainly for action can likely skim right over it, but it drove me bonkers. As a result, I have to say that my reading experience was somewhat mixed. At times I really enjoyed this book but when it came to the conversational moments, it came off the rails a bit.