Blood and Chocolate is one of those books that people will either like, or hate. I liked it — with reservations. There is some truly disturbing content in this book. Woman consorting with very underage males, men consorting with very underage females, blurred distinctions between sexual and metabolic appetites, violence and so on. Nothing graphic, mind (not sexual, anyway. Violence, on the other hand…ugh), but edgy enough to make you wonder who the intended audience was. It's too dark to be strictly teen, but too juvenile and dramatic to be strictly adult. The overall result is rather like seeing a painfully young woman dressed in leather trying to get into a strip club in a red-light district. Sad, disgusting, and you're not sure whether to stay silent and hope she gets turned away or intervene.
The werewolf aspect is what gives many of these paraphilias “permission,” in my opinion. Things that would be considered sexual deviations in humans are perfectly acceptable in werewolf culture. Women refer to other women as bitches, men fight for their mates — and sometimes steal them if they're stronger, and there seems to be a lot of statutory/actual rape going on. Gabriel is definitely creepy. Really creepy. He is twenty-four years old and sleeping with Vivian's forty-year old mother . . . but, like a fox in a hen house, he's got his eye on the spring chickens. Or barely spring chickens. If you catch my drift. Sometimes, though, he is also quite sexy. It depends on how hard he's riding the alpha male stereotype (but more on this in a bit). But still, sharing with your mom? That's one step away from incest. Ugh. UGH. UGGGGGGH.
One thing I DID like, though, was that the author made Vivian so powerful and so sexual. I don't approve of her in any way (quite the opposite), but I think it's great to see a female character exhibiting such confidence. It really goes to show how odd it is to see traditionally male behaviors — sexual pursuit, seduction, defending, possession, hunting, stoicism — in a female, especially in a female that has not sacrificed any of her femininity. Unlike some of those paranormal protagonists who eschew anything feminine, Vivian is not butch at all. She likes to wear dresses, and cook, and date, and have fun (although she does, apparently, hate pink). She also likes to receive presents and feel flattered and loved. There was this one really great line that I'm going to share when she reveals her secret to the human boy she loves and all goes horribly, tragically wrong.
“At the first sign of the unusual you run. You tell lies about me and make people hate me. You take away my friends. You're the monster, not me. I only wanted to love you. …Maybe you made me YOUR victim” (194).
You have to admit. Girl's got a point. And maybe those homicidal maniacs chasing the big-boobed bimbos in horror movies don't lust for blood. Maybe they just really, really, REALLY want to play Scrabble with someone. Why do they have the knife? Well, you know, poor social skills and all that (comes from living with their moms as adults). It's how he says hello.
It was also kind of disturbing how Vivian continually referred to Aiden as “meat-boy.” Disturbing and unintentionally hilarious because the first thing I thought of was Bender, from Futurama, who calls his human/alien friends “meat-bags.” Depending on his mood, this can be affectionate, condescending, or threatening. That's pretty much how it goes for Blood and Chocolate, too.
“I love you, meat-boy.”
“Screw you, meat-boy.”
“I'm going to gnaw on your juicy limbs, meat-boy.”
In a way, Vivian reminds me of Lisbeth from The Girl with the Hornet Tattoo. Lisbeth isn't someone you'd want to be friends with or have your son dating, but she's kick-ass and doesn't take any crap. Sure, she has some weird ideas about sex and is easily prone to violence, but she also likes to be loved and go shopping (albeit for Ikea stuff) and feel, well, you know…appreciated. Vivian is much the same. And she harbors just as much of a grudge (but more on that later).
And there are also some fairly intense romantic scenes, even with Gabriel:
It was meant to be a brief kiss to make Aiden jealous, over before Gabriel realized what was happening. She didn't expect the swiftness with which he encircled her waist with his arm. Suddenly she found herself half across the gas tank and crushed against his chest, her feet off the ground, metal digging into her right knee. His practiced tongue parted her lips while she clung to him to stop from falling. She felt the heat of him searing her through his shirt and smelled his musky scent growing rich and suggestive. Then he let her go, and she slid to the ground and staggered backward.
His eyes smoldered beneath half-closed lids. “Don't use me,” he growled (205).
He was gentle. She hadn't expected that. Kisses to her were a tight clutch, teeth, and tongue. His torturing hands slid down her sides and lightly caressed her back. When he flicked her lips with his tongue, she parted her mouth to invite him in. Instead, he pulled away and sighed. She was intrigued.
His eyes were shy beneath his dark lashes, and his lips curved with delight and desire — desire he wouldn't force on her (51).
On the other hand, we also have scenes like this:
“Or.…” His hand lashed out, grabbed her, and whipped her into his arms, where he held her tight. “We can take it fast and rough.” His mouth came down on hers and his hot tongue parted her lips. She pulled back but he caught her hair in his fist and pressed her close. She pushed on his chest and struggled in his arms, but he wouldn't let go. DAMN HIM, she thought, tears forming. I DON'T WANT FIERCE. I WANT GENTLE (160).
Um, that sounds a lot like rape. Or sexual assault. O_____O
And then there's this:
DEAR MOON, HE'S SWEET, Vivian thought in anguish. A swift pang hit her gut, and she bit the inside of her cheek, hoping the pain would keep her sane. NOT SWEET LIKE THAT, she screamed silently, staring with panicked eyes at his round firm thighs (63-64).
Um, no, Vivian, I think that's exactly the kind of sweet you mean. Remember this?
“Some of the boys had their shirts off, their flesh golden and slick as if they'd swallowed the sun. They were sweet to look upon. Her eyes lingered on them tenderly as she bit into her meat” (23).
Men. The other other white meat. Om nom nom.
And THEN, when her human boyfriend breaks up with her, Vivian goes totally batshit (or should I say dogshit?) crazy.
1.First, Vivian decides that Kelly, The Usurper, needs to die. She goes to the girl's house and lies in wait.
2.Unfortunately, Kelly does not cooperate and spends that evening out. Probably with Vivian's ex. Rage ensues.
3.Vivian compromises by destroying all of Kelly's things. VIVIAN ANGRY!!! VIVIAN SMASH!! RAWERRWERWERRWEERWEJLKFJSL. D:<
4.When her antics make the news, Vivian decides that she must die and tries to light herself on fire.
Anyone else getting Twilight Saga flashbacks? Ohhh, yes. And does a hot boy save Vivian from certain doom? Well, obviously. Is it the secondary love interest coming to rescue the not-so-plucky heroine from her ill-fated inter-species romance-inspired suicide attempt? You betcha. However, unlike Bella Swan, Vivian DOES realize what an idiot she's been because three pages later, we get this line:
OH SWEET MOON…I ALMOST KILLED MYSELF FOR NOTHING (238).
No regret about destroying Kelly's room, though. Not unless remorse at getting caught counts. Gabriel, on the other hand, redeemed himself a little in my eyes by the end:
“Why me?” she asked, holding onto him.
“Because you cared,” he whispered. “You cared so much for your people, it broke your heart to see the pack in ruins. You cared so much for your mother, you risked your life for hers. You cared enough to save someone who wanted you dead. And because you walk like a queen. And just because of beautiful the curve of your neck” (264).
OK, you have to admit. That's a little sweet.
Is this a great book? No. Is it a good book? No. Is it an okay book? Yes, I think so. It was fun and entertaining and there were some genuinely well-written passages that I read again just to admire the prose. Unfortunately there is also a lot of really bad writing that sometimes comes off as badly written Twilight fanfiction by a fourteen-year-old girl with a BDSM fetish. Definitely NOT for younger teens, although older girls will probably like it a lot. Really, it's not much worse than the earlier books in the Anita Blake series. In fact, think of a PG-13 version of the Anita Blake series with only werewolves and that's the same kind of tone/mood.
Doesn't sound appealing? There's a simple solution for that. Don't buy the book.
OR, buy the book, set it aflame, and use it to toast some werewolves. :)