American Vampire

Jennifer Armintrout
American Vampire
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Release Date
February 2011
Horror Romance, Paranormal Romance, Vamps & Shifters Romance

Buried in the Heartland is a town that no one enters or leaves. Graf McDonald somehow becomes its first visitor in more than five years...and he was only looking for a good party. Unfortunately, Penance, Ohio, is not that place. And after having been isolated for so long, they do not like strangers at all.

Jessa's the only one to even remotely trust him, and she's desperate for the kind of protection that only a vampire like Graf can provide. Supplies are low, the locals are ornery for a sacrifice and there's a monster more powerful than Graf lurking in the woods. New men are hard to come by in this lonesome town, and this handsome stranger might be Jessa's only hope for salvation.

Even if she has to die first...

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Aug 13, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
108 people found the following review helpful
Just when I started to worry there was nothing new in the world of vampires comes a book that turned all my expectations on their ears. With its deliciously eerie setting and two lead characters unlike any hero or heroine you've met before, this book was a surprise treat and a terrific summer read.

Graf McDonald simply wants to celebrate the Fourth of July, like any other red-blooded American. He is on the way to his maker, Sophia's holiday bash where he plans to eat, drink and make merry—until his GPS breaks and he finds himself taking the wrong exit and heading straight into Penance, Ohio. Thinking to stop at an abandoned gas station in order to steal a meal and maybe a map, he comes face to face with a terrified young woman named Jessa—and a monster infinitely more deadly than he could ever be. It isn't long before he realizes that the town of Penance is under some sort of spell or curse. The monster, known simply as ‘It', prowls the darkness, appearing and killing completely at random, and no one has been able to leave or enter Penance in five years. No one, that is, except for Graf.

Now unable to leave, Graf has no choice but to stay with Jessa, even though it's fairly evident that they can't tolerate each other. The longer Graf stays, the more he realizes that familiarity breeds a great deal more than contempt. The good people of Penance have developed their own systems as the years went on, and everyday commodities—like gasoline and flour—were used up. They have also developed their own social scale, and it would appear that Jessa has landed pretty close to the bottom. This is largely due to her sometimes ongoing affair with Derek, her ex-boyfriend who left her years before to marry her now ex-best friend, and also to her self-imposed isolation in her farmhouse.

But the more he learns about Jessa, the painful loss of her family and the tangle of the town's relationships, the more it seems that she is disliked because she is different. And that difference, that refusal to accept the small-mindedness of her neighbors and her fiery determination, is starting to become increasingly attractive. When Graf's presence in the town brings all the simmering tension to a boil, both he and Jessa find themselves not only the target of It's fury, but at the mercy of the people of Penance, and it's a toss-up as to which is more frightening…

Because this is a world that has been stripped down to its bare essentials, we really get a chance to watch Jessa and Graf develop as characters. It's a fascinating thing to watch, as neither of them are really the stuff of which heroes are made. Graf is self-centered in the extreme, chain smoking, condescending, and very nearly cruel sometimes, while Jessa's insecurities and reputation in town have made her sharp, cranky and emotionally unapproachable.

However, forced into such close confines together, the constant friction between Jessa and Graf, though occasionally trying to read, does yield some very interesting results. Their bond comes about as much because of their willingness to challenge and confront each other as from their mutual dependence on each other. While the romance elements of the book are perhaps secondary to the world of Penance and the threat of It, I really enjoyed watching this relationship grow and develop, as it was so unlike most paranormal romances I've seen.

I found the descriptions of Penance in its five-year solitude stark and evocative. The horror elements of this story, from It (which is never totally described, leaving the real fright to the reader's imagination) to the more human ugliness of the people of Penance, were excellently described and made for gripping reading. This is miles away from most paranormal romances, and I think its success lies in that different. Jessa and Graf are not your stereotypical leads, and Penance is certainly not a stereotypical setting. Though I admit I had a pretty good idea of who was responsible for It's appearance, the scene in which all is revealed still made me shiver.

While the ending of the book was satisfying, I can't help but think there is some great potential for a sequel. It is less of a conclusion, and more of a whole new beginning. And while I would be quite excited to see that, in the meantime, I know I'll be adding the rest of Jennifer Armintrout's works to my Book Stash for future reading.
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