Blood and Sunlight: A Maryland Vampire Story
Jamie Wasserman

Penumbra Publishing
Paperback, 264 pages, $11.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

It is easy to be struck by the title Blood and Sunlight: A Maryland Vampire Story. There is no allure of Bram Stoker’s Transylvania or London; not a hint of the New Orleans or Paris of Anne Rice. In Jamie Wasserman’s book, the narrative takes place in Ellicott City, Maryland. A disenchanted young woman born in the town connects with a local vampire who becomes accustomed to the area. The female protagonist is looking for love in all the wrong places, and sees the seedy side up close and personal. Does she finally find a soul mate on home turf? Wasserman explores the possibilities with sly sensitivity interspersed with jolts of jocularity. He creates a nicely etched tale about expectations and assumptions confounded.

At age 23, Melanie is a jaded college drop out. Her romantic entanglements are pragmatically superficial: “She had carefully orchestrated a steady succession of men with no breaks in between. She had been chain-smoking her way through relationships.” For Melanie, disappointments are expected; getting hurt inevitable. Drugs and sex soothe the sorrow, but the effect is temporary. When a wannabe vampire role-playing boyfriend gets killed by a genuine blood sucker, the dynamics of her life change. She meets and beds a slayer of the undead, which results in a much kinkier exchange than she would have wished. Into the mix comes a heroic affectionate vampire, who defies the stereotypes and woos with stately old world charm. Not to mention the enticing retribution aspects of eternal existence: “Giving her fangs and immortality was like giving a shark an Uzi and malice.”

Author Wasserman presents an astute glimpse into the dichotomy of youthful female sexuality. There is power, but insecurity tempers it. Vulnerability can leave scars, and trying to separate physical pleasure from emotional warmth is complicated. Melanie has learned from the past to be wary; and cannot forgive and forget: “She carried grudges around with her like other people kept pictures of their kids in their wallet.”

Blood and Sunlight is a tale of responding to love, when all the indications say: BEWARE. The home town ennui can shift, and bring unexpected changes. In Jamie Wasserman’s first novel, there is triumph in opening up to what is extraordinary. Even when it occurs in the vicinity of one’s own backyard.

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