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Sex Is All Metaphors
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His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

Once Bitten

by Lisette Ashton

Book Review by Shanna Germain


vampire erotica

I think erotic vampire novels are incredibly difficult to write—not only do you have to make your characters get it on every thousand words or so, you have to do it in a way that makes sense to the story you're trying to tell. Add to that the difficulty of writing about sexy vampires in a way that hasn't already been sucked dry by the masses of long-toothed fantasies flooding the market, and you have a nearly impossible task, especially in the hands of a neophyte writer.

Thankfully, Once Bitten isn't written by a newbie. Instead, it's penned by Lisette Ashton (a not-so-coded psuedonymn of an author that you likely already read and love). Thanks to skilled writing, a touch of humor and some incredibly hot sex, this novel rises above basic blood-sucking erotica into something with both a libido and a brain.

Told in a dual-format—with some of it being first person and some of it being third—the book is organized in an interesting way, starting in third-person and in the present. It then flips back in time, to tell the story behind the story in first person. The transitions throughout are smooth, and I found myself interested in both the present and past sections of the story.

Now, despite how much I enjoyed this novel, I have to be honest here and say that this novel got off to a difficult start for me. The first of the first-person scenes—in which I think I can say, without giving too much away, that the narrator is turned into a vampire—felt slightly overwrought sexually and a little heavy on the cliches. There was a lot going on: a lot of backstory, a lot of sex, a lot of revelations, and because I wasn't invested in the characters yet, it felt like a lot of string-pulling and jostling on the part of the author to get things set up and in place.

Once I got through that scene—and it's very worth getting through, I promise—things smoothed out considerably for me. I started to fall into the narrator's world and into her straightforward, honest voice. The novel does a nice job of interweaving hot sex, page-turning plots, and a developing character arc. I was just as interested in discovering the character's next mental growth spurt as I was in discovering the story's upcoming twist-and-turn. 
There are some things that Ashton does especially well. For one, the sex is inherently tied to the vampirism in a way that is both comfortably familiar and yet completely new. Every vampire, and most of the humans as well, smolder with their own sense of arousal. And those who don't have sex on the brain to begin with certainly will by the time the narrator is done with them. 

If there is a ritual involved in making a vampire it must be a sexual one. As I drank from Mel she used the fingers of her free hand to tease my pussy lips. There was the exhilarating sensation of being transformed into something other than mortal – something greater than mortal, hopefully – and that was accompanied by the joy of having Mel's hand stroke my pulsing clit and push between my sodden labia. The fog that had shrouded my thoughts began to lift. With an almost clinical detachment I understood my senses were becoming more capable than they had been before. My hearing grew more acute and I caught the sound of my sex lips slurping around Mel's knuckles. My sensitivity heightened and, even before she had started to kiss there, I knew Mel was about to suck against my left breast. The warning came like a sixth sense – a precursor of something about to happen. And then her warm mouth engulfed my nipple and she suckled against the rigid tip.

The novel doesn't just offer up sensuality, though. There are also some delightful bits of humor tucked throughout, such as this exchange between the narrator and the woman who recently introduced her to both girl-on-girl sex and to vampires (which, I'm not ashamed to admit, made me laugh out loud).

“Can I fly?"

“Of course you can't fly, sweetie. You're a vampire. Not a duck.”

“Can I turn invisible?”


“What about walking through walls?”

“Do you want to try it?” Mel sneered sarcastically. “It would give me a laugh.”

It was a disheartening conversation but I refused to be brought down by Mel's sour mood. “What can I do?”

She drew a heavy sigh. “You can live forever without ageing. You can suffer scars, scratches and injury and make a full recovery within minutes. You'll experience every sensation with a million more times the intensity of anything you experienced before you
became a vampire.”


There is also the tough-talking dom who pronounces vampire not with a 'v', but with a 'w', thus turning a potentially cliched character into something much more, a creature both powerful and pitiable. Even the eternal 'no vampire reflection' rule is turned on its head, as it should be when you combine mirrored dungeons with a legion of sexually oriented vampires. It's details like this—and the narrator's acute observations of them—that keep the mood light without ever pushing the camp too far.

In truth, the narrator's voice does a whole lot to carry this story forward and keep it interesting, from her acute observations of the newly discovered vampire underworld to the delightful moment when she bristles at being called a "feckless demon," and then admits, "Part of my anger came from confusion: I had no idea what feckless meant. I assumed it implied I was lacking in 'feck,' in the way that hopeless and worthless would mean lacking worth or hope. But I had no idea what feck was, or whether I should be pleased that it was something I didn't possess."

Scenes or moments that could seem cliched in lesser hands instead offer the narrator an opportunity to reflect on life at large and at her own issues in particular. When one of the vampires essentially offers the narrator the opportunity to kill him outright, she responds with a mental understanding that continues to grow throughout the novel: 

The strangeness of the moment was not lost on me. After a lifetime spent in the sheltered environment of my own introspective existence, I was beginning to understand that some people carried far bigger issues than those that kept me awake and restless at night.
Good-time girl Mel had turned out to be older than my great-grandmother and was trying to win the heart of a man who reminded her of her father. Alan was the dictionary definition of a man in denial. I'd just met three women who seemed to delight in their roles as the living sex-toys of a swarthy Lothario. And Carlos clearly had some disturbing worries about his sexuality. Compared to this group of dysfunctional acquaintances I realised I was the crown princess of normality.

Truly original, easily entertaining and delightfully sexy, Once Bitten is probably the most fun you can have with vampires these days, unless you got free tickets to the filming of True Blood.

Shanna Germain
July 2010

Once Bitten by Lisette Ashton
(Xcite Books; June 8 2010; ISBN-10: B003QP4J8A)
Available at: Amazon

© 2010 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

About the reviewer:  Shanna Germain is the kind of reviewer who has to read every good erotic story twice, because the first time she always forgets she's supposed to be thinking while she reads. She would say she likes to lay and lie on paper, but she can never remember how to properly use lay and lie. Yes, this gets her into all kinds of trouble. Lie with her at

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