REVIEW: Merciful Bleed, by J. Hali Steele

Title: Merciful Bleed

Series: Serpentine Vampires, Book One

Author: J. Hali Steele

Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Publisher: Self

Pages: 32

Reviewer: Ulysses Dietz, Paranormal Romance Guild

Get It On Amazon

About The Book

Blood and venom—one sustains life, one kills!

Paladin Bodine, called a Bleeder, is serpentine. He’s paid to extinguish unmanageable vampires and even end the lifecycle of those old and tired of existing. He cheats, lies and skulks, whatever it takes for his serpents to deliver. Paladin is damn good at what he does until he meets a vampire who turns his slithering world upside down.

Braid Calderon means to stop the individual hired to end his sire’s life at any cost. He follows the murderous man whose strangeness entices and delights Braid from a distance and he fails to consider his body’s reaction when he meets the killer face to face.

Both cold and distant, one hot coming together changes their lives forever!

A short paranormal MM romance with coarse language, explicit sex, and an HEA. Another character gets to tell his short, hot story soon and both can be read as standalones.

The Review

I’m glad this is the promised first of a series, because the premise is fascinating – vampires and serpentines, immortal creatures who live in the human world unseen and unimagined. 

When vampires go bad – i.e. when they start to kill their source of sustenance, which is us – serpentines are called in to extirpate them. Serpentines, a creation of this author, are also fanged humanoids, but they are linked to venomous serpents and can kill vampires with their venom and their other physical and magical powers. Vampires are more human than serpentines, who feel no emotion, but both can pass in the human world. 

The triggering circumstance for this heavily-loaded short story is the death-wish of one of the oldest surviving vampires in the world. This ancient being has long been an ally of the serpentines, but he has had enough of life. Cases like this are handled personally by the chief serpentine, one Paladin Bodine. 

To muddy the waters, however, the old vampire’s only creation, Braid Calderon, has decided to gainsay his sire’s wish and to stop Paladin from doing his job. 

Within this small package is a swirling stew of imagery, sexual and fantastical. The author, to her credit, does a good job of cramming lots of vivid detail and enough backstory to help her reader grasp the somewhat hallucinatory narrative.

I ended this feeling, as I often do, that short stories are often inadequate to this kind of task. There is simply too much to stuff into this little space. However, I also found the story really interesting and well-crafted. I was fully engaged with the story while it lasted, and truly want to know what happens next. 

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.

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