I can’t, hand on heart, claim to know a lot about the genre. I’ve read some of the Twilight books; even seen one of the movies at the cinema (a solid two hours of my life I’ll never recover). And I’ve dipped a curious, tentative toe into the waters of vampire-themed Criminal Minds fanfiction (as specific but lively a subgrouping as you’re ever likely to encounter, even on the internet).
There, however, my experience ends.
My familiarity with its tropes and traditions is, as a result, pretty finite. So I was a little uncertain, at first, about how to tackle a review of a book that falls, unequivocally and unapologetically, into the supernatural romance bracket. But, after breaking temporarily away from the horror and dark crime fic that tends to dominate my TBR and leaping with glee into Lucy Bexley’s Must Love Silence a few weeks ago, I thought, why not? - and reached, excitedly, for her new collaboration with Bryce Oakley.
Firstly, a quick (and hopefully spoiler-free) synopsis. Just My Type, the book in question, is fundamentally a love story, an exploration of the love that ostensibly dare not speak its name but in reality has been screaming it from the rafters since at least the 18th century: that of a (female) human for a (female) vampire, and vice versa. It’s queer, it’s contemporary, and it has fangs - and that, I fear, is about as much as I can tell you without giving away any crucial plot-points.
It’s also very, very funny.
Fish-out-of-water setups are, as Anya from Buffy and any one of the Frasier staff writers would tell you, the backbone of a certain mode of comedy. And Just My Type is all about defamiliarisation - its vampire protagonist Ero offering the writers multitudinous opportunities to parody some of the accepted norms of (American) human behaviour, as seen from an outsider’s baffled perspective. The humour works beautifully, fostering just enough empathy for the character that you’re willing to overlook her predilection for eating joggers that catch her eye - and to laugh with her, rather than at her, at the oddity of established social convention.
(A couple of my favourite Ero-POV lines include: “I am holding this food item wrong” and “it was easily $40 worth of limes” - the latter of which may make sense only in context).
The unfolding of Ero’s relationship with very-much-alive haematologist Annie is sweet and satisfying on its own terms. But I found the vampire demimonde in which she apparently exists (when not romancing understandably startled postdocs) especially compelling - the allusions to her Ancient Greek origins and the sporadic and frequently amusing appearances of her undead therapist Misty hinting at a narrative universe even richer, larger and more complex than there’s time to explore in the book’s 137 pages. And while the writers wrap things up very nicely by the epilogue, I’d love to see where they go next with some of the ideas introduced here, and what other stories they could tell on the canvas of the world they sketch out here.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Just My Type to fans of supernatural romance, and of lesbian supernatural romance in particular. But it strikes me that horror fans might love it, too - and might find themselves wondering, as I am now, what Book 2 in the Just My Type series might look like.