Blood of the Maple is a contemporary romantic fantasy by Dana Marie Bell. Though it works perfectly well as a standalone, it marks the beginning of a new series called Maggie’s Grove. After sexy vamp Parker Hollis unintentionally attracts a psychotic witch admirer, he’s cursed to drink only “green, leafy blood” for the rest of his unnatural life – but unfortunately he just can’t bring himself to kill the witch in order to break the curse. When Parker’s best friend dies (to return later as a ghost), Parker moves to Maggie’s Grove, and its small, magical community is actually quirky enough to accept him. There Parker also finds Amara, a redheaded, inexplicably unpopular dryad whose tree-like blood drives vegetarian Parker wild. Unfortunately, Parker’s witchy stalker is not so pleased with Parker’s newfound love, which leads to a final showdown involving the whole town and several thousand angry plants.
Lots and lots and lots of sex
Uncomfortable with explicit sex in your novels? Drop this book and run. Now. Don’t even bother finishing this review.
But if you love your novels steamier than a sauna full of playboys, then this one is for you. Blood of the Maple is unexpectedly and deliciously erotic. It treads a fine, often wavering line between sexy and straight-up erotica. There’s oral, there’s vaginal, and there is certainly some backdoor lovin’ between our two hetero protagonists. There is even some secondary man-on-man love (or, more accurately, man-on-ghost)–but that’s just pennies compared to what Parker and Amara get up to. Like I said, if you love your fiction hot and heavy, Blood of the Maple delivers, and how! Just know what you’re getting into; this novel relies far more on sex than on plot or the fantastic to deliver its thrills.
Apart from the sex–which, really, you can get from any good fanfic–Blood of the Maple is fun because its characters are so darn hilarious. There are pop culture references and one-liners aplenty, and the zany banter between Parker and his ghostly best friend Greg had me laughing out loud more than once. The prologue, while perhaps necessary to understand the novel’s context, was a little too… earthy, shall we say, for my own taste. But toilet humor remains popular and you may find Parker’s situation perfectly hilarious.
And, of course, you just can’t get away from how altogether ridiculous the plot behind Blood of the Maple really is. An obsessive stalker witch who controls plant weeds? A vegetarian vampire turned on by a tree dryad? A ghost having sex with a psychic? It’s crazy, it’s completely over-the-top, and if you can take off your serious hat for a second, you’ll roll with the chaos and love it.
Characters need more development
Although a fun read, Blood of the Maple still has its problems (though if you’re only reading it for the sex, you’ll be a-okay). For me, the main problem was that Parker and Amara hardly take the time to say “hello” before they fall head over heels in love and in bed. This is explained away by some new and convenient vampiric lore–auto-soulmates for vampires, essentially–but it makes for a bit of a shock to anyone expecting the main romantic relationship to face realistic conflicts and develop at a reasonable pace.
Furthermore, the secondary characters, while funny, feel like sketches rather than completed personalities. The cast is large for such a short book (short by fantasy standards, anyway), and seemingly every single character, no matter how minor, faces his or her own romantic dilemma. This leads to an overwhelming number of subplots which fail to resolve or even be significantly explored by the end of the book. Of course, these subplots are likely establishing directions for the series’ future–but in Blood of the Maple, the first book of the Maggie’s Grove series, there are just too many problems and not enough text to make the reader care about all of them.
Why should you read this book?
Blood of the Maple offers great sex scenes and a lot of laughs. It’s a sexy contemporary fantasy that doesn’t aspire to great literature at all; instead, it’s light, fun, ridiculous, and easy to read. It may lack depth, but that’s not the point. So long as you know what you’re getting into ahead of time, you’ll have fun meeting the wacky citizens of Maggie’s Grove and their many romantic combinations.
Caleigh received a review copy courtesy of Carina Press.