R.G. Emanuelle’s Twice Bitten, published 2012, is a lesbian romance with a vampire twist. Fiona, after searching for her one true love for several decades, believes Rose is the one and is determined that Rose will be her eternal companion.
No, wait… Rose is a young woman in early twentieth century New York who is gradually coming to terms with her sexuality and her love for the fair Ursula. Alas, an evil vampire has designs on Rose and is determined to wrest Rose away from the woman she loves.
I rather like the initial story idea, but rather than pursue an honest courtship, Fiona constructs an overly elaborate and by-and-large incomprehensible plan that will allow her to bite Rose the requisite number of times to make her into a vampire.
It’s all so baffling. The reader needs a better understanding of Fiona. Why doesn’t she keep things simple and honest rather than risk ruining an eternal love affair by birthing it in betrayal? The same way she was betrayed in turn by her lover Susanna.
If Fiona, as a ‘soulless’ vampire, is truly capable of love, wouldn’t it have been far more interesting to explore the courtship between the two women as a struggle of character and nature? If she isn’t truly capable of love… well, Fiona’s a main character who seems to be able to love, to have compassion for others, but here she’s barely more than a creepy stalker. We’re given reason to pity her, but very little reason to empathise with her.
We’re given no reason to believe that her intricate manipulations could possibly lead to anything other than disaster; and, when the plot demands it, Rose is conveniently stupid.
I do like the idea of the essential plot of ‘True Love’ twisted, but I want to believe that Fiona does truly love Rose, or understand that she can’t. Either way, I want to care about her. The writing is more telling than showing, which makes it even harder to care about characters.
I like the historical detail, especially for the New York setting, but I wish more thought had gone into it. I like lesbian vampires, but really wish more effort had gone into fleshing out Fiona as a vampire – she seems to have spent her two centuries being frustratingly pathetic. It’s a nice idea for a book and mostly enjoyable, but the plot is awkward, and the story tends to gloss over details in places.
Fiona is an appropriate name for a vampire, its meaning supposedly derived from the Gaelic word fionn which means ‘white’ or ‘fair’. It’s certainly a pretty name and quite popular, and it’s a name I think of as Scottish rather than Irish. Curiously, it’s a very new name. From Wikipedia:
The name Fiona was invented, and first used, by the Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736–96), author of the Ossian poems, which he claimed were translations from ancient Gaelic sources (sources, when challenged, he never produced). The name was subsequently used as a pseudonym by William Sharp (1855–1905), who authored several romantic works under the name “Fiona Macleod”.
A detailed analysis of the name is given Sharon L. Krossa:
… it is not clear that MacPherson was using the name as a human name, and, of course, it changes the end conclusion very little whether the name was invented by Sharp in the late 19th century or Macpherson in the very late 18th century…
The name Fiona, therefore, is anachronistic prior to the late nineteenth century. Fiona, the vampire, was born circa 1700.
I am being picky, I know, and could be pickier and complain about the description of street lighting in Camden, London, circa 1740, but I’m not a historian and such details aren’t really relevant to the story. I’m sensitive to them only because my own vampire, Suzie, lives on London Bridge during the 1740s.
I like that Twice Bitten addresses the conditions that women have faced in the past, but it could have looked deeper. It’s true that sometimes older singlewomen lived together, so I suppose Fiona and Susanna, in their 30s could have moved in together, but what isn’t clear is how they lived before – as young singlewomen without families. Fiona’s father died when she was nine, her mother at sixteen, so her life must have been fairly desperate. Unless she had a rich relative?
Sarah Fielding, one of England’s most influential novelists, lived with Jane Collier for a while, but even she depended on her brothers Henry and John for support.
Amy M. Froide’s Never Married: Singlewomen in Early Modern England says:
It was rare for a never-married woman, especially a younger or poorer one, to be in charge of her own household. Richard Wall has found that a singlewoman under the age of 45 typically lived as a dependent daughter in her parents’ household until they died; then she went to live as a servant, lodger, or relative in someone else’s home. Only between 4.5 and 5.9 per cent of singlewomen below age 45 headed their own households. …
Economic legislation was specifically crafted with social considerations in mind so that singlewomen would not compete with householders, and so that never-married women would have no option but to work for someone else (and preferably in that person’s household).
This comment isn’t specific to Twice Bitten. There’s a popular idea that it’s okay-ish for vampires to attack humans and drink their blood if they leave them with no clear memory of the attack.
I accept that if feeding off humans is essential then it’s kinder to ensure there is no clear memory of the attack. What troubles me is when people try to say or imply that it’s okay somehow. It makes me think of a serial date-rapist saying, ‘It’s okay, they don’t remember, so no real harm done…’