Danika reviews Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon

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I don’t read a lot of romance or erotica, but I figured that this month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I would give the genre another shot. I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this one: vampire sorority sisters? I’m in. And for the most part, this is exactly the kind of smutty, light read I was looking for. I would say this leans more to the erotica side of things, because there is usually sex every couple of pages.

Part of the reason that I enjoyed this more than I was expecting was the voice. I liked the little bits of humor thrown in to Ginger’s inner monologue, like her musing that “Maybe it was the right moment to tell Amy I was seventy-seven percent sure I was a lesbian.” I also felt like the characters were strong and compelling, including many of the side characters. I’m really looking forward to the sequel that focuses on Cleo (and Benny), because she was my favourite supporting character. There is also quite a bit of racial diversity in the supporting characters, which I appreciated, and it was interesting to see how all these different personalities dealt with the same unusual situation.

I also was somewhat unfairly influenced because I have been watching Mark Reads Fifty Shades of Grey, and that book sets a spectacularly low bar. But especially in contrast to that experience, I really liked the dynamic between Ginger and Camila. (Yes, the lesbian vampire love interest is named Camila. I appreciated the nod to the classic lesbian vampire story.) Camila is a vampire and has significantly more power and influence than Ginger, but they still manage to have what I considered a healthy relationship. There is a push and pull between them, but Ginger feels capable of setting limits and they both communicate honestly. I can definitely see what Ginger gets out of the relationship. (And despite the plethora of sex scenes, they didn’t get too repetitive.)

My only real problem with the book was the plot. For one thing, if I discovered that hell, demons, and God were all real, I would have some follow-up questions no matter how distracting by hot new vampire girlfriend was, but Ginger doesn’t seem curious at all about the details of this. The plot moves fairly slowly through most of the book, but I was enjoying being immersed in the world and in Ginger and Camila’s relationship. The end of the book, however, packs a lot into a short space, and it felt rushed to me. I would have liked to see it more evenly plotted throughout the book, but overall I really enjoyed this and will definitely be picking up the sequel.

Krait reviews Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon

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Ginger’s goal as a college freshman is to maintain her 4.0 GPA without being driven batty by her roommate Amy’s obsession with Greek life. But when she agrees to look at them to get Amy off her back, she can’t take her mind off the gorgeous girls of Alpha Beta Omega. Somehow, she finds herself invited to their secret initiation ritual, and that’s when things get weird. Everyone expects odd mystic rituals from a fraternity or sorority, but ABO is hiding blood-bonds and vampire queens. What’s Ginger to do when her secret crush turns out to be the top vamp?

I really wanted to love this book going in: with sororities, secret vampires, lesbian erotica, how could it go wrong? But while it had some great moments, I think the book suffers from a major lack of conflict past about the first third. Ginger drives herself mad over Camila, insisting to herself that there’s no way vamp-queen Camila could have feelings for her. Normally, I wouldn’t blink at that – mysterious motives of a love interest are a tried-and-true story element. The problem is, as the reader, it was pretty damn clear after about the second round of sex that Camila is deeply, unreservedly into Ginger, so Ginger’s cluelessness didn’t reflect terribly well on her. However, minus the emotional whirlwind, Ginger is relatable and funny, and gets in some good mental quips.

Between the current sorority sisters, the vampire-queens, and the new pledges, the book establishes a fairly diverse cast of ladies. But because we meet them through Ginger’s first-person perspective, there’s a lot of objectifying language used to describe their introduction. I was a little uncomfortable with the focus on their exotic beauty, and I don’t feel like we ever get great character development for the other sister-queens (as the book calls them). But thankfully, after the first introductions, the other sorority sisters are fleshed out enough that their backgrounds aren’t their only signifier.

Overall, if I was giving a grade, I’d give Better Off Red a C+. It’s light on plot and I wish that the vampire mythology had been fleshed out further, but the erotica was well-written, and I don’t regret reading it. Pick this up if the concept grabs you and you don’t mind a focus on sex.

Anna M (DNF) reviews Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon

It’s not often that I put down a book of lesbian fiction and feel completely uninclined to pick it up again. But no matter how much I tried to finish Better Off Red, by Rebekah Weatherspoon, it was simply not my cup of tea. The story concerns college freshman Ginger Carmichael, who has big plans to study hard and earn her degree in exercise science when she gets to school. Her roommate Amy, however, co-opts her into scoping out rush week for the local sororities, including the exclusive and mysterious Alpha Beta Omega (ABO). The members of ABO are universally diverse, gorgeous, and fascinating, and Ginger and Amy find themselves, after a whirlwind courtship, facing a decision to join something that is much more than what it seems.

Ginger finds herself, in the process of rush week, increasingly obsessed with an ABO-affiliated woman whom she has only caught glimpses of during events. This woman, Camila, turns out to be the leader of the eternal vampire ladies who are recruiting college students to keep them fed. In exchange for eternal loyalty and regular blood-giving, the initiates will receive career placements and support beyond graduation. Ginger doesn’t care about that at initiation, however, and neither does Amy, who has herself fallen hard for an ABO sister. As the plot progresses, Weatherspoon explores the cautiously growing relationship between Camila and Ginger–who herself turns out to have some vampiric powers–against the backdrop of the sorority, the larger campus, and Ginger’s family. I can’t tell you more, because I stopped about halfway through the novel.

The part that tripped me up was both the sheer speed at which all this happened, and the improbability of the scenario. I can almost get behind “love at first sight” for Ginger and Camila, but Amy also immediately leaped into a relationship, leading me to wonder if there was some pressing reason for everyone to be paired up so quickly. Usually I can suspend my disbelief as well as the next SFF reader, but something about the lesbian/vampire/sorority concept had me rolling my eyes instead of eating it up. I don’t know if it was the speed of the exposition . . . or perhaps I was feeling particularly realistic that day? I didn’t have any objection to the writing itself, and the sex scenes were well done. I guess some books just aren’t for me, no matter how many nubile young ladies may populate them.