Bound To A Vampire by Grey Francis, Erotic Book Review
By Pleasure Panel reviewer CyborgDicks
Vampire erotica seems to have become a standard, and I’m absolutely happy with this. I have a soft spot for vampire romance and erotica, which is excellent as the Into the Dark Woods series by Grey Francis currently totals over 1,200 pages. The first of the two books is Bound to a Vampire, which sets up both a modern plot and explains the backstory of the three main characters, Cassandra, Alastair, and Killian.
Cassandra is the character whose point of view we follow, and I do find her to be a genuinely interesting character. She was a healer as a human, and became a vampire in the seventeenth century, following a horrible experience of sexual violence that almost killed her (and I do wish the book was less gratuitous in showing this). She was taken in and turned by the Master Vampire Killian. However, as she becomes his lover, she also starts to fall for Alastair, Killian’s companion, and gradually realises there’s more to their history and dynamic than she first assumed. The two become a three, and from there on it’s a scorching romance that spans centuries and continents.
The story does start in the modern day, with the rest of the book framed as Cassandra channeling her personal history with her two lovers (although she has other lovers in the present day), and I did find this framing awkward. For the majority of the book, I didn’t particularly even care about this modern story. However, this framing does somewhat make sense when one of the greater mysteries is cleared up (what exactly happened to Alastair? why is Killian missing in the present day?) but for the majority of the book, I find it makes the present tense in sections set in the past seem awkward. It also leads to a lot of information dumping in order to get across the vampire lore of this setting, some of which seems pretty ridiculous when written as a big block. The bit about ‘natural mates’ sharing a leopard comes to mind as something that’d have gained more from being shown rather than told (although it is sort of inherently ridiculous).
The main dynamic in the book, between Cassandra, Alastair, and Killian is wonderful. I didn’t read up on this book before reading it for the first time, and was expecting M/F, or M/F/M dynamics at the most. But they’re actually a triad, and the tension between all three is something that Francis wrote very well- I picked up on it despite not knowing that the Alastair/Killian dynamic was something that was explicit and was delighted when the triad became a triad. Like, I squealed out loud with joy level delighted. The sexual tension is excruciating and wonderful, and I found I deeply, deeply wanted the characters to end up together.
I do really appreciate the presentation of bisexual men as desirable in this book. As a bi man, I find a lot of the time women find my bisexuality something unattractive or a straight up deal breaker, so having bisexual men be presented as desirable (and especially bisexual men who’ve had sex with men before meeting the female love interest, which seems to be a weird thing even within M/M/F fiction) is lovely. However, there were some things about the presentation about bisexuality that I didn’t particularly like, such as the lore that all vampires are bisexual. Tying bisexuality to being non-human or suggesting that bisexual is somehow more ‘enlightened’ than being gay or straight is something that does make me uncomfortable. That said, Alastair is human (or at least he is until he isn’t), and his bisexuality is also explicit, so I do feel like it’s something forgivable.
The sex scenes between Cassandra and Killian are very hot, but I find the sex after Alastair gets involved to be where the bulk of my enjoyment lay. The shifting power dynamics between the three are hot as hell, and guessing where and how kink elements would be involved kept me deeply invested. At the same time, there was such a deep level of emotions behind those dynamics that each change and each act felt meaningful.
That said, there are elements of the story that make me very uncomfortable, including the sheer amount of depictions of sexual violence. While these aren’t romanticised, it’s still an uncomfortable inclusion in an erotica novel. There is one explicit rape scene, several attempted rape scenes, and many threats of rape. It’s also implied that Alastair and Killian started to have sex while the former was sixteen (which while technically legal where I live, makes me uncomfortable), there’s an implied off-screen rape of a minor, and there’s a depiction of a sex worker who is a minor. While this could be excused for historical accuracy reasons, Francis doesn’t seem to particularly care about historical accuracy in other places. The kink terminology, for example, is absolutely out of place for the setting. This isn’t something I personally care about- I’m here for erotica, not a history lesson- but it just makes the inclusion of other material all the more gratuitous, unnecessary, and uncomfortable.
Alongside this, there’s depictions of sex that are meant to be erotic that have super dubious consent- at one point Alastair straight up says no, and sex continues, with the in universe excuse that Killian read his mind and ‘knew’ he wanted it given later on. I really wish the consent issues were worked out- where everyone gives enthusiastic consent the sex is really hot, but there’s too many moments where the kink element just seems abusive or controlling.
Overall, I felt the characterisation was strong, and it made me care about the connections between characters. I enjoyed the d/s aspect of some of the sex scenes, and I especially enjoyed the erotic exploration of blood drinking (which is weirdly missing from a lot of vampire erotica). I found that my interest in the dynamic between characters kept me invested even when the sex scenes had elements that weren’t to my taste (like Cassandra calling her pussy her ‘sex’), but I really felt uncomfortable with some of the wider world building in this novel, as well as the lack of established consent in some scenes.
I did enjoy reading Bound to A Vampire (and I will be reading and reviewing the sequel), but I feel like Francis really could have used an editor not afraid to tell her not to include some elements. Overall I’d rate it a 6/10, which would climb to a 9/10 if the dubious consent was edited out.
Where To Buy
Thanks to Pleasure Panel reviewer CyborgDicks for this review of the erotic book, Bound To A Vampire by Grey Francis.
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